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Social media is great. We love it and are avid users. I spend a lot of time creating and curating content for our accounts and are tickled that we’ve seen our following grow.

But Facebook and Twitter in particular are no substitute for the intimacy–and privacy–you get on our APPCA forums. Here is a place where you can speak freely without worry that you’re going to get flamed or spammed by strangers. It’s a place where you can interact with colleagues on a range of issues that are deeply important to you.

Our forums are divided into a variety of categories, including Private Discussion, Virtual Water Cooler, Recipes for Succe$$, Sources and Resources, Special Diets, Tips and Techniques, Marketing, Techie Stuff, and Serving Senior Clients. If you have a special issue, there’s a forum to address it. You can add attachments to your post and create tags. And it serves as a terrific archive of resources.

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But–and this is a big but–it only works if our members participate. So, here are six reasons you should make a habit of visiting and posting on the forums.

  1. You can get important questions about your business answered by your peers. Are you concerned about pricing or packaging? Has a client hit you with an issue that you don’t know how to respond to? Are you leaning toward moving your business from your clients’ kitchens to a commercial kitchen? Do you need to come up with a special menu for a client’s medical condition? Are you unsure how to figure out portions for a catering event? Are you going to teach a kids cooking class for the first time and need advice? You pose a question and your personal chef colleagues are bound to have feedback for you.
  2. You can network and really get to know colleagues in your area you may not have met or colleagues in cities across the country. We all know how beneficial networking is in general, but, for example, here it’s not uncommon for our members to reach out to others in their service area with referrals.
  3. You can totally brag on yourself to those who will appreciate your success. Did you just get a TV gig or an award? Did you score a great new client or catering gig? Are you bursting because one of your clients wrote the most flattering letter of recommendation? You have a built-in audience of support on the forums. 
  4. You can get a heads up on potentially fraudulent “clients.” We hate to talk about scams but there’s an underbelly of unscrupulous people (think Nigerian princes) who approach unsuspecting personal chefs with a too-good-to-be-true proposition. Experienced personal chefs have received these missives (typically someone overseas who is coming into town and wants to hire you as a personal chef but the money exchange is suspect) and can give you the low down on whether what you’ve received is legit or you’re being played. You want to tap into that on the forums.
  5. You can brainstorm marketing ideas and ways to get new clients. It can open new avenues you may not have previously considered and you can get help (or give it) to nail down the specifics.
  6. You can bitch and moan over whatever is bothering you in the company of sympathetic colleagues. You’ve had a bad day.  A client gave you a hard time for no good reason. Your kid and your mom are both sick and you’re wiped out. Whatever it is, you have the attentive ear of your peers and can get virtual hugs when you need them the most.
  7. You can be the expert. All of you who have been at this awhile can share your expertise with those who are newer to the career. Or if you come to being a personal chef from an arena where you have useful expertise in marketing or finances or media, you can provide expertise to colleagues who need a hand.

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We know how incredibly busy you are. Sometimes it feels like getting on the computer at the end of a long day is just one more task than you have the time or energy for. But using the APPCA forums is an investment in your career and a benefit we want you to take advantage of so that the hive mind can create more success for you and everyone else who is a part of our APPCA family. If you haven’t given it a try, get on and introduce yourself. If it’s been awhile since you’ve participated, Candy and I urge you to return. Let’s talk!

Have you signed up for the our Personal Chef Forums? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, what’s been the biggest help you’ve received from participating?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

I’ve planned a terrific, intensive two-day seminar for new personal chefs next month at my home in San Diego. These intimate seminars of no more than 10 people are always a hit with attendees for several reasons. The first is simply the amount of information we cover on how to get your business up and running–profitably–as quickly as possible. We review the training program and manual at your pace and answer all your questions. We review your business plan, and go over finances and best practices in marketing. We get into SEO for your website, advertising, and media exposure. And we introduce you to Personal Chef Office and the Personal Chef Forums.

We’re personal chefs so naturally we also talk recipes and cooking methods. I have some great resources for using equipment like pressure cookers. Even if–and we assume you are–a terrific cook, you’ll learn all sorts of great cooking tips from us–and from your fellow attendees.

And, speaking of fellow attendees, the two-day seminar is a great opportunity to bond with others from around the country in your same situation–who are committed to providing delicious healthy meals and are in a dedicated pursuit of information and techniques to create them. They’re also just getting started in this profession. You’ll have people with whom you can share questions and experiences with long after the weekend is over.

In short, you have the opportunity to spend a weekend with an experienced working personal chef who can assist in building a realistic plan for start up, promotion, target marketing, administration, and customer service–as well as menu planning, recipe development, sourcing, food storage, containers, and countless other topics. This is invaluable information and will save you both time and money in starting up and building your business.

One of the issues that comes up most–which we cover thoroughly–is the client assessment form. This is the way you and your client get to know one another. You’ll learn what foods they like, what their priorities are, what their dislikes are. They’ll have a chance to review your menu and select dishes. In the seminar, we’ll review with you how best to conduct the assessment, how to look for potential issues, but most importantly, how to have a productive discussion that leads to a good and long relationship for both you and your client.

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We’ll also go over the best way to book clients so that you have extended commitments and we’ll review our standard client service agreement so you’ll be confident discussing it with your client.

We know that as exciting as starting a new business is, the challenges can be intimidating. You need to develop a reliable clientele, you’re going into someone’s kitchen to do the cooking, you’ve got to bring equipment with you and be able to get everything–including clean up–accomplished efficiently. All this can be daunting at first. We’ll talk you through it, answer your questions, and give you the confidence to get out there and fulfill your dreams.

As Mary Ziebart of Chicago said of our most recent weekend personal chef seminar, “I wanted to get back into the kitchen again and make people smile. This seminar took the fear out of starting my own business.

Val Cathell of Virginia, who also attended our latest seminar, had long been a star in her own kitchen and was encouraged by friends to go into business for herself. But cooking for friends and launching a food business are two very different things. So, she joined APPCA and attended the seminar. “It was invaluable in helping me understand the important business aspects of being a personal chef. Your instruction was thorough and so entertaining. Your personal stories were wonderful and provided great insights and tips on things to do and not to do.”

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Dennis and I have been at the forefront of this profession for decades. Our love of what we do–which is to help members like you reach your goals–comes from the heart. The personal chef seminar is where head and heart meet. They’re small personal, interactive, and impactful. We want to share with you the benefit of our many years of experience so you can return to your community and wow them with your talents. Your success gives us great satisfaction.

Be sure to sign up for our September seminar so you can take that great leap forward!

Have you been to one of our weekend seminars? If so, please share your experience here. Have questions? Please ask away!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

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We love connecting with you on our personal chef forums. But we also enjoy the relationships we’re building on social media. Some of you are just as active on social media as we are. But others are wary of this medium or uncertain about what to do. One thing we’ve noticed, particularly on Facebook, is that when we go to your business pages to try to promote your work or your page, it’s often neglected. The most recent posts are months old. Or, you haven’t got any useful content to speak of that would draw people to engage with you or help them understand what you do.

So, we thought we’d give you some tips for how to draw people in–people who could be potential clients, after all, or good contacts for networking–and keep them coming back. They aren’t difficult to do. In fact, all they do is make you more interesting, useful, and engaging. We like to think of social media as a large cocktail party filled with lots of conversations going on simultaneously. Do you want to be the wallflower or social butterfly? Think about how you act at a party. You find yourself in a small group of people. Do you monopolize the conversation and not let anyone else have a turn or do you ask others questions to learn more about them? Do you have some interesting anecdotes to share, some useful information or story you found in a newspaper or do you drone on about how hard it was to shovel snow from the driveway or get your car to start?

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The idea is to become a person who is helpful and entertaining. To be viewed as an expert with resources to share. To engage others. Yes, you want to promote yourself and your business–but not at the expense of being boring or viewed simply as a self-promoter. Be the cool guest at the cocktail party.

With this in mind, here are six ways to help you accomplish this:

1. Ask questions. Think of it as a way to learn more about your “friends” and “followers”–and as a useful market research tool. Find out what people’s favorite foods are, how often they eat at home with their families, if they enjoy cooking shows, what their favorite ethnic foods are, how they learned to cook–or if they cook. If you are ignorant about something–an ingredient from another culture or a cooking technique–ask if someone can share their knowledge. As you do this more frequently, you’ll find your questions will be more targeted and you’ll be surprised at what sparks a conversation. And that’s a great result.

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2. Tag people with a purpose. One of the most annoying things on Facebook or Twitter is to be tagged by someone just because they want your attention. But if you have something to share (a link to a magazine article, a TV show, or cool website) that specifically mentions someone–a friend, a celebrity chef, a business–by all means tag them. If you want someone in particular to respond to a question, tag them. If you’re linking to a blog post you’ve written that mentions someone, tag them.

3. Use great photos. Facebook has recently acknowledged that long posts are out and photos are in. If you want to show up on other people’s news feeds, make sure you have at least one great photo to draw attention. It could be a beautiful dish you’ve prepared, a gorgeous piece of produce, an infographic, whatever. And, if you use a smart phone to shoot your photos, get an app called InstaFrame or one like it to easily create a multi-photo collage you can upload. You can do the same with PicFrame on a Mac (very helpful in blogging, too).

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4. Share posts others put up–or be a helpful retweeter. Be the good guy and generously spread their good news or interesting articles. You may even find other people like your business page because they’ve now discovered you.

5. Engage with others on their feeds or tweets. Read your news feed and become part of the conversation. If you have something useful to say, jump in with a comment, observation, solution, or question.

6. Be judicious in promoting yourself. All social media platforms are great resources for self promotion, but don’t overdo it and find ways to do it that are useful (like offering a recipe or cooking tips). Brag on a new gig you got or a compliment a client gave you for a dish. Announce what your services are and how you can help people. Illustrate it with gorgeous photos. Just do it as part of your larger engagement with others. They shouldn’t be the majority of your posts.

And, here’s an extra tip–feed your accounts regularly. Pick a few platforms that you think will do you the most good and be involved on them. If you try to be everywhere you’ll surely give up. It’s very frustrating to have people you’re trying to build a relationship with disappear for months on end. Don’t over post, but don’t go AWOL. Find your rhythm and try to stick with it.

And be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@AmerPersChef), and join our LinkedIn group! Let us know where we can find you so we can have a conversation!

What social media challenges do you have? Where can we find you?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.