Business Outsourcing in Credit Crunch Times

Proper focus is always cited as a key quality for successful businesses.  This means recognising what your business strengths really are, and then building on them so that they become meaningful and sustainable competitive strengths.   In today’s challenging market, focus has never been more important. In concentrating on what your business excels at – it may be selling services, implementing technical solutions, or producing a great product – you will inevitably know which areas of your business are not core strengths.  Many businesses find that, instead of increasing their headcount with specially skilled resources, outsourcing anentire function can be a smart solution.  Businesses tend to consider outsourcing when the necessary skills are not readily available in-house, but outsourcing comes with many other advantages.  One key benefit is that outsourcing provides the exact expertise that a business needs, when it needs it most.  This gives much flexibility that would be more difficult to manage once you have invested in new employees and possibly training costs too.Specialised business functions such as payroll, accounting, credit control, debt collections and even business finance, are often best handled by an experienced and expert provider who will ‘hit the ground running’ and can work very much as an extension to your own team.  Well tested systems and processes will already be in place with your outsourced provider, so that your business can benefit from an infrastructure that works, and is scalable as your business requirements change.  In fact, outsourcing is being viewed increasingly as a strategic tool for achieving your main business objectives.Managing payroll, for example, is a largely process-driven function, so an outsourced payroll specialist will not only bring benefits of economies of scale but also savings on costly software, hardware, administration, recruitment and training.  Experts in their field, a good outsourced provider will be able to keep you up to date with relevant changes in legislation, taxation and VAT – invaluable assistance which has the potential to save you much time and keeps you focused on your core business activities.Start-up businesses seeking to minimize overhead costs and control finances from day one can benefit hugely from the experience and expertise available through outsourced business services and finance providers.  Having immediate access to well operated services such as credit control or payroll could make the difference between a floundering and a flourishing new-start business.  New business owners and managers can then get on with the vital job of building their business and getting new sales flowing.So what are the key success factors for engaging a provider of outsourced business services and finance?  Here are some points you should discuss with any provider you are considering…- Value.  Aim to understand what value outsourcing will add to your business – in terms of cost efficiencies and impact on bottom line profit- Track record.  Have they worked with an organization of a similar size and type before, and what are their credentials and specific areas of expertise?- Fees.  What is included and what is excluded?- People. Get to know the people involved as client-service provider partnerships should be truly collaborative- Values. Be certain that your outsourced provider will behave in line with your own business values and service ethos, especially if they are dealing directly with your clients or suppliers- Flexibility. Check that they have the capacity to grow in line with your own strategic growth plans- Protection. Understand how your business data will be handled to ensure data security; are back-up systems and data recovery procedures in place?- Support. Will they support your business in both good and bad times?- What matters most. Recognize that ultimately success will depend on relationships rather than price.In summaryThe market today is highly competitive and continuously changing.  In order to thrive, businesses must look at ways of improving productivity and at the same time reduce costs.  Many business services and processes can make up precious time and resources, and successful businesses are increasingly outsourcing these functions. Outsourcing such activities can give you immediate access to more flexible, experienced and cost effective capabilities. Moreover, outsourcing is seen as a strategic management option rather than just a cost cutting operation as it can support businesses in achieving their business objectives through operational excellence.

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Considering a Graphic Design Career? Here’s What You Absolutely Must Know

Does a career as a graphic designer appeal to you? If so, you’re not alone. This career path is becoming a popular one due to the fact that many students now have easy access to affordable graphic design programs at home. Many students are taking up graphic design as a hobby and then choose to later further their skill with a solid education in graphic design.What is Graphic Design?Graphic design, in the modern day, generally involves using computer software to design media messages used for communication purposes. There are many types of graphic designers including:- Logo designers
- Website designers
- Flash designers
- CAD designing
- Multimedia designers
- Photo editing/artMost graphic designers start with designing banners, brochures, stationary, business cards, logos, websites and other corporate related design requirements. If you decide to pursue a career in graphic design, this flexibility gives you a great opportunity to expand your experience. You may easily branch out into other fields once you are an expert at using graphic design programs.Graphic Design ProgramsWhile there are many types of graphic design programs available, it is usually the same few that are used by most all designers. Most designers prefer to use a MAC computer, however many design programs are available on both the PC and MAC.A few of the most commonly used professional graphic design programs include:- Adobe Photoshop
- Daz Studio
- AutoCAD
- CorelDRAW Graphics Suite
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Flash Professional
- Macromedia Freehand
- QuarkXpress
- Director
- Fireworks
- Paint Shop ProGraphic design jobs of all types require exceptional attention to detail and patience. Designers often work on the same project for weeks on end, so being able to cope with a repetitive environment is important. There are also often strict deadlines to meet.Self EmploymentGraphic design has a high rate of self employment due to the ease of delivering graphic design work. Graphic design can be undertaken solely at home on a computer and as such many people simply find clients through word of mouth, advertising and via the internet. It is certainly possible to make a good living running a graphic design business right from your home or from your own office.A self employed graphic designer does not have the advantage of the regular income that a paid employee has. There are also no retirement benefits. However there are other benefits to self employment including:- Tax breaks
- Flexible hours
- Possibility to earn more money
- Choose your own clients
- Being your own bossThe negatives of being self employed are often significantly outweighed by the positives.Graphic Designer Salary GuideSo how much does a graphic designer earn? That is the question asked by many budding graphic designers, but the answer is not black and white. In fact, compared with most other industries there is a wide variation in the salary of graphic designers worldwide. The average salary of a graphic designer in the U.S. is listed at about $45,000. However people who are self employed may earn double this amount, as will designers in higher positions in corporations.Graphic design can incorporate many different paths including web design and corporate stationary design. There are many avenues for designers to take in order to earn high salaries in this exciting career. Graphic design was once a volatile line of work, however, now jobs are relatively stable and wages are on the increase. Despite the threat of overseas outsourcing, many graphic designers can still find work locally as companies see the value of having a designer on site rather than having to communicate with those in countries like India.Graphic designers often boost their salary by becoming a freelancer. By freelancing you have unlimited income opportunities. The only limit is how much work you can take on and of course how many clients you can gather. Freelance is the same as being self employed, so you are not reliant on an employer and you can generally choose your own hours. You can also have the luxury of working at home. If you do not have a home office set up then it can be difficult to concentrate on work so some graphic designers choose to rent an office in order to separate their work and home lives.Web design is a popular avenue for graphic designers to take due to the increased demand for high quality designers. Every business needs a website these days and if a graphic designer can offer a package of business card design, stationary and web design then they can earn significantly more money and out perform other designers who solely focus just on business card and logo design.A graphic designer salary is never set in stone as there is so much scope for extra work and up-selling when it comes to offering your services. Being innovative and having good business sense will ensure that your career as a graphic designer is a successful one. If you’re artistic, creative, and like working with technology, consider a career in graphic design.

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The Essential Writer’s Market Research – Part 2 – How to Do Your Own Research

Market research for writers is different to research advised for most retailers.You can’t rely on work done by research companies, because it needs to fit you personally.To recap a little, this is my brief definition of market research for writers:’Study a potential publication to determine its individual characteristics.’The point of doing this research is to help you decide if your ideas and style will be a good fit for those of the publisher.Most rejected queries are from writers who have sent them to inappropriate publications.In part one, I listed several characteristics of publications that writers need to look out for.In this part, I’ll go into more detail about how to actually do this research.While these two articles are particularly directed toward magazines, you should be able to adapt them to other publications too. I wrote out a template page for myself several years ago, which I use every time I study a potential magazine to write for.· Find out what you can from the cover. Having chosen those magazines that are within your subject areas, next peruse the article titles listed on the cover. Are they trite and gaudy, for example, or do they suggest an in-depth coverage of their subject?· Take a peek inside. Are the photos matt or glossy? Are they primarily linked to the articles, or to adverts? How many pages of advertisements do you see on your first flick through? What first impression do you get of those photos? What sort of readers do they appeal to? Do the articles appear to be long or short? Are there any other important first impressions that you notice?· Check out the list of contents. If you have several recent issues, which is ideal, see if you can discover their regular writers. [Articles not written by regular staff indicate possibilities for freelancers.] If you can find any articles written by the editor, take special note, as these will show, more than any other, the exact style the editor prefers.· Now read a variety of articles, from the very short, to the longest. Estimate the number of words in the longest and shortest articles.· From these articles, determine factors such as: what age would the readers be, and what would their reading level be? What are their probable occupations and interests? Are the topics seasonal (such as gardening)? Are they written to inspire, inform, educate, or motivate – or just appeal to the reader’s curiosity?· Take note of any obvious political, ethical, or religious slants anywhere in the magazine, (including the hot topic of organic food) but particularly in the editor’s letter at the start, in the adverts, and in the contents list.· Is there anything else about the magazine that appears unique or unusual to you, which may affect whether or not it would be a good ‘fit’ for your writing?· Finally – write the date on your page that you are doing the research, so you’ll immediately know how recent it is when you look at it again.There are a lot of questions here, and I must admit – I don’t really enjoy this task. However, my page of research of each magazine has proven invaluable to me on many occasions because it has helped me target my queries successfully.One last thing – If it’s a while since you did your research, I highly recommend you get some recent copies of your selected magazine(s) before you proceed any further with an article or a query to an editor, as magazine styles can change.Most rejected queries are from writers who have sent them to inappropriate publications, so it is well worth putting in the effort to target yours to where they have the highest chance of success.

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