If you follow me on Facebook then you’ll have seen that I have been without Internet for pretty much 2 weeks. We had some bad storms over here in France and last Wednesday Orange.fr told me that my livebox (which is a kind of router) was storm damaged. This was at 5pm on Wednesday evening, the Orange shop in Poitiers (the nearest to me) shut at 7pm. I leapt in my car and drove through the worst storm ever, a 2 hour round trip to get myself a new livebox.
My new livebox worked for about 1 day and then also gave up the ghost. By the time I got to call Orange again it was Friday afternoon and the English helpline is closed all weekend. First thing Monday morning I called them again and I was told the earliest an engineer could get out to me was Friday morning (tomorrow).
I have since been ferrying my lovely iMac around rural France in search of an Internet connection so I could continue to work. I have spent a few days at my mum’s using hers, but it’s not a great connection and with three people using it the speed was seriously slow. So yesterday and today I have driven half an hour and am installed in my friend’s gîte (Longère Louise) which is where my dad recently stayed when he popped over for a visit.
So here I am, and I have found time to write this blog post, I don’t know how.
At first I was pretty stressed without the Internet. All my work is done online, I communicate with all my clients online, much of my work is based around social media, websites and blogs. How I would manage to have no connection until tomorrow was making me feel pretty frustrated.
As the week has gone on, with only having a few hours each day connected I have realised that actually, there is lots I can be doing offline and preparing for when I get my connection back. Some work related, and others not so.
Here is a list of things I have learnt since having a limited Internet connection:
I don’t need to be online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
The world will not end if I am not constantly online checking my emails, Facebook, Twitter etc… Neither will my clients get angry that I am not available 24/7.
I can still work even though I don’t have internet
I have found that working offline during the mornings has made me a lot more focussed. I have been working on formatting, and preparing emails ready to send when I have a connection. Not only that but I get a lot of the day to day to-do list out of the way before I get online.
I waste a lot of time online each day
I knew this anyway, but not having the connection has made me realise where my time goes each day. Of course much of my work is online, but there are times when I get distracted doing something which isn’t earning me any money. My time in fact could be better used somewhere else, like working offline coming up with strategies for my business for example.
I get a lot more done when I am limited by time
This isn’t the only time I have noticed this. For example when I was having French lessons on a Thursday afternoon I would speed through my work in the morning, and wonder why I was stressing that I wouldn’t have the time to do it. The same goes for this situation, I am getting my work done in the small window that I have and not even feeling under pressure. I have another 2 hours here today and already I am wondering what it is I can get done, as I did most of my work in the first hour I was here.
For my basic working tasks, I don’t need super speedy internet
I always complain about the speed of my Internet, but actually sitting down and thinking about it I don’t need it to be fast to still be able to complete my job. If I want to stream TV and music, then yes, it would be useful, but for work I just need a connection so that I can check and respond to emails and do some work online at a regular pace.
Using something like Asana is paramount to staying organised
If I didn’t use Asana to keep track of my tasks (my own and clients) I would be jumping from one task to the next. Having this in place means I am organised and I can see exactly what needs to be done and which tasks can be put off for another day.
As far as I know I haven’t lost any business by not being online 24/7
All emails are being responded too, just a bit more delayed than usual… and usually I respond pretty quickly! All my clients have been very understanding, and I have continued to keep them updated about the situation so they know when I am online or not. I have set-up an out of office message for my emails to explain that I am checking emails, but I have limited Internet. So far, this hasn’t caused any issues as I have even picked up a few new clients this week.
I have finished reading a book I started months ago
Since I started my own business, my love of reading has been put to one side. This week though during my offline time, I have managed to not only finish proofreading a client book, but I also finished a book I started month’s ago. I’m not sure starting two new books last night was a good idea considering my Internet should be back tomorrow, but I am going to try to not neglect it so much now.
So going forward, I will be having more offline time, I may not even check my emails so much each day… all those blog posts I read telling me to check it less, well I might just try it now I realise it may work out for the better. I may also put in place some restrictions on my Internet connection, so it’s not available at certain times of day, so I can get all those offline jobs done that I sometimes don’t get to.
What I have missed though, is being able to work at home… The poor dog has been passed from pillar to post, and I have lugged my iMac around in my car, really hoping I didn’t drop it in the process. One thing I really really need is a nice new MacBook Pro, it’s my birthday in July if anyone fancies buying me one?
How many of you have put your name into Google?
I admit it, I have and I’m not embarrassed about saying so… it’s a good thing, and I am going to tell you why now!
If you run your own business, or even if you’re an employee you need to know what’s out there about you on the world wide web. One way of finding out what’s out there is to do a search of your name. It’s not vain, it’s sensible!
I have been using the Internet since the late 1990’s (I know, I don’t look that old…) so the amount of information someone could possibly find about me online that might still be hanging around since I was 18 years old is worrying. Not only because at 18 years old I wasn’t quite as careful about what information I shared online, it was new, I didn’t know what I know now.
When I grew up and realised the error of my ways (posting in forums, chatting to random people in chat rooms etc…) I decided it was a good idea to regularly Google my name and check that all the information about me online wasn’t going to land me in some awkward situations. So go on, Google my name and see what you come up with?
I expect the first thing which will come up is Jo Harrison the tattooist… but I don’t think there will be anything incriminating, if there is please let me know?
The good things that I expect to find when Googling myself is my website, my Facebook page, my Google+ page, my Twitter account, my LinkedIn profile… I can’t really stop these from showing up in the results, but other things like personal forum posts if deleted will soon disappear out of the Google cache hopefully.
The Internet is a great place to find out what someone is like, and if you want to make sure your online profile is free of skeletons then you need to Google your name, your business and anything else related to you to see what information can be found about you. It’s the sensible thing to do, as well as checking your privacy settings on social networking sites such as Facebook.
A good way of controlling what is said about you online is to be more conscious about what you’re putting online in the first place… so when you update Facebook from your smartphone while you’re out drinking with friends, maybe a bit worse for wear, remember it might not just be your friends who will see your updates, especially if your privacy settings aren’t quite up to scratch. It’s all about thinking before you post… Now go and search your name and see what’s in your Google closet!
Don’t Let Social Media Take Over Your Life
I recently did an interview discussing social media for freelancers, hopefully it will be available on Podcast soon so I can link to it from my blog.
In the meantime though I wanted to provide you with some tips about having a strategy when it comes to working with social media. If you don’t have a strategy it can take over your life and even when you think you are working hard (because you have spent all evening on Twitter), you could be trying too hard and not actually getting a lot of real work done.
Make a Plan
Physically write down a schedule for your social media interaction and pin it up where you can see it. I wrote my plan in Excel a few weeks ago, not just for social media but for everything I need to do each week. I have organised the table into AM and PM and written down all the tasks I do each day and allocated a time for each of these, for example:
Monday – AM
– Emails (15 mins)
– Social Media (15 mins)
– Client Work (1.5 hours)
– Blog Post (1 hour)
By having this in writing it will remind you how much time you should be spending on a task so you won’t get carried away with chatting on Twitter or scrolling through nice images on Pinterest.
Use a Timer
I use my iPhone to set a timer, for my emails this morning I set it for 15 minutes and then got on with responding and reading emails. I went slightly over but when the alarm went off it reminded me that the task was over and I needed to move onto my next job. Sometimes I don’t need the full hour for a blog post so in the remaining time I might pop over to Facebook or Twitter and interact with my fans/followers, but when that alarm goes off I check what’s next on my to-do list.
Create Social Media Campaigns
You can do this for your own business and your clients. By getting down in writing what you (or your client) wants to achieve through social media you can devise a plan and timetable of tasks. One of my clients has a blog posted every 2 weeks on a Monday, this then needs to be marketed on Facebook and Twitter. Some of this can be set-up to be automated so it doesn’t need my physical presence to be achieved. But at other times if there are special offers to be marketed then I need to sit down and work out a plan on how I can incorporate this into my schedule, and technically this would come under ‘client work’ and not my social media 15 minutes.
Without automation of some kind you’re destined to spend your life on social media. When you’re first starting out it’s important to get to know your customers (fans/followers), and you probably have the time to do this. But once you get more clients and you have to dedicate more time for client work you need a way of still having a presence on social media when you might not be there in person.
I started using Tweetdeck for my scheduling but it took a lot of time on a Monday morning to schedule all the tweets I wanted to post throughout the week. Tweetdeck is good for scheduling a hand full of tweets, but for me this just wasn’t working.
I started using SocialOomph and their queue reservoirs. You can add lots of updates and it will recycle them over and over. You have to remember to update these now and again, or have a very big reservoir… mine has 45 updates and I set it to post once every 90 minutes. SocialOomph has other benefits, such as vetting followers, sending out automated direct messages, but all of these are for the paid version. It’s something you need to consider carefully, especially when you’re starting out, you need to take into consideration spending money on automation so it frees up time for client work. If you have no clients then it’s not beneficial obviously. I am now using SocialOomph for clients as well, so they benefit from my account, you have to remember to include the fees into your rates or you could end up being out of pocket.
This is the most important thing you must do on social media. It’s no use setting up automation for everything and then forgetting about social media altogether. What about responding to mentions and DM’s on Twitter? Interacting with your Facebook fans? Repinning interesting images on Pinterest? Digging interesting articles? Commenting on useful blog posts?
You need to make sure within your social media plan you allocate time to interact with people, if you have a string of automated tweets on Twitter not only will you come across as uninteresting you’ll end up losing followers for it. Each morning I take time to thank people for retweets and responding to messages (just as I would on email). I’ll also have a notification set-up on my iPhone Twitter app so I can respond in real-time if I can.
It’s so important to engage and interact with your social media audience, so please if you do one thing on this list, do this one!
If you have any tips for working with social media without it taking over your life please let me know in a comment below. I have written some similar posts recently, if you’re interested take a look at My Top 3 Social Media Apps and get Organised with this Free Resource.
We all have them, or if we don’t then we should have them… Social Media Sharing Buttons, Widgets, Plugins or Bars! You can see mine at the bottom of this blog post, I use SexyBookmarks because I think they look nice, but I also use AddToAny (which apparently is now called Lockerz Share), there are plenty to choose from.
If you haven’t installed any of these on your blog then I highly recommend that you do, this is how readers of your blog can share your content with the world. Sharing on social media is really important and without these your blog will most likely disappear off the face of the earth and not only that, your readers will be left feeling frustrated that they can’t easily share your great post with all their friends and followers.
But my blog today isn’t to tell you to go and install these buttons, widgets, plugins or bars… (although it kind of does say that above!) The point of this post is to remind you to CUSTOMISE!
The widgets I use on my blog can be customised, so when someone clicks on ‘share on Twitter’ for example it will automatically add at the end of the tweet ‘via @JoHarris0n‘ – this means that when it’s shared on Twitter people can easily click on my Twitter username and choose to follow me.
Leaving these customisable widgets as their default is only going to send people to the widgets Twitter username. Below are the options in SexyBookmarks to give you an idea where you need to look to customise yours.
A good tip when it comes to plugins and widgets on your blog is to look through the settings to see if there are any options to customise it in anyway, this will mean as soon as it’s installed you’ll be in full view of the world of social media, or have a much better chance to be seen!
The Ultimate Blog Challenge comes to an end tomorrow (31 January), that means I will be reverting to a different blogging schedule. I will be posting to my blog 3 times per week, I hope you will continue to follow me. You can do this via an RSS feed (top right hand corner) or by following the #blogboost hashtag on Twitter which I’ll continue to use. Or even better you could sign up to my email list (again top right hand corner). I have lots more tips up my sleeves for you!