Access to Work – What equipment will i need for my business?

Before applying to Access to Work it’s a good idea to do some research on the support you need. If you are applying for equipment, knowing what is available will help speed up the application and get you the equipment which will best suit your needs.

The first thing you need to do is identify what you need. Will your new business mean you will be doing more reading, answering the phone, taking notes, etc… Modern equipment can make these jobs easier and more efficient, enabling you to concentrate on your business.

Have a think about the tasks you will be undertaking and make a list of the jobs you will struggle with.

A good place to find the right equipment to enable you to run your business is an organisation who specialises in your disability. E.g. if you were visually impaired I would contact the RNIB or your local charity. If I was dyslexic I would speak with a local dyslexic support organisation. These organisations should have lots of information on equipment which could make your business life a lot easier.

Another place to look is the internet. Doing a search such as, “deaf equipment” or visual impairment equipment” will bring up companies who specialise in disability solutions.

These companies will arrange demonstrations at your home, which will give you a good idea if it suits your needs.

It is important to remember that the person who best who understands your disability is you! Any equipment people recommend will need to be tested to see if it’s suitable for your business. Remember, before trying out the equipment take with you what the equipment will be used for. For example if I was looking for equipment which would make it easier for me to read, I would take with me some business documents which i would be using on a daily basis.

Another place to view equipment is a trade show were companies show off the latest products. These events tend to be very busy, so it could be difficult to get a decent demo. If you see a piece of equipment you like, try to arrange a demo at home.

Then all you need to do is contact Access to Work and arrange a meeting.

Is my business viable? Will I qualify for Access to Work? A strong business plan will help

One of the conditions of a successful self employment application to Access to Work is that the business is viable .i.e. likely to succeed. Many disabled entrepreneurs starting up new businesses have difficulty in proving how profitable their business will be, as they only have a business plan, which is partly theoretical.

The problem Access to Work have is that it is difficult for them to determine if a business is viable when they don’t have any business advisers to judge it. Let’s not forget, some Access to Work applications run into several thousands of pounds. For Access to Work not to waste tax payers money, they must be sure the grant will be put to best use.

One way to help Access to Work is to inform them of other organisations you are working with to produce your business plan. It’s a good idea when starting a business to work with lots of organisations, as not only they can give you advice, they may also have a start up grant available.

Working with many organisations and securing grants from them will give a lot of strength to your business plan and help to prove that your business will have a good chance of success. The more qualified people you can get on board the better and if they are financially backing you, it will be further proof of your business’ viability.

Another way to prove viability is to get letters of support from business support organisations such as Business Link. These, combined with an endorsed business plan, will give your business idea credibility and may convince Access to Work that your business is viable.

Website not working? Blogging could be the answer.

You should think about your website like a plant, which needs regular attention to grow. If you leave it alone it will not grow, but others (websites!) around it will and you will get left in the dark.

Forget about your meta keywords and descriptions for now; these are still important, but what will make your website stand out is content and links. But, they must be the right content and links. In fact, great content and links!

Content and links are regarded as the best methods to get a website higher up the search engines. I have been recently working with a dancewear retail outlet with a website so I will use this as an example.

The first thing the dancewear shop needs to do is determine the keywords they wish to target. In this case they have done some research and found that the majority of their clients use the keywords “dancewear” and a geographical area. In other words, their customers type “dancewear Preston”, “dancewear in Preston”, “dancewear Lancaster”, “Northwest dance shops”, “dance shops in the Northwest”.

The next thing the dancewear outlet needs is a person in the company who can write dancewear related articles on topics such as, “dance classes in Preston”, “reviews on dancewear”, “what to look for in a dance teacher in Lancaster”, “local dance events in Preston”, “What would you like to see in our Preston shop?” etc. They would only need to write a little, but would need to do at least one per week.

This is the best way to get the right sort of content; can you see why? Each of these articles are searchable on the internet, due to their keyworded content. So, potential customers typing "dance classes Preston" might come across their article "A guide to dance classes Preston". They will then know about the shop and will hopefully buy something from them.

This is called “business blogging” and it's one of the best ways to get up the search engines. Quick fixes are not the answer and in the long run, if done correctly, should pay off. A business blog will also help the shop get links (another important factor in climbing the search engines). e.g. if you write about dance classes in Preston, some one might read your article and put a link to it on a forum, facebook account or their own website. As your blogs grow so will your links; see how it works? Their readers will be able to comment on their blog articles, which will produce even more content (remember you have control on what comments you allow).

The other advantage of the blog is that it makes you look like an expert to clients reading the blog. They may think "these guys know what they are talking about, I'll buy my dancewear from them"

What I recommend is you use a free program called “Wordpress.org” (this is the best blogging software), and have a link in your navigation bar called "blog". You can try WordPress for free at www.wordpress.com to see if it is suitable for you. If you feel that you are able to use it, then you can either install wordpress.org (the better version) yourself or instruct your web designer to do it for you. It will probably cost no more than £100.

Once installed, you will then design the blog to look like your website (it will not look exactly the same). ] Have a play with wordpress.com to see if this is suitable for you, there’s lots of help on the internet.

Once you feel competent with wordpress.org, you will be able to do all sort of cool stuff like a video walkthrough of the shop, events calendar, newsletters, advertising space for other companies such as dance classes, and all these programs are free.

My advice is, have a go at www.wordpress.com first and see if it’s something for you. If you enjoy blogging you can easily upgrade to www.wordpress.org and still retain all the articles you have written. Thanks to Catalyst Design Centre for support when writting this article

Business blogging – get it right from the start

Blogging has become big business and for some it has led to quitting their day job and blogging full time. For some disabled entrepreneurs, blogging could provide the flexibility to work from home, to put in the hours that suit their disability, and has very low start up costs. Sound appealing? There is a catch. Blogs are hard work and it could take years before you can make enough money to take a wage.

So, what is a blog? A blog is similar to a website, it can be on any subject but unlike a regular website, it is updated regularly with articles or posts. These posts appear on the top of the homepage and as new posts are added, the older ones move down the page. Once the page has 10 or so posts they are archived and are found using a search facility, categories bar or archive page. The front page of a long standing blog is usually the tip of the iceberg, showing only the 10 most recent entries. The rest of the blog may have hundreds or even thousands of posts, all about one subject.

Anyone can start a blog; the software used to power them can be as simplistic or as complex as you need it to be. Blogging software such as “Wordpress.com” and Google’s “Blogger” are free to use and have lots of online support.

The three main things you will need to make money from a blog are;

1. A topic that you are passionate enough to write about on a regular basis
2. A topic which is financially lucrative (I will explain this later in the post)
3. A topic which is popular (lots of people searching for it)

If you don’t have all of these factors then you will find it much more difficult to make money online.

So how does it all work? Well one of the main theories behind making money with a blog is to get a lot of useful articles about a chosen subject. Then through SEO (search engine optimisation), you get lots of traffic or visitors. Once you have all this traffic there are 4 main ways you can make money from them;-

1. Selling advertising banner space to other companies
2. Affiliate advertising – Advertising individual products; when a visitor clicks the ad, it will take them to another company’s website. If they buy the item then you would get a percentage of the total cost.
3. Having a blog with loads of articles will show off your expertise and will encourage people to use your own services.
4. Having Google ads on the blog will get you a percentage every time a visitor clicks one.

Making money with Google Ads;-

Having a blog with hundreds of articles still won’t guarantee financial success if you’re blogging about the wrong subject. To be really successful you need to be blogging about a subject which is profitable and to find this out you can use a tool called “Google keyword selector”.

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

This is the best place to start to see if you have a profitable blogging topic. You can type your keyword into the tool and it will list the amount of traffic that particular keyword generates on a monthly basis. Not only that, there is a drop down box “Choose columns to be displayed” which gives you the option to see how much the average CPC (Cost Per Click) would be. This figure is the average cost that a business is prepared to pay to get on Google’s “Sponsored Links”. The higher the amount the company is prepared to pay, the higher they will appear on the right hand side of Google when the relevant keyword is searched.

When you create your blog you can display these ads within each articles. If someone clicks the ad, Google will charge that company and you will get a percentage, regardless of whether the visitor buys something or not.

This is commercial blogging. Yes, you might be an expert in model areoplanes, but if there is no money in the keyword then there is no point trying to make money from it. Yes, do it as a hobby, but if the average CPC is 4p, you will only be getting a percentage of that amount. It will not matter if you get 100,000 visitors as only a small percentage of these will click an advert.

If you can pick a subject which is profitable e.g. “plumbing”, you might be able to get a percentage of £3. You can see that a percentage of this amount would mean far less visitors to achieve the same revenue. You also might be able to see a conflict of interest. If you are a plumber do you write about lucrative subjects such as “emergency plumbing” CPC £4.33 or “leaking plumbing” 4p? The answer is if the subjects are both relevant then do both and don’t compromise the integrity of the blog.

In summary this is how it all works;-

1. Create a blog
2. Write lots of articles on your chosen subject.
3. Read about SEO for blogs and apply to your own blog
4. Through a combination of lots of articles and SEO, you will eventually climb up Google
5. Visitors will come to your blog
6. A visitor clicks on a Google ad
7. You get a percentage of the CPC for that Advert

For a video/audio tutorial on commercial blogging have a look at Courtney Tuttle’s blog;-

http://CourtneyTuttle.com/2008/06/26/why-almost-everyone-should-be-starting-a-blog/

Make your Business Succeed – Self employment start up event

Thursday 12 March 2009
10.00 – 16.00
British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

This is a one-day conference for people with a disability who are interested in setting up a business or working for themselves, run by the British Library Business & IP Centre and Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The event includes a tailored programme of workshops and one-to-one advice sessions to help you get started. It will give you an overview of the different aspects of running a business which you need to be aware of, and the opportunities and support available to you, such as the Ready to Start programme. You will have the chance to network and make contact with like-minded people with similar aspirations and concerns. You might also find potential customers, business partners and suppliers.

During the event you can attend a workshop and have a one-to-one advice session with business and information experts from the British Library, Business Link for London, HM Revenue & Customs and the Ready to Start programme, which will give you the chance to ask specific questions and gain expert advice. Jobcentre Plus will be giving advice about in-work benefits and how they can help you make the transition from benefits to work.

The event is wheelchair-accessible and we will endeavour to cater to individual access needs if you tell us your requirements when you book.

Agenda

10.00 – 10.30 Registration and breakfast
10.30 – 11.00 Welcome speeches
11.00 – 12.30 Workshops (to choose on the day on a first-come, first-served basis)
Option 1: Marketing on a Small Budget
(Business Link London)
Option 2: Working for Yourself (Business Link London)
Option 3: Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property
(British Library)
 
12.30 – 13.15 Lunch and networking
13.15 – 14.45 One-to-one advice sessions with business advisers and exhibitors
14.45 – 15.30 Case study and closing session
15.30 – 16.00 Refreshments and networking

View our events calendar and book your place

Find out more about disabled access in the Library at http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/visits/access-guide.html

If you have any queries about this event please contact Gabrielle Rose on
+44 (0)20 7412 7080 or Clare Harris on +44 (0)20 7412 7257.

Albert Thomson wins Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year at Radar’s People of the Year awards

entrepreneur albert thomsonAlbert Thomson was awarded Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year at Radar’s People of the Year awards.

The People of the Year Awards are a pan-disability event celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations, who together are making the UK a better place for all.

Albert formed Action Amps in 2005 after becoming severely injured, which resulted in the loss of his left leg above knee, while serving in action. He left the Army as a Colour Sergeant in October 2005 having served 18 years.

Albert used his recovery time in hospital contemplating how he could turn this life-changing negative impact on his life into a positive. He was aware that without the quick-thinking and level-headedness of the Army medics and doctors, who were first on the scene, following the horrific injuries he sustained, he would not be here today. Read the rest of this entry »

Business awards. No losers, only winners – The benefits to an entrepreneur

business-awardBusiness awards are organized by various national and local organisations to honour and recognize the achievements of businesses and the people behind them.

Have you overlooked awards as a marketing tool to promote your business? If you haven’t considered putting your business forward for award nomination you may be missing a trick.

Entering an award usually requires a brief essay and description of your business, some contests may require financial records.

Even if you don’t win, there are benefits to be gained by being a finalist. Here are our top reasons to enter:

1. Entering an award as part of a marketing strategy is an untapped marketing tool by small business owners.

2. An award win or nomination often acts as a 3rd party endorsement, added credibility which can be very powerful within your business.

3. Award success presents a great story for all types of the media.
Many award organisers actively arrange press coverage on your behalf, opening up your business to new audiences.

Read the rest of this entry »

A list of disabled business awards to apply for

disabled business awards There are lots of awards celebrating the achievements of people who have taken the plunge. They are many and varied, and cover everything from starting up to lifetime achievements.

The awards season is upon us and there are lots of ceremonies taking place. disabled entrepreneurs are promoting their businesses by achieving award success.

The Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs

This highly prestigious business award is being sponsored by Sir Stelios Haji Ioannou of Easy Jet fame who is known globally for being a serial entrepreneur.

The purpose of this award is a genuine desire on the part of Stelios to help support disabled people in business and with £50,000 it is well worth applying for.

RADAR People of the Year Awards 2008

For over 40 years RADAR’s People of the Year awards have recognised the tremendous work of both individuals and organisations striving for equality for disabled people.
The People of the Year Awards celebrate these contributions, and included is a Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Read the rest of this entry »

Get Networking Working – The benefits to a disabled entrepreneur

disabled people networkingWhen I set up my first business I knew the importance of networking but knew very little else! My inexperience and lack of knowledge, coupled with my disability made my attempts hit and miss, heavy on the miss!

I found networking events really difficult initially and my sight loss did not help. I would now go as far as to say that I am better at it than many of my sighted counterparts these days. I have learned ways to make it work for me and I would like to share them.

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers and different disabilities pose different challenges but a disability need not always be a barrier and can sometimes be turned into an advantage.

Firstly, if you don’t like networking you are probably in good company. It is worth remembering that few people are natural networkers, like anything it requires some preparation and experience .

Before you begin any kind of networking it is important to understand that networking is more about giving than receiving and it is all about building relationships. Once you realise that networking is not all about direct selling it seems instantly a lot less painful.

I used to think that if I didn’t leave a networking event with someone prepared to book my services then my time had been wasted and I had failed. Once I understood the principle of using networking events, and generally meeting people, as an opportunity to begin to build a relationship with a potential client then the pressure immediately disappeared and I began to create real opportunities for my business.

Here are my top ten tips on getting networking working:

1. You Are Your Business

Remember, people do business with people they know, like and trust. Because networking is all about building relationships, people are often buying into you rather than into your business. You are likely to be the person they deal with so you need to think carefully how you present yourself and you should consider what potential clients expectations are.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permitted Work increased could help entrepreneurs with disabilities

Permitted work formThe amount you can earn whilst on Permitted Work has increased from October 2008. Previously a disabled entrepreneur on Permitted Work could earn £88.50 profit without it affecting their benefits. Now the amount has been increase to £92.00 to fall inline with the national minimum wage increase.

This extra £3.50 is only a small rise, but it’s worth remembering that it is profit and not earnings.

Example;- Now, if a disabled person’s business expenses (rent, materials, staff wages) were £100.00, they would be able to earn £192.00 without it affecting their benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

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