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My lack of routine in recent weeks has made it abundantly clear how important routine can be for productivity, for creativity, and for creating a life by design rather than by default. The key, though, is making sure to develop a unique routine deliberately, with intent […] Read more »

If you’re a small business owner or freelancer, you probably feel like you’re being pulled in about a thousand directions. Everything seems to be competing for your attention, and you can’t figure out what’s the most important priority for this very second. You have phone calls […] Read more »

We all have to follow never-ending streams of information to varying degrees. Small business owners and web workers have to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in their markets and with their customers and clients. Writers and bloggers read for inspiration and to follow […] Read more »

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Just the sound of the word “publicity” can make some of us want to run for cover. It brings to mind uncomfortable and awkward times in the spotlight, and while many of us want our businesses to succeed, it may take a while to adjust to […] Read more »

How do you know you’re, in fact, succeeding in your business? It may seem like you’ve had a steady flow of new customers, but are you tracking the numbers to be sure? It’s easy to lose track of time and get confused about when you signed […] Read more »

We don’t often give much thought to our bios, even though they’re actually important and a big part of everything we do online. They’re on the “About” pages on our web sites, in our profiles at social networks, and in pitches that we send out. Often, […] Read more »

Do you ever wonder what is keeping you from making progress toward your goals? Perhaps you’ve set up a schedule for yourself, outlining the things you need to do each day so that you focus on the most important tasks related to your business, but somehow, […] Read more »

Last night, I was reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Excuses Begone!,” and came across a statement that really resonated with me. “We don’t always want to undertake the necessary steps to create the life we desire.” Many times, there are limits as to how far we’ll go […] Read more »

I recently came across a video by Jon Larkowski entitled, “The Way I Get Things Done,” in which he outlines his personal productivity system. He offered several useful tips for increasing productivity, but the two phrases that really stuck out to me were that you need […] Read more »

In Wayne Dyer’s new book “Excuses Begone!“, he talks about how fear is one of the biggest excuses for people living an unhappy existence and not going after what they want. He suggests using the emotional opposite of fear (love) to combat the excuse. He says […] Read more »

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Yesterday, I read the Unconventional Guide to the Social Web, and although I found a lot of useful information in it, one thing has stuck with me since reading it. Your blog is your mothership. Don’t neglect it for lesser tools.

This is an important thing to keep in mind when marketing your business online. There are tons of ways to build a web presence, including a variety of social media and networking sites, but nothing is as important as your blog.

Maintained correctly, your blog is the one tool that will get you the most traffic, and it’s the tool over which you have the most control. If you set out with the intention of posting three to five times per week, within a year, you will begin seeing significant activity around your site. Within two to three years, you could easily be an authority in your particular niche.

But, how can you make sure that you don’t neglect your blog (or mothership)?

#1 Spend time there.

Visit your site or blog frequently (ideally, several times per day). This helps you stay connected with your vision for your business, and it also helps you stay in tune with the usability of your site, as well as find ways to improve it.

#2 Keep it updated.

It’s very easy to allow a month to go by without posting a single blog entry. Naturally, the frequency of your posts will depend on a number of factors, most important being your own goals for your site, but you should post on a regular and consistent schedule so that your site content remains fresh.

#3 Engage your audience.

Ask questions, make thought-provoking posts, and most importantly, monitor the comments on your blog. If someone replies to one of your posts, take the time to respond, and if you really want to impress the person, email him or her with a thoughtful “thank you for following” message. Read more »

In an earlier post, I mentioned using a virtual assistant (VA) to help with my work so that I could free myself to focus on more important tasks, including taking much-needed time off. Many readers asked who I used for virtual assistant services, and one reader […] Read more »

Recently, I’ve been doing major cutbacks in my work day. It started with my lead generation. I’d been putting myself through the ringer for six or seven months in an attempt at kicking my results up a notch, only to have the opposite effect. I finally had to draw a line in the sand or run the risk of burning out.

I pulled the plug completely and took a couple of weeks off the lead generation hamster wheel. The result? My incoming leads and my revenue actually increased. Was it that my energy had improved? Maybe. Was it that I was focusing more on the right things? Possibly. Either way, I wasn’t going to stop a good thing. I started cutting back in every way imaginable, and my work schedule was the next to take a hit.

I’m currently in the middle of a “staycation” (you know, when you take a vacation without really going anywhere), and I’m limiting my work time to 2–4 hours per day. Amazingly, I’m still getting roughly the same amount accomplished. Oh, except I’m not checking the news feeds several times per day, only once for five minutes by quickly scanning the highlights, so essentially, I’m having to cut the fat from my day.

Before I started my week, I went through my planned schedule and jotted down the most important 4–5 tasks that should be completed by Friday. I also solicited the help of a virtual assistant to help with a lot of my regular (and necessary) tasks. Everything else got the boot. Read more »

I came across an idea about keeping a one-sentence journal to improve happiness, and thought they could be helpful for improving my business, too. I’m very intimidated by the thought of keeping a personal journal. I’ve tried to do it many times, but I can never […] Read more »

Okay, I don’t really like that phrase, “mental health day,” but the idea behind it is very important and relevant to every web worker. We all need time away from our work and businesses, time to collect our thoughts, get some breathing room, and get away from the computer screen and the sometimes very close walls of our offices.

It may not seem important, but taking time away from our work has just as big an impact on our productivity as putting in a full day. It’s not just about the quantity of hours we devote to the job, but the quality. How much of the time that we’re spending on our work is effective and productive, if we never take time to get away from it?

We need time off, and it’s important to make a conscious choice to include it in our to-do lists and schedules. But, what do you do on “mental health days” anyway? The main thing to remember is that your time away from your business needs to be restorative. It needs to help energize you and inspire you. It shouldn’t be filled with tasks that are as taxing and monotonous as work.

Here are a few other ideas to help you improve your use of time off. Read more »

We try to work 100% virtually – no pens, no paper, a laptop, and web-based tools and applications, but even for the web worker, clutter seems inevitable. I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten completely away from paper (is that possible?), and while my clutter in no way compares to that of previous (and not web-based) jobs, it still gets in the way at times and needs to be tamed. Here are a few tricks I use to keep it in check.

#1 Keep flat surfaces clear as much as possible.

Desk tops, table tops, filing cabinet tops, and every other flat surface in your workspace should be kept completely clear – no stacks of paper, no files, nothing. Once daily, clear every flat surface in your office. Not only will keep you from getting frustrated by not having a single surface to sit something, it will also help you stay on top of your work (you know, all those buried to-dos and sticky notes).

#2 Do “quick sweeps” regularly.

Give yourself ten minutes (set a timer, if necessary) and do a quick sweep a few times per day. Put away stray pens, notes, supplies, empty cups, trash, and anything else that has managed to get out of place.

#3 Empty your inboxes.

Email, feed readers, to-do lists – they’re like breeding grounds for clutter; they pile up quickly. At least once a day, clear the decks. Work to completely empty your inboxes so that you don’t get behind and start feeling overwhelmed. Read more »

Many times, we want to find ways to give back, be more socially responsible, or make our lives more about service, but running a business can make it seem impossible to find the time to do anything other than the task immediately in front of us.

How can we find a way (and the time) to do more good in the world while still keeping up with the demands of our businesses? One solution, focus on one trait at a time.

First, make a list of all the traits you would like be (generous, responsible, helpful, supportive, etc.).

Under each item, list ways you can incorporate more of that particular trait into your daily life. For example, if you want to be more responsible within your community, you might consider sponsoring an area youth program or volunteering to maintain a local park.

Finally, set aside time each day and week to devote to your commitment. Even 15-30 minutes a day can make a big difference. If you could commit to just 15 minutes a day, 5 days per week, at the end of the year, you would have contributed more than 65 hours of your time to improving the world around you. That’s more than a week and a half (full time) of your attention! Read more »

Being a web worker can mean learning to handle many facets of running a small business, including dealing with difficult clients, which can often be one of the biggest frustrations that come with the territory.

But how do you know if your clients are abusing you? Here are a few telltale signs and tips for how to fix and avoid these situations.

The work keeps creeping in. You start with one description of what is to be done and end up doing something entirely different or something that’s way more involved than the original task.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Have a contract and a clear and agreed-upon scope and schedule for each and every phase or project. Outline exactly what is to be done and when it’s due.

The client expects immediate responses or complete availability. Occasionally, you’ll come across clients who want 100% of your undivided attention. They expect emails to be responded to within an hour and work to be completed at an unrealistic pace.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Set expectations from the start. Explain when you’re available to clients, how quickly you tend to reply to communications, and how you prefer to communicate. You may also wish to explain how you work. For example, do you generally devote a set amount of time to each project or client per day? If so, explain this to clients on the front side so that they know what to expect. Read more »

It’s a strange thing, but in times like these, when prospective clients have fewer dollars to spend and when there’s more competition in the marketplace due to higher unemployment rates, instinctive responses have a tendency to take over our business decisions.

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of instinctive “fight or flight” response, so how do we break that cycle? Read more »

nim·ble : quick and light in motion; marked by quick, alert, clever conception, comprehension, or resourcefulness.

Being a web worker has its advantages, and one of the biggest is that you can build a very adaptable and nimble business. Here are a few of the ways we stay flexible. Read more »

Personal branding, whether you like the term or not, is something every web worker should consider. Don’t look at it as marketing or packaging yourself, but more as being true to yourself. Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port makes that distinction very well, and the Food Network demonstrates exactly how to make it work for you and your business.

Michael Port’s concept of personal branding starts with his belief that, “when you work with clients you love, you’ll truly enjoy the work you’re doing; you’ll love every minute of it. And when you love every minute of the work you do, you’ll do your best work, which is essential to [booking] yourself solid. Second, because you are your clients; they are an expression and an extension of you.”

The cornerstone of his philosophy is that “the greatest strategy for personal and business development on the planet is bold self-expression,” and many successful personal brands have used this very strategy to rise to the top.

The Food Network is filled with great examples of personal branding success stories using the “bold self-expression” strategy, and while the brands are very unique on their own, they all attract their individual audiences by being exactly one thing – themselves.

Take three of the popular Food Network personal brands, Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, and Emeril Lagasse. They each have individual flare and have used that individuality to create tremendous personal success. Read more »

The two biggest problems for most small business owners when it comes to marketing a business are effective planning and consistency.

After what seems like a lot of effort attempting to drum up new business, it’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t seeing results, but with the right tools and the right approach to planning and carrying out a lead generation plan, you’ll find yourself gaining more and more confidence and traction with your efforts.

Step 1: Setting Up the Nuts and Bolts of Your Plan

First, you have to take the time to carefully consider your options for marketing and promoting your business, rather than just taking a scatter gun approach.

There are many possible tactics for finding new clients and customers, but if you try to do everything, you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin. That said, during the evaluation phase, you should throw out every possibility, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each. Then, after you’ve evaluated them, select the tactics most likely to lead to success for your particular business, taking into account your personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as your available resources.

You need a tool to help you with the process. I like using Bubbl.us for this, since it’s like mind mapping and allows you to throw out every available option, while keeping you organized. Read more »

Starting a business can be a huge undertaking, but fortunately for the aspiring web worker, it doesn’t have to be. The really great thing about starting a web working business is that it getting set up can be easy and low cost. Read more »

I use a lot of Google’s applications to stay organized and productive, but I’m especially fond of Gmail. In its standard form, it’s a fine email client that makes it easy to stay on top of that mountain of email, but with a little customization you can use it to become even more efficient. Here are six super ways to send Gmail into productivity overdrive.

#1: Use super stars.

You know how Gmail has the standard Gmail star? Now you can make it a super star! Enable Superstars within Labs under Settings. Once enabled, you can select the super stars you’d like to use by dragging and dropping them within the General tab under Settings.

Here are a few examples of how I use super stars.

I use the red and yellow exclamation points to mark items that (a) are work-related and (b) require some action on my part (red indicates something more pressing than yellow). I use the purple question mark for pending payments, deposits, and other things I’m waiting for.

#2: Use search.

I don’t really use folders (or labels) in Gmail, only because the search functionality is so easy to use. If I need to find something related to a particular client, I just type the client’s name and find it that way.

The advanced search functionality allows you to search within a date range (say within a month of a particular date), so finding a particular email is generally pretty easy and requires a lot less upkeep than folders (unless you set up filters to maintain this for you).

The best tip for searching is to use very specific search terms. If you can remember a particular phrase, name, or keyword that was used and the approximate date it was emailed (say the month of June), you’ll reduce your search results tremendously, making it even faster to locate information. Read more »

I’ll admit, I haven’t always tracked my time when it comes to my clients and their projects. Although I always knew roughly how long things took me to complete, until recently, I never kept up with a more detailed view of my time.

The longer I continue this practice, the more I’m coming to appreciate it.

Here’s why it pays to track.

#1 It helps with finding the “time sucks.”

You might realize after tracking your time for a while that certain types of projects are less profitable than others. For instance, if you’re a ghostwriter, you might make considerably more writing blog entries than in-depth white papers. If so, you can adjust your pricing or service offerings to compensate for the difference.

You might also find that a particular client is more demanding on your time than other clients, and as a result, you might decide to drop him, charge him more going forward, or change your methods for working with him in order to be more efficient.

#2 It helps with staying on track.

I currently have a very specific goal to keep me on track – work four paid hours per day. I can quickly glance at my time sheet for a given day and see if I’m anywhere near that goal. If I’m not, I know I need to concentrate on acquiring new projects.

The more consistent you can be about hitting your own daily goal, the more consistent your income and work load will be. Read more »

I can always tell when I’m just putting out fires (moving from one “urgent urgency” to the next).

“What? A client needs help with an über pressing concern, and it has to be handled right now or his website will explode? I’ll get on that right away!”

“What, Ms. Prospective Client, you have the ultimate web project, but you need a quote within the hour? No problem.”

It starts with checking email first thing in the morning. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply.

On and on it goes, until it’s two o’clock and not one smidgen of paid work has been done, or if it has, it’s been done in a haphazard way, usually at the client’s demand instead of using my own tried-and-true schedule and system.

By the end of the day, I’m zapped and feel like a heel for allowing my work to control me instead of the other way around.

There has to be a better way, and you know there is. Read more »

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