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5 Ways Your Website Could get Hacked

You’ve spent all this time on creating a kick ass website – don’t let the hackers get you down.. here are some tips to help you combat the worst case scenario (Trust me when I say, it IS the WORST!)

Your Web Host Is Vulnerable

Quite frequently, many websites hosted by the same web hosting company are all hacked together. In these cases, the problem usually lies with the host. Either their servers have some vulnerability which is being exploited by a hacker OR the hackers have figured out a way to gain access to one website on a server and then use that website to infect the other websites hosted on the server. Always file a report with your hosting provider if your site has been hacked.

Your Computer or Your Web Developer’s Computer Has Been Compromised

Sometimes, the root of the problem lies with machine used to access the website and not a vulnerability of the website itself. Hackers can infect a computer with malware, enabling them to steal saved passwords or infect files as they are uploaded to a server.
To prevent this from happening, the computer used to access a website should be regularly scanned for spyware, viruses and malware. Additionally, unencrypted passwords should not be stored in FTP programs.
Finally, when accessing any protected area of the website – control panel, databases — be sure that you are using a trusted network.

Your Passwords Have Been Leaked or Are NOT Strong

When it comes to passwords, they can only protect your website is they are strong. This means that passwords must adhere to the following criteria.

  1. Unique. Passwords should all be different from each other and not used on any other website.
  2. Complex. Passwords should not be easily guessed. The best passwords do not contain words and are a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.
  3. Private. Be careful about who you share your passwords with and how you share the passwords. If sending a password via email, consider transmitting it as an image instead of via plain text.
  4. Self-Selected. When you setup a web hosting account, install content management software, or create databases, passwords are typically automatically generated. And while these passwords are often very complex, hackers can sometimes guess these passwords.
  5. Regularly Changed. By updating your passwords, you lessen the chance that a leaked password can be used to gain access to your website.

Your Content Management Software Has Security Holes

Content Management Systems (CMS) (Like WordPress) are used to make it easier to manage content or maintain other functionality. But there is a big downside. Regardless of which CMS is used, there are always security holes that can be exploited by hackers.
To keep your website as secure as possible always make sure your CMS platform is up to date with the latest security patches and versions.
While it may be expensive or time-consuming to keep your CMS updated, it is worth the effort. After a new update is released, details about security flaws in the older version are often released. And what this means is that if you don’t upgrade to the latest software version, hackers will literally have a roadmap to getting into your website.5.

Your Site or a Third Party Plugin is Poorly Written

Poorly coded website forms, dynamic pages, and CMS plugins/modules could result in easily exploitable security holes. To prevent this from happening, make sure that all custom code is fully tested and coded with security in mind. And before installing a 3rd-party plugin or module for your CMS, review the feedback and/or take a look under the hood to make sure that the plugin is well-coded.

Organize Your Home Office to Encourage Productivity

Creating a home office is a huge step towards being able to focus and get work done throughout the day. Unfortunately, if your home office space is a landing pad for other items, or a haven of disorganization, you may not realize just how much it affects your productivity. Creating an organized office space will help you organize your approach to working at home, or at the very least it will cut out distractions in your work zone.

Simplify

The first step to organizing your home office is to remove everything and anything that you don’t need or use on a regular basis. Simplify what goes on your desk surface, the items in your drawers, and everything on your existing shelves. In this step, you need to become a minimalist, and be ruthless about it. Relocate as much as you can out of your work space to keep it uncluttered and basic.

Arrange

Keep all of your most used items in constant, easy-to-access places. You will save yourself time by doing this because you will always know where items are, and because you won’t have to move around to grab them. If you’ve decided that an item is something you need to have in your workspace, but that you don’t use often, put it away so as to avoid clutter.

Organize

Find a system that works for you! Organization isn’t a one-size-fits all undertaking. If you prefer baskets to be labelled by size, colour and contents that is great. If your organization is a little more abstract, that’s okay too; it’s your office and you can organize it in whatever way makes sense to you.

Update

Are you still chasing paper trails and filing cabinets? Consider going all-digital to curb clutter. Keeping your files on your computer is often easier and takes up far less room than collecting paper. While you’re organizing your office, you may consider making this change as well.

You can find unique and interesting folders and boxes to organize your office in a certain style of décor. Try labeling folders and baskets so that you remember where each thing goes, and get into the habit of tidying your space every evening before you finish for the day. This will keep your productivity high as your work space stays uncluttered.

6 Must-Haves for a Great Business Plan

When you start a business, whether it’s the first or fifteenth time, it often feels daunting. In order to drum up support and capital, you need to have an impressive business plan package that shows investors that you are on the mark. There are very distinct parts of a business plan that you will need, so let’s run through these aspects.

Overview or Summary

You’ll want to start by creating an executive overview of the items contained within your business plan; it’s okay to do this after other sections. Consider this as an elevator pitch for your business.

Overall Business Strategy

In this section, you will want to lay out your business idea, growth plan and potential, current stage of growth, industry research and position and your business model. Be sure to put effort into understanding and explaining the competitive advantage you have over others in the field and offer a complete and realistic timeline of expectations. You may also want to break down your long and short term goals in this section.

Overall Marketing and E-Commerce Strategy

This is where you will lay out any and all aspects of marketing that you have thought out. Marketing is an extremely important part of business, especially in a competitive market. What are you going to do that will set you apart? Who is your ideal client? How can you appeal to that client directly?

Strengths and Weaknesses

A business plan must be realistic, above all. It’s important to assess the situation and identify any risk factors. This allows you the opportunity to create a backup plan.

Environmental Impact Plan

More and more in the business world, entrepreneurs are taking inventory based on how socially and environmentally responsible their company is able to be. Including a social responsibility and environmental impact plan within your business plan is a good business practice and will allow investors to feel confident in your company.

Financial Forecast

Financial forecasting is very important for any business owner. This gives your investors and lenders an idea of how much capital you’re looking to gain, how you will pay funds back and what your sources of income are going to be. It also lays out your plan clearly to determine their expectations in your business.

It’s important that you have a business plan both for yourself and for any potential investors; but don’t be afraid to revisit and change things as time goes on. Flexibility is as important as planning when it comes to owning a business.

2 Must-Dos for Using Video in WordPress

Video in blogging is a big thing. If you’re not vlogging or at least sharing video content, you’re missing out on a massive movement, and here’s why.

So when it comes to working with video and WordPress, what do you need to know? Here are some things to get you started.

Don’t Host
There’s a delicate balance here, because if you’re sharing custom content, you want it to drive views to your site. That being said, hosting your videos to WordPress can bog down your website, as well as open the door to some irritating problems with views and with mobile clients. Instead, host your video to an external service, such as YouTube. This works in a few ways, as it allows you to avoid those self-hosting problems, but it also improves your reach on YouTube which can be a huge traffic source. Not only will you have people viewing your content from your site, you will also have people viewing your content based on search terms within YouTube itself, so if you establish yourself as an expert in your field you’ll achieve twice the views that you would with a self-hosted video.

Embed Content
When it comes to sharing your video content, you’ll want to embed them right into posts. This way you entice your readers to watch without having to leave. They also serve as evergreen content, allowing people to google specific questions months later and come back with your post; in other words, the hits keep on coming. Embedding content from an external site is usually very straightforward. You’ll be able to find an embed code in the settings on your uploaded video.

We’re an increasingly visual people. Those of us who are online often click between reading (actually, skimming would be more accurate), watching videos, listening to podcasts and sharing content. It’s been a long time since people used books for their day-to-day resource compilation, but the way that people research is ever-changing, even still. If a young man doesn’t know how to tie a tie, the likelihood is that he’ll look it up on YouTube. By allowing leaving video to someone else, you’re letting the page views slip through your fingers.

4 Steps to Getting out of a Rut

Have you stalled? Is your business in a rough patch? Things can’t always be perfect for those in business, and an entrepreneur must be prepared for the inevitable ups and downs. Still, when you find yourself lacking motivation and forward motion, it can be difficult to find your way out of the darkness and back into inspiration, but with these tips you’ll be able to push yourself out of the rut and back where you belong.

Inspire Outside Of Work
When you find inspiration outside of work, it often breathes new life into your career. Find a hobby, or rekindle a love for an old one. Something fast-paced such as dance or a team sport can help you to find your groove quicker than you may otherwise.

Accept Change
Oftentimes, instead of accepting that things are changing, we try to fight against them. Instead of digging in your heels, try going with the flow on change. Take a look at the way things are shifting, and try to go with the flow. It’s important, in business, to be able to stick to your business plan, but sometimes these things require flexibility as well as persistence. Look at your problem from a different angle to see if you can find a solution.

Try Working Somewhere Else
Pack up your laptop and spend the day in a café, on the beach or at the library. See if changing up your physical location makes a difference in your motivation. Sometimes the fresh air can make a big difference in how you’re feeling.

Go For A Walk
If you’re feeling as though you’ve hit a wall, and you’re banging your head against it, it’s okay to get up and get out. Once you reach a point of no return, the best thing to do is shake it off. Head out for a walk, even just around the block, to get your creative juices flowing. You may be surprised by just how quickly you find the solution to your problem.

How to Avoid Business Burnout

Business Burnout is a phenomenon that happens to many small business owners at one time or another. Let’s face it; we all start our businesses for different reason, but at the core there is a passion, a desire to make a comfortable living, and a dream.

When you begin as a small business owner, there is no doubt that you’re going to come blazing out of the gate. You’re excited, and motivated, and it’s this that will lead to success while you pursue with reckless abandon. It’s likely that you’ll be so enamoured with your new undertaking that you’ll stay late or start early. You’ll forego meals and plans will be put on hold while you’re busy realizing your business dreams.

Sooner or later, your long hours and dedication will slip into something else, as you lose steam. It’s only human; we only have so much to give. Your family will suffer, your social life will suffer and then suddenly you’re in it; business burnout has you firmly within its clutches.

The truth is that business burnout is even more dangerous than it sounds. It is a tiny spark of discontent that leads to physical illness, the loss of motivation and in some cases the demise of a company. You’ve put your all into this and the last thing you want to do would be to sabotage your success.

If business burnout is becoming a reality for you, or you’re worried that you may be headed down this road, there are a few helpful things that you can do to move away from the inevitable frustration of this common business issue.

Take Care Of Yourself

First, when looking to stave off business burnout, be sure that you’re focusing on your health wherever possible. It’s tempting to pour everything you have into your business, but it’s extremely important to take care of yourself first. Without proper meals, downtime and laughter, you’re going to be facing burnout in no time. Take time out each day to go for a walk or call a good friend. If you feel as though this is a waste of your precious time, be aware that some studies have shown entrepreneurs who exercise regularly have higher sales and better success rates. Why? Because people who create a healthy balance in their lives don’t experience burnout!

Delegate or Collaborate

There are some things that you have to do for yourself. For everything else, there’s delegation. Let your staff, family, friends or even a virtual assistant help you to get things done that you don’t have time to do. Work with colleagues to organize meetings and collaborations. Take some of the load off of yourself!

Focus

You don’t have to multitask. In fact, many in business today have shunned the idea that multitasking is good business practice. In reality, you should take the time to focus on one task to ensure that your attention is exactly where it needs to be at all times. Embarrassing mistakes happen when you’re divided between tasks.

The Essential Components of A Kick Ass Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a must-have for your outreach strategy. Without a plan, you can’t know whether or not you’re successfully reaching your goals. It makes finding your way and monetizing that much easier when you know exactly what your plan of attack is.

Product Description and Potential Roadblocks
Start by writing out a description of each and every product or service that you plan to (or already) offer. Write out goals for each of these products and services, but make sure that you write them concisely, and make them realistic. You want these to be things that you can obtain in a reasonable amount of time.

Analyze
In this section, you’re going to want to expend a fair amount of energy in analysis. You’ll need to write three distinct sections to get a good handle on your company, the market, and your competitors. These are your subheadings; Ideal Customers, Main Competitors and Your Company. When looking internally at your company, be as honest as possible. List your market share (an estimation is fine), the company culture (either that you have or that you envision), your focal point (what is the overall mission) and any weaknesses that you have or foresee. When analyzing your customers, you’ll want to know the demographics of the group; what is the average age, gender and social standing of your ideal client? Understanding this will help you understand what motivates your clients to spend money. Then, take a good hard look at the successes and failures or shortcomings of any market competitors that you may have. What are their market shares? Why and how are they in the position that they are in?

Marketing Strategy
Based on the evaluations done, which marketing strategy is best suited to your clients in order to inspire growth within your company? That will be the marketing strategy that you develop as your focal point. If you sell multiple products, you will want to develop an overall branding plan, but also individual strategies as well. These should include pricing, packaging, quality and a warranty where applicable. Give consideration to what discounts you will give, if any, and under what circumstances you will give them. Next, give careful consideration to your distribution angle. Are you shopping this product out to be carried in a store, or are you looking to distribute online at first?

Promote
Ensure that you have a good idea of how and where you are going to promote your company. What is your budget? Where will you advertise? Is your product one that would benefit from high-traffic sample or promotional programs? What about an affiliate program for your loyal customers? The sky is the limit when it comes to promotions, but remember that you want to draw attention while encouraging word of mouth, and you never want to cheapen yourself or your brand.

Projections
The final key to ensure that you’re marketing the best way possible is to make accurate projections. Break down your expenses and your expected returns. This data is important to draw up, and to use at a later date to see what works for your business and what doesn’t.

Navigating the Confusing World of Product Photography

You made this beautiful creation. You have spent time, energy, gave this piece a little slice of your soul and created it with love. Now you have to photograph it too???!!!

If any of you are like me, having to create this item but then to try to take these amazing photos so you can share and sell it online, is frustrating, to say the least. 99% of makers I have talked to have some kind of frustration dealing with shooting their product. Some just don’t know where to start, or have trouble figuring out how best photograph their specific product.

Others find that there are so many tutorials, products and suggestions on how to shoot their product it feels overwhelming. There are so many aspects of taking photos of your products, but it can be fairly simple, and I am here to help. Over this series I am going to share some tips and tricks of the trade to help you navigate this crazy world of photography so you can really focus you creativity on making and selling your creations – without tears and stress.

Over this series I am going to walk you through a number of different aspects of product photography, including:

  • Lighting – how to find the right light and use it advantageously
  • Basic Composition techniques
  • Backgrounds and product placement
  • Editing
  • Styling images to your brand
  • Equipment suggestions and how to DIY your own tools

I hope you stay with me over the course of this series and please feel free to leave comments below with any questions or suggestions that you may have.

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Follow along with our Maker Member Meghan from Sew Shenanigans as she takes you through the wonderous world of product photography.

How To Use A Virtual Assistant and Free Up Your Time

If you’re considering using a virtual assistant for your business, chances are that you already how well a VA can free up your time. For busy entrepreneurs and CEOs, a virtual assistant is often the perfect solution to poor time management; the truth is that you really can’t do it all on your own. If you’ve found things slipping through the cracks, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to tackle throughout a day, then a virtual assistant is probably the right choice for you.
A well-trained virtual assistant will work with you to handle your administrative needs so that you don’t have to; freeing up your time and allowing you to bring your business to new heights. A virtual assistant will work with you on a number of different tasks to ensure that the tasks that you need done are handled professionally and in a timely manner.
Wondering where to start with your virtual assistant? Begin by deciding which things you can let go of; this can be harder for some people than others, but consider tasks like invoicing, transcription and website population. Are you ever overwhelmed by social media outreach? Your VA can handle that. Do you fall behind on answering emails? With access and a little guidance, your VA can do that. What about keeping appointments or keeping track of where you need to be? Your VA can set up a calendar for you to ensure that you’re never double-booked.
If you keep clear lines of communication open, your VA will be able to carry out your administrative needs as well as if you had done them yourself. Of course, you’ll be out schmoozing with potential clients and landing new accounts which is what you love to do. Delegate your needs concisely and keep your expectations structured, and you will find working with a VA frees up plenty of your time to focus on the other stuff.

How To Write Sales Projections

Cash flow and outgoing payments are an important part of owning a business; It would be nice to have an idea of your foreseeable income at any given time. It’s good to know the incoming funds that you’re able to count on, while at the same time having an estimate of your numbers to present to your potential investors. That’s why we do monthly sales projections.

Whether you’re an already established business owner or just starting a plan to capitalize on goods or services, sales projections and forecasting are an important part of moving forward. Projections will help you understand what you should expect in the coming months based on your history, or the history of the market that you’re in. This requires a bit of market research, but it’s not as tough as it might seem.

Find and Understand the Data
It’s no secret that market research means crunching numbers. Find sales figures from those in a similar business to the one you’ve got your eye on, both within your immediate area and outside of it. This will give you a good idea of your potential to earn, as well as any alarm bells. Get in touch with your local chamber of commerce for this information, or, at the very least they’ll be able to send you in the right direction. Remember that this is just an overall idea, and that it isn’t law. You’re basically going to use these numbers to get a feel for your field, and the competition.

Underestimate
Whenever you’re presenting numbers like this, it is best to err on the side of caution. You don’t want to oversell your worth because it will come back to bite you in the end. You can also present the numbers based on three different views; potential best case scenario, worst case scenario, and the likely scenario should fall somewhere in between.

Be Patient
As you do monthly projections, you will start to get the hang of it. Within a few months it will become second nature to you. This will obviously make yearly sales forecasts a cinch. It’s a matter of doing it and then seeing what works best for you, and how accurate your projections have been. You may have to alter your strategy a few times, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you start to get a handle on your business, sales, and your future.