Three Sure-Fire Cost-Cutting Moves For Solopreneurs And Small Business Owners

Ever since I started my own solo business, something a SCORE mentor said during a startup workshop six years ago has stuck Dollar bills graphicwith me:

 

“Money is the language of business. For your business to thrive, you need to learn to speak the language.”

 

He didn’t mean that all that matters in business is the money, but rather that your business financials tell how effectively you’re running your business. You need to have some understanding of profit and loss and other accounting basics.

 

No business is too small to care about profitability. Even for a very small business like mine, a healthy profit matters.

 

But what if, like me, you only have so many viable options for increasing your revenue without adding headcount or complexity to your operations? How do you boost your profitability then?

 

I think you already know the answer: Cut costs.

 

Three Ways Your Small Business Can Cut Costs

 

Think Before You Spend

Is it a “must have” or a “nice to have”? Obviously, the “must haves”—the things you need to do your job and keep your business running—shouldn’t be ignored. But the “nice to haves” can usually wait.

 

Before you buy, ask yourself…

 

  • Do I need this to effectively create or deliver my products and services to my clients?
  • Will my brand be at a competitive disadvantage if I don’t buy this?
  • Can I make more money if I buy this?
  • Will I use this?

 

This applies to anything and everything—from business software to networking group memberships.

 

Use Tools That Free Up Your Time

When you’re running a very small business, especially one that’s service-based, your time IS money. The more time you spend on the administrative and marketing aspects of your business, the less time you have to spend on revenue-producing work. Over the past several years, I’ve been using—and have seen others use—a number of online platforms and mobile apps that make various tasks far less cumbersome and time consuming.

 

A few you might want to check out include:

 

Quote Roller powered by PandaDoc – Online software for generating proposals and securing contracts

 

With Quote Roller becoming PandaDoc in 2015, the software also provides sales document management capabilities. I’ve been using Quote Roller for the past two years to send proposals to clients, which then become executed agreements when they sign off with their electronic signatures. With the ability to save pre-written text blocks to a library for future use, the platform makes it far quicker and easier to “roll out” proposals than crafting all pieces from scratch.

 

Trello – For coordinating efforts and managing projects

 

I’ve used several other project management tools when clients have insisted, and I have yet to experience one that is more streamlined and straightforward than Trello. The drag-and-drop interface and simple collaborative features have helped me keep projects with multiple moving parts and players well organized and on track.

 

QuickBooks Online* – For invoicing clients, recording all business financial transactions, and keeping tax information in one central place

 

I’ve used this for the past three years and I enjoy the intuitive interface in addition to the peace of mind that all of my financial data is automatically backed up.

 

Invoice2go – Mobile app providing the ability to invoice clients immediately onsite with a debit or credit card

 

Invoice2go can save entrepreneurs time and help them get paid faster by giving them a convenient, on-the-spot way to take care of business. I haven’t used this app because it’s rare that I would need to invoice clients at their locations, but I can see how it would save other small businesses a lot of time and headaches.

 

Hootsuite – Social media management tool for posting to and monitoring activity on social media platforms

 

I primarily use Hootsuite for keeping up with the fast pace of Twitter. It has saved me gobs of time, enabling me to see activity of users on my various Twitter lists through a single dashboard. And I don’t know what I’d do without the Hootlet browser extension. With it, I can compose and schedule tweets to share content directly from the web pages I’m visiting.

 

Shop Around For The Best Deal

I feel almost silly including this tip, but I know people who buy from the first place they find an item if the price sounds reasonable enough. As you’re equipping your office, whether it’s at home or at another site, look for sales and special deals in print and online. It just seems wrong to buy anything (especially big ticket items like copiers/printers, computers, etc.) at full retail price when there are ALWAYS deals somewhere at all times. Yes, it may take a little research and time, but what you save will likely make it well worth your while.

 

Frugality Pays Off  

Don’t confuse frugality with being cheap. There’s a difference.

 

If you’re frugal, you’re economically savvy and conscious of getting the best products and services at the best possible price.

 

Cheap means wanting whatever costs the very least regardless of quality.

 

Frugality will give you the wherewithal to cut costs without compromising your business integrity and reputation.

One Blogging Shortcut To Slash The Time You Spend Writing

Don Purdum of Unveil The Web recently wrote a blog post about how to write a blog post in 15 minutes or less using the Alarm ClockDragon Dictation app for IOS.

 

Naturally, it caught my attention. I’m always game for saving time if quality isn’t compromised in the process.

 

Although I personally doubted my ability to write a substantive, polished blog post in 15 minutes using any trick of the trade, I wanted to find out if dictating a post would make me more efficient.

 

I almost looked into buying Dragon Dictation on Android, but then realized I could convert voice to text using the Gmail app on my phone.

 

Yep. Gmail. The capability of dictating an email has been there for a long time, but I’ve very rarely used it. I never really found the need or desire to—until now.

 

So, I thought I’d give it a try.

 

  1. I dictated a very rough 572-word draft of this post in 8 minutes while sitting in my Jeep waiting for my daughter after her play rehearsal at school.
  2. I then copied the text from Gmail into Word.
  3. And then I edited the draft to create what you’re reading here.

 

How Did Dictating a Blog Post In Gmail Go?

All in all, it appears Gmail’s speech-to-text feature functions much like how Don described Dragon Dictation does.

It spells most words correctly—with a few exceptions here and there. And with the proper voice prompts, it adds punctuation. When instructed, it adds commas, periods, question marks, exclamation points, and colons. I found I needed to use the singular form (e.g., “comma” vs. “commas”) for the app to recognize and insert the marks; otherwise it would spell out the word. I could also start new paragraphs by saying, “new paragraph.” Semicolons and parentheses evaded me, so I’ll have to do some research to see if there’s a way to “talk” them into the text.

 

A Couple Of Gmail Speech-To-Text Quirks

  • If I paused too long between words or sentences, I’d need to tap the microphone in the app to continue recording.
  • I haven’t figured out how to command it to backspace if I want to remove what I said or correct a spelling error. But you can use the manually backspace icon next to the microphone to accomplish that.

 

A Happy Ending: Newfound Blogging Efficiency

This 522-word post required a total of 54 minutes to compose and edit. I estimate it would have taken me approximately an hour and a half without using the Gmail voice-to-text feature for the initial draft.

 

I think after getting more accustomed to dictation, the overall process will go even more efficiently. If my spoken thoughts had been more organized in this experiment, it would have taken me less editing time.

 

I’m definitely going to use this method for future blog posts. It provided a nice break from pounding out every keystroke, and it saved time.

 

Have you used a dictation app or other voice-to-text feature to begin drafts of your blog posts? I’d love to hear what has work for you and share it with my readers.

Are You Up To Speed On The Recent Facebook Page Updates?

These aren’t exactly breaking news, but if you’re not a social media community manager responsible for multiple Facebook business pages, two recent changesFacebook-Page-On-Mac may have slid under your radar.

 

Even though I post to my page daily, I hadn’t noticed them until about a week ago. I figure a few more of you solopreneurs and small business owners out there —and others you know—might have skipped over them, too.

 

Post Attribution Feature For Facebook Business Pages

Previously, Facebook enabled you to use pages as your personal self or as a page that you manage. When you chose one or the other, anything you did on that page—post an update, like, or comment—was done as whatever entity you were using the page as. Now Facebook has given us more flexibility by adding the capability to choose on a post-by-post basis. On each post, you get a drop-down box where you can choose from your personal self or one of the pages you manage.

Facebook Page Post Attribution Feature

You can read Facebook’s explanation here, but I think you’ll find these details helpful as well:

  • You need to be using Facebook via your personal account, not logged in as your page, to see the post attribution option.
  • The Facebook post attribution option is available on the pages you manage. You will see the option on posts when you’re visiting your page AND when you see your page’s posts in your newsfeed.
  • By default, your first choice on the attribution menu will be the page you’re on or—in the case of the newsfeed—the page that made the post.

This change will help companies infuse the personal touch on their business pages by making it more convenient for page admins to facilitate conversations and interact with others person to person instead of logo to person.

 

New Location for Facebook Schedule Feature

Although not a new feature, the scheduling option has moved. You could previously find the associated clock icon at the bottom left when creating a new post, but now it is somewhat hidden. You’ll still find it at the bottom of the post you’re crafting, but you’ll need to first select the up/down arrows directly to the left of the “Post” button. As always has been the case, you can only schedule a post when you’re directly on your Facebook page. You cannot schedule a post when posting from your news feed.

Facebook-schedule-feature-new-placement

At the time that I’m writing this blog post, Facebook’s Help Center hasn’t yet updated their instructions for scheduling posts. According to what I found on social media master Mari Smith’s page, Facebook is likely testing the new scheduling location on some, but not all, pages. Do you see it on yours?

 

New Save Draft Option

At the time of this post, this feature hasn’t been rolled out to everyone yet, but some page admins can now save draft posts. Along with the scheduling option, it’s located via the Post button dropdown. Thank goodness. Now you don’t have to completely abort a new post if you get interrupted or need to leave for a meeting before you’ve finished it.

 

What Do You Think Of The Recent Facebook Page Changes?

If you’ve been using the new post attribution feature, I’d love to hear about your experience with it so far. Do you see it helping you personalize interactions and make your page more approachable?

What do you think of the new location for scheduling your posts? A bit too hidden or intuitive enough that it really doesn’t make a difference?

And what about the new “Save Draft” feature? Please share your thoughts on that one. Time and hassle saver or nice, but not really necessary?

My Move From P.C. to Mac

It was time for a change. The Acer laptop that had served me well (although lately at a snail’s pace) will soon celebrate its sixth year, and I realize its days are Macbook Pronumbered. Although I have all my files backed up in the cloud, I decided to take a proactive approach rather than wait for my business to come to a temporary halt when the hardware I depend on so much comes down crashing.

After much contemplation, grilling representatives at our local mall’s Apple Store, and asking advice both online and off from people who transitioned from P.C.s to Apple computers, I decided to get me a Mac.

That was one week ago.

Overall, so far, so good. But it hasn’t been all roses.

The Mac is slick. No doubt about that. But expect a learning curve to navigate if you decide to make the change.

Before I share about the hurdles I’ve experienced, let me first say I really, really, really like my Macbook Pro.

    • It boots up and shuts down in the blink of an eye.
    • It’s quick as a whip offline and online (unless you’ve got a shoddy internet connection).
    • It’s super thin and light, which will make by back happy when I need to go on the road.
    • Viruses are less of a threat than with P.C.s. (All signs point to this anyway.)
    • And the lighted keyboard…well, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post at nearly 9 p.m. on my back patio without any other source of illumination if I didn’t have it!

I’m extremely happy with my decision to buy my Mac. But it’s different than a P.C.

Change is good, but it can also be frustrating.

The challenges I’ve faced during the process of acclimation going from P.C. to Mac include:

The Lay of the Land on a Mac

Finding your stuff on a Mac requires some retraining if you’re coming from the P.C. environment.

  • On a Mac, you access your primary programs and apps on the “Dock.” It’s the strip at the bottom of your screen. It goes away when you’re working in an app, but it will pop back up when you drag your cursor to the bottom of your screen.
  • All of your programs are in the Launchpad. It’s simple to get to via a single click on the rocket icon on your Dock.
  • Your files are in Finder (smiley face icon on your Dock).

Not crazy tough to get used to, but you might find it not altogether intuitive at first.

Gmail and Mac Mail – Not a match made in heaven.

Mail is the Mac equivalent (for lack of a better way of explaining it) of Outlook for P.C.s. While I didn’t have problems connecting both my personal Gmail and Google Apps business Gmail account to it, I discovered a few usability snafus. I like the capability to access my separate personal and professional email inboxes in one place and to easily toggle between them, but starred emails from both accounts get all lumped together in a “flagged” box. I also discovered that unless a particular setting is changed, emails sent through the Mail app appear in Gmail as open drafts even though they successfully reached their recipients. Confused, I proceeded to resend clients email messages they already received.

Ultimately, I decided to disconnect my Gmail accounts from Mail and access them in Chrome as I always have.

Pages — It’s like Microsoft Word, but not really!

Having used Word alone (except for the few instances when clients needed me to craft documents in Google Docs) for many years, I find Apple’s word processing app to function somewhat similar to Word, but not nearly identical to it. Granted, in time I’m sure I’d figure it out, but after four days I downloaded Office for my Mac. As much as I need to use a word processing tool in my business, I couldn’t deal with the unfamiliarity factor. Plus, before I put Office on my Mac, I had to save my Pages documents as Word documents before I shared them to ensure clients could open them. Extra work? No thanks! Word 2011 for Mac works nearly the same as the Word 2010 I have on my P.C.

If You Didn’t Use Keyboard Shortcuts Before, You’ll Need to Start

As a P.C. laptop user, right clicking to perform functions like copy and paste was my way. I could do that using the P.C.’s built-in laptop mouse, but not with the Macbook Pro mouse. Instead, you need to use the Command key to make those sorts of functions happen (for example: Command + C for copy and Command + V for paste). However, I can right click when attaching my USB mouse to my Mac, which is great for when I’m working from my home office work station. For times when I’m mobile, however, I’ll need to familiarize myself with the keyboard shortcuts to work more productively.

As I said earlier, I’m happy with my Macbook Pro. The more I use it, the more I’m understanding why nearly everyone I’ve talked with is a stark, raving fan.

I expect I will be, too, after a little time.

If you’re considering making the investment (at $1999 for the 15″ laptop, it really is an investment) and moving from a P.C. to a Mac, just prepare for a transition that’s not completely seamless.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

 

Quick and Easy HTML for When Your WordPress Blog Post’s Formatting Gets Fubared

If you craft your blog posts in the Visual Editor in WordPress, I’m guessing you’ve occasionally encountered momentsWordpress Visual Editor and Text Editor Modes when, no matter what you try and retry, you can’t get the formatting to stick.

Frustrating! And it can consume far more time than you anticipated spending on your post.

Luckily, there are some quick HTML tag fixes anyone – including YOU – can add to format posts if WordPress’s Visual Editor isn’t playing nice.

Just switch from Visual Editor to the Text Editor mode and follow these simple instructions:

HTML to Add Subheadings

Occasionally, the Visual Editor mode will get temperamental when formatting headings. If you want text to be formatted as h2 or h3 etc. and get weary from haggling with the Visual mode, here’s how to remedy the problem:

 Using h2 as an example…

Go into the Text Editor and add <h2> before the text you want to be formatted as an h2 and then add </h2>* at the end of the text you want formatted that way.

Here’s how the above h2 content looks in the Text Editor of my post: <h2>HTML to Add Subheadings</h2>

For h3 and h4, do the same, but replace with <h3> </h3> or< h4> </h4> for those levels of subheadings.

*Always place a backslash ( / ) before the h in your second set of chevrons (< >). If you don’t,  the text after your subheadings will also be formatted as a subheading.

HTML to Create a New Paragraph

Here’s how to separate paragraphs in Text mode  if the Visual side of WordPress is putting up a fight:

Type <p> directly in front of the first word in your new paragraph and then </p> at the very end of your paragraph.

<p>Your paragraph will look like this in the Text Editor. Not too tough, right? After the punctuation at the end of your paragraph is where you will close it.</p>

HTML to Add Space Between Paragraphs

Thank goodness for this one…I lost count of how many times I hit return in Visual mode to add an additional space between paragraphs, saved my draft, and then previewed my post only to find the space disappeared.

By entering the below code directly after or underneath the paragraph where you want the extra space, you’ll essentially be adding a blank paragraph to create the white space you’re trying to add.

<p> &nbsp; </p>

HTML to Add a Line Break

If you’re trying to separate a piece of text by moving it to the line below it (without making a new paragraph), simply add:

<br> after the last word that you want to remain on the original line.

I’ve done it here,<br> HTML tag
so you can see how it works.
Notice I have the <br> tag after the words “here,” and “works.”

 HTML to Add Font Features

You can add some quick code to format your font, too.

<b>bolds text</b>
<i>italicizes text</i>
<u>underlines text</u>

Tip: If the mere thought of going into HTML land makes you break out in hives or into a cold sweat; fear not. You can stay in the Visual Editor and accomplish font formatting without having to enter HTML coding.

Just highlight the text you want to format and use the applicable keyboard shortcuts:

Ctrl + b (to make text bold)
Ctrl + i (to italicize text)
Ctrl + u (to underline text)

 Some final advice…

You might notice after you add code into the Text Editor, if you leave it to view your post in the Visual Editor and then go back into Text, things might looks different than they did before. For example, where I entered <br> for those line breaks we talked about earlier, the Text Editor no longer shows “<br>, but instead displays the text with the line breaks as you see them live now. I really don’t know why that’s the case, but as long as the formatting is as I want it to be, it’s all good.

Got any additional quick and easy HTML tips to share? I’d love to read about them!

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

Things that Make Me Go “Hmmm…” on Twitter

I’m a big fan of Twitter. I use it primarily for business, and have met some phenomenal professionals through the Hmmm...dialogue bubbleplatform. Some of the relationships I’ve built through Twitter have carried over to mutually beneficial offline collaborations. But there are a few things some Twitter users do that don’t make much sense to me.

Twitter practices that make me go “Hmmm…”

Retweeting a retweet of your tweets – If I retweet your tweet, a reply to say “thank you” or the gesture of clicking the little star to favorite the RT works just fine. If you want to show appreciation by reciprocating with a RT, it would be nice if you checked my timeline to find a tweet that is RT worthy and is relevant to your audience. Retweeting your own tweet seems a little self-centered. I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying it might seem that way to others.

Tweeting your daily Twitter stats from justunfollow – I’m not sure what purpose this serves. Why would you want to tweet how many people followed and unfollowed you each day? More importantly, why would anyone other than you care?

People who have a gazillion followers, but who only follow back a handful of people – Really? Out of all your thousands of followers, you can only find twenty or thirty who appear interesting? I get it, you want to keep your feed under control so you can interact more purposefully. But that’s what Twitter lists are for. Generally, when I see someone who has a highly disproportionate number of followers compared to those they’re following, I write them off as egotistical and elitist. Of course, you shouldn’t follow everyone who follows you, but if someone tweets content that’s relevant to your industry or otherwise shows some merit, acknowledge their value with a follow.

“Protecting” tweets –  I get it’s a privacy thing. But I’m not sure why anyone would join a social networking platform like Twitter, and then hide the content they’re sharing. Assuming you’re on Twitter to connect with more people and extend your reach, you’ll want to share your tweets so others can decide whether or not you’re someone they want to follow. While I suppose it’s possible you could use Twitter as a way to communicate only with a select, private group of people, other platforms are better suited for that (Facebook groups, a private G+ circle, email…)

Automating Direct Messages – Why do people do this?? There’s no shortage of blog posts dedicated to the topic of how much people despise auto DMs. For example: Nobody Likes Your Auto-DM, Death to the Auto DM on Twitter, 4 Reasons to Abandon the Twitter Automated Direct Message. I’m in the camp of folks who find auto DMs annoying, impersonal, disingenuous, and typically presumptuous (many take the leap that because I followed them, I’m game for a sales pitch or would gain by liking their Facebook page). While I don’t unfollow everyone who sends an automated DM, I know people who do ax anyone who puts DMs on auto-pilot. Seems the risk outweighs the unlikely reward, so why take the chance. Put the stops on that auto DM now.

If you do any of the above, I mean you no harm or disgrace. What works for – and makes sense to – each of us on social media can be vastly different. You’re entitled to do whatever you want with the Twitter account you maintain… and there are surely things I do that make you go “Hmmm….”

Your turn! What Twitter practices are your pet peeves?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Making Klout Matter: 2 Tips For Making It a Better Measure of Your PROFESSIONAL Online Influence

Klout has flaws, but it also has merit

Klout has come under fire by many who are quick to point out its flaws in measuring online influence. I agree that Klout Klout   The Standard for Influencescores are best taken with a grain of salt; what you see may not accurately represent someone’s professional influence.  But I do believe that Klout provides some value to small biz owners and solopreneurs – IF you set up your account thoughtfully and IF you use it to monitor your own progress in building influence rather than fixating on the Klout scores of others.

To monitor your professional influence, only link Klout with your professional social network accounts

Because most of us participate on social networks both professionally and personally, it’s easy to blur the lines when looking at our online influence through tools like Klout.  How well – or not – Klout represents your professional online influence is largely up to you.  If you connect your Klout account with social accounts that you primarily use for personal reasons where you’ve got a ton of back and forth with mom, dad, grandma, sons, daughters, cousins, gym partners, church friends, etc. about your favorite food of the day, pics from a party, pet tricks and that sort of thing, you could end up with a Klout score that rivals that of Brian Solis, but that doesn’t represent your influence as your professional self. If you want to use Klout to monitor your professional influence, only connect it with the social accounts that you use primarily for business purposes.

Use Klout to track your progress in gaining influence; don’t compare yourself to others

As I mentioned earlier, the accuracy of Klout depends a lot on how you set up your account. You can’t control how others set up their accounts, so don’t compare your Klout score with that of others. Instead, use it as a tool for monitoring your success in building your professional influence online. Take note of how posting and interacting (or failing to do so) on your connected networks impacts your score. And use Klout’s various dashboard features to determine which networks are showing the most promise in building online relationships that could lead to new business.

Klout Dashboard view

While I’m not glued to reviewing it daily, I periodically like to check my Klout dashboard to get a pulse on the various activity I’ve gotten on my individual social networks.  A few of the things I find interesting:

  • The network breakdown of how much each individual social channel is contributing to my Klout score.
  • The specific interactions – and the weight they carry – that had an impact on my influence over the past 90 days.
  • The summary data for each of my connected networks (which provides a glimpse of the activity each network has seen over the past 3 months).

For the skinny on how Klout works (including how it calculates your score, how others influence your score and how you influence the scores of others), check out the Klout website’s “How it Works” page.

Again, I don’t dwell on my Klout score (and don’t advise that you dwell on yours). But I do believe Klout – if you set up your account to focus on your professional social networks – provides a decent way of baselining your level of online influence and following how well you’re doing at improving upon it.

By Dawn Mentzer

What are your thoughts on Klout? Do you regularly use it to gauge your online influence?

25 Worst – and Most Risky – Passwords that You Should NEVER Use

Secure Passwords Are Often a Passing Thought

Yes. As sensible solopreneurs and small business owners, we know we should create passwords that are long, random and Protecting your online passwordsdifferent for every online site we access so hackers can’t crack them so easily.

No. A lot of us don’t do that.

Why? It’s a pain in the @$#. Who has the time and patience to keep track of unique login info for ten…twenty…thirty sites? And what’s the point? With hackers using sophisticated techniques, does it really make a difference?

According to Kevin Doel, spokesperson for SplashData (developer of the popular SplashID password management software), although hackers have more and more tools at their disposal, they still look for easy targets.

In particular, hackers seek people who:

  • Stick with default or common passwords (admin, password, 12345, abc123)
  • Use the same passwords over and over again on different sites
  • Use short passwords of less than 7 or 8 characters
  • Don’t change passwords often
  • Write down passwords or put them in a spreadsheet or other unprotected document

The Bad and the Ugly in Passwords

Every year, SplashData compiles its annual list of “Worst Passwords” representing the most common passwords used on the Internet and posted by hackers. If you use any of these passwords, you’re among the most likely to be victims in future breaches.

On SplashData’s most recent list, “password” (uh…no comment!) reclaimed it’s #1 ranking.  But “Jesus” has made His debut on the list – giving hackers a reason to sing “Hallelujah!” And the hacker’s savior is joined by “ninja”, “mustang,” and “password1.”

The top three passwords on this year’s list – “password,” “123456,” and “12345678” – remain unchanged from the previous list.

Top 25 Worst Passwords:

1. password
2. 123456
3. 12345678
4. abc123
5. qwerty
6. monkey
7. letmein
8. dragon
9. 111111
10. baseball
11. iloveyou
12. trustno1
13. 1234567
14. sunshine
15. master
16. 123123
17. welcome
18. shadow
19. ashley
20. football
21. jesus
22. michael
23. ninja
24. mustang
25. password1

“SplashData compiled this list from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers,” explains Doel. “They advise consumers or businesses using any of the passwords on the list to change them immediately.”

By posting an annual list of frequently used passwords, SplashData aims to demonstrate that many people continue to put themselves – and even their customers in some cases – at risk by using weak, easily guessable passwords. The company hopes to motivate people to adopt stronger passwords. More complex passwords really can protect individuals, small business owners – and their identities – from criminals.

While the tools for hacking into accounts get more sophisticated, thieves continue to prefer easy targets.  That’s why even a just a little more effort in selecting better passwords will go a long way toward making you safer online. “These days, your most valuable asset is digital information,” says Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData. “Just think of the implications if someone got access to your usernames, passwords, email, and online accounts.”

And that happens all too often because hackers are skilled at discovering or guessing information that lets them log in to  people’s accounts and services on the web.

How can you make your passwords more secure?

SplashData recommends that you do the following to help protect your passwords from hackers:

  • Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. To create longer, more secure passwords that will be easy to remember, consider using short words with spaces or other characters separating them. Some examples: “bake pie at 9!” or “car_drive_city?”
  • Don’t use the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Whenever you sign up for a new website, use a password you’re not using for any other website. Particularly risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking, and financial services.

So how on earth can you remember so many different passwords? Don’t even try! Instead, consider using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and that can log you into websites automatically.

Given what’s at stake – your identity, client information, your bank accounts… – it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to strengthen passwords and protect yourself from hackers.

You’re turn! How do you manage your passwords? Please share about what’s been working for you to keep your passwords organized and secure.

Image courtesy of foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Time-Saving Chrome Extensions that Rock for Solopreneurs

Like so many other time-strapped solopreneurs, I’m constantly on the lookout for tools that can save me time. Saved time means increased productivity – because there’s more of it up for grabs to get things done!

Often, it’s not just one big whopping tool that will make all the difference…it’s a combination of several that will help you work smarter. And if you’re a Chrome user, choosing – and consistently using – some well-performing extensions will give you the ability to conserve minutes (or even hours) every day and let you accomplish more.

My Personal “Couldn’t Live Without” Favorite Chrome Extensions:

G+ Button
Google Plus +1 Extension

This extension makes it super easy to +1 and share a web page to your circles on Google+ without going directy to your G+ profile or page. When you’ve read a blog post or happen upon a web page that’s worth sharing, you simply need to click on the little G+1 icon on your browser bar. A window then pops up which automatically attaches the link to the page you’re on and +1s the page.  It also allows you to write a status update and choose which circles or individuals you want to share it with on G+. Because I don’t use any scheduling utility for Google+, this extension is essential in my book. You can find it and download it for free at the Google Chrome Web Store

Hootsuite Hootlet Link Share
Hootlet Extension for Chrome

If you use Hootsuite, you’ll want to install this extension ASAP. Like the G+1 extension, it lets you to post to your Hootsuite account (and the networks you access through it) without directly going to your Hootsuite dashboard.  When you’re on a web page/blog post that’s perfect for your audience, just click on the Hootsuite Hootlet icon on your browser and the Hootsuite “Create a New Message” box will open so you can craft your tweet or status update (the link to the page you were visiting will automatically be shortened), select the networks you want to share it on, and either send right away or schedule it. You can download the Hootlet Link Share extension from the Extensions page of Hootsuite.com

LastPass
LastPass for Chrome
Passwords, passwords everywhere. LastPass has been a lifesaver! It’s a free secure online password manager and form filler that lets you bypass digging out your individual passwords for the multitude of apps, networks and tools you use on the web.  I love, love, love it because I don’t have to worry about remembering individual passwords every time I want to log in to a site.  After setting up a single password for your “LastPass Vault” and  loading the individual password info for the sites that you regularly (or not so regularly) log into (think social media networks, Google, wireless phone account, productivity tools, online banking, etc.), life gets instantaneously easier and more secure.  LastPass encrypts your data to keep it safe and then fills in your login info whenever you visit a site that you stored in your vault.  No guessing, “what was that password again?” or digging through sticky notes or index cards to find your passwords.

Evernote Web Clipper
Evernote Web Clipper Extension for Chrome
If you’re an avid Evernote user, the Web Clipper Extension is a must. It’s perfect for when you’re on a web page that you want to save for future reference because it’s got info you can use for a blog post or because you quite simply don’t have enough time to read it on the spot, It streamlines the process of saving important web pages to Evernote. No need to go through the steps of copying the link, logging into Evernote and pasting the URL into your Evernote notebook of choice. Instead, you just need to click on the Evernote Web Clipper extension. You’ll then see a window that gives you a variety of options for how you want to save the info on the page. You can save the article, a specific selection from the page, the full page, or the URL.  You can also save it as a PDF or email it to someone. You also choose the Evernote notebook you want to save it in, and you can add tags to categorize it and comments to remind yourself of why you saved it in the first place.  To download it for free, go to the Web Clipper page on Evernote’s website.

Webpage and Webcam Screenshot
Webpage and Webcam Screenshot Extension for Chrome

This free extension lets you capture just a screenshot or 100% of the content appearing on any webpage.  I use it primarily to capture all content on webpages for which I wrote the content so I can save it for sharing in my professional portfolio.  The extension saves the content in a PNG file and then I convert it to a PDF so the text is a readable size. Also sweet about this extension is that you can easily share any webpage to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Evernote, WordPress, Blogger, Google Drive or by email. You can download the Webpage and Webcam Screenshot extension from the Chrome Web Store.

Your turn! Which extensions save you time, boost productivity, and give you capabilities to help you work smarter?

 

Top Solopreneur “Time Wasters” That Might Be Putting the Stops on Your Productivity

If there’s anything that can make or break a solopreneur’s ability to accomplish everything that goes along withTime is money running a solo business, it’s self-discipline.

If you’re focused on what you need to do and militant about keeping on top of tasks, following up, and staying organized, you’ll get a lot done.

If you’re easily distracted and let your time and attention meander to things that won’t move you closer to your deliverables and goals, you’re probably spinning your wheels most of the time.

According to Kevin Doel, who reached out to me on behalf of OfficeTime, there’s no shortage of time wasting activities that stand between freelancers (and other solopreneurs) and an otherwise productive workday.

This year, OfficeTime surveyed business owners, freelancers and other working professionals to find out what self-initiated time killers thwart their productivity.

Nearly 400 freelancers/solopreneurs participated. When asked which time-wasting activities they partake in for more than 1 hour each day…

  • 53% said email.
  • 47% said surfing the internet.
  • 42% said watching TV.
  • 33% said procrastination (technically, a “non-activity” activity).
  • 24% said non-business related conversations.

I’m assuming, but not sure, that the respondents were considering non-work-related email and net surfing as the time wasters. I know I – as do many freelancers – need to do a fair share of professionally necessary emailing and internet searching.

The watching TV percentage floored me – again, assuming that the respondents meant TV watching during their workday.

Some other interesting statistics from the OfficeTime survey:

  • 63% of solopreneurs believe they don’t waste more time now than they did when they worked for someone else.
  • 77% say they waste time because of feeling stressed. Nearly the same amount reported “feeling inspired” by wasting time and that “other activities are more fun than real work.”
  • 82% track time because it enables them to invoice more accurately.
  • 43% find Tuesday to be their most productive day.
  • 47% say Friday is their least productive day.

Interesting! So how can all this help you as a solopreneur?

Because we’re solely responsible for the success of our businesses, we need to make our days as productive as possible. That means thinking about how we spend our time and making changes if we find patterns that are sabotaging our efforts to succeed.

We ALL waste time sometimes. Doing it a little bit is OK, but doing it a lot is solopreneurial suicide.

Are time wasters coming between you and your professional potential?

My thanks to Kevin Doel and OfficeTime for allowing me to share their survey results. If you want to get a better understanding of where your time is spent each day, you might consider a time tracking tool like OfficeTime.

 

Image courtesy of CoolDesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net