Archive for October, 2009

Three Things I Learned While Working From Coffee Shops

I usually spend a morning or afternoon here and there each week working from coffee shops, cafes, or anywhere else wifi is available. This week my home office was not an option so I spent three days in a row working elsewhere. Here are three things I noticed about the days spent working in public, plus a bonus tip for coffee lovers at the end.

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Get There With Google Maps Navigation

This isn’t really relevant to freelancing or teleworking, but as AnywhereMan I love to move around a little bit. I also like to know how to get there.

In a stellar move to further expand the functionality of Google Maps, Google has now released an Android version of Maps that directly works with mobile GPS to give you step by step real-time directions. On top of that, it ties in with Google Search on a voice-activated level.  Essentially, you can say something like “Public library” into your phone and ultimately it will find the nearest public library based on your GPS coordinates, and then give you step by step commands to get there as you drive.  If you are in a Google Street View area, it will even show you exactly what you will see as you are driving.

Is it just me, or is this awesome?!  Motorola Droid is looking better and better every day.

Here’s a video from Google about the Google Maps Navigation app:

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Developing Your Skillset as a Freelancer

Lately I’ve been keeping an “I Am/I Am Not” list in the back of my notebook to help determine the skills and services I want to offer to my client base.  This helps me accomplish a few things:

  1. It helps me narrow down exactly what my business “does”
  2. It helps me determine the things I need to get better at and develop through research, education, and practice
  3. It helps me cope when working on things I don’t necessarily love doing

The primary goal of my list is to figure out how I can spend more time doing the things on the “I Am” list (and get paid for them), and how to spend as little time as possible (if any) doing things on the “I Am Not” list.

There is nothing super-revolutionary about this practice, but it’s just a way to keep my mind from getting too cluttered.

How do you make sure you are doing what you WANT to be doing?

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My Favorite Things About Being An Independent Consultant

For the second day in a row, Jason Sadler is wearing a shirt that is relevant to me. (FYI, in my house we don’t get TV. Instead, Jason and his daily Ustream show have become my dose of “reality TV”)  Today he is wearing a shirt for MBO Partners, a company that specializes in making it easy for independent consultants and their clients to work together.  Jason issued an assignment for the independent consultants in his audience to explain what they like about their job.  Here are my top five things:

1 – The ability to do my job from ANYWHERE (obviously – what blog is this?)

2 – Being able to have every meal of the day with my family since I work from home

3 – Having control to choose the type of clients I get to work with (Currently working with an awesome group of clients!)

4 – Having control over the types of services I am able to offer

5 – Having a flexible enough schedule to take an afternoon off or work until midnight, whenever I want or need

There are a ton of other reasons why I love what I do, but these are tops for me.

What do YOU love about being an independent consultant? Watch Jason’s video, create a video or blog post about why you love it, and maybe even win a cool shirt!

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Ten Questions Every Person Working From Home Must Ask

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I came up with this quick list of questions to make sure I’m keeping at least some semblance of a “regular” life. 

1 – What time did I shower this morning (or afternoon, or at all)? 

2 – Have I left the house at all today?

3 – Have I left the house at all this week?

4 – What time did I start working today?

5 – What time did I finish working last night?

6 – Am I wearing pants right now?

7 – Have I spoken to anyone in person yet today?

8 – Can I take what I’m doing from my home office right now anywhere more interesting?

9 – Have I looked in a mirror in the last 24 hours?

10 – Is there something I’d rather be doing for a living? If so, what is it, and how to I get there?

 

I’d love to hear your answers to each of these questions in the comments below.

 

Flickr Creative Commons licensed photo by aeu04117
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Telecommuting Job Resource: FlexJobs.com

My friend Jason Sadler at IWearYourShirt.com is wearing a shirt for FlexJobs today. FlexJobs is a site that pre-screens a ton of available telecommuting and online jobs (we call it telework) and they make sure that all of the listings are legit. It’s a pay-as-you-go service, but they are supposedly a great resource.  Just wanted to pass that along to all of you who might be looking for a new gig.

For fun, here is the daily IWearYourShirt video for FlexJobs:

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What Microsoft Should Have Built Instead of Bing

Have you stopped using Google for search yet?

Me neither.  

While Bing has some nice features, I think it was a huge waste of money.  Today I challenge Microsoft to develop something that is useful to all Anywhere ASP.NET developers, and can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and maybe even mobile devices. 

I’m hoping Bill Gates, or Steve Ballmer, or at least the “I’m a PC”-guy from the commercials sees this video and tells someone at Microsoft to build this functionality.  I think it would be a game-changer. 

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Keep Up With Your Contacts Using Gist.com

How much do you really know about the people you know?  

 

Gist (www.gist.com) is a brand-spankin’ new app that allows you to import your contacts from several sources such as Gmail, Outlook, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter, and MORE, and then browse fresh news, blog posts, and Twitter updates with content relevant to those contacts.  It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you have the contacts you want set to high-priority, the functionality is priceless.  Think of it as part contact management/CRM, part news aggregator, and part Google Alerts.  

A few of my favorite features:

  • Add new contacts or companies to watch directly
  • Share interesting bits on content on Facebook, Twitter, or through email
  • Set various priority levels so you’re assured of seeing the news relevant to your highest-priority clients
  • Items that you haven’t read are marked as un-read, similar to checking your email
  • Profile tagging to create groups
  • If you import actual email messages, Gist will keep an archive of them

As a freelancer, being able to keep an eye on not only my current clients but potential clients through Gist is priceless.  The more you know about a client and their organization, the more they are going to trust that you will be able to take care of their needs.  You may also find opportunities you might never have noticed before.

One other recommendation with Gist is to make sure you’ve got a profile set up to track yourself.  It’s good to be aware of what content is being pulled that has you or your company’s name in it.  

Also, give Gist more than just a  quick glance. It’s in beta right now and the UI took a little bit of effort for me to learn, but the more you tinker with it, the more you’ll see the potential Gist has to be a major part of successful networking on the web. Check it out at www.gist.com.

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The Results of Organizing

Okay I did this a few days ago,  but I put the tips that Stacy Kaplan shared into practice and organized not only my desk but the rest of my office. So far I’m LOVING the space and organization I’ve unveiled.  Here are photos of the process. By the way, I definitely spent longer than the 15 minutes Stacy recommended but I plan on doing a 15 minute mini-organization session on a weekly basis.

The start…or what I like to call “The Non-Blank Canvas”:

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I actually started by clearing the whiteboard.  I was originally using it to write down my upcoming project schedule, but am now keeping to clear for daily planning:

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Notice the new hanging file basket on the desk. Folders for “To File”, “To Pay”, “Receipts”, etc.

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Stacy recommended recycling/purging a variety of documents and papers. Here’s just one of the things I purged (a birthday card). What drove me to even have this on my desk???

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Does anyone still use a Franklin planner?

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This I DO use…a lot! It’s my mini “Idea Book” where I write down any entrepreneurial-type ideas I get. It’s got notes, diagrams, and all sorts of top-secret stuff. I keep it on my desk, and it will stay on my desk. If you break into my house, just steal this and leave all my other stuff. It’s worth WAY more. :-)

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And here’s the final result: A clean desk, organized files (see the hanging file case I keep beneath my desk), blank whiteboard, and room to get stuff done!

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Seriously, I’m loving the clean, organized desk setup. Thanks to all of you who sent in your own pictures, too! I’ll be drawing a winner of the Freshbooks shirt in the next week or so.  For those of you that haven’t commented with a picture of your desk, there’s still time to win!

Also, today is Blog Action Day, a date set aside on an annual basis to get people blogging about the same topic.  This year’s topic is climate change. Now as I type this, it is snowing here in MN and it’s been cold cold cold for the past month.  However, this is just my tiny little corner of the world. I’m well aware that other areas of the world may be experiencing a warmer, drier, or wetter climate than normal. Politics aside, it’s something we at least need to keep an eye on. Check out the Blog Action Day site and read some of the other things people have posted on their blogs.

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Let the Desk Cleaning Begin and Another Freshbooks Giveaway

How’s your desk looking these days? I’m getting ready to clean and organize mine.

I’d like to see a picture of your desk. Post a link to a picture of yours in the comments below.  In the next week or two I’ll draw a winner of yet another Freshbooks shirt from those that are brave enough to share.

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