How to start an IT consultancy

What is it and who is it suited to?

So, you want to be the superhero service provider who bursts into offices to save the day? Or rather fix people’s computers? IT consultancy is a popular option for those looking to start their own business. If you have the know-how and the techy smarts, you can offer an invaluable service to almost every business out there. After all, who doesn’t need IT support these days?

That cuts both ways, though. It is a crowded market, and these days IT consultants offer everything from run of the mill IT support, helpdesk and onsite services, to server monitoring, disaster recovery, security and offsite backup. From the get-go, you need to work out exactly what your offer is, and how you can convince your clients that your business is the true superman of IT support.

To set up an IT consultancy, you really need to know your stuff. You’ll be up against people who live, breathe and dream ICT, and you’ll need to be on their level. Saying that, if IT is your passion and you’re a pro on the inner workings of PCs, the sine qua non of servers and the set-up of networks, then don’t worry too much if the letters after your name don’t have anything to do with third level or vocational qualifications.

Roger and Paul Timms of Maindec, an established third party IT services and support provider that’s been going strong for some 30-odd years, believe that you shouldn’t worry about qualifications. Roger started the business 32 years ago, and he was not at all qualified in terms of having gone to university.

“Don’t let a lack of qualifications hold you back too much. It takes a little bit more than qualifications,” Roger says: “It’s good to be one of the ‘Alan Sugar brigade’!”

You’ve got to have the entrepreneurial spirit. You’ve got to be committed. And most importantly, you should have a good idea of the area of the marketplace you want to attack. When Roger started out, the market was very buoyant: IT was new, and there was a lot of pioneering going on. There were a lot of opportunities. Now, it’s very competitive and the market is quite crowded. So make your IT offering stand out.

“It’s very important to find your niche,” Roger advises. “And just be in a position very positively to sell that to people. If you know what you’re good at, you’ve got to sell it.”

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RUTO loses EXEMPTION from ICC PROCEEDINGS meaning President Uhuru will be DETAINED too!

Now we can with certainty say that President Uhuru Kenyatta will NOT step at the Hague. That humiliation will be too much for a ‘sitting head of a sovereign state’.


With the ICC Appeals chamber dismissing a lower court’s ruling which allowed William Ruto to skip some sittings of the court, and ordering the Deputy President to attend ALL sessions, Uhuru’s recent reprieve is just but a matter of time.


Focus now turns to the United Nations Security Council where the AU and Kenya government has lodged an appeal.


Interestingly, the Appeals chamber also dismissed the much hyped solidarity filings by other IGAD countries, including Tanzania, Rwanda, Eritrea, Uganda etc.


Here is the short of the ruling:


Holding that the excusal of an accused from physical presence at trial should not become the rule, the Appeals Chamber unanimously reversed the Trial Chamber V(a) decision of 18 June 2013, which granted a conditional excusal for William Samoei Ruto from continuous presence at his trial.


The Appeals Chamber concluded that the Trial Chamber had interpreted the scope of its discretion too broadly. Trial Chamber V(a) may make a new decision on the matter in light of the criteria set in the Appeals Chamber decision.


The Appeals Chamber held that before granting an accused excusal from physical presence at trial, the possibility of alternative measures must be considered, including but not limited to changes to the trial schedule or temporary adjournment.


9 Ways to Make the Payment Process Easy for Online Customers

Making it as easy as possible for your customers to pay is essential for increasing conversions and sales.

This is why your checkout page is critical. It’s the final stop for people shopping on your website. It’s the place where they hand over their credit card information and finally part with their hard-earned cash.

Your checkout page is where window shoppers become paying customers.

It’s easy to slap PayPal on your site and call it a day – but if you’re serious about making it easier for your customers to pay and increasing sales for your business, you will want to have full control over the entire checkout process.

Following, are 9 tips that will help you do this:

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1. Provide a Number of Payment Methods
It sounds obvious, but there are websites that offer only one payment method. However, data highlighted in an infographic from Milo shows that 56 percent of respondents expect a variety of payment options on the checkout page.

While it’s not necessary – nor practical for that matter – to offer every conceivable payment method available, you’ll want to take a look at your target audience to see which payment methods they use.

Then, you’ll be able to capture the majority of people visiting your website.

For instance, a good combination would be to allow direct bank transfers and payments from all major credit cards. In the end, it all depends on who you’re catering to.

From the screenshot below, you’ll see that MindMeister allows users to pay with several credit cards, PayPal, or a coupon

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2. Allow Payments Without Requiring an Account
Do we really need another username and password to remember? I doubt it. And why would anyone want to put up a wall like that preventing people from paying.

Forcing people to sign up for an account is just too intrusive for first-time customers, and it’s a major conversion killer.

A usability study by Smashing Magazine found that the main reason users hate setting up an account is they expect to be flooded with promotional emails.

It also pointed out that many customers don’t understand why they need to sign up to buy a product when brick and mortar stores don’t require an account to buy from them.

Another disadvantage is that it adds more fields for people to fill out and prolongs the payment process.

To make life easier for potential customers and ensure you get paid, follow Apple’s lead and let them check out as a guest.

As you’ll notice from the screenshot above, Apple gives customers the option to sign up at the end of the checkout process instead of forcing them to hand over their data at the beginning.

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3. Deliver a Seamless Design
From a branding perspective, you’ll want to keep everything as consistent as possible. This means using the same colors, fonts, and design on your checkout page as on the rest of your website, so you can raise brand recognition for your business.

Sure, certain online payment providers deliver the frontend ready-made for you, but you give up control over the look and feel of your checkout page.

And with all of the online scams and horror stories out there, it’s perfectly reasonable for folks to be skeptical when faced with a checkout page that’s different from the website they were shopping on.

In order to help raise brand awareness, keep your design consistent across all channels, especially your checkout page.

From the screenshots above, you’ll notice that 6Wunderkinder’s payments page matches the theme of their entire website.

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4. Don’t Redirect People
You worked so hard to get people to your website. Why send them away to another website to pay?

This is the main disadvantage of using a service like PayPal that redirects people away from your website to a checkout page.

Since you have no control over the design of the checkout page, customers end up feeling as if they are giving their money to a business other than the one they are buying from.

Checking out and paying will be the last thing people do, which is why you want your business’s name to be the last thing on their minds.

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5. Make Errors Easy to Fix
It’s a given that people make mistakes. Sometimes a zip code gets overlooked or someone forgets the “@” in their email address. In any case, your task here is to point out the error and get folks to correct it.

Some checkout pages display an error message at the top of the page, but people don’t realize they need to scroll all the way up to find out what went wrong. Ideally, you want an error message to appear in the field in which it occurred.

Another handy tip for making it easier for people to pay is to save the information they submit.

Below, you’ll notice Spotify doesn’t clear the data that was already submitted and clearly displays the error message in red, which also explains the reason for the error.

For longer forms, there’s nothing more annoying than having to resubmit all of your information again just because you made one silly mistake.

And in an infographic by Invesp, losing customers due to submission errors ranked in the top 10 of conversion problems during checkout.

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6. Ask for Essential Information Only
Similar to when you’re building an email list, you want to limit the amount of information you request to the essentials.

Nothing kills a conversion more than having to fill out a form with information that’s not necessary for making a purchase. And adding a long list of fields to fill out adds more hurdles for people to jump over in order to pay you.

This isn’t the 400m hurdles; it’s a sprint where you want folks to run through the checkout quickly and smoothly.

What’s more, a report published by Forrester found that 11 percent of U.S. adults abandoned an online purchase because they either didn’t want to register or the site was asking for too much information.

To make sure you don’t lose customers because you’re asking for too much, follow Buffer’s example with their payment form.

And if you absolutely need the extra information, such as a phone number, make sure to include an explanation for why it’s required.

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7. Provide Reassurances on Security and Privacy
Whenever personal information is involved, always go out of your way to showcase the security measures you have in place.

A survey by eConsultancy found that 58 percent of respondents dropped out of the checkout page due to concerns about payment security.

As pointed out earlier, delivering a consistent design and not redirecting people to a third party checkout page are important steps in building trust with potential customers. However, you need to do more to reassure folks their data is safe from the hands of hackers.

Typically, you’ll want to have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for your website in order to provide a secure connection and encrypt credit card information.

Additionally, you’ll want to comply with the standards of the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). PCI compliance is enforced by payment card companies, while the council itself manages the security standards for anyone who stores, transmits, or processes cardholder data.

Be sure to display your security credentials with SSL and PCI badges, just like MindMeister does in the screenshot below.

As you can see, they show the number of users they have to reassure people that others are using their service, too.

8. Keep Distractions to a Minimum
It probably goes without saying, but your checkout page is the end of the sales cycle. It’s the final step. And in an era when people have the attention span of a gold fish, you don’t want anything to distract them from completing the checkout process.

And that means, under no circumstances, should you put up any advertisements.

Your objective here is to see people through to making the final payment.

For a good example, you need look no further than KISSmetrics’s own checkout page. They keep people focused by eliminating the navigation bar at the top and requesting only essential information.

9. Have Clear Calls to Action
Don’t leave people guessing what to do next.

When someone adds an item to their basket, make it crystal clear they can “Continue to checkout” or “Continue Shopping.” The trick is to make it specific and avoid being ambiguous with CTAs like “Continue,” “Checkout,” or “Apply.”

Below, you’ll see how Amazon guides people through to their checkout page from the shopping cart.


5 Tools to Stop Content Thieves From Robbing Your Site

If you have a blog, write articles for content websites, or manage an online magazine, chances are you’ve had, or will have, your content stolen at least once. The stolen content then is reposted on other blogs, article websites, and personal websites without proper attribution.

Sometimes articles are copied directly from your site to another person’s site. In other cases, your article is spun or slightly modified, but the final result clearly is based on your original work.

There also could be situations where your content is reposted with proper attribution, but without your permission. While instances of this nature are not always harmful to your site and/or reputation, if you want to keep your original content on your site only, then you should have the duplicate content removed.

The good news is that no matter how or why your content is used without your prior knowledge, there are measures you can take to have it removed from the offending website. And there even are ways to prevent your content from being stolen in the first place. Here’s a look at five easy tools you can use for these tasks.

How to Find Out If Your Content Has Been Stolen

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1. Google Alerts

There are a number of tools you can use to scour the internet and see if your content is being used without your permission. One of the best and simplest tools for this is Google Alerts.

You simply need to go to the Google Alerts website, put in a portion of your article, choose what types of websites should be searched, and then provide your email address so Google can contact you with the results. You can create as many alerts as you like and adjust the settings to be notified on a daily, weekly, or “as it happens” basis.

2. Copyscape

Copyscape is a good option for those who publish a lot of content. Premium results are not free, but they are well worth the money spent. All you have to do is type in your website URL. Then Copyscape will search the web and let you know which sites are reposting your content.

Yet another good tool for catching content thieves is trackback notifications. These notifications are provided automatically by well-known website and blog platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, and Movable Type. They will notify you as soon as someone links to your post.

If a particular site is linking to your site on a regular basis, there is a chance the site is copying and reposting your material. In order to use trackback notifications, you simply need to look over the feedback provided by your site (which usually is sent to you via email), and then check any site that you deem suspicious.

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How to Remove the Offending Content

Many bloggers and webmasters have a contact page or email address on their sites, so you can contact them and ask to have duplicate content removed. While many content thieves will ignore emails of this nature, others will take down your content as soon as you ask them to, especially if you mention that you will file a complaint against them if the article is not removed in a timely manner.

3. Who Is Hosting This

If your request falls on deaf ears, then contact the website hosting service that hosts the site. You can find the information you need by going to Who Is Hosting This and typing in the URL of the site that has stolen your content. Website hosting services usually are much more efficient when it comes to removing duplicate content than webmasters. Often, they will take down the entire site that has posted your content without permission.

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The Delicate Balance of Good Website Design

When retired lawyer Michael Lowe and son-in-law John Uselton launched New Columbia Distillers, the first distillery in the nation’s capital since Prohibition, they were thirsting for a website and brand that would capitalize on the story of their inaugural brew, Green Hat Gin.

Paying homage to D.C.’s spirited past, the name nods to infamous bootlegger George Cassiday, whose trademark was a green fedora.

As the startup’s primary marketing tool, the website needed to engage the company’s hip, web-savvy target demographic and feel as custom and unique as the craft distillery’s limited-distribution spirits. Lowe and Uselton turned to renowned D.C. creative firm Design Army, whose clients range from The Washington Ballet to Bloomingdale’s. The 11-person shop, led by husband-and-wife graphic designers Jake and Pum Lefebure, designed Green Hat’s logo, with its cleverly integrated hat motif, and conceived a website that feels as if the user is flipping through old-style newspapers and catalogs from the 1920s.

“We didn’t want to create just a click, click, click site,” Jake Lefebure says. “We wanted something more fluid and smooth, in the same way you would read a newspaper and flip the pages as you scroll. We also knew a lot of users would be on mobile and tablets, so making it natural to navigate on those devices was the way to go.”

The design not only stays true to Green Hat Gin’s storied history, it also creates a brand that is visually distinct from its competitors. Incorporating old-fashioned catalog illustrations, fonts reminiscent of newspaper headlines and text, and cocktails playfully distinguished by hat styles, the product achieves a visual voice all its own.

“The website is quite distinctive but also structured so we could provide all the practical information to make it useful to our customers and establish our brand,” Lowe says. “It’s old-style on the surface but very much updated in its use. It really makes it an experience for somebody visiting the site.”

The website took about three weeks for creative and six weeks for customizing WordPress CMS templates. “The back end was a simple build with fairly basic programming, but you would never guess that as a typical end-user,” Jake Lefebure says.

From the shelf to the website, the design sensibilities are consistent. “Because it’s a new product, having the bottle label and site match perfectly was critical to create brand recognition so consumers start to remember the product,” Pum Lefebure says. “Design is no longer just cosmetic or ‘make something pretty.’ Good designers think strategically, ask the right questions and help their clients’ businesses grow.”

It seems the effort is paying off. “For a brand-new product like ours, garnering the kind of interest we’ve had in our website has been crucial,” Lowe says. “Not only has it helped get the word out, we’ve had so many people come to the distillery and comment, ‘Your website is spectacular. It really made me want to visit you.'”

Web Design Basics

Appearance is everything.
“Don’t just think of a website as a website; think of it as your storefront,” says Design Army co-founder Pum Lefebure. “If it looks cheap, you will appear cheap. If it looks expensive, then you can sell your product at a higher price point.”

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Go where your customers go.
“You have to design for mobile,” Lefebure says. “Everyone has a smartphone or tablet, so it’s crucial your customers can access all your information at all times.” Equally important, she says, “you need to integrate social media into your website, because that’s where everyone is communicating today.”

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Think ahead.
“Design a website with room to grow, where you have the ability to add more sections,” she explains. “You never know what your next business venture may be six months from now, and you don’t [want] to redesign the site again.”

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Don’t cut corners.
“Don’t assume your project is too small for a larger design agency,” says Design Army co-founder Jake Lefebure. “If you’re strapped for cash, be upfront with the agency. We often set up payment plans or look to invest in projects where our clients can’t afford everything at once.”

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Logo Design Basics

Your company’s logo will go a long way toward defining your brand, so the process to create it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Whether you choose to work with a design team or produce your logo yourself, you must be aware of how varying images, shapes, typefaces and colors will showcase your company.

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The interesting thing about many of the most popular–and memorable–logos is they don’t all rely on the same element to generate brand awareness. The golden arches of McDonald’s use color and shape; Apple Computer relies on an image; and Coca Cola’s logo is typeface-focused. What this means to you is, you’ll have some important decisions to make as you embark on the logo-creation process. And while there’s no strict right or wrong way to go, you must think about what you want your logo to say about your organization before making any design decisions.

Industry Guidelines
While there are no carved-in-stone rules relating to the types of logos that should be used by specific industries, some general guidelines do exist. At one end of the spectrum are high-tech logos; at the other are logos for service-oriented industries; and business-to-business logos reside in the middle.

  • High-tech logos are typically chiseled and angular–their intent is to create the perception that the company is innovative.
  • Service-oriented logos are typically smooth and rounded–their intent is to create the perception that the company is creative and friendly.
  • B2B logos can use components from both the high-tech and service-oriented ends of the spectrum–their intent is to create the perception that the company is stable and trustworthy.

As you determine where your company falls on the spectrum, remember your logo will be used for a variety of purposes-including company identification, marketing promotions and client development-so it must be attractive to a variety of audiences. And it must be innovative enough to provide immediate differentiation, making it memorable to your audience.

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Design Details
The images, shapes, typefaces and colors you choose to use in your logo will, in many respects, define your company, which makes it all the more critical for you to complete the required due diligence before coming to any decisions. Here are a few suggestions to help guide you:

  • Simplicity works. Your logo should be a clean symbol that’s easily reproducible. Stay away from logos that contain a lot of information, gradation or fine details; these will be more difficult for people to recall and for you to print in smaller sizes.
  • Use color as an embellishment. A well-designed logo should look good in black. That doesn’t mean you can’t use color, but the color itself should not be relied on as the major design element.
  • Study the science of color and typeface. If you choose to employ color in your logo, you need to determine the appropriate color for your company. The same goes if a typeface is used in your logo; be sure the one you choose communicates the appropriate message.

During the design process, remember that you want your logo to be an element that doesn’t change. It’s far easier to modify your marketing message than divert from an image that’s come to represent your company. If you design a logo that’s unique, strong, appealing and suitable for your business, you should be fine.

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