Voice technology has arrived and the signs are all around. Who doesn’t like asking a question and being answered without having to get online and scroll through the answers. Convenience is what consumers want and expect. Voice technology delivers in a big way.

Voice Technology Defined

Voice technology has made a big splash with consumers and is also starting to be embraced by companies for marketing purposes. Siri, Google, and Alexa are examples of this type of technology that the average consumer has used. Luminary Labs reports that this new technology represents the intersection between AI services, IoT devices and UX interactions yielding a hands-free way to interface with technology. 

Uses of Voice Tech

With 60.5 million U.S. consumers using digital assistants already for search purposes and to place orders, Forbes reports that 87 percent of marketers participating in the survey predict that chat robots and virtual assistants are destined to play a significant role in the way businesses interact with consumers as early as 2021. These statistics are fueling the way businesses market. 

How Brands Utilize Voice Marketing

The use of voice technology is expansive, encompassing many industries and government agencies. Ford was an early convert. The car manufacturer launched Sync in 2007, adding this communications system to cars to let users make phone calls and music choices hands-free. Forbes predicts that 90 percent of vehicles being sold will have voice recognition technology by 2022. 

Healthcare has also invested in voice technology. WebMD got in on the voice technology game by creating an Alexa-type skill to answer health questions about treatments for common health problems and educating people on different drug side effects. 

Not to be left out, the city of Los Angeles is using Alexa technology to advertise information about upcoming public events. Currently, solutions are being sought related to making government services accessible using digital assistants. 

The hospitality industry is another industry already using voice technology. Wynn Las Vegas, Four Seasons and Marriott have all jumped on this bandwagon. Wynn Las Vegas has Echo for guests so that they can control lights, music and the temperature with voice commands. Four Seasons and Marriott have plans to use Siri and Alexa so hotel guests can use voice technology to ask for extra towels or to order food. 

The Sales Funnel and Voice Marketing

Campaign Monitor claims that brands will be forced to consider updating SEO practices to accommodate voice technology. Corporate websites must be established with voice ready features. Emails and other marketing tools should also be designed to be read by the new voice technology devices. 

Marketing funnels must evolve based on these changes. The linear funnel is no longer relevant and has been replaced by a loop or flipped funnel. In this new model, consumers enter the funnel at different stages of the buying process since prospects currently do a lot of their own research online. The new sales funnel demands that customers be treated as individuals instead of generic prospects. Buyers demand customized solutions. 

Assuming that technology will continue to change the way companies market, management teams need to build funnels that can quickly adapt to these ongoing changes. It is crucial to analyze and adapt to changes in voice search technology, artificial intelligence and mobile technology. Search Engine Journal reports that the first brands that revamp their websites to embrace voice search will reap the benefits, increasing digital commerce earnings by as much as 30 percent. 

How to Set Up Voice Marketing

Like any major change requirements, developing a workable strategy for accommodating and utilizing voice marketing is recommended for best results. Search Engine Journal claims that there are four things that must be considered when formulating a voice strategy. 

First, it is very important to treat voice as a piece of the puzzle that must fit logically into a larger marketing strategy. What this means is that the voice channels must align with the overall brand identity. The data retrieved from other marketing channels must be used for developing voice strategy. Consistency is key.

Secondly, marketing content must now be designed with a new focus on what the brand sounds like. This adds another important element into the branding process as marketers grapple with adding sound to visual elements in a consistent way to promote a positive brand identity. 

A third consideration relates to relevance. While relevance is always important for any brand hoping to compete, voice technology bears a greater burden than visual in some cases, leaving little room for error. Consumers are believed to be more sensitive to voice technology that is not on target. Since voice responses happen in real-time, relevancy is crucial. For example, a voice search for an Italian restaurant when driving should provide restaurants in the area. Otherwise the information provided is irrelevant. 

How to Optimize My Website for Voice SEO

Preparing for this new focus on voice technology means optimizing your website to make the most of this shift. Remember to keep the words you use conversational. Voice search is less formal and more like everyday conversation. Additionally, use longer-tail keywords to attract more traffic.

Another recommendation for leveraging your website to get more voice search traffic is to post and answer questions that are the most likely to be asked. Using question phrases will bring more visitors to your site. 

Since so many voice searches are conducted on mobile phones, your website must be mobile friendly. Be sure to get an expert to verify that your site loads quickly and shows up well on smaller screens. 

Voice Technology Challenges

The race is on to perfect the way AI voices like Siri sound. Context is critical. To perform well, voice technology must become more proficient at interpreting and reacting to context. Responses should differ depending on location, time of day and the device being used. Real-time metrics like these could conceivably change the answer provided. 

Understanding language ambiguity is another challenge faced by voice technology designers. Considering how ambiguity compromises conversations between two human beings, it is easy to recognize how difficult it is to design technology that knows how to process these subtle differences. 

Yet another area for improvement in voice devices is knowing how to decide when to start listening and stop listening. It is difficult to program voice technology to compute the pauses, stops and starts of normal speaking patterns. Essentially, AI voice assistants must become more in tune to the way humans speak.

Privacy issues have also posed some image problems for this industry, leaving many people skeptical. TechCrunch reports that 41 percent of consumers who use voice assistants reveal concern about privacy. Since all the data collected is reviewed by humans, it is easy to understand why privacy is a major downside for some consumers. 

Conclusion

The future looks bright for voice applications. Top companies know that they must adjust to the new way consumers obtain information. PullString reports that consumers prefer to use voice commands on all of their devices claiming that 63 percent of consumers use their smart speakers on a daily basis.

If you are seeking a viable digital marketing strategy for your business, click here for training provided by a community of proven marketing experts.

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There was a time when you could visit a website, use the live chat button and have you wait ages for a reply. During those times, most firms used actual personnel. You had to wait until a member of the support team went online, read your message, and give you an appropriate response. There were times when you got the response the next day because the personnel were not around. To resolve this problem, organizations have adopted the use of chatbots.

What are Chatbots?

A chatbot is basically an artificial intelligence program that automatically replies to your queries immediately. It can either type the reponse or read it out loud. Chatbots are used to automate the customer car service experience and also other important business processes that take longer under the hands of a human agent. The chatbots rarely depend on any human support to give you a response. This is why you can get a response from a live chat feed at any time of the day.

Statistically, 67% of consumers depend on chatbots for support all over the world. Future projections already show that the number is likely to reach as high as 85%.

Chatbots are the future of e-commerce interaction

How Companies Use AI For Their Sales And Marketing

Artificial intelligence has made it easier for most people and firms to do business. Every business wants to make more sales and market their brand as much as possible. The use of AI today has made it easier for firms to send useful notifications to website visitors and long-time customers that are subscribers of the company. 

If you are familiar with customer interactions, you know that a majority don’t like to be bothered by business reminders and alerts every time. They love their peace of mind. Chatbots are basically programmed to record and analyze data over a period of time. As such they slowly get to learn consumer preferences. This lets them send information that is useful and relevant to every customer. The AI has perfect timing and rarely finds the customer off guard or unwilling to read the reminder. 

Examples of Chatbot Applications

A company like Bold360.com uses a conversational chatbot to engage their customers. The artificial intelligence adapts to the customer’s way of speaking. That way, the replies seem more natural and not forced. 

Baidu has a chatbot that collects patient information. The bot asks you questions about your medical condition, then it compiles that data and provides it to the nearest physician. That makes it easier for the doctor to make a diagnosis. 

Google has a chatbot that helps you do a variety of online actions. You can use Google assistant bot to make an appointment at your favorite restaurant. You can also use it to send emails and create calendar appointments. 

How to Promote Products and Services using Chatbots

As a business owner, you may have tried to put in so much effort in trying to make your product and services sell much faster. As a result, you may have turned to SEO marketing, which is still part of digitization. You may have never thought about chatbots because you assume they are only for live support. However, they can do more than that. 

A very good example is programming a chatbot such that your viewers or webpage visitors can search for specific products and services using an emoji.

Chatbots can also help you collect relevant customer information based on their searches. This will give you leverage and allow you to send relevant offers and news based on what interests each and every customer. In addition, you can also use the chatbots to share links to your blogs and other content, attracting more visitors to your website.  

Steps On How You Can Use A Chatbot for your Marketing

The effort put into marketing by human agents can be hectic and strenuous to some extent. All the same, many companies are guilty of being too rigid with their marketing approach. Most of them will use the same tactic on every prospective customer. Chatbots, on the other hand, will automate the whole process and use a more personalized approach. Below are some of the ways that you can use chatbots for marketing: 

# Make your brand proactive

Marketing success can only come as a result of implementing relevant as well as aggressive measures during the process. The good thing about using chatbots is that they will automatically take the initiative to send a welcome message to visitors on your website or social media page. This will make the customer aware of the support, which gives an outward impression that your brand is proactive. 

# A Guideline through the Sales Funnel

Nurturing useful leads through the sales funnel is an important step for each and every business. However, it can also be very time-consuming. Every buyer hates having to go through a long buying process that may lead to a delayed customer care experience. The best part about chatbots is that they can gather the much-needed information and create personalized messages for customers within a shorter time. 

# Improved Social Media Presence

If you give your customer care employees the responsibility to tackle and answer all customer related queries on social media, the process can be both time-consuming and expensive. You may have to pay someone to be always online all the time so that they can respond to social media messages. On the other hand, if you use a chatbot, the process becomes automatic. Your customers will always get responses on social media. 

# Giving customers a more Personal Experience

Earlier we had talked about how chatbots can make communication more personalized. But how do they do this? The chatbot is usually linked to the social media profile of every customer that they interact with. This means that the bot learns everything about the customer. As such, they are more likely to suggest something that the client might like. Your customers will feel more appreciated because you took the time to know them on a much deeper level. 

# Increase your Presence

Another way that chatbots can be used for marketing is by expanding your market. Your chatbot is an artificial intelligence program hooked to various social media profiles. This means that the bot can send a marketing message to anyone that’s more likely to be interested in your brand. The reach of chatbots is limitless. 

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How A Marketer Can Set Up A Chatbot for their Website

The first thing that you have to do before you set up your chatbot is pick a service provider. If you have some coding knowledge, you can use Facebook’s chatbot set up. Other providers include Chatchamp, Liveperson, Amazon Lex, IBM Watson, and Outbrain.

Next, you have to decide the type of automated messages that the bot will send to visitors. 

Then, include a call to action. You have to encourage people to send you texts through the chatbot.

After that, you can sit back and watch the chatbot do its work. You will have to analyze results occasionally and see how you can improve on the marketing and customer engagement. 

Conclusion

Using chatbots is a good way to deal with your customers and bring about improved productivity and business efficiency. There’s a lot of buzz going around about artificial intelligence. Use the above ways to take advantage of chatbots in your marketing campaigns. 

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The shoe/sneaker resale market is very lucrative, and with exclusive sneakers releasing frequently, insiders estimate that this secondary market is currently valued at around $6bn. While only 4% of shoes and sneakers are purchased upon release for resale, the market benefits from hustlers and entrepreneurs looking to pounce on the huge margins to be made.

Limited edition shoes

Certain limited-issue shoes are released for sale by a major shoe company, usually Nike or Adidas. They can be associated with an athlete, hip-hop star pr even a movie. Three examples of the Hip-Hop/sneaker collaboration are the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”, Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 “Turtledove” and Air Jordan 1 x Off-White “Chicago”.

Air Jordan 1 x Off-White Chicago
Air Jordan 1 x Off-White Chicago

Most shoes would actually fetch less than retail at resell. However, the above shoes were all released in limited editions retailing at $190-$240, with the resale value averaged between $1,695–$6,118, per Stock X.

Essentially hype and rarity are what makes these shoes ‘limited edition’.
If a shoe is hyped but not rare, anyone can get their hands on a pair for retail and you won’t make any money. If a shoe is rare but not hyped, nobody can get their hands on a pair, but nobody cares — and you won’t make any money. So if you get your hands on shoes that are both full of hype and rare – you’re in the sweet spot.

You can buy certain sneakers at retail price and sell them on a secondary market for at least 2-3 times the retail price.

Why are they worth so much?

19-year old Brandon Webb has made a living by taking advantage of the high-ticket sneaker reseller market. He is the founder of Hypluxe, a members-only community that teaches sales secrets of the massive secondary market for limited-edition sneakers.

He explains to Entrepreneur.com – “It all comes down to supply and demand. Companies like Nike and Adidas release exclusive sneakers in collaboration with celebrities and artists like Virgil Abloh and Kanye West, as well as updated versions of classic models. Resellers know these sneakers will sell out, and so does everyone who wants to wear them. The combination of limited availability and hype drives prices through the roof on the secondary market.”

“Sneaker blogs now make lists of the ‘most popular upcoming sneakers’ and update them weekly. They even tell you exactly what websites they’ll be releasing on. In short, if there is hype and exclusivity, there’s money to be made.”

Sourcing shoes

To find out which shoes are hot, trending or upcoming, check out Hyperbeast and High Snobiety. Both are fashion sites that extensively cover information and news about the culture for sneaker-lovers of all levels.

Those in-demand shoes cannot simply be bought from your local retailer. To get hold of them, you can try raffles that are set up by retailers or try camping outside for a first-come first-serve option.

The average shoe reseller will use computer programs called bots to try to get their hands on sneakers. Bots virtually automate everything, attempting to rapidly check out multiple pairs from websites before they sell out, much faster than any human could. As you’d expect, bots available to the public are inferior to those used privately.

However, the people making the most money from shoe reselling have connections with investors, elite hackers, and industry insiders, as well as access to private software that essentially gives them a monopoly over the supply.

Expert resellers like Brandon Webb have built up insider connections that provide him with exact stock numbers. This helps him understand just how limited the shoe stock is. As a result he knows what’s going to be profitable far before they’re released.

To truly benefit from reselling shoes, you need to purchase products that are sold on the cheap but have lasting value in the long run. One way of doing so is by buying the sneaker on release day at retail prices, which is where they are at their most affordable

However, new pairs of shoes come far and few in between. To make money in reselling shoes, you need to find pairs sold under reseller price so you can profit off them.

How much and where to sell?

StockX is a site that shows how much the shoes cost over a 12-month period. Just like a stock market index graph, you will see the movement of price over time, thus giving you information on which shoes to acquire for reselling. It also serves as a consignment store where people can bid or ask for shoes for resale. If you have a pair of sneakers you want to sell, you could do so through the site.

StockX bridges the gap between buyers and sellers by allowing buyers to bid on available limited edition shoes. They have an authentication process which takes the guesswork out of trying to ensure shoes are not counterfeit, which is a glaring issue in the sneaker industry.

This is by far the safest and often the cheapest way to buy sneakers, and the company has only been growing in recent years. Stock X makes money off of both the buyer and seller with the commission fees, and both parties are entitled to lower fees if they buy/sell more. Once you have the information you need, it’s time to search for those shoes online.

The marketplace for reselling sneakers was once fragmented, but today there are dedicated marketplaces for sneakers, such as StockX, Hypremium, and GOAT, where all trading can be conducted through an app. These platforms provide a digital-native audience with a more formalized process and a plethora of choice.

Conclusion

Being such a cool and trendy niche, sneaker selling has allowed the tech-savvy youth to channel their creative juices and use their resources into doing something productive. This is a market that anyone can tap into. Of course, as with anything it has to be the right product on the right platform in order to create a lucrative business.

If you’d like to learn more about online marketing, or if sneaker reselling isn’t your thing but you’d like to know how to create, brand and sell other products online – then click here. I’ll send you a series of free video workshops run by my mentor who presents how you can create an online business and live the lifestyle you seek.

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I was pretty good academically, and came out of school with a feeling that I was capable of overcoming most obstacles. This stemmed from my ability to grasp and solve complex mathematical problems. What I wasn’t really taught at school (or home) was how to deal with life challenges…of which there are many! I personally wish I was taught these things in school;

#1 – Understand your personal balance sheet

Understanding a balance sheet, the components, i.e. assets, liabilities, income and expenses – and how to apply it to your ones’ situation. Essentially knowing your equity position, i.e. (assets less liabilities), and monitoring and managing your income and expenses. Of course, as a student it is unlikely that you own assets, probably have liabilities (student loan), have minimal income, if any – and many more expenses.

Despite this, students should be taught to understand their own balance sheet, the importance of building/acquiring assets and ensuring their income generally exceeds expenses each month. Only then will they understand their financial position.

#2 – Difference between good and bad debt

Students are graduating with even more debt, with the average UK student loan outstanding being more than £50,000 tied with an interest rate of 6%. This leads to a vicious cycle of seeking more debt to pay this down existing debt. One thing we all should be taught from a young age is the difference between good and bad debt.

Debt is ‘good’ if it enables you to purchase and acquire income-producing assets, i.e. a business, equity stake, property. These assets will improve your balance sheet position in the long run, yield returns (to pay off the debt interest) and provide collateral (and more) for the debt you take out.

Many people take out loans to acquire assets that don’t produce any income. This is known as bad debt, and includes car loans, credit card debt, quick cash loans. Cars and most consumer items depreciate (reduce in value) in the long run and produce little or no interim yield to pay of the monthly debt interest. What’s more is that the interest on this ‘bad’ debt tends to be much higher.

You can argue that a student loan will help to acquire those skills that are valuable in the workplace, and the lifetime earnings from employment can help repay the debt. However, graduates don’t earn enough upon leaving school to pay off the debt in their first few years of employment. Furthermore, life gets in the way as you take on more expenses and mortgage debt. All of which means that without a sensible payment plan, the student loan can hang around for a long time.

#3 – Power of Compounding

We should all be taught about the types of return available from different assets, i.e. interest from bank deposits, dividend income from equities and coupons from fixed income investments. Only then can we utilize the power of compounding from a young age.

Compounding is basically the ‘snowball’ effect that takes place when your earnings (from interest/returns) generate even more earnings. So your money grows faster and faster as the years roll on.

Students should be taught the huge benefit of investing a little now each month to realize the benefits in the future.
If one is patient and disciplined, their money can work for them and make a real difference in their account balance over time.

Albert Einstein once said that “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t… pays it.” He’s not wrong. The key is to start early. Another way to look at the power of compounding is to compare how much less initial investment you need if you start early to reach the same goal.

For example, a 25-year-old who wishes to accumulate £1m by age 60 would need to invest £880.21 each month assuming a constant return of 5%.

A 35-year-old wishing to accumulate £1m by age 60 would need to invest £1,679.23 each month using the same assumptions.

A 45-year-old would need to invest £3,741.27 each month to accumulate the same £1m by age 60. That’s almost 4 times the amount that the 25-year old needs. Starting early is especially helpful when saving for retirement, when putting aside a little bit early in your career can reap great benefits.

The point being, start investing from a young age and take advantage of compounding returns!

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#4 – There are other ways to make money than just the 9 to 5!

Call it my lack of entrepreneurial spirit, but when I was growing up I always thought there was one way to make money and that was through employment. Yes, I knew that certain jobs paid more than others, but it didn’t occur to me that there were other ways to earn an income.

I wish I was taught more about digital skills, and leveraging the internet to focus on passion projects – and earn money that way. With increasing numbers of people undertaking commerce and interactions online, it makes absolute sense that students should be taught the basic building blocks of an online presence, i.e. a website, providing value and marketing methods. It’s certainly something that I’ll emphasize to my son.

With so many ways to earn money online, students should be made aware of the how they can learn skills to start a venture online so that they’re not dependent on a salaried income, and can choose how they wish to work and what hours they work.

If you wish to start learning about the tools and avenues available to create a successful online business, and to get started in building your business – then click here to learn more. If this type of learning was available to me when I was a student, there is no limit to what I could have achieved by now in the online space.

If 20 years ago was the best time to start something, the second best time is now!

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It’s worth preparing your portfolio in the event of an economic downturn. This article presents some of the options available to protect against a significant drop in the markets.

It’s been over 10 years since the last recession, and as business cycles tend to last between 8 to 10 years, many are wondering whether we’re due a slow down in the economy and a recession.

A recession is essentially a business cycle contraction when there is a general decline in economic activity. Usually, key macroeconomic indicators such as GDP, investment spending, capacity utilization, household income, business profits, and inflation fall for at least 2 consecutive quarters.

A key financial market indicators is the 2-10yr Treasury note spread. This is difference in yield between the 2yr and 10yr Treasury notes, and indicates the general shape of the yield curve, i.e. positive (upward trending), negative (downward trend) or flat. When investors expect weaker growth, low inflation and easier Fed policy, the yield curve flattens or inverts.

See below graph of the 2-10yr spread, with the key recessionary periods (1980-82, 1990-92, 2000, 2008-09) highlighted. You can see that the spread is close to, or at zero just before the recession;

With the current spread at around 0.1% and the yield curves of most developing nations either flat or inverted, it makes sense to consider those assets available to investors as a ‘recession’ hedge;

Gold

Gold (and silver) has been a reliable medium for thousands of years because of its quality as financial insurance, a store of value, and its tangible nature.

Gold has long been known as a safe haven for investors in times of chaos in the general equity markets. The run to gold during recessionary periods (demand > supply) creates an uptick in the value of the commodity.

The most recent recession occurred between 2007 and 2009. It was a brutal and long economic downturn that was driven by the housing crisis and reverberated around the world. To give you an idea of how painful this period was for investors, the S&P 500 Index was down roughly 37% between December 1, 2007, and May 30, 2009!

But what happened to gold? The price of the yellow metal rose 24%! It wasn’t a straight rise — gold was down around 10% at one point — but it never fell as much as stocks. Overall gold held its value at a time when stocks just kept falling.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) like SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) or iShares Gold Trust (NYSEMKT:IAU) track the price of gold, and are probably the easiest and quickest way to get gold into your portfolio as you don’t have to worry about taking delivery of the metal.

Jewelry demand (makes up 50% of gold demand) is more resilient than you’d probably imagine. And with gold jewelry demand coming primarily from India and China, a U.S. recession won’t necessarily change the desire for jewelry in those countries. Gold jewelry is also a status symbol, and as these countries move up the socioeconomic ladder, demand for gold jewelry is likely to rise over time.

See below the annual returns for gold compared to the S&P 500 during the last recession. You can see that gold outperformed the US equity benchmark in this time;

Gold vs S&P (US equity) performance during 2008-10 recession.

Government bonds

The reason why bonds do well in bad times is that they’ve always been considered a risk-off or ‘safe’ asset. U.S. treasuries, and especially long-term government bonds, are thought of safe, solid investments as there is very little chance of default on those assets by the government. The U.S. is not likely to go bankrupt even during a recession.

During recessionary periods, Investors are risk-averse and tend to shy away from credit risk, such as corporate bonds (especially high-yield bonds) and asset-backed securities (i.e. mortgage-backed securities), since these investments have higher default rates than government securities.

Investors will therefore seek safety and invest into government bonds, say U.S. Treasury bonds. As a result, the prices of risky bonds go down as people sell and the price of Treasury bonds increases. See below a chart of 3 long-term government bonds (UK gilts, German Bund, US 10yr Treasury) compared to the S&P 500 during the last recession. Note that while the bonds provided positive returns in 2008 compared to the circa 37% downturn in equities, the volatility of the S&P 500 (helped by people piling into cheaper equities) resulted in higher returns in S&P 500 compared to the bonds in 2009 and 2010.

Of course, the introduction of the quantitative easing (printing money) programme and numerous rate cuts in the US, Eurozone and the UK after 2010 resulted in significant positive returns for those sovereign bond securities.

Consumer staples

Even in the worst of times, consumers still buy the same amounts of staple goods like toothpaste and toilet paper. Historically, consumer staples equities have held up best out of any sector during hard times.

When the S&P 500 plummeted 49% during the dot-com crash, consumer staples as a group were up 1.2%. Although they fell 29% from peak to trough during the financial crisis, they actually performed the best of any sector.

Another benefit consumer staples provide is their low volatility. Companies in the sector rarely experience sharp price declines. Because of this, they have had the fewest bear markets of any S&P sector.

Consumer staples perform well in downturns also because of their reputation as high-quality dividend stocks. If a company can pay out even in the worst of times, investors will buy it. In addition, many of the consumer staple companies paying dividends have actually increased their dividend payments year on year!

McKinsey found that earnings in this sector remained nearly steady in every recession dating back to 1980. Put simply, consumer staples are cycle-agnostic.

See below a chart from Gallard Research comparing the performance of the consumer staples subindex and S&P 500 during the last recession. While the subindex did lose value, it was less than half of the value lost by the S&P 500 during the period;

Cash

Risk-averse and unsophisticated investors will often stash their cash in money market funds when they get nervous about the markets. While these funds do provide a high degree of safety, they should only be used for short-term investment.

Moving a good portion of your portfolio to cash or a CD (certificate of deposit), you can still make around 2-3% (guaranteed) based on today’s risk-free rate. While it’s pretty modest, you’ve got to weigh a guaranteed return against the possibility of missing out on further gains or the possibility of losing money.

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Go short!

It’s very, very likely that if you’re anticipating a recession then the equity markets will undergo a large dip. If you’re willing to take a risk, why not go net short in the equity markets? As a retail investor, you can do this by investing in those ETFs that go up when the underlying equity market it tracks goes down. This is known as a leveraged Inverse/Short ETFs, and they seek to provide X times the opposite return of an index for a single day.

Of course, as they’re leveraged they carry larger than normal risk – so you have to know what you’re doing and have a stop in place! Click here for a list of leveraged short ETFs.

Conclusion

Recessions can be emotional times for investors and the general public. If you have an investment portfolio, ensure it is well diversified. The above asset classes are some ideas that can be implemented into your portfolio.

However, the best way to protect your income during a recession is to have a variety of income sources you can rely on (not just your employment or your investment portfolio). This is why I recommend starting an online business and generate a sustainable, passive income.

To learn more, click here.

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One of the problems many people and families face is making ends meet, relying on their next set of wages, and essentially living payslip to payslip.

First some stats…

A UK survey (by the Independent), stated that 1 in 4 adult have no savings. Per the Evening Standard, 70% of Brits are broke or just getting by.

An analysis, based on an RSA/Populus survey of more than 2,000 workers, found that the vast majority of UK workers don’t have sufficient savings to cope with a financial shock. In fact, the average savings in the UK is around £4k – for people that do actually save.

When it came to savings, 32% of respondents had less than £500 while 41 per cent had under £1,000.

In the US, a September 2018 Fox News survey revealed that 26% of registered voters said they were falling behind (income vs expenses), compared to around half who said they were holding steady and 22% who said they were getting ahead.

In fact, even the fairly moderate to high earners live paycheck to paycheck. One in 10 workers earning $100,000 or more yearly say they live paycheck to paycheck. This graphic by Financial Samurai shows how people making $500k a year can still feel like they’ve saved little in comparison;

High earner but struggling!
Why even people earning $500k a year still struggle to save much

So it seems that despite their incomes – many people still feel like they’re trapped in a rat race.

Why?

There are a variety of factors as to why most people are living paycheck to paycheck. Some reasons are external, but a lot of the reasons are to do with mindset and financial discipline.

Little financial education

School teaches us a lot of theory, but there tends to be little, if any emphasis on life lessons and financial education in particular. The basics financial principles are not taught in our schools whether it be primary or higher education institutions. This includes budgeting, seeking value, investments, debt and the financial system. So while people get out of school and earn money, they have little knowledge of how to use it properly.

Living beyond your means

Why do people line up for the latest phone while their current phone is working perfectly? The need for instant gratification can be addictive especially when trying to keep up with the Jones’s. If you continuously buy things you can’t afford, it only leads to seeking more ways to fund the habit, i.e. taking out credit cards and loans (more debt) to keep the habit going.

This kind of borrowing is known as ‘bad debt’, because you’re borrowing to buy things that don’t really appreciate or provide any sort of return (as opposed to taking out a sensible mortgage for a buy-to-let investment property which generates rental and capital appreciation in the long run).

Budgeting and allocation

Many people fail to budget and end up spending more than they earn. You should always have a plan of how you will use your monthly salary. This is helped by knowing what your monthly, regular expenses will be, i.e. mortgage, child-care (nursery, etc), car payment, groceries, phone and amount to be saved. This way you can see what residual amount is left over – for ad-hoc expenditure.

Cost of living?

Let’s assess wage growth compared to the change in the cost of items over time. Could this be an important reason for why many people struggle to meet their expenses? Has wage growth been sufficient to counter the annual inflation? (Using ‘CPIH’ which includes housing costs – which is a more realistic measure considering housing makes up a major chunk of expenses)

20 year period comparing inflation and wage growth

You can see that wage growth in the UK largely surpasses inflation (which includes house price growth). Therefore, it’s not entirely conclusive that cost of living has been unmanageable – although certain parts of the UK, i.e. London have had surges in house prices over time which translated to higher mortgage costs for many homeowners.

How to break free

Change your mentality

Do.you really need to buy that thing? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with desiring nice things, but when you’re struggling to save (and maybe knee-deep in debt) you really need consider your spending each time you pull out your card.

You should try and cultivate a feeling of abundance in your life. In other words, that you are grateful for what you have and have everything you need to be happy at this present time.

Start allocating

Take these 3 steps:

  1. Make a list of your regular, monthly expenses;
  2. Reduce or eliminate any unnecessary expenses, so that your monthly income is greater than your total monthly expenses;
  3. Whatever is left, save X% and invest Y%

Save X% of your salary for unexpected expenses or to pay off your debts/loans.

The investment portion should come out of your account automatically and straight away, i.e as soon as your wage goes in. That way its not something you can deliberate about.

The investment itself can be in a dividend reinvestment fund that delivers compounding returns. Consider that a 20yr old who saves and invests £50 per week will accumulate £2,600 per year. If he does this until age 65 and averages a 10% annual return (about the S&P 500 average return over the last 80 years), he will have over £2.1m at age 65!

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Look for ways to make more money!

With work and commitments, it may seem unattainable. but if you really want something you make time for it. Ideas for extra income include driing an Uber, freelancing and consulting work, sell your stuff and renting your room out in Air BnB.

Another great option is Affiliate Marketing where you can sell other peoples’ products and services online for a commission. It’s a great form of passive income as you don’t to own a product, seek storage space, undertake fulfillment or hire staff. You just need a laptop and an internet connection!

If you like the idea of affiliate marketing and want to explore how it can provide a great side income, click here to learn more.

Freedom is the goal

Living in a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is not freedom. It’s enslavement. For alot of people, there’s no money at the end of the month and they wonder why.

It does not have to be that way. You can break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and have financial freedom. It won’t happen overnight, but you can do it if you start taking steps today. Click here to learn how I started my journey towards self discovery, earning money online and seeking freedom from the 9-to-5.

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Getting content out there is vital these days to build your brand and presence online. A blog is an awesome way to do that. Here I share my 6 hacks for writing a persuasive and impactful blog;

Length and format

You should write your content as long as it needs to be. For the purposes of SEO, Google prefers content over 500 words as this length has a low bounce rate, i.e. people tend not to hit the back button and leave so quickly.

Also, I would recommend writing blogs as a list, i.e. 9 reasons for ….. . This is useful as most people scan and skim over text when reading online. Check out this article from Doughroller.com on the 5 golden rules for choosing the best stock.

Use short paragraphs to keep the reader engaged and longer on your page. Long blocks of text are not appealing. Remember that most people scan when reading content online as they’re looking for that solution for their problem. So you gotta make it skimmable. That means using bullet points, subtitles and 2-3 sentences in each block.

This article from Gardenhealth.com uses short paragraphs to succinctly list out how to maintain a cactus plant!

Use of media

You should try and use an image every 300 words to add some vibrancy, break up the text and to compliment your words. Videos also enhance your content and bring it to life.

Refer to the below instructional blog that teaches tennis enthusiasts how to execute the perfect forehand. A image of the Roger Federer throughout the content compliments the post, and is perfect for this type of instruction-based content;

For blog images, make sure you resave the file name to make it easier to find. So maybe the default file name is ‘342kja000dandflower_asd. jpeg’ – which doesn’t say much. Resave it to ‘dandelion_flower.jpeg’, and give it a title caption and alt text and description within your media settings. This is so when people search for a dandelion flower on Google images – your image and a link to your site will appear. See below:

Also a caption and a description helps in case your image doesn’t load – at least there will be a description in place explaining what the image relates to.

Headlines

Great headlines serve a need. They ask a question, provide guidance, or pique the interest of a reader. They also tell a potential reader that there is a good reason to visit your blog instead of moving on to another resource.

My tip would be to make your headline 5-7 words in length. Too long, and Google won’t accept it. Too short and it won’t provide enough detail to your readers.

CoSchedule have a superb, free headline analyzer that rates and scores how effective your headline is. Have a go, and aim for a score above 75 – as that indicates how optimal your headline is for search engine purposes.

Another way to assess what headlines are in demand is by reviewing the comments of other blogs in your blog’s niche. Look at what people are talking about, and then turn those talking points into a question or statement.

Make your headline interesting to keep the reader engaged. For example something like ‘The 7 Benefits of Green Tea – Number 6 will shock you!

Use of keywords

Blog articles are a valuable tool for driving more traffic to your site through search engines. Each article is an opportunity to optimize for keywords that you wouldn’t normally be able to optimize for on a static page on your site.

Perform keyword research at least a day before you write content to see what keywords are impactful to your audience. Research both short (i.e. “stocks”) and long-tail keywords (“how to pick winning stocks”) in the various search engine platforms and assess how popular (or saturated/competitive) that key word is.

Your keyword(s) should ideally be in the following places to optimize SEO:

  • Main heading
  • Opening paragraph
  • Image caption and description box
  • Last sentence or paragraph

The most important thing to understand about SEO for blog articles is that you should always write for people first. Search engines love content that provides value to readers so make sure you’re covering a topic that people want to read about and that your article is a helpful resource for those readers.

So make sure you use those keywords naturally. Don’t force keywords in just to include them – remember, you’re writing for people first.

Do your research and check the facts

Have links to external sites. Search engines like this, and it boosts your ranking.

Before you ever put a word on a page, you should know the direction that your blog will take. Blogging isn’t just about writing whatever you want – it’s a process of marketing your writing to others.

The most popular early blogs grew out of the relationship that consumers had with individual producers. Now that the internet has grown, though, great blogs are a product of producers creating content that consumers actually want.

The research process will help you decide if you should write that particular blog, what you should write about, and how to get the most eyes on your page. The first research attempt can be time consuming, but it will become second nature after you’ve got through the process successfully at least once.

Your credibility is key in the online world. And all it takes to tank your credibility is one glaring error. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s crucial to avoid gaffes like this. If you’re just starting out, your credibility and authority will take a major hit if you publish inaccurate information, and even if you have a blog with millions of loyal readers, your regulars will be all too eager to jump all over your mistake.

In the event that you make a mistake in your content, it’s best to own up to it right away and be transparent about your edits. If you try to slip something past your readers, they’ll pick up on it eventually and call you out on it.

Tell people what to do

Towards the end of your blog, you want to tell people what to do next. This may be clicking on a link to subscribe for more content, download an e-book or invite them to try out your product. People don’t usually come to blog articles for a hard sales pitch, so keep calls to action gentle.

In an article by Clearscore.com on how to improve your credit score, there is an invitation for the reader to check their credit score and report;

Teachable’s article on how to create an email course is concluded with the following call to action;

Blogs are terrific, cost-effective ways to share your knowledge and information online. They provide a platform for getting your word out there and for creating and establishing your presence in the online world.

Want to create effective blogs and content to deliver knowledge around your niche? Click here to learn more.

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Describing how changes in the economy require you to review your skillset to adapt to a more digital based economy

The traditional economic system comprises of those platforms, means of production and work culture in which we immerse ourselves daily to earn a living. This type of economy was underpinned by the industrial revolution before a transition to a more services based offering.

The traditional economy also bought upon some of the worst depressions over the last century including 1929-33, 1980-82, 1990-92, 2007-08. These recessionary periods occurred due to a variety of reasons – but mainly underpinned by a reliance on the traditional economies.

From 1980, a new economy was spawned – the ‘digital economy’. This was driven by the advent of electronics, record-players, computers and drawing upon the advantages of integrated circuits (i.e. cramming thousands of transistors into a microchip!) for more commercial applications.

The 1990s and the introduction of the Internet to the mainstream is what rocketed the digital economy. Suddenly there was a platform to market products and services to a wider audience, and traditional advertising media became expensive and ineffective.

Mind-blowing numbers

The Digital Economy is now worth three trillion dollars today! This is about 30% of the S&P 500, six times the U.S.’ annual trade deficit or more than the GDP of the United Kingdom. What is impressive is the fact that this entire value has been generated in the past 25 years since the launch of the Internet.

Consider these phenomenal stats…

  • Half the world’s population is online
  • 2bn social media users (around a third of the world’s population!)
  • 60% use mobile internet
  • $180bn digital advertising spend

The below info-graphics highlight the year-on-year rise in digital buyers since 2014 (in total and split by country);

Source: Invespcro.com
Source: Invespcro.com

Note the growth in China!

Tools, skills & resources

SFM (Six Figure Mentors) will help you profit from the digital economy by providing the tools, skills and resources so you can utilize an audience of 2 billion people online! What other advertising out there has that kind of reach and with such a small comparable cost?!

But in order to have a presence and a reach online, you NEED to have a website. This is essentially your digital store. Many people think it is expensive and requires extensive technical knowledge, but you can be up and running in just a few clicks, and I can show you how.

But you need to do more than just have a website. You need to create and deliver value. Alot of people go online to solve a problem. If you can think of your niche or areas you know you can talk/write for ages, then you can truly bring value to people through;

  • Articles/blogs
  • Reports
  • Videos
  • Training course
  • e-books

So build a site around your niche and create your brand. And trust me, you don’t even need to be an expert.

You can then add links and banners to your site to direct people to purchase a product/service similar to your theme. For example, if you’re specialism is photography, your content (on your website) may have cameras or camera-bags advertised for people to purchase. If a sale is made, you can earn off the commission. This is known as Affiliate marketing.

To attract people to your site and to your content (i.e. blog post, video, etc), you need to develop marketing skills. This is where specialized training is essential so you’re not wasting your time, money or effectiveness of your content.

Shifting the mindset

Preparing the next generation is about mindset, too. There are parts of the world that have the technical skills, but lack softer professional and social skills, while other regions boast a strong professional experience, but often lag behind when it comes to technical ability. What’s needed is an equitable transfer of knowledge, know-how and approach.

Expectations are changing. Research shows that an overwhelming 83% of India’s Generation Z view the smartphone as their most coveted electronic gadget. This is the generation that also expects anytime, anywhere learning, a do-it-yourself and collaborative approach to knowledge that includes video chat and tutorials.

Given the exceptional adoption rates of smartphones, it won’t be long before the number of internet users exceeds 3.7 billion, over half the world’s population. The numbers are crazy but it is a reminder that we should all seek to develop digital skills, develop a presence online and not relying on the traditional markets to get by.

Conclusion

Traditional firms are increasingly assessing how to respond to the changes brought about by the digital economy. This includes reviewing their advertising methods, use of social media and embracing Artificial Intelligence. With so much of your current (and future) customer base on an online platform, and with a significant increase in money spent online – surely it makes sense for you to make the transition too?

In summary, here is how the SFM can help you create your online business;

  1. Walk you through creating your online platform, including your website;
  2. Training on how to create value for your target market;
  3. Marketing online to your customer base, including social media promotion;
  4. Identify those high-commission affiliate programs to enable your business to become truly profitable.

Click here to learn more!

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The monthly mortgage payment makes up a large chunk of many homeowners’ monthly outgoings. Here are ways on how to pay off your mortgage early.

Understand the mortgage payment profile

Data from the UK Land Registry (Jan’19) states that the average UK property value is currently £228,147. Of course, if we were to include London that average would increase significantly. Let’s approximate the average to £230,000 for this example.

Say you bought a property for £230,000 using a 10% deposit (£23,000) and a mortgage of £207,000. The mortgage is for a term of 25 years and 4% fixed rate repayment (capital and interest repaid monthly) for 3 years. Here is what your capital and interest payment profile looks like over the 25 years:

You’ll notice that the interest payments are higher at the start of the mortgage before declining, while the capital payments are lower at the start and increase over the term. This makes sense as the more you pay off the capital balance, the interest on a lower outstanding capital reduces month-on-month. This is known as an ‘amortizing’ payment profile.

The above also shows that in your first few years of mortgage payments, the payments consist of a higher proportion of interest compared to capital, which brings me to my first point in paying off your UK mortgage;

Pay capital earlier

If you are able to, use lump sums to pay off the capital early in the mortgage term. This way you are reducing the outstanding capital balance and subsequently the interest portions that make up your monthly payments. Use any bonus you receive or accumulated savings to pay down that capital. Short term pain, but long term gains.

This is especially true in high interest rate environments. You don’t want to be paying those high interest rates at the start when none/little of the outstanding capital has been paid off.

Extra payments periodically

Based on my example above, the monthly payments due for a 25 year fixed rate (4%) mortgage on £207,000 is £1,092 per month. Now consider these scenarios;

SCENARIO 1 – If you pay an extra £200 monthly, you will reduce your mortgage term by 6 years, i.e 19 years in total.

SCENARIO 2 – If you pay an extra £400 monthly, you will reduce your mortgage term by 10 years, i.e 15 years in total.

SCENARIO 3 – If you pay an extra £200 monthly AND pay £10,000 annually against your outstanding capital, you will reduce your mortgage term by 15 years, i.e 10 years in total!

SCENARIO 4 – If you pay an extra £400 monthly AND pay £10,000 annually against your outstanding capital, you will reduce your mortgage term by 16 years, i.e 9 years in total!

The below graph illustrates the Scenario #4 (£400 monthly and £10k annual overpayment);

Of course, it is not entirely feasible to overpay monthly – especially with large lump sums. Other expenses and priorities get in the way. But hopefully the above scenarios shine light on the benefit of making extra payments on your mortgage.

Invest surplus cash for compounding returns

Take advantage of an income generating investments like a DRIP (dividend reinvestment program) that can produce 7% return – which I believe is conservative anyway. Your surplus cash should be put to work, and by investing it in income investments, say an mixed equity and bond income fund – you can use the power of compounding and use the returns towards paying off your mortgage.

So instead of using money from your savings (which generate negligable return anyway), invest that money. Converting the figures from Scenario #4 above on a monthly basis gives £1233.33 (£10k/12 + £400).

If we invest £1233 per month at a 7% return, this generates a balance of £214,658 by year 10. See below profile of mortgage capital o/s vs investment balance;

As you can see, the investment balance will be sufficient to pay off the mortgage balance at around year 8 – 9. Again, bearing in mind that the individual has to pay £1092 for the mortgage, and £1233 towards the investment – giving a total monthly cash outlay of £2325.

Refinance, but….

Be careful. Refinancing/remortgaging is useful to take advantage of low interest rates, but what you are doing by refinancing is resetting the clock. This is because when you refinance with a new lender or even the existing lender, you will enter into a brand new mortgage term, starting from time t = 0, and as discussed earlier – your first few mortgage payments will be weighted towards higher interest payments. My advice;

If rates are low – enter into a variable rate mortgage as it will be tracking low interest rates. If rates are high – then best to shop around for a competitive refinance deal.

Reduce your mortgage term

Opting for a shorter mortgage term means you’re mortgage is paid off quicker, but the monthly repayments will be higher. The advantage however, is that with a shorter term, say 10 or 15 years, the average interest rate applied to the mortgage will be lower than that of 25 year term. The Lender will usually follow a standard yield curve which presents lower rates in the short term, and higher rates in the long term.

Reducing your term will entail a formal agreement between you and your lender. This makes it best suited to homeowners who can definitely afford to pay more every month.

Pay your mortgage fees upfront

There are usually mortgage fees that the lender will charge relating to administration and any other reasons they can think of! In the UK, these fees are typically £995 or £1995. We have the option of paying the fees now or adding them to the mortgage.

It is preferable to not pay those mortgage fees (usually £995 or £1995) initially. But by adding it to the mortgage balance, it becomes part of the loan and is subject to the same interest rates over the life of the loan. For example, by adding the £995 fee to the loan, you end up paying an extra £581 in interest (over the life of 25yr mortgage @ fixed 4%, for example). Similar, adding the £1995 fee to the loan means you pay an extra £1164 in interest (or £3160 in total!)

Side hustle

If you really want to be financially free, you need to have sufficient income-producing assets. This may be other investment properties, financial investments or an online business. Earning passive income from an online business is a great way to supplement your main income, replace your main income and to finally clear your mortgage!

To learn more about creating a profitable, sustainable online business that can deliver freedom for you and your family, click here to access 3 free workshops to re-orientate your future. These same workshops were inspiring for me and helped unravel a path of digital learning and led to create an online business.

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I wanted to share some familiar excuses for why people don’t take the plunge and start something new. In this case – an online business. I would know as most of these applied to me.

“No time”

The lack of time to commit to building a business is the most common excuse based on surveys and polls. Time is a precious commodity, and we generally try to fill the free time we do have with enjoyable, rather than productive things. The desire is definitely there among young people but time is often cited as the excuse.

Don’t forget, each day on earth represents a greater portion of our time left to live compared to the previous day. Scary right?
With that in mind, surely you’ll want to spend less time commuting and working unsatisfactory jobs and more time with family, passions and growth?

This is why having an online presence is the best thing you can do considering so much interaction and commerce is done through social media. It is astonishing that with people and networks at our finger tips, we’re not taking advantage as we can and should.

Solution

  1. Make time. if you want something badly enough you’ll find a way.
  2. No time at this present moment, and too many commitments? Then consider an affiliate business model where you promote and sell other peoples’ products/services for a commission. This requires less time and can help build a solid side income.

“No technical skills”

Three months ago i didn’t know how to build a website or set up email systems, write blogs or create custom graphics. There are so many resources and its so easy these days. Especially when it can be just a case of point and click, and drag and drop interfaces -which means no HTML code learning required!

Solution

  1. Digital Business Lounge (for integrated hosting, website building, email, landing page) – all in one place!
  2. Outsource all the technical parts to your business using Fiverr.
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“Don’t truly believe I can do it”

I am part of a community that consists of all types of people with varying skills and beliefs. From truck drivers through to big shot lawyers. They all have one thing in common – they want to change their life. Whether that’s more money, time, fulfilment. there is an underlying ‘why’, and that’s what you have to discover for yourself.

And yes, they all had initial doubts as I did, but the first step is always the hardest.

Solution

  1. Everyone starts somewhere, but to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, you need to sort out your mindset. Mindset, confidence and being clear on your ‘why’ is discussed on regular ‘WakeUp’ calls within the SFM (Six Figure Mentors) community. Check it out!
  2. Get inspired and learn from mentors through podcasts, books and motivational videos. I particular love listening to Jay Shetty’s and Satori Prime’s podcasts.
  3. Daily visualisation practice so that eventually your future successful self becomes ingrained in your sub-conscious.

“I don’t have a product or service to sell”

This is something I struggled with initially. I always loved the idea of an internet business but just didn’t have a product or service. What to do?

Solution

  1. AFFILIATE MARKETING – As mentioned above, affiliate marketing is a great online business model for people who are looking to dip their toes into online marketing and start making money. Affiliate marketing is essentially recommending other peoples’ products and services that are aligned to your content, and that you have used before. SFM is a platform that not only teach you how to become an effective affiliate marketer, but also allow you to earn high-ticket affiliate commissions ranging in the $000s.
  2. E-COMMERCE – Amazon is the e-commerce platform of choice for millions across the globe. If you don’t have your own product, no problem. It is so easy these days to find wholesalers that produce t-shirts, camera bags, bikes, etc, and have them redesigned and re-branded according to your taste. Additionally, you don’t even need to hold stock in your garage or bedroom. With Amazon drop-shipping, the product can be collected from the wholesaler’s factory and dropped directly to the customer. The SFM teaches individuals this Amazon drop-shipping process- step by step.
  3. YOU are the product. as you have so much to share that certain people will resonate with you. Give and share what you know/love about a particular topic, area or product and before you know it, you will realise rewards from the value you give your customers and readers/viewers.

“I want to see examples of people like me make it first”

People fear the unknown and that’s entirely natural. Therefore it is completely understandable that whenever starting something new, it helps us to see evidence of success in that area thus giving us something to model on.

Before I started my journey with the SFM, I was intrigued by claims that people like me – in respective jobs earning comfortable salaries, managed to replace their salary with impressive profits from their online business. Conversely, there were also individuals in the SFM community that had nothing like the academic education or training that I had yet were commanding huge respect from their successes.

Solution

Click here to read real testimonials from real people, get inspired and change your life!


Conclusion

I wanted to shine some insight into the excuses that most people (yourself included?) say to themselves to avoid starting an online business. And with forecasted online sales of $25 trillion by 2025, surely you’d want to build your internet business and claim a tiny chuck of that??

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