December 2009

Written by Lori Thiessen

Late December seems a natural time to reflect on the past year and plan for the one ahead.

For me, this past year was filled with quite a few major events some of which were pleasant and some of which were not.

On the business-side of things, I learned some valuable lessons.

1. Make sure that you have the right equipment and that you can really use it.

I tried working with an open source wordprocessing program but found that I needed to go to Microsoft Office after all, just for ease of transferring files to clients. I still do some stuff on the open source program because there are some things that it does better than Microsoft.

I upgraded to a Blackberry Curve from a cell phone, but I didn’t fully take into account how much adjustment the upgrade would require from me, a techno-twerp.

I encountered a couple of embarrassing situations based simply on the fact that I couldn’t fully operate the dang thing! So guess what I’ve been reading lately? That’s right, the user’s manual. Not that it has been much help. It’s all down to playing around on it and practice.

2. Charging enough and sufficiently for your time.

Big learning curve  for me. I found that I’ve been totally underestimating the amount of time jobs take me.  In a few cases, I’ve had to juggle stuff around or cancel other things to accommodate the schedule I’d agreed to with the client.  In future, I’ll estimate the time I think a job will take me then double it.

I’ve also been charging way too little for my time. Being self-employeed means not having a regular, hourly wage. To many, this would seem obvious.  I thought so too. But the real proof was in the pudding, as they say.

I felt terribly greedy about charging what other people had been suggesting. Also, I am just starting out in this biz so I felt I couldn’t charge as much as others with greater experience.  The result was I didn’t charge nearly enough for my time or present skill set. My income for this year is pitiful, to say the least.

However, there is a way to make a living without pricing yourself out of the market. It just takes trial and error to find that way. Ask your coffee shop office colleagues about their consulting experiences. Review what has happened during the past year.

Then …

3. Write out your findings and conclusions.

I’m now in a process of writing a policies manual for my business. It may sound kind of silly for a one person operation, but as a local business consultant said, “It doesn’t count if it isn’t written down.” When I say manual, I really mean a couple of pages.

The upshot is: I don’t want to have to remember all this stuff all the time. By establishing standards for how my business operates,  I can provide better and more consistent service to all of my clients.  The manual will grow as the business grows and I acquire more experience.

The great thing is eventually I won’t have to re-invent the wheel every time.  With luck, the process of providing excellent service will become easier and better for me and my clients.

Q: What valuable business lesson have you learned this year?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!


Written by Lori Thiessen

It’s important to keep your remote worker mentality and portable office even though you have an office because lots of weird things can happen to keep you from that office.

In this time of H1N1, you may want to stay home away from the sickies. Or maybe you are one of the sickies and need to stay away from people. (BTW, if you are sick, just rest and get well. Don’t work!)

Serious snowfall may prevent you from getting to your office. Not all of us have taken the postal workers’ pledge: “Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. As a cafe commuter, you can either stay inside your cozy home or wander down to your local coffee shop.

Perhaps your office building is experiencing anything from a brown-out to a terrorist threat, keeping a remote working kit handy will make these situations easier to deal with.

What is in a remote working kit?

Here’s what I call a basic list. Everybody will have their own variation.

  1. Laptop, with battery cable
  2. Laptop bag or wheelie
  3. Extension cord
  4. USB key  with whatever programs you like to use (firefox, openoffice, etc.)
  5. Cell phone
  6. Cell phone charger
  7. Pen and paper for notes

I would recommend keeping this kit accessible to you. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in your car because of thieves; bring it with you.

Q: When have you been grateful or disappointed that you have, or didn’t have a remote working kit with you?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

So now that we’ve dispensed with the supremo expensive gifts in the last post, let’s look at something a little more reasonable, shall we?

During these depressing economic times, panic is NOT the order of the day. Buy your favourite cafe commuter this set of 2 mugs with the words that strengthened so many during the dark days of WWII in Britain: Keep Calm and Carry On. Priced at $25.95 USD from Acorn Gifts — (*Note: this item is currently back ordered at time of posting.)

While hovering over your toasty-warm computer at your favourite caffeinated stop, your back may get a little chilly. Ask Santa for a lovely vest. Currently on sale at Mark’s Work Wearhouse, T-Max Vests are available in men’s and women’s sizes for $34.99 CND. (Note: Super-cute guy not included. 😦 I checked.  Oh, how I checked.)

From the Canadian company, Hedonics comes a couple of really neat and useful items. Ever lose your grip on your coffee cup when you are whizzing around with your wheelie? That will never happen again, my friend, if you have 

this little gadget. Called the TuGo Cup Holder, it suspends your coffee cup between the extended prongs of your wheelies’ handle. Think of it as a jolly-jumper for your liquid heart-pumper. Priced $10.99 CND

Another handy gadget from Hedonics is the HARSUN purse hanger. Keep your purse off the dirty floor and in plain view with this scientically engineered chain and hook.  It comes with its own protective case. Priced $15.99 CND.

So now you don’t have to look like a Scrooge, get the cafe commuters in your life fun and useful gifts without having to hock your laptop.

Write in with the fun cafe commuter gifts you’ve either received or given.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

It’s that time of year again, my friends and to help you with some creative gift-giving ideas for your cafe commuter.

From one of my favourite companies, Hammacher Schlemmer comes The Portable Handheld Scanner.  It can scan any type of paper up to a maximum of 8.5 inches high by 50 inches long. For the entrepreneur or remote worker who needs to keep track of things like receipts, business cards, etc. it’s a dandy little item. Price $119.95 USD

The Portable Handheld Scanner

According to Gizmodo, the best USB to  impress the heck out of your uber-geek cafe commuter is the Cosair Flash Voyager 128 GB. It’s bigger and faster than any other drive out there apparently. At $400 USD, it should be. If you really want to buy this for a special someone you can check out

Corsair Flash Voyager 128 GB

ThinkGeek has done it again! For the brave of heart, or simply Braveheart cafe commuter in your life, a Utilikilt is just the answer.  The Utilikilt is made of a polycotton blend (strong yet soft to the touch) and has lots of pockets for storing all of your cafe commuter necessities, like a cell phone plus your portable coffee mug. This might piece of multi-pocketed splendor is priced at $139.99USD.

The Utilikilt from ThinkGeek

Since all of these gifts are insanely expensive, I suggest that you just take your cafe commuter out for coffee, crack open your laptop or smartphone and show him/her all the wonderful things you would buy them if there wasn’t a recession on.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!