Google Plus Gets It For Business

There are many more than three advantages for getting your business on Google+, but I thought I’d list a few that weren’t directly related to SEO.

We all know that social media puts a huge stress on a company’s time and financial resources.
Myths to the contrary, Social Media is not free nor easy.

Consultants tell brands to go where their clients are. It’s marketing 101.

So if their clients are on the internet, if they use Google Search, have a Gmail account, watch YouTube videos, read RSS feeds on their Google Reader or use Google Docs then yes, brands should be on Google Plus.

Google Plus pagesGoogle Brand Pages are similar to Google+ Profiles; all of the functions such as commenting, sharing, Hanging Out etc. are the same.

The differences are:

  • Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
  • Pages can be made for a variety of different entities whereas profiles can only be made for people.
  • Pages can have multiple administrators. It has only one owner but up to 50 managers.
  • The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public.
  • Pages have the +1 button. Appearing under your profile, this is a way for people to endorse you. The other is to include you in their circles, of course.
  • Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web. (But like profiles, they can +1 inside Google+.)
  • Pages don’t have the option to share to ‘Extended circles’. (friends of friends)
  • Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.

 

Why should you want to stake a claim on Google Plus Pages?

1. You can follow your fans back.

You can place them in “circles”. This is a great management tool for segmenting your clients.

For example, you can have a circle for prospects, one for geographical area, one for past sales. It actually makes for a decent CRM system as you can move them through different circles as the sales cycle progresses.

Having your brand in their circles allows you the ability to interact with them as you would on your personal Google+ profile page.

You can then follow their updates, comments on their posts and +1 them as your Page.

 

Create a Google Plus Page 

2. You don’t have to spend big bucks to get your content seen


As Google Vice President of Product Bradley Horowitz says in this video interview for Business Insider, Google’s not worried about meeting the next payroll, so there aren’t any ads now will there be sponsored posts in our streams for awhile.

As a brand, your reach is dependant on the quality of your content and promotion.

If someone likes what you have to say then circles you, everything you post will appear in their stream with these provisos:

   - That your post is shared to “public” (It’s the default)

   - That your follower hasn’t buried you in a seldom viewed circle or “muted” them.


The main difference with Facebook is that there is no algorithm that dictates who will see your content. The control is totally in the hands of the people following you.

 

3. You can do business on Business Pages

In case you haven’t heard, Google+ is Google.

All of the apps that you use for business are available on the Google+ platform, Google Drive, (docs), YouTube, Gmail (totally synced with G+) and the most heralded feature, Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air.

With Hangouts, you can collaborate with clients in video conferencing of up to 10 people at a time. For educational institutions that have Google Apps for Education, that increases to 15pp.

These are virtual meetings where you can watch videos, share and edit Google documents, present a product or hold a focus group.

With Hangouts On Air, you can host your own TV style show on your business page. This is a great way to drive people to your Page. It’s a live broadcast that is publically viewable but participants must be invited.

Once completed, it’s immediately available for viewing on your Page or YouTube channel.

 

Google Plus HangoutThere are no third party apps needed to access these features or  have access to your personal information.

Your Google sign in is your key to all Google products.

Do you have a strategy for your Google+ Page?

 

Handling Customer Complaints Over Social Media

It happens to the best of us. You do your best to offer high quality service and great products to your customers, but eventually you will have a displeased customer. Often this will be no fault of your own. It could be a failure with your shipping company, unrealistic service expectations, or a glitch in coding but in reality the problem isn’t what matters. What matters is how you resolve it. So, what do you do when a customer complains publicly on your Facebook or Twitter?

Customer Complaint

photo credit: Automotivespace via photopin cc

Respond Immediately

No matter what the complaint is, even if you feel it is unwarranted and ridiculous, you must respond immediately. In order to respond immediately, you must be always listening. The complaint might be vague, but you need to respond in some fashion. The spotlight is on you now, and the world is watching.

Be Personal

When responding make sure you address the customer by name. Talk to them on a personal level. Nobody likes talking to a robot. Especially when they are upset. Which response would you rather hear? “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are looking into the issue” or “Hi John, I’m sorry you are having issues accessing your account. We are actively working on getting the problem solved right away. Are you getting any error codes?” Both responses say essentially the same thing, but one will go much further than the other.

Understand the Real Problem

Rarely have I seen an upset customer give all the details necessary of the issue of their problem. Ask probing questions. Dig deeper. The better you understand what went wrong, the more likely that you can fix the issue and turn an upset customer into a customer for life. Often times you will have to take this part private, but that is very easy through DM’s and FB messaging. Worst case, you could always take the old fashioned approach and just email them…I guess.

Make Sure the Problem Gets Fixed

Seems redundant, right? Once you tell a customer you are working on fixing the issue, you should well…fix the issue. Sadly, this is an area that I have seen a few companies fail. They respond right away, get all the necessary info, tell me that they’re going to fix the problem, but then I never hear from them again. The rep must have felt great for putting out a “social media fire” short term, but without fixing the issue, it’s just going to be much worse for the company the next time around.

Keep it simple, Always do what you say you will do.

Have you ever had a customer complain over your social channels? What advice would you recommend for handling an upset customer?

Call To Actions Need To Result in Action

The call to action (CTA) is one of the hardest things to master when it comes to e-commerce. It’s relatively easy to design an attractive page, and you can write great content that gets people pumped. At the same time, it doesn’t matter how good everything else is if your CTA falls flat. If you are having a hard time getting people to buy your product, then use these tips for a better CTA.

call to actions

photo credit: hiddedevries via photopin cc


Make it Distinguishable

Your CTA needs to be distinguishable. Most websites are using CTA buttons so that users know exactly where to click to buy, sign up or do anything else that you need them to do. If you want people to perform an action, then make the CTA button easy to see.

For example, if you have a red website, then make the CTA button blue or yellow. It needs to contrast so that users know exactly what to click.

Use a Consistent Design

You also need to keep the design consistent throughout your website. If the CTA button looks different on each page, then users might get confused about what they need to click. Keeping the design consistent in terms of color and shape will improve the number of users that click the button. It will also keep users from getting confused.

Active Phrases

The CTA button needs to have an active phrase so that users know what to do. Many novice Webmasters write “Click Here,” but this can kill your click-through rate. You need to be more descriptive than this. It lets people know what to expect when they click the button, and an active phrase will persuade more people to buy from you.

For example, you can use “Download Now,” “Get Started,” “Sign Up Here” or “Show Me More.”

Multiple CTA Buttons

You might feel a little pushy if you put multiple CTA buttons on one page, but this can actually help you under certain conditions. If your Web page is long, then some users won’t want to scroll all the way down to find the CTA button. Some users want to buy now, but they don’t know how to go forward.

You should have at least one CTA button above the fold, and then another under a long page of text. This makes your CTA button more visible and accessible, and it should improve your click-through rate.

Use Every Page

Most users will skim through all of your pages before deciding to buy your product. The key to improving your sales online is to make the sales process easy for customers. If you add the CTA button to just one page, then some users may forget where it is. These users will just leave to find another seller.

Conclusion

Many website owners don’t know how to properly make and position their CTA, but you need to learn this quickly if you want to improve your conversion. Just use a good design that contrasts your website, make it easy to find and use active phrases. These few tips on a proper CTA should help you sell more products or services.

How do you use call to actions on your website? Please leave a comment below!

How to Grope in the Dark and Find Your Writing Mojo

Wow isn’t there a wealth of information out there on how to write, so many e-courses, e-books and membership sites full of useful shortcuts and advice to help. For many, they’re just an unconscious excuse not to get started. It all lends itself to be a modern form of procrastination.

writing

photo credit: kpwerker via photopin cc

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking a writing course to improve your skills. Just make sure it’s one you commit to and are held accountable for turning in assignments.

Writing and putting yourself out there is scary because it lays you bare. It is something of you, wholly produced by you, which allows you nowhere to hide. Harnessing that fear and those nerves are what will fuel you to write some of your most engaging content, but first you need to learn to control your fears.

As a teacher and mentor, it is something I have to help people with a lot. You can check out my thoughts on overcoming these fears on my blog.

As for actually finding your writing mojo, you need to find what suits your natural process. It’s a bit like groping around in the dark for something that you’ve misplaced, but keep searching and you’ll hit upon it. Everyone is different. There’s no right way, but there are many ways. You need to experiment to find the right one.

It’s just like a parent learning how best to get a baby off to sleep. Some need music, some need constant motion – driving around, rocking or pushing in their strollers and some need total silence, whilst others need human contact. Each one has their own needs in order to achieve the same results.

Writing is the same – you need to find the routines and environments that suit you best. Once you’ve found your groove, you’re consistently practising, and exercising your writing muscle you’ll be able to train yourself to write almost anywhere.

Just remember that we’re all very different people and we all have very different ways of doing things. Certain hacks in life work for some, but not for others. Generalizations are nonsense and can lead you up the garden path. For instance, egg timers are useful, especially editing in my case, but they don’t suit everyone. If you don’t work well under pressure they can be your worst nightmare not conducive to writing.

What I’m saying is don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t try and make yourself do it one way just because someone has told you that it’s the right way to do it. There simply isn’t a right way!

Have a go at writing on the train, bus, in the lunchroom, at the park, in the car, in bed, on the sofa, in the garden, on the balcony, at the beach, in the kitchen, in a café and even at your desk. You don’t need a computer to write, try pen and paper, a laptop, voice to text,  your smartphone, or a tablet. In fact, technology is never my first port of call, all my drafts start as the written word on good old-fashioned paper!

Anything goes, do it your way. Get started and you’ll get it done. How have you found your writing flow and where do you find it easiest to write? Share your experiences in the comments sections.

 

 

What’s Luck Got to do With It?

In a recent post by my buddy @jamesoliverjr, founder of WeMontage, he asked if successful entrepreneurs are just lucky. He concluded success boils down to luck, and he is not alone.

From a distance, some success stories defy logic, but a consistent pattern emerges upon closer examination. This is true for a number of successful entrepreneurs and peak performers of all types.

luck

photo credit: wilhei55 via photopin cc

Let’s see if we can uncover this mystery by dissecting one of these “lucky” individuals. For this experiment, Bill Gates is the perfect specimen.

So, what is the pattern?

Obsession

Many talk about following your passion but the ultra successful have something closer to obsession. To understand the difference, study the lyrics of the 1980s hit “Every Breath You Take” by The Police:

Every breath you take

And every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take

I’ll be watching you

 

Every single day

And every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay

I’ll be watching you

 

Oh can’t you see

You belong to me

How my poor heart aches

With every step you take…

 

Clearly, this guy needs a restraining order.

A passion is something you love but can do without, while an obsession is something you have to have now and will do almost anything to get. The word obsession carries a negative connotation, but how else would you describe someone like Gates? Judge for yourself.

In interviews, Gates describes his early exposure to programming and how he coded for up to twenty to thirty hours a week in his early teens. While his parents slept, he would sneak out in the middle of the night to code at a nearby university. The fact he did not have permission to use the university computers was not enough to stop him. He needed to code. By the time he was seventeen, Gates logged thousands of hours of programming experience. This during a time when few others had access to computers at all.

Passion? This behavior sounds like something much stronger and puts the next trait on autopilot.

Insane Effort

This is not ordinary effort but painstaking, tedious work that would make most people want to yank their eyeballs out. You would think this obsessed group has a special contract with the universe granting them 30 hours in a day. The difference is they steal time where others kill it. Instead of playing Farmville while standing in line at the DMV, they read, research, plan and write. They start the day hours before everyone else and stay up long after their friends enter dreamland.

Quick Action

An obsession is difficult to hide, because the obsessed become so consumed in the activity. If the need arises for someone with his or her skills, everyone knows whom to call.

This happened with Gates during his senior year of high school when he was asked to work on a project with TRW. He jumped at the opportunity to further pursue his obsession. He spent the spring coding under the tutelage of a much older and seasoned programmer, like the young padawan Sky Walker learning at the feet of Yoda.

Surely, those around him marveled over his stroke of “luck,” but he was not lucky. He was ready!

When opportunities come along, there is no need for the obsessed to get ready or prepare. Preparation happens years in advance.

Balance

Though this group is anything but balanced, they recognize the need to have others around them who are. Gates started Microsoft with Paul Allen, who was three years older and more mature. He later hired his friend Steve Ballmer to manage the business side of Microsoft. Would Gates have been as successful without his team of balancers? We can never know for sure, but I doubt it.

What’s Luck Got to do With It?

Even Gates describes himself as lucky because of the access he had to computers, but his small group of piers had the same access. What they lacked was the obsession.

We can all learn a lot by studying the lives of the so-called “lucky” instead of attributing their success to the alignment of the planets. Then, we need to analyze ourselves to see how we measure up.

If your obsession involves standing outside of Macy’s for hours watching the girl at the counter, seek professional help. If it is a skill or talent with the potential to provide value or solve problems, go for it. But find some strong personalities who can pull your head out of the weeds and provide you with a balanced focus.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.

What do you think, is success dependent on luck, or the right sequence of actions? Please leave your comments below!

Gonna Get Me Some Action (Movie FX)!

Have you ever looked at the video that you took with your iPhone or iPad and wonder what you could do to give them that little bit of pizazz? You know, like rather than take that hum-drum Christmas dinner video that you take every year, instead take one that has aliens dropping in and blowing up the Christmas turkey. How about blowing up that beat up old car of yours with a sidewinder missile, without having to wonder how you are getting to work in the morning?

"Action movie

photo credit: openDemocracy via photopin cc

Enter Director / Producer J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Lost) and his special effects company Bad Robot Interactive, with an iPhone / iPad app that turns your hum-drum mobile device videos into epic, special-effects filled, clips of awesome! Enter Action Movies FX!

It’s Da Bomb! (plus MUCH More!)

The first time I used this app was to give my kids a giggle when they where hanging out in the backyard with the neighbour’s kids, bored on a Summer’s day (if that is possible). Standing there I narrated the lead up to dropping a giant ball of steel on all four of them. Next I had fun with a client that I had been working on a Twitter project for, by crashing an F/A-18 Fighter Jet into his SUV crossover. Each one took less than a minute to film and less than that to add the desired effect. The reaction to these videos is always the same; laughter, followed by “WOW! That is so cool!!”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA9DnUlLff4&w=560&h=315]

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxeeiJAO8EM&w=560&h=315]

What you get is a pretty straight forward app that allows you to pick the special effect you want in your video, a target on your video screen to ensure that you have the camera positioned perfect, and a few moments to render your special effects filled video clip. Just like that you can have a video that is the envy of your friends (well, at least those who don’t also have Action Movie FX). You even get some mayhem from some of the combat gadgets found in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops 2!

It’s Fun, But Is It Business Friendly?

Was there something written in the Holy Bible of Marketing that says that you have to create videos to attract people to your business product or service with videos that are actually about your product or business? Think about this. Do major name brands pay to make a movie, or do they pay to have their product IN the movie. Use this app to have some actual fun promoting your business. Create an action filled clip for YouTube that has your product or service in the movie. It may not win you an Oscar, but it will get you noticed.

…. aaaaaaand ACTION!

 

I LOVE My Website (Part 1 of 7)

Every business owner wants to say, “I love my website!” Thankfully many do, but sadly some don’t. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your website love?

what to love for your website

In my experience with clients, and in talking with numerous business owners, I’ve narrowed down 7 things you need to love in order to truly love your website. You need to love how it looks, love the way it works, love its ability to serve your business, love how secure it is, love using it and love how much your visitors love it. You also need to LOVE your website designer!

Part 1 – Love how it looks

Professional Design

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” -Steve Jobs. When I was choosing a name for my web design company I choose ArtSci Designs to reflect both sides of professional design.

I had some fun trying to turn it in to a dictionary definition.

ArtSci (art-see) adjective
1. the state of being in which a thing is simultaneously appealing to the visual senses and fully effective in it’s technical aspect
2
. harmonious fusion of creativity and organization
3. fun and functional
Origin: 21st Century Geek.

Here are a few things to ask yourself, or your website designer: Is my website designed to work well with all modern browsers? Are we using table-less design with well coded html and CSS styling? Does the overall design work well with the page content? This list could go on and on.

Your Company Logo

Can you picture the logos of these companies? Apple, Nike, Bank of America, UPS, Amazon, PayPal and WordPress? These companies have logos that we remember. Does your company have a memorable logo or signature graphic? Developing one is not an easy task, and if you need help with this there are some great logo design companies who can assist you.

Color Theory 101

website colour“Color is so powerful – it creates emotional impact, makes your designs more memorable and even makes a statement about what your brand stands for.” – Erin Ferree, Brand Style Design.

Whether you are simply adding colored text to an image or creating a new color scheme for your brand or website, a better understanding of color theory and the importance of color will serve you well.

Does your business “own” a color? When we think about the companies above with memorable logos, we can also envision the colors used in their branding.

I think the emotional impact that color can make is fascinating! Here is a short list of colors and feelings associated with them. We all have our favorite colors when it comes to home decor or how we dress, and it is important to consider more than personal preference when selecting business colors. You can read more about the meaning of color at the Color Wheel Pro website.

  • Red: Passion, Love, Anger
  • Orange: Energy, Happiness, Vitality
  • Yellow: Happiness, Hope, Deceit
  • Green: New Beginnings, Abundance, Nature
  • Blue: Calm, Responsible, Sadness
  • Purple: Creativity, Royalty, Wealth
  • Black: Mystery, Elegance, Evil
  • Gray: Moody, Conservative, Formality
  • White: Purity, Cleanliness, Virtue
  • Brown: Nature, Wholesomeness, Dependability
  • Tan or Beige: Conservative, Piety, Dull
  • Cream or Ivory: Calm, Elegant, Purity

A Match Made in Heaven

Have you ever known someone who was color-blind, or with little fashion sense, who just couldn’t seem to put the right colors together? The human eye seems to just “know” when certain colors look right together.

From Art 101, you may recall the color wheel. Harmonious color schemes are those where the colors are equally spaced around it. You don’t have to guess which colors to use together. There is a mathematically relationship between those that “belong together.” I think it’s really awesome how so many colors found together in nature are also a perfect match mathematically.

Thankfully, we don’t have to pull out our calculators or actually “do math” here because there are several free, fun and easy to use tools online that do the hard work for us. Many of them will help you develop a perfect color scheme from either a starter color or an image. Here are some of my favorites:

Cheri’s Short List of Online Color Tools

Images and Graphics

A webpage with some images on it is certainly more interesting to look at than one that’s simply text. If a picture is “worth a thousand words,” then we need to be sure those 1000 words are saying the right thing. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing images for your website.

  • Tone – Know when to use serious, playful or humorous ones.
  • Uniqueness – Be careful with stock images. Customize them.
  • Relevance – Make sure that your image supports your written content.
  • Audience – Choose images your website visitors can relate to.
  • Image Rights – Always check licensing information.

Sources for stock images:

Font and Typography

website typographyThe day my family came home and found me watching a movie on Netflix called “Helvetica” that I was totally enjoying was one of those days that confirmed that I really am a geek!

Earlier this year Smashing Magazine published an article called, “Typography Guidelines And References” that compiled several of their posts on this topic. If you want to learn more, I suggest reading it. Or, you could watch “Helvetica” and post a movie review!

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is not to mix and match fonts. Choose one font you will use consistently across your website. A common exception to this rule is using different fonts for page titles and headlines.

If you haven’t explored Google fonts yet, check them out! They are “easy” to add to your website and open up a whole new realm of possibility. Caution: these can take as much time playing with as the color scheme tools.

Website Love…

My goal at the end of all web design projects is for our clients to say, “Wow, Cheri, I LOVE my website!” If you aren’t feeling enough website love, we’d be glad to help you. The first step is to request a Website Checkup.

What do you love about the look of your website? Please leave a comment below!

Elevator Pitches: A Waste of Time For Entrepreneurs?

Elevator Pitches

Photo: D.H. Parks

 

Who?

This post is for entrepreneurs who’ve had to painstakingly craft an effective 90 second elevator pitch to raise money from investors, and for those investors who’ve had to sit through what I’m sure have been both killer and horrid elevator pitches over the years.

What?

Two weeks ago I was flattered to have my startup, WeMontage, be selected as one of 15 companies to participate in an “Elevator Pitch Olympics” (EPO) at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, which was sponsored by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Initially, I hesitated to participate, but after thinking about it for a second I quickly realized I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The reason I hesitated is because I initially thought an elevator pitch competition in which no real money is awarded would not be a productive use of my time. After all, I’ve got my head in the weeds trying to get these darned Ukrainian developers to finish the last few minor changes to the WeMontage website, so I can finally release the beta.

Boy, was I wrong.

The EPO is like the tv show, Shark Tank, minus the über ”prickliness”/”slimyness” of the judges. Oh, and there’s one other difference: no one on the panel invests! But the panel is comprised of professional investors who score your pitch and provide extremely valuable feedback. And did I mention you get the practice of pitching and controlling your nerves in front of 500 people?!

Elevator Pitch Resources

With a quick Google search you can find a few dozen resources that help you prepare an effective elevator pitch. I used an Inc. article as a guide, but I found this article most helpful. I also referenced this handout I received at a panel discussion about elevator pitches at last year’s WI Early Stage Symposium:

Elevator Pitches

 

The Pitch

I mentioned there were 500 people in the audience; it was probably more like 750! Here’s a pic I took from the back of the room. Gulp!

Elevator Pitch

I was in awe of the size of the audience, entertained by all the nervous body language of some pitchers, and amazed at how composed and effective other pitchers were.

As for me, I was totally nervous. One woman sitting next to me who already completed her pitch, which, by the way, the judges weren’t too keen on for some reason, said  to me, “Don’t shit yourself.” To which I replied, “too late!” Ha!

My pitch went over well and I received mostly 3s and 4s from a scoring system of 1 thru 5. I was pleased with this result given the visual nature of my product and I didn’t have any video, pictures, or slides to show them (props were allowed but no use of the projector).

There was the one judge who, after I explained how I got the inspiration for WeMontage from an episode of HGTV and mentioned I have a patent pending, blurted out, “you know they’ve patented that, right?”

My response: “who?”

His reply: “the people on HGTV?”

Me: “what exactly have they patented?”

Him: “the whole thing?”

Me: “what do you mean?”

Him: “oh, I’m just kidding! Hahaha!”

Seriously, dude? What a jackass.

Here’s a youtube video of me practicing my 90 second pitch for the 50th time (no exaggeration):

[youtube http://youtu.be/GCy14rKAte0&w=560&h=315]

 

Whaddaya think? Good? Great? Sucks? Lemme know by leaving a comment.

The Answer To The Question

I got a lot out of this experience and am thankful I was asked to participate. It’s incredibly difficult to distill your biz’s story down to 90 seconds and explain what you do, why it’s different, who the competitors are, how you’ll make money, and what the market opportunity is.

I also got to meet entrepreneurs who are working on some pretty kewl start-ups. For example, I met the founder of a company, Iristocracy (love this name!), which is building technology that lets you virtually try on a pair of glasses while sitting at your computer and see how they look in 3-D, from all angles. How kewl is that?! Actually, they won the competition.

I met another guy whose company, Novo Luggage, solves the problem of your luggage looking like everyone else’s at the airport by letting you add a custom skin to it.

So, are elevator pitches a waste a time for entrepreneurs? Absolutely not!

Have a thought about elevator pitches, how to best prepare one, or their effectiveness? Please share by leaving a comment.

Suerte! (Good luck!)

 

Finding The Right Project Management System For You

When it comes to growing your business successfully, you must be able to manage your time effectively. In this podcast, we are talking about finding the right project management system for you so you can manage your time more effectively.


Click here for direct link to podcast.


Here is my list of project management systems I have had some experience with. Enjoy!

Basecamp

My experience with basecamp was pretty short. It worked well, but not the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It reminded me of excel spread sheets, maybe they have changed since then.

Action Method
Action Method was a good system and I loved some of the cool features, like the “nag” feature! The client of mine that was using this ended up leaving due to pricing for additional team members.

Do

Do.com is a nice system that makes it super simple to assign tasks to team members. Personally, I did not like it for team collaboration. You can now integrate Do into Salesforce.com now, which is cool.

Flow

Out of the list here, Flow is the only one I have not used. I created an account to see how it worked for a client, but the client ended up going with a different project management system. But from what I saw, it looks like a great system.

Asana

I have been impressed with Asana, there are a lot of big brands that are using them. They have cool features like syncing with Dropbox. They also have an iPhone app, which I like!

Chatter

Like I said in the podcast, this is what I have been using for the past year everyday for project management and CRM. I use the desktop and mobile apps all the time. I have found no reason to leave this system at this time.

ZoHo

I don’t have too much to say about ZoHo. They seem to do a great job for many. From what I remember, the interface was not the most aesthetically pleasing.

Rule.fm

Personally, I really liked Rule.fm. I almost stuck with them instead of going with Chatter. That was when they first launched, so they are most likely even better! I really like their style and easy to use interface that allows you to assign tasks and see exactly what is going on and what needs to get done.

So there you have it! My quick run down with project management systems that I have experienced.

Do you use something different? I would love to hear about it, leave a comment below and let’s talk! :)

Go out and rule your time!

Paul Cooley

Don’t Be a Turkey! How to Compensate Independent Contractors Fairly

It’s Thanksgiving week, and people everywhere are talking turkey. Business owners probably are thinking more about the spread that day than issues like fair pay. But fair compensation is a hot button topic as businesses like Walmart and Hostess face issues with their unions and paying benefits fairly.

Turkeys aren’t the brightest of birds; otherwise we wouldn’t eat them every holiday. It’s not good to be compared to a turkey, but unfortunately, some business owners are “turkeys” when it comes to paying fair rates. How can you avoid being a “turkey” when it comes to hiring independent contractors with your business? Here are a few ways!

Turkey Contractors Compensation

Do Your Research

When you’re looking to pay an independent contractor for copywriting, blogging or other services, make sure you do your research on what rates are fair. This might vary if you decide to hire a new indie compared to a seasoned contractor, but knowing the baseline can help you determine if you’re paying a fair rate.

It’s also important for contractors to avoid being “turkeys,” too! Know the fair rates for your work and avoid getting duped. You might do this through your own research, through talking with other professionals, or through analyzing your current rates to see if they are fair for the work you’re doing.

If you’re not sure where to start, look for fee sheets on various websites. Organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) provide a rate sheet on their website, so look for these and rates on individual contractor websites for more information. Some contractors do not post rates, but you can ask them and they may provide them if you are serious about hiring them.

Consider Your Budget

Some business owners become “turkeys” when they plan to outsource work, but don’t analyze their budget to see if they can afford it. They might have numerous projects in mind for the contractor, but the money runs out quickly because they haven’t planned.

You must consider how often you plan to employ the contractor and if your budget is realistic for the work you want. If you find yourself running out of money before the project is done, then you haven’t planned well enough for the work or may have gone outside of the scope of the work, which would result in more fees.

Discuss Rates with Your Contractor

The most important way to avoid becoming a “turkey” is to talk in-depth with your contractor about their rates and what you expect from the project. They may provide you a range or a fixed rate for the project, and some contractors prefer to use hourly rates.

Depending on your relationship with the contractor, you may have them on retainer and pay as projects come in, or have a new contract for each project. I have done both with clients and they work out well for both parties!

What are your tips for paying fair rates to contractors? Tell us in the comments!