Planning My Side Business – Step By Step

May 31, 2011 –

As written in the past, I’ve started a small photography business as a part-time job.  I don’t expect significant success or income from this endeavor, but if I can cover expenses and make a little extra, I’ll be more than happy.

This opportunity is certainly not about money; it completes an item on my life’s bucket list.  I am not a professional or especially talented photographer, but seem to have an eye for interesting scenes.   I’ve been fortunate and visited California, New Mexico, Niagara Falls, Austria, Switzerland, and other locations.  Naturally, I took hundreds to thousands of pictures, some of which are unique and interesting.

This blog is all about assisting others in developing businesses for themselves – full or part-time – and fulfilling a dream.  The path to my objective had many steps that I’d like to share with you:

1)   Opportunity:   I noted blank walls in my doctor’s office (artwork was gone) and asked if I could hang my framed photos.  Win-win situation; the walls get covered and my work exposed to the public.

2)   Domain:  I immediately started brainstorming domain names and after several attempts registered SteppingStoneStudios at  I also registered a free email account using gmail.

3)   Team building:  I needed help with this project.  I contacted my accountant for financial guidance, a pro photo framer, and a website designer – things I could do, but had no time.

4)   Product and pricing:  Bulk of the time spent here.  I went through many iterations and researched market prices for possible sizes and used FedEx for shipping rates.

5)   Communication:  Key to this project coming together.  Meeting in person with the framer and virtually (via Skype and email) with the programmer to ensure all understood the end goal.

6)   Publicize:  I created and published a Facebook page for exposure and emailed the link to select friends for their feedback.  I also had business cards printed up with a logo created by the programmer.

Was this project easy?  On a scale of 1-10, about a 5.  More time-intensive than anything.  Rewarding?  Definitely, at least as an accomplishment.  Will the website provide extra income?  Unknown.  Total setup cost is around $400 for the pictures, framing, and programmer.  My time is not calculated.

The major advantages of the site are scalability – ability to add content at will – and virtual infinity.  The site is established, needing ony minor changes from time to time.  Further, the pictures on display will remain indefinitely and seen by hundreds if not thousands of people per month.  Rotating the photos on occasion provides more exposure, increasing the odds that someone will buy.

This is how I put together a very basic, ongoing side business for a few hundred dollars.  I will continue to update this blog about ongoing issues and lessons learned.  Once again, if I can do this, so can you.

By Dion D Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs

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Using Google Analytics

May 31, 2011 –

I’ve received a couple of requests for additional information on Google Analytics and decided the best way to illustrate what is available is to show you my own website’s charts.

The following information is from the very recently launched SteppingStoneStudios website.  Since this site has only been up for a couple of days, it is difficult to analyze scant data, but at least we can examine what is provided.


This is a summary (text, not graphical) of the number of site visits, the pages viewed during the visits, the average time on the site, the % of new visits (vs. repeat) and the bounce rate.  The “bounce rate” as by Google:  “The percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page).”

From Google Analytics

Graph by:



8 people visited this site

How this helps (or not)

The numbers tell me that Facebook – thus far – is providing 20% of my referral visits, and the vast majority – 80% – are directly entering the site, likely from typing the URL into their web browsers.  These are probably friends, acquaintances, and any who may have heard about steppingstonestudios from another source.  Again, it is very early in the site launch and analyzing these numbers is relatively meaningless.

Average time spent on a site is difficult to quantify and benchmark.  “Average” is a poor statistic because some sites have very long visits that don’t pull the average up higher; the opposite is also true.  Half your visitors could spend 40 seconds or less and yet the average remains at a high level.  Median length of visit time is perhaps a better indicator.  In addition, some sites will see much greater time spent (on average) than others.  E-commerce sites such as Amazon and e-Bay are likely to have high numbers because of their sheer size, selection, and ordering process.  All steps in a purchase are included in the average time, from entering the site to checking out.

Pages per visit is a little more helpful.  It tells me that visitors have looked at 5 of my pages (see above), not bad considering the site currently only has 6 or 7 pages.  This is relative to each site obviously, and the amount of content contained therein.

Other useful information from Google Analytics

Search sent 0 total visits via 0 keywords

This suggests that I may not be using the correct keywords to draw visitors from web browsers.  If one is searching for pictures of Vienna, did I forget to include the term “Vienna” in my keywords?  More on the importance of keywords here.

Google analytics goes on to provide in-depth geographic information about visitor origin (e.g. country, state) and type of browser, etc.  Some of this data is quite helpful when considering what products to offer.  A local dry cleaner isn’t likely to get clients that aren’t within a very limited radius.  On the other hand those selling rare comic books may have a worldwide clientele.

Site analytics are very valuable, especially if used over time and as a baseline.  If your site had consistent traffic and suddenly uptrends or downtrends over a few weeks, what changed?  Don’t concern yourself with day-to-day fluctuations, especially for smaller and home businesses.  Many factors will influence statistics: holidays, weather, and major events.

By Dion D Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs

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How To Set Up A Facebook Page

Homepreneurs has blogged several times about using social media to your advantage for marketing, branding, and sales.  The current biggest social media marketing outlet is Facebook with approximately 500 MILLION ACTIVE users.  Yes, you read that correctly:  500 million.

This is a huge potential market for your product or service.  A customer base this massive has never existed at any time or place in the history of sales and marketing.  The business industry is even for all competitors, large or small, established companies or startup concerns.  Facebook is simply a sales network that cannot be ignored if a business wishes to compete and thrive.

In the article below, Lauren Drell walks readers through setting up a basic Facebook marketing campaign.  Her information is not overly technical, very timely, and presented as a simple step-by-step guide.

Time to start marketing your business on Facebook.  With this guide, there are no excuses for not setting up a page for your business.


How To Set Up A Facebook Page

By Lauren Drell

There are 500 million active users on Facebookit’s about time you get in on the action and start a Facebook Page for your business. After all, the best marketing reaches out to consumers where they already are, and people spend more than 700 billion hours a month on the site. Exposure to that many eyeballs could translate to a lot of business for your company.

Not tech savvy? That’s not a problemthe process isn’t too technical. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you initiate your Facebook marketing campaign

1. Create your Page

Go to and click “Create Page” in the upper right hand corner.

The next screen asks you to select a category from the following list:

  • Local Business or Place
  • Company, Organization or Institution
  • Brand or Product
  • Artist, Band or Public Figure
  • Entertainment
  • Cause or Community

2. Fill In information

Once you select the category for your business, you can fill in the name, address and phone number. Check the box next to “I agree to Facebook Pages Terms” and click “Get Started.” You’ll see a Page that looks like this:

3. Add a photo

Upload a picture for your page. It can be a logo, a photo of a store or a photo of a person—whatever makes the most sense for building your brand. The file needs to be smaller than 4 MB, and it can be square or a vertical rectangle. However, note that the avatar that shows up next to status updates and wall posts is square, so if you don’t want anything chopped off, square might be the way to go.

4. Suggest your Page to friends

Get your Page started off with some “likes” by recruiting your own friends. Start typing in names and when you drag the cursor over someone’s name, it will highlight in blue. Click once to check the person and add them to your invite. Click “Selected” to see who’s on your invite list. When you’re ready to invite, click “Send Recommendations.”

5. Import contacts

Click on “Import Contacts” to reach out to your e-mail contacts about your new Page. You can upload a file (Outlook, Constant Contact, .csv) or you can enter your e-mail log-in info so Facebook can access people in your e-mail contact list. Again, you can check the box next to the names you’d like to invite, and you can preview the invitation to see what it’ll look like. For people who are already on Facebook, they’ll get a “Recommended Pages” widget on their Facebook, while everyone else will get an e-mail that looks like this:

6. Start writing content

Once you have a photo uploaded and have a few fans on board, you can start engaging.

For status updates, you can either share with everyone or you can target by location or by language. Targeting comes in handy if the Page is for a business with several locations in various states, especially if there is a contest, event or update that is only for a particular city.

If you want to post a link to a blog post or news story, don’t just type or paste the URL into a status update. If you do, it will look like this:

To post a link the proper way, click “Link” and paste the URL. Click “Attach.” Once you “attach” the URL, you’ll see that the text and photo from the page you’re linking to will populate automatically. You can change the title, paste different text into the snippet, and change the pictures (if there are several options, indicated by the “Choose a Thumbnail” prompt):

This is the best and cleanest way to link to another page. The post looks better and it will perform better if the link is attached instead of typed into the status. Note that you can click on either the link or the snippet to change the text before you click “Share.”

7. Get a vanity URL

Once you have 25 fans on your Facebook Page, any of a Page’s admins can reserve a vanity URL so that your Facebook URL is Go to the Username page, select the Page name from the drop-down menu and then write in the name you’d like to use. Click “Check Availability.” If it’s available, a prompt will ask, “Are you sure you want to set [URL] as [Facebook Page]’s username?” Click confirm to lock in that URL—and keep in mind that you can’t change the URL for a Page once you confirm.

8. Use the tools that are available

Facebook Insights is a great tool that can help you figure out when to post and what kind of content does well. Measuring social media success is complicated, but many brands focus on engagement. Activity on your Page is a good sign, and you can keep tabs on activity by clicking “Facebook Insights” on the right sidebar, just below the admins.

9. Assign other admins

Speaking of admins, you can invite several people to run the Page and post content—links and statuses will come through as written by the Page and not the individual. (Note, the statuses above were generated when I was on my personal account—but the posts came through from “My Sweet New Candy Shoppe” because I am an admin.)

In the “Admins” section of the sidebar on the right, click “See All.” A new page will populate with the names of the admins. To make someone else an admin, just type in his name (it’ll populate in real time)—there is no limit to the number of admins a Page can have. Admins are kept abreast of happenings on the Page—including comments and posts so that your company can interact with its fans—via e-mail.

Now that your Facebook Page is all set, you can learn more about what to do, what not to do and when to post to get the best engagement.


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Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN): How to Get One

Many businesses – home based or stand alone – require a Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN).  Typically a business with employees or with a structure other than a sole-proprietorship must have a FEIN.  The IRS provides a helpful link – – to assist you in determining if a FEIN is necessary for your business.

Getting a FEIN is not difficult and Jeanette Mulvey has some helpful tips in her article below.  If a FEIN is not necessary, usually your social security number will suffice for tax purposes.  If you expect growth or plan on hiring employees, applying for a FEIN early in your startup phase may be a good idea.

Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN): How to Get One

By Jeanette Mulvey

Before you can open a bank account, apply for a business license or file a tax return, you will be required to obtain a Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN) for your business. Not every small business needs a FEIN, but many do. Those who do include:

– Any business with employees.
– Any business that operates as a corporation or a partnership.
– Any business that pays employment, alcohol, tobacco or firearms tax returns.

If you’re not sure if you need a FEIN, you can consult the Internal Revenue Service’s web site at According to Melvin Springer, a North Bellmore, N.Y.-based financial executive and SCORE advisor (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a good rule of thumb is that “if you record them on your personal tax return you are not required to have one, as you can use your social security number. If you intend to report them on a business tax return you will be required to have a FEIN.”

If you are required to have a Federal Employee Identification Number, there are several ways to apply.

By Phone: (800) 829-4933.

By fax or mail: You can find form SS-4 [SS-4 download as pdf] and located fax number and mailing addresses for your location on the IRS web site.

Online at the IRS web site. You can file the SS-4 online or participate in an “interview style” live chat that will ask you questions and issue you a FEIN if you require one.

Regardless of what method you choose, your number will not be active in the IRS system for two weeks.

While not everyone is required to get a FEIN, you may decide that it’s worth applying for one anyway. There is no charge and you never know when you may decide that it’s time to hire an employee or when your business circumstances might change and you will need one. It might be best to have already done the legwork rather than trying to do it on the fly.

Jeanette Mulvey is BusinessNewsDaily Managing Editor.


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3 Things You Can Do From Home For Additional Income

One of the main goals of Homepreneurs is to give you options for job and/or careers. We find these in various locations on the Internet, in books, by word of mouth or by simple observation.

The rest of the content contained in this blog is to help you market, sell, and run the business you create. Difficult to market, create, and sell a product or service you don’t have yet. This post is another geared toward assisting you find that job – full or part-time – that you can do from home.


3 Things You Can Do From Home For Additional Income

by MMarquit

An essential ingredient in frugal living is spending less money. However, there is only so much you can cut from your budget before you can’t cut anymore — or you feel so restricted that it becomes difficult to maintain your situation. If you are looking to improve your cash flow, you can look for ways to add a little more income to your budget.

Increasing your income doesn’t mean that you have to go out and find a part-time job, though. There are things you can do from home to make a little extra money. You may have to spend some time getting things started, but after a while, you might find that you can create a steady income from the comfort of your home.

1. Freelancing

One of the most popular things you can do is freelance. You can freelance if you know how to write, if you are knowledgeable about graphic design, or if you know how to program. Technology has made it possible for you to provide your services to people all over the world. Many of my own clients have never even met me in person. You will have to figure out how to set your freelance rates, and you need to be careful of scams and people who don’t pay you in a timely manner, but with a little perseverance, you can earn some money as a freelancer.

2. Start Your Own Web Site

Another way to make a little extra money is to start your own web site. Think of something that you are passionate about, or that you are knowledgeable about. You can start a blog or web site quickly and fairly inexpensively. Post information that others find useful, and consider tweaking content to focus on certain keywords. You can even look for good information from other sites, and curate it in a way that attracts visitors. Content curation and creation are expected to really take off, and you can be involved.

Monetize your web site/blog with AdSense, as well as affiliate programs. Once you have an established following, you can even begin offering advertising packages.

3. Consulting

If you know a lot about something, you can offer your services as a consultant. You can do PR and image consulting, or you can provide help as a SEO consultant or social media guru. It doesn’t even have to be online. You can base a consulting business for communications, teamwork, survey design, green living or some other subject of interest out of your home. You may have to travel sometimes, though, so that can get difficult.

Consulting is also tricky, since you will have to be able to deliver results and prove your expertise. But if you have the credentials, you can be a success as a consultant — and do it all from the comfort of your home.


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