Third Spaces


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!

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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 Amazon.com

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!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Hang onto your business cards, kids, dot tel may make them a thing of the past. It’s a new domain name which is designed to be the one-stop shop for contact info. Able to handle more information than your average business card and adapting faster than a politician in a crisis, dot tel is touted as being the phonebook for the internet.

Run by Telnic in the UK, it claims that dot tel will enable businesses and individuals to place all their information on their dot tel domain name so they don’t have to bother with a website.

Dot tel allows a user to list everywhere they are virtually or in the real world from their favourite online gaming spot to their home address and favourite coffee shop.

You can prioritize your information or use privacy filters so that you can choose who sees your information.

Remember when you change email addresses or any other contact info, you sent out a mass email to everyone telling them to edit their contact info about you? Dot tel eliminates that messy process. When you edit your information on your dot tel, it automatically updates the information to anyone who has your dot tel in their PDA or smartphone or wherever they keep your info online.

Here in Canada, the company that hosts the dot tel registry is Webnames.ca. The cost for registering a dot tel name is $19.99USD for one year.

Some communications and business gurus think that dot tel is the next big thing in the online world. What do you think?

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

 

 

 

 


Written by Lori Thiessen

As we Vancouverites are now just 100 days away from the 2010 Winter Olympics, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve been witnessing.

Since about March or April 2009, I’ve been hearing people talking about prepping for the huge influx of people and activity in our relatively small, sea-side city. From what I’ve heard, I have a feeling that there will be very few Vancouverites left to welcome the world when they come and very few people to tend to the needs of the world — at least in the downtown core.

Apparently, there has been a huge scramble over people booking holidays in January.  I overheard a couple of Vancouver Public Library workers who were discussing the ‘challenge’ of trying to accommodate the above-average number of vacation requests for January.

The other conversation I’ve been hearing with great frequency is working from home. Remote working has suddenly become an intense topic of conversation for both workers and managers alike in Vancouver.

For those of you who don’t know the geography of Vancouver, please allow me to draw you a brief picture. It’s a beautiful city bounded on one side by the sea and by three sides by mountains. The downtown core (the financial district) is made up of relatively narrow streets with every available square inch dedicated to either skyscrapers or pay parking.

Driving into Vancouver is a nightmare at the best of times and the price to park in downtown Vancouver verges on daylight robbery. Taking transit can be fraught with frustration even if you know the buses/trains/sea bus you need to take because they run late, or break down constantly or not at all if the bus driver calls in sick.  The buses and trains are generally packed beyond a safe capacity at peak commuter hours. Add in the grey rain tiddling down at a steady, depressing rate and you have a situation irritating enough to make a saint swear.

So it only makes sense to stay at home with a hot cup of tea, hovering over a nice toasty warm computer. It seems to me that a lot of companies who have offices in the downtown core or nearby will be scrambling in November and December to put remote working plans in place.

However, not everybody’s work will allow for this. A friend of mine has quite a successful counselling practice located in uptown Vancouver.  She received a notice from either the building management company where her office is located or the local business association advising people to bug out during the Olympics or at least be nice to the Olympic tourists if they have to be in the downtown core to conduct business.

All this panic about being anywhere else but the office, especially an office downtown, has me thinking.

Will the Olympics serve as the catalyst to change how business is done in Vancouver? Will Vancouver be in the vanguard of business centres to make remote working the normal way to conduct business rather than just a novelty? Or will the Olympics give the Vancouver business community the boost it needs to catch up to places like San Francisco where the trend started in the first place or London, UK where remote working seems to have caught on like wildfire?

What are your thoughts on this?

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

Written by Lori Thiessen

These days I sometimes wonder if I exist in the ‘real’ world because so much of my life and the lives of those with whom I am in contact take place online, in virtual reality. So it is a no-brainer to look seriously at personal branding in the online world.

Step 1 – Google Your Name

Sometimes your personal branding has already been done and maybe not by you. Check and see what’s out there about you. If there is anything that you are not entirely proud of, see about getting the info removed. If you’ve been tagged in a Facebook photo album and it’s not something you want a client to see, then untag yourself. There are software programs available to remove anything you don’t want online anymore.  Check out this Consumers Report on 5 of these programs.

Step 2 – Choose Your Social Media

With the oodles of different sites out there, it can be difficult to choose. I would urge you to be selective. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Time management – how many sites can you realistically update on a regular basis? There is a site called krunchd.com which will help you manage your online life, social media included.
  • Work vs. Personal – are you using the social media sites mostly for business or pleasure? Whatever the answer, err on the side of caution and keep all of your online communications g-rated and THINK before you hit that send button.
  • Specialization – the world of social media is so big now that it is important to choose your niche and stick to it. This is the best way to become an expert in your industry and to network well within your industry.
  • Security and Privacy – how secure is your information on any given site? This is a particularly thorny issue at the moment given the recent hacker attacks on Facebook, though given the low level of public response  most people seem to be largely unconcerned.

I would suggest that LinkedIn.com and Facebook are good ‘foundation’ sites for your online presence. Personally, I’m not that keen about Twitter, though I realize that many people feel that life without Twitter is akin to life without breathing. If you use Twitter, make sure that you keep your tweets professional and g-rated.  People are rapidly becoming re-acquainted with the phrase “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Just because you can say something to the entire world, doesn’t mean you should.

Step 3 – Words and Images

The key here is, you guessed it, professionalism. The photo you have up on any social media site should reflect the image you want to create. After all, clients or potential employers will likely be Googling you to get a first impression of you. Make it count.

Now I haven’t followed this advice for my own Facebook page. I rarely have a picture of myself up there. I use ‘masks’ of various sorts.  Frankly, I don’t like any photos of me taken in the last few years, and to be truthful, I have this paranoid notion that someone will download my image and steal my identity.  After having taking my paranoia in hand, I will have a decent photo of me taken and put up on my Facebook page in the near future.

As for words, well, I think your profile should reflect the best of who you are. You may want to put in your mission statement, your interests and perhaps even state what your values are. But most of all sound like yourself.

I’ve broken, oh, I don’t know how many blogging rules by using large words, using archaic words, writing longish posts and incorporating some esoteric references in them. BUT it is a reflection of who I am and my wide-ranging interests. If we all write alike, then we all sound alike.

First and foremost, personal branding is about self-awareness. Resist the temptation to brand yourself into a clone of someone else. I know a lot of secrets of success books would like us to think that success is simply a formula and if you follow that formula, ergo you will be successful. At the end of the day, you need to be fully and wholly yourself for success to have meaning.

Step 4 – Monitor Your Brand

Set up Google alerts with your name to keep track of how your name is being bandied about in cyberspace. If you don’t control your brand, someone else will.

So there you have it, folks; a quick look at the world of personal branding online. The main things to keep in mind are: keep it manageable, keep it professional and above all keep your brand yours.

Below are a few other resources to help you with managing your personal branding online.

  • plaxo.com – much like LinkedIn, it is a site geared towards career, work and networking.
  • zoominfo.com – a directory of people and businesses. Check your listing.
  • Google.com – a site to get a free email account and tools to help you manage your online life.

Q: What tools have you found useful in managing your online life?

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

Written by Lori Thiessen

In 1997, management expert and author Tom Peters wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine introducing the concept of personal branding in the article called ” The Brand Called You”. Twelve years on and we are inundated with information on what it is, why you need do it and how to do it. Here are the bare-bones basics to get you started.

What is Personal Branding?

Simply put, it encapuslates who you are, what you do and what values you bring to the table that separate you from the rest.  The elements of personal branding range from your mission statement, your online presence (or lack of one), how you dress both in and out of the office and what your values are.

Why You Need to Invest in Personal Branding?

While doing research for this post, I came across a number of experts who said that personal branding was important now more than ever during this economic downturn. If the boss can remember you clearly and in a positive way, chances are you will hang onto your job. Or be hired for a job. Or if you are an entrepreneur then a client might be more inclined to hire you over the 3 other people she interviewed to do the work she wants done.

I think personal branding is important to work through because it will help you to know yourself. Knowing yourself is important because then you will be able to be clear about where you stand in the world, what you want out of life and what you are truly willing to do to get it. Or as Georgina Laidlaw, contributor to Webworker Daily,  observed “Personal branding could be another phrase for self-awareness”.  I would add to that personal branding is self-awareness clearly communicated to the public.

Authors over the centuries have been extolling the virtues of  self-awareness. Here are just two for you to mull over:

This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare, Hamlet I.iii

Self-reverence, self knowledge, self-control. These three alone lead life to sovereign power. — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Well, this is a big topic these days.  To get you started, take pen and paper, block out at least 1/2 hr to begin with, go to a place that allows you to think well and answer the following question: Who am I?

If the question is too overwhelming and daunting, then break it down. What are the positive things that friends and family say about you? Are you funny, considerate, organized, etc.?

Look at past reference letters. What do they say about you? What do your current co-workers say about you?

What are your values? Are you a ‘family first’ person? Do you value loyalty? If so, how important is it to you?

The next few posts will continue on the quest for personal brand development. But if you are keen to explore this topic on your own, here are a few resources to help you on your quest.

Books

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Dan Schwabel

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

Blogs

Personal Branding Blog by Dan Schwabel

The Personal Branding Blog by William Arruda and contributors

Webworker Daily “Personal Branding vs. Self-Awareness” by Georgina Laidlaw

Q: What do you think about personal branding?

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

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