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Guest Post: 3 Tips for Launching a Successful e-Commerce Store

Owning an eCommerce store can be one of the most fulfilling ventures into entrepreneurship there is. Not only is this a chance to own a business, but be a part of a community or industry that you’ve always wanted to contribute to. However, with how competitive eCommerce can be, it can be tough to know how to get started, which is why I’m giving you a few helpful tips on how to get started. Check them out below:

Figure Out Your Structure

Perhaps one of the first steps to launching an eCommerce store is defining your structure. Not only will this determine the inventory you receive, but how you’ll deliver that to your customers. And whether that be through epacket tracking or dropshipping, these steps are going to be crucial in figuring out your ROI; because as noted by Business Insider, 82 percent of businesses fail because of cash flow problems. Which, the best way to avoid that is by having a stable revenue structure in place.

To begin, look at what inventory you’re going to have, as well as where you plan to source from. For example, if you’re selling your own line of t-shirts, then your primary driver will be the quality and price point of your supplier. However, if you were to say be a shop for athletic apparel, then pulling in from multiple sources in a timely fashion would have higher precedence. All-in- all, your structure should be focused on producing the best quality product and experience at the best price for both you and the consumer, so take your time in getting this right.

Come Up With A Solid Brand

Once you’ve learned what you’re going to sell, it’s time to think about the identity of your company, as well as how that’s going to connect with its audience. And with competitive the world of eCommerce can actually be, coming up with a solid brand is a must. Not only is it going to give you a sense of the type of products that you sell, but will additionally give your company a personality and voice that can resonate with your customers. However, being successful with branding is going to take a fair amount of self-reflection beyond just how you’re going to attract customers, but build a community.

In analyzing what brand you’re going to have, you first need to decide on where this will fit, as well as what purpose it’s going to serve. Remember, your brand should be the identity that sets you apart from the crowd, showcasing the kind of problem you’re looking to solve with your eCommerce shop, as well as why you exist. This will go into having an overarching aesthetic, as well as what builds up to that.

An excellent example of this is how color and typefaces come into play. For example, as noted by Lucidpress, color increases brand recognition by 80 percent, which you can see in numerous brands. The vape company Juul, for example, uses tropical colors combined with thin typefaces to display their flavorful line of flavors. All-in- all, your branding assets should be something you invest a lot of time it at first, as this will be something that could potentially last you a lifetime.

Have A Consistent Plan For Marketing

If there’s one thing step that’s constantly going to be important for your success, it’s coming up with a plan that allows you to be consistent with your marketing efforts. As a lot of what you’re going to be pushing is online, there’s no excuse for why you can’t keep up with at least social media, email, and SEO on a regular, if not daily basis. The trick here, however, is to hedge your bets based on your skill level and capacity.

Let’s say for example that you enjoy working with social the most, but don’t always know how to keep producing posts every day. As noted by Shopify, this can be a great strategy to earn more, with Facebook alone producing a conversion rate of 1.85 percent. However, by studying what the strategy of others are doing, this process can be much simpler.

Start looking at case studies of other examples on how some campaigns do their social, highlighting the benefit of their call-to- action. For example, if you have a lookbook video that you want to showcase, then looking at something like how the trailer for the independent film People You May Know was able to capitalize on their social strategy might be helpful. Overall, marketing is about frequency as much as it is quality of posts, so make an effort to find your balance and stick with it.

What are some things you’re looking forward to with launching an eCommerce store? Comment with your answers below!

Guest Post: The Top Five Winter-Reads

The Top Five Winter-Reads

As we head into the cold days and nights of winter it’s only natural to have that urge to hunker down indoors, staying warm and cozy. What this means is that it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading and get through all those books you’ve been too busy to pick up. Just think of it, you can curl up on the couch with a warm fuzzy blanket, have book scented candles going to help set the tone, and of course a warm and tasty beverage to sip on. Sounds pretty relaxing right?

So what looks good in terms of winter reading? We’ve got your top five reads right here, both old and new.

Emma by Jane Austen

Why not kick off the winter reading season with a true classic. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the newest releases that we forget to delve into the classics and show them the appreciation they deserve. Emma is one of those books that shows up on top reading lists over and over again, so you really can’t go wrong with it. This book has it all – bad behavior, intrigue, havoc, and more.

Origin by Dan Brown

For all the Robert Langdon series fans Origin is a book you won’t want to miss. This is a new release from Brown which takes Langdon on yet another incredible and eye-opening journey. It’s got all those ingredients that audiences loved in the previous books – Angels & Demons, The Da Vince Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno, so you can expect for this to be a real page-turner and nail-biter.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C.S. Lewis

While you may pass this one off as a children's book, nothing could be further from the truth. And because this is only book one in the series you know you’ve got plenty of reading ahead of you. With this book you will head out on an epic adventure in the land of Narnia along with the book’s main characters Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter.

The Game of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin

If you’re still in denial that the Game of Thrones is on a break now possibly until 2018, then why not re-live all the drama, heart-break, backstabbing, torrid love affairs, and more by working your way through the entire Game of Thrones series. The books do differ from the television series and it will act as a refresher so you’ll be ready when it’s back on air.

The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey

Maybe you want to use the cold weather to feed your soul with inspiration, motivation, and some eye-opening revelations. That’s exactly what you’ll get with this brand new release from famed television personality Oprah Winfrey. This book is a collection of stories she has gathered from her television show The Wisdom of Sundays and is sure to leave an impact on you.

Pick Up a Book and Get Reading

Now that you’ve got a list in front of you, all that’s left to do is pick up your first book and get reading.

Guest Post: Books That Are Great for Writing Inspiration

Writer’s block is more common than you think. Most writers experience writing block at least a few times in their writing careers. When you feel like you cannot come up with good, creative ideas or you cannot produce exciting chapters for the book you are working on, there are a few things you can do. The most recommended thing is to keep writing and to not give up even though you struggle. Another great recommendation is to read as much as you can. You might wonder which books are the best for a writer who suffers from writer’s block so here are my suggestions:

1. Writing Exercises Books

The first thing that comes to writers’ minds when they are no longer able to write is that they need to read books about writing techniques. While this trick may work for some writers, the best writing books focus on more than writing techniques. They also include writing exercises that can be practiced on a regular basis to rewire the creative part of the brain that is responsible for writing. The Daily Writer is just an example of a book that offers information about writing techniques combined with writing exercises and it is definitely a must for all writers who lost their inspiration.

2. Spiritual books

Reading spiritual books when dealing with writer’s block may seem strange but the main purpose of spiritual books is to make people improve their lives by making them aware of their spiritual sides and hidden desires. This recommendation works best for writers who are open minded enough to try a totally new approach or for those who are in touch with their spiritual side. However, every writer should give this a try and if you are willing to do this there are plenty of spiritual books you can read.

3. Children’s Books

Another surprising recommendation maybe, but before dismissing it, think about it for a minute. What all children books have in common? A lot of creativity, a simple writing style and inspirational stories. Sometimes writer’s block happens when a writer is too stressed. This can be due to a deadline, due to self-doubt or many other problems that affect creative minds. The best way to disconnect and to find motivation again is to read an easy book that can reopen the creativity drawer in your brain. Also, in order to test your creativity you can find new ways to interpret the classic stories or to find new meanings for certain situations. Houghton Mifflin Books For Children is a publisher that offers a variety of children’s books with old and new characters that can help you find your muses again.

Besides these book recommendations, I have to say that a writer has to keep his mind and heart open in order to be able to try new things all the time. New experiences can mean new sources of inspiration so instead of locking yourself in the house, go outside, observe people and have the courage to do something that you did not do before.

Guest Post: 9 Tips for Great Skiing Photos

Are you a professional photographer looking to build your portfolio? Or maybe you’re just a parent hoping that your vacation photos will turn out okay. Whatever your reasons for seeking photography tips, here are just nine ways to ensure that your skiing pictures are of the highest quality.

1. Keep Your Camera Warm

Batteries tend to fail in the cold, so keep your equipment as warm as possible when you’re on the slopes. If you’re using a handheld camera, store it inside your parka where it can absorb your body heat; if you’re lugging around a large DSLR, consider keeping it in an insulated backpack or bag.

2. Buy the Right Gloves

You can’t work the buttons of a camera when your fingers are stiff with cold. Invest in a pair of warm yet touch-sensitive gloves that will allow you to manipulate controls or use a touchscreen without taking them off.

3. Plan It Out

It’s very, very difficult to snap good skiing candids. A better strategy is to set things up in advance for the perfect picture: For example, you might coordinate with your subject so they’ll come flying over the cliff at the exact moment that you have your camera pointed and ready.

4. Have A Signal

In the same vein as the above, it’s a good idea to have a set of wordless signals worked out between you and your subject. You can wave your arms or whistle when your equipment is ready, and then they’ll know it’s okay to start skiing towards you.

5. Turn On Autofocus

When a skier is racing down a mountain in a cloud of white snow, you don’t have time to wait around for your camera to focus. You’ll need a model that comes with instant and high-quality autofocus, and these controls will need to be on when you’re pointing and shooting.

6. Know Your Shutter Speeds

Fast shutter speeds can be used to freeze the action at a critical moment. Slow shutter speeds can be used to give the illusion of movement with blurred backgrounds but sharp skiing figures. There’s no right way to do it, so experiment with shutter speeds of both 1/1000th and 1/30th of a second to see which you like best.

7. Understand Your Limitations

Flash settings generally fail after a certain distance. Other cameras might have limited shutter speeds. Know the limitations of your equipment before you get on the slopes and have an unpleasant surprise.

8. Set Your Exposure

Many skiing photos are underexposed because their photographers just assumed that the bright white snow didn’t need fine-tuned exposure settings. This is a mistake! You should always fiddle with your exposure until it’s suitable for the day, weather, setting and subject.

9. Find a Role Model

Look for a photographer in the industry whose techniques you love and can emulate. For example, something like a Jim Decker profile can give you great inspiration if you’re a fan of his work. By copying his techniques, you’ll eventually gain enough confidence and skill to create your own.

These are just nine tips for better skiing photography. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time behind the camera, these techniques should help you capture clearer, more striking moments every time.