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Should I charge an hourly rate or a fixed price?

Should I charge an hourly rate or a fixed price?

Charging clients an hourly rate versus a fixed price depends on experience with the project. Predictability goes hand in hand with a flat rate. In a nutshell – if you’ve done it before with confidence, a flat rate means you know how much time the project takes and any foreseeable costs involved. A flat rate means you’ll finish it in a flash.

On the other hand, hourly rates can protect a website manager from finicky clients and feature creep. A project with the potential for never quite getting finished should be billed hourly. (Flat rate custom website design is a no-no, for instance.) If there’s a chance your client might come back and say Do It Again, then keep them on the clock. Otherwise, clients have little incentive to stop when the project is complete.


When to charge a fixed price:

  • Where a project does not include creative design and engineering
  • When you’ve successfully completed a similar project more than three times
  • When the project has written specifications and defined terms

Sample Fixed Price Projects
Website managers familiar with standard Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla or WordPress know that existing plugins make it easy to get a basic website up and running in no time. Be careful of hidden fees for “premium” plugins that go beyond basic services. But all the below items are repeatable and easy-to-replicate projects that should not necessitate a lot of extra hours. Turn-key software is available for all of the below:

  • CMS Setup
  • Turn-key templates with CMS backends
  • Newsletter integration
  • Google Analytics
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Webinars and Live chat Events
  • Photo galleries
  • News feeds
  • Social media setup
  • Website hosting
  • Email management
  • eCommerce

When to charge an hourly rate:

  • When the client doesn’t understand the technology
  • If you are dependent on a subcontractor
  • If you don’t have experience with the task at hand

Sample hourly rate projects
Time management is crucial for website managers who stand to lose the most when work drags on and revisions are necessary. Subjective projects where the work is likely to have complications or changes along the way include:

  • Website and graphic design
  • Database integration
  • Writing and creating copy
  • Improvements on existing websites
  • Flash or video projects
  • Responsive website adaptation
  • Marketing strategy implementation
  • Employee training
  • Mail merges for email blasts
  • Editing grammar
  • Scheduling and Storyboarding

Caveats to these guidelines

Time management for website managers means predicting efficiency for delivering technology and content, but also how a client will respond when a project is complete. Finally, keep in mind these rules we suggest go to the waste basket where experience with a client dictates how to charge. The question for whether to charge an hourly rate or a fixed price often comes down to understanding expectations and the resources. Experience with the client and the project should dictate which rate system to use.

In conclusion, the difference between charging clients a fixed price versus an hourly rate is no small matter for website managers looking to increase their bottom lines. Charging an hourly rate or a fixed price is something that can and should be discussed with your client, so don’t be afraid to negotiate a fixed price up front, for instance, with a caveat that any work done beyond the terms of an agreed upon project will be billed additional rates. Always deliver a contract spelling out expectations – this crucial planning point cannot go ignored.

How to start an online teaching business

How to start an online teaching business

To start an online teaching business a website manager should plan the five basic components used to administer academic seminars via the Internet. Most website managers are familiar with content management systems (CMS) such as Joomla and WordPress to manage their websites, so it should be refreshing to know there are online teaching tools modeled after the same plug and play simplicity we already know.

Here are the five ingredients for starting an online teaching business:

  • 1. Online Course Management Software
  • 2. Naming Conventions for Marketing your Business
  • 3. Social Media Aggregation
  • 4. Website
  • 5. Generated Marketing Content

Online Course Management Software is unique for most website managers not accustomed to starting their own teaching business. Online education is something that has been around for at least 10 years and has matured beyond the original Blackboard model for delivering online education. For instance, Pathwright software provides online courses with all the mobile and social media features today’s students and teachers want. But more importantly, the interfaces doesn’t feel cumbersome or foreign to those already accustomed to managing WordPress sites.

Pathwright

With Pathwright you can create learning paths that guide students, employees, or anyone in the world to a new level of skill.

For a less polished but more business-oriented solution, EduTone software also provides reseller and white label partner programs so clients can access web-enabled educational software in one place. There are others offering similar services, and the point here is that you should do your homework and find a turn-key solution that’s right for you.

Naming Conventions for Marketing Your Business should start with searches using services such as Godaddy.com. They offer domain registration for around $10.00/year. Choose a domain name based on the key phrase one might use to find an online course like the one you’ll be administering. For instance, “Photography for Homeschoolers” (www.photographyforhomeschoolers.com) is affective because it literally leads someone from a search on Google to the online teaching tools they’re selling. Simple is better when it comes to good SEO.

how to start an online teaching businessSocial Media Aggregation starts on Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These accounts are the windows to your customers, so try to register the literal names exactly as the domain name reads for each one. Social media is often more important than a website itself, so don’t underestimate its potential to drive traffic to your services.

Create your website by starting with an education-themed template. (Be sure you are using a content management system (CMS) back-end such as WordPress.) Most companies – present company not excluded – will customize templates to your liking for a little money.

Generate marketing copy regularly means writing fresh content and publishing relevant images to demonstrate your online teaching courses are leaders in the field. Generate a marketing video so to build followers and explain your mission. A viral video can boom a business overnight.

StudentsThese are very brief overviews for how to start an online teaching business. Once plugged in, these components can be leveraged to differentiate your teaching business from the others. So, you’re logging in every day to flesh out your website with information and a daily blog post that is also being pushed to all social media outlets. Disseminating information in parallel is good for Search Engine Optimization, too. Remember that you will likely get more interest, more reads and more action on your Facebook page than on your website.

Providing free webinars can also be a good way to hook potential customers into your teaching services. In some cases it might make more sense to utilize a YouTube channel where the lectures are given away for free. Such an offering can provide a stage for teaching but does not include the features of an online classroom education. The option will be much cheaper and more familiar to those who stumble on it for the first time, funneling them to your business in the long run.

Because there are so many “White Label” platforms providing solutions for an online teaching business, it may behoove the beginner to call and get involved with these companies’ own educational programs for using their software.

The fact of the matter is that online courses are now so standardized and readily available that the software companies providing these solutions are “cookie cutting” the sites and will practically hold your hand through each of these steps. Knowing these five steps for how to start an online teaching business is a good start, but getting involved with the software providers who know the business will take you further – and keep you going.

How to get an Internet phone for free

How to get an Internet phone for free

While we’ve got little to gain by revealing how easy it is to get a free Internet phone, here’s hoping the monopolistic phone carriers find an early grave.

Obihai Free Service

The Obihai phone adapter

There’s little doubt that Google is on target to innovate how we communicate. Rather than forsaking the consumer market who makes phone calls, Google is innovating the way we connect and pay for these phone services. Google Voice calls are free anywhere within North America and costing just a few cents more internationally. But while Google has accommodated the phone lines for these calls, they’ve been remiss in providing hardware to plug into our computers to take advantage of existing hand sets. Speakers and microphones be damned!

Google Voice

Nonetheless, there is new plug-and-play hardware for legacy handsets, hardware that provides the traditional ease and smart ergonomics that (most of us) grew up with. Devices such as MajicJack charge $59.95 up front and yearly fees, but other hardware does better. The Obihai phone adapter, available for $29.99 from NewEgg.com (Use Promo Code: EMCPAWW99) allows direct access to Google Voice and functions the same way AT&T or Verizon land lines work in homes and offices. The only exception – and perhaps one that should be considered – is that 911 calls won’t work. But these devices will offer dedicated E911 VoIP service (for a fee, of course).

5 Steps for How to get an Internet phone for free:

  • 1. Purchase Hardware Phone Adapter
  • 2. Sign-Up for Google Voice Account
  • 3. If calling internationally, add credit to Google Voice
  • 4. Plug Hardware Phone Adapter into existing Internet Router
  • 5. Use handset to receive and make calls using the Google-assigned phone number

Voicemail, call waiting, caller ID and two-way calls are included in your Google Voice Account. And don’t forget the Visual Voicemail function Google voice is innovating. Now, you don’t have to wade through long pauses while the person on the other end decides what to say on the message. Just read the text:


 

Google Voice Transcript


 

The OBi device is similar to other adapters which connect to Google Voice.

Obihai is making a marketing push with relentless scorn against phone companies: “With a Google Voice account configured on an OBi device, users will not only get all the great collaboration tools and app integration with Google Voice, they will also be able to enjoy many premium calling features, free calling within the U.S. and Canada and super-low cost international calling – all from the comfort of their home phone,” said Jan Fandrianto, President and CEO of Obihai.

How to get an Internet phone for freeCalling from a mobile phone doesn’t need to be the default anymore. Sure, an additional piece of hardware has to be purchased and added to your router – but free calls forever on Google Voice is something that we can all celebrate for years to come.

How to choose a website builder

How to choose a website builder

The evolving responsibilities for website managers often require them to go out and seek new resources for help with building a website or social media integration. Because the days of the solitary webmaster are over, it’s important to be thorough and exacting when choosing new team members.

How to choose a website builderContractors and companies bring a charming sales pitch when they promise fast and professional digital media building services, but don’t ignore the vetting process. Choosing a good website builder requires due diligence that ensures they have both technical and marketing prowess. The builder must also have a great support system backing up what they do.

All digital projects aim to grow and nurture an audience while fulfilling the mission of the operation or business, but not all website builders have the aptitude or resources for understanding a website manager’s vision. With this in mind, here are a few rules for how to choose a website builder.

10 Rules for how to choose a website builder:

  • 1. Choose a website builder who can be reached by phone – They should speak English and be in your timezone. Seriously, this fact might sound obvious, but because much of today’s website development goes to Southeast Asia, be sure that the company you’re using is available to talk on the phone when you need to.
  • 2. Choose a website builder who uses an Issue Tracking System – Submitting a ticket and tracking an issue holds everyone accountable. Sending emails back and forth is a sure way to lose control and accountability. Ask what Issue Tracking System they use. Hesk is a light and free software solution that should do the job. Jira is a more expensive, but extremely professional.
  • 3. Choose a website builder who will respond in the middle of the night – 24/7 customer support requires more than email and a ticketing system – it requires a phone that will be answered. Phones are not necessarily something today’s website builders leave on during the night – the last thing anybody wants is to spend money on a website only to have it neglected when your customers need it most.
  • 4. Choose a website builder who can produce references and sample URLs – Finding someone who has done similar work in the past will help you know they are experienced. But don’t take their word for it – make sure to view source code for credits and contact that company for a reference.
  • 5. Choose a website builder who has a contingency plan – There’s no such thing as 100% up time. Websites crash in the same manner as any other technology. Ensure there are regular backups for websites, specifically for any database. By using automated software such as Word Press Backup Buddy, they won’t even have to think about it. Finally, pay the extra money for a mirrored site in the event your main website crashes.
  • 6. Choose a website builder who specializes in Content Management Systems (CMS) -There’s no good reason not to build websites based on existing content management systems such as Joomla or WordPress.
  • 7. Choose a website builder who understands SEO – The fundamental necessity for Search Engine Optimization requires basic strategy and back-end optimization that is friendly to Google. Ask the website manager if he or she uses Yoast, a simple plug-in that helps optimize posts and pages.
  • 8. Choose a website builder who integrates social media – Social media means Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. But those are only the most popular platforms today. Tomorrow may bring Reddit to the forefront and some other hot tool next.
  • 9. Choose a website builder who optimizes for mobile devices – With the market moving toward portability and away from desktop computers, ask for samples of work that are “responsive,” and test their websites on your own tablets and phones.
  • 10. Choose a website builder who can provide a project plan - Website managers should be responding to your Request for Proposals (RFPs). A good RFP allows the website manager to ensure all requirements are covered while specifying expectations. RFPs also help to prevent cost overruns. But simple “yes” or “no” answers back means the website builder is not to be bothered with details. The more details and logistics they provide in response to an RFP, the better.

Of course there are more than just 10 rules to follow when choosing a website builder. One should never underestimate the need for good chemistry and the avoidance of jerks. (These days there’s no need to work with a technologist who’s arrogant and dismissive.)

Choosing a team member is a little bit like adding a new member to your family. Try not to get it wrong.

What to do after getting hacked

What to do after getting hacked

Every few months website managers see the headlines and get questions from clients who ask the same thing: What to do after getting hacked?

After each hacking news story – including the most recent 4Chan iCloud hack where a hacker leaked a stash of nude photos of celebrities – websites such as Time.com or Mashable.com start their self-righteous calls on the importance of changing your password frequently and effectively. Out-of-touch gossip blogs forget the reality that is practical security precautions for users (especially website managers), failing to realize, for instance, that an iPhone doesn’t allow two-step authentication by default. Most media outlets also fail to mention what to do after you’re hacked. Which, chances are, you will be at some point.

What to do after getting hackedThe reality for cloud security is very different than what most people think. Of course, the “Big Tech” companies will defend their services by repeating and enforcing password policies, but the odds are stacked in the favor of criminal elements who have the patience, resources and fortitude to steal data.

The bottom line here is that you should be prepared to have your data stolen, and then be prepared to mitigate the fallout following the event.

Here’s what to do after getting hacked:

  • Act quickly when you do get hacked – Resetting your password in the first few minutes will lessen the probability that a hacker continues to mine your account for value.
  • Backup all websites, databases and cloud accounts – There may be something that’s worse to come, so get ready.
  • Shut down your websites – Stop bad stuff from happening while you find someone to help you mitigate the damage. Google Analytics has a tool for detecting malware on a website.
  • Check all your computers for viruses – Assume there is a bigger problem than the one account or device. Run the virus scans on everything.
  • Reset all passwords on all accounts – That means calling your banks, ISPs, credit cards and logging into all those crappy websites on which you’ve registered. Assume the hacker has access to them all.
  • Watch your credit score – You can pay for identity theft protection from companies such as LifeLock.com or others, but mostly they are going to do the same thing you can do. React to changes in financial records and credit ratings. Be sure to do plenty of research on so-called Free Credit Report Businesses by visiting the FTC.gov website.

We’ve heard and read common security advice hundreds of times – so, why do we keep getting compromised by hackers? Because commonly accepted password security preparations don’t work. Is the cloud safe from hackers? Absolutely not. But here are practical tips for website managers to remember about password security:

  • Omit your memorized “core phrase” when documenting a password – By now we all know to use special characters (i.e., !@#$%^&*) and combinations of capital letters and numbers, but these are easy to forget. Develop a password system based around a memorized phrase that will NEVER CHANGE. Then, never document the memorized phrase. Ever. For instance, if your memorized core phrase is “Deso!ationRow”, then all future passwords would include this favorite phrase added on the front or the end of it. Your core favorite phrase never needs to change while the front or back portion will change periodically. It’s this front or back portion you document: (the core phrase is in GREEN):
    • $November6autumDeso!ationRow = $November6autum————–
  • Choose obscure usernames – Website and email accounts often force users to use their email addresses as usernames. But where FTP is involved website managers can ensure that they use unrelated usernames for their FTP account logins (the username is in GREEN):
    • www.MyDomainName.com = OtherName
  • Add and update backup “password reset” contact information – Google, Yahoo! and AOL require an alternate email address and phone number for the purpose of resending passwords when a reset is requested. When you find it necessary to change your password, perhaps by no fault of your own as was recently demonstrated by Adobe when their servers got hacked, having an updated profile on these accounts allows for quickly resetting the information.
  • Use Facebook logins for Facebook only - Seriously, it is a convenience when signing up for a new service, but there’s a serious conflict of interest presented when Facebook becomes your authenticator for all the websites you visit. The same applies for Google, LinkedIn or other “convenience login” functionality being offered.
  • Visit your accounts frequently – Even if you don’t intend to reset the password on an account, you should visit dormant accounts and ensure software upgrades have been made and there’s no funny business going on in your account. Time is the enemy where hackers are involved, and the earlier you discover a problem, then the more likely you’ll be to cover your ass.
  • Don’t use unknown wireless networks – Next time you’re in a coffee shop and the name of that business comes up on the list of options to connect to the Internet, be sure to check with the business to authenticate the Wi-Fi address is valid. Real Life Scam recently demonstrated how hackers create phoney wireless networks in so-called “Wi-Fi Hustles”.
  • Delete old email – Despite what most people think, the cloud files are not the biggest risk to your security (unless you have nude pictures, of course). The bigger issue with most website managers and Internet users comes down to credit card and social security numbers contained within emails. Somewhere along the line most of us have sent our social security number to a business. Deleting old email will prevent hackers from mining it.
  • Don’t give out passwords – And when you do give out a password to a developer, make sure you change after the work is finished.

It sucks, it hurts and it takes time to recover after you’ve been hacked. But you’re not alone in your horrors, and there are many resources available from other website managers who have been through this before. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to act quickly.