Tag Archives: Home Office

Monday’s Link Roundup.

There’s some excellent practical advice in this Monday’s Link Roundup.  Because I have a home office, I found How to Set Personal Boundaries When You Work From Home a useful reminder of how to cope with the competing demands of work and domestic life.  C.J. Hayden’s article What if you were wrong about marketing? is a great method of challenging assumptions about the subject.

  • Words in stone and on the wind. “After I wrote, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, about the malleability of text in electronic books, a reader asked me to flesh out my thoughts about the different ways that “typographical fixity” – to again borrow Elizabeth Eisenstein’s term – can manifest itself in a book.”
  • How to Set Personal Boundaries When You Work From Home. “…the challenges of working from home can sometimes make life/work balance seem unattainable. You may feel like you are constantly being pulled towards both family and work commitments–a bit like being in the middle of a tug-of-war. One answer that can help you achieve better balance between your work and personal life is boundaries.”
  • What happened to the former slave that wrote his old master? “You know that letter from former slave Jourdon Anderson to his old master that’s been going around? First of all, it’s good and you should read it…David Galbraith poked around a bit and found a record of Anderson still living in Ohio at the time of the 1900 census as “Jordan Anderson”…At the time, Anderson and his wife Mandy were in their 70s and had been married for 52 years. Mandy had borne 11 children, six of whom were still living…”
  • In the Footsteps of Giants. “Biographer Michael Scammell has devoted much of his long career to writing about two of the 20th century’s foremost intellectuals, whose impassioned writings defined in human and moral terms the stakes in the struggle against communism. Scammell’s book about the Nobel Prize–winning dissident Russian writer Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, Solzhenitsyn: A Biography, published in 1984, was the first major biography to shed light on this towering yet secretive figure. Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic, which came out last year to much acclaim, revived the reputation of the protean Hungarian writer Arthur Koestler, best known for his 1940 anti-totalitarian novel Darkness at Noon…Writer and translator Michael McDonald interviews Scammell about his life and work.”
  • How to Become the Person Everyone Wants to Interview. “You need to establish yourself as an expert, and getting interviewed by radio, podcast or TV hosts can help you do just that. So, here is how you can help speed up the process by positioning yourself as a subject matter expert.”
  • What if you were wrong about marketing? “Lately, I’ve been playing the “what if you were wrong” game with my coaching clients…questioning your assumptions about marketing can lead to designing a much more solid strategy. You can try asking yourself what if you were wrong, but it can be even more powerful to have a friend, colleague, or coach ask you.”

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Encore! What Gardening Can Teach You About Growing Your Business.

Do you want your business to grow? Then why not apply some basic gardening know-how to your enterprise?

It’s  harvest time here in Canada.  And I have a bumper tomato crop. Well, it’s just one pot but it’s outdone itself. It got me thinking that running a business is not unlike  nurturing a garden…Read more.

7 Tips on Creating a Winning Outgoing Voicemail Message.

Have you listened to your outgoing voicemail message lately? Does it sound professional? Like someone you’d want to do business with? If not, you could be losing potential clients. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Avoid old answering machines with poor quality audio.

What kind of business impression do you create if your prospective caller can hardly make out your voicemail message because of static and a barely audible voice? If I were hiring you to do a video or audio recording, I’d have second thoughts!

Be smart. Use a telephone company answering service or a good quality digital answering machine.

2. Make it clear as to the person the caller has reached.

You might say something like, “Thank you for calling. You’ve reached the voicemail of Kathy Smith, owner of Lifestory Productions.”

Don’t leave an announcement like, “Hi, I’m not in. Please leave a message after the tone.”  Callers have no idea if they’ve reached the correct number or if their message will actually reach the right person.

3. Leave instructions.

Many voicemail messages end with something like “Please leave your name and number after the beep.”  It’s a start. But if all you get is “Hi, this is Bob call me at 200-4000,” you have a problem. Who is Bob and what does he want? Does this call require immediate attention?

A better outgoing message provides the caller with some guidance. Here’s a sample: ” Please leave your name, the reason for your call, a number where you can be reached, and the best time for me to call you.”

4. Be concise.

Callers don’t want to listen to a lengthy monologue before they can leave a message. Your voicemail announcement shouldn’t be more than 20 seconds long.

5. Avoid being cute and clever.

Even if you have the wit of a Mark Twain, cleverness can wear thin if a caller is hearing your message for the third time. Keep it simple and business-like.

6. Script and rehearse you message.

We’ve all heard voicemail messages that covered the spectrum from flat and bored to breathless and rushed.

The tone of your voice is as important as the words being spoken. I once worked with an actress on some narration for a documentary of mine. At one point she said, “I can do that line with a smile in my voice. It’ll work better.” She was right. She actually spoke the line while smiling. It sounded friendly and welcoming.

Begin by writing down what you want to say. Read it aloud. Edit your message until it sounds right. Now try it on a friend or family member and get a critique. Before recording your message do several rehearsals so that you can deliver your lines flawlessly and with a  smile in your voice.

7. Record your message in a quiet environment.

Nothing reeks more of amateurishness  than a voicemail message  with a background cacophony of dogs barking, kids screaming, and TVs blaring.  Find a quiet room to record, preferably one with lots of sound absorbing material like a bedroom.

And finally…

Here’s a sample of an outgoing message that you can adapt to suit your needs.

Hello.  You’ve reached the voicemail of Kathy Smith, owner of Lifestory Productions. Please leave your name, telephone number, the reason for your call, and the best time for me to reach you. Thanks for calling.

Photo by Christomopher

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Encore! How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated.

How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated. “When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.”  ~ Greg Anderson

Most of my working life I’ve being self-employed, first as a documentary filmmaker and now as a personal historian.  There have been ups and downs but on the whole I’ve been able to stay motivated. What’s the secret? Here are the things that have worked for me … Read More

From the Archives: Shut Down Your Computer!

Shut Down Your Computer! If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me! A recent Swedish  study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that  prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering … Read More

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup don’t miss  Jonathan Harris: The Storytelling of Life. What a unique way to tell your life story! For something to get your week off to a smile be sure to check out Photos of Famous Writers (and Rockers) with their Dogs. Now  for us cat lovers all we need is Photos of Famous Writers with their Cats! Let me know if you come across such a collection.

  • The Long Goodbye. “Meghan O’Rourke’s memoir about the death of her mother, The Long Goodbye, is out this week [February 16,2009]. The book began as a series of essays for Slate, which we’ve republished below.”
  • How Genius Works. “Great art begins with an idea. Sometimes a vague or even bad one. How does that spark of creativity find its way to the canvas, the page, the dinner plate, or the movie screen? How is inspiration refined into the forms that delight or provoke us? We enlisted some of America’s foremost artists to discuss the sometimes messy, frequently maddening, and almost always mysterious process of creating something new.”
  • Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke: WDYTYA Revisited & Photo Gems. “Photographs capture once-in-a-lifetime moments and treasured family memories that we certainly don’t want to forget. But assembling them in a way that can be enjoyed for years to come is not as simple as it was in the old days when we sat down to our scrapbooks and prints. Here are three tips for assembling your precious pics in a way that will delight you and those you share them with.”
  • Photos of Famous Writers (and Rockers) with their Dogs. “Courtesy of New York Social Diary, here is a lovely series of photographs featuring famous authors and their dogs. If you’ve ever wondered which breeds have served as muse to William Styron, Stephen King, William F. Buckley, Kurt Vonnegut, then this collection is for you.”
  • Jonathan Harris: The Storytelling of Life. “When he [Harris]turned 30, he decided to start taking one photo every day and posting it to his site before going to sleep — a seemingly simple, private project that soon turned into a fascinating exploration followed by thousands of people around the world. Our friends from m ss ng p eces — you remember them, right? — are back with another lovely documentary, capturing the project and the vivid, earnest curiosity with which Harris approaches the world.”

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How to Start and Run a Personal History Business.

Disclosure. I’ve contributed one small item to this book but I will not be receiving any renumeration from its sale.

I’ve just finished Jennifer Campbell’s recent book  Start and Run a Personal History Business published by Self-Counsel Press. If you’re thinking of making personal histories a business, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Jennifer knows her stuff. She’s been a professional personal historian since 2002 and prior to that had a 25 year career as an editor, writer, and interviewer.

This 180 page book is packed with the kind of information I wish I had when I was starting out. The 16 Chapters cover:

  • the world of personal history
  • the business of personal history
  • getting started
  • business foundations
  • pricing
  • producing a sample
  • a guide to producing a personal history
  • interviewing
  • marketing
  • an online presence
  • publicity and promotion
  • sales
  • client relations and customer service
  • time management and project management
  • growing your business
  • accelerating your success and managing growth

In addition, the book comes with a CD-ROM which includes all of the sample templates used in the book as well as resources to help you in your business.

If you buy Personal History Business for nothing else than the chapter on pricing, it’s well worth the investment. For personal historians who are starting out, determining what to charge clients is a challenge. Jennifer’s detailed step-by-step approach will give you the help you need to ensure that you keep your business profitable.

What struck me about the book is that Jennifer makes it clear that running a personal history business takes more than just a love of people and their stories. Her book is like a splash of cold water.  After reading it, if you’re still enthusiastic about establishing a personal history business, you’ll  go into it with your eyes wide open. A word of caution. Don’t become overwhelmed by the content. There’s a lot to digest. Read it through once for an overview and then come back to chew on smaller portions.

I like Jennifer’s candor. For example, on business plans she says, “Like a lot of small business owners, I resisted doing a business plan for a long time. I think it was a psychological block…I finally got some serious business coaching…”  In my eyes, her honesty makes her more credible because I know that she’s writing from personal experience.

The book is also sprinkled with useful tips. They’re terrific. And I wish she’d included more of them and highlighted them so they stood out from the surrounding copy. This brings me to my only real concern and that’s the overall layout and design of the book.

My personal preference is for some breathing space around blocks of text. I found the information on the pages visually congested. I longed for more white space, bolder titles, and little sidebars with tidbits of information, like her “tips”.  I would have found it easier to absorb the wealth of material with more visual help. Having said this, I’m aware that there are production costs to consider when designing a book. And Self-Counsel Press, the publishers,  probably have a standard layout from which there can be  little deviation.

Layout and design aside, this is an excellent book. If you’re serious about establishing a personal history business, you need to do two things -  buy a copy of  Start & Run A Personal History Business and join the Association of Personal Historians.

From the Archives: 12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone.

12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone. I’ve been self-employed  for twenty years. I’ve loved being my own boss. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been some real challenges and some hard slogging. Over time I’ve learned some things about working alone  and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you’ve got some additional tips. If so, please share them by leaving a comment below. Create a home office. It’s important to keep your overhead down so don’t spend money on … Read More

From the Archives: The Power of “No”.

The Power of "No". Saying “no” politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life. ~ Richard Chamberlain

The “N” word has a bad reputation. It’s seen as negative and mean. Many of us find it hard to say. But saying No will help you not only with your work as a personal historian but also with your life in general. I’m getting better at saying No but there’s room for improvement. The reality is that saying No is a healthy way of providing us with  … Read More

From The Archives: The Cluttered of The World Unite!

The Cluttered of The World Unite! I don’t rant very often. In fact the last time I ranted was here in December 2008.  I feel another rant coming on. It’s been building. So stand back! We seem to be inundated these days with exhortations from neatness mavens to declutter and organize our lives for a happier and better tomorrow. The implication seems to be that a cluttered existence is a sign of failing. There’s a whiff of Puritanism to all this. We are told that being cluttered … Read More