National Computer Skills Shortage

National Computer Skills ShortageAccording to a report published today by the Parliamentary group “The Science and Technology Committee” there is still a huge number of UK residents without computer skills and this digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP.

Report findings

12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills; 5.8 million people have never used the internet; only 35% of computer teachers in schools have a relevant degree and 30% of the required number of computer science teachers have not been recruited; and 13% of computer graduates are still unemployed 6 months after leaving university.
Science and Technology Committee Chair, Nicola Blackwood MP said:
“The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need”
The report also calls on the government to put “digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships”

Where to Learn?

If you feel that your own skills are somewhat lacking or that you are falling behind the times where should you go? Most local authorities publish computer courses and there are numerous types of online tuition available. The BBC for example has a whole section on its website devoted to upgrading the computer literacy of the nation. The National Careers Service too has lists of relevant courses.

Five Things To Do Before Writing Your Business Plan

Five Things To Do Before Writing Your Business Plan

Five Things To Do Before Writing Your Business PlanStarting a new business comes with hurdles; being prepared for those hurdles—and trying to get ahead of them—can decrease the impact they have on your business. An important step in preparing for the challenges that your start-up might face is writing a solid business plan.  What goes into a business plan is easy enough to figure out, but there are more abstract things to consider before you write it out.

Determine your Purpose

Making a profit is important, but it’s hardly the only thing that matters when you start a business, experts say.  “Business plans … encourage entrepreneurs to focus on what they are going to do,” said Alan Williams, co-author of The 31 Practices. “This overlooks two more important questions: ‘why’ – why it exists and why employees would want to get out of bed in the morning, and ‘how’ – the values of the business, what it stands for, how people representing the business will behave.”  Williams noted that entrepreneurs should take time to identify and articulate the business’ core values, which will serve as your organization’s compass for all decision-making.

Build your Vision

Experts say the key to success is having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish as a company. Before you write a business plan, you should come up with three to five key strategies that will enable you to achieve that vision, advised Evan Singer, CEO of SmartBiz. “Sometimes, less is more,” Singer said. “It’s far better to do three things very well versus 10 things not so well.” Tied in with building the vision for your business is also putting together a mission statement. The mission is the “why” you’re doing what you do From there, it is an easy transition to develop your “value proposition” statement that defines what makes you unique in the marketplace.

Clarify your Business Model

A good financial model should include many of the details you would put in your formal business plan – for example, hiring, pricing, sales, cost of acquisition, expenses and growth. As with a business plan, your model should be revisited and updated as the realities of your business start to unfold.

Identify your Target Market

This can be a tricky obstacle to get through. To help narrow down your market, Grant Leboff, CEO of Sticky Marketing Club, suggests you answer the question, “Why am I uniquely placed to solve the problem?” “If you are unable to answer the question, you either have the wrong target market of the wrong offering,” Leboff blogged. “In this case, more work will need to be done before you start targeting your potential customers.” If what you offer isn’t the most attractive option to the type of client you want, you might need to change you’re offering or define your target market differently.

Test your Business Idea

Go out and talk to industry experts, potential customers in your target market and ask for some honest feedback. What do they think about your business idea? Who, specifically, are you targeting with your business? How big is the market? Will your market buy what you are selling? Who is your competition? The act of writing a business plan will not make your organization successful, but it does give you a map to get there. The forethought put into the plan identifies the milestones with which you can mark your progress.

Go fund yourself

Go fund yourself Buisness Funding & Capital | Business Help & SupportSo you have your business idea. Your products and services are desperately straining at the leash waiting to get out there and make you some money. You have done your research and you know that there is a gap in the market wide enough for your business to succeed. But you need some capital. Where do you go?

The Good Old Bank Loan

Well the standard route for entrepreneurs wanting to launch a new venture would be to talk to the bank. All of the main banks and financial institutions offer start-up loans for new businesses and comparison sites such as Money Supermarket can give you an indication of rates.

Alternative Finance

More often these days however start-ups are looking to Alternative Finance to get their ideas off the ground. You may choose peer to peer methods from companies like Ratesetter, Zopa, Funding Circle, ThinCats, LendInvest and MarketInvest all explained nicely on Befuddled .

Crowdfunding

Or if you are ready for some close public scrutiny you may choose to put your idea up as a crowdfunding opportunity. If you are looking to invest in a crowdfunding opportunity then check out MoneyWeek’s funding centre comparison tool which will help you to navigate the many opportunities out there.

If you are looking for capital in order to fund a website for your business then talk to us at Magpie Image Ltd about our payment options and monthly subscriptions. You may just find that you don’t need quite as much start up capital as you first thought!

Mistakes when Starting a New Business

Here are a few common mistakes when starting a new business

Mistakes when Starting a New Business | Business help & SupportStarting up a new business can often be hard work with things like creating a business plan, finding business premises, advertising, employees and of course raising finance.

Have a Clear Business Model

To help your business succeed it is important to have a clear business model and understand exactly what they are about and make sure you are very clear on how to go about operating. Having a vague operating model and thinking you can adapt as you go is often a mistake.

Researching & Market Testing

Don’t make assumptions about what you potential customers want. If you build a business on an unproven and understood market you may come have problems down the line. The key is to launch even if it’s not the final product or service so you can test the market and collect customer feedback.

Finance & Investors

If you take funding from people or companies who don’t share your values, it can be difficult to retain integrity and stick to your mission.
Being Afraid to Delegate

Being an entrepreneur is a really tough job, much more than being a manager. The ability to truly delegate when an organisation reaches a certain size is the toughest challenge for someone who has built a business from scratch, considering the emotional element often associated with it.

Failing to recruit the right people for the job

Businesses often compromise on their team. It sadly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as subsequently they will only be able to continue attracting mediocre people. The best people typically only want to work with the best people.

Don’t believe business success will happens overnight

You have to understand and acknowledge at the start of a business that it is a long-term thing. The businesses that we hear about making millions overnight in there first few months of trading are an exceptions to the rule.

Don’t let work take over

When running a business you should watch out for overloading yourself. Before you know it you will be working around the clock and this will affect your health whoever you think you are. Starting up and growing your own business comes with great responsibility and takes time, effort and commitment. You must remember there is more to life than just working.

Business Start Up

Business Start Up

Business Start Up GloucesterBeing your own boss can be satisfying and rewarding, however before you jump in with both feet you need to follow a few simple points

The Idea

You need to think of an idea for your business, something different and unique and you need to think about the economics of the idea and are other people pursuing the same concept. If so, you will need to make your business stand out of the crowd know if you are going to be legally protected.

Create a Business Plan

Having done a business plan helps you to gain a vision and direction as you begin your business journey. Your business plan is your blue print.

The Business Entity

This is where you decide how to legally structure. Some businesses can become very complicated. They each have their pros and cons.

Customer Appreciation

You need to think about who your target market is. Your target market is where you need a specific group of people that your company has created products or services for.

Creating a Website

Creating your business website is one of the most important things you need to do for your business. The website is essential, it tells people who you are, where you are and encourages the customers to buy off the website or make enquiries regarding your services and products. Please click here to read more about our website services

The Debut

You will need to understand how to get your products or services out in the market place and to show people they exist, get your name out there, gain custom. If people don’t know they exist, how will you sell your products or services?

Financing

You need to start thinking how you are going to be able to fund your business, and get to know how to do your tax benefits?

Research

Before creating your business remember to research, some businesses can be slowed down as the preparation is not done to high standards, unexpected effects are sure to come up, so make sure you check things out.

These points are a simple guide to help you make the successful leap to entrepreneurship and owning your own successful business.

Small Business Marketing Ideas

Small Business Marketing GloucesterHere are a few Small Business Marketing Ideas. As a small business owner you may not have the resources of a large brand. However you can still make a strong impact with targeted and creative ideas that will both help you to get your business in front of new potential clients / customers and engage the customers you already have.

Here are a few marketing ideas to help you re-think and open the potential power of your marketing efforts.

Optimize Your Online Presence

If you already have a website and start thinking about ways to optimize it. Your website should be more than a simple couple of pages displaying your telephone number and location. It has the potential and should be the most powerful of your marketing tools. The best websites are those that offer real content… Consider starting a regularly updated blog that offers both updates about your business and other interesting content, such as industry news, ideas observations. This will help you establish a unique point-of-view and further clarifying your brand. Additionally, invite readers to sign up for your email distribution / newsletter or to follow you on social media. Finally, be sure your site is mobile friendly as more and more people are accessing the web via mobile devices and Google has now made this a important requirement.

Be Social

Most businesses now have at the very least a Facebook or Twitter account, but why not expand to Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ to reach a new customer base and further show your creativity and vision? A Google+ page can be highly effective for your local business as it enables special local features on Google search. You can also use these profiles to become active in social communities that are relevant to your service or product.

Build Relationships

Think about what makes your business effective i.e. the opportunity to form close, meaningful relationships with your customers. Small businesses are not stuck behind the layers of professional firewalls. Create a voice for your marketing that is personable and unique, and use that presence to build your online relationships through an email newsletter and strong social media. Start a loyalty program that gives preference to repeat customers, and consider a referral program that honours customers who tell their friends about you.

Think Local

Mobilising your community is still one of the best ways to create buzz. Collaborate with other local non direct competitors to cross-promote or to pair your services as part of local packages. Once you get to know the rhythms of your neighborhood, you’ll be able to craft your brand to more directly meet the needs of the people you’re serving and be able to meet your customers with your marketing message. You will demonstrate a real commitment to making your business integral to the growth of your neighborhood.

Food for Thought

These are just a few small business marketing ideas and tools that can be simple, effective and will help you extend your reach. With a bit of creativity and hard work you can attain the same results as a big marketing firm even without the big resources.

Overcoming Doubt of Becoming a Creative Leader

Overcoming Doubt of Becoming a Creative Leader

Overcoming Doubt and Becoming a Creative LeaderPiera Gelardi, Refinery29 co-founder and Executive Creative Director spoke at the D&AD Festival in London this week and offered some advice for adapting to uncomfortable situations, overcoming creative block, and identifying the conditions that lead to great ideas.

“We all have moments when our idea of who we are and our sense of self gets challenged,” mused Piera Gelardi. “I had a moment like that when our company started to grow and develop. I felt really comfortable in my role as a creative person, heading up creative projects and expressing myself through creativity, but I started to feel really uncomfortable and almost like an alien in other parts of my role. The executive and creative director parts of my identity were really split – and the executive part just felt so foreign.”

The women’s media brand Refinery29 began in 2005 and focused on style with a guide to the best independent boutiques in New York.  In 2013 it was named the fastest growing media company in the US, and now encompasses everything from business and politics to fitness, has 500 million users across various platforms, and has teams in New York, Berlin, and London.

Gelardi said: “I was having to do lots of things that I didn’t necessarily have any background or training in. I had to start managing these big teams and thinking out business strategies and doing a lot of negotiations and I felt so uncomfortable in these new roles that I started to think maybe our company was scaling and I wasn’t the right person for the job any more. That was a really painful moment, because here I was – I had built this company from the ground up and all of a sudden, I didn’t feel at home.”

She went on to offer a few bits of wisdom that she’s gleaned over the years:

Use your strengths as a weapon:

In her case, that meant using her creativity and listening skills to develop her own unique style of negotiating.

Create the right conditions for creativity

Identify the conditions that lead you to great ideas, whether that’s going for a run or making a Pinterest board.

Collaboration

Once in a brainstorming session, don’t discuss the things that limit you like budgets or targets – focus on the creativity and how to bring about the results you want.

The importance of listening

As a Leader you don’t want your team to be afraid to bring up an idea or opinion.

Find other outlets for your creativity

It’s important not to expect to find complete fulfilment in your work.  Find other ways to channel your creativity outside of work, especially if you feel constrained in your day job.

Google announces the roll-out of its new “fact-checking” feature to combat fake news

Search Engine Optimization not simply Google optimisationA new label will come up if you search for a news story and a result is returned from a credible fact-checking organization.

For a story with this label, an excerpt will come up showing the claim, who has made it, and a fact check of the claim itself.

Last year, the tech giant launched a trial enabling publishers to use the fact check tag on news stories; thus identifying articles published by news agencies and other fact-checking organizations.

The feature is now being launched globally to combat misinformation and fake news, but will not be available for every search result.

Interestingly, the feature won’t increase the search ranking of fact-checking organizations and articles using the new label will not be ranked differently in the search results.

According to Google, only publishers who are “algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information will qualify for inclusion”, but gave no further details on how that determination will be made.

A Google blog was written by Product Manager Justin Kosslyn and Research Scientist Cong Yu saying:  “There may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions.”

“These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgements.”

It was pointed out that “differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim” and that readers “have clear information on which sources agree”.

Looking forward, they added:  “As we make fact checks more visible in Search results, we believe people will have an easier time reviewing and assessing these fact checks, and making their own informed opinions.”

Great Images need Great Content

Great Images need Great ContentYour online presence is a hugely important marketing tool. You will need some awesome images to invite and inspire your audience, but what about the content? Words matter too. The right words all in the right order! Most Importantly, completely original words not content that has been cribbed from another website or online resource (unless used with permission and credited to the author).

Google Plagiarism Checker

Plagiarism – taking someone else’s words and using them as your own – is likely to see your site blacklisted. If you are looking for a high ranking then you need to make sure that your content is original. There are online plagiarism checkers such as Small Seo Tools and Plagiarism Checker App available on Google Play.

Professional Content Writing

Content writing for websites and blog sites has become big business. We found 1,245 vacancies online for content writers in one online search today alone! There are plenty of businesses out there offering to write original and expert copy for you. Prices can vary enormously as can quality. Ask for a quote up front, and also make sure that you read a few different samples of their work.

Freelance writers are likely to give you a more personal service as you are dealing directly with the writer, however, depending on how busy they are you may struggle to get a quick turn around. Dedicated content writing companies may well employ a large number of ‘expert’ freelance writers which on the plus side means that they may have a writer who will suit your type of business better.

Double-Check the Originality

You can ask the content writer to provide you with a report regarding the originality of the copy – which means that they will put it through some plagiarism software. You can also check this yourself – it is better to be doubly sure about this as it really is so important that you don’t use wording already ranked by the major search engines

Magpie Image can offer you an original content writing along with research. We have a team of writers with over 30 years combined experience within publishing and marketing. Contact us for a friendly and professional no obligation quote.

Get Some Top Notch Training

Can’t update your website?

WordPress editing course GoucesterYou probably already have a company website – but you may be unable to update it yourself which means that you have the potential for a hefty bill every-time you add a new product or service and need the services of a web developer to add these things to your existing site.

This is why small businesses are turning to WordPress to provide them with a website that they truly can ‘own’. With a minimal outlay on staff training this is well worth your investment as good training will allow you to update and maintain your site easily without incurring any extra charges. You can even give your site a regular makeover by changing the ‘theme’ once you or your staff have become confident WordPress users.

Get Some Top Notch Training

Good hands on training is key to this, along with good back up should you need it. At Magpie Image we have years of experience to share with you and our inexpensive WordPress courses will set you up confidently in a day and with further training available at a later stage you can be secure in the knowledge that you have a friendly professional WordPress user in your back pocket should you encounter any issues.

Courses are £220.00 inc VAT and can be tailored to suit your exact needs – you can even use your own site build to train on! But it doesn’t stop there, we can teach you WordPress editing skills, give you tips on writing good copy (or write it for you) and we also run courses in SEO digital marketing to help you get a digital handhold as quickly as possible.

No Time Like the Present!

What are you waiting for?! Contact Magpie Image today for advice on rebuilding your website in WordPress or learn how to build yourself a fully responsive smart new site with top search engine ranking and find out how to keep it updated and properly maintained from the people who have been using WordPress successfully for years…

For more information on our courses please click here >