Archive for July, 2010

You Know You’re a Freelancer When…

This list on FreelanceSwitch hit a little too close to home. Yes, it is amazing that I continue to grow without sunlight.

Click through for the full list.

Amplify’d from freelanceswitch.com
  1. You’re starting to grumble about your 5-step commute from the bed to your computer.  The snooze button is soooo much closer…
  1. The car stays parked in your garage for days at a time and somehow you continue to grow without sunlight.
  1. You can vacation as often as you want now. Chained to your computer and phone, yeah, but hey: the ocean looks beautiful from here and yes honey, I’ll join you out there in a moment!
  1. Working in the buff is actually an option! Just remember to switch your Skype chat default to “Answer with NO Video!”
  1. Work begins stalking you around the house, skulking and whining like an unloved pup. Work is home is office is everywhere – ACK! I’m sure there’s a zen proverb around here somewhere…

Read more at freelanceswitch.com

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Whale Wars: How Not To Execute A Plan

I watched three episodes of Whale Wars last night. I’ve already seen season one and am almost through season two (Netflix rocks, BTW).

Whale Wars is a show that follows around the adventures of the Sea Shepherds, a team of folks dedicated to ending whaling near Antartica. They essentially drive around, find Japanese whaling ships, and throw stink bombs at them. Their leader was kicked out of Greenpeace for being too extreme. And I think he was one of the founders! It’s highly entertaining.

But here’s the thing: One of the reasons I find the show entertaining is that the Sea Shepherds absolutely suck at execution. Every time they find a Japanese ship to harass, something goes wrong.

Oops…one guy just threw a grappling hook and chipped the tail of the helicopter.

Oops…the team in one of the small boats doesn’t have their radio on and the main ship has no idea where they are. And their satellite phone battery is dead. And the GPS isn’t working.

Oops…they’re about to engage and launch some stink bombs…and have to turn around because they’re running low on gas.

Oops…they’re launching one of the small boats and it flips over…four people stranded in freezing cold water.

You get the idea.

It seems like there is a general “plan of attack” when they encounter a whaling ship, but it always seems like important pieces of that plan are missing. I’ve never seen a single episode where they initiate a practice “attack.”

My point is this: plan ahead. Plan for business and “busyness.” Have systems in place to keep things running smooth when things start to get intense. Having a general, scattered plan for dealing with new clients, new projects, etc is bound to have some holes. Pinpoint those holes and patch them up.

My wife told me she read that the actual number of whales killed is way down thanks to efforts by groups like the Sea Shepherds. That’s great, but imagine how low they could be if things actually went according to plan.

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I Have People Skills! Five Quick Conversation Tips

People skills are important, especially if you work on your own. Because much of our time can be spent working in isolation away from cubicles and water coolers, keeping your conversation skills sharp should be a high priority. You don’t want to open the floodgates of talking about yourself too much when you interact with someone in person.

I’ve run into this a few times in the past few weeks – ironically with stay-at-home moms who, when you think about it, are kind of in the same situation as a work-from-home freelancer. At the end of the conversations, I kind of felt yucky. The bottom line in a conversation is that you NEVER want to make the other person feel yucky.

Why did I feel yucky? I took note of a few key do-and-don’ts to keep in the back of my mind for future interactions:

Ask Questions

To me, this is maybe the most important piece of a conversation. In order to make it not about YOU, you need to ask the other person about THEM. And try to be more specific than just “How are you?” If you ask something like “How are things going with your new project?” it shows the other person that the things they share with you don’t just go in one ear and out the other.

Keep An Eye On The Clock

In Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, they talk about the 30-60-90 rule. It’s definitely okay to talk about yourself in a conversation (typically when asked), but don’t make your answers too long or go off on tangets. A 30-second response is about perfect. At 60 seconds you’re starting to lose the other person. And you can chalk them up as “bored” at 90 seconds.

Be Positive

Bottom line on this one is don’t dump your dirty laundry on the other person. Tell me about what’s going well in your life (again, when asked). What are you excited about? It’s not that you shouldn’t be real but if you really want a guaranteed way to make the other person to feel yucky, just dump some yucky stuff on them. Be optimistic about the negative things in your life. It’ll actually make the other person feel inspired.

Act Like You’re Interested

When you’re having a short conversation with someone, try to give them your full attention. Don’t act like you’re stuck talking with them or you have nothing better to do. Act like it’s one of the highlights of your day. It’s pretty much a guaranteed way to make them look forward to your next interaction. And in order to keep it from seeming fake, practice the art of smiling with your eyes. Seriously – go look into the mirror and practice this.

Be Encouraging

When you ask someone a question, respond to their response. Positively. When you wrap up the conversation, tell them how good it was to see them. Offer them encouragement about things going on in their life that they may have shared.

Post-Conversation: Store It All In The Archive

Make a mental note of the conversation you just had – or even write down some of what they other person shared. Remember what is going on in that person’s life and use it as conversation material the next time you see them. That’s what’ll really kill any hint of the yucky-factor: it shows the other person that they matter to you.

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How to Find Your Freelance Specialty by @AmberWeinberg

Excellent article on Freelance Folder today about narrowing down your skills to a specialty. In the past I’ve talked about how my WordPress business really took off when I launched TweakMyTheme.com, a specialty theme-customization service. I’ve heard others report the same type of results when they focus and really get their expertise into specific niches versus a “jack-of-all-trades” approach.

I always enjoy Amber’s articles. She’s awesome at stirring up the pot of controversy on a regular basis, too, which is probably why she gets such excellent comments most of the time. Click through to read the full article on Freelance Folder, and be sure to check out http://www.AmberWeinberg.com.

Amplify’d from freelancefolder.com

Why You Should Specialize

So why should you specialize? Basically, no matter how much you learn, it’s impossible to be great at everything. And to be a really successful freelancer, you have to be great at what you do.

Specializing allows you to become an expert in your field. You’re also more likely to be perceived as one by potential clients. Just by offering front-end dev and WordPress work, I became known to my clients as “the” WordPress expert.

Specializing also allows you to focus on honing your skills and is easier to keep up with new developments. This allows you to quickly become better at what you do than the generalist.

Specializing your clients is equally, if not more, important as specializing your services. Deciding what type of clients you want to work with will make you happier in the long run and will increase the effectiveness of your marketing. It’s much more effective to get your message to 10 perfect-fitting clients than to get your message to 500 clients who won’t work for you.

Read more at freelancefolder.com

 


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77 Seconds with ZooTool.com

Bookmarking stuff in your browser works fine, but I was looking for something a bit more visual and portable. For example, I bookmark a lot of WordPress themes and design ideas. Trying to go back and find a specific design using text-based bookmarking just doesn’t work for me.

ZooTool gives me a fantastic way to bookmark, organize, and browse pages, images, videos, etc that I may want to re-visit at some point in the future. It also has some great social features so you can see what your friends are bookmarking and what bookmarks are popular.

And why 77 seconds? Because it’s not a lot of time and it forces me to show you the main features quickly.

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One of The Many Reasons I Still Love FreshBooks

I have officially been sending clients invoices using FreshBooks since January 1, 2008. Awesome app…awesome company…amazing support.

One of the features that I absolutely love is the “Recent Activity” section on the front page of its interface (see above graphic). It shows you when you sent a specific invoice, and when the client actually got around to opening it.  This is useful because sometimes clients will say they never received an invoice, and in some cases they might be right (because you’d see it in FreshBooks). Sometimes it’s worthwhile to check with them to verify that they’ve received it if you notice it hasn’t been opened after a week or so.

Oh yeah, and I love the auto-reminders it sends to clients after 30, 60, 90 days or whatever intervals you decide upon.

In the time that I’ve been running my own business, it’s been nice to know that my time-tracking and invoicing is in good hands with FreshBooks. Seriously – I’ve never even had to think about it.  And PayPal integration has made it simple for my clients to pay quickly.

If you’re looking for a good…no, the BEST…billing solution, try FreshBooks for FREE for up to 3 clients. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them for you.

Disclosure: Nothing prompted me to write this post other than the fact that tonight I was reminded of how many great features FreshBooks has and how useful it’s been to my business. If you are somehow able to make a specific aspect of my life as worry-free as FreshBooks does, I’ll rant and rave about you too!

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Interview: Brian Casel From CasJam Media

One of the best parts of spending so much time on the web is meeting people through a casual tweet or blog comment, then later exploring more about who they are and finding out you’ve got a lot in common.

I think I first met Brian Casel because he left a comment here on AnywhereMan. It turns out Brian is a lot like me. We both do web design/development, are both heavily into WordPress, we both play guitar, and we both run our businesses from home. We’ve since interacted quite a bit, and I’ve even used one of his WordPress themes in a client project. He builds AWESOME themes by the way.

Find out more about Brian and his business-from-home life in today’s interview. He discusses his company, CasJam, his premium WordPress theme site, ThemeJam, and his brand-spankin’ new WordPress theme for building proposals that is especially useful to freelancers and small business owners, WPBids. Look for a full AnywhereMan review of WPBids in the near future.

I appreciate Brian taking the time to chat with me today and wish him continued success in all of his ventures!

PS – Brian also occasionally blogs on sites like Freelance Switch and Mashable. Nice!

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My Must-Have Smartphone Feature

I’ve had my Palm Pre Plus on Verizon for a little over two months now.  It’s been working out really well and I’ve been pleased with the purchase even in the shadow of newer/better/faster phones like iPhone 4 and the barrage of Android-powered devices making their way onto the market.

The main reason I’m so content? The mobile wi-fi hotspot feature.

I use it ALL THE TIME…even more than I thought I would. It seems like the wi-fi has been dropping constantly wherever I choose to set up shop for day. Employees at Caribou Coffee are trained to make delicious coffee, not diagnose wi-fi issues. No worries. Every time the network shows signs of slowing, I fire up the hotspot on my phone, set my MacBook to connect to it, and keep right on working.

I’ve heard that the next release of the Android platform will include support for a mobile wi-fi hotspot. Next to using my phone to actually converse, this is the feature I use the most. It  has really enabled me to live up to the name “AnywhereMan” as I don’t need to be anywhere near a public wi-fi hotspot to get online and get my work done.

I’m not sure if I’ll stick with the Palm family when it comes time to upgrade in a year or two, but one the main features I’ll be looking for in the next device will be the hotspot. Palm’s doing it, Android will be doing it…any guesses on if iPhone will be doing it?

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Making Time For Your Own Projects

I used yesterday, July 5th, as a chance to make some serious progress on the new version of my Lift Development website. I built the original about 3 years ago and my business has evolved quite a bit since then. I’m also moving forward with some new branding so everything (business cards, apps, website) needs to be updated to reflect this change.

Using everyone else’s day off gave me an excuse to devote the day to my own project. Whether it’s a holiday or a weekend, sometimes that’s the only way my in-house projects make any progress. However, if I would simply commit an hour here and there to my stuff…as in actually make time on my schedule…I wouldn’t need to cut into time that might otherwise be used for relaxation and recreation.

My point is this: Treat yourself like a client as much as you can.

Set deadlines and goals for your own stuff. It’s important! In the case of my website, it’s one of the first points of contact I have with a potential client. Therefore, it’s as essential as anything else that I do. I need to treat it as a high-priority task.

What are you working on in-house that may need to get bumped up the priority list a bit? Can you devote a few hours a week to it? Make an effort to schedule it: write it down and add it to your calendar.

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@FitForTwo’s Active July Challenge

My buddy Brock and his fiance Marta run a FANTASTIC health-related site called FitForTwo.TV. During the month of July they are encouraging everyone to be as active as possible. Every day you are active this month, comment on Brock & Marta’s daily post with what you did to be active and you could win stuff. They are giving away prizes every day, and you’ll get yourself healthy in the meantime.

Even if you don’t take part in the challenge, check out their website for awesome tips, recipes, and exercises. Brock and Marta are good good people!

Amplify’d from fitfortwo.tv

Happy Canada Day, Eh! It’s a new month and the start of a CHALLENGE! Marta and Brock are going to be active every day this month. They are encouraging YOU to be more active as well. Every day you are active in July, leave a comment under the episode that day saying what you did (yes, Fit For Two TV will air an episode EVERY DAY in July!). Comments are entries in a contest to win Lebert fitness equipment! Leave a comment today to win Lebert Stretch Straps!

Read more at fitfortwo.tv

Posted via email from AnywhereMan Interesting Stuff

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