Archive for January, 2010

Twitter: Is Anybody Listening?

On Twitter, everybody’s trying to get more followers, get re-tweeted, get responses from famous or semi-famous people, launch marketing campaigns…but is that what it’s all about? What if nobody really is listening to you? Does that even matter?

Nope. I think the important thing is that YOU are listening to THEM. I think Twitter is a lot more useful as a listening tool than a broadcast tool, and I discuss that in today’s video.

Thanks to Jeremy Lattimore for asking the question.

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Help Me Choose A New Slogan

I first set up AnywhereMan a little over a year ago and didn’t put a ton of thought into my slogan. Now that the site/concept has had some time to develop, I am realizing I need a new one.

Right now the slogan is “Insight for Freelancers and Teleworkers.” Blah. That kind of represents what this blog is about, but I’m going to try to go more of a fun, entertaining, reality-blog direction. The current slogan sounds more like a “how-to” blog rather than what I intend it to be: a blog where I talk about the ups and downs of working from anywhere, initiate conversations with others in the same boat as me, and generally just make a fool of myself in videos, all centering around the fact that I work from wherever I want.

If was a mullet, I want it to be the party in back; not necessarily the business in front.

So HELP me come up with a new slogan. I’d like it to be short and to the point and somewhat funny. A few people gave me some suggestions on Twitter already that involved the “pants-optional” concept. That always cracks me up, but I’d like the slogan to focus on the flexibility on where and when many of us are able to work.

The winner will receive the grand prize of having me use their slogan. Okay okay, maybe I’ll add something to sweeten that a bit. If you’re a fellow Anywhere person I can do a profile/interview of you as well. Maybe I’ll throw in some free pens and candy, too.

Leave your ideas in the comments if you’d like. Thanks for the help everyone!

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What Is The iPad?

Today Apple announced it’s newest product line: the iPad. I normally don’t write about announcements and hype, but from an Anywhere perspective, the iPad looks to be a useful device.

People have been touting the Apple tablet as a hybrid between the iPhone and the Macbook Pro, and that’s exactly how Steve Jobs presented the device. He dismissed the idea of “netbooks” as PC notebooks don’t do anything better other than save you money on a portable, stripped-down PC.

The touch-enabled iPad does a lot of things better in his opinion: battery life (10 hours of use, up to a month on standby), browsing experience, display, and more. Certain models have integrated 3G capability and you can purchase coverage from AT&T directly from the device. All models include WiFi and Bluetooth capability.

And price? It starts at just $499 (nice) for the 16GB model, $629 for a 16 GB 3G-enabled model, and a 250MB plan from AT&T is $14.99/month while an unlimited data plan is just $29.99/month. No contract required – it’s all month-to-month with no voice requirement. That’s pretty sweet, actually.

It sounds like a lot of people are unimpressed with the unveiling of the iPad, but my approach is to give it some time. I’d have to say that given the choice between an Amazon Kindle or an iPad, I’d definitely lean towards all the extended functionality of the iPad.

The web browsing experience looks awesome, and I’d be able to do a lot of my job-related activities directly on this device. Blogging would be a cinch. From a design point-of-view, having the ability to sketch out layouts using a touch screen gets me super excited.

It’s still not near as powerful as my Macbook Pro but the 3G coverage/portability would mean I could use it from the comfort of my fishing boat (FTW).

For complete specs of the iPad, visit the Apple website. For a nice summary of Jobs’ presentation, check out the live blogging on engadget.

My question is this: Why not create an iPod Touch with integrated 3G capability and allow for use of the special AT&T pricing as well? Maybe that’s coming but I’m sure I’m not the only one that will raise that question. Maybe there’s an iPad Nano in store. ;-)

What do you think of the iPad? Terrible name? Sweet looking device? Is it just me or is this miles beyond a standard netbook and a truly useful piece of equipment in the Anywhere lifestyle?

Also, the first person that buys me a 3G-enabled iPad will own the top banner position on AnywhereMan for the next 365 days (currently occupied by Wirefly). Seriously.

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I Need A New Accounting System

My accounting process is kind of a mess right now. It used to be awesome, not to mention effortless. I was using Quicken Home & Business which worked great for a single-member LLC like mine. Importing data from my bank was seamless. But then the Quicken software started to get super buggy and I couldn’t even open it without it crashing. This may have been a Windows issue or a Quicken issue. Either way, this is not good, especially when tax time rolls around. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve decided that I want to look at something else for my 2010 bookkeeping. I’d prefer to stay away from any of the Intuit products including Quicken, QuickBooks, etc. Even Intuit’s TurboTax gave me problems last year as the website crashed the day I had a payment due (though I’ll still probably use it this year and hopefully they can avoid that situation).

My other problem with Quicken is that it sits on one PC. I’d love to find a good web-based system, but at the very least I’d like a Mac-based option. I’ve got that thing with me at all times.

So today I’d like some advice. What would you recommend? How do you keep your books up-to-date? Share your tips with us. I have nothing to offer here, but I need some help!

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Pride Distorts Reality

Is it just me or are there a lot [I mean a TON] of people out there who live in their own alternate reality, especially in the age of Web 2.0 and blogging?

I think this notion of “perception is reality” has gotten pushed to the limits. There seems to be an approach that if you act like you’re big-time, then you are big-time.

While confidence in what you are doing is important, I think inflated pride actually does more harm than good. Pride can distort reality. It can cause you to ignore the things you are doing wrong. It can decrease the trust that your clients, co-workers, or boss have in you.

I’ll be honest: I’m 32 years old. I run my own business and make an “okay” living at it – I’m closer to poor than I am to rich. My office is in my basement and I work ten feet from where my little girls play Barbie dolls. Much of the time I don’t shower until 11 AM. I have coffee breath right now. My bookkeeping is a mess. I’m not really sure what direction my business is headed, but I’m having fun. I’m still not even sure what it is that I actually “do,” but it’s usually a decision I make with each new day. I’m happy with a simple life.

I don’t have people lining up to meet me. Some days my phone doesn’t ring. I’m not a widely-read blogger. I don’t ride in limousines. My house isn’t a mansion. I don’t buy brand new vehicles and I probably never will. I don’t toss money around like it’s in endless supply. Usually the only time I have actual cash in my wallet is right after my birthday.

My life is not perfect.

I am not perfect.

And neither is anyone who might appear to be.

Mistakes are okay. It’s okay to be real. Be honest about your flaws, your weaknesses, etc. You don’t have to put the spotlight on them, but you don’t need to hide them either. Sometimes admitting what we do and don’t do well helps us become much better at what we want to do.

Acknowledge reality. That doesn’t mean you  have to like it. You can take action to change it. But ignoring it and pretending it’s something else means completely ignoring the very things that will help you.

Don’t let pride get in the way of bettering yourself.

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Six Tips for Effective Phone Communication

Working from wherever we want means we spend a lot of time on the phone. In fact, I personally have very few in-person meetings since so few of my clients are local. Most of them live in places much much warmer than the northern regions of Minnesota. But that’s another story…

Phone skills are essential for maintaining a level of confidence with the person on the other end of the line. They might be a prospective client, co-worker, boss, or current customer, but whoever they are it’s going to help your career to carry a phone conversation with the right amount of command.

Essentially you need to communicate not only what you are saying clearly, but also that you understand what the other person is saying. In person, this is a lot easier. A head nod or simple grin can do the trick. However, on the phone you are invisible to the other person.

Here are six little tricks I’ve learned for having effective command of phone communication.

Delay your excitement

It’s important to start the conversation off right. When you pick up the phone and answer, use a friendly tone but save your most excited tone of voice until after the person states their name. Make the person feel like you were happy before they called, but hearing their voice was a nice surprise. Don’t overdo it, though.

Make sure the other person is receptive

If you are the party placing the call, make sure you ask the other person if it’s a good time to talk. I am notorious for diving right in and forgetting to check with them first. Getting permission at the very start of the call lets the other person know that their time is important to you, and as a result they’ll likely be more engaged in the call. Some have referred to this concept as the Golden Rule of phone communication.

Another tip with this one: if you something in the caller’s background such as a phone ringing, baby crying, etc., make sure you ask them if they need to tend to that. Again, this communicates that their time is important to you.

Make sure you are receptive

You should also make sure that YOU have time for the call. If you’re trying to get something else done while talking on the phone, it will be obvious to the caller. If someone calls you in a whirlwind moment just let them know that you’d like to call them back when you can give them full attention.

Wait for the pause

This is a tough one for me because I like to give verbal feedback to people as they are talking. If they are describing something to me, I’ll nod along with an “okay” here and a “yeah” there. Sometimes this works on the phone, but I’ve noticed that a lot of phone systems, especially mobile phones and Skype, will delay your words just a little bit and actually cut the caller’s signal to your phone for a split second. The caller will then stop talking a lot of times and wait for you to finish, but you have nothing to finish because you were simply giving quick verbal confirmation.

Instead, wait for the other person to finish what they are saying before you try to give any sort of confirmation. Imagine you’ve got duct tape over your mouth and the other person has to tear it off once they’re finished with what they are saying.

Use their name

Sprinkling the other person’s name throughout the conversation gives confirmation that you are focused on them. Don’t overdo it, but doing this will make the caller feel like you are much more “connected” to the conversation. Really.  Think of conversations you’ve had where people say your name once in a while versus not saying it at all. Which one made you feel more connected? It’s a simple, easy method that makes a huge difference.

Imagine you are on the radio

The big wall of phone conversations is the fact that you cannot see each other. I use a lot of hand gestures, but those do no good on the phone.  One thing I’ve learned is to imagine that you are the host of your own radio show. The person you are talking to is your guest and (this one will really inspire you to be interesting) there are people listening in on your call.

This will totally change the way you approach a conversation. You’ll ask better questions, you’ll ramble less, and you’ll use a tone of voice that is much more interesting. You’ll sound much more professional.

If you’re a user of a phone app such as Google Voice, you might even try using the in-call recording option to record a few of your phone conversations. Go back and determine the things that would or wouldn’t work for a radio conversation.

Getting better at communication in general

Many of the tips I post here are the result of reading “How To Talk To Anyone” by Leil Lowndes a few years ago. It’s an excellent resource for brushing up on the ways that you communicate. The book is mainly focused on communicating in person, but there are a few chapters on phone communication as well.

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The AnywhereMan’s Secret Weapon

You hear me talk about tools, apps, practices, etc that are helpful to working from anywhere, but today I share a piece of equipment that is absolutely essential to my life as the AnywhereMan.

What are the essentials for you to be able to work from wherever you want?

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Getting All Your Stuff Done Using TeuxDeux

It’s been a quiet year so far here on AnywhereMan. Quiet on the blog, not-so-quiet in real life; it’s been downright busy. Hence, no time for blogging but lots of time to put into practice the concept I talked about in my last video: “Today I’m going to ____.”

In fact, it’s become “Today I’m going to ____. Tomorrow I’m going to ____. And the day after that…” It’s been really crazy.

Last month Seth Godin talked about a simple, free, and awesome web-based to-do list application called TeuxDeux.  I’ve been using it a ton, and while I don’t keep my entire life’s tasks on there, it’s been great for making sure I get every little project update and client request taken care of. If I happen to not get everything done today, it pushes overdue tasks to the next day and marks them in red. There’s even a space for “someday”/big picture tasks.

It’s actually been a total lifesaver.

So when you get up each morning and tell yourself what you need to get done, add it to your TeuxDeux list and get it off your mind.

Do you already have a daily task management app that you use? Tell us about it!

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