Archive for November, 2011
Whilst we are all cutting back this year (as the world teeters on the edge of yet another financial meltdown), Christmas still brings the awful few weeks of worrying about what to buy people. What do they need, what do they want, what will not make us look like a Scrooge?
As a contractor, freelancer or small business owner, we have the advantage of needing gifts that can work both for us, and for our businesses. So if you are fed up with yet more socks, bath salts or wall calendars, can I suggest a business Christmas list which you may like to consider and pass on to those stuck for something to buy you?
- Business Books – A little boring, but some can be very useful. Ones I suggest include the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book, The ultimate Guide to Google Adwords and The Wealthy Freelancer.
- Tablet Computer – If you don’t own one, a tablet can be very useful. And tablets are coming down in price all the time (you can get tablets for just over £100). If you don’t yet have one, it will revolutionise your world.
- A scanner – you can do away with all that paperwork and keep electronic files as described here. Scanners can be purchased from as little as £30.
- A day at a spa – We all need a break from the day to day grind. A day of relaxation can be used to rest, relax, recharge and most importantly, plan next year’s activities. Spa days can be expensive, but a ‘trail’ day can be as little as £30.
- Stamps – Again, seems boring but… a) They won’t devalue, b) Purchased now they will be worth more when postage costs go up in the new year (in both the UA and UK), c) They are always needed and d) Can start you off with a new year mail shot campaign. Much better than gift tokens.
- An extra monitor – If you use your computer a lot and you still only have 1 (or 2) monitor, an extra monitor will increase your efficiency. Monitors can start from just £60.
- A better chair – If you spend a lot of time sitting and working, a good chair can make all the difference. Chairs don’t have to be expensive, but avoid the ‘make it yourself’ variety as sold by Staples as these will be uncomfortable after an hour or so.
- An e-book Reader – one of the modern ebook readers (such as the Amazon Kindle) is perfect for catching up on your reading, whether it is novels, business books or blogs.
- A Love Film or Netflix subscription – DVD disks are becoming a little passé. A much better option is the gift of a LoveFilm (UK) or Netflix (UK or USA) subscription which can allow rental of movies or streaming to your home. Use it to catch up on movies which will motivate you to new business heights.
- A portable phone charger - our mobile devices are the communication hubs of our businesses, so to have one low on power is a disaster. With a cheap portable battery pack, a dead phone is never now a problem.
Every day, another social media cloud based application appears. First there was Facebook, then Twitter, then all the sharing sites (like delicious) appeared and now we have Google+. It’s a fair old mess out there, and if you are anything like me, keeping them all working as you would like can take a fair chunk of effort.
Well let me introduce you to yet another new service called IFTTT (which stands for “If This then That”). What makes IFTTT unique is that it joins all the other cloud systems together and makes them work as a team.
As the name suggests, it’s a logic engine. IFTTT allows you to join services together using IF logic rules – and the rules can be very complex. As a basic example, if somebody follows me on Twitter, I can set IFTTT to DM them with a custom thank you message. But you can do more clever things – such as if somebody tags a picture of me in facebook, download the picture to my dropbox account.
If This Then That
When you sign up, it asks you to create rules for what you want to do, what services you want to join, and how you want it to work. I suggest you skip this and go directly to the recipes. Recipes (the option at the top of the screen) are predefined rules that other people have created. Everything you can think of is already there – sort the list by popularity and take a look.
But if you want to create your own rule, you are free to do this as well, just create the rule (the IF clause) and the action you want carried out – it’s all very easy. Once the rules have been activated, everything works like magic in the background.
The power of IFTTT is the vast range of systems it can connect together. It includes all the big guns (Twitter, Facebook, DropBox, Evernote, Google+) and many smaller cloud based services including lastfm, linkedin, sms, phone (for calls), RSS feeds, emails, calendars, diaries, weather services, Google Reader, Read It Later, Buffer and a whole host more). There plans appear to include more over time – but there are already over 33.
I have been using IFTTT for a few days, and cannot say enough about it. If you use more than one cloud based social or data application, you need this service. Give IFTTT a try. Oh, and by the way, it’s all FREE!!!
I have talked before about the power of Asking. I thought I would share a real like example to show how effective it is.
Both gardeners took a good look round the garden; both gardeners produced an estimate on how much time per week it would take to maintain our gardens and a cost. Both gardeners produced a list of some ideas for improving the garden.
The first gardener handed over the list with the quote and his contact details, and said he would leave it with us to decide – off he went.
The second gardener handed over the list with the price and contact details, but had circled around two items.
He said “It’s the right time of year for these two jobs – do it in a couple of weeks and it will be too late and will cause damage. I have the tools in my van now and can spare a couple of hours if we want to get cracking. Shall I make a start?”
Guess who got the job and is now our gardener?
So go on, ask for the business!
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
John F. Kennedy
I was looking at some trends recently for the self employed, and there has been a sharp increase in the weight of IT Workers, Americans and in particular, freelancers throughout the world.
Maybe it’s because we are all so busy working that we catch quick (but unhealthy) meals, or we don’t have time to exercise, or maybe it just goes with the territory. However, as we all know, weight problems can lead to other problems, which can lead to the inability to work, which then leads to a lack of money.
But, I am not going to sit here and preach about getting healthy. What I am going to do is talk about an option which may interest you… so please bear with me for just a while longer.
The World Is Stuffed Full of Secrets
What if I told you, the world was full of secret places, and hidden items – would you believe me? What about if I told you a world-wide game of hide and seek was being played right now, very close to where you live and work? Maybe right outside your house and office.
What about if I told you there was a way of getting a little exercise which is fun for you, fun for your family (and dog if you have one), and is not going to end up with you going down the gym or starting some major exercise regime?
Now what about if I told you its free?
I am talking about an activity called Geocaching.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. I am not talking a virtual container here – I mean a real physical box with items inside.
There are tens of millions of these boxes hidden all over the world – all hidden from people who are not playing the game. I can guarantee if you have left the house today, you will have walked or driven past a dozen or so without realising it.
If you have a modern mobile phone (iPhone, Android or even Symbian based), there will be a free Geocaching app which uses your phones GPS to guide you in this treasure hunt. You simply pick a nice area, follow the guide and find the hidden containers (caches).
The containers can be in woods, parks, city streets, buildings, amusement parks, near rivers – anywhere.
Why I love It
Now the reason why I love it – it gets me away from work. My family and I will go out for an hour or so, and we will go treasure hunting. For that hour (or eight hours if we do it on a weekend), the family get quality me time, we all get some exercise, we all enjoy the challenge and I still get to use a gadget (to play the game).
Because we are always seeking different caches, the hunts take us to places we didn’t know existed. We have discovered new pubs (bars), restaurants, woods, countryside paths, rivers, sights, historical buildings, walks, views and even people who we would never have known about if it were not for Geocaching. We no longer have to visit the same places over and over again.
And being away from the normal work area means I have time to think, to plan, to recharge. All whilst getting some exercise and staying fit enough to work.
Why not give Geocaching a try?