Invest in relationships – they matter

What makes good business relationships?

A while ago, I wrote about how I came to get the job of editor for Macworld Australia. It came after many years of being a freelance contributor to the magazine. But I wasn’t the only long-term contributor. I also ensured that I maintained a good relationship with the publishers and it was the combination of relationships and experience that got me that job. But, the publisher has decided to shutter that operation and I lost a long-timer retainer client. While that hurt, the pain was short-lived.

Continue reading “Invest in relationships — they matter”

Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface for Freelancers

Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface are out and they might prove to be both useful and challenging for freelancers.

Whenever a new operating system, like Windows 8, is announced, there are a bunch of people who jump in early and try the latest and, hopefully, greatest. Often, the changes are smooth but experienced journalist Bill Bennett as found that Windows 8 upgrade fast, not foolproof. It’s woth a short look.

With the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet and other, similar products from other vendors it’s worth understanding that not all the new tablets hitting the market are the same. Windows now comes in two versions; Windows 8 and Windows RT. Trying to work out the difference is tricky as they look the same but under the covers they are quite different. I recently wrote Windows RT vs Windows 8: Which Surface for work? for Business IT (www.bit.com.au) covering some of the differences.

One of the big advantages of the new Microsoft Surface over the iPad is that it includes a proper version of Microsoft Office and an external keyboard that is integrated into the case. There are plenty of alternatives that are iPad-friendly but getting those extras in the box is quite handy.

Should you upgrade to Windows 8?

I’d suggest that if your current computer is working well that there’s no compelling reason to upgrade. When you buy your next computer it will come with Windows 8 (assuming you’re not a Mac user). Until then, I wouldn’t bother.

However, if you picked up a laptop recently that has a touchscreen – many computer makers have been shipping touchscreens on selected models for the last couple of years – then Windows 8 might be useful. If you decide to move up, be prepared for some significant change. David Pogue, from the New York Times, published a Windows 8 Cheat Sheet and summary of what to expect.

Microsoft Surface, iPad or Android tablet?

This is an interesting question. I like my Nexus 7 tablet as an eBook reader, email reader and calendar. I don’t use it for writing more than the occasional email or note as the 7-inch screen is great for reading but doesn’t work for me for input. I believe that that the new iPad mini will be similar.

Larger tablets, with screens between 9-inches and 10-inches are much better for data input as the onscreen keyboards are more finger-friendly.

Functionally, all three platforms are very similar. Many of the differences between the three are cosmetic but I like the way Android and Windows 8 make your data more visible than the iPad.

Windows 8 or Windows RT?

Microsoft has released two new, different operating systems. The confusion comes from them both looking the same.It’s not unlike car makers who release similar looking models but one is two-wheel drive and the other is four-wheel drive.

Windows RT will only come pre-installed on tablets like the Microsoft Surface. You can’t buy it in a store and install it to your existing computer.

Windows 8 can be purchased from a store, in a box, and you can install it to your own computer. There’s a regular version and Pro version.

Lifehacker Australia has a useful guide to all the different versions of Windows 8 that’s worth a look.

Productivity Tips for Freelancers

Your productivity is constantly under threat. There are distractions like email, phone calls, social media, friends and family dropping in (who equate working from home with always being free to drop what you’re doing and go out). How do you stay productive?

Your productivity is constantly under threat. There are distractions like email, phone calls, social media, friends and family dropping in (who equate working from home with always being free to drop what you’re doing and go out). How do you stay productive?

1. Make it clear that work hours are work hours.

Friends and family mean well but they are often your biggest productivity suckers. Tell your friends and family that although you work for yourself that you still work. Although you have more freedom to step out for an extended lunch you still need to plan. Ask friends to call or email before scheduling some socialising so that you can organise your time appropriately.

2. Manage your phones

Random phone calls while you’re in “the zone” are a massive productivity killer. Just because a phone rings there’s no reason to answer it. You have voicemail – use it! Set aside part of your day to review voicemail messages and to answer calls. The tool is a tool that you use to support your business – it’s not your master.

3. Tame your email

Email has simultaneously made it easier for us to communicate and become a noose. It’s common for people to receive hundreds of email per day. So how do you stay on top of your inbox? Start by learning how to create folders and use rules to automatically file messages. For example, I have rules in place that move all press releases out of my inbox into a specific folder. That makes them easier to find later and reduces the clutter. And like your phone, set aside time to deal with email each day – resist the urge to read and deal with each email as it arrives.

4. (Anti)Social Media

Social media can be a a very useful tool but also a vampire that can suck the productivity out of your working day. If you use tools like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook for research and contacts make sure you quarantine the times you use it and stay task focussed.

5. Breaks, not Broken

When you plan your day out, allow for breaks. Short rest breaks aid productivity by keeping your brain fresh. Systems like the Pomodoro Technique suggest working for 20 minutes and then taking five minutes. Every four of five intervals, take a longer break of 10-15 minutes. There are plenty of programs you can run on your computer that sound an alarm or show an alert at a fixed interview. And don’t forget to take a proper lunch break. I also like a coffee break mid morning and usually head out in the afternoon for the school run.

Link Post: Mac office apps, rates, passion, growth

This week, I’ve been reading and writing about Mac office apps, rates, passion and growth.

This week, I’ve been reading and writing about Mac office apps, rates, passion, growth and a whole bunch more. Here are a few of my favourite stored from the week.

6 alternatives to Microsoft Office for the Mac. If you’re thinking of switching from Windows to a Mac, this quick look at word processing software might be useful (penned by me for Business IT) [bit.com.au]

Got a Consulting Gig from Your Blog? Don’t Make this Big Mistake. Do you charge by the hour? I use my hourly rate to produce quotes for my clients but once the quote is in I don’t vary the price even if it takes a little longer. [Pro Blogger]

Want to Find Your Life Passion? Start by Simplifying Your Life: When you have a passion in life — especially a passion fueled by vision and purpose — you can wake up with that same joy and enthusiasm. When you’re engaged in something that is fulfilling, fun, and meaningful, you are truly in the flow of “peak experience” living. [Becoming Minimalist]

Is good writing worth more than $15 per hour? In a mushrooming digitalised international free market, anyone can claim to be a writer. In this climate, clients will grab the cheapest option, not necessarily the best. And many clients are clearly indifferent to the quality of the copy. [Walkely Foundation]

The Law of Sustainable Growth: “Sustainable growth is characterized by one simple rule: New customers come from the actions of past customers.” [Excerpt from The Lean Startup via LinkedIn]

The Business of Freelancing

The business of freelancing is hard work. I recently presented on this topic to my peers.

This afternoon, I gave a presentation titled “Taking Care of Business – Tools and Tech for Running your Freelance Business” at the annual 2012 Freelance Conference. The crowd was great and asked some incisive questions. Freelancing is a tough gig and I’d never have made a success of it without taking what others shared with me. this was a chance for me to give something to my freelancing comrades.

Once of the challenges of such a talk – I only had 45 minutes including question time – is to cover such a broad topic and do each part justice. I’m hoping to organise a longer version – perhaps a half or full day seminar on the business of freelancing – in the near future. If you’re interested let me know.

However, here’s my slide deck from today. Naturally, it’s not the same when you just look at the slides without the rest of my presentation. I’ve added a couple of extra slides here to add some extra information.