Dawn At Your Service’s Blog

Subcontracting for Other VAs – Pros and Cons

One of the things I love best about sub-contracting for other Virtual Assistants is they GET IT!!! They know the business. They know the pet peeves. “Client training” is unnecessary. Virtual assistants know there is generally a 24-48 hour turn around (based on the type of assignment). They do not expect e-mail replies immediately. They are usually not demanding and totally respect your working hours. They know in life crap happens and don’t expect you to be at their beck and call. They understand what it’s like to run a business from home with kids, Dr’s appointments, cheer leading practice, parent teacher conferences and all of the other regular demands of parenting.

The learning curve as far as getting to know their business (which of course is a requirement in this line of work) basically only consists of knowing their personal policies. There may be a little learning involved as far as getting to know their clients’ businesses or project management software they use. But working WITH another VA is way easier than jumping on board with a client whose type of business you’re not familiar with. (An example for me would be an insurance agent.)

Notice how I stressed the word with above. A big pet peeve amongst the VA industry is being treating like an employee. We are not employees, we are partners. We own our own businesses and pay taxes too. Virtual Assistants are not employees, we are independent contractors working together with other independent contractors/small business owners to collaboratively increase success. Virtual Assistants get that and it’s motivating to work with people in the appropriate mindset.

Virtual Assistant’s are usually amazing planners and organizers, therefore there is rarely a need for rush projects. And again, I understand that life happens so when another VA is in a jam, I’m more than happy to help them out with a rush project to meet a deadline if my schedule allows. But overall, when subbing for another VA, things usually run pretty smoothly. Assignments are given with ample amount of time to complete. We share the same goals and lifestyles so we often develop strong and close relationships. At the end of the day it’s almost like having a co-worker only they’re usually on the other end of the country. 🙂

There are a couple of cons though. Naturally you’re working for a lower rate, therefore you’re making less money than you would be doing the same thing for a regular client. The way I look at it is, I didn’t do any of the marketing to get the work, I don’t have to deal with the contract or billing and invoicing which are all non-billable hours. So in my mind, it evens out.

One thing I have noticed is when Virtual Assistant’s are looking for a subcontractor (unless you personally know them), although they KNOW subs are not employees, I have found it common for them to have a hiring process when it comes to beginning a new working relationship. Sometimes their RFPs look like job postings requiring a lot of questions to be answered (i.e. job interview type questions) and wanting references. I know myself like many, many others wouldn’t bother responding to an RFP that looks like a job posting even if we are qualified. It’s insulting. I can totally understand that you want to be sure that the person you bring on board is qualified, reliable and efficient. But post what skills you need and save the rest for a casual phone consultation.

I’d like to close by saying I have truly been blessed with my clients. Overall almost all of my ongoing clients are very respectful of my time, hours and family. They are more than understanding!! Whether regular clients or other Virtual Assistants I work with, I’ve enjoyed having them as a part of my life. I work with some absolutely wonderful people and I thank God for it everyday!

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October 21, 2010 Posted by | Business Management, Work From Home | , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Social Media has Helped my Business

A friend of mine asked if Facebook has helped my business. I get this question a lot and being a fan of “re-purposing” for blog entries, I thought I’d share my response.

Facebook has absolutely helped my VA business! Actually, the way I have it set up is my Twitter account feeds to Facebook (both are publicly indexed by the search engines if privacy settings are adjusted accordingly) and I spend most of my time on Twitter.  At the end of the day, social media is social media so I guess it doesn’t really matter where you spend your time as long as you’re participating. What I like about Twitter is it’s easier to follow a specific target audience and since I’m a chatterbox, I like the ability to chat back and forth with people.

A few ways social media helps my business:

  • Increased traffic to my website & blog – I always see a downward spiral when I’m not active.
  • Higher search engine results that are keyword specific – so when someone is searching for a VA that does say WordPress web design, by constantly posting working on a #wordpress web design, I’m more likely to return in search results.  And now that real-time search has come along, it provides an even greater advantage. (That number sign is a hashtag which is similar to a tag you would use in a blog when used in conjunction with a word to allow people to find specific keywords by search.) For more information on boosting search engine rankings by using Twitter, check out this article by Search Engine Land.
  • Turning business acquaintances into friends-I have SO many friends all over the world that I correspond with on Twitter. I love making new friends and growing relationships. I am a total people person. Eventually they are likely to be awesome referral sources (or turn into clients) and often valuable resources for things I need in MY business.
  • Credibility-Many leads gone clients tell me that they checked out my Facebook & Twitter account and were inpressed with my authenticity. It allows people to know me before they consider my services. If they don’t like what they see, I’m sure they move on which is my goal. Love me for who I am or leave. This has allowed me to attract like minded people so my clients & I get along great! Plus since I offer social media management as a service, if they like what they see, they’re more likely to contract me for social media management services.
  • Gained exposure-I am always profile building. Anytime I stumble across a quality social networking site, I build a profile. Nowadays, most social networks have an application for a twitter or facebook feed. So although I may not be able to participate on every social network, my profile is constantly updated and shown in a time-line allowing me gained visibility.
  • Lastly, All of your big names are on Twitter & Facebook. You can find industry related news & info, but what I love best is that if I’m ever stumped on something, I can throw a tweet out there and most of the times I get the answer to my twitter replies in minutes! It’s like a direct connection to a customer service agent. I love it!

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Business Development, How To, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) | , , , , | Leave a comment

Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection

A few months ago I went to a meetup for Virtual Assistants in Illinois that was organized by Cindy Bruce of Essential Office Solutions through Virtual Assistant Forums. We had a fantastic time talking about how our businesses evolved, successes, failures, resources, client relations, challenges of working from home and how we could gain from our meetups.

Cindy Bruce, Kathleen Vargas of The Office Virtuoso, Kathy Watkins of Turnkey Virtual Assistance, Doreen Patrick of Virtual Business Partners and I decided to formally develop a professional networking Virtual Assistant Group named Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection (ILVAC for short). Our intent is to share knowledge and experiences at all levels of self-employment, educate each other of new resources, technology and best VA practices, build solid business relationships, as well as join together in collaborative efforts for referrals and project outsourcing. Of course we also want to have fun, fun, fun!

We’ve all put a lot of time and effort into building our group and are proud to say it’s steadily growing and we are getting great feedback. Members are enjoying our group, expanding their knowledge about the rapidly growing Virtual Assistant Industry and personally, I’ve learned something new at every meetup so far.

Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection has a lot of exciting things coming for the group. We are planning  a holiday party, Lunch-and-Learns, and our biggest baby of all…an ILVAC Conference for Spring! I have never planned a full fledged conference before. It is so exciting!

There are no profits involved for the ILVAC Core members other than the rewards we gain from building relationships and helping others.

If you’re a Virtual Assistant or aspiring VA residing in Illinois, please join us at Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection and become a part of our future success!

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Business Management, Business Operations, How To, Marketing, Work From Home | , , , , | Leave a comment

When Depression Strikes the Self-Employed

Depression can strike at any time.

Unfortunately, it is a natural part of life to experience hard times. Loss of a loved one, an ill relative, health problems, marital problems, divorce, children acting out and financial troubles are some of the difficult roads on our journey we may endure. Even working from home can cause depression due to lack of socialization and loneliness.

Depression can be crippling.

It can cause loss of concentration, memory and effective decision making. Racing thoughts can consume your mind. Ambition and motivation might fade. Loss of energy and extreme fatigue may be experienced. There may be times when getting out of bed or off the couch feels impossible. Throbbing headaches and muscle pain are also often symptomatic with depression.

Our work environment influences our response to depression.

As an employee of a brick and mortar business, most of the time sick time and personal leaves are optional during extremely difficult times. Or the fact that not going to work could case termination, forces us to get out of bed and go. The distraction of other people and physically working can stray our minds away from our troubles. We can usually get by  as long as we show up and accomplish a minimal amount of work. If we have a co-worker we are close with, we can share our troubles and receive support. Often work is helpful during bouts of depression.

On the other hand, working from home  and managing a business makes battling depression EXTREMELY challenging. There isn’t anyone to force us to get out of bed or off the couch to work but ourselves. Being self-employed means no one can terminate us other than our clients. Doing minimal amounts of work is unacceptable if it is continued for a long period of time. Suffering decision making skills and feelings of hopelessness may inflict poor choices. Extensive poor choices can result in the collapse of a business .

Taking control over depression while working from home is difficult, yet not impossible.

Since we are our own boss, we ARE entitled to occasional sick time as long as it is not abused and open lines of communication with clients are kept (keeping boundaries of course). Take some time to cry it out, lay still in bed, sleep or whatever it is you do to grieve (in a non destructive or non violent way of course).

After we have given ourselves some grieving time, it is time to get back on track. We still may feel immobile, but we can trick our minds with force. By going into our office and turning on the computer we are forcing our brain to function, and distraction will come naturally. Different parts of our brain control different functions such as movement, vision, hearing, reading, logic, problem solving and emotion. We can zap some of that emotional and problem solving energy by forcing the other parts of the brain to work. Understanding this concept helps us get started, get distracted and get something done! If we  can just accomplish the hump of starting to work on something, before we know it our mind will naturally become involved with the task as hand.

As I’ve mentioned before, good nutrition with vitamins and supplements are important. Stress effects the body and mind in tremendous ways! When fighting depression, take vitamins religiously. A boost in Vitamin B 6 & 12, Omega 3, Vitamin C and a Zinc/Magnesium combo really help get the motivation functioning somewhat again.

Then there are the givens, exercise, talk to close friends and family, seek professional assistance or group therapy if needed. With the amazing blessing of the internet, there are MANY online groups you can anonymously join for support .

These suggestions come straight from experience. As you can see, there has been a large gap since the last time I’ve posted. I’ve experienced some major life changes and want to share how I am getting through it. Forcing myself to do client work has been a savior! Yes, I’ve slacked on my blog and haven’t been Miss Social Butterfly on the social networks like my usual self, but client work and my kids have forced me out of bed and reminded me that no matter how dark and gloomy it feels, life goes on and people need me. And now I am slowly but surely getting back on track! 🙂

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Business Management, How To, Work From Home | , , , , | 1 Comment

WYSIWYG Editors and Basic HTML

I’m creating this post to help my clients, both current and future, who are interested in managing their own websites after I design them. Of course if this information is helpful to anyone else, that’s fantastic.

The applications I use to build websites are content management systems. I use CMS Made Simple, Joomla or WordPress. I haven’t decided yet which one I like best. Most people find WordPress to be the easiest to manage by themselves, but rumor has it that Joomla has the most sustainability and functionality.

All three systems that I use have WYSIWYG editors. According to Wikipedia, WYSIWYG (pronounced /ˈwɪziwɪɡ/[1]), is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get, used in computing to describe a system in which content displayed during editing appears very similar to the final output,[2] which might be a printed document, web page, slide presentation or even the lighting for a theatrical event.”

In English, it’s an editor that translates text and images into code so it can be displayed in a browser, and apparently other things. WYSIWYG editors have been a huge development for designers because it reduces almost all hard coding. Notice the word “almost”. Just like the definition above states, “appears very similar”. WYSIWYG editors are NOT error proof and things don’t always display the way they do in your editing screen. Hopefully these basic codes and tips can help editing a website and/or blog pages a little less painful.

Some Basic codes:

Most codes have a beginning and an end. The bolded print is the code. The italic text displayed between is used as an example and would be replaced with your own text.

Paragraph-

<p>Place the text for your paragraph between these codes. Start a new segment for each paragraph.</p>

Bold-

<b>Place bold text here</b>
or, and I don’t know why
<strong>Place bold text here</strong>

I use trial and error here. If one doesn’t work, try the other.

Italic-

<em>Place italic text here.</em>

Insert an image-

<img src=”full path to the file you want to insert“>
*generally if you click on the image where it is uploaded such as file manager or media gallery, it will display in another browser window. You can copy and paste the entire file name in between the parathesis and it SHOULD work.

Insert a hyperlink/url-

<a href=”url to the page you want to link“>what you actually want displayed</a>

Spacing-

Spacing can be a very tricky thing with WYSIWYG editors. Sometimes there’s too much space and sometimes there’s not enough.

To add a space, try <br> which is called a break tag and does not need an end tag. If that doesn’t work, try adding a paragraph with non-breaking space <p>&nbsp;</p> Hopefully one of those will do the trick.

Removing space is often necessary when you use the enter button. The WYSIWYG editor adds in a blank paragraph that looks like this: <p></p> with no text in it other than maybe some formatting. Or there will just be a blank space. Either way, you have to delete it.

VERY IMPORTANT-All editing using HTML codes must be done from the HTML editor. They won’t work using the WYSIWYG. It will display exactly like it does here in this post. If you have trouble locating your HTML editor in any of the programs I mentioned above, just ask and I’ll direct you towards them.

The bolded coding is just to help you identify what is the actual code. When using code, it is not bolded.

Never copy and paste a Word document into a WYSIWYG editor. Microsoft automatically places hideen code in their text and it will show through or the text will not display properly unless you stick it into a Word clipboard (which most WYSIWYG editors have), or copy and paste it into notepad and THEN into your WYSIWYG editor.

Lastly, I highly recommend ALWAYS copying and pasting the original HTML code (what you see when you switch from the WYSIWYG to the HTML editor into notepad before you do any tampering in unfamiliar territory. Trust me on this…I’ve made that mistake! You don’t want to take the chance of losing all of your original, already formatted content!

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Business Operations, How To | 1 Comment

Seeking Local Website Promotion Ideas

Different types of marketing work for different businesses. The table below lists the different types of tactics that I have, or currently practice in my virtual assistance business website and specialty directory of niche directories. My expertise is in increasing traffic and page rank. I also utilize these strategies for clients. This works well for an online business, but how effective is it for conversion when your target audience is local? What types of Internet Marketing or Website Promotion are effective strategies for something like a heating and air conditioning business or a painting company? Is it worth their time and effort or money to utilize these approaches? If not, where do you think they would see more bang for their buck?

Type: Purpose:
Article Marketing To build credibility, visibility & website traffic (people are naturally curious about the author), and increased back links.  A valuable article in a valuable directory is highly recognized by search engines.
Back linking (An external website that links to your website.) Search engines determine a website’s importance by the amount of “good” sites that link back to them. Posting comments on other blogs relevant to your website using a signature is a good way to increase back links.
Blogging To increase credibility, inform the readers about the person behind the business and their expertise. Fresh content is highly recognized by search engines. Informative and/or entertaining compositions attract people and increase traffic.
Directory Submissions-Major Directories To increases visibility, search engine recognition and website traffic.
Quality Directory Submissions-general & specialty directories To increase back links (Watch out for “spammy” directories.)
Forum Participation To build credibility, business relationships and back links (using a signature).
Micro-Blogging To gain exposure, announcement portal, build relationships and gain credibility as an expert in your field.
Search Engine Optimization Add title tag, meta tags and modify content arrangement and keywords.
Social Bookmarking To gain quality back link(s), niche specific increased visibility (based on relevancy) and increase traffic. Works well for valuable blogs.
Social Networking Sites To gain exposure, announcement portal, build relationships and gain credibility as an expert in your field. Increases back links.
Press Releases To builds visibility and exposure. Generally feeds through news which is good for an SEO boost and temporarily increase web traffic. Increases back links.

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Business Management, Marketing, Time Management | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Management Tips for the Growing Business

A growing business can be both exciting and stressful for the owner. Here are some time saving tips to help things run a little smoother.
(These tips may not apply to all businesses.)

Scheduling

Be realistic about turn over time and don’t stretch yourself too thin. When juggling multiple projects, it is better to tell your clients that you will have their assignment(s) completed in 7 days and get it to them in 3, rather then telling them it will be completed in 3 days and getting it to them in 7. It is important for your clients to understand that they are not your only client. They are business owners themselves and should understand that ALL client assignments are a priority and each deserves equal attention. Granted some clients are more laid back than others. But that should not be a factor. Each client is valued equally and should be treated the same way. Hopefully your clients respect you enough to understand that.

Prioritize Time

Most people have certain times in the day when their energy levels and focus are high. Tasks that require the most concentration should be scheduled during those periods. Save the tedious and repetitious tasks that you could do in your sleep for the periods of time throughout the day when you feel like you’re hitting the wall.

For example, I feel my most creative and focused in the morning after I’ve had my cup of coffee and energy friendly breakfast. Assignments that require a lot of thought and concentration are usually attended to at this time. If I wait until later in the day when my brain is fuzzy and my eyes start to hurt from staring at the computer all day, it will take me twice as long to accomplish the task.

Consolidate Tasks

Multi-tasking comes natural to me and consolidating tasks is a tactic I have practiced in every career I have ever been in.

Kill 2 birds with one stone. If you have different clients with similar tasks, working on them in bundles can be time efficient. For instance, if you have images to scale for multiple clients, do them all at once. (Hopefully you have a convenient time tracking tool like myhours so you can keep it up in a separate window and track how long you spend on each client.) Rather then opening and closing your image manipulation program and document files several times, open them up, scale all of the images and BAM, you’re done. Although it may only save you a few minutes, every minute counts.

This is also a big help for me when I submit to website directories, create networking profiles or submit articles. This tactic works best for niche specific businesses.

Another example for consolidating tasks is when you write an informational e-mail or forum post, use an elaborated version for a blog post, newsletter or article. Chance are if one person was interested in the information, others are too. This is a good way to consolidate some of your marketing strategies, saving time and creative energy.

Avoid Distractions

Turn off the Television. Just having it on in the background causes your brain to work harder and sucks a little juice from where you need it most; whether is be reading, logic, artistic etc…

Turn the telephone ringer off. OK, this may not be applicable when you’re trying to run a business so rely on your caller i.d. Save conversation with chatty girlfriends for your free time. My friends know that I’m not trying to be rude when I don’t answer their calls during the day. I’m working and my boss prohibits personal phone calls. 😉

Close out your E-mail. Check e-mail at specific times of the day and keep out! E-mail is a big time distraction for many business owners! We can get lost in it all day long and wonder where in the world the day went. Luckily for me, I don’t have a problem closing Outlook. I have to or I won’t get my work done.

Shut down TweetDeck. Twitter can be extremely distracting. Allow certain times of the day for “play” or as we call it….marketing. Let your brain focus on one thing at a time. All of that beeping from TweetDeck compels us to check if we missed something and can cause quick and easy tasks to drag on for hours.

Outsource

Micro business owners often see slim to no profit in the beginning stages of ownership. We are excited to start rolling in the dough and the idea of outsourcing  feels undesirable. But the important thing to remember is customer loyalty grows our businesses. If we provide efficiency, reliability and excellent customer service, our clients will not only give us more business in the future, but refer us to their friends, family and colleagues. When we take on more work then we should manage, our stress bleeds through correspondence, we fall behind on response time, deadlines and often make mistakes. Outsourcing is an investment. It costs money to make money. And the highlight of outsourcing is it’s only necessary during high peek times. We won’t be crazy busy all of the time. And our chances of experiencing lulls will reduce if we take good care of our clients, even if it means sacrificing a little profit from time to time.

Eat Energy/Focus Food Frequently

Yes, this is actually coming out of my mouth! The reason why is because it works! When you’re blood sugar starts to drop, fatigue increases and concentration plummets resulting in tasks taking much longer then normal. Focus and energy result in higher productivity.

The energy food theory is accurate and has worked wonders for me by eliminating crashes throughout the day. Reducing coffee has also helped reduce headaches and energy crashes. Balanced meals and snacks work well. I need protein combined with carbs or I feel very sleepy. I snack on granolla bars, yogurt with nuts and granolla, crackers and peanut butter, and string cheese wrapped in ham or Turkey. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids also improve energy and concentration. Everyone’s body is different so it’s important to decipher what works best for you.

To learn more about energy boosting foods, click here.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Business Management, Time Management | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Marketing Pie

I am a big fan of Fabienne Fredirickson and The Client Attraction System. She was my marketing inspiration at the birth of my business. Her model teaches to choose eight marketing strategies, start with a few and slowly integrate the additional strategies. Assess through trial and error what works best for your business. Ultimately this is a great plan. Unfortunately, I am one person running a micro-business with next to nothing for a marketing budget, let alone outsourcing. I am the business operations manager, bookkeeper, marketing director, web designer, client relations manager, janitor, supplies delivery person and being a service based business, I have services to deliver.

Being the rookie that I was, I followed Fabienne’s recommendation and chose eight pieces with the intent of starting off with a few. I started with forum participation, direct mail and website directory submissions. Before I knew it I was posting classifieds, article marketing, social networking and blogging.  I still have newsletters untouched. My eagerness led me to just about devour that pie in a year! I don’t think that is quite what she meant by starting with a few, assess the return and add more in. Perhaps I should have spent the money on the full program!

Needless to say, I have learned a very big lesson about marketing! Time is money! I need to focus on what I am best at that I can accomplish in the least amount of time, that will give me the most in return.

I am not a good writer. (SURPRISE!!!) It takes me a really long time to write. I struggle with translating my feelings into words. I always read, edit, reread, edit again and continue until I’m satisfied. This is the reason I don’t offer content writing as a service. (I offer a ton of services, buy copy is not one of them!) I don’t mind blogging because I feel it builds credibility and is worth my time for several reasons. I can be who I am and if I misspell a word, oops, I’m human and I make mistakes. I don’t feel pressured. I am honestly not trying to impress anyone here. I think it is very important for any potential clients to know who I truly am, what I believe in and what I’m knowledgeable about. I feel that being just who I am is valuable to other small business owners. I would hope that someone considering my services would be able to determine if we would be the right fit for each other by reading through my posts. It will save us both a lot of grief! With that being said, yes it is worth the 1-2 hours it takes me per post, per week. LOL

I am a total social butterfly. I make friends everywhere I go. My family finds it annoying  that I’ve befriended the Dunkin Doughnuts worker, the gas station clerk, lifeguards, etc. It’s who I am and who I’ve always been. I really believe that somewhere across my head it says, “tell me your life story” because sometimes strangers will just walk up to me and start telling me their life stories. I am a people magnet. Maybe because I listen, I respond and I care. This is the gift I’ve been blessed with.

After evaluating what I am good at and not so good at, I have discovered which marketing methods are most beneficial for me. Anything “social” is worth my time and I love it! I enjoy talking to other people, learning about them and their lives. I love learning about other cultures and ways of life in distant places. I find great reward in sharing knowledge and experiences. None of it feels like work and I am good at it. So I’m on a marketing pie diet (cheesy joke-sorry. lol). Until I can afford to outsource, I am cutting out the marketing strategies that deeply involve writing (excluding blogging) and focusing on anything that starts with “social”.

MARKETING TIP: If you’re a micro-business owner without a marketing budget, practice marketing tactics that are right for you. Don’t scatter yourself all over the board. Choose marketing stratagies that compliment your talents.

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Marketing | , , , | Leave a comment

Networking Turn Offs

Aggressively advertising on social networking sites, Twitter or at networking events is a total turn off to me. It doesn’t matter how much material is composed on this topic, many people simply don’t seem to care.

Social Networking Sites

I find great value in forums that have a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior. Some forums allow specific days to post announcements which I find to be a happy medium. We all like to share our current news and specials. But I have found too often people abuse direct messaging, especially on Facebook and ning sites.

As you can tell, I am pretty involved in social media networking. I’m a junkie; I’m not ashamed. 🙂  I utilize these portals as a way to establish business relationships, gain exposure and make new friends. If someone can use my services, that’s great. If not, a few good laughs is worth the time I put into it. I belong to numerous social networking sites. Seldom do I send friend requests unless the person intrigues me or is a fellow Virtual Assistant. I am pretty open to accepting new friends and connections unless their business is a Get Rich Quick Scheme. I always screen their profiles and try to determine if they are apparent spammers. If nothing stands out, I accept. But the moment I start getting hit with comments and/or direct messages of blatant advertising, that person is off my list. If I find forums where these activities are acceptable in posts, I rarely go back.

Twitter

Twitter is another example. It can be a good way to gain exposure, post announcements and have a little fun. But I really don’t have any interest in following people that ONLY post ads. If they don’t contribute knowledge, insight or engage in conversation I have no desire to follow their activity. I always prescreen Twitter profiles and their related websites before following. I also do a quick scan of their updates to make sure they are not all ads.

Nowadays, a lot of Virtual Assistants and marketing firms provide Social Media Management as a service (including myself). I totally get that it is very time consuming and see the benefits of outsourcing this aspect of business. But it’s important to make sure that whomever is handling this for you does more than just post ads if you want to reap the benefits. It has to come with a personalized touch. Why would someone want to follow you when it’s obvious your ad company is just posting ads, unless you are Adam Sandler? (I heart Adam Sandler :)) I received a notification today that Many Moore of Gossip Girls is now following me on Twitter. Yeah….OK….delete.

Social Networking Events

Most of us, with the exception of newbies know the etiquette of social networking events. We introduce ourselves, listen, chat, pass everyone a business card and sometimes eat and drink. During conversation we answer questions and offer knowledge on topics we are familiar with. I find networking events very enjoyable and a great excuse to sneak out of the house. What I don’t think is cool is coming across people who are like aggressive car salesmen. They make me feel like I’m on trial bombarding me with questions in their tactics of trying to sell me their product or service. It reminds me of being in my 20s and trying to escape a guy hitting on me at a bar. I look for any excuse to get away. Don’t people realize I have their card and all of their contact information. I heard their elevator pitch. If I need something they offer, I know where to find them. But if they are annoyingly pushy, I will toss their card right in the trash can.

As I mentioned, business cards are distributed to all event attendees. I know that this opens me up to being on marketing lists. It’s part of the deal and there is no way around it if I want to pass my cards out. Everyone has their own marketing methods and I can respect that. I don’t cold call or list build. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for other people. But it is not very nice or legal to spam me with ads without giving me the option to opt out. Nor is it nice to cold call me at 8pm. These type of tactics will ensure no business or referrals will ever come from me.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Marketing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ShareO For Outlook-Not a Fan

ShareO for Outlook is a program that allows users to share and synchronize Outlook folders such as e-mail, tasks, contacts, calendars, notes, documents and files. There is a 14 days free trial period and costs about $35 per PC that uses the program.

When I first used the program during the trial period and had problems with the data not synchronizing, I should have decided right then and there to try another option. But a lot of time was spent creating folders and sending (and resending and resending) data. I blamed the issues on my lack of experience with the program. There isn’t a lot of user information posted online or in the help section that could have helped me. Fortunately, I was at least able to get online support. The ShareO Representative Don whom helped me several times was absolutely wonderful! He was patient and helped the best he could.

After a few days of e-mails not coming through, Don was able to to resolve the issue by resending the data and changing some configurations remotely. Everything seemed to be working properly so we purchased the licenses. Then again, e-mails and tasks were not synchronizing. I kept getting calendar reminders that I repetitively disabled. Mail and folders came through in duplicates and multiples and some didn’t come through at all. I would move e-mails into folders and tasks and they wouldn’t display on the other shared PC. Attachments were getting lost and some e-mails disappearing completely.

ShareO was contacted again and their first solution was to check if shared sub-folders were set under inbox sharing options and if so, disable this option and then one by one re-send the data from all folders.

That didn’t work out so the next steps were to:

  1. Open MS Outlook on the machine which has all shared folder items
  2. Click on ShareO menu > Management Panel.
  3. Select shared folder on the left side of Management Panel
  4. Click on the e-mail address of the user who is missing shared folder items
  5. Click Re-send Data… Check option ‘All’.
  6. After resending is done, please click on Send\Receive on sending machine
  7. Wait a couple of minutes and click on Send\Receive on receiving machine

Notice that there are “Do not send private or personal items”, “Do not send birthday and anniversaries” and “Do not send holiday appointments” options in ShareO > Management Panel

If that does not resolve the problem:

Perform this on all machines involved in sharing:  – Close MS Outlook – Go to Start > Run > Type %appdata% click enter > Go to 4Team folder > Rename ShareO folder to ShareO_bak – Go to My Documents – Rename ShareO folder to ShareO_bak – Start MS Outlook * You will get a pop-up warning that ShareO database cannot be found. Please do not point it to ShareO_bak folder, just accept it by clicking OK After this is done on all machines, please share the folders again.

Guess what? None of that resolved the problems either. We had to both uninstall and reinstall the progams. ShareO still didn’t work. We got our favorite ShareO representative Don back on live chat and he took remote access to both PCs, reconfigured the systems and resent the data AGAIN!

The shared inbox messages finally came through again but still in multiples at times, deletions were not applying (although they were configured to) and messages and attachments were getting lost.

The money isn’t worth the frustration. The result of losing a client’s important e-mail is priceless. There comes a time when you just have to let it go. Cut the losses and move on!

April 3, 2009 Posted by | Business Management, Business Operations | , , , | Leave a comment