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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Starting An Online Business In The UAE



With web communities, group-buying websites and other e-commerce portals flourishing in the UAE, the idea of setting up an online business in the country is becoming increasingly attractive. Here are a few factors and steps to consider when starting an online business in the UAE.


As with any company, market research, creating astrong business plan and securing funding are some of the main steps in setting up an online business. Once you have taken care of the planning stage, you have to start taking into account the set up requirements, procedures and costs. Online businesses are governed by most of the same laws as traditional businesses, but you should consider the following factors before launching:

Licensing

To form a web-based company, you will need to secure a business license from the Department of Economic Development (DED). If you are looking to setup within a free zone, the license will have to be acquired from the relevant free zone authority. 

The type of license issued will depend on the nature of your online business. Requirements for running an information website can differ from those of an online shopping portal. For example, if you are launching a shopping website targeted at UAE consumers, you will have to acquire a commercial trading license as you are essentially selling products in the market. If you decide to set up base in a free zone, you will require a local agent or distributor to sell products to the UAE market outside the free zone.

Office space

Depending on the nature of the business, you should also consider setting up a physical office. A popular international model for setting up an online business is having a virtual office. This concept, where you have a business address without a dedicated office space, is available within the UAE as well, but not all emirates permit it. For example, according to Dubai’s DED, a Dubai-based company must have physical office space to be considered legal. Other options, such as hot desks offered by free zones, can also be considered depending on the nature and size of the company. (Click here for more information)








NB: Check out StartupProPlus Hottest Selling Products list for making money online and generating a steady online income. 



Website development

To set up an online business, you naturally need to prepare a website. The following steps need to be taken when establishing your web presence: 

  1. Registering a domain name



  • You will need to choose and register a domain name. This is the name or address you use for your website (often the company’s name). It will be useful to do some research on domain names that have already been taken before finalizing a company name. You wouldn't want to set your heart on a particular one, only to find out the domain name is already is in use.
  • A number of companies in the UAE offer domain name registration services. In order to acquire a “.ae” domain name, you can register with telecommunications company Etisalat’s (United Arab Emirates Network Information Center) UAEnic.

  1. Finding a host for the website



  • Just as in a physical shop, you’ll need space to store the content of your website or display your products. This space can be purchased from web hosting companies (also known as web hosts). Web hosts are considered landlords who rent server space to individuals and organisations to host their website. Some companies provide both domain name registration and web hosting services, as well as web design templates all under one roof.
        Designing the website


  • In the absence of a brick-and-mortar store, the website will be the face of your company. Just as you would spend on the design, layout, look and feel of your physical store, you have to ensure that your website is attractive, engaging and user-friendly. To this end, hiring a great designer or web designing company is vital.
  • While you can find ready made website templates online, it’s best to hire a web designer who can create a unique design for your website and customize it to your business needs.


If you are an online shopping portal, there are a few additional factors to consider:

Online payment gateways

If you are selling products online (whether tangible or intangible) you need to set a secure payment gateway. Options include credit card payment, cash on delivery, and pre-paid card systems such as PayPal and CashU. 

Import/export requirements

If you are importing products from outside the country and selling them online to the UAE market, the business has to be registered with the relevant emirate’s ports and customs authority, and receive an importer’s code. A customs duty (often 5%) is applicable to goods being imported.

Businesses established within a free zone are exempt from customs duties if they are selling their products/services within the free zone or outside the country. However, if they are selling to the UAE market (outside the free zone), the customs duty has to be paid and a local commercial agent has to be appointed. 

Storage space

Any business dealing with physical products needs to consider renting or purchasing storage space. Hence, if you need to store a large quantity of products, you should include warehouse costs in your calculation.

Delivery

You should also take into account costs associated with the delivery of products. This will include purchasing delivery vehicles and other transport-related costs such as petrol, vehicle servicing and insurance.


NB: Check out StartupProPlus Hottest Selling Products list for making money online and generating a steady online income. 











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Friday, January 18, 2013

6 great ways to make money online



The year 2013 is barely out of the starting gate, and some finance experts already predict that the U.S. economy will make a roaring comeback this year. Of course, other pundits warn that we should be very worried.

Whatever happens, you can resolve to improve your personal economy this year.

Digital technology, combined with your talent and passion, is a money-making opportunity waiting to happen. Whether you're looking to pocket a little extra cash or significant part-time income, these ideas could put you on the road to a prosperous new year.

1. Sell art, crafts or collectibles online

If you have a talent for making jewelry, pottery or other crafts -- or just a knack for finding vintage gems at garage and estate sales -- consider selling your objects through an online storefront.

Etsy is the largest and most popular marketplace for handmade and vintage goods. You can also try ArtFire and Zibbet.

Have you designed a killer line of iPad cases or Kids' tees? Take a look at up-and-coming Redbubble. Want to display traditional art? Artbreak is a fast-growing online gallery for traditional artists -- and it's commission-free.

If you have an e-book, song, template, computer wallpaper or other kind of digital file to sell, take a look at commission-free UploadNSell. Amazon-owned CreateSpace can help indie authors, musicians and filmmakers sell works to online buyers.

2. Cash in on your photos

Licensing your best photos to microstock agencies such as iStockphoto, Shutterstock and Dreamstime is a great way for above-average photographers to make money. 

There's a lot of competition, but Web designers and other electronic publishers buy tens of thousands of photos every day to illustrate stories and ads. Research top-selling images at microstock sites to get a feel for what buyers want, and then do whatever you do best, whether that's food, portraits, sports or landscapes.

Illustrators and videographers can find opportunities in microstock, too.
If you're a fine-art photographer, try selling through print-on-demand sites such as Imagekind or Fine Art America. You set your price for various sizes, and the sites take a cut for printing, matting, framing and shipping to the customer.

3. Take on microjobs and quick tasks

Many folks pick up pocket money every day by doing quick field work assignments for companies, or doing odd jobs for local businesses and homeowners.

Businesses big and small post micro-projects through a free iPhone app called Gigwalk (an Android version is in the works). A winemaker, for example, might need someone in your town to visit a retailer and take a smartphone picture of a product display.

Homeowners across the U.S. browse the TaskRabbit website if they need help assembling Ikea furniture or grocery shopping. Local businesses also call on TaskRabbits when they need on-demand workers, delivery drivers or event staff. You do need to ace a video interview and a thorough background check in order to become a TaskRabbit.

If your friends look to you for fashion and shopping advice, check into becoming an affiliate for the shopping site Beso. It works the same way as a traditional blog, except you don’t need to think up 500 fresh words every day. You make a few cents every time friends and followers click on links you share within brief posts to social network sites.

4. Tutor and teach

Put your experience as a tutor or teacher to work on the Internet. All you need is a fast broadband connection and a way to video chat.

Online tutoring is also a good way for starving college and grad students to put food on the table. Specialists in finance, math and science are always in high demand. Sites such as Smarthinking or Tutor can help get you started.

Can you speak a foreign language fluently or have experience as a language tutor? Hang up a shingle at Verbalplanet. There's also a keen need to teach English as a second language to executives around the world.

5. Freelance

Freelancing is a time-honored way for writers and graphic designers to make money. It's not uncommon for administrative assistants, accountants, computer programmers and other professionals to also find freelance opportunities. Look at niche job sites such as Elance, Guru and FreelanceSwitch.

If you're a super-speedy typist, have a good ear and write well, you might be cut out for transcription work. Transcribers provide closed captioning for films and TV shows and written transcripts of academic presentations and focus groups. Visit Tigerfish to get started.

6. Telecommute

You don't have to be your own boss to work from home. You just need to find telecommuting opportunities. Regular job boards often list telecommuting work. Use "telecommuting" as a keyword. Also try Telework Recruiting or FlexJobs, which require small membership fees. The National Telecommuting Institute helps individuals with disabilities find telecommuting opportunities. It offers listings and advice.



NB: Check out StartupProPlus Hottest Selling Products list for making money online and generating a steady online income. 







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Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Steps to Make More Money Online



You could say building a successful personal brand online comes down to understanding one rule:
“It’s not about what you want to say; it’s about what you want people to know.”
It may sound simple but the difference between a successful and unsuccessful online personal brand for an entrepreneur can often be measured by not understanding the difference between a ‘statement’ and ‘proposition of value’.

Here are the top 5 steps to take to ensure the success of your personal brand:
1) Assess your position
Before you can begin to define your online brand and position yourself, it’s important to understand what works. For example, say that you would like to start a business by selling designed goods in online marketplaces. A reasonable move would be to look at successful sellers on sites from Fab to Etsy and identify how they do it: Look at the voice they use, the social media channels they operate on, even the colors and fonts they employ. Do the same with sellers that don’t resonate with you and the contrast between the two will more clearly reveal how you would like your message to be received and the methods to achieve it.
2) Create the foundation
Just as the services or goods you provide are unique and valuable, so too must be your personal brand. The most important process in personal branding is defining what makes you unique and why should anyone pay attention to what you have to say? More importantly, try to understand what it is about you that would be of value to both your target audience and your peers. If you can define who they are and what they are looking for, you can then begin to structure a truly authentic brand message. It’s not easy having a clear vision of yourself, so it might help to ask your friends, family and your fellow entrepreneurs how they perceive you and what are your strengths. Authenticity is central to personal brand success.
3) Extend your reach
Look at the social platforms you operate on and refine them in line with your message. If you don’t have a blog, maybe you should think of creating one. If you do, optimize its brand message. More importantly, identify areas important to your audience you aren’t active in and get involved. The key here is to be both consistent and individualized. Your message needs to be standardized across your digital footprint, but tailored to suit the unique environment of each social platform. What works for Facebook doesn’t work for Twitter. Don’t forget there are plenty of services out there to help you customize your personal brand content exactly as you want it. Don’t be afraid to play around and see what works, but always stay on message and maintain your authenticity. Just like you as a person, you’re building something greater than the sum of its parts.
4) Leverage your worth
So you’ve defined and built your personal brand, optimized the message and are now spreading it online. Now what?
The key to leveraging any brand is targeting not only the right audiences, but linking with the like minded. Get involved in the forums your audience participates in. Connect with trendsetters, thought leaders and of course your fellow entrepreneurs in your niche. Comment on blog posts that resonate with your personal brand, and always follow up with those who post on yours. Building connections and a community comes from being not only authentic and topical, but most importantly being seen as creating value, not noise.
5) Establish your leadership
For your online personal brand to be truly distinct and widely recognized, you need to lead. Build authority by bravely spreading your thought leadership wherever you can. Contribute guest articles on relevant blogs, lead discussions on forums and use your social media channels to invite opinions and debate. Remember, to be heard on the Internet you first need to be seen.
Of course, this process never really ends: Continually focus on how best to optimize your personal brand, keep making those connections and always ensure that what people hear about you is authentic and on message.
What are your thoughts on these steps to help you build your online brand? Have any tips that I may have missed? Add them to the comments below.



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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kick-Start Your eCommerce Business for $100 or Less




If you have a unique creation or invention, and you are not selling it around the world on the Internet, now is the time to start. The cost of entry has never been lower. Anyone can be an entrepreneur today, without a huge investment, bank loans, venture capitalists, or Angels.
In the early days (20 years ago), most new e-commerce sites cost a million dollars to set up. Now the price is closer to $100, if you are willing to do the work yourself. Here are the key steps for a personal home-based business website selling a few products (as an alternative to Ebay):

  1. Go online to reserve a website domain name. Be sure it matches your business, and get a hosting agreement from one of the popular providers like GoDaddy. The cost for the domain name is maybe $10/year, and the hosting starts around $50/year. Start simple.

  2. Download free website tools. Many hosting services offer free tools, or will build a default website for you. Other popular tools are available at low cost, with built-in e-commerce capabilities (pay via PayPal or credit card), including this Top Ten list for 2013, or fall back to the old standby DreamWeaver by Adobe.

  3. Open an account with PayPal. This costs nothing, and allows you to safely collect money from customers all around the world. If you want to also accept all the popular credit cards, that will require a merchant services account for a low monthly fee.

  4. Personalize a simple web site. Customize your website using one of the tools above, selecting one of the standard templates for design and layout. You probably want at least a home page, product page, order page, and contact page. The menu should include a link to your blog, separately set up on Blogger, Wordpress, or TypePad, again free.

  5. Publish the site and now you are in business. But don’t be fooled into expecting people to flock to your site after you tell a few friends. Now the real work begins – promotion, marketing, blogging, and all types of search engine marketing. But even these can be done for almost no cost, if you are willing to learn and do the work yourself.

Obviously, commercial e-commerce sites handling thousands of products and back-office functions are more expensive, and usually require professional help to do the custom programming and special site navigation features. All this may cost a few thousand dollars, but don’t get talked into an Amazon.com replacement just yet.

The next step in complexity is building a software product that you can offer as a service to your customers. A simple example might be mortgage calculator to add to your real estate sales site. Any credible software developer should be willing to tackle this kind of tool for a couple of thousand dollars.

Then there are full-featured software sites like Facebook. The logic behind all these features is millions of lines of code, and cost millions of dollars to develop and maintain. Don’t expect that you can create a new social networking site in your garage, and steal all the users away from Facebook. Facebook is making money today, but only after a $150 million investment.

But even Facebook started simple, and then developed more and more robust iterations as user interest caught on. I give this advice all the time “launch fast and iterate.” You can’t get it all right the first time, and the market will be gone if you try to include every feature in the first version.

The net is that if I see a website business plan today with a projected development cost greater than $200K, I suspect the founder must be including some fancy perks, or they don’t understand the market dynamics of e-commerce today.


Budding entrepreneurs and home-based businesses should be writing business plans before they start, so they understand and can manage the tasks ahead, but no outside investor need ever see the plan. Fund it yourself (bootstrapping) and do-it-yourself entrepreneurs are the best kind, because they can focus on the business, rather than fund raising, and have full control of their destiny. Life is more fun that way. Grab your shopping basket.



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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Entrepreneurs: Verbs for your 2013 plan




A whole new year is approaching and I am sure most of you have a list of things that you want to accomplish this year. But as the year rolls forward sometimes you just hold back from doing what you planned or wished to do. You hold back maybe because you have a reason, an assumption, or someone convinced you why you should hold back. Whatever the barrier is you can overcome it in 2013 by making verbs part of your plan. Here are some tips that works for me and may be it will work for you too.

1. Go Do it – You can come up with all the scenarios and play them out in the mind but until you actually do it you will never gain the true experience. All experiences are useful. If you were involved in something you did not like, that experience will tell you what not to try next time and/or how to do it differently. So do things that you really want to know what it is like doing them. You will grow from the experience. Your mind learns new things through experience , and entrepreneurship is all about experience and learning.

2. Learn about thyself - Learn about what defines you [daily]. Be conscious about what you are doing, reading, liking, disliking, getting attracted to, etc. Ask yourself why did you take an action or not take an action, why did you like or dislike something, etc. If you can answer thewhy then you will be learning more about yourself.  Once you know about yourself you will [almost] always make decisions or choices that you will not regret. Your mind loves to learn about itself; it evolves from the process.
3. Create alone or together - I am sure you have heard about the half full/empty glass theory. I will put a little twist to the optimistic/pessimistic part of this theory. Get creative about what can you do with the glass half full, in other words with what is already available to you; and get creative about what you can do to fill in the half empty glass. Creativity is always in short supply. Getting creative does not always mean doing it alone. So if you are finding it hard to get creative then you can involve a family member, a friend or someone who can help you get the creative energy flowing. Together you can either brainstorm ideas, discuss pros & cons or explore topics. Your mind enjoys the adventure during the creative process.

4. Let passion Drive you, not money - Many entrepreneurs focus on the money – be it seed money for R&D, marketing or getting money from revenue. Yes money is important but if you are driven by your passion, striving for excellence  and you are learning, growing and diving deeper into your passion, money will come. Your mind will be a lot more effective and productive when it is driven by passion.

Our mind is very powerful and it can come up with all the reasons, assumptions and theories why we should not do something. You should use your mind for doing and that will make you learn, which in turn might make you create and you might discover your passion which will drive you to doing more and the loop continues. 
So what are you waiting for? Put these verbs in your plan - Do, Learn, Create and Drive, and get started by doing what is on your list. 

Come back share with us what you have done, learned, created and what drove you. Have a Happy Entrepreneurial New Year 2013.









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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mark Cuban's 12 Rules for Startups




Anyone who has started a business has his or her own rules and guidelines, so I thought I would add to the memo with my own. My "rules" below aren't just for those founding the companies, but for those who are considering going to work for them, as well.





1. Don't start a company unless it's an obsession and something you love.
2. If you have an exit strategy, it's not an obsession.
3. Hire people who you think will love working there.
4. Sales Cure All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.
5. Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but aren't as expensive to pay.
6. An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.
7. No offices. Open offices keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show him or her how to use the lock on the bathroom. There is nothing private in a startup. This is also a good way to keep from hiring executives who cannot operate successfully in a startup. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over a personal secretary, run away. If an exec won't go on sales calls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.
8. As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the most inexpensive way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista, ask yourself why, then use it. It's a startup so there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.
9. Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.
10. Never buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it's okay to buy for your own employees, but if you really think people are going to wear your branded polo when they're out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.
11. Never hire a PR firm. A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.
12. Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out $100 bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. The Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or ten for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party.

This article is an edited excerpt from How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It (Diversion Books, 2011) by Mark Cuban (Available at Amazon and iTunes).







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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best Inspirational Words From Business Leaders in 2012




Happy New Year 2013 Everyone!!








You don't have to be a billionaire to have keen insights into the business world. Looking back over our 2012 issues, we found much to be inspired by in the words of the entrepreneurs and business experts --big and small-- with whom we've spoken. Take note of the wisdom offered up by these innovators, raconteurs and candid observers, and apply it to your own work going forward. We predict good things ahead.
Running a company is like playing a video game.
Running a company is like playing a video game.
Jeff Clark
"Running a company is like playing a really greatSimCity. You set the right foundations in place, hire awesome people and move from office to slightly larger office and increase perks and amenities."
--James Park, CEO, Fitbit
A leader should take the secrecy away.
A leader should take the secrecy away.
Winni Wintermeyer
"Politics comes from secrecy. The leadership of the company--who has all the information--has the power to change that. It's the leader who can tell all the employees everything, and by so doing, take the secrecy away."
--Mark Leslie, former chairman and CEO, Veritas Software
Having fun makes you more innovative.
Having fun makes you more innovative.
Randy Harris
"I found the more fun I created in the company, themore creative and innovative it became. That was the big kahuna--the fun piece."
--Barbara Corcoran, founder, The Corcoran Group
Praise good work to keep employees happy.
Praise good work to keep employees happy.
"What praise ultimately does is hold up a mirror. It acknowledges what people already think about themselves: that they're good at what they do. You're making someone happy and fulfilled and more excited to work with you. And for almost no effort at all."
--Ross McCammon, the Esquire guy
Believe that you are No. 1.
Believe that you are No. 1.
Sarah Wilson
"I like to say we're 'justifiably confident.' But really, who wants to work with No. 2? If you don't believe you're No. 1 and don't believe you can build the best products and services, why would anyone else want to work with you?"
--Ben Lamm, CEO, Chaotic Moon
Taking the more difficult road will have the bigger impact.
Taking the more difficult road will have the bigger impact.
David Johnson
"You're not just trying to do something marginally, incrementally better. You're doing something that is a fundamental paradigm shift, that will have exponential impact. That means it's harder to do, but ultimately, if it's successful, the impact it has is far greater."
--Steve Case, founder, Revolution
Small businesses have the same problems as the big guys.
"Mom-and-pop businesses have the same issues as the Fortune 500. The difference is that big companies spend millions on consultants to fix them."
--Christopher Myers, CEO, BodeTree
Conquer the insurmountable.
Conquer the insurmountable.
Randy Harris
"The key to our success is focusing on one insurmountable task each day and surmounting the hell out of it. It's tenacity--that's what powers the entrepreneurial spirit."
--Jackie Summers, co-founder, Jack from Brooklyn
Learn to be a coach and mentor.
Learn to be a coach and mentor.
Casey Templeton
"The entrepreneur has to go from a control freak to a trusting manager to an emotionally intelligent coach and mentor."
--Ed Hess, professor at University of Virginia'sDarden School of Business
Act despite your fear.
"People think having courage means you have no fear. Courage is taking action despite the fear."
--Linda Sapadin, psychologist
Give your brand an emotional connection.
"A lot of business owners fall in love with their own product and forget that other people need to be romanced by a story. A brand should make you feel something when you say the name. Without context, it's just stuff."
--Mike Bisceglia, president, Stauer
Redirect the agenda.
"If you're an entrepreneur entering a category, maybe you can't set the agenda, but if you can redirect that agenda, that's how you win. If you're going to enter a category and be a 'me too,' don't bother."  
--Jim Stengel, branding consultant
Don't mess with moms.
"Mom bloggers are ruthless."
--Elisa Camahort Page, COO, BlogHer
Craft a better call to action.
Craft a better call to action.
eiseverywhere.com
"If the call to action is always 'buy, buy, buy,' that sounds like a 5-year-old saying, 'Mom, Mom, Mom' all the time."
--Michael Becker, managing director for North America, Mobile Marketing Association

















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