How Do I Bill for My Time?

Dear Anne:

I’m an independent contractor and have received a query from a potential new client for the same kind of work I just finished for my last client. The new client would be getting a faster, cheaper service from me because of experience I gained on the previous client’s dime. How do I bill ethically as a contractor given I keep learning on a former client’s tab? [Read more…]

Nicholas Carlson of Business Insider Is Writing a Book on Marissa Mayer

[Read more…]

Letter from Blacksburg by Way of Nairobi

By Anne Giles

Excerpt from a letter I received yesterday from my father, Robert Giles. Shared with his permission. [Read more…]

The Why and How of Great Blog Posts

By Anne Giles

The audience for blog posts has changed radically in the years since Handshake 2.0 launched in 2008.

Most blog posts on Handshake 2.0 and on other blogs I manage are now read, not by a loyal readership of the blog, but 1) by those using search engines, primarily Google, and 2) by those who click on links shared via social media.

Anatomy of a Blog Post Handshake 2.0

Traffic detour

The top source of traffic to Handshake 2.0 used to be “direct,” i.e. people knew of Handshake 2.0 and typed in its URL or clicked a link in an email sent to them by a colleague. According to Google Analytics, from January, 2013 through September, 2013, the top sources of traffic to the site have been 1) Google and other search sites (62%), 2) direct (20%), 3) Facebook (3%), 4) various (15%).

If search engines are the top sources of traffic to sites, then one might feel tempted to optimize the blog’s content for search engines. However, the best SEO then – and now – is great content.

Why we’re trying to write great blog posts

What makes for great content in my experience? To start, we need to know what we’re doing and why, i.e. as Steven Covey urges us, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Essentially, the objective of every blog post is this: “Contact me. Find me and the content I have written so interesting, knowledgeable, credible and authoritative, find yourself relating so much to what I have written by both mind and heart that you want to contact me – to do business, to form a partnership, to hire me, to discuss whatever ways we could be of mutual benefit to each other.”

How to write great blog posts

To meet the objective of “Contact me,” great blog post content:

  • is invitational.
  • relates to human emotion (here’s why).
  • is brief because people scan posts.
  • opens powerfully because people scan posts.
  • offers high quality solutions to problems or answers to questions.
  • cites credible sources and links to them to help the readers evaluate for themselves the quality of your research to back your points.
  • is so beautifully written, offers such value, and is so well-founded that people feel confident about sharing it in their social networks. (They put their reputations on the line every time they post a link or “like” a post.)
  • is an entity unto itself with a consciously written beginning, middle and end to meet the needs of answer- and solution-seekers.
  • says something about a topic or subject that’s never been said before and/or presents a compilation of data in a way that’s never been done before. Being one-of-a-kind competes with all other writers hoping Google’s algorithm will “like” them enough to put their content on page one search results.

Art, craft and value of writing online content

To help writers create content for Handshake 2.0, I’ve developed

Is it tough to be an online writer? Yes, it is. I estimate this post took me at least a dozen hours to research and write.

But it’s a great time to be a writer. Content is king and queen online! Writers rule! Non-writers? If they want to be part of those one billion searches per day on Google, they’ll have to contact us.

Contact Anne, founder of Handshake 2.0 and co-founder of Cognichoice, here.

Graphic by Kelsey Sarles was created in 2009 and is still looking good.

Five Hottest Business Books of the Year

By: Elmira Hamidi

To be successful in your career and business you need to be an information-hungry person within your industry.

I have selected the top 5 books voted as the 2013 best small business books by Small Business Trends and have added summaries and highlights to help you decide if these books are for you.

  1. Emerging Markets Rule by Mauro Guillen and Esteban Garcia-CanalEmerging Markets Rule looks into how multinational firms have created a business model of their own in the United States and how they survive regardless of what the economy does. The authors highlight 7 new axioms of global competitiveness as the secret of these companies’ business. These axioms are as follows:
    • Execute, strategize, and execute again
    • Cater to the niches
    • Scale to win
    • Embrace chaos
    • Acquire smart
    • Expand with abandon
    • No sacred cows
  2. The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Humans by Shawn Smith and Rebecca MazinThis interesting book answers more than 200 questions that small business owners have about hiring, firing, and other human resources concerns.The main topics covered in this book are including, recruiting, hiring, discipline, downsizing, compensation, benefits, training, and employee relations.
  3. Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life by Trevor BlakeTrevor Blake uses his own experiences as a businessman to identify three rules for business and life: 1) reclaim your “mentality,” 2) create winning ideas, 3) and transform ideas into achievements. He asserts that these three rules will help you to achieve more and be happier in your personal and
    professional lives.
  4. 31 Days of Marketing by JP JonesThe author offers 31 different practical advice and information of marketing that can be applied in advertising strategies. The books covers topics including: public relations, thank you cards, newspapers and magazines as marketing vehicles, TV and radio, promotional materials, marketing via your blog, other people’s blogs, Twitter, Facebook, videos, photos, personal appearances, clubs and niche organizations and so forth.
  5. Slicing Pie: Funding Your Company without Funds by Mike MoyerMoyer claims that over 70% of entrepreneurs make early equity mistakes that can damage relationships beyond repair and destroy a company.This book outlines a process for calculating the right number of shares each founder or employee in an early stage company deserves, especially as it grows and roles and contributions change. In addition, the book aims to teach readers:
    • How to value an individual’s time and resources relative to others’ contributions
    • How to value ideas and relationships
    • What to do when a founder leaves a company
    • How to handle equity when firing an employee

Reading great books is one of the best ways that will inspire and help us become great leaders to improve our businesses, even our lives.

Photo: Behzad Hamidi

Elmira Hamidi is a graduate student in the Virginia Tech Department of Communication, and a marketing assistant at the Virginia Tech Business Services Office. Read more from Elmira Hamidi on Handshake 2.0.

Discovering Connections via LinkedIn Live

“How can anyone know 500 people?” asked my husband upon receiving a LinkedIn request from an old friend with over 500 connections. At that moment I realized he had never looked at my profile. Why should he? He already knows me. What he doesn’t know is that I really do, at some level,  know the 900+ people in my network.

And while that may seem like I’m well-connected, I learned during LinkedIn Live in Blacksburg there are others from my region with even more connections.

The three top connectors from the Roanoke-Blacksburg region mentioned were:

Not surprisingly, they are in my network, too! It made sense to me that John and Alec would have a lot of connections. John teaches 3,000 students regularly in World Regions, the largest class Virginia Tech offers and has made news around the globe for reaching out to connect with world leaders through all means of social media.

As a headhunter, meeting people is the life-blood of Alec’s business. He’s social, out-going and knows how to work a room when it comes to making contacts.

But Caroline, who is in her early twenties and a budding entrepreneur, does not have the benefit of speaking to thousands of students daily or longevity in a career. Instead, she attributes routinely connecting with purpose to her LI success:


Caroline pughLinkedIn has been a tool that has become a part of my every day life in communicating, networking, learning and sharing what I do as an entrepreneur.

I have found that getting in touch with key decision makers is an instrumental part of growing a business, along with building and maintaining strong relationships.

Through LinkedIn I have been able to connect with people who are now some of my closest advisors, friends and clients.

— Caroline Pugh

 

 

To learn more about how these and other connectors are shaping the Roaonke-Blacksburg region and beyond, take a look at the LinkedIn Live SlideShare presentation below. You’ll be amazed by how connected we are and the potential that awaits. 

 
LinkedIn chose  Blacksburg, Va. to launch LinkedIn Live! The  event was held at the Inn at Virginia Tech on June 27, 2013. 
 
Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, a college-search and campus visit planning portal for college-bound teens and their parents. Connect with her on LinkedIn!
 
Smart College Visit is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0. 

 

 

Planning and Hosting the Sports Education Expo

By Z. Kelly Queijo

Have you ever considered hosting a conference? It’s an idea I’ve been turning over in my head for some time. My initial thoughts are: 1) it’s a great way to bring people together around a central topic, 2) it’s probably a lot of work, and 3) and I’d better learn more before I get in too deep.

I had the fortunate opportunity to connect with Sherri Gold on LinkedIn and get invited to present at her first-ever Sports Education Expo. I decided to turn to her for advice since she has been in the thick of planning, promoting, and hosting her first conference.

How did you determine how big a conference to host?

SG: We made our decision based on past exhibitions that we have attended or worked and also by the amount of information we were covering. We knew that a hotel would not be enough space for the amount of exhibitors we wanted to have attend and we knew that we had to pick a place that was a destination as well as a good location. We also had to take into consideration the ease of getting to the location and Philly is accessible by plane, train and automobile. Bottom line is that we wanted it big so we started with a big venue.

How are you reaching the audience you want to have attend your conference?

SG: We are applying grass roots marketing to this project by cross marketing with all of our exhibitors. It is in everyone’s best interest to market to their audience by inviting those they want to visit them…in turn that gets the word out to mass numbers through their own databases which total in the millions. We are doing a combination of traditional mixed media (print, radio, web, Facebook and Twitter…LinkedIn) and acquiring media partnerships, whereby we give them space and they in turn give us plugs on the radio. We are also offering a fundraising program that allows teams, schools and organizations to sell tickets to the show with a 25-50% return….they make money and bring us attendees! Win-Win!

How did you determine the number of vendors to invite?

SG: It was a matter of deciding how many spaces we wanted to make available to each sport and category, based on past conference and expo experience, then multiplying that amount by the number of sports we were featuring. Once you decide how many vendors you want there you need to invite three to four times that amount.

What will make this a success for you?

SG: If everyone who attends simply takes away one thing that helps them and the vendors have enough traffic. As with most expos or conventions/conferences the vendors usually have issues with the exhibit floor being empty while attendees are actually in a workshop or classroom. We are working very hard to balance the traffic between the floor and the workshops to avoid this problem.

I’m impressed by all that you’ve put together, any words of advice?
SG: This is a lot of work with a multitude of details to handle. Think it all the way through and do your research first. As with anything you undertake it is crucial to plan it out all the way through before you even start. The most important part to me would be to do your homework on how many of these conferences take place, find the where, when and who. Then plan accordingly. I have found that LinkedIn has been my most valuable tool to date. It has taken a long time to figure out how to use it properly and I am still not 100% proficient but all my best connections have come from there.

The Sports Education Expo will be held in Philadelphia, December 13-15, 2013. Sherri Gold is the managing partner and event director for the Expo.

Z. Kelly Queijo, founder of Smart College Visit, Inc. was invited to exhibit and present at the Sports Education Expo in December. Follow her company on LinkedIn, on Twitter @collegevisit and onFacebook

Smart College Visit and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

4 Quick Tips on How to Plan a Conference

The VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week is in its fourth year and Lindsey Everssole has been at the helm each year guiding the process of organizing the week-long event. Having participated in this multi-city/multi-venue event, I asked Lindsey for tips on how to plan a successful conference. Her advice:

  1. Book your event dates at the venue as soon and as early as possible. It’s not crazy (and in fact, it’s important) to book your events a year out in advance at the designated venue. 
  2. Line up your event components and speakers soon after, since everyone needs time to plan in advance in today’s busy world.  
  3. When you have the skeleton of your event agenda complete, begin promoting it. Relentless advertising and promotion, and most importantly, having a clear message that states the value in attending/participating throughout your marketing materials is imperative to getting people to register and show up. 
  4. Consistent communication and steadfast reminders to your sponsors, speakers, vendors, and attendees is crucial to pulling off a successful event. 

VTKW Global Student Challenge Teams 2012

The VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Business Concept Challenge can be viewed via Livestream on Thursday, August 22, 2013.  Get the details on Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

The Fourth Annual VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week (#vtkwglobal) began on August 18 and will run through August 24, 2013. 

Z. Kelly Queijo, founder of Smart College Visit, Inc. is considering hosting a conference. If you have tips you'd like to share, post them in the Comments section. Your input is appreciated! Follow Kelly and her hashtags on Twitter @collegevisit and on Facebook

Smart College Visit and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0. 

Do You Know Your Credit Score?

By Kevin T. Reeder, Loan Officer, First Bank & Trust Company

Surprisingly, many people are unaware of their credit scores and how they affect their access to borrowed funds. Most lending institutions make use of credit reports in determining whether or not an individual will receive a loan and, if the loan is made, the borrowing terms he or she will receive. Being aware of what constitutes your credit report can help you enhance your score and ensure you receive the best available terms from your lender.

How does your credit score look?Three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, collect information reported by various financial institutions (credit card companies, banks, etc.) to produce a credit report. Credit scores range from approximately 350-850 with the most credit-worthy borrowers receiving scores above 750. Your score is affected by such factors as payment history (e.g., late payments), amounts owed, length of credit history, and number of credit accounts. Public information such as lawsuits and bankruptcy can also negatively affect your score and can stay on your report for seven to ten years.

Fair or not, a complicated formula of these factors condenses your entire financial history into a single number which lenders use in making their loan decisions. A low score could result in a high interest rate on your mortgage through secondary market lenders such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or it could limit the borrowing capacity of your small business.

What is the best way to enhance your score?  The most simple and effective way to increase your credit score is to always make your payments on time.

Whether it’s the mortgage on your house or the line of credit for your business, making payments on time will keep you in good standing with your lending institution.
As mandated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can keep an eye on your credit score by requesting a free annual report from each of the major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. In some cases, a late payment could be mistakenly reported, or an unpaid medical bill could be dragging down your score.

By keeping track of your credit score and making sound credit decisions, you will ensure that you receive the best terms from your lender.

Read more from First Bank & Trust Company on Handshake 2.0.

First Bank and Trust CompanyFirst Bank & Trust Company, one of the top community banks in the United States, is a diversified financial services firm with office locations in southwest Virginia – serving Blacksburg, Christiansburg and surrounding areas – northeast Tennessee, and the New River Valley and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Financial objectives are addressed by offering free checking products for personal and business accounts, and assessing lending solutions managed by mortgage, agricultural and commercial lending divisions. Comprehensive financial solutions are available through trust and brokerage service representatives. For businesses, First Bank & Trust specializes in business services, including online banking and online billpay, andbusiness loans.

First Bank & Trust Company is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Who Gets the Real Estate Tax Deduction?

By Micah Fraim, CPA

So everyone knows that if you own your house, the mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and (generally) Private Mortgage Insurance, PMI, are deductible on your individual income tax return. The title and loan are in your name and the 1098 comes directly to you. Easy.

Who gets the deduction?Where the situation gets more complicated is if one or more of those things are not true. What if the title is in your name but not the mortgage? Mortgage but not title? Neither? According to the Internal Revenue Code, IRC, Sec.1.163-4(b) gives someone the ability to deduct interest on "real estate of which he is the legal or equitable owner, even though the taxpayer is not directly liable upon the bond or note secured by such mortgage, may be deducted as interest on his indebtedness."

Who gets the deduction? The key to the answer is something many people overlook called "equitable ownership." This essentially means the person bears both the benefits and burdens of the home ownership, even if they are not directly liable for it.
This principle was highlighted in Ndile George Njenge and Ekinde Sone Nzelle Rachel v. Commissioner. In the case, a couple who was dealing with financial difficulties had their son obtain a loan and buy a house for them. The parents lived in the home, maintained it, and paid the mortgage and all other household bills. The IRS disallowed the deductions on their tax return, claiming they were not entitled to them because the title and mortgage were not in their name.
The court overturned the IRS decision. By proving that they received the economic benefit of the home in addition to bearing the economic burdens of it, the couple was able to prevail.

Have questions about who gets the tax deduction in your situation? Please contact Micah Fraim, CPA.

This post is an excerpted version of Who Can Take the Home Interest and Real Estate Tax Deductions?