Tag Archives: Tips

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

If you’re new to Monday’s Link Roundup, welcome! My collection of links is very idiosyncratic.  I find articles that “tickle my fancy” and that I hope will interest others with a passion for personal and family histories, life stories, memoirs, writing, or genealogy. Enjoy your visit!

  • The Art of Obituaries.[KQED radio interview]“Some people think of obituaries as sad. Not obit writers, though. It’s been said that the best obits are actually about life and that death is just the footnote. We discuss the craft of obituary writing, what kind of life warrants an obit and the effect of the Internet and social media on how we remember the dead.” [Thanks to Wendy Ledger VoType Transcription Services for alerting me to this item.]
  • The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing About Their Kids. “The ubiquity of confessional writing has spilled over into confessions that implicate not so much the author as the author’s still-underage offspring. Readers are meant to celebrate confessional parenting-writing for its courage, perhaps also because it is a rare creative (sometimes lucrative) outlet for women who identify primarily as mothers. Yet these parents’ “courage” involves telling stories not theirs to tell. Confessional writing is about risk. An author telling of her own troubles risks her own reputation and relationships. But an author doing the same about her kid risks primarily his, not hers.”
  • America’s First Man in Orbit Recording. “From a mail-order placed in September 1962 the original recording of ‘America’s First Man in Orbit’ was sold on 33 1/3 vinyl to relive the exciting new territory from the comfort of your living room. Listen to the full recording digitized here:”
  • What is a biography of a poet for? ” Whom is it for? In the time it takes to read John Keats: A New Life, you could read all of Keats’s poems. If you stick to the major poems, you could read them several times. But unlike a biography, great poems can be hard to read; they demand that you read very slowly, not dispensing with the language in favor of its extractible information, as one might when reading a biography, but rather lingering over the language in spite of a dearth of information…Even the most seasoned reader has more experience with the intricacies of people than the intricacies of poems, so a good book about a poet can focus our experience of reading, returning us to the language of the poems with a renewed vigor, with an appetite for varieties of difficulty that may have eluded or even repulsed us in the past.”
  • How to Format the Interior of Your Book. “If you’re interested in putting together a print version of your book, then it’s especially important to make sure your book’s interior looks as professional as possible. You might have written the next Moby-Dick, but if customers are so used to the way that big publishing houses format their books that they might be put off by yours if it’s not similar! First, here are some things you need to think about:”

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Do You Have a Problem Knowing What to Charge Clients?


For many newcomers to the business of Personal Histories determining what to charge is a challenge. There are no set industry standards and fees range from next to nothing to $100+ an hour.

It doesn’t really matter what other personal historians charge for their work. We’re all different. One size does not fit all.  So here’s what to do.

Start with your own expenses

  • Make a detailed listing of all your expenses for a year. Include everything – personal as well as business. Include a “contingency” amount for such things as health emergencies, repairs, travel, etc.
  • Don’t forget taxes and start-up equipment such as printers, scanners, cameras, recorders, etc.
  • Divide your total expenses by 12 to arrive at a monthly estimate.

Let’s imagine your calculations point to monthly expenses of $4,000. If your only source of income is from your personal history work, you’ll need to generate at least $4,000 of income every month or about $1,000 a week just to meet your expenses.

Calculate your billable hours.

Use good time tracking software and determine how much of your time is spent on non-billable activities such as  research, marketing, bookkeeping, file management, and so on. A good rule of thumb is 20% of your billable hours. So if you work a 40 hour week, you’ll be spending about 8 hours a week on non-billable items.

This means you need to charge a little more than $3o an hour for the remaining 32 billable hours in order to bring in a $1000 a week. (40 hr. work week  minus 8 hr. non-billable items)

Determine your profit margin

Being self-employed means both flush and lean times. To ensure that you can bridge those downturns in your business, build in a profit margin. Consider anything from 10% to 30%.

Suppose you decide on 15%. That would mean adding an additional $4.50  (15% of $3o) to your hourly rate bringing it to $34.50.

Charging by the project

You may prefer to charge by the project. If so, estimate the number of hours to complete a project and multiply by your hourly rate.

And Don’t Forget

  • Double the amount of time you think a project will take. It always takes longer than you anticipate.
  • Avoid pricing yourself too low. Clients will assume you’re not good because you’re cheap.
  • Don’t base your rate on what others are charging.
  • You’re a professional and are worth every penny you charge.

Additional Resources

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Photo by iStockphoto

Goodbye Resolutions and Goals. Hello Intentions!


I’ve given up on resolutions and goals. I’ve been inspired in part by Leo Babauta’s writing in Zen Habits.  He’s taken up living a goal free life and he’s prospering.

Goals Don’t Work

Goal setting  has never worked for me. And apparently it doesn’t work that well for others. A recent study shows that focusing on our goals has a negative downside. Such a focus diminishes our enjoyment of the activities required to achieve our goal. As a result we often give up.

Goals are about a future finish line that you’re meant to reach. It’s what most productivity models are based on.  The problem, if you’re like me, is that  you don’t always get to the finish line. And when that happens, you can feel like a failure.

If you do persevere and reach your goal, you can sometimes feel pride of accomplishment but then end up asking  yourself, like Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” And the answer inevitably is, “Well, no! There are more goals to work on!” It’s a never-ending pursuit of some idealized version of yourself. This isn’t anyway to live or work.

Let’s face it. Life is messy and we’re far from perfect. Goal setting fails to take these realities into account.  If  goals really worked, all the self-help gurus would have long since been out of business.

A Better Way:  Intentions + Dedication

I know that we can be accomplished much without a slavish devotion to goals and plans. The way ahead lies in being clear about our intentions and being dedicated to seeing them through.

Intentions are about knowing and honoring our values, focusing on the present,  enjoying the process, and letting go of the struggle toward some distant finish line.  Intentions are about making room in our life for what is truly important.

Intentions  are about learning new, more skillful ways of being and doing.  But old habits die hard having been strengthened by years of constant use. To create healthier habits requires a willingness to dedicate time to practice them. Without this dedication little will change.

My Intentions for 2013

It’s useful to have a few select intentions to focus on rather than a long shopping list. Here are my 3 intentions for 2013.

  • Kindness. It’s my intention to be kind to myself and to others. This means not being quick to beat myself up over some perceived failure. As well, it’s my intention to be thoughtful and caring to both friends and strangers .
  • Acceptance. This is a repeat from last year and something I’m still  working on. It’s my intention to accept that things often happen regardless of what I do or don’t do.  I will accept the hard times along with the good, the sad with the joyful, and abundance with scarcity. And I will try to do all this with equanimity.
  • Spaciousness. It’s my intention to allow ample time to devote to my spiritual practice, creative pursuits, and physical well-being.  And to make my home free of clutter.

There is a better way to move forward in 2013 than harnessing yourself to a set of goals and plans. I know it sounds counter intuitive but throw away your goals. Trust that your intentions and your willingness to live them each and every day will get you where you want to go.

What are your intentions for 2013?

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Image by iStockphoto

Your Favorite Posts of 2012.

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Here are the most popular posts of the past year. If you missed some of these, now’s your chance to find out what attracted others to these articles.

Do you have a favorite article that isn’t on the list? Share it with us here.

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

On the eve of a new year, my wish is that 2013 brings you much happiness and peace.

This is the last of Monday’s Link Roundup for 2012. Don’t miss A vested interest in palimpsest. I must confess I didn’t know what palimpsest meant. Now I can’t wait to use it. ;-) For another wonderful word to add to your vocabulary, check out 19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately. There you’ll find out  what whoopensocker means.

  • Biographies That Defy Expectations. “This year brought us some brilliant biographies of world-famous leaders .., but this list focuses on books that chronicle the lives of some true originals from many different walks of life…the subjects of these biographies spent most of their lives well off the beaten path and gained fame for their stubborn refusal to conform to other people’s expectations. You could say the same thing about the biographers. These books are written with extraordinary style and originality, by masters of the craft who can spin a tale as adroitly and memorably as any novelist out there.”
  • 12 communication basics everyone should know. “You know that saying about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression when you meet someone? Well, when you’re communicating with someone, especially if it’s electronically or by phone, you get even less slack—particularly when it’s for work. That’s when lost opportunities can have bottom-line consequences. If you want the prospect to open your email, the client to return your call, or the journalist to read your pitch, you’ve got to communicate impeccably. Here are some of my favorite basics:”
  • 19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately. “When traveling across the United States, it sometimes feels like the locals are speaking a whole different language. That’s where the Dictionary of American Regional English comes to the rescue. The last installment of this staggering five-volume tome, edited by Joan Houston Hall, was published last month, and let me tell you, it’s a whoopensocker. In celebration of slang, here’s a list of 19 delightful obscure words from around the U.S. that you’ll want to start working into conversation.”
  • I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. “If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.”
  • Reading Habits by Place. “The latest survey from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project focuses on how residents of different communities (ie: urban, suburban, rural) read and use reading-related technology and institutions.”
  • A vested interest in palimpsest. “The English language contains certain meaning-rich words that command attention and stir controversy. “Paradigm,” for instance: When Thomas Kuhn used it in 1966 to describe accepted scientific theories, and gave us the phrase “paradigm shift,” he launched a thousand articles, several hundred books and quite a few careers, some just distantly related to science.That kind of word raises curiosity and pries open the imagination, encouraging us to think about what we might otherwise ignore. My favourite is “palimpsest.”

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Are You Ready for a Moment of Calmness?

This piece has become an annual tradition. Many of you appreciate the idea of a place where you can focus for a moment on calmness. Enjoy!


It’s time to stop  the rushing and working and worrying. You can always pick that up later. For now, as we come to the end of another year,  let’s all take a deep breath and calm ourselves.  As my holiday present,  I’ve put together a little virtual retreat for you. You’ll find some wonderful calming images, music, books, and quotations. Start anywhere you like.  There’s the three minute Whispering Sea guitar video.  You can  feast your eyes on all the sumptuous calming images from Google. There are three books you might want to check out and some insightful quotations on calmness, my favorite being:

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.
~James Allen

Continue reading

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

For those of you celebrating Christmas tomorrow, have a very Merry Christmas!

If you’re a fan of director Michael Apted and his “Up” documentary series, you’ll enjoy his interview in The secret to success for director of Up docs? The power of ordinary people.  The folks at Copyblogger are offering a free Internet marketing course. Why not check out Grab Our 20-Part Internet Marketing Course (No Charge) and get a head start on your 2013 marketing?

  • The Paper Trail Through History. “Scholars  “have always looked through documents,” said Ben Kafka, a historian at N.Y.U. and the author of “The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork,” recently published by Zone Books. “More and more they are also looking at them.”If paperwork studies have an unofficial standard-bearer and theoretician, it’s Mr. Kafka. In “The Demon of Writing” he lays out a concise if eccentric intellectual history of people’s relationship with the paperwork that governs (and gums up) so many aspects of modern life.”
  • 10 Ways to Get Clients in 10 Minutes. “Does it seem like you can never find the time to market for more clients? It’s hard to find open hours in the middle of a busy week. But not every marketing task requires big chunks of time. Here are ten productive things you can do to get more clients when you have just ten minutes.”
  • How 6 New Tools Change the Equation for Writing and Self-Publishing Your Book. “…today’s tools marry writing and publishing, bringing artists ever closer to the end product with click-of-a-button e-book creation capabilities built into the writing tools. In 2012 the technology plot thickened, with the development or maturation of six representative tools that change the way we will write, produce and perhaps even change our very concept of a book in 2013.”
  • Grab Our 20-Part Internet Marketing Course (No Charge). “Want to discover the smartest ways to mix social media, content marketing, and SEO for lead generation and converting those leads to customers and clients? We’ve got you covered with Internet Marketing for Smart People. And there’s absolutely no charge.”

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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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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

If you’re a second-hand bookstore fan, you’ll enjoy reading Why second-hand bookshops are just my type in this week’s Monday’s Link Roundup.  And for an  evocative and highly original look at a slice of World War II history, be sure to view Ghosts of History: Dutch Artist Eerily Superimposes Modern Street Scenes on World War II Photos.

  • Interactive Art Installation Encourages Writing In Library Books. “At Dixie College‘s new library in St. George, Utah, German multimedia artist Christian Moeller has revived the interactive nature of physical books in an increasingly digital age. Through his latest installation dubbed Clouds, Moeller has created a living work of art that aims to continue changing and growing by leveraging the ideas contributed by library-goers.”
  • The Making of Motherwell. [Video] “If you love beautiful books, check out this marvelous video from the Dedalus Foundation, in which we see the production of Robert Motherwell Painting and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941–1991.”
  • The Best Illustrated Children’s Books and Picturebooks of 2012.”On the heels of this year’s best science books, art books, design books, and philosophy and psychology books, the 2012 best-of reading lists continue with the annual roundup of the year’s ten-or-so most delightful children’s and picturebooks.”

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

With Christmas near  I couldn’t resist including 1937-1966  ‘Post Early for Christmas’ posters in this Monday’s Link RoundupIf you’re a nostalgia buff, don’t miss these. I’m a big fan of simple words when it comes to conveying a message so I was delighted to find this short animation, The Power of Simple Words.  If you’re planning to launch your business in 2013, take a look at  The Entrepreneur’s Handbook: 101 Resources for First Time Entrepreneurs. It contains a wealth of information.

  • Can Immigrants Heal Through Storytelling? “Renowned journalist and storyteller Ira Glass says “Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” Newcomers to Canada have some of the richest stories of all;…Pah Wah was born in Burma (now Myanmar)…Her story was created in an innovative program from NYCH [North York Community House] called digital storytelling that captures the stories of newcomers to Canada.”
  • 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business From Home. “Launching a business from home can provide tremendous flexibility and the kind of work-life balance that we all crave. But the reality is that home businesses bring their own set of challenges, says Caroline Daniels, lecturer for entrepreneurship and technology at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. For example, “doing your business on your own from home can get stale. It’s hard to keep feeding the imagination all on your own.”
  • The Power of Simple Words.[Video] “Long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren’t always the best words. In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message.”
  • Library of Congress releases 1,600 brilliant photos of America’s World War II-era past. ” A government photo album is giving viewers a rare invitation into America’s colorful past. The Library of Congress has released over 1,600 color images of American society, all snapped during the World War II era.The nostalgic photos, taken between 1939 and 1944, give viewers a look at different slices of life in the then-48 states, from women working at an airplane plant in California to farmers surveying their property in New Mexico.”
  • The Entrepreneur’s Handbook: 101 Resources for First Time Entrepreneurs. “Are you looking to take the leap into starting your own business in [2013]? If you’re just starting to think about it, or if you have been planning it for a while, you still may have lots of unanswered questions. The following 101 resources will help you learn more about entrepreneurship, startups, small business, and much more.”

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