It’s A Leap Year! How Will You Get A Jump On The Possibilities?

You have an extra day coming your way soon: February 29. As you know, leap years only happen about every four years, so Happy jumping childdoesn’t it make sense to make the most of them?  Aren’t we always complaining about how we could use more time?

2016 is giving us what we’ve asked for. Now the responsibility is on us to either make the day matter or squander it.

Eight Ways You Can Make Your Extra Day During Leap Year Matter

  • Strengthen business relationships by scheduling time to meet face to face with a few local clients you haven’t seen in awhile.
  • Review your website and start updating content that’s no longer accurate.
  • If you’ve fallen behind in accepting invitations on LinkedIn, log in and catch up.
  • If you have a collection of business cards from networking events on your desk, send LinkedIn invitations to the professionals you want to stay in contact with. Then dispose of the cards so you’ll have more room to work!
  • Brainstorm topics for your blog.
  • Purge your email and computer files of messages and documents you no longer need.
  • File paperwork that has been piling up in your office.
  • Take some time off! You’ll be 60 days into the new year, which is plenty of time to start feeling overwhelmed and underinspired. The best use of your extra day could very well be some time away from your work!

Of course, what I consider a valuable use of my time may be different from what you’d deem time well spent. How will you spend your February 29?

Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The Nitty Gritty Of Non-Disclosure Agreements For Your Small Business

I’ve been asked to sign—and have asked others to sign—non-disclosure agreements in the course of doing business with others. Non-Disclosure Agreement GraphicBut are they really necessary or simply a formality? Nellie Akalp, who is a small business expert and CEO of CorpNet (an online legal document filing service), recently wrote a post that covers why NDAs are important.

 

As solopreneurs and small business owners, it helps to know what legal documents might be in our best interest to secure when working with individuals and other companies. So, I asked Nellie if she’d share more about NDAs with my readers. I believe this Q&A can help answer some of the questions you might have on the topic.

 

  1. What is the purpose of a non-disclosure agreement? How can it protect your business?

 

An NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, is a contract that binds someone to keep a secret. In the course of running your business, you may give contractors, vendors, or other business partners access to “behind the scenes” information that you’d prefer to keep private. An NDA creates a confidential relationship to prevent people from revealing any of that private information.

 

  1. What circumstances dictate when a non-disclosure agreement is necessary?

 

This is a really important question, because small businesses often think that they don’t have any kind of “confidential” information. You may not be building rocket ships or safeguarding the recipe for Diet Coke, but you still have sensitive information that should stay in house. Examples are client information, your annual marketing strategy, financial data, or an analysis about your competitors. Let’s say you hire a contractor to help you with some client work in the background. You might not want them to contact your clients directly and disclose their role.

 

  1. Who should you ask to sign your non-disclosure agreement? (i.e. vendors, project partners, etc.)

 

Anyone who might have access to sensitive information. Think about vendors, contractors, freelancers, and business partners. An NDA is such a standard procedure in business operations these days; most people won’t think twice if you ask them to sign one.

 

  1. Are there any particular types of businesses that need a non-disclosure agreement more than others?

 

Certainly. Tech companies or anyone who manufactures a product will have very specific needs to keep their manufacturing process secret. Or, if you keep any confidential information about your customers and clients, you’ll need to have a solid privacy policy. But, as I said above, small businesses of any kind probably have some kind of sensitive information that should be protected.

 

  1. At what point during your business relationship should you ask for your non-disclosure agreement to be signed?

 

Great question! In most cases, the best time to introduce the NDA and have it signed is at the point of hiring the contractor or signing the vendor/contractor agreement. In some cases, you may need to reveal company information during the interview or exploration phase (meaning, before you decide to work with someone). In this case, you should have an NDA signed before giving anyone access to your information.

 

  1. What are the key elements every non-disclosure agreement should include?

 

A typical NDA should include the following elements. First, it should specify what kind of information should be kept secret. Some people choose to keep this as broad as possible, but I think it’s a good idea to be specific about what can’t be disclosed. The reason for this is it makes sure the other party realizes what their obligations are and what information they need to keep private. In some cases, contractors or vendors may not even realize they shouldn’t talk about your new website or contact a client directly. Remember, the whole point of the NDA is to make sure your proprietary information stays private; spelling out the details will help ensure all parties are on the same page with how to handle information.

 

Other elements in an NDA should be the length of time that information should remain confidential, what happens if there’s a breach, and what method of resolution should be taken when there’s a breach (e.g. court or arbiter). You can find digital templates for NDAs online. Just search on Google for some samples; one example is Upcounsel.

 

  1. What should you do if you discover someone violates the terms and conditions of your non-disclosure agreement?

 

Hopefully, your NDA specifies how disputes or breaches should be resolved. Many small businesses opt to use arbitration rather than the court system. And, while I believe that small business owners can handle much of their legal matters on their own today, this is one situation where you should retain an attorney to assist you with recovering any damages. If the other party is found guilty of breaching the contract, they can be held responsible to pay those attorney fees (note, this is another good point to spell out in the NDA).

 

  1. Are there any other tips or advice you might share about non-disclosure agreements? 

 

An NDA is a very easy legal document to produce and ask to have signed. As I mentioned before, it has become standard practice these days so there’s very little reason not to use an NDA with each new vendor/contractor/partner relationship. With that said, it’s important to realize that an NDA is just a document; it’s not a 100% guarantee that someone won’t misuse your confidential information. The bottom line is you need to use common sense and a little caution whenever sharing potentially sensitive details with others.

 

I hope this information has helped you better understand NDAs, and I thank Nellie for sharing her expertise. Of course, this post is not meant to provide legal guidance or serve as a substitution for professional counsel. Whenever creating or signing any legal document you should consider consulting a trusted legal professional for guidance. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Nellie Akalp, CorpNet CEO

Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur, small business advocate, speaker and author.  She is the founder & CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start, grow and maintain a business.

Four Tips To Help You Stop Running Your Small Business In Circles

As we start and grow our businesses, many of us adopt practices and take on administrative baggage that might hold us back fromFrustrated child at desk working toward our goals and vision. With the vast majority of 2016 still ahead of you, now is the time to take an honest look at your business and ask yourself, “What should I be doing differently?”

 

So, where do you begin? Here are a few simple ideas to get you started…

 

Four Ways To Save Time And Streamline Your Small Business

 

  1. Focus!

 

If you think you’re doing your business a favor by multitasking, think again. A Stanford University study revealed that multitaskers have a hard time filtering out irrelevant information, and they’re more distracted and less productive. Give up on trying to multitask—it’s a surefire way to mess up. Focus on one thing at a time to get more done, more accurately, and in less time.

  1. Use your own photos or source from a site that has clearly stated attribution information.

 

When you pull images from the Internet for your blog and social media, you may or may not easily be able to tell who they belong to, what rights you have to use them, or what attribution requirements apply. Avoid running down a rabbit hole to chase the information you need by using your own photos or finding an online source of images that has very clear use and attribution rules. When I’m not using my own photos, I use freedigitalphotos.net (they have large selection of free photos). I also regularly purchase images from Canva—at $1 per image, you can’t beat the economy of their offering.

 

  1. Don’t let paperwork pile up.

 

Even though we live in a digital world, we still have a lot of cold, hard sheets of paper floating around our offices. In fact, approximately 50 percent of the waste generated by businesses is from paper. Many of us still keep printed copies of client agreements, invoices, receipts, and other documentation.

 

If you let your paperwork pile up, the process of filing it in its proper place can become a gargantuan endeavor that requires hours of your time. The bigger the pile, the more work you’ll have on your hands because you’ll need to sort through and organize it before you can actually put it in its place. Instead, place it where it belongs within hours or just a few days of when it hit your desk to avoid a marathon cleanup session down the road.

 

  1. Give your business a raise.

 

Many of us grandfather long-standing clients into rates from years gone by. It’s a wonderful way to show your appreciation for their continued business. Unfortunately it can cost you when your services are in greater demand and you discover your time spent on lower-paying clients doesn’t allow you time to take on more lucrative work.

 

If that’s the case, you may want to consider raising your rates to existing customers. I recently did this and found that overall my clients (with one exception) were fully accepting and understanding. Just be sure to review the contracts you have in place before taking that leap. And give your clients plenty of advance notice and an explanation as to why you’re increasing your pricing.

 

Running a more efficient small business doesn’t always require making big changes. Little tweaks can mean a world of difference in how much you can accomplish and how smoothly you can tackle your day-to-day to dos.

 

What changes will you make this year to streamline your business and make it more successful?

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Couldn’t We All Use A Little More Of This One Thing In The New Year?

 

You might have thought I was referring to money, but that’s not it.Yin Yang symbol

 

While most of us welcome the free flow of cash into our small businesses, there’s something else that’s a bare essential for our success—and for our sanity. It’s often difficult to acquire and equally hard to maintain.

 

Patience.

 

I admit it; I often lack it—particularly during rare but aggravating extended periods of non-stop misfortunes, miscellaneous challenges, and mishaps. I’m guessing you’re no stranger to those streaks. None of us is immune to them.

 

I’m in the midst of one of those uncharacteristic phases now…in October, our 11-year-old boxer mix, Luna, passed away. In mid-November, we adopted a 7-month-old rescue pit bull puppy, Lulu, who is the epitome of stubbornness. A week after adopting Lulu, my husband broke his ankle, rendering me the sole dog walker, trash taker-outer, meal maker, etc. And my 90-year-old grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse, and she is on her deathbed.

 

No violin music, please. I know a lot of people are dealing with situations far more dire, but it has been challenging nonetheless.

 

And so, my patience has been put to the test. And it has failed as much or more often than it has passed.

 

When we lose our patience, our loved ones—those who give us unconditional love—are the people who typically bear the brunt of it.

 

And impatience can put a hurting on our businesses, too, if we don’t recognize its signs and make an attitude adjustment in time.

 

Potential Small Business Pitfalls From Lack of Patience

 

  • Inability to take well-meaning constructive criticism favorably
  • Sending “short” emails that have an air of annoyance
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Difficulty thinking creatively
  • Exuding tension and frustration on calls (or in meetings) with customers
  • Impaired flexibility in accommodating the unexpected
  • Avoidance of business-building networking events

 

These side effects of impatience can kill productivity, stop growth in its tracks, and leave a bad impression on clients.

 

Unfortunately, curbing impatience doesn’t always come easily, and being in business presents more than enough adversity to wear on entrepreneurs’ tolerance.

As a small business owner, you deal with all sorts of headaches, including:

  • Employees or subcontractors who aren’t reliable.
  • Clients who have unreasonable expectations.
  • Prospects who balk at your rates and question your value.
  • Tech issues with your smart phone, website, laptop, etc.
  • Projects that don’t go according to plan.

 

So how do you find the patience to deal with all of that and more? It requires awareness and, ironically, patience with our own selves and our inability to control everything to a T.

 

I wouldn’t say it’s a New Year’s resolution per se, but as 2016 comes around the bend, I have promised myself to be more aware of and to give pause to how I react to and respond in trying times. I’ve given myself permission to exercise patience with myself in order to exhibit more patience toward others in stressful situations.

 

I wish you patience in the New Year, too, along with whatever else you have your sights set on personally and professionally.

 

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Good Product Or Service At A Good Price Isn’t Always Enough

When you’re a small business owner, your product or services and price will only take you so far. If your customers don’t feel appreciated, they’ll eventually walkThe-Little-Things away.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked me if I had ever attended the local martial arts studio her son is enrolled in. I hadn’t, but I know of the owners because they had attended the same studio I did in years gone by. My friend told me, although the owners are fantastic with the kids and offer a wonderful training program at a fair price, she’s planning to find a different studio for her son.

Great with kids. Excellent program. Good price. What’s the problem?

It’s simple—and sad.

The owners seem to think it’s too much trouble or just plain don’t think it’s necessary to acknowledge students’ parents with as little as a smile or a “hello” when they arrive at their studio.

End result: They are going to lose business because they aren’t willing to put forth the minimal effort needed to show they value their paying customers.

As small business owners, we’re human. We all get busy or distracted or stressed or frustrated and might slip up in showing our customers the appreciation they deserve. But NEVER can we let it become a habit. We can never take it for granted that our skills, products, or price will carry the load for us.

We have to put forth genuine effort and energy to show customers we value them. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t usually require that much of either.

Smile freely.

Say “Thank you” often.

Care.

A little can go a long way.

The Scary Side of Self-Employment

Halloween isn’t exactly my favorite time of year. Scary movies, scary costumes, scary thoughts of my kid not looking before Self-employmentrunning across the street to the next house’s candy stash—it’s all a little unnerving.

 

This year, I’m facing my fears head-on by volunteering at local nonprofit theater organization’s “Zombie Fest” event. I’ll be dressing as a zombie. I’ll be assisting at a photo station, snapping pics of other people dressed as zombies. And I’ll be helping to set up and clean up after a showing of the popular cult classic Night Of The Living Dead.

 

My skin crawls and I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

 

Standing up to fear. That’s something small business owners and solopreneurs do every day. Starting and running your own business is a scary proposition. It’s an endeavor fraught with uncertainty and the unexpected.

 

Here are a just a few of the fears you face when you’re self-employed:

 

  • Rejection
  • Income that fluctuates
  • Unreasonable clients
  • Entering networking functions alone
  • Competition
  • Losing a client
  • Cost of health care insurance
  • No paid vacation
  • Delivering your elevator speech to a roomful of people
  • Scope creep
  • No sick days
  • Charging too little
  • Trolls on social media
  • Too little billable work
  • Too much work

 

It takes courage, a willingness to work hard, and an overarching attitude of optimism to overcome these fears so they don’t disable you with dread.

 

As I don my zombie garb and go beyond my comfort zone this Halloween, I’ll think of you, my self-employed friends. Stay brave and show those things that go bump in the night who is boss.

Your turn! What other fears have you had to overcome as a solopreneur or small biz owner?

You Owe This To Your Clients

When you’re a solopreneur, it’s all on you—managing all the administrative aspects of your business and serving your clients.Girl-pointing-at-you

 

That means you need to be as close as possible to the top of your game at all times.

 

The one sure-fire way not to get there is by neglecting your own well-being.

 

I know far too many small business professionals who do that. They eat junk, don’t exercise, and rarely get a good night’s sleep.

 

According to 2013 CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) data:

 

  • Nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States are obese.
  • Over 22 percent of adults eat less than one serving of vegetables daily.
  • Over 38 percent eat less than one serving of fruit each day.
  • Only 20 percent of U.S. adults meet aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines.

 

Yep, a lot of people don’t take such good care of themselves. Are you one of them?

 

If so, realize it’s not only bad for you; it’s bad for your business, too. And it’s doing your clients a disservice.

 

Eat better to work better.

According to the World Health Organization, “Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.”

 

Reduced productivity. That means if you’re eating crap all the time and billing your clients on an hourly basis, they’re probably getting shortchanged. And you’re likely hurting your business’s bottom line in the process because of not having the stamina to take on and accomplish more billable work.

 

Engage your body to engage your brain.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves cognitive function. Physical activity helps you think more effectively. That ability to focus more fully on your tasks can translate into delivering higher quality work more efficiently.

 

Make yourself a complete package.

This infographic by Hubspot shares some interesting statistics that show the strong link between nutrition, exercise, and job performance. A few to pay particular attention to include:

 

  • Workers who eat healthful foods all day are 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
  • Workers who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times per week are 20% more likely to be productive.
  • Workers who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight are absent from work 27 percent less and perform their jobs 11 percent better than non-active, obese peers.

 

And don’t dis the importance of catching your Zs.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep daily. Yet a survey by the CDC found that almost three in ten adults (28 percent) average 6 hours or less of sleep each day.

 

Sleepiness can severely thwart our ability to do our best. It slows down our ability to think things through, it impairs memory, and it makes it more difficult to learn new things. And it tends to make most of us moody—certainly not an attractive or beneficial side effect when collaborating with clients.

 

Do right by yourself and your clients.

What you do or don’t do to take care of yourself is your business—but realize that your habits can have a profound impact on your business as well. You can’t give your clients your best work when you aren’t at your best.

 

Your turn! How do you keep yourself near the top of your game? What could you do differently to be there more often?

 

Like this post? Then you might want to check  out these, too:

Not Drinking Enough Water? Six Ways To Make It Less Wishy-Washy

 

What You And Only You Can Take Responsibility For

 

Why Your Desk Should Be A No Food Zone

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good Karma For Your Small Business

I’ve written about the topic of strategic volunteerism on several occasions, most recently for national media personality, investment expert, and New York Helping handsTimes bestselling author Carol Roth’s Business Unplugged™ blog.

 

As a solopreneur or small business owner, choosing your volunteer activities carefully so you take something (other than feeling good about yourself) away from the experience can do wonders for your business.

 

By selecting volunteer gigs strategically, you can improve your leadership skills, connect with influencers in your community, learn new technology, and become more business savvy.

 

But Professional Development Isn’t The Only Potential “What’s In It For You?”

While giving your time and talents, you can also increase awareness of your products and services—and that can eventually help your business’s bottom line. I typically don’t mention that because directly promoting your business and seeking financial gain through volunteering is generally a no-no. But as you volunteer with others to work toward common goals for an organization, people naturally learn more about who you are and what you do—and they spread the word as you earn their trust and respect.

 

In 2015, I can attribute over $8,700 of my year-to-date writing revenue to the connections and exposure I’ve gained through past volunteerism efforts. No, that’s not enough to sustain my business. But it’s a decent chunk of change that’s helping me reach my income goals for the year.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around: Good Karma For Your Business

I don’t advise that making money be your motivation when embarking on a volunteer opportunity—but know that volunteering can present the potential for building your business revenue. The key, I believe, is in leveraging the connections you make—and staying on the radar. Keep in touch, be active and engaged on social media, and do your best to network face to face when possible.

 

Have your volunteer efforts paid off for your business? Tell me more!

 

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

LinkedIn Message Emoticons: Strengthening Connections Or Lowering The Bar?

A few days ago, I noticed that while writing a LinkedIn message to a new connection, something was different.LinkedIn Coffee Stickers

 

I now have the option of adding a variety of emoticons to my messages. I can choose from a series of cartoon coffee cups conveying a variety of emotions, statements, and states of mind. And then there is a series of kitty cat emojis—which this dog lover will never, ever use. I can also select from an assortment of GIFs (from movies like Anchor Man and TV shows like The Office).

 

According to a posting in LinkedIn’s Help Center on September 17, the new features aren’t yet available to all users. LinkedIn will gradually roll the new messaging capabilities to all members.

 

Word of warning if you do have access to the new features: I discovered by clicking on one of the stickers to get a closer look at it, it was sent to the recipient immediately. I found no way to retract it, and therefore found myself apologizing to my connection for sending what was an out-of-character and odd reply. Surely, he would have wondered why on earth I had sent him a cute little sticker depicting a sweaty coffee cup, holding an MP3 player and apparently moving to the music.

 

Now back to the topic at hand…

 

Emoticons? Really, LinkedIn?

I’ve searched the LinkedIn blog for some explanation of why they’ve made this and other changes to their messaging platform. Here’s what I found in a post on September 1:

 

“Starting today, we are rolling out a new messaging experience on LinkedIn that offers an easier and more lightweight way to have professional conversations with your connections. We know many of you have been asking for this ability and we’ve taken a thoughtful approach to reflect the evolving ways professionals are communicating with one another today…”

 

Regarding the stickers, emojis, and GIFs, the post says…

 

“In addition to being able to attach photos and documents to your messages, now you can also add stickers, emojis and GIFs to insert a little extra personality into the conversations you’re having 1:1 or with a group on the new messaging experience.”

 

 

Perception of Professionalism

Aside from the other bugs that people have found when using the updated version of LinkedIn messaging, I have to wonder how “professional” connections will perceive people who actively use these personality enhancers in their messages. I find them a bit juvenile, but I realize my opinion won’t be the same as that of others. Appropriateness and professionalism are in the eye of the beholder.

 

I should fully disclose that I occasionally (OK, regularly) add a traditional smiley face into a message. You know…the colon + dash + right parenthesis,  variety. Yes, I insert an occasional semicolon + dash + right parenthesis, too.

 

According to a study shared on allacademic.com, smiley faces in work-related emails can cause recipients to find the senders more likable and credible.

 

I imagine that might be the case with LinkedIn messages, too. But the question remains whether the premade LinkedIn emoticons will have the same effect as adding emotion the old-fashioned way.

 

I’d love to hear what you think about it. Are these new stickers, emojis, and GIFs a good idea? Or are they lowering the bar for professionalism?

Is It A Good Idea To Be “Friends” With Your Clients On Facebook?

“Blurry.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the line between “business” and “personal” on social media, can you?Modern-FB-Image-Canva-DMentzer

 

No matter what business you’re in…no matter whether you’re a business owner or a professional working for someone else’s company…at some point in time a client will request to be friends with you via your personal Facebook account.

 

Should you accept? Should you decline?

 

I was curious to find out how others in my network handle those requests from their clients. I’ve shared their interesting insight below. If you haven’t yet decided on a policy for handling Facebook friend requests from your clients, you might gain some clarity on the risks and rewards by reading further.

 

As for me, I do accept Facebook friend requests from clients—and sometimes even from prospective clients. I don’t, however, initiate requests to be their friends, because I don’t want them to feel put on the spot if they prefer not to mix our business relationships with the more personal side of our lives.

 

Overall, I’ve found that having a more personal connection with my clients has helped my business. Knowing about my clients’ interests, families, hobbies, triumphs, and challenges enables me to understand them better—and I believe vice versa. I’ve found that connection has created a stronger bond in business.

 

That said, it also makes me a little more cautious about what I post on Facebook. I generally refrain from liking, commenting on, and posting anything that is politically or religiously charged. I also steer clear of posting “woe is me” posts that complain about this, that, or other people.

 

To my knowledge, being friends with clients on Facebook has never hurt me professionally—it has helped me build my brand as a solopreneur.

 

But enough about me.

 

Here’s how several of my Facebook friends (a combination of clients, subcontractors, and vendors) handle “to friend or not to friend” situations.

 

Rose Boettinger, Freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant

I tend not to accept Facebook friend requests from clients.

 

Although nothing is private once posted on the internet, I believe “personal” Facebook accounts should solely be used as a means of communication with friends and family. If you become friends with your clients, they’re able to see everything you post (unless you adjust your settings accordingly for each post, which just wastes more time) and the frequency at which you post.

 

Clients may have religious beliefs and/or morals and values that differ greatly from your own and may be offended by some of what you post. They may also not share your sense of humor, again leading to your unintentionally offensive posts. 

 

Your clients may also be put out when they notice how often you post and when you post, noting that you aren’t serving their needs at that particular time. This may also lead them to question your work ethic and dedication to their businesses, despite the fact that you’re still providing them with quality service in a timely fashion.

 

I’ve only declined one client request thus far, and that was after explaining in person at my last meeting that I tend not to accept friend requests from clients—nothing personal. I then proceeded to tell the client that I have both LinkedIn and Twitter accounts targeted more towards my industry, and I’d be happy to accept any requests that may come to my LinkedIn account.

 

The client wasn’t offended, just slightly disappointed, saying he doesn’t typically utilize those particular sites as often.

 

A good way to avoid this snag would be to create your own [business] page on Facebook, separate from and in addition to your personal account. Note that pages are different than profiles (I’d be willing to bet not everyone recognizes that fact).

 

Kris Bradley, Internet Marketing Ambassador, MIND Development & Design

About three years ago I decided to friend people in my professional network on Facebook, which included prospective and current clients. I use a lot of discretion when I post, but my true self is visible on Facebook. I try to stay away from posting controversial topics (politics, religion, sensitive topics, etc.), but I do occasionally go down that rabbit hole. I had the mentality that I am who I am and I would hope that my professional contacts can embrace this. I would do the same if they either accept my friend request or I accept their request. 

 

I wouldn’t say that I can directly put a finger on any problems or issues that came from this decision, but I do know that some of my Facebook friends who are also professional connections have treated me a bit differently since I opened that door (friending them on Facebook) into my more personal life. When I say differently, I wouldn’t say in a bad way, but I can tell that their opinion of me has been altered by me allowing myself to peel back layers about myself that they might not have gotten from an occasional interaction via business or networking. Turning the tables, I can say that I have also formed some opinions of several of my Facebook friends whom are also professional connections. I guess it just goes with the territory.

 

As it exists now, I am very selective in friending clients. I have to have a good relationship and amount of respect for them on a personal level (and vice versa) before I will open that door and peel back those layers via a Facebook friend connection. A decent percentage of my professional communication on Facebook, mostly via Messenger, is on Facebook, so I would confidently say that there are distinct advantages to friending professional connections. A good alternative is Facebook Groups, which provides an excellent way to communicate about business on Facebook, but that is another topic for another day. 

 

Andy Garman, Partner and Marketing Director, Pipedream Marketing + Design

At Pipedream, we are very selective when accepting Facebook friend requests. We don’t initiate them with clients and typically don’t accept them. But we have a couple of longstanding clients with whom we have become friendly, and so we have accepted those friend requests.

 

LinkedIn is another story! We typically try to link in with all of our clients and prospects and we accept most requests from others to link in. Prompting the difference in how we treat those two networks is the inherent personal nature of Facebook and the business networking nature of LinkedIn.

 

Heather Kreider, Owner, Makes Scents Natural Spa Line

I feel very strongly that mixing business and personal beliefs/information is not the best choice for my specific situation. I typically do not accept friend requests from anyone that is not a personal friend, which is why I have very few “friends” on Facebook.

 

However, if I have built a friendship in the past with someone who happens to become a business partner, I will continue to be friends on Facebook, but am sometimes choosy with what I share with them.

 

In the past, I have been connected with managers of business partners and feel that doing so interfered with our business relationship. This may not be the case with all business relationships but in this one specific situation, personal information (the death of a loved one) was used against us in a way to justify an unethical situation. After this happened, I realized that sharing personal information with business partners was more of an issue than a positive. From this point on, I made it a personal policy to not become “friends” with clients on Facebook.

 

Although I have nothing to hide as an honest and genuine person, allowing a business partner into my personal life is not something that I want to allow. To be honest, so much can be misconstrued on Facebook, and I would much rather build personal relations rather than cyber relationship.

 

When declining an invitation to be a friend on Facebook, I typically message or email the client to politely tell them that I do not mix business with my personal life, and that I would be happy to connect with them on more business related platforms such as LinkedIn.

 

I have never had an issue declining a friend request. I typically do not receive many friend requests from partners, because I feel there is an unspoken social media etiquette or invisible line drawn in our industry to separate business from personal lives.

 

Jon Martin, Founder, Invoq Marketing

I do allow clients to be my Facebook friends, and often I initiate the friending process. 

 

As a friend, I am able to get a glimpse into their lives. I can keep track of important life changes, find topics (sports, TV shows, hunting, etc.) that I can potentially connect with them on.
At this point, being friends with clients has created no problems or issues that I am aware of. I very intentionally limit what I post on all platforms to be things that won’t offend my clients, and if I don’t want them to know something, I don’t post it on social media.

 

A few additional thoughts…

 

To friend or not to friend depends on your goals for your client relationships. I want to be as close as possible to my clients. I want to be the trusted confidant they turn to for guidance in making business and marketing decisions. The closer I can get on a relationship level, the more successful it allows me to be and to help them to be. The more I understand their pain points, vision, passions, and goals, the better I can serve them.

 

John Oppenheimer, CEO, 1 Sky Media

I consider myself an open networker so I will accept most friend requests even those from clients. I don’t actively pursue connections with clients on Facebook as I would on LinkedIn, but I do have some clients amongst my collection of Facebook friends.

 

We haven’t seen any direct orders as a result of these connections. I try to be conscious of what I post knowing that those beyond immediate friends and family will see it. Some topics will add to the friendly banter when we next encounter a client, something like “I had no idea you…”

 

We’ve encountered no problems so far as I know from being Facebook friends with clients. Again, I try to be careful not to post anything offensive or to like something that some people might consider off color, there have been a few exceptions with posts that were just too funny not to like!

 

Rachel Strella, Owner, Strella Social Media

I absolutely welcome being friends with clients on Facebook. In fact, I proactively “friend” my clients in most circumstances.

 

I consider my clients as friends—and even family—in some circumstances, so Facebook helps me to further my relationship with them. I like to know when their children have birthdays or when they’re going through a hardship, because these instances are not often something people share via email or another social channel.

 

In today’s world, there’s little separation between a professional and personal brand. One thing I’ve learned is that our business brand is only as strong as our personal brand. This is especially true for solopreneurs and small business owners. At the same time, I respect that clients may want to share their personal lives with only their closest friends and family. I would never overstep that boundary, because I understand that Facebook can be a personal thing to some people.

 

I don’t recall ever experiencing any problems with being Facebook friends with clients. In fact, it’s enhanced my relationships with clients, especially former clients because we have a way to stay in touch.

 

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to “friend” clients on Facebook. Ultimately, you need to decide what makes you and your clients most comfortable–and what makes the most sense for your business.

 

Your turn! What’s your policy on friending clients on Facebook?