I write often about how our energy is affected by our surroundings. Did you ever consider that email is part of your environment? It is - unless you don't use a computer at all - and then how would you be reading this post?
Imagine this... your email inbox is an actual mail slot in your front door. As soon as you get up, you see paper coming in through that slot. Mid-day, there's a pile. In the evening, there's a mountain. And that continues day after day - YIKES!
When your Inbox is full of unopened emails, that’s exactly the energy you’re creating. Every time you open your email program and see Inbox (135) you’re going to feel stress, consciously or unconsciously. That number 135 reminds you that there are 135 demands for your attention that have not be dealt with while you take care of other matters. 135 pieces of paper blocking your front door!
Why have that hanging over your head? Let’s do something about it now.
First off, let’s examine why these emails are unopened. Are they spam? Then DELETE them and change your spam filter so they stop coming! Are they in the “I might want to read this later” category? That’s like having a mountain of magazines on the floor. DELETE them! I promise you, if they were important enough to open you would already have done so!
After you’ve cleaned those categories out of there, look at what’s left. What really, truly, honestly needs an answer? Then ANSWER it! Be sure your inbox is sorted by received date, and then start at the oldest message. If it is now outdated, delete it. If it's important and you missed it, reply with an honest apology for taking so long – no excuses, just an apology.
What’s left after these steps? Things you need to do? Either flag each remaining email (if your email provider has a way to mark them) or print out and make notes. Prioritize what you can do quickly, preferably for the oldest outstanding issues. Address these tasks as you would any others on your to-do list.
Now, take another look at your Inbox. Hopefully it now looks like this: INBOX (no numbers after it!).
What can you do to prevent the buildup recurring? Improve your spam filters. Tell friends and family to stop sending you junk mail. Get off the mailing lists that no longer matter to you. Set aside a specific time of day (when your mind is not needed for more important tasks) and a specific amount of time to focus ONLY on email.
Address new messages as soon as they arrive and your virtual “living room” will stay clear of unwanted invaders!
The answer is ... sometimes, depending. There now, isn't that helpful?
But seriously, a home-made website can be effective, depending on your needs and your business. As with many decisions in business, choosing the best resource also depends on your budget and expected returns.
If you're just starting out and have limited funds, you may want to consider starting on your own. A homemade website at the very least provides a landing page, an online presence for your contacts to learn more about you and your services. It is a passive resource - one to which your contacts would be directed to by other means (business cards, social media, etc.).
There are excellent DIY website solutions available at several price points. This site, for instance, is a home-made Weebly site, but other sources include Wix, Squarespace, Web.com. Many use the very easy-to-use "drag and drop" layout method, which is rather like building a puzzle.
If you are good at software and computer technology, you'll have an advantage over a complete newbie. (In fact, I don't recommend a complete newbie attempt this at all.) You'll discover how to add forms, surveys, message boards, advertising, or other perks to website effectiveness.
I can't tell you how many sites I immediately know are homemade because of the number of errors I see. I cringe when I see grammatical and punctuation errors that make the site owner look careless or ignorant. I have seen pages full of long paragraphs of text, which nobody wants to read on a website. That is not how to attract your ideal client! (This is why I developed my Website Review offering!)
BUT ... hiring a professional means you'll get all the other benefits of a truly effective website - SEO and visibility, increased traffic, interaction with prospects. A professionally built site is active - contacts find you through internet searches, and can interact with you using the tools available when the builder knows what he's doing.
Key to an effective site is to consider carefully all the aspects a pro will ask you:
If you are clear on these answers and feel confident in your ability to successfully execute them, then have at it! But when you're done, have a few professional friends review the site for appeal and accuracy, so your clients know they're dealing with a pro!
I've never liked that label - "dummies." Let's change it to "newbies"! If you have never been exposed to something, you are ignorant, not stupid. Now with that established, I want to explain a few simple things for "newbie" entrepreneurs (and for your home office as well) to simplify your record keeping using Excel.
Nearly every computer has some form of Excel or spreadsheet software, and they operate in nearly the same way. When you open the program you're presented with a screen full of little boxes - called cells. On the left are numbered rows, and at the top are lettered columns. This gives you a convenient "name" for each little cell. The one on the top left is in column A, row 1, so it's called "cell A1." Got it? Its "address" is A1.
Let's say you want to make yourself a simple "database" of contacts so you can have easy access to contact information for everyone you know. You'd want to start typing in cell A1 and go across into B1, C1, etc. Type the column names (headers) you want to use. A1 could be first name, B1 last name, C1 phone number, D1 email address, and so on - type in every category you want to capture.
Then below that, in cell A2, start typing your data. First name: Joe, last name: Smith, and so on. Continue to add the specifics for each person. When you're done, guess what - you've built a simple spreadsheet! GO YOU!
Now for the sexy stuff. Let's say you want to find out who of your contacts live in your state. You don't have to poke through the entire thing to find them. You can sort! Click on any cell in your State column. On the top right of your menu at the top of your screen, you'll see something that looks like this:
When you click on the icon you get choices. So now, you can sort the state cells alphabetically, and easily see your Ohioans. There are other ways, more complex ways, to do the same thing, but this is the easy way, for you Newbies!
You can use this simple recordkeeping method for anything: checkbook balances, calendar entries, deadlines, medications, whatever you can think of. Take some time to poke around in Excel and learn other things you can do with it. Have fun!
So you have great ideas. So you have a lot to teach others. If you don't have a way to communicate them, so what? Well anybody, and I mean anybody, with a desire to communicate can do so - whether through blogs, articles, stories, books, newsletters.
You could be the one who failed creative writing in school, or struggled with English classes, or who can't spell your way out of a paper bag, but that doesn't mean you should not try to write. All you need is a willing partner! Every great partnership begins with a shared need. Richard Rodgers would have gone nowhere without Oscar Hammerstein's wonderful lyrics!
Let me give you some starting points. Think about your ideas, what you want to communicate, and how - what medium you want to use. Jot down some concrete topics, and under each one, make note of a few major points you would want to get across. Essentially, you're making a simple outline - no, don't panic, this is NOT English class!
Find someone who knows your field, or who knows you well, who IS a good writer, who loves to communicate, and who "gets" you. That could be anyone: a ghost writer, a gifted friend or family member, a Virtual Assistant, a blog writer, anybody who has experience with writing and communicating ideas. Not to inject a negative note here, but be sure it's someone you trust, to whom you can show your notes without fear of interference with your ideas.
Collaborate on how you want to express your ideas. Do you want to write a book? Communicate with clients with a newsletter? Of the media listed above, what appeals to you?
Consider the amount of material you have to share. Do you have many separate ideas that would appeal to a magazine or blog site? Or do you have a wealth of material on one topic that would communicate best in book format.
Organize your thoughts with your partner, create a fleshed-out outline, decide on your target market (to whom do you want to "speak"?) and GO FOR IT! Nothing will ever happen unless you try, and as we all know, regret is a very unpleasant experience! Create, express, communicate, write - "build it, and they will come!" There is little more satisfying than seeing your name in print - I should know! *
* (see Signs Along the Path, a Guide to An Inspired Life, a Kindle or paperback book, co-authored by Holly with John Davis.
I have to tell you up front that I am no "techie" - I know little about the technical aspects of computers and website and code and such. But I'm a layout/design/content kind of gal, and last year I was introduced to Weebly.com as a source of easy website creation.For the several websites I've been involved with, including, of course, this one, I'd used Squarespace, I'd seen WordPress, and I'd investigated freebies like Google and Yahoo pages. But when I started experimenting with Weebly, I must say that virtually anyone can use this resource to create an interesting and effective website.
The several things I appreciate about Weebly:
Hopefully you just read this title and said "Whah????? Has Holly lost it?" If you didn't, I'm shocked! You can be the best writer, the most connected intuitive, the most accurate accountant, but if you can't proofread your work, you may not come across as the professional you are.
I have read online articles, websites, blogs, emails, and other forms of business communication written by authorities in their field, with important things to say, but their writings contain blatant errors. Granted I've missed a few in my own proofreading (hey, we're all human), but I am adamant about editing and proofing. Think about the two sentences below. Which would lead you to contact the writer for more information? Which presents the writer as a professional who knows what they're talking about?
1. Everybody has to profread what their writing so the customer's know they are professional.
2. Everybody has to proofread what they're writing so the customers know they are professional.
Well, obviously (it is obvious, isn't it?) the answer is #2. Many of us have forgotten the basic grade school grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary we used to be good at. Let's review!
Microsoft Excel can be a fabulous tool, whether you're adept at computers or not. Many folks think it's only for bookkeeping and accounting. Not so! Excel was designed to easily manipulate data, and that's exactly what I use it for. Numbers, of course, are a form of data, but so are names and addresses, dates, product descriptions, and any other item you can think of that needs to be tracked and organized.
If you go to my page Free Forms, you'll find quite a few Excel spreadsheets I've designed over the years, and you'll see what I mean. Excel is the Swiss army knife of software programs! You can calculate, sort, filter, track, and otherwise manipulate all sorts of data. Try it for yourself: open Excel and try typing in column A a list of family members' names, just for fun. Drag your mouse pointer over all the names you've entered - you'll see the shading change and a box appear around them. Go to the top right of your toolbar - click on Sort and Filter, then on Sort A to Z. See what happens? You've just alphabetized your names - GO YOU!
Go to my free forms and open one. Try the Contact Database for instance. I've already set up the column headings (they'll always be named Columns A-ZZZ, but you can make column headers like I did). Every entry you make will go down in rows 1-65,000 (and more if you need more!). Play around with it by entering data in all the columns - real or made up. Test the tools in the toolbar at the top to see what they do. You can format (i.e. set up) any cell (the box that marks the intersection of a row and column) in any way you wish - text, %, $, phone number, and much more.
I use Excel for my contact database, for event tracking, invoicing, product sales, budget sheet, and more. You can use the free forms I designed, or in Excel, click on File/New and look at the wide variety of forms Microsoft offers you, also free. All you have to do is enter your own data and see what you can do. All the templates you find will help organize your working life so you don't lose track of information.
Microsoft offers wonderful free tutorials on their website here. Between all the free templates and the tutorials, you'll get a handle on how to use this all-purpose tool. But remember, if you want customized training, get a group together and contact me at Holly@LightseedsOffice.com - I'm happy to give your group a class!
Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has taken over the world of social networking. Every time you post on your wall, you are marketing yourself, your likes and dislikes, and your activities to those you have marked as friends. Now that we can communicate instantly with enormous groups of people instantly, we need to be aware of the benefits of using Facebook as a marketing tool for our products and services.
If you are using Facebook as a true marketing too, which is the topic of this writing, then you want the publicity Facebook can generate. All business / group / event pages are public, which means that anyone can view them at any time. Internet searches for keywords contained in your pages will come up in search results, and friends can refer them to other friends without your knowledge. But this is the whole point of marketing - getting the word out to the general public about your products and services.
Because Facebook has become its own network, its own mini-internet, it has become as valuable a resource for information and services as the World Wide Web. If you're in the market for a anything from a mattress to a mover, a service or a celebrity, you can find it on Facebook. Keep this in mind when developing your business profile.
The key to effective Facebook marketing is regular postings. It won't do you much good to set up a business page but never post anything on it, as if you had placed an ad in a newspaper that nobody reads. Informative, related and timely postings on a business page will generate interest in you and your business. The information contained on your business profile is also important: it should be concise but explicit about what you offer, and should contain good quality photos. The category in which you are listed (business, group, public figure, etc) and sub-categories are also important.
If you have a blog, sign up for Networked Blogs, a free social media function which links a blog website with your Facebook account (or Twitter or other social media). Such cross-referencing will increase your visibility on the web and increase your exposure.
Once your public profile has been created, be sure to invite all your personal Facebook friends to visit and "like" your new page. It's easy to switch from writing in your personal profile to your business one. Simply click on the small arrow to the right of your "Home" page at the top of the menu, and click on "use Facebook as page."
Through Lightseeds Office I'll be teaching a class soon on how to create business profiles. I plan to offer the class resources as an online tool as well. Keep watch on www.LightseedsOffice.com or on Facebook for announcements. As always, I know a great resource to help you develop your Facebook business presence - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
When I decided to go into business for myself, I knew that to create awareness of my skills and to get clients, I needed to have a website. In general, the days of yellow pages and classified ads are antiquated - today most searches for businesses are done on line. However when anyone decides to take the step toward self-employment, they may not have much start-up capital, and likewise not a great deal of technical expertise to do it themselves. There are abundant resources now to make this important step easier.
There are many free website systems online, including the one this website is created with - Weebly.com. Google, Yahoo, WordPress, and many others, like Weebly, provide a variety of designs and options to choose from. The amount of customization varies depending on whether you choose a free or paid version, and the domain name (the www.blahblah.com part) will vary. If you have a basic knowledge of software, for instance a familiarity with MS Word or Publisher, you can create attractive websites yourself. You will need to determine a business name so you can choose a domain name - there are resources online to help you with this, like GoDaddy.com, www.domainsuperstar.com and more.
However the physical creation of a website is not enough: what do you fill the site with? What do you write about yourself, and HOW do you write it? That's where a third party is important. Here's how I work when I create a website for a business.
We write down all the keywords we can think of to describe a business. Let's imagine a massage therapist startup: keywords might include relaxing, therapeutic, healing, expert, certified, licensed, compassion, professional ....and so forth. We write down the vision for the business, the mission, the goal. We write the steps we determine will lead to that goal. We gather pictures, and testimonials from people who have experienced what the person does. In other words, we get ALL our material together. Not only do you want details about your business, but about you as well, giving an impression of your personality.
Consider the pages you'll need: a HOME page with the basic overview of what the business or topic is. Then an "about" or "bio" or some such, which is a short resume of your experience and why they should buy from you. A services / products / store page. A testimonials page, and photos if appropriate. Start writing a draft on each page using some of the keywords you determined. After you get the basics written you can go in and flesh them out with more details. Remember that the information should be clear, concise and to the point.
Most website systems online offer you a way to include keywords, categories and other Search Engine Optimization (SEO) options. If you are doing a website yourself, you probably don't have SEO experience, but this is the aspect of a website that makes it visible on search engines like Google. The better SEO information, the better traffic to your site.
The MOST IMPORTANT aspect of the website, in my opinion, is the professionalism. If you have typos or grammatical errors, or if your content is not clear, then your work ethic and skills may not be as obvious as if the site were correctly written. This is where the third party really comes in handy - have a second set of eyes look over everything before publishing to the web. A clear, informative and professional website will convey the message you want the world to see.
Is all this intimidating? I know a great resource to help you! Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
It's just as important and useful to organize your emails in the same way as your files (above). Create new folders of the main topics of emails you need to keep (related to events, business, family, etc.). Mine are very similar to my file folders - one for each client, for major projects, for personal business, etc. You may want to either flag or file (depending on your email program) not only incoming but also sent mail, so that you have a way to track things that need follow-up. Nothing is worse than realizing you've deleted important older emails because you forgot to save them. You also have quick reference for past discussions, deadlines, website log-ins, etc.
And don't forget to periodically purge your deleted emails. Your email provider may not automatically delete them for you, and you can quickly use up your storage allotment with useless emails. I first delete old sent mail (that I did not flag for followup or importance), then I purge all deleted emails except the last week or so (just in case). Then I know that what I need is accessible, but what I don't is not wasting space.
If you get the general idea but want someone to teach you in person, I know a great resource you can call on: Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.