How Setting Up a Home Office Works [for YOU]

How Setting Up a Home Office Works

Introduction to How Setting Up a Home Office Works

Photo courtesy MorgueFile
Do you dream of a 15-second commute to work rather than a 45-minute commute? Do you want to squeeze some extra time out of the day by cutting out that commute time completely? Do you think you might get more done if you didn't have the interruptions inherent with traditional offices?

If you're thinking about any of these things, you've probably been dreaming of a home office. In this article, we'll find out what makes an effective home office, and we'll get you started setting up one up.

The Basics

Working from home can be a joy or a terror, (just like some two-year-olds you may know.) You may love the idea of the freedom, the flexibility, and the relaxed atmosphere your home office will have. You may relish the idea of working in your bunny slippers and bath robe.

Note that I said the "idea" of. In reality, working from home can be great, but it can also be just as frustrating as working in a traditional office and commuting. You have to set it up right and set some rules for yourself. The rules you set must be based on your situation, what works for you personally, and the type of work you are doing. Here are some guidelines that will get you started:

  • Set aside a special space for your office, especially if you hope to claim a home-office deduction on your taxes!
  • If you have a door, close it.
  • Try to minimize the number of distractions that are in your immediate work space (for example, TV, Gameboy, Nintendo, children).
  • If you have small children at home, don't look at those magazine photos of the home-based working mom talking on the phone and studying a spreadsheet while a delightful nine-month-old plays at her feet. That's a fantasy world. It really doesn't work that way! Get an in-home caregiver or family member, anyone, to help out. Your nerves, and your children, will thank you.
  • Make your workstation as comfortable as possible -- you may be spending a lot of time there!
  • Get organized. This means buying file cabinets, file folders, labels, and then putting them to use.
  • Try to set a work schedule that suits your own high productivity cycles. Everyone has a time of day that they work at their best. Find yours and make that your prime working time. (Assuming, of course, you have control over your schedule.)
  • Set some rules for yourself like... a break every hour, a set time every day that you leave your home (even if it's just to walk around the block), no surfing the net except for business-related surfing (and then don't cheat!). Your rules should address your own weaknesses. If you know you'll have a problem with the refrigerator always calling your name then make a "no food at the computer" rule.
  • Set a limit to your after-hours work. While you may have clients that call you at 9 pm, that doesn't mean you have to "always" be available then. Let your answering machine pick up calls unless you know there is a tight deadline and are willing to do it. On the other hand, additional hours of availability may be just the advantage you need to give your business (or job-security) a boost. Just keep in mind that workaholism is high among those who work from home.
  • Working from home can also be very isolating. Make a point to pick up the phone and call someone, or visit a neighbor, or something just to make contact with a live person occasionally. If you find yourself working for 10 hours straight without speaking a word, you may not last long in your new home office.

With that said, let's move on to the hardware you'll need to set up your home office. We're starting with hardware rather than furniture because it's quite possible you don't need a desk or designated office area. You may be fine working from your kitchen table or porch swing. Of course, you may not even need a computer, but... we're going to cover it anyway.

What Hardware do You Need?

If your work involves traveling to client locations or other places away from your home base, you should probably consider buying a laptop computer rather than a desktop system.

With a laptop you will always have your files with you and won't have any of those embarrassing moments when you leave an important document at your office, because...well, your office is with you. While a laptop may seem a bit cumbersome to always travel with, there are many lightweight models out there that are very powerful. Just make sure you get a good carrying case that has a shoulder strap and room for your hard copy documents.

If always working from the keyboard and small screen of a laptop doesn't appeal to you, there are other solutions. Yes, they've thought of everything! To make using your laptop more efficient in your home office, a docking station can be set up that you can simply plug your laptop into. Docking stations make it easy to have a standard monitor, keyboard and mouse, printer, fax machine, scanner, and other peripherals always hooked and ready to use. If you plug your laptop into the docking station, you can use it just like a standard desktop system, and you won't have to worry about transferring or syncing files to another computer.

If you do not travel, or if you do not need access to all of your files while you travel, you can just get the traditional desktop computer system. Make sure you have plenty of hard drive space, memory for running several programs at once, and a moderately fast processor. If you're doing graphics work (anything involving photo images, illustrations or animations), you'll need a much faster processor and as much hard drive space and RAM as you can afford.

Other equipment and hardware options you might consider include:

  • A black and white 600-1200 DPI laser printer if your final documents require crisp, high quality black and white output. Laser printers also provide the fastest output, so if you know your volume will be high you should also consider a laser printer.
  • A color laser printer if your documents need high quality color illustrations, photos, or charts. These are quite expensive so make sure you compare the print quality with a less expensive ink jet printer.
  • An ink jet printer if you need good quality text, color charts and graphs, or photos. With ink jet printers, the paper that is used often makes the biggest difference in the print quality. Get paper that is best suited for the job you are doing. Also, try to get a test print from different models to compare quality before you buy. Ink jets can provide very good quality but are not as fast printing as laser printers.

  • A fax machine if you will need to fax paper documents often. There is also the option of online faxing services such as E-Fax.

  • A scanner if you will need to scan documents or photos. You can also use a scanner along with e-mail or fax software in place of a regular fax machine.

  • A CD burner if you need to provide clients with large files electronically, or if you want to back up your files on CD. There are many business uses for a CD burner, not to mention the ability to make your own music Cd's.

  • A DVD writer (DVD-RAM) if you need to provide clients with extremely large files, such as video.

  • A removable media storage device. Iomega™ offers the most common drive of this type, called the Zip™ drive, but there are many others like it. Data is written to the disk just like it would be to a floppy diskette. The difference is the amount of data that can be written. Currently, there are 100 Mb and 250 Mb disks available for the ZIP drive. Iomega also manufactures Jaz™ drives that use disks that can hold up to 2 GB of data.

  • A modem for accessing the Internet, faxing electronically, and e-mail. This can be either a standard modem that you use with your existing phone lines for dial up access, a DSL modem that also uses your phone line but does not tie up your line, or a cable modem that uses the same cable your cable television is hooked up to. DSL and cable modems are for broadband Internet access and require special connections.

  • A digital camera if your work requires photos for presentations, reports, a Web site, or other documents. While you can also use a regular camera and scanner to get digital photos for documents, you may find the immediate access you get with a digital camera more efficient than waiting for film to be processed and printed. The quality of the digital image is still somewhat better with actually photos that are scanned, but for most business applications digital cameras produce sharp enough images. Images for use in marketing materials may need to be of higher quality.

  • A multi-purpose scanner, fax machine, copier, printer if your space is limited and quality not as critical. Keep in mind with this type of equipment, however, if one part of it stops working you'll be without the other functions until it can be repaired!

For obvious reasons, mainly because equipment in the technology world changes more often than some people change underwear, we'll not go into the technical specifications for the computer equipment you'll need in your office.

Other Stuff
In addition to computer equipment, you'll also need a good telephone. Caller ID helps by allowing you to screen out telemarketers or other calls you can't take at the moment. A second telephone line for your business phone, fax, and Internet access is also a plus.

There are work-arounds if you don't want to shell out the extra money for the additional phone line. For example, if you have a cell phone, which is recommended, you can use that number as your business line. Or, if you have dial-up Internet access that uses your home phone line, you can have calls forwarded to your cell phone when you're online. There is usually only a dollar per month charge from the phone company to forward calls when the line is busy. You just have to make sure you turn off call-waiting when you go online by adding ,*70 before the number you dial. The limitations here are, of course, the signal strength you get on your cell phone. If you work from your basement there may be problems getting a good enough signal to actually carry on a conversation. If your cell phone service offers voice mail, you at least have the chance of getting a message left even if you can't actually talk with the person at the time.

There are also services that answer calls while you are online and play the message immediately from your computer. If you want to return the call you can disconnect and do so. Callwave and Pagoo are two of the most popular services. They charge about $5 per month for the service.

A surge protector is necessary, not just to give you additional outlets for your computer and its peripherals, but to protect your equipment.

You may also need a personal digital assistant (aka PDA, Palm Pilot, Handspring, etc.). These are quite handy if you travel and need access to contact information, e-mail, or the web.

What About Software

On the software side of things, there are several options for you to consider. If you're a sole proprietor and have no employees you need to communicate and coordinate with then fulfilling your software requirements is not so difficult. Here are some categories of software you may need along with links to some of the most popular packages:

Many business applications come packaged in "suites" that provide all of the above product categories and then some. Some of the more popular packages include:

Many programs also have less expensive "light" or "limited" versions that may work for smaller businesses. They are also usually available for both Windows and Macintosh computer platforms.

If you are working with others, and have the need to coordinate scheduling, access central files, maintain a contact manager, meet in chat rooms, etc. then you have more of a challenge. There are programs available, such as Lotus Notes or Novell Groupwise, that provide these types of features as a software solution. These solutions may require quite a good bit of computer knowledge and an IT person to manage the system.

As an alternative, there are also online management services that provide these types of services on the Internet for access with your browser. These are fairly simple to use. They offer many features to promote coordination of information between members of a team, client interactions, or simply communication and file-sharing with co-workers. They typically charge a small monthly fee per user, or a larger flat rate for unlimited users. Some include free limited versions, however. Below are some of these services available on the net:

Your software needs will vary greatly depending on the type of work you are doing. Check with similar businesses or your industry association to find out what programs are preferred by your peers.

Don't forget about shareware too. There are a lot of great programs that may perform all of the tasks you need without the high price tag.

Where Will You Put All the Hardware?

You'll need a desk with plenty of workspace. It should have space for a computer, as well as room to spread out paperwork if necessary. A corner "L" shaped desk works well for this. Make sure the desk has a large keyboard tray that can accommodate your mouse pad and mouse, as well. Many computer desks don't have large enough trays. Don't forget about space for your printer, scanner, fax and other equipment.

Shelves, cabinets, and file cabinets are also necessities that help tremendously by utilizing vertical space and keeping things organized. You may also be able to use the tops of these shelves and file cabinets for your printer, scanner, fax machine, etc.

Also, don't forget to invest in a comfortable chair that offers good back support. It should have as many adjustable parts as possible to help it fit your body. Arms on the chair will also make it more comfortable, particularly if you will be doing some work other than that on a computer. For more information on setting up your home office visit's Home Office Furniture page.

Connecting with the Outside World

The Cyber World
All of this hardware and software won't do you any good if you don't have a connection to the Internet. Your best bet is a broadband connection if you can get access. The term broadband just means a high bandwidth technology like DSL, or cable that allows you to send and receive files, sound, and video over a single connection.

If you can get cable television in your home then most likely you can also get a cable modem and Internet access. DSL uses your standard telephone line, but requires that you be located relatively close to the provider's central office (in some cases 3-4 miles). Check with local providers to see if DSL is available in your area. Many providers offer online tools that simply require you to enter your phone number to determine if service is available at your home.

If you live in an area without cable or DSL access, you still have the option of Internet access via satellite. These systems offer fast connections, but require satellite dishes and receivers as well as special modems. Click here for more information about satellite Internet access.

If you get an "always on" broadband connection then you also need to put in a firewall. Read our article about How Firewalls Work to get the skinny on protecting your files from hackers.

Regardless of the type of connection you get to the Internet, you will need an ISP (Internet Service Provider). In addition to access to the Internet, your ISP will give you an e-mail address, and possibly 5-10 Mb of free space for a website. You can also get additional e-mail addresses from sites like HotMail or Yahoo or Excite. These are free and the advantage of having one is that it doesn't have to change if you change your ISP. You can keep the same e-mail address and have the mail from that address forwarded to any other e-mail account you wish. It simply eliminates the process of sending out notices to all of your contacts that your e-mail address has changed. If you have an e-mail address from your company that you use for business, it is often a good idea to get a separate e-mail address for your personal e-mail.

If you need to connect multiple computers in your home, read our article about How to Network Your Home.

The Real World
What about your business address? If you're running a business from your home, you probably don't want your home address used as the business address. Depending on the type of business it is, it may just not give the impression you need. In this case, you have two options. You can rent a post office box, or you can use a CMRA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) mailbox service that gives you a corporate-sounding address and a suite number.

Each option has the drawback of requiring you to go somewhere else to get your mail (although there may be services that will deliver your mail to you). Post office boxes have the additional drawback of not allowing you to receive packages because couriers won't deliver to a P.O. box. If you use a service that gives your business a suite number (actually, just another name for a box number), you can receive packages. You also have 24-hour access and can request notification when a package has arrived.

NOTE: Current postal regulations for CMRAs require that a three-line address include the letters "PMB" before the number. If you use a four-line address, you may use the "#" sign before the number. For example:

Smith Industries
N. Main Blvd., Suite 14
City, ST 12345-2345
Smith Industries
N. Main Blvd., Suite 14 PMB 456
City, ST 12345-2345

What about client meetings?

Meetings with clients can't always take place in cyberspace, or at the client's location. When you are faced with this situation, rather than having the client come to your home (assuming they are in the same city), look into executive suites or hotels that offer space that can be leased for short periods of time. If you own your own business and this is a common occurrence, you may want to consider leasing an Executive Suite that provides you with a receptionist, voice mail, e-mail, and other services, along with time-limited access to private offices, a reception area, and a meeting room. If you don't need this type of arrangement on a regular basis, you can also rent spaces on an hourly basis at a fairly reasonable rate.

For example, using, a meeting room at The Blake Building in Washington, DC with a seating capacity of five, reserved for three hours would be $75. A room for 15 for the same amount of time would be $120. These types of services can often be reserved online and maps, written directions, contact information, photos and information about additional room needs is also provided.

Of course, there are also always the other standard meeting place options that include hotel lobbies, restaurants, golf courses, etc.


Communications today are drastically different than they were even 15 years ago. E-mail has become a way of life and the only communication method you may have with some people. If you think about how you communicated in business in 1985 as opposed to how you communicate in business now, there's no comparison. You probably used your office phone, and... well, there wasn't a heck of a lot more back then... maybe a telex machine. Shortly after that, however, fax machines began to enter the market, then car phones and e-mail hit the scene. Things changed very quickly after that. As technology advanced, the expectations of the amount of work produced also advanced. Now, we produce a lot more work a lot faster and expectations of higher productivity continue to climb because technology is enabling us to do it faster.

With technology advancing so rapidly and workloads increasing along with it, the desire to work from home and alleviate some of the stress that comes along with commuting, juggling family life, etc. has also become very strong. In that respect, the same technology that took away our freedom is also allowing us more freedom than we've ever experienced ... well, except for back before technology forced us to work so hard.

Photo courtesy MorgueFile

So, what does that have to do with communications and how we can communicate in a virtual business environment? A large part of work in any business, whether you're a sole proprietor or work for a corporation, is tied into communications of one type or another. If you can communicate effectively you can work more effectively. Take advantage of the technology available for communications and use your new found freedom to take back some of your life. Here's how:

  • With a simple cell phone you can go to your child's softball game without fear of missing an important call.
  • By using wireless web technology via cell phone or a Personal Digital Assistant, you can go the grocery store while you're waiting on that e-mailed file that needs your approval before it can be submitted.
  • With a virtual assistant or readily available office services, you can work from your basement but have a professional address, and a receptionist answering your calls.
  • With video conferencing you can communicate face-to-face with clients or co-workers across the country without ever leaving your city.
  • With teleconferencing combined with Internet presentation software, you can communicate with several people in real time while you're all viewing the same presentation from locations around the world. Sonexis offers these tools.
  • Using web hosted office tools you can perform scheduling, send files, communicate via chat rooms or instant messaging with co-workers, or clients.
  • In custom chat rooms or with instant messaging, you can have a discussion with several people from different locations and in situations where you can't necessarily talk.
  • Via web conferencing you can hold live interactive seminars, meetings, or other get togethers.
So, as you can see, communications in any office environment, whether virtual or not, are now quite simple and possible from almost anywhere. Don't forget, you also have the old standard, wired, corded, telephone you can use.

For some additional advice and information about working in a virtual environment, visit How Virtual Offices Work

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

How to get started with lead scoring

Seems like the marketing topic du jour is lead scoring.  What lead scoring does it assign a point value to who prospects are, how they interact with your company and what their need is for your product, the assumption being that the higher their score, the further they are along in the buy process.

Lead scoring works.  Let's take the example of a car dealership.  Perhaps a prospect walking in off the street and poking their head in the window earns them a score of 10 points.  Maybe he opens the door and sits in the driver's seat, imagining how it would feel to be on the road with the vehicle.  Perhaps that's 25 points.  Maybe they take it out for a test drive.  50 points.  Etc.

Obviously, the more interest they indicate, the deeper they are moving towards making a purchase decision.

With marketing automation software, you can start scoring your leads according to online and offline activity.  Say someone visits your web site.   Perhaps that's only one point.  They return to the site and look over your products.  Ten points.  Let's say they hit your job postings and look for a position in their area.  Perhaps that's minus 25 points (not because they're bad people, just because this is an indicator that they may not be a potential customer).  Maybe they'll sign up for a Web cast.  Then they'll attend.  More points. 

Then you sent them e-mail.  Every open is worth a certain amount of points but every response is worth more. 

Over time, your contact database will have a key field appended to it -- your prospect's lead score.  This is a strong indicator of interest and can help your team prioritize which leads to pass to the sales team and which to hold back.

If you're just getting started with lead scoring, here are five tips to get you on your way:

1.  The actual score doesn't matter.  Like scores on a pinball machine, it doesn't matter if an activity is equal to 50 points or 500 points.  Many people have asked me how many points they should assign to a person who signed up for a seminar, but didn't attend.   The important thing is that the point value is relative to other activities so in the end, the higher the score, the more actionable the lead is.

2. Lead scores should REPLACE your old ranking system of A,B or C leads in your CRM system.  If you begin to score on a relative scale, it becomes less of a psychological issue to categorize leads as A, versus B versus C.  So many sales people reject working with C leads because of the bad reputation they have as being too cold to develop efficiently.  With a relative lead scoring system, you always know who rates more highly and you don't have to inculcate a culture of "bad" leads at your organization through a grading system.

and as a follow on to that...

3.  Don't assume that a low score is equivalent to a low value lead.  Studies have shown that up to 70% of the bona fide leads that come through the door of a B2B demand creation organization end up buying a product from someone (though it may not be you).   Low lead scores indicate either a person is early on in their buying process, their need is not fully developed yet, they don't trust you enough to share their information with you, or a whole host of other reasons.   Don't assume because a contact has a low score that they won't develop over time.

4.  Start simple.  'Nuff said.

5.  All successful processes are ongoing in nature.  Tweak your programs, tweak your scores, change the metrics you look at to analyze the scores of your leads.  Be open and flexible when you get started and you'll find  you have a program that your whole team, marketing and sales, buy into.

If you're a customer, you can get some good tips on lead scoring on the SuccessForce blog.

The Lead Dogs has a short article on lead scoring with a bit more information.

Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages

As I've discussed before, landing pages are critical to getting the most from your pay-per-click campaigns. Our customers at Marketo have found that targeted landing pages can improve their conversion rates by 200% or more.

So how do you create better lead generation landing pages? I recently contributed a guest post to Lee Odden's wildly popular Online Marketing Blog in which I shared ten tested and proven tips you can use to improve and optimize your landing pages.

Read the entire article: Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages.

Here's a short summary:

  1. First Impressions Matter. Make sure your landing pages are instantly relevant to the search term.
  2. Have an Offer. Your landing page only needs to convince the visitor to sign up for a free offer; it doesn't need to sell your company.
  3. Remove The Site Navigation. Simpler pages usually work better for lead generation.
  4. Use Graphics Wisely. Graphics are main thing that draws the eye — the right one can work wonders, the wrong one can distract from your conversion.
  5. Make Your Content Scan-able. People don't read landing pages, they scan them.
  6. Only Ask What You Really Need. Simple forms convert better, and you can always collect more during your lead nurturing process.
  7. Capture Implicit Information. Use hidden fields and click paths to capture additional information about your leads.
  8. Have Reasons to Give Valid Info. Don't just give the offer to the prospect, email it to them — this ensures you get a valid email address.
  9. Say Thank You. The confirmation page is a great opportunity to deepen the relationship by making another offer or asking more information.
  10. Test… But Don't Over Test. Testing is a great way to optimize your pages, but don't over-test — A-B testing works great and most B2B companies don't have the volumes to support more sophisticated techniques like multivariate testing.

Landing Pages Don't Need To Be Hard

Unfortunately, three out of four B2B companies still send clicks to their home page. The biggest reason for not using more landing pages is a lack of resources, and time from web developers is the most difficult resource to get. That's why Marketo Landing Pages allows you to create landing pages with no IT, using an easy-to-use PowerPoint-like interface. Check out to learn more.

Read the entire article: Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages.

Traffic Demographics

How much do you know about the visitors to your web site? Are they directly interested in what you have to offer them? Is what you are speaking about on your site general information that is available anywhere on the Internet or something that they can only get from you? If you are simply rehashing what everybody else is saying than you are losing out on a lot of traffic and a lot of income.

Exactly how much you need to know remains something of a mystery. However, it is relatively safe to say that if you offer only generalities on your web page, you may generate a lot of traffic but you will probably not get a lot of return visitors. While people who come to your site initially may provide some base ad revenue, unless they can interact on your site, they are probably not going to be very receptive to actual sales pitches from you.

For example, if you are involved in the health care niche and you only put out a couple of hundred articles about how important health care is without giving your visitors and readers any real or useful information, it is not likely that they will be returning to get any real information from your site. When you offer them something of substance, no matter whether it is a digital product or something more tangible, they will remember your mediocrity and not be compelled to purchase your offering.

On the other hand, if you have fifty well-written articles discussing the different types of health care and different concerns, benefits and hazards of specific health care needs, your visitors will be more likely to return. When you have something specific to offer those readers, they are bound to be more responsive to your offers.

You can have ten thousand people on your list regarding your particular niche, but are you taking all of the possible variations into consideration in order to offer something that is directly relevant to your list? That is not to say that you have to get into too much detail but that you do need to offer them something that is directly related to a specific need. If there is no specific need to fill, none of your visitors will feel a need to purchase it.

While you do not want to narrow your niche down so far that you no longer have any real audience at all, you do want to include specifics about as many of those subgroups in your niche as is possible. Concentrate on building them up one at a time and you will actually fare much better than you would by bombarding them with everything all at once.

If you return to our health care niche example, you could very well start off with a general site stating the relevance of health care and how important it is for everyone. That main heading can than be broken down into sub-categories in order to meet and fulfill the needs and requirements of all of the people that visit your site.

The health care needs of a professional athlete are going to be different than the needs of an elderly and infirm person. However, by including sections in your site to cover the needs of both of those groups, you have expanded your audience by providing more specifics separated into different areas. You have also accomplished this without alienating either group. This is something that is very relevant when you want to generate return traffic or confidence in the products you have for sale on your site.

Whatever particular niche yours happens to be, try expanding it as far as possible while continuing to provide enough information for the casual reader to learn what category they belong in. Offering something for both the general audience as well as more specific information for each of the groups within that arena will only expand your audience, your credibility and your income.

Ward Tipton has been writing for over three years in the fields of Writing, SEO, SEM and for Internet Marketers across the globe. No matter what your writing or Internet Marketing needs may be, they can be met on time and on budget by visiting this site!

Passionistas: A Marketer’s New Best Friend

tagging1.jpgAccording to a new study by Yahoo and MediaVest called "Passionistas: The New Empowered Consumers," highly-engaged consumers are more likely than most to create and share content online about issues they are passionate about and even the brands associated with them. Should marketers tap into this community, they would find a "unique opportunity to engage these credible, influential advocates to spread brand messages through digital media," according to the release.

The study tracked the behavior of online consumers interested in sports, health, food, entertainment and other passions. The results showed that Passionistas spend a significant amount of time engaged in their passion related activities than the average consumer.

Passionistas are 52% more likely to recommend or influence other about a brand. Mark McLaughlin, vice president of Audience Strategies at Yahoo said in the release, "Being passionate today means digital content sharing and influencing others' brand perceptions and purchase behaviors. Marketers who build their campaigns from the start with the goal of tapping into passions are inviting consumers to get engaged and create an authentic dialogue."

Additional findings included: 53% said they would try a brand they had not previously considered if it were associated with their passion, versus 41% of regular users; 49% said their opinion of the brand would be more favorable if associated with their passion, versus 34% of regular users; and 46% said a brand has greater credibility if associated with their passion, versus 34% of regular users.

Passionistas look for relevant and timely information, including ads that look and feel like content, email subscriptions and RSS feeds, and customized suggestions from vendors like Amazon or Netflix. Marketers looking to leverage this valuable audience should look at this study and recognize the trends in their appropriate product space and how those events can shape the activity of their passionistas.

7 Marketing Mistakes To Avoid When Promoting Your Business

Many people rush into business thinking it will be easy to run, but very soon they realize that it is not as easy as it looks. A successful business is a finely tuned machine. In order to keep your business running smoothly it is important to avoid making mistakes.

Here are the 7 most common mistakes to avoid:

1. Not having clear objectives:
Many business people start a business without clear objectives. They fail to set realistic goals for their marketing and consequently set themselves up for failure. It is important to make a list of goals and objectives based on a quarterly time line. If you do not have company goals and objectives you are like a car driving without a road map. Make sure all employees are briefed on company objectives. When your employees are not properly prepared you will not be able to achieve company objectives.

2. Neglecting to analyze your potential customers
Neglecting to analyze your potential customers is a dangerous mistake. It can lead to many problems. When you do not analyze your customers wants and needs you do not know what products and services to develop for them. This will lead to targeting the wrong market and neglecting to understand your own niche market. It is important for any business to do their marketing analysis so that you can target your market and maximize your sales.

3. Not testing:
By not testing your sales copy and places you advertise with split testing your advertising, you will be losing sales. Split testing is simple to do but many businesses fail to do this. This results in a lot of wasted time and effort. If you do not test your ad copy and marketing promotions you will not have a proper idea of the ads and promotions that are pulling and what is not working. It is simple to do by placing 2 ads for the same product in a publication or website etc. You can then see which one is performing the best.

4. Not budgeting:
Budgeting is extremely important in business. Your business should never run out of money. This is especially true with your marketing and advertising ventures. It is important to have a monthly or quarterly budget for your marketing. Within that budget put aside money for each promotion you will be doing. Start small, test and then build on successes. This will allow you to always stay solvent and have enough for promotions.

5. Giving up too soon:
Companies go out of business at an alarming rate these days. One of the reasons is that the owners give up too soon. Just when success might be just around the corner they give up and decide to close the business down. In exactly the same fashion marketing promotions can fail. You need to give your promotions at least 3 months before you decide to scrap them. Some promotions will take longer than others to bring results. As always, test all marketing tactics before you launch a larger promotion. Patience is one of the hallmarks of business and you need to implement it.

6. Poor sales copy:
How often have you wanted a product but when you read the sales page you had serious doubts? Poor unprofessional ad copy will cost you sales. In fact without good sales copy you will not be able to sell effectively at all. It is critical to your business to get this right. If necessary get an experienced copywriter to do this. It is worth the investment, as you will see returns when you make sales.

7. Not screening your employees carefully:
To handle the extra load for the Christmas season you will need to hire new employees. It is very important not to rush into this. There is no dearth of people needing employment but you need to screen them carefully before hiring. One rude customer service agent can cost you customers. Do not take this type of risk. You want to preserve the integrity of your company at all times and screening employees is the way to achieve this. You will then be able to build a core of loyal professional employees that will be an asset to the company.

The golden rule is to diversify. You should always use multiple forms of marketing promotions in your business. Do not just do one or two promotions and then wait for results. This will slow company growth and your business will stagnate. The last thing you need is to slow your marketing in the Christmas season. So remember to diversify and enjoy the increase in sales.

By avoiding these mistakes you will take your company to the success you deserve. You will be able to have year round success for your business and really be able to cash in on the Christmas season. So plan ahead and be careful not to make these common mistakes.

Sean McPheat is a leading authority marketing consultant and helps businesses across the UK, Europe, US and the Middle East. Sean's marketing services include direct mail, Internet marketing, sales copy, sales training, telemarketing, PR and strategic alliance marketing.