Couldn’t We All Use A Little More Of This One Thing In The New Year?

 

You might have thought I was referring to money, but that’s not it.Yin Yang symbol

 

While most of us welcome the free flow of cash into our small businesses, there’s something else that’s a bare essential for our success—and for our sanity. It’s often difficult to acquire and equally hard to maintain.

 

Patience.

 

I admit it; I often lack it—particularly during rare but aggravating extended periods of non-stop misfortunes, miscellaneous challenges, and mishaps. I’m guessing you’re no stranger to those streaks. None of us is immune to them.

 

I’m in the midst of one of those uncharacteristic phases now…in October, our 11-year-old boxer mix, Luna, passed away. In mid-November, we adopted a 7-month-old rescue pit bull puppy, Lulu, who is the epitome of stubbornness. A week after adopting Lulu, my husband broke his ankle, rendering me the sole dog walker, trash taker-outer, meal maker, etc. And my 90-year-old grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse, and she is on her deathbed.

 

No violin music, please. I know a lot of people are dealing with situations far more dire, but it has been challenging nonetheless.

 

And so, my patience has been put to the test. And it has failed as much or more often than it has passed.

 

When we lose our patience, our loved ones—those who give us unconditional love—are the people who typically bear the brunt of it.

 

And impatience can put a hurting on our businesses, too, if we don’t recognize its signs and make an attitude adjustment in time.

 

Potential Small Business Pitfalls From Lack of Patience

 

  • Inability to take well-meaning constructive criticism favorably
  • Sending “short” emails that have an air of annoyance
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Difficulty thinking creatively
  • Exuding tension and frustration on calls (or in meetings) with customers
  • Impaired flexibility in accommodating the unexpected
  • Avoidance of business-building networking events

 

These side effects of impatience can kill productivity, stop growth in its tracks, and leave a bad impression on clients.

 

Unfortunately, curbing impatience doesn’t always come easily, and being in business presents more than enough adversity to wear on entrepreneurs’ tolerance.

As a small business owner, you deal with all sorts of headaches, including:

  • Employees or subcontractors who aren’t reliable.
  • Clients who have unreasonable expectations.
  • Prospects who balk at your rates and question your value.
  • Tech issues with your smart phone, website, laptop, etc.
  • Projects that don’t go according to plan.

 

So how do you find the patience to deal with all of that and more? It requires awareness and, ironically, patience with our own selves and our inability to control everything to a T.

 

I wouldn’t say it’s a New Year’s resolution per se, but as 2016 comes around the bend, I have promised myself to be more aware of and to give pause to how I react to and respond in trying times. I’ve given myself permission to exercise patience with myself in order to exhibit more patience toward others in stressful situations.

 

I wish you patience in the New Year, too, along with whatever else you have your sights set on personally and professionally.

 

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Good Product Or Service At A Good Price Isn’t Always Enough

When you’re a small business owner, your product or services and price will only take you so far. If your customers don’t feel appreciated, they’ll eventually walkThe-Little-Things away.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked me if I had ever attended the local martial arts studio her son is enrolled in. I hadn’t, but I know of the owners because they had attended the same studio I did in years gone by. My friend told me, although the owners are fantastic with the kids and offer a wonderful training program at a fair price, she’s planning to find a different studio for her son.

Great with kids. Excellent program. Good price. What’s the problem?

It’s simple—and sad.

The owners seem to think it’s too much trouble or just plain don’t think it’s necessary to acknowledge students’ parents with as little as a smile or a “hello” when they arrive at their studio.

End result: They are going to lose business because they aren’t willing to put forth the minimal effort needed to show they value their paying customers.

As small business owners, we’re human. We all get busy or distracted or stressed or frustrated and might slip up in showing our customers the appreciation they deserve. But NEVER can we let it become a habit. We can never take it for granted that our skills, products, or price will carry the load for us.

We have to put forth genuine effort and energy to show customers we value them. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t usually require that much of either.

Smile freely.

Say “Thank you” often.

Care.

A little can go a long way.

Avoid This Fatal Small Business Mistake

Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) is around the corner. It’s a time for celebrating the benefits of having small businesses in the Work for itlocal community and rallying to support them. American Express’s “Shop Local” mantra is the call to support local small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Yes, small business owners, this day is for you!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to try.

Being a local small business doesn’t mean people are obligated to support you. You have to do your part, and you need to make customers feel appreciated.

Examples Of Doing Small Business The Wrong Way

I recently had two encounters with local small businesses that failed to recognize that. I won’t call them out by name, but I will share my experience with each.

 

  1. My husband and I were recently at a business event where a business owner of an entertainment venue complained about the community not coming out to attend performances. His tone and his attitude made me feel like he was pointing the finger at us, even though we regularly support his business. While he may not have meant it personally, that’s how I took it. In his frustration and discontent with the local community’s support, he lumped us—long-time customers—into the bunch. I left feeling like he doesn’t appreciate our business. And now I really don’t have much interest in going back any time soon.
  2. Second example is the interaction I recently had with the insurance agent and company that provided my family’s homeowners insurance. As we were working with a pitbull rescue to adopt a furry family member, I contacted our agent to see if our policy had any restrictions on the breeds of dogs we could have to maintain our policy. She responded by emailing a clause from the insurance company that indicates pit bulls couldn’t be covered. I asked her for additional information regarding our options…then radio silence. After several days of no response from her, we switched both our homeowners and auto insurance policies to State Farm—who, by the way, has stellar local customer service.

The Lesson For Small Business Owners

Being local doesn’t mean you can take your customers for granted. It doesn’t mean local people must shop at your store or select you to provide their services simply because you’re a local company.

You have to earn their business, and you have to appreciate them.

The Scary Side of Self-Employment

Halloween isn’t exactly my favorite time of year. Scary movies, scary costumes, scary thoughts of my kid not looking before Self-employmentrunning across the street to the next house’s candy stash—it’s all a little unnerving.

 

This year, I’m facing my fears head-on by volunteering at local nonprofit theater organization’s “Zombie Fest” event. I’ll be dressing as a zombie. I’ll be assisting at a photo station, snapping pics of other people dressed as zombies. And I’ll be helping to set up and clean up after a showing of the popular cult classic Night Of The Living Dead.

 

My skin crawls and I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

 

Standing up to fear. That’s something small business owners and solopreneurs do every day. Starting and running your own business is a scary proposition. It’s an endeavor fraught with uncertainty and the unexpected.

 

Here are a just a few of the fears you face when you’re self-employed:

 

  • Rejection
  • Income that fluctuates
  • Unreasonable clients
  • Entering networking functions alone
  • Competition
  • Losing a client
  • Cost of health care insurance
  • No paid vacation
  • Delivering your elevator speech to a roomful of people
  • Scope creep
  • No sick days
  • Charging too little
  • Trolls on social media
  • Too little billable work
  • Too much work

 

It takes courage, a willingness to work hard, and an overarching attitude of optimism to overcome these fears so they don’t disable you with dread.

 

As I don my zombie garb and go beyond my comfort zone this Halloween, I’ll think of you, my self-employed friends. Stay brave and show those things that go bump in the night who is boss.

Your turn! What other fears have you had to overcome as a solopreneur or small biz owner?

Lighten Up! Business Humor To Cure What Ails You

After a take-no-prisoners week of working our @$$es off, I believe a little humor is in order. We’ve earned it, right?Man laughing loudly

And according to the Mayo Clinic, laughter brings both short-term and long-term stress-relief benefits including:

  • Increasing oxygen flow to vital organs.
  • Releasing stress-squashing endorphins.
  • Facilitating muscle relaxation.
  • Boosting immunity.
  • Easing physical pain.
  • Decreasing depression.

All the more reason to take some time out for a good belly laugh. And where better to go for one than the creative satire of The Onion?

Here are a few gems from “America’s Finest News Source” (in no particular order of hilarity) that poke fun at work and business.

I hope you’ll find them as therapeutic as I do:

  1. Website’s Built-In Search Engine Just Pathetic
  2. Heartless Monster Walks Out Of Local Small Business Without Buying Anything
  3. Woman Has No Business Being An Extrovert
  4. Report: Employees Most Innovative When Brainstorming Dramatic Quitting Scenarios
  5. Man Too Deep Into Sentence To Avoid Saying Word He Can’t Pronounce
  6. Job Applicant Blows Away Interviewer With Intimate Knowledge Of Company’s ‘About Us’ Page
  7. Going-Out-Of-Business Sign Thanks Neighborhood For 3 Months Of No Support Whatsoever
  8. HR Director Reminds Employees That Any Crying Done At Office Must Be Work-Related

I feel better already, how about you?

Now get back to work!

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Took A 9-Day Break From Social Media—And I (And My Business) Survived!

At about this time during last summer, I believed it was ultra-important for my personal brand to stay current and engaged online even while I was taking a On-Vacationvacation break from work otherwise. I tweeted, posted to my business Facebook page, interacted on Google Plus, and even made a few new connections and published a post on LinkedIn while vacationing in Port Isabel, TX, just across the Queen Isabella Causeway, which stretches over the Laguna Madre Bay to South Padre Island.

During this year’s vacation, I didn’t. I did nada on social media for nine days (with the exception of liking a handful of photos on Instagram that my daughter posted and requested I show some love to during our Walt Disney World vacation).

That’s right. I ignored social media. I didn’t post any photos (until after I returned home); I didn’t share links to articles about small business, productivity, or marketing; I didn’t send invitations to connect (nor accept any) on LinkedIn; and I didn’t scan my news feeds to see what any individuals or businesses were up to.

And guess what?

  • The sky didn’t fall.
  • Earth continued to spin on its axis.
  • The sun rose and set as usual.
  • Lightning didn’t strike me.

But more important, I didn’t lose clients and I didn’t lose any killer opportunities as a result of me choosing to live life offline and give my online activities a rest.

I should disclose that my Klout score dropped three points from 60 to 57 during my hiatus. But who gives a darn about that?

Anyways, contrary to what you may have been told, taking a limited break from social media may not be as bad for your business and personal brand as you fear. If you’ve told your clients that you’ll be gone, if you’ve finished any work that you promised to complete before you departed on your getaway, and if you’ve provided status updates on any assignments that are mid-project, you’ve likely got all in a good holding pattern.

Particularly when you’re a solopreneur with no staff to hold down the fort, your audience will understand you’re human and need time away from it all. And if they’re that dependent on what you share that they can’t go for a week or so without any content or interaction with you, they need to seek some professional help aside from yours!

When you’re on vacation, why not live in the moment and be present in the fun with your loved ones and friends rather than worry about garnering likes, comments, and shares online? As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That goes for you Jills out there, too.

When was the last time you unplugged from social media?

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Guilty Pleasures

 

 

Guilty pleasures.Guilty Pleasures

Those harmless, little indulgences we enjoy, but feel like we shouldn’t because others would think us silly (or insane).

I have them. You have them. Everyone has them.

So strong is their lure that we can’t help but give ourselves over to them despite the risks of ridicule and whispering behind our backs.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

My guilty pleasures? Here they are in no particular order:

  • CBS’s “Survivor” – I haven’t missed a single season since the show began in 2000.
  • Thrift shopping – I love getting good stuff on the cheap.
  • “Gilligan’s Island” – I own all three seasons on DVD.
  • Rummaging through Walmart’s $5 DVD bin – I scored “Clueless” and “Legally Blonde” last week.

My most embarrassing guilty pleasure by far, however, is one that sadly no longer exists: “Flavor of Love” on VH1.

And now you know. No more secrets.

Three reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty about your guilty pleasures.

Provided your guilty pleasures aren’t at the expense of anyone else’s well-being and they don’t turn into an excuse not to tend to responsibilities when you need to, embrace them.

Guilty pleasures can do you good.

  • They give you a much needed—and deserved—break.
  • They free your mind from worry.
  • They stimulate your creativity.
  • They strengthen the bonds with family and friends who share the same guilty pleasures.
  • They make you happy.

Yes, they might be awkward to admit to, but don’t feel guilty about having them.

Your turn! C’mon, be brave…comment here to share your guilty pleasures!

If you liked this post, you might like these, too:

Five Reasons Solopreneurs Should Get Away and Go Wild

 

Taking A Break Without Breaking Business Momentum

How Much Should You Pay For Content Writing?

As tough as it is for freelance writers to set their rates, it’s equally as difficult for clients to know whether they’re getting quoted a fair price.Price tag

When I started my freelance writing business over five years ago, I did some research to help me arrive at my pricing. What I found confused me more than helped me.

The disparity of rates among writers offering similar services is astounding.

Many freelance writers don’t post their rates on their websites. But to get a feel for the range of rates that are out there, a quick search of Upwork’s (formerly oDesk) writers turns up billable rates of $10 per hour to $100 per hour. That’s quite a variance.

As a writer, I’ll sometimes check my rates for reasonableness by using Writer’s Market’s “How Much Should I Charge” guide for writers. It lists an array of writing projects and provides “low,” “average,” and “high” rates when billing by the word or page, hourly, and by the project. The distance between the low and high ends, however, is often substantial. For example, the low rate for blogging is $6 per post and the high rate is $500.

No wonder you, as a client, don’t know what to expect or what to accept.

So what’s fair?

It depends.

What Makes A Writer Worth The Price?

Besides having solid writing talent, there are other things that set good writers apart and make them worth their rates:

  • They take the time to ask questions and understand the scope of projects before quoting a rate.
  • They want to understand your business, your prospects, your customers, and your objectives for the content before they start writing.
  • They meet deadlines.
  • They’re clear about what they’ll need from you and when they’ll need it to meet deadlines.
  • They’re collaborative and easy to get along with.
  • They’re professional and will represent your company with integrity if you ask them to interview sources outside of your organization.
  • They offer suggestions and ideas to make your project a success.
  • They approach freelancing as a serious business, not as a hobby.

The last bullet point is one I should expand upon. As small business owners, freelance writers have more than just their time on task to consider when setting their rates. They pay taxes, and they incur costs for things like their phones, internet, project management tools, proposal generators, insurance, computers, printers, office supplies, invoicing and bookkeeping software, fuel for their vehicles, accounting and legal consultations, business entity formation, website development and hosting, social media management tools, and the list goes on. And after all that, they need to pay themselves.

They also need to factor in the non-billable time they spend operating their businesses (reconciling bank and credit card statements, preparing invoices, following up with prospects, networking, organizing files, updating their social media and websites, staying up to date on industry news, dealing with tech issues, etc.).

Cheap Could Cost You.

It sounds cliché, but when contracting a writer, you will often get what you pay for. Dirt-cheap writers are often cheap for a reason.

Writers who don’t have the right skills or who don’t take their work seriously, could end up costing your business far more in the long run than what you’d pay a really good writer.

  • You could end up with content that sounds unprofessional.
  • You might find yourself spending your valuable time requesting a significant amount of corrections or changes to content that’s far off from what you asked for.
  • You could miss out on generating new business—or losing business—if assignments drag out past their deadlines.

All of those things can hurt your bottom line, so keep them in mind before you run from a writer who charges more than bargain basement rates.

Can you afford NOT to hire a good writer?

Two LinkedIn Messages That Might Mess Up Your First Impression

Linkedin-Inbox-screenshot

Within the past week, I received two LinkedIn messages that irritated me.

 

Why?

 

They didn’t respect my time.

 

Both senders required me to take time out of my packed schedule to help them accomplish their objectives when they could have easily taken action to accomplish them on their own.

 

I’ve gotten similar sorts of messages from other LinkedIn users in the past. I’m writing about this not to shame you or anyone else who has sent messages like these—I assume most are sent with good intentions. But if you’re sending messages like the two I’ll share in this post, you might not make that all-important best first impression.

 

Two Types Of LinkedIn Messages That Might Be A Turn-Off

 

1. We should connect, so here’s what you need to do to connect with me.

 

It goes something like this:

 

“Hi Dawn, My name is [fill in the blank] and I would like to add you to my LinkedIn Network. We are in the [fill in the blank] group together. Since we are a 2nd or 3rd connection, send me an invitation to connect ([the sender’s email address here]) so that we can stay in touch regarding future opportunities.”

 

The problem with this message: If the sender really wants to stay in touch with me, she could view my LinkedIn profile or my website to find my email address—and she could send me an invitation to connect.

 

Messages like this imply your time is expendable, but the sender’s needs to be protected.

 

The moral of the story: When you want to connect with people on LinkedIn, don’t make them do the work. Ask for an introduction from someone else who is already connected with them or find the information you need to initiate the invitation.

 

2. Repeat what you’ve already shared about yourself in your LinkedIn profile summary.

 

It goes something like this:

 

“Tell me more about what you do.”

 

The problem with this message:

At face value, the message is innocent enough; it’s an effort to engage and interact.

 

BUT, messages like this fail to mention why the sender would like to know more. If the job title and type of work of the sender don’t indicate any type of synergy between us, there doesn’t seem much point in me taking ten minutes out of my day to respond. And even if there is synergy, I’d like to know the reason and purpose for sharing more information about what I do.

 

If, like me, you provide a good amount of detail in your LinkedIn summary and experience fields, you might wonder if the sender looked at your profile at all. This general question would have us rewriting much of what’s already in our LinkedIn profiles. Who has time for that?

 

The moral of the story: Always read someone’s profile first and then ask specific questions about what they do—if you really want to know. And always share why you’re asking for more information. While most professionals are happy to respond to legitimate, purposeful requests for information, most don’t have time to spend 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there to reply to inquiries that have no apparent purpose.

 

Minutes Matter

Although neither of the pet peeves I’ve shared would individually squander hours of your time, minutes matter—and they add up. Just like you and me, our connections and prospective connections are busy professionals. Respecting their time is the first step to making a positive first impression.

 

Have any LinkedIn pet peeves? What types of messages irritate you?

Not Drinking Enough Water? Six Ways To Make It Less Wishy-Washy

We’ve all got ‘em. Those important self-care things that make a difference in our work performance and our attitude.Mint-infused water

 

I’ve written about mine in the past, and in this post I’m going to get a little more granular with one of the items on my list: Eating smart.

 

Well, not specifically eating smart…but drinking smart. Drinking water that is.

 

You’ve heard of “whistle while you work.” While that might boost your mood (and/or totally drive your colleagues insane), drinking water while you work is far more important. Hydration, even for those of us with cushy desk jobs, can make a big difference in how well we function.

 

Our bodies are made of approximately 60% water. And according to Health.com, lose just 1.5% of that and you could be facing mild dehydration.

 

If I haven’t had enough water throughout the day, I feel it physically and cognitively. I can’t concentrate well; I get a headache; I become a bit irritable.

 

Those side effects are signs of dehydration, and here are a few other symptoms you might experience if you’re not drinking enough water:

 

  • Bad breath
  • Feeling tired
  • Constipation

 

Nobody needs that.

 

Falling short?

Odds are you’re not getting enough water.

 

According to a 2013 study referenced by a story on ABCnews.com, 43% of men and 41% of women in America don’t take in the US Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily amount of water (128 oz. for men and 96 oz. for women).

 

But what if you’re one of those people who doesn’t find water’s blatant blandness appetizing?

 

I like water, but admit that it can become a little boring. Fortunately, I’ve found ways to jazz it up and make it a joy rather than a drag to drink.

 

Six Tips For Making Water Less Wish-Washy

  • Add mint—fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves (or drops of natural mint extract)
  • Add a slice of citrus—lime, lemon, orange, or pink grapefruit
  • Add berries—strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or another favorite
  • Add cucumber slices
  • Add sweet basil leaves
  • Mix it up—add mint and cucumber, or basil and mint, or cucumber and berries, or orange and basil…You get the idea.

 

By the pitcher, water bottle, or single serve glass, you’ll get the most flavor if you let your water infuse for a few hours. (But I admit I’m typically impatient and drink it after just minutes of infusing it.)

 

Drinking enough water is absolutely way up there on my list of daily wellness must dos. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to feel and perform better physically and mentally. Do you struggle with downing adequate amounts of H20? Perhaps you’ll find it more tastefully interesting (and find drinking it less of a task) if you try infusing it.

 

Give it a go, and comment here to let me know which flavors are your favorites.