Is Freelancing the Future of Global Business?

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides — Tags: , , — joanna @ 8:53 am on February 10, 2015

Freelancing

By 2020, it’s estimated that 40% of the workforce will be freelancing.

That goes for full and part-time freelancers including contractors and moonlighters. With flexibility becoming the new currency and traditional job perks taking a back seat, these are exciting times for solopreneurs.

What’s more, this burgeoning band of merry workers is uncovering more opportunities than ever before.

And we’ve got the stats to prove it. In 2014, Freelancers Union commissioned a survey alongside Elance-oDesk to find out more about America’s freelancing community. In September 2014 it released its findings and, boy, were we shocked (in a really good way).

Here’s the skinny:

  • 34% of the American workforce – that’s 53million people – are freelancing.
  • That’s more than the total combined populations of 25 American states. Put another way, if those 53million freelancers all stood on each other’s shoulders, they’d be taller than 10,000 Mt Everests.
  • The American freelancing workforce is adding $715billion to the economy every year.
  • 32% of freelancers said they have seen demand for their services increase in the past year, compared to 15% who said they’ve seen it decrease.
  • 43% of freelancers said they expect their income to increase in the coming year, while 11% expect a decrease.
  • 77% said they make the same or more money than they did before they started freelancing.
  • 36% of moonlighters, or part-time freelancers, have thought about quitting to freelance full-time. That equates to more than 4 million people.
  • 80% of traditional workers said they would be willing to do additional freelance work if it was available. Only 20% said they wouldn’t consider moonlighting.
  • There are barriers holding people back from freelancing. These include a lack of stable income (50%); difficulty finding work (47%); getting paid on time (31%); and paperwork and administrative overhead (13%).
  • However, technology is helping people find work. 65% said the Internet had made it easier to find freelance work; 42% have found and completed work entirely online; and 31% said they can find jobs online in less than 24 hours.

The research adds further proof to the belief that freelancing is growing fast. As more companies open up to the benefits of outsourcing and more skilled people go independent, the opportunities are set to expand.

Not to mention that this sector is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. That amount of input can’t go unnoticed, which suggests the freelancing community could be in for greater supportive measures over the coming years. This in itself could further attract more would-be independent workers into the fold.

Indeed, the report found that 77% of freelancers said the best days of the freelance job market are still ahead, and 65% believe freelancing is more respected than it was three years ago.

Plus, the research shows that younger workers are more likely to go freelance, which is only set to further expand the sector. 38% of Millennials (workers under 35) are freelancing, compared to 32% of those over 35.

All things considered, freelancing could well become a significant force in the future of global business. What do you think?

Check out the report in full here.

(Oh, and if working without walls sounds like your perfect career move, we’ve got a virtual workplace solution for that)

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4 Marketing Predictions You Should Prepare for in 2015

Start-up Guides — Tags: , , — joanna @ 6:00 am on February 3, 2015

Marketing tips for 2015

Every business wants to get ahead of the game. And what game could be more important than marketing?

Handled correctly, marketing is the business power tool that brings in customers, increases loyalty, bumps up turnover and gives your business a leg up over the competition. But as with every power tool, you’ve got to know which one is right for the job.

When was the last time you blew the dust off your SEO strategy? Or read up on the latest content marketing methods? Times they are a-changin’, and to keep up with the competition, it’s time you sharpened those marketing power tools.

With that in mind, here are 4 marketing tips for 2015 with the help of industry guru, Neil Patel.

1) Brush Up Your SEO: Be prepared for more algorithm changes this year. Panda and Penguin shook things up a few years ago, and Patel predicts more of the same very soon. Ultimately, we’re advised that it will become much harder to manipulate search listings through SEO strategies, so Patel says it all boils down to good ol’ fashioned business.

“Focus on creating a better product or service”, he says. “And you’ll have to keep improving the content on your website.”

That doesn’t mean you should stop SEO altogether. Continue to focus on it, but bear in mind that techniques change. Ultimately, search engines want to reward good, honest sites and companies rather than those that invest in quick-win tactics.

2) Content is Still King: One constant we can still rely on is good content. As Patel says, you must keep improving the content on your website. That doesn’t just mean good words – it means real, usable stuff that your readers and customers can take away with them. Like research, good advice, helpful guides, free tools – that sort of thing.

And how do you get your content ‘out there’? “A lot comes down to the social media accounts,” says Patel. “Social media will become the cornerstone of blogging… For example, my personal blog is already getting 25,000 plus visitors a month. It’s not because my content is better than everyone else’s, but it’s because I have a large social following. With that social following, I can make almost any new blog, within my niche, popular.

“Companies will start seeing more value in social media, and they’ll spend thousands of dollars a month on building up their social media accounts.”

Don’t just sign up to every social media channel you can get your hands on. Get onto a small handful of channels that suit your sector, and focus on doing it well. Work slowly to build up a followership, connect with people both inside and out of your industry, and engage with them. Chat with your connections and post useful content – which includes your own beautiful content, of course.

3) Old School Marketing is Coming Back: SEO and PPC and digital this-and-that isn’t everything. Remember, people still like to talk. Patel gives the example of Gary Vaynerchuk, who plastered ads all over New York City for his new book and included his phone number.

“The campaign was so effective that it not only caused his cell phone to blow up, but it helped him sell more books at the same time,” he says. “Some of these creative marketing campaigns will yield an ROI, while others won’t. It is all about testing, and you’ll see companies doing more of this in 2015.”

4) It’s Time to Get Personal:

Patel says that personal branding is proven to generate a positive ROI for businesses – yet it’s rare for business owners to do this.

“Just look at my name. My Neil Patel brand is actually larger than some of the businesses I own according to Google Trends. And I’m able to leverage it to drive more signups to my business.”

Why can’t you market both your business and yourself? Patel has been doing it for years, and in his words “it has done wonders”. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to be the ‘face’ of your corporation. You’ll have to closely manage how you present yourself both on and offline. But the returns could be well worth it.

Ultimately, business is becoming more transparent, and 2015 could see a real shake-up in marketing techniques. The opportunities are there for the taking – it’s just a matter of finding what works for you and your business, and sticking with it.

In Patel’s words: “Don’t ever be afraid of change. Instead, learn to adapt. And if you can adapt before your competition, you can win.”

You can read more of his advice here.

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Alliance Virtual Offices: How To Add a Voicemail Greeting

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , , , — joanna @ 9:26 am on January 15, 2015

You can’t always be in the office or sitting by the phone. So here’s a definitive guide for Alliance Virtual Offices customers on how to set up a new voicemail greeting to welcome your callers.

First things first. Go to the Alliance Virtual Offices customer login section (need help doing this?)

Just for reference, you’ll always find the ‘Account Login’ at the top of the page (pictured below). It’s here that you can find your latest invoice, check your business details and make any adjustments to your account.

Alliance Virtual Offices - Online account login

Here’s a full explanation on how to login and find your account details.

Creating a Voicemail Greeting

Now you’re all logged in, let’s take a look at how to set up a voicemail greeting to welcome callers when you’re out of the office.

  • In your Account, click ‘My Virtual Phone’
  • Click the ‘Greetings’ button
  • On the ‘Manage Greetings’ page, click the orange ‘Add a Greeting’ button on the right hand side
  • You now have three options. Tick the appropriate radio button to record your greeting, as follows:

o   Text to Greeting: Type your message in the box provided, select a ‘voice’ from the dropdown list, and then test it by clicking the ‘Preview’ button. You can personalise it further by adding special sounds using the options provided.

o   Record from Phone: Record a personal message using your phone handset. Click the ‘Click to Record a Greeting’ button, enter your phone number and then click ‘Call’. Begin recording after the prompt.

o   Upload New File: You can also record a personal message via other means, and save the file to your computer. Once you’ve done this, click the ‘Choose File’ button and then click ‘Upload’.

Always preview your message before you save it to your system. To do this, click the ‘Preview’ button and ensure the volume is up on your PC so you can listen to the full message. Once you’re happy with it, click ‘Add’ and then ‘Save Greeting’.

You can add notes and assign a name to your greeting – such as ‘My Voicemail’. You can also allocate it to a specific extension. Otherwise, leave the ‘Restricted to’ option set to ‘All’.

Activate Your Greeting

Now that you have recorded a new voicemail greeting, make sure it’s switched on and attached to the appropriate phoneline or extension:

  • In your Account, click ‘My Virtual Phone’
  • Click the ‘Users & Extensions’ button
  • Find your extension, and then select the ‘Edit Settings’ button (on the right hand side)
  • Scroll down to the ‘Voicemail’ section and ensure the ‘Status’ is set to ‘On’
  • If you wish to use a message you have already saved, select ‘Standard Greeting’ and then choose the nickname you set previously (eg. ‘My Voicemail’)
  • You may wish to include a prompt for callers to leave a message, in which case select the option to ‘Play this message after my greeting’

From this page, you can choose whether or not to activate the Voicemail Transcription to text service, and you can also specify how you receive notifications of new voicemail messages – either by email or text message (SMS).

Take a look at all of these options and again, always test the service yourself once you’ve activated it.

As always, if you need further help with setting a voicemail greeting, just get in touch! Our customer support team is available throughout the working week and we’re always happy to help.

Location, Location, Location: Putting Your Business Where the Business Is

Advice and Support — Tags: , , , — joanna @ 11:11 am on December 19, 2014

Put your business on the map with a virtual office

How do you make the most of your location to boost your business?

Marketing expert Brett Relander has an answer for that. He wrote a great post – ‘Cut the Competition Down to Size with Location Based Mobile Marketing’ – to help small businesses get found more easily.

Smartphones are big business in marketing, and because your customers carry them around wherever they go, location is a big factor in trying to catch more potential spenders.

“More than 75% of smartphone users make use of location based services to gain information about businesses near their location,” says Brett. This ranges from getting directions to reading local reviews of your company.

“Businesses that are investing in efforts to increase their location-aware audience base are reporting improved conversions,” he added. “Preferred tools include QR codes, click-to-call, coupons, and mobile apps.”

Brett offers some great advice on the latest cutting-edge location-based marketing techniques, including RFID tags and geo-fencing.

You can read more about that on Brett’s blog. But first, let’s go back to basics.

Try these starter tips to help you get a firm footing in the world of location-based mobile marketing:

1. Get to Know the Platforms
The big social media platforms offering location-based services include Foursquare, Loopt, Yelp and Facebook. Try to identify which ones your customers are most likely to use based on age, interests and location. Sign up for the most relevant and download the apps to your phone.

2. Claim Your Business
Fill out details of your business on your chosen apps and maps. Add a badge to your website or on your front counter displaying your platforms – eg ‘We’re on Yelp’ – to try to encourage customers to interact.

Make sure your business is listed on search engine maps too, like Google and Bing, as well as the main service applications like Apple Maps. Check and edit your information to ensure it’s bang up to date.

3. Engage!
Don’t just jump on a platform and forget about it. Using social channels like Foursquare is a great way to engage with your customers. Promotions will help you to get noticed too. For instance you could offer customers a discount every time they ‘check in’ or leave a review. That will help to push more content to your profile and encourage customer loyalty.

Ready to put your business on the map? Try out these tips and let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear your feedback.

And if you’re looking to get noticed in a new location, a virtual office is a great way to get there. You can bag an impressive business address virtually anywhere in the world from Wilshire Boulevard to Wall Street, Champs-Elysees to Piccadilly.

It’s just one of the many ways Alliance Virtual Offices can help your small business grow. And grow. And grow…

Check out www.alliancevirtualoffices.com to find out more.

How To Set Up a Live Receptionist Service with Alliance Virtual Offices

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , , , , — joanna @ 6:44 am on October 8, 2014

Get started with your Live Receptionist

So you’ve just signed up for a Live Receptionist service from Alliance Virtual Offices. Great news! Now you can say goodbye to pesky spam calls and interruptions, and hello to silky smooth customer service for your clients.

Now that you’ve added a star team of virtual receptionists to your company, it’s essential to make sure they’re prepped and ready to take your calls.

Before they can start, we need a few more details from you to complete the set-up. This information will help our receptionists to understand more about your business so they can answer your calls professionally and knowledgeably. You will be contacted by one of our Customer Service Representatives to request this information, so you can simply reply to their correspondence or contact us with your answers, here.

Here’s what we need:

  1. A short description of your company. This helps our receptionists answer basic customer questions, such as “What do you do?”
  2. How would you like your calls to be answered? We suggest, “Thank you for calling ‘Your Company Name’, how may I direct your call?”
  3. Once the call has been answered, should the receptionist:
    • Take a message and email it to you,
    • Screen the call for you,
    • Or transfer it to your voicemail?
  4. If you have your calls screened but you’re not available to take the call:
    • Do you want the receptionist to take a message and email it to you,
    • Or would you prefer to have the call transferred to your voicemail?
  5. Should our Live Receptionists offer your address or other business information to callers if asked? Please note, we will only give out information that you have approved.
  6. Are there any specific pointers our receptionists should know about your company, in case a client asks? Such as:
    • List of products or services,
    • Online booking functionality,
    • Opening hours?
  7. For after-hours calls, do you prefer to:
    • Have the calls forwarded to your cell phone,
    • Or sent to your voicemail?
  8. What message would you like to include in your after-hours voicemail greeting? We will be happy to record this for you, but you can also upload your own recording via the Alliance Virtual Offices client log-in area.

For further help getting started, we have plenty of guides to assist you. Here are a few that may help:

And of course if you have questions, suggestions or additional requirements from your live receptionist services, or with relation to virtual offices in general, please contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help!

Don’t Settle for Starbucks: Book a Meeting Room Online

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , , — joanna @ 7:54 am on September 25, 2014

Conference room in New York

For virtual office users, startups, freelancers and travelling professionals, most of the time a home office works just fine.

But what happens when you need to meet a client? Or impress a potential investor?

You don’t want them in your home – unless of course you’re an interior designer living in a beautifully-kept showhome. A coffee shop might be the next best thing. It’s free, and the coffee is good. But the downsides – wobbly tables, cramped corners, noisy chit-chat – don’t exactly give the right impression.

So why not hire a meeting room for an hour or two?

It’s professional, it’s a real business environment, and it definitely sets the scene. No doubt your client will appreciate the effort you’ve gone to, and will recognise that you’re serious about your business.

On the subject of cost, take a look at these examples (prices correct as of September 2014):

  • High-rise New York business center on 3rd Ave, meeting rooms starting from $65 per hour with Wi-Fi, phone access and AV equipment. A day office starts from just $11 per hour. More >
  • Smart business center in Boca Raton, with a shared lounge from $25 per hour or a private meeting room from $35 per hour. Day offices just $15 per hour. More >
  • Corporate offices in central Austin, TX with a large conference room from $43 per hour with phone usage, Wi-Fi, AV equipment, projector and parking. More >

That’s just a flavour. Not likely to break the bank, right?

There are hundreds more meeting rooms for hire through the website, all of which can be booked online too. Here’s a quick step-by-step of how to book your conference room online:

  1. Choose your location and browse the meeting rooms available. Select your preferred meeting venue.
  2. Enter your date and time frame.
  3. Choose your style of meeting room and capacity. Add any additional services.
  4. Click ‘Submit’.
  5. Fill in your contact details and billing information.
  6. Once you have accepted the Terms of Service, click ‘Continue’.
  7. Your booking will be verified and payment processed. You’ll receive a room reservation and payment confirmation.
  8. You’re all set! All that’s left to do is attend the meeting and pay the remaining balance, if applicable.

If any problems are encountered with your booking, you will be notified within 24 hours from the point of booking.

Simple. And what’s more, virtually all conference room venues offer a great cup of coffee too – so there really is no excuse to hold your next meeting in a coffee shop.

Goodbye wobbly tables, hello new business partnerships!

Got a Virtual Office Question? Try Our Live Chat

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , — joanna @ 9:45 am on September 12, 2014

Live chat

If you’ve paid a visit to the Alliance Virtual Offices website recently, you have probably been invited to chat with our customer service team.

During business hours, you’ll notice a little pop-up box in the bottom right of your screen. Here you can type a question and engage in an online chat with one of our virtual office experts.

You can ask anything you want – within reason of course! We have a team of representatives who know the Alliance Virtual Offices services inside out, so you can challenge them to answer your virtual office questions.

Perhaps you’re new to the concept of virtual offices and you want to understand how it all works. Maybe you’ve got a specific question about a building you’ve seen on our website, or you want help booking a meeting room.

Whatever your query – whether it’s how to set up your VOIP phone system, how to pay with Bitcoin or how to send call answering instructions to your live receptionist – simply type in your question and we’ll do the rest.

Why not give it a try?

And of course if you prefer to speak to the team direct, simply contact us toll free on +1 888.869.9494 or email [email protected] You can even drop us a message on Facebook.

We look forward to chatting with you!

Starting Up a Business From Home: 5 Perils to Avoid

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides,Virtual Office — Tags: , , — joanna @ 11:38 am on September 5, 2014

Perils of working from home

It’s estimated that over 60% of people who start a business do so from home. Businesses can be run from a spare bedroom, the attic, or even the garden shed.

Commonly, virtual office users spend much of their time working from home – particularly startups, independent professionals and small businesses with remote employees.

Why? It’s low-cost and therefore less risky than diving into an office contract. There’s no commute, which saves enormous amounts of time. It’s handy for working parents. And it’s informal, which is often a welcome change from corporate environments.

However, working from home is not a perfect solution. So here are five perils to avoid when setting up your business from home:

The Kitchen Office:
Take it from us, it doesn’t work. Working from the dining room table or the kitchen breakfast bar for prolonged periods of time is a recipe for expensive physiotherapy. Expect all manners of neck, back and shoulder aches and pains. You will also miss your desk and storage cupboards immensely. Set yourself up properly in a spare room or behind some partitioning, and install comfortable furniture with appropriate storage and filing systems.

Distractions:
As quiet as it may initially seem, working from home brings all sorts of distractions. The postman, the neighbours who decided to pop round when they saw your car in the drive, the family visits: there isn’t much you can do about it, other than ignore the doorbell. What you can do is tell family and friends that you work standard office hours, because those are the hours your clients work. Refuse daytime invitations and reschedule for evenings or weekends – they’ll soon get the message.

Work Boundaries:
When you work from home it’s surprisingly easy to let the boundaries between work and home life blur. You’ll soon get caught checking emails whilst cooking dinner, or working while the TV is on, or taking calls during the school run. This flexibility can have its advantages, as it means you can finish deadlines or tasks from the comfort of your home. But don’t let it invade your private life – set boundaries and keep the two apart. Family life is too precious to be shared.

Patchy Phone Signal:
Most home-based business owners use a cell phone, rather than giving out their home landline number. However if you’re in an area of patchy signal, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to communicate with clients and getting constantly cut off. Other than changing your network provider, try a virtual phone system. You can have a live receptionist answer calls in your company name and re-direct them or take a message. You can also hire a local area phone number, which gives you an established ‘local look’ and protects your home number.

Corporate Snobbery:
Business owners are often guilty of associating established, trustworthy firms with those based in corporate offices. However, we know that’s not always the case. So rather than giving out your home address to all and sundry, and inciting a little snobbery, use a virtual office mailing address. It’s low-cost and you can use it as your company HQ – even if you only go there to pick up mail. Plus, you can get discounted use of meeting rooms, which is ideal should you need to meet clients face-to-face.

How do you deal with the perils of working from home?

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How to Pay for Virtual Offices with Bitcoin

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides,Support — Tags: , , , — joanna @ 6:37 am on August 21, 2014

How to pay for a virtual office with Bitcoin

Got Bitcoin?

Did you know you can use it to rent a business mailing address, book meeting rooms, and even have your very own receptionist answer calls for you? Alliance Virtual Offices has a global network of virtual offices and business services, with fantastic support packages on offer to help your business get off the ground – and stay there.

Allow us to explain.

Most fledgling and startup firms don’t need a physical office – but they do need an office address with a local area code. That’s where a virtual office comes in. Rather than paying extortionate fees for bricks and mortar, you can simply hire the address instead. When mail turns up at your chosen building address, it will be redirected to the destination of your choice. You can also add a local phone number, and have a receptionist answer calls in your company name. It’s all part of the service.

That’s what we do. Now back to Bitcoin.

As a virtual company, it’s only right that we accept a virtual currency. We’ve been accepting Bitcoin since 2013, and we offer it as an online payment option alongside the regular credit card method.

Here’s how to pay Alliance Virtual Offices with Bitcoin:

  • Checkout: Once you’re ready to checkout, you’ll see the option to pay with Bitcoin under the ‘Payment Information’ header. Click ‘Pay With Bitcoin’ and tick ‘I Agree to the Terms of Service’.

Paying for virtual offices with Bitcoin

  • Click ‘Continue’.
  • Review your information and booking on the following page. If you are satisfied with the information, click the Bitcoin payment button to complete your order.
  • When you click the Bitcoin payment button, you will be presented with an invoice which you can pay with your Bitcoin wallet. Note, you may need to send further documentation to Alliance Virtual Offices so that your Virtual Office services can be confirmed.

Bitcoin

As ever, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help out.

Happy (virtual) shopping!

Setting Up a Business? 5 Ways to Build a Support Network

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides — joanna @ 5:56 am on August 12, 2014

Why it's important to build a network

Since our early days as a humble startup, we’ve garnered all sorts of useful tips and tricks on how to setup and run a business.

One important rule we’ve learned is this: When you decide to go it alone, make sure you’re not completely alone.

It doesn’t matter who you are, how great your product is or whatever size of startup budget you’ve got. To be successful in business, you need people around you. We’re not just talking clients – we’re talking mentors, investors, partners, idea-generators, supporters, critics, and celebrators.

We’ve already put plenty of our homegrown knowledge into our Smart Guide, Business Setup Checklist (it’s yours for free, here).

Check out some of our top tips below. What would you add?

Meet like-minded people

Call it collaboration, business meetups, after-hours drinks, whatever you like. Try to hook up with a local business group for an informal gathering once in a while. You might find it in a coworking space (pay-as-you-go shared workspaces) or in your nearest coffee shop. Try meetup.com, look for get-togethers on EventBrite, or search for social media groups.

Do the networking thing

Check out your local business networking groups and get mingling. Networking always seems a bit awkward at first but trust us – the more you do, the easier it becomes.

Learn something new

Head to your nearest college or business school, or take seminars, and learn something new. While you’re at it, you’ll meet new people with shared interests.

Attend industry events

Sign up for events that are relevant to your industry. You’ll pick up valuable information and get to know people in your field, which could include competitors and key influencers.

Seek a mentor

You’ll often find mentor programmes from alumni groups, business-owner support groups, local government initiatives and trade associations. You could even search LinkedIn for role models, then contact that person to see if she or he will mentor you.

Why is it so important to create networks? Because there is safety and security in numbers, and the more people you have around you, the more support you will generate for your small business. Your network will give you advice, offer recommendations and share their experiences. That sort of person-to-person contact can’t be bought.

Check out other useful ideas and recommendations in our series of free Smart Guides.

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