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Red Flags to Avoid When Outsourcing Your Business Needs

Red Flags to Avoid When Outsourcing your Business Needs. 11 Tips on Hiring the Perfect Dream Team Instead Of Wasting Time, Energy and Money on Duds

11 Tips on Hiring the Perfect Dream Team Instead Of Wasting Time, Energy and Money on Duds

While many entrepreneurs start their business handling everything themselves to get their business going, there comes a point in their business growth when it makes sense to outsource.  Whereas other entrepreneurs decide to get their business off the ground by outsourcing the help they need right away.

My first hire was a programmer and it was the best decision I ever made – by bringing him onto the team, it expanded my offerings to our clients in a big way. It also relieved me of the pressure of having to keep learning more advanced programming in the ever-evolving web development industry.

Having someone on my team who’s expertise was in programming made much better sense and I never stopped there where I now have experts in many fields on my team.

Hiring new team members can take many forms. You can hire someone as an employee, a contractor or a freelancer. Any of these options are a great way to get the help you need without having to hire full time help.

But when you are hiring new people, especially if they are strangers on the Internet, you do need to be careful.

Be careful when hiring new people for your team. Here's some tipsClick To Tweet

Below are some tips to avoid the hidden dangers of hiring new team members to be aware of:

  1. Handling of sensitive data. If you are sharing information such as logins, passwords, and bank information with a new member, not only do you need to be careful in how you share that sensitive information but also in what they do with it.

    For example, don’t Skype any kind of sensitive data, it’s not secure.  Even email can be tricky. And require they shred or dispose of that data properly to ensure it doesn’t get compromised on their end.

  2. Have them sign a non-disclose agreement. If you are sharing intellectual property with your team members, it’s important to get a signed agreement that states they agree not to disclose certain information outside of the team circle.

    You’d hate to think that your virtual assistant would take your new $5000 program and leak it to your competitor or worse yet, rebrand it and sell themselves.

  3. Get references. It’s important to speak to someone who has experience working with them to find out their work habits, ability to communicate, focus to detail, and turn-around times.

    In my experience, it takes a certain personality type to be able to work independently and reliably in a virtual team atmosphere. Not everyone can work efficiently outside of an office space.

  4. Hire someone who is in alignment with your company values. This is especially true if you are looking for an assistant who will be representing your company with the public or your clients.

    For instance if you are hiring someone to do social media for you or as a customer service liaison, they are acting as the voice of your company.  You want to be sure they conduct themselves in a professional manner that reflects your own values.

    Over the years I have witnessed how terribly bad this can go for clients who have hired assistants who have not represented their company very well.

  5. Avoid payment hassles. If you hire a freelancer from a website and they want you to pay them on the side, that’s a huge red flag that puts their integrity in question.

    Also make sure if you hire someone from another country that you can pay them through a safe method such as Pay Pal.  Also be clear on the exchange rate differences between countries and ensure you’re clear which currency you have to pay them in.

  6. Research this person. It’s always a safe practice to do some research on your candidate. Do a Google search and check them out on Social Media. You may uncover some shady dealings or inappropriate behaviours that would make the person a bad hire.
  7. Cheaper is not always better. In fact hiring someone more experienced at a higher rate will often result in higher quality work in a faster time. Think about this hire as a business investment, not a means to get cheap work done or your business could suffer.
  8. Review their portfolio. If the position warrants it, ask for writing or design samples to show the quality of their work. It’s important to know they have the work experience and skills they claim to have. Never assume what they’ve written on their bio or in their resume is 100% accurate.
  9. Try a test project first. Find a small way to first see how the process of working with this person goes. Having a good working relationship with someone is just as important as having someone with the skills to do the job.
  10. Set deadlines. When you work with someone virtually, you are at the mercy of their schedule (unless they are an employee). If they have a deadline on another project or a busy workload, your project may come last.

    Make sure the freelancer you work with communicates well on when you can expect completed work.

  11. Check for understanding. Before a resource gets too many hours into a project you want to make sure they have a good grasp on what you want.

    Checking on progress from time to time to review that their work is on target can save headaches, upset, and unnecessary fees for redoing work down the road.

By following these guidelines, you can then say “Bye Bye Cheap Freelancers, Hello Dream Team!” because that’s what you end up building – a dream team who is with you in the long-term that will help grow your business.

At evision Media, we are a full suite boutique agency that provides many different web and marketing services for our clients all under one roof.  Our experienced team can provide you the brand, website, and digital marketing support you need without having to find a new person for each of the areas you need help in.

Are you thinking of expanding your team so you don’t have to do it all yourself any longer? Or do you have any further insights to share on what to be aware of when hiring? Share in the comments section below!

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

7 Tips to Protect Your Website from Hackers

Website Security: 7 Tips to Protect Your Website from Hackers

We have all heard in the headlines about major companies like Chase, Target, and Home Depot having data breaches with Ashley Madison being one of the latest high-profile victims.

The threat to small businesses on experiencing attacks by hackers is very real and not something to ignore.  In fact, according to a 2013 survey by the National Small Business Association over 44% of small businesses have had their systems hacked.

The Dangers of Not Protecting your Systems

It’s easy for a small business owner and entrepreneurs to say “Oh it won’t happen to me.”  Or because they are too busy with the day-to-day operations of the business not to make website security a top priority.

But the dangers of doing nothing are alarming.  Hackers can:

  • Break into your database and steal customer information.
  • Deface your website and put inappropriate pictures or text on it.
  • Submit malicious code through forms to deliver viruses and other harmful code to visitors who enter your site.
  • Log into your email server to send spam through your server.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand these dangers and know what needs to be in place in order to minimalize your risk of being compromised.

How To Protect You And Your Website from Hackers

  1. Keep your Website Platforms and Scripts Updated. If you use a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla etc., it’s important to install updates as they become available.
     
    The makers of these platforms often find and fix security holes that will leave your website vulnerable to attack.
     
    Wordpress is especially vulnerable due to the extent of its popularity.
     
    Same applies for shopping cart systems or plugins and scripts that facilitate extra functionality on your site.
  2. Be Careful with User Uploads.  While allowing users to upload an avatar, picture, or other file to a website or form can add interactivity, it also allows a way for malicious scripts to be uploaded to your server.
     
    Ensure security measures are in place that check submitted items from users to check if they are safe before uploading them to your website server.
  3. Protect Your Web Forms.  It is possible for hackers to fill out a contact form and place malicious code into the name or email fields.
     
    Having a tech person review your website can protect you from leaving this opportunity open to hackers.
  4. Set Up Strong Passwords.  While many people are learning the importance of strong passwords, some still leave their usernames at ‘admin’ or set simple passwords like ‘password123’ or use the same password for every online account they have.
     
    Passwords like first names, pet names, and simple words are easy to guess. There are algorithms hackers can use to easily figure out your user ID and/or password when either are very simple.
     
    Adding numbers, symbols, and capital letters to a password makes it harder to expose.  Plus, many password management programs can help you generate a random hard-to-guess password.
     
    This may seem inconvenient to have to memorize a more complex password but doing this to avoid being hacked is very much worth the effort.
  5. Lock Down Your Directory and File Permissions. It’s important to have someone with technical expertise review your hosting server directories to make sure the read, write, and execute permissions are set in a way that allows for maximum security.
     
    Look at folders, directories and individual files to review their settings to ensure your website is as secure as possible from harmful attacks.
  6. Set Up A Generic Website Error Page. If you have a portion of your website where users need to log in with a username and password, be careful what information you share on the error page.
     
    For instance if someone is trying to log in and gives the wrong username, it’s better to have a generic error message that says “wrong username and password combination”. This way, you’re not providing would-be hackers any clues to guessing the login credentials.
     
    Having the ability to lock a user from trying to log in after too many failed attempts can protect your website as well.
  7. Use A SSL Certificate. If your website has a shopping cart system, a membership component, or collects sensitive personal data via online forms, it’s always wise to get a SSL certificate installed.
     
    A SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate will protect the data that is being submitted into your website by encrypting it as it travels from the web browser to your web server, making it much harder for hackers to intercept and malign.
     
    Not only does an SSL protect your data but it also invokes a sense of security for your customers when they go to purchase. You will probably lose sales if you don’t have an SSL installed.
     
    Additionally, Google gives a small SEO ranking benefit to websites with SSLs installed.

Make a Point to Review Your Website Security Today

If you feel uncomfortable doing a security review yourself, hire a “techie” to do it for you.

Plus, when you are hiring a web developer, making sure they are aware of security issues and take a proactive approach to protecting you is important. Ensure they give your website the regular security updates it needs can keep your business website safe.

Has your website ever been hacked?

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

SEO Outsource Mistakes to Avoid That Will Save You a Lot of Grief

Avoid These SEO Hiring Mistakes and Save Yourself a Lot of Grief

As a business owner, there’s a lot to juggle on a daily basis.  Balls are continuously flying in the air in efforts to create and sustain a profit.

One of those balls, which should be a substantially large one, is marketing. And when it comes to marketing, your chief goal of course is to get more sales.

In order to accomplish this, having a professional website should be at the top of your marketing list due to it being your primary marketing piece that’s working on your behalf 24 hours a day, all year round.

But just having a website is not enough.

Aside from thinking about keeping your website up-to-date, you also need to be thinking about SEO: Search Engine Optimization.

Now if you’re a typical business owner, you may not know a heck of a lot about SEO. It’s a term you’ve heard kicked around and probably understand it’s something you should be doing but that’s as far as it goes. Because it’s such foreign territory for you, you keep putting it off or worse, you hire the first person who sounds like they know what they’re talking about.

And this is what many nefarious scam artists are counting on.  

So before you embark on any SEO project, read this article over first and get yourself educated on the mistakes many unsuspecting business owners make when they’re ready to take action and outsource their SEO to achieve their marketing goals.

Firstly:

Watch Out For The Scammers…

By now, the odds are extremely good that you’ve been contacted, probably multiple times, by some  SEO “expert” telling you how dire your Google rankings are and saying you “must do this or that” to get your website higher up in the search engine rankings.

And if you’re not well involved in the online marketing or SEO industry, what they’re telling you probably sounds very compelling.

You receive promises like:

“We will submit to a Gazillion Search Engines and Directories for $59.95!”
“We guarantee Page 1 rankings in Google!”
“We guarantee thousands of Visitors every Month!”
“Just spend thousand$ with us, plus a $500 monthly fee and we will make you rich!”

Please do yourself a favour and immediately delete those emails or hang up on those callers. These people  are trying to scare you into hiring them and making promises that simply cannot be guaranteed. They are scammers that prey on those that don’t know any different.

…And Be Cautious of the So-Called “Experts”

But there’s also another group of people that requires caution. These people are very well intentioned but simply don’t have enough expertise to be giving sage advice on how to get your website search engine optimized.

I have heard from many where their children, business coaches, IT administrators, copywriters and even their gardeners have “great” SEO and marketing advice and sure-fire ways to create instant success.

Yep, expert advice in this field is about as common as ants at a picnic.

But sadly that promise of instant success rarely, if ever, materializes.

The thing is, the SEO industry is evolving at a furious pace and just like the liquid web, it is changing dramatically. One must always be open to new ideas but also have a well informed grasp of sound and current principals.

In the world of SEO, what worked yesterday might not work today and what works now might be obsolete tomorrow.

So not only is the advice those “experts” are giving is possibly untrue to begin with, it’s guaranteed that it will shortly become as extinct as the Dodo bird.  And if they aren’t actively involved in this field of study, they won’t even know that what they’re doing and advising is old, ineffective news.

The Secret of Search Engine Secrets

The truth of the matter is, no one knows the deep, dark secrets of Google and other search engines.

No one knows what the magic formula is to get higher up in their search results except for Google themselves. And they aren’t telling anyone what they know!

What all us legitimate SEO specialists can do is test, tweak and repeat until we get the best results for our clients.

Now of course, we also have our tried and true methods that we know will garner great results for our clients.  And it’s that kind of methodology that you need used on your website to get the most benefits from any SEO efforts.

So who can you trust?

Because of all the scammers and ill-informed people out there that are not producing the results that honest customers are paying for, the world of Internet Marketing and SEO has a very poor reputation.

So what can you do as a business owner to ensure you hire the right person?

  • If someone is approaching you via unsolicited emails or phone calls, this is red flag #1. Even Google says, “Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.”;
  • Do your due diligence and ask a lot of questions;
  • Don’t let someone “wow” you with their fast talk of grandiose promises;
  • Find out what their processes are and flush out the ones who use “black hat” tactics that will eventually get your website blacklisted;
  • Ask for a list of referrals and follow up with each one of them. The results from past efforts are what speaks the biggest truth here.

Hiring people who are only going to plug your website into a bunch of online tools might be able to produce impressive looking reports, but will hurt your rankings, and your pocketbook,  in the long run.

And hiring those that don’t have enough experience to truly understand the fundamentals of how to optimize your website for search engines is going to result in your money being wasted with a minimal return on your investment.

And if you are thinking you should be doing this yourself, don’t be fooled into thinking this should be as easy as adding in a few keywords to your copy and you’re good to go. It’s far more complex than that.

Ultimately, there are many benefits to hiring a professional SEO company. One that knows what search engines are looking for and how to best position your website to be indexed favourably.

Because they understand that each search engine has their own set of rules, algorithms and regulations, etc.,  SEO specialists know what to apply to websites in order to get optimal results from the search engine indexing process.

And it’s an added bonus when that SEO firm also has a firm understanding of online marketing so that you can benefit from that area of expertise too.

But don’t expect an overnight bonanza of high rankings and tons of traffic.

Optimizing your website for search engines is not a quick fix to achieving your marketing goals. Working with an SEO specialist to achieve higher website rankings and exposure can take up to several months or even longer.

So patience is a virtue when it comes to search engine optimization. It’s during this time that you can focus on your other more direct online marketing efforts like Google AdWords, Facebook ads, social media marketing, blogging, newsletters and other strategies that will help you achieve your business goals.

If your website needs proper SEO that will drive qualified traffic back to it on a daily basis, that’s what Daniel on our team does all day long; it’s his specialty and is very good at it. Click here to contact him for more info.

Do you have any SEO horror stories you want to share? Leave a comment below!

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Beware of Phishing attack targeting your PayPal account

An email came in this morning that warned me of my PayPal information being in error and needed to be fixed within 24 hours. Luckily it went to my junk mail folder but just in case it didn’t for others, this is clearly a phishing attack – it was not sent by PayPal and if you click on the link they provide to update your information, it would go to a nefarious website, http://58.65.241.10/manual/mod/mod_python/.cgi-bi… PLEASE don’t go there, I’m just showing that it isn’t a PayPal website URL at all. I cut off the end of the URL as well to avoid any accidental clicks.

The subject of the email was: You have 24 hours to confirm your PayPal personal information

Then it reads:
Dear PayPal member,

This e-mail was sent to you because we have detected an error in your billing information during our regular schedule account maintenance and verification. This might be due to either following reasons:

* A recent change in your personal information (i.e. change of address).
* Submitting invalid information during the initial sign up process.
* An inability to accurately verify your selected option of payment due an internal error with our processors.

You have 24 hours to click the link below and confirm your PayPal personal information, otherwise your ATM Debit / Credit Card access will become restricted:

Click Here

Sue

Telus WEBMAIL ACCOUNT email – phishing attack

For anyone with Telus.net email accounts out there – beware of an email phishing attack that you might get.  The one I received had the subject line: WEBMAIL ACCOUNT and then proceeded to say that Telus is upgrading their database and require account holders to confirm their email identity.

DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL – JUST DELETE!

The From: email address is: webmailaccount@libero.it so it is not from Telus as the tricksters want you to believe.

Visit this site: Fraud Watch International for information on how to protect yourself and receive detailed information on what you should do.

Susan

PayPal Account Security Measures Notification – Phishing Message

It’s such a shame because PayPal is such a great service and emails like these cause people to think that PayPal is the offender but in reality, they are the victims of someone stealing their identity and using it to glean private information from unsuspecting people that get these kinds of emails in their in box.

It all looks legit enough, but upon looking at the source code, these emails are NOT coming from PayPal at all – if you get an email like the one below – DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK! It’s a phishing message meant to capture your personal data. Just delete!

Here’s the first part of the email:

~~~~~~~~

Secure Your PayPal Account!

Dear PayPal ® Customer,
While performing it’s regular scheduled monthly billing address check our system found incompatible information which seams to be no longer the same with your current credit card information that we have on file. If you changed your billing information or if you moved from you previous address please follow up the link bellow and update your billing information: If you didn’t change any of this information you still need to follow up the previous link and update your existing billing information because it means that our database regular scheduled update wasn’t made correctly. Choosing to ignore this message will result in to a temporary suspension of your account within 24 hours, until you will choose to solve this unpleasant situation. We apologies for any inconvinience this may caused you and we strongly advise you to update your information you have on file with us. To secure your PayPal account please visit the link below:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Always be cautious and suspicious of such emails – no matter who it is from. The subject line often looks official and important so if in doubt, contact the company the email was supposed to be from or check with your web developer and avoid getting attacked.

Sue

You’ve got a Hallmark postcard – DON’T check it out!

I just got this in my in-box. It looks legit enough – has the Hallmark logo and a nice invite to click on the link and view the “someone who cares about me” postcard they sent.

I was immediately suspicious for a few reasons – first it doesn’t have an email address of the person sending it to me. The legit ones always say either the email address or the name of the sender. Second, it looked too plain and not the usual stylings of Hallmark.

Sure enough, I checked the source code and it’s a Trojan attack. Had I clicked on the link to view the card, my computer would have installed a Trojan Horse to do whatever malicious intent it was meant to do.

Read more about it here. Whatever you do, don’t click on the link of anything in an email you receive unless you know the person. Here’s what the full email said:

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hello there. You’ve got a postcard from someone who cares for you.

In order to downoad your postcard, click on the link below:

http://www.hallmark.com/postcards/client72637541 (this did not link to the hallmark site, instead it was an EXE file that would have installed a trojan on my computer)

Thank you for using Hallmark services.
Regards, Hallmark
www.hallmark.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sue

Important Information Regarding Your Account ! – DELETE!

I just received another Phishing email supposedly coming from PayPal. The subject line reads: Important Information Regarding Your Account !

If you receive a similar email, delete it and forget about it – it’s a “phishing” attack where some nefarious character is trying to get you to divulge your personal information by clicking on the links provided.  Please don’t! No legitimate company will ask you to do this – especially PayPal or a bank.

On this particular email, the “reply” email address is: underdahllunderdahl@email.uophx.edu – which is definitely not PayPal!

Sue