Tag Archives: Home Office

6 Ways You Can Banish Freelancer Gloom and Doom.

sun shafts

No clients knocking on your door? Feeling discouraged? Thinking of quitting?

I’ve been there and know what that feels like. It’s no fun. So what can you do to get through the gloom and doom?

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.


Things happen – both good and bad. That’s life.  Accept the fact that as grim as your present situation is, it will change.

When you catch yourself listening to the voices of gloom and doom nattering in your head, switch channels. Your thoughts are just thoughts. They’re not solid objects. Just let them pass without becoming caught up in them.


Take some time to examine your intentions.

What were your intentions when you started your freelance business? Was it to make a lot of money? Serve your community? Supplement your income?

How have your intentions changed? Do changed intentions require you to re-evaluate your marketing approach? Maybe your intentions are different and you no longer have the same passion that you started with.

Stepping back and examining your intentions may provide a clue to your present dilemma.


Looking at colleagues who are successful can lead to feelings of  envy or incompetence. Likewise, identifying with others who are struggling like yourself can be demoralizing. You begin to think, “Why bother? It’s all hopeless.”

The quickest way to spiral into gloom and doom is to compare yourself to others.  Avoid comparisons.


Close the door to your office, disconnect from your beeping electronic devices, and indulge in things that bring you real joy. Forget about your business for a couple of weeks.  It’ll still be there when you get back.

Returning to your work after a complete break  gives you more energy and gives you fresh insights into your business.


We all need support.

Thinking that you can do it all on your own is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you connect with people who can provide practical advice, a shoulder to cry on, and inspiration.


No one said it would be easy establishing a new business. Overnight success rarely happens. Unrealistic expectations about your success will inevitably lead to disappointment and doubt.

Be prepared for the long haul. It’ll take a couple of years of hard work before you begin to see the fruits of your labor. Knowing this will help keep you from despair when times are tough.


Last but not least, laugh more! Some days the old saying “If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry ” sums it up.  We need to lighten up. Grim determination and a furrowed brow won’t make work easier.

If you need a quick fix of laughter check this out.

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Photo Credit: The Waterboy

6 More “Purrfect” Business Tips from My Cat.

Annie in tree

Annie in the plum tree.

Groan. Don’t you just hate puns?

Anyhow, my cat Annie  is a source of inspiration for my life and business. Previously I wrote 6 Lessons My Cat Taught Me About Time Management. I might add, she was quite pleased by the positive response that article received. ;-)

Here are some more of Annie’s pearls of wisdom.

1. Take time to play. Every day Annie insists we play at least once if not twice. If I’m not available, she’ll make up her own games. She’ll race madly about the house, dive into a stack of newspapers, or climb the plum tree.  She knows the wisdom of the old saying “All work and no play makes…”.

Make certain to build play time into your daily schedule.

2. Exercise caution in any new situation. Annie doesn’t immediately take to new things. A new chair, plant, or visitor is carefully and gingerly approached, sniffed, and either tentatively accepted or rejected until she feels more comfortable.

Whenever you embark on a new project or work with a new client, you could emulate her behavior (well maybe not the sniffing part). Take time to do your homework and assess the situation before plunging in.

3. Claim your territory. Annie has claimed the backyard as her territory. She defends it vigorously from other cats. And for the most part they now leave her alone.

It’s important to claim your space in the business world. Be clear on what you’re offering and to whom. Then stand up and stand out!

4. Be curious. All cats love to explore. And Annie’s no exception. In the summer she spends hours in the backyard, peering into flower beds and checking out the next door neighbor’s yard. She comes in at the end of the day, tired and stimulated.

Curiosity is a tonic that keeps your business fresh and relevant. Be curious about your competition, potential new products and services, and interesting marketing ideas.

5. Be gentle but strong. Annie is petite, soft, and gentle. That is until she feels threatened by another cat. Then she puffs herself up to twice her size and lets out a blood-curdling scream. It seldom goes any further than that. The other cat receives the message and retreats.

I’m not suggesting you puff yourself up and start screaming at people who upset you. Even though this might satisfy the “inner cat” in you. ;-) What I am saying is that you must be clear that you will not be taken advantage of or treated poorly.   Stand up for your rights!

6. Break the pattern. Annie’s a creature of routine. She has her favorite chair and set times for eating. She loves a snuggle while I’m watching a little TV at night. But she also mixes it up. She’ll decide to move to a different spot to sleep or skip the snuggle and be on her own.

It’s useful in our business to avoid becoming stale by doing the same thing over and over again. Follow Annie’s example and change things now and again.

Annie has looked this post over and approved its content. Whew! She can be so demanding.

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Photo by Dan Curtis © 2012 all rights reserved

8 Tips to Prepare Your Business for the New Year.


Your small business is like your car. It needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly.

With the year rapidly drawing to a close, now’s the time to give your business a tune -up.

Here are 8 tips that’ll have your company running like a Rolls Royce in 2013.

1. Evaluate

Take a hard look at what’s  not working in your business and drop it.  It might be a marketing approach that has failed to generate leads. Or it might be fees that are too low to sustain your business.

Similarly, look at what’s working. How can you do more or improve on your success?  Maybe your  speaking engagements have been a great way of getting new clients. Consider offering more.

2. Declutter

Finding it hard to find the surface of your desk? Are there file folders and books stacked on the floor? Actually, it’s beginning to sound a lot like my office. ;-)

You’ll feel more organized and on top of things once you get rid of extraneous stuff. You don’t have to be a fanatic about it. A little order and spaciousness can go a long way.  Set aside a few minutes  a day and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish.

Just to let you know I’ve started my own decluttering. I do have a desk!

3. Bookkeeping

If you keep your receipts in a shoe box, it’s time to consider a bookkeeper or an accounting software program.

It’s critical that you have a clear picture of income, expenses, and profit. Without an ongoing snapshot of your financials you’ll never be able to accurately assess your company’s health.

4. Learn

Being a successful small business owner requires constantly upgrading  and learning new skills. Look for webinars, tutorials, expert speakers, and courses that will make a difference to your performance  in 2013.

For some great online training sites of interest to personal historians click here.

5. Connect

There’s a wealth of information and support to be found in professional  and small business associations.  For example, if you’re a personal historian and haven’t yet joined the Association of Personal Historians, make sure to join today.

6. Plan

Without a road map you’ll never know where you’re going.   Look ahead at the coming year and write down your goals. Keep them realistic. Grandiose plans are sure to fail and will leave you discouraged.

Check out Really Simple Goal Setting   for some excellent help.

7. Website

If you don’t have a website or blog, get one. If you have one, it’s time to take a critical look at it. How fresh is the content? How easy is it to navigate around the site? What’s missing? What can be discarded? How professional does it look?

You can find more on building a successful blog here.

8. Self-care

A healthy business needs a healthy owner. It’s easy to neglect your own care  when working hard to make a success of your business.

Make certain to schedule time for you in your day planner.  Whether it’s going to the gym or for a walk, meditating or reading a book, you need to give yourself permission to relax and recharge.

For more articles on taking care of yourself check these out:

What are the things you do to get yourself and your business ready for a new year?

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Encore! The Cluttered of The World Unite!

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 wastes time, hinders our productivity, makes us tired, and no doubt has a detrimental effect on our sex lives. But where’s all the evidence for this? I’ve  never seen any authoritative studies that support the claims made by the decluttering brigade… Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this week’s Monday’s Link Roundup a favorite of mine is Sixty years in poems. I like it not only for the poetry but also for its illustration of the many ways we can capture our stories. For a thought-provoking piece on the harmful side of life writing, be sure to read Life Writing: An ethical source of self identity, or painful invasion of privacy?

  • Byte-sized Life. “We are used to duration—getting to know people over time. One of the great innovations of film during the silent era was the close-up. Directors used the facial expression of a character the way one might use an interior monologue in a novel. But it was always shown in some sort of larger narrative context. Now, DVDs, the DVR, and YouTube allow for piecemeal and repetitive viewing…We require so little—a gesture, a word, a simple facial expression—to form an understanding, or the illusion of an understanding, of another person.”
  • Harper Lee’s sister gives glimpses of reclusive author’s life. “Glimpses into the family life of the famously reclusive author of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, have been given by her sister Alice, a practicing lawyer who recently turned 100. Alice Finch Lee, known as Miss Alice, was speaking to documentary maker Mary McDonagh Murphy.”
  • Never-before-seen photos from 100 years ago tell vivid story of gritty New York City. “Almost a million images of New York and its municipal operations have been made public for the first time on the internet. The city’s Department of Records officially announced the debut of the photo database. Culled from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images going back to the mid-1800s, the 870,000 photographs feature all manner of city oversight — from stately ports and bridges to grisly gangland killings.”
  • Life Writing: An ethical source of self identity, or painful invasion of privacy? “On Tuesday evening, roughly 30 students, faculty, staff and Greencastle community members gathered to hear John Eakin’s reflections on life writing in his talk, “Telling Life Stories: The Good of It, and the Harm.” … Eakin, a professor at Indiana University and one of the foremost authorities on the autobiography and memoir, addressed the complexities of the genre.”

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Encore! How to Start and Run a Personal History Business.

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… Read more.

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