Make This Your Most Productive Year Ever - 26 Tips

Each year we start the year thinking about our goals, our job, our health, all the 'new' routines and commitments we make to ourself to make this our best year yet... but two weeks into January all our planning and resolution goes out the window! You can make this your best year ever by applying some of these simple ideas (and re-reading this article each year to keep you on track.

Make a date. Make time in your diary to find a quiet, comfortable location to set your goals. I spend a morning at my favourite table in the tearoom of the Sheraton on the Park (a beautiful hotel in Sydney city) in January every year to review my goals and set new ones for the year ahead.

No more New Year's Resolutions! Instead, focus on creating realistic goals for all areas of your life - I call these your top 5.

Take five. Create five categories for which to set goals: physical, educational, spiritual, financial, and relational. By setting goals for each of these areas of your life, you will be taking a balanced approach and not neglecting any important aspects of your life.

Write it. You must write your goals down - it makes them more powerful. Use positive language - words like "I will" and "I am" - this will help you to feel as though you have already achieved your goals and to change your behaviors accordingly, for example, "I am going to the gym three times per week". Make sure you allocate a specific timeframe for the completion of each goal, for example, "By the beginning of March, I am going to the gym three times per week". Now, identify a reward for achieving each goal - don't just make a list of rewards, relate a specific reward to the achievement of a specific goal. This will inspire you even more toward the achievement of your goal. And finally, list the possible obstacles that will get in the way of you achieving each goal, and how you will overcome these. This will help you to pre-empt the things that might go wrong and immediately swing into action with your solution, rather than giving up on your goal.

Review constantly. I have been told that the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire is that a billionaire reads their goals twice a day. Simple really. I keep a copy of my goals in several locations around my house (on the bathroom mirror, on the printer, outside the shower screen, on the fridge, on my bedside table and in my wallet), which makes it easy for me to see my goals and be reminded of what I am working towards several times a day.

Use it or lose it! I recently read - people who spend a thousand dollars or more each year on their personal development will increase their business by 20 percent. Read more books, attend workshops, find a new networking group, listen to tapes or CDs in your car, do online courses or enrol at college or university. Keep your brain active.

Make time. Eliminate time-robbers from your day - make a list of all the things you do that rob you of your time, such as watching too much TV, running errands inefficiently, checking and responding to your email too often, making long phone calls, waiting in traffic and even other people. Focus on controlling your time - organising your day efficiently and getting rid of the things in your life that are not a high priority.

Update your Resume. Make an appointment with yourself for one hour to update your resume. Be prepared. You never know when that job of your dreams might come along or if an internal opportunity becomes available.

Create a paperless desk. Remove all paperwork from your desk: establish files for your projects; reference folders for information you need to access regularly; a reading file for articles, reports, journals and FYI documents; and a daily-file for administrative, miscellaneous and day-specific tasks, and keep these on shelves or in drawers.

Out of sight, out of mind. Remove your in-tray from your desk or get rid of it all together if you can! Keep it out of sight so the contents don't distract you and so that people don't drop new items into it without you noticing.

Hang a 'Do Not Disturb' sign. If you have an actual office with a door, this one is easy. But many workplaces today are open plan and it's difficult to alert people to the fact that you don't wish to be interrupted - but there are ways around it. I know one workplace where each person has an item (in this case, a toy frog) which when placed on top of their computer means that they are not available - that they are trying to concentrate on something. When the frog comes down, everyone knows they are available again. With the agreement of everyone in the team, this system works particularly well for an open plan environment. Another technique is to use headphones - when people see you have headphones on they know you are not tuned-in to what's happening around you - you don't even have to be listening to anything if you find that too distracting - just put your headphones on to signal your 'do not disturb' request.

Book a daily meeting with yourself. Block-out the first 60-minutes in your diary or calendar every day. Treat it as a standing commitment and protect it from being eaten into by other people's meeting requests. Overtime, people will learn that you are not available until a certain time (which will vary depending on when you schedule your 60-minutes) and they'll work around you.

Unplug. Schedule one TV-free night each week. Switch off the set and instead listen to your favourite music, play a board or card game, read a book, enjoy a quiet meal by candle light (alone or with someone whose company you love), go on a date or soak in a bath. Start being aware of your television viewing habits and make a point of only watching programs that you truly enjoy and stop wasting precious time in front of the TV.

Manage your reading. Create a reading file and put it in your briefcase. If you don't already have one, start a reading file and carry it with you on your way home. You can get through a surprising amount of reading while on public transport to and from work and while waiting in queues.

VIPs Only. Surround yourself with VIPs (Very Inspiring People) and eliminate VDPs (Very Draining People). Spending more time with VIPs will inspire, motivate and invigorate you. Minimise your time with the VDPs in your life. It can be difficult to make the switch - be strict with yourself and you'll reap the rewards of being among the VIP crowd.

Where are you going next? Plan your next holiday, even if you're already on one! Block-out your holidays and short breaks at the beginning of each year. By scheduling and planning for your holidays in advance you'll not only have something to look forward to but you'll have a much better chance of avoiding the usual pre-holiday stress which comes with trying to complete everything before you go - and much less chance of neglecting to take those much-needed breaks.

Find a mentor. When you identify the person you believe would be a suitable mentor, spend some time watching them in action. Ask around to find out what other people's opinion of your chosen mentor are and find out all you can about their achievements, beliefs, values and way of operating. This will give you insight into them before you approach them about mentoring you.

Leave a detailed message. Whether it is voicemail or with the person who does answer the phone. Make sure you include the time and date you called, a brief mention of what you are calling about and how and when they can contact you. If you are going to be difficult to catch or have scheduled some time during which you won't be taking phone calls yourself, by leaving a contact time you can avoid a frustrating game of 'phone tag'.

Schedule email time. Email messages popping into your inbox all day long can be an enormous distraction, particularly if your email is set to alert you every time new mail arrives. To check in on your emails and respond to them as they arrive not only distracts you from whatever tasks or projects you are working on but can rob you of an entire day, responding to other people's needs while your own are neglected. Schedule a couple or a few times each day to check and respond to emails rather than constantly looking-in on your inbox or being bounced there by your email program with every new message.

Your signature. Use your email program to create an email signature block that will automatically attach to all of your outgoing messages; it's a little like an email letterhead. It saves you the effort of including your contact information every time and brings a professional touch to your communications. You might simply include your name, business name, contact details and website or you might also include a sentence or two about your business, a special promotion you are running with a link to your website, or even a favourite funny or inspirational quote.

Spelll chceck. Email makes each one of us an instant author - and, that's not necessarily a good thing! Always, always re-read your emails before you send them to make sure they make sense and to fix any spelling or grammatical errors. I recommend you set your email to automatically spell-check every message before it is sent. And if you need a second opinion to check for clarity, tone or correctness, ask a colleague to look over it for you. It might be inconsequential to you, but a poorly worded email that conveys the wrong tone and is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors can destroy your creditability and relationships.

Spring clean. Schedule time to clean out your email regularly, once a month should be enough to keep you on top of it. Empty your deleted items and any unnecessary sent items, and go through any completed project or task folders and ensure that anything you are keeping is essential to your records. Cleaning out your email will ensure you are managing your email files and disk space effectively.

Set up systems. When using filing cabinets, decide how you will allocate your space to make it easiest to locate your files: for example, rather than mixing all your files together you might decide to keep current customer files in one drawer and potential customer files and marketing information in a separate drawer, or you might choose to store current projects in one drawer and research and reference information in another, or you might decide to file everything in alphabetical order - you get the idea - look at the type of files you have and decide how to logically divide them into categories. Then, label the front of each drawer with the type of files it contains.

Colour it. Use colour coding to further systemise your files and to enable you to identify different types of files at a glance. Choose a range of coloured manila folders and allocate a different colour to use for different file types: for example, blue for customer files, purple for staff files, pink for project files and so on. Make a reference list of what each colour represents until you are familiar with your system.

Create a confidence journal. We don't all feel confident every day and sometimes it helps to take note of our feelings and how situations affect us. By writing down how you feel each day in a confidence journal you can track your responses to situations and also identify areas of your like you might need some help with. Just do this for 30 days and then spend an hour at the end of the month assessing where you find your confidence gets shaken and then determine strategies to help you overcome that in future.

Choose to be amazing! It's as simple as making a commitment to yourself every morning that you will have an amazing day. Remember, life is not a dress rehearsal - we only get one performance, so let's give it our best!


How To: Balance Working at Home With Young Children

Imagine the scene; my partner & I have just moved to a different state (hence no friends, family or support network of any kind), partner has a new job and is working long hours, two year old son, and I've just made the crazy decision to start my own business. Great!

It's early days and I'm so excited to be going into business for myself and all I want to do is get stuck into things and get this thing off the ground. I've done my research, registered a business name and domain name, opened a post office box, joined a network etc. Now it's time to get into putting together a website, developing marketing material and finding some clients! And so that's what I proceed to do, and for an entire week that's pretty much all I do.

By the end of the week I had a functioning website, professional looking marketing material and a mail merged covering letter all ready to be put into the post. I'm so proud of myself! Then I come up for air from the computer and look around... Uh, oh.

I've been so focused on my new "baby" that I've forgotten about my other roles as a wife and mother. The house looked like a bomb had hit it, there was next to no food in the house, I'd missed all my son's activities for the week and I don't think the poor thing had seen the sun for days. There'd be no Mother of the Year nominations coming from this house! Oops!

It was at this point that I decided that I really needed to put some boundaries and structure in place so that I could have enough time to devote to business, husband, son, and still have a little time left over for myself.

Here's how I went about doing it:

Set yourself a schedule - Personally, I use my Outlook calendar but you could use a handwritten diary, or some other medium. Block out periods for your kids activities, family time, housework, and business and stick to it! There are bound to be times when something urgent comes up that requires you to step outside of those timeslots, but do the best you can.
Create a support network - Surround yourself with people who are in a similar situation to yourself and understand what it's like to be a mum and a business owner at the same time. Online networks such as Facebook and Twitter are particularly good and give you an avenue to vent and ask for advice when you need to.
Set Available Hours - Even though you are operating from your home, that doesn't mean that you need to be available to your clients 24/7. Set operating hours and make them known to your clients whether it be on your website, your letterhead, your email signature etcetera.
Listen to your kids - I have a two year old son who is, luckily for me, pretty independent and happy to occupy himself for hours at a time if I have work to be done. Depending on your children's ages you may want to consider things such as:

A designated play area in your office where bub can play while you're working;
Kitting your office out with paper, pencils, crayons so your little one can create masterpieces while you work;
Almost every suburb has an occasional child care facility that you could consider using if you are working on something that needs deep concentration and you don't have the luxury (as I don't) of a nearby relative or friend who can babysit for you for a few hours. While I found it tough doing this for the first time and had a serious case of "mummy guilt" I was pleasantly surprised when I went along to collect J a few hours later to find that he'd had the time of his life and actually didn't want to leave!
At the end of the day, take your child's lead. If they've had enough of mum sitting at the computer working, take a break. Go for a walk, spend some time in the sandpit or have a play at the park together, after all - what's more important? Your work will still be there when you come back and you may find that half an hour of fresh air will do you the world of good.

Most of all you need to trust yourself and your abilities. While owning a business and raising a family is no easy thing to do, I wouldn't change it for anything. In what other job can you get your kids up in the morning, spend time with them during the day, experience all of their milestones, and tuck them into bed at night? Stick with it and make it work for you.


Video Email Has Arrived

Not too long ago we all were panicking over Y2K and the end of the world how we knew it. Vendors rushed software updates to their clients at enormous price increases so that their "potential" crisis with the year 2000 was averted. Well, here I sit writing this note and I can't for the life of me remember if anything really did happen that night or the next day. But one thing is clear and that is that we as a nation and as a world are tied very close to the internet and all that it has to offer both the good and the bad. So where is it all going? When will we get rid of the obvious like the Keyboard?

Internet speed is also a key ingredient to a high quality delivery. Well, in the past 10 years we have seen dial up go from 56K bps to Cable modem speeds of over 10MB for the residential market. For those still waiting for cable or dsl there is DirecTv Satellite service. Although not as fast as dsl or cable it clearly is a good solution versus dial up at 56K speeds. With faster connections we can conquer the Video requirements needed to broadcast the messaging. Picture working within Outlook with voice recognition and a web cam? The possibilities are endless to the level of efficiency we can drive from this combination.

Logical next steps you ask? Glad you did. We found many solutions out there at various levels of delivery and capability. One such company is Talk Fusion. They have what appears to be the first step in getting us there. No one wants to sign up to a solution that is File Attached video emails. We would quickly run out of space. What Talk Fusion has done is develop a hosted service where the video clip arrives at its destination as a url and the person viewing the message simply clicks and then watches the video email. A nice next step. Business can now get more personal with their prospects and clients by providing that human element once again. So if you take what they have done as a service and now stretch the imagination a bit you can see that this company has the foundation to go the next step and this is to eliminate the need for a keyboard. We cannot wait!


Tips To Make Letterhead Sparkle

Letterheads are one of the most important corporate documents. They often carry your brand name to your clients and potential clients. Boring letterheads will never impress your clients and in today's business world it is important for you to impress your clients at one go. Here are a few tips that will help you to make your letterhead sparkle:

Avoid Boring Templates: Most people use a template as a easy way of designing a letterhead. These come with custom fonts and sizes. Not all brand names and logos go well with these templates, creating a dull looking letterhead. It will be ideal if you can create your letterhead from scratch.
Experiment with Layout: There is no standard layout for a letterhead and you can be experimental with it. You can place some text sideways instead of placing everything at the top and the bottom of your letterhead. You can also use some graphics at the bottom of the letterhead which will promote your brand.
Highlight Logo and Watermark: One of the ways to make your letterhead sparkle is to highlight the logo and the watermark in it. The logo always brands your business and is important in the long run. A watermark on the other hand will bring in a very professional look to your company letterhead.
Use Color: Color grabs eyeballs and if you are willing to be bold enough with your letterhead than use bright color for your header and footer. You can also make sure that the edges of your letterhead are printed in bright color. This will surely make your letterhead sparkle. Try using colors which relates to your brand.
Add Metallic: You won't get the real sparkle unless you add metallic inks to your letterhead. There are special inks which reflect when light falls on them. These look very attractive to the human eye and will surely go a long way in making your letterhead sparkle.

A sparkling letterhead can only result from a good printing. Make sure that you hire the services of a good printing service provider.


Tenant Reference Letter - How Beneficial is This?

Avoid bad tenant problems by reaching out to professional tenant reference checks done. The root cause for all your rented house problems lies in the tenant. You should take utmost care to choose the right tenant for the right house. Sample reference letters will aid you in your endeavor. Some of the tenant assessors will not only place your property ads on several high traffic web sites but they also assess a potential tenant. There are certain basic and comprehensive checks carried out.

What happens in case landlord does not consider any tenant assessments?

He can not only have a bad tenant, but at the same time he would be putting his valuable contents and building at stake. You will have to bear the expenses of any mishandling of items by your tenant. And his one month's rent taken as a deposit will not be sufficient to cover up the damages caused.

Rightful selection of tenant can be done only with tenant assessment. You are left with two choices here, you can carry it out you self or reach out professional tenant assessors' help. In case you do it your self, it might be time consuming and you may not always arrive at accurate results. A professional will have information about different tenants, credit report agencies - from whom they collect the credit scores of a tenant. They carry out employer's reference check in addition to his previous landlord's reference check.

Basic reference check

Comprehensive reference check

If you don't have time, then, you can opt for a basic check of your potential tenant. This includes personal information check, financial standing, eviction reports, criminal records. This can be carried out with in 24 hours of time. This enables you to reduce void periods.

On the other hand, a comprehensive reference check, will offer you employer's reference check and previous landlord's reference check in addition to the basic check services. This will take longer, but provides an in depth report of your tenant and helps to vet out your tenant rightly. Check for your tenant background information, is he a drug addict, a terrorist. If not you may put your property at stake and your rental income will also be at risk.


How To Manage A Difficult Employee

Having to manage a difficult employee is never fun and can be the most challenging part of your responsibilities as a business owner/executive. While never easy, this article will address a step-by-step way to consistently and confidently handle the most challenging employee situations. In addition, how you handle a difficult employee will send a strong and powerful message to those who still work for your company.

Addressing the problem: When you first realize you are having a problem with an employee you are responsible to manage, bring this individual behind closed doors and discuss your specific concerns. The conversation should be brief and to the point, making certain your employee understands the concerns you have and the improvements you expect. Be specific with your comments and only address the business concerns you have, setting aside any personal issues. Of course, always look to support this member of your team in any way possible with the intention of a positive outcome.

Tip From The Coach: As this is the first meeting you are having with your employee to discuss your concerns, take notes during this meeting, date them, and place them into this person's employee file. This will serve as a reminder of the problems you expressed during this meeting and will document the first time you asked this employee to specifically improve their performance. This is also the perfect time to review together this person's written job description and is another way to clarify your expectations.

Continuing problems: If problems persist with this same employee, bring this individual again behind closed doors and present a written memo recapping your concerns. In this memo, list the day/date of your first meeting when you discussed your initial problems with this individual's performance and list specific areas of improvement which must happen. Remember, when you are requesting improved performance, the improvements must be measurable and must have a time frame or date when these improvements will be measured and reviewed again.

Tip From The Coach: After you present your written memo outlining your concerns, have your employee sign and date this document which validates the points discussed during this meeting. In your memo, be certain to include the words, "failure to improve your performance, may lead to termination." This makes your intentions perfectly clear. Of course, always consult with your human resource department and your legal counsel, prior to presenting your memo, so everyone is in the loop.

Terminating this employee: If necessary, termination of this employee may be required. If so, make the termination, swiftly. This person's attitude can be detrimental to the morale of your team and their attitude might be affecting those around them. The termination meeting should be done at the end of the day so this person's departure will not disrupt others. Make certain the meeting is brief and state exactly why this person is being terminated and have all final paperwork ready for signature.

Tip From The Coach: Sadly, the termination of an employee is not a pleasant part of business management. On a positive note, take the time to analyze what went wrong and look for possible solutions. Ask yourself, "was this person the perfect fit for the position, did we give this person proper training, could I have done anything to change the course of this situation?" In asking these questions, sometimes very positive improvements can be made. Employee terminations and the investment to hire a new person, is expensive and should not be taken lightly.

Want to ask some additional questions about how to handle a difficult employee? Fax a note on your letterhead to 435-615-8670 or send an E-mail to ernest@powerhour.com and The Coach will fax/E-mail you a free TeleForum invitation.


The Importance of Christmas Border Paper and Holiday Stationery to Any Business

When a small business owner is making a list of all the marketing materials they need, they often forget about stationery, especially Christmas stationery. While it is a necessity to have appropriate letter head for your business, it is equally important to have fun, festive, stationery paper for the holiday season. Using Christmas border paper is a great way for a business to send out invites or announcements during the holiday season. Along with business cards and nice company letterhead, fun festive holiday paper is an essential for any business, no matter how big or small.

While company letterhead can often be a little boring, Christmas is the season to express your company's fun, creative side. The use of Christmas border papers are a fantastic way to send out invitations to a holiday event or to use for promotional information. Using festive paper for such events is a unique way to show off your business to employees and customers and one that will not be quickly discarded the way emails are.

Christmas border papers are also great for personal use. What better way to send along a holiday greeting than a poem written by your children surrounded in a lovely Christmas border. Any grandparent, aunt, or uncle will surely cherish this one of a kind treasure. Border paper is great for simple artwork as well as arts and crafts.

With so many different styles of Christmas border paper it may be difficult to find the one that best suits your needs. Picking out special border paper is a task that can create lots of fun for both you and your family. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, be sure to give yourself enough time to pick out the perfect, special border paper for your family's holiday greeting to friends and relatives.

Mixing and matching several different border papers is another great way to send your message in a less repetitive and unique way. Take your time, enjoy the process and pick the border paper that will make everyone who receives your message smile.

How to Create a Good Letterhead Design?

A letterhead is a part of a very effective business package. You see the letterhead has a great influence on your image, specifically on how your company is viewed by your potential customers. It is your initial move to introduce your company to your prospects. For this reason, it is essential to design the letterhead with the right image of your company. It is the letterhead that conveys to your customers who you are and what products or services you have. You think that they only provide the address of your company. But it's more than that. Letterheads have great marketing potential that business persons can take advantage to make it to the industry.

If you want to make an impression it's the letterheads that you should capitalize on. What does a letterhead can do to your company? Well, the letterhead can enhance the credibility of your business. It implies your corporate identity, which means it's the one responsible for convincing your prospects that you have a professional image.

To be able to have a good professional image for your business, your letterhead design should be good. You must know that there are several ways on how you can design a great-looking letterhead. What is important is that your letterhead should be able to increase your marketability. A letterhead is said to be well-designed when it effectively gets your word across your prospective clients.

One of the most important things that you should remember when designing a letterhead is to make a good first impression. It's a must that you ensure to make use of a high quality printing method in producing your letterheads.

Another important thing to take into consideration is to match your letterhead with the envelope. This way you can make a more professional look and feel in your company letterheads. The paper of the letterhead should be compatible with the envelope paper. It leaves a clean and corporate look and your business package.

In addition, you should also need to make a well thought-out plan with regard to the design of the letterhead before you decide to produce it or submit to the printer. With careful planning on letterhead design, there's a higher possibility that you'll achieve a successful marketing campaign and corporate branding for your business. With the right layout of letterhead, you can prevent design and printing errors which sometimes ruin your overall marketing campaign.

There are lots of companies out there that offer letterhead printing and design services concerning the utmost creation of your letterheads and other marketing materials. These companies are the ones you can depend on when you don't have any background yet on what design is good for your letterhead printing projects. Choose the right company that will provide you the best services that you need. Surely, there are no regrets in letterhead printing.


Boost Business Popularity Using Public Relations in Letterhead Printing

Public Relations is responsible for creating the positive image of your business. Leave a good impression and establish strong image of your company through letterhead printing. It can distribute your PR materials faster and easier to your contacts and networks needed to work out your campaigns. Here are some PR tools you can use with letterhead printing.

Public Relations Tools for Letterhead Printing

* Press release. Create a press release that will generate interest of the public. Update your consumers of the latest news about your company. Make sure that you create news worthy information for the journalists out there. This press release can be distributed through letterheads reaching more potential market.

* Testimonials from customers. Stories from the loyal customers of your business add credibility to your business. This can include success stories from your consumers or retelling of the satisfaction they can get from your company.

* Letters to the editor. Build strong relationship with the journalists. They are the one responsible in creating write-ups for your company. Give letters to them about the latest news and trends from your business. Give them benefits and a good gut feeling towards your company for better publicity.

* Written interviews. Accounts of interviews written are good PR tools. Print those interview questions and answer and publish them using letterheads. This gives positive image to your business as you share information about your company to other people.

* Newsletter. The distribution of newsletter creates business popularity from its content. It can include articles, guides, tips and helpful information for your consumers. Release a newsletter regularly and have easy distribution of your print material with letterheads.

With proper distribution of your letterhead PR materials, you can reach your connections and build a good company image. Maintain that branding and keep them connections intact with professional business cards.


Business Cards Design for Musicians

There are so many types of musicians out there that it is important to differentiate yourself on your business cards. So, what should musician business cards look like in order to get the necessary attention and portray a little bit of the story? The following suggestions are just a few ideas for musician business cards. Remember that color business cards are important for all musicians no matter what to grab attention.

Musical Notes

A great way to portray your commitment to the music industry is to place musical notes on your business cards. You could do this in a variety of ways from several small music notes on the card to lots of mini ones or just one large one. The color you choose will also reflect your musical style and should be considered. Also, almost any magician can get away with using musical notes on their business cards. This is good if you want generalized business cards.


If you are a guitarist and interested in letting your potential clients know that then printing up some musician's business cards with a guitar on it is a great idea. You could use electric or acoustic guitars or whatever best portrays your style and talent.


Singers can really get away with business cards that have a microphone on them. This could be just a single microphone or it could be an individual singing into a microphone. Regardless, the microphone shows one's commitment to song.

Other Designs

If you engage in some other type of music then consider using that instrument on your business cards. You can easily have business cards printed up to match what you want so come up with a good idea and take it to a business card shop and have it printed up.


Finally, you may chose to have a picture of yourself singing or playing or even with your band as part of your business card. Color business cards will really show off the picture and this is a great idea.

As a musician you must choose what type of musician business cards will work bet for your business and then have them printed up. Not having a card on you means you may lose business and that is the last thin you want to do. Just start thinking about your options and the suggestions already mentioned to help you come up with the best business card ever.


Choosing a Letterhead Design Team

There are many tutorials and web based classes that can teach anyone letterhead design. In fact, there are so many of these classes out there that many people feel they're experts and that they can handle this type of design themselves. However, there are many advantages to hiring a professional team.

When you try to do your own design, you'll have two things working against you. The first is experience. No matter if you've taken a few classes or just fooled around on your own time, unless you're a professional, you won't have the experience that other designers will. With experience comes the knowledge of how to most effectively get certain points across, as well as the best way to attract attention to a design.

The second thing you'll have working against you is that you will only be thinking about your own preferences. When laymen try their hand at letterhead design, they can likely come up with something that they really like and that sparks their interest. However, a professional has learned to step outside of the box and look at their designs from another perspective. This is extremely important if you're trying to keep your customers needs in mind.

Once you decide to hire a pro for your letterhead design, you'll need to consider your options carefully. It's usually best to hire a company with a few different designers. You can then let them know what your vision is, and through their combination of unique personalities, hopefully they can come up with something that you'll really like - and that your customers will too!

One thing to be careful of is to make sure that you know the costs upfront. Most designers will charge by the hour so it's unlikely that you'll get a specific dollar amount for the whole project. However, they should be able to provide you with an estimate and let you know how much they charge per hour. The last thing you want is to get the completed design and find out that you can't afford it.

As you can see, there are several advantages to getting a professional to help with your letterhead design. If you choose the right company and they come up with something great, you'll find that your customers will really respond. Your letterhead is often the first thing that people see regarding your company and you want to make sure that's outstanding.


Book Queries That Get Noticed

Writing a good query letter shows book editors your ability to think precisely, to use language efficiently and to advance your inquiry in a seemingly effortless but elegant manner.

Before you write a query letter, study the book market to learn which publishers may be interested in your subject. It is a waste of your time and the editor's if you send your fishing book query letter to a publisher that only publishes romance novels.

A tightly constructed query letter may consist of the following parts: 1) an opening sentence that describes your book's category, such as sports, cooking, romance, mystery, how-to, travel or other; 2) a statement describing the premise of your book; 3) a brief list of the especially good credits that qualify you to write the book (no lengthy biographies, please); 4) a list of your books or book contributions; 5) a statement of how your book will distinguish itself from similar titles; and 6) a formal closing: Thank you for your attention and your name.

Do not use paragraph indentations in your query letter. Single spaced paragraphs and double spacing in between are standard. By no means use a fancy hard-to-read font. Easy-to-read fonts like Times Roman or Arial, twelve point, are best. If you wish to send the letter via email, create it in MS WORD and attach it to an email note so the editor has your email address for ease of reply. MS WORD is a standard document creation software that all editors have on their computers. Using other software may prevent editors from opening your attachment.

Create a plain letterhead for your query letter that includes your name, postal address, email address, website address and telephone number. Date your letter, send it to the appropriate editor and make sure the publisher's name and address are correct. If you are printing the letter to be mailed, use professional weight paper (8/12 x 11) in the brightest white and print at a high-quality resolution. Include a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the editor's ease of reply. If you do not include the SASE, you probably will not hear from the editor.

Carefully proof your query letter to free the document of errors. Nothing turns off an editor faster than misspelled words and grammatical mistakes, which the editor may associate with the book you are proposing to write. Remember, writing a good query letter is your first introduction to the book editor and your first chance to make an impression. Making a good impression improves your chances of a book editor asking you for a more lengthy proposal in the future. Relax. It could take several weeks before you get a reply.

Book editors take their positions seriously and still look more favorably upon formal query letters than they do casual email notes that many of us are becoming too accustomed to in cyberspace. Because of its instant nature, email is sometimes hastily composed, inviting sloppy language use, absence of punctuation and poor spelling. Error-strewn email messages will not garner attention and consideration equal to prudently created formal query letters. Remember, book editors base their decision to examine your book proposal on your query letter.


How to Address the Target Audience Through Letterhead Printing

Every business or any other organization uses letterheads as a common means of correspondence, which is essential at the time of signing up agreements with business associates and so on. Letterhead printing is used delicately as a premium marketing tool to influence targeted audience for the development of business to improve the commercial interest of the company. The activity is required when you need to address a specific section of people through the device. Designing plays a significant role in such commercial activities because of the attractive power to draw attention of public.

You have to identify the exact section of the mass that you are going to approach through the marketing tool. You have to compose the entire letterhead in such a manner that it is capable of arousing interest in them. Hence, if you can define the right section of people, your effort will be equally successful. You need to know the characteristics of the targeted audience so that you are able to match the demand with the letterhead printing to ensure complete success. Your approach should create the flavor of appreciation from customers.

Designing is a powerful aspect of the winning letterhead. When you have already identified the nature of the audience, it is to supplement the expectation with adequate solution by using suitable images to corroborate the taste of the particular section of people. If you are sending letterheads to artist and movie stars, singers, performers and so on, you should include images of abstract art or similar images that they would accept. The envelope should tell the nature of contents inside. You should do everything to depict a similar flavor in your work to receive better recognition from customers.

The entire printing work should revolve around a specific theme. The environment should be harmonious to the characteristics of the section of the audience, which is another important feature of letterhead printing. If you are sending out materials to personalities and organizations engaged in sports and games, it should represent the same mood through printed materials. It is easier to accept a known subject than attempt for an unknown one. Create the feeling of familiarity with excellent color combination to maintain the attractiveness of letterhead printing. Readers should find it interesting and exciting to make the entire task a great success for the development of your business.


Fundraising Letters - Getting Results Through Direct Mail Appeals

"Yesterday I received a call from the head of the state's Department of Human Services. I was flattered and a little surprised that she would be calling me. Unfortunately, the news wasn't good. After telling me how much she admired our initiatives and was impressed with our year-end results, she let me know that the budget for our programs would be cut..."

That's an example of the opening of a fundraising letter. It is designed to engage the reader in a personal way. Read on to learn how to create fundraising letters to generate significant income for your organization.
In the age of email and text messages we still check to see what the mailman brings each day. Often it contains an appeal. Nonprofit organizations have used this method of fundraising for many years because it works. It is primarily a way to ask friends of your organization to make a contribution. Let's explore seven components of a successful direct mail appeal.
1.  Creating and Maintaining Your List

Before you write the first word of your letter, make sure you have a great mailing list. Your database needs to in excellent shape so you can easily print out letters and/or mailing labels. If you are building your list all year long by adding new friends, updating addresses and names as needed and then you are always ready to go. If not, make it a priority before you mail!
It is possible to pay for lists of names to mail your appeal to. If you choose to do this you will want to know as much as possible about your key prospects, by understanding who is currently in your database - the profile of who cares enough about your organization to have given money in the past - you will be able to look for others like them.
There are two types of lists available: compiled and direct response.  Compiled list are taken from directories, phone books, motor vehicle records, etc.  They are available by zip code or, to be more targeted, you could also specify income level, age or other criteria.  A direct response list includes people who have responded to direct marketing or fundraising appeals similar to yours (note: you could sell your list so other organizations might use it).  You could research these lists online, at the library or through a list broker.
2. Mailing Your Letter

Postage is a major expense and an important consideration. Many nonprofits are eligible for reduced postage rates. Explore that possibility if you haven't already done so. These rates only apply when you are doing a mass mailing. If your mailing is large and to a very limited geographic area (for example, you are mailing to every home in your town of 5000 households) this may work quite well.
You can probably expect quicker delivery if you use first class mail. Placing a stamp on a letter adds to its value in the eyes of the receiver. The same is true for a printed or hand written address, rather than a label. The more mail resembles personal correspondence the better the chance it will be opened.
3. Writing a Letter that Works

There have been many, many tests done to show what gets the best results in direct mail. The overwhelming winner is a long letter. Not a postcard, not a brochure, nothing fancy - just an old fashioned letter. 
Don't overlook the word "long." Logic tells us that shorter is better. Ignore logic because a long (more than one page) letter has been proven to work best.
Start with an attention grabbing device: a quote, a personal story, an amazing fact, a heartbreaking statistic. Your letter should be personal and engaging. It should quickly draw you in and make you want to read. While it is true that the recipient may not read every word, he will generally read the beginning and the end. The end is a strongly worded call to action in a postscript (or two). 
The reader will also look for a signature, ideally from someone they know and respect. The letter should be signed by the person whose voice makes the most sense for the story your letter is telling. 
A letter allows you to speak directly to your prospect. The words "I" and "me" and "you" are important to create a one-on-one feeling. Remember just one person is reading your letter at a time. So don't write in the plural, even if your mailing is going out to thousands of people. Write it like you are talking to a friend about what you care about and what desperately needs to be done.
The letter does not have to be on letterhead. Something that looks like your personal stationary would be ideal.  The size could be smaller than 8.5 x 11, again so it looks like stationary.
4. Asking for a Contribution

It must be clear what the purpose of your letter is. You want a contribution. You might stipulate exactly what that money will do. Let donors know that $500 will provide a special program for your daycare center, while $250 will provide safety equipment for the playground. This can be stated in the letter and repeated on the remittance envelope.
Let the reader know exactly what next step to take.  A remittance envelope is important! Make sure it is easy to use and ready to go and it is postage free or pre-stamped.
5. Timing Your Mailing

Most nonprofits send an appeal letter in November or early December, timed with the holidays and year-end giving habits. Try to avoid mailing arriving too close to a holiday. You may test sending two appeal letters a year and carefully measure the results.
Donors do respond to special needs. Going back to the opening of this article, that sample letter may be sent out this week to ask for contributions to continue funding a popular program that has lost state funding due to budget cuts.
Repeat mailings may also work just because you may reach the person on a better day, a "friendlier" member of the household may receive the mail that day or the timing may just be right.
6. Attention Getting Inserts

Surprise them by putting something in the envelope.  Insert something small, lightweight and relevant in the envelope of an appeal letter.  You may include a small insert of brightly colored paper with a fact, an offer or an additional appeal printed on it.
I wrote appeal letters for the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts  and contributions increased by 50%.  We enclosed wood shavings in the envelope (the opening story made reference to the shavings). The next year we used sheep's wool. These were free, relevant and they worked!
7. Testing

Always measure the response you receive to your mailing. You should have figures from previous years to use as a starting point or control. There are several ways you can test direct mail. You could start with a small sampling and measure the response. You might do two different letters and do what is called an A/B split. Or you might change just one factor (size, who signs it...) to see what the results are.
Be sure to track your expenses and the income your receive. Not only will you measure it against other mailings but you may want to look at whether this is the best way to get money from all or part of your list. And do not send an appeal asking for $100 to your $20,000 a year donor!
Sending fundraising letters is a proven method of fundraising. Spend time evaluating and rethinking yours before you start writing.