Author Archive

Should I get a Twitter account?

Should I get a Twitter account? That’s the question a friend of mine asked recently. She was about to make a presentation at a conference and the organizers had asked for her Twitter handle. Although she knew what Twitter was, it wasn’t part of her typical social media use and she wondered what it might offer.

When she asked me “Should I get a Twitter account?”, I took some time to find out why she was asking. After all, the answer to whether you need a Twitter account varies.

Twitter, which launched in 2006, is a social media and news platform where users post and interact with messages. Messages on Twitter are called “tweets” and are limited to 140 characters. Brevity rules on Twitter.

Messages are sent directly to people when you put an @ symbol in front. If you write @usernamehere and then a message, it will be seen by that person, but it’s still visible to the larger world. If you put that @usernamehere into a message, such as “Hey @username here, this article on accounting might help you start your business”, it will also be seen in the Twitter feed of anyone reading the post.

People often use hashtags on Twitter (#consulting, for example) to create conversations that others can follow. So, if you want to know what’s happening in #consulting, #marketing, #Seattle or with the #WHO, you can search or click on those tags. You can add tags to your conversations to help others find them, too.

You may choose to follow people on Twitter, so that you get a sense of what topics are popular or what’s hitting the news. Here in Vancouver, when an earthquake rumbles, an accident occurs or even fireworks burst, people will search Twitter to see if anyone else has mentioned the situation. News, business events and laws may also be topics of conversation, along with scientific discoveries, magazine articles and entertainment. If people think about it, it’s probably on Twitter.

If you decide to start posting on Twitter, it can help with building your profile — assuming you get in front of the right audience. I’ve used Twitter to make business connections, generate blog traffic, share information, get media interviews and build my profile.

Since Tweets are so short, it takes very little time to write a tweet. It’s less commitment than writing blog posts, articles or taking part in other marketing.

That being said, if you’re going to do Twitter right, you need to have a goal, a target audience, key messages and a plan for using it. Like anything else, it may or may not work for you. It’s always better to choose effective campaigns for your business than to do something poorly.

Do you have a Twitter account? Would you recommend it to others?

Related
Should I become a marketing consultant?
What is free publicity?
Should you be on Facebook?

Consulting Fees

Password Management apps make it easy

Password management apps can make your life much easier. Tired of trying to remember all your passwords? Stuck resetting every time your saved logins get wiped out? Turn to a password management app.

If you’re like me, you have a bazillion passwords for business, home and family. It seems like everything needs a login these days — your Wifi, electric company, phone company, email, online notes, social media and even devices like phones and computers. And you may even have multiple accounts with the same company, perhaps having accounts for home, business, multiple plans or even your kids.

This summer, I experimented with a couple of free password management systems. These are encrypted systems that manage all your logins and allow you to automatically login in by using a master password. You would not believe the stress relief this brought!

I tried 1Password and loved it, but switched to LastPass because I saw that I could share passwords with other people without telling them the password. So now it’s easy to hand over login credentials to web developers, freelancers and others without taking the risk of them actually knowing or seeing it. This makes collaboration easier, reduces risk and saves everyone the hassle of calling to find out what the password is THIS TIME.

In fact, LastPass on my phone lets me log in to see passwords just using fingerprint recognition. And you can use it for more than passwords — you can make secure notes and store secure photos too.

Every system has its limits and I’m not suggesting these systems are infallible. But if you are constantly setting passwords, using the same password on multiple sites or using easily hacked, easily guessed passwords (like password!), you may find that password management apps make your life a whole lot easier.

Bite, snack and meal – original reference

If you work in the online content world like I do, you may have run into the term “bite, snack and meal”. This phrase refers to creating content for readers with different appetites for your content. Sally might want to eat the entire dinner, but Mei-Ling just wants a little nibble and Ahmed wants more of a snack. I’ve seen this term thrown around by writers for years – but I recently went looking for the source.

After all, ideas come from somewhere. In this case, I turned up a 2001 Inc. article on the bite, snack and meal by E-Write. And a 2011 book by Charles Marsh et al, Strategic Writing, p.19, said Leslie O’Flahavan and Marilyn Rudick came up with the phrase in a book they wrote in 2002.

I looked up Rudick, O’Flahavan and E-Write. Upon seein Leslie O’Flahavan owns E-Write LLc, I contacted Leslie, who let me know that she started using the term in her courses around 1997 and popularized it through her 2001 article.

I’ll be making sure to cite this wonderful idea in my work – and I’m encouraging others to do the same. As a writer, I know how frustrating it is when others start using your ideas or words. One year, I had to file 200 requests for people to stop infringing on my content. Intellectual property and academic integrity rules still apply to online content.

Do you need a laptop for business?

Wondering if you really do need a laptop for business? We’ve previously written about this very question under the aptly-titled article, Do You Need a Laptop Computer for Business? . Things change and it seems like it’s worth revisiting this topic. After all, today’s entrepreneur has a range of device choices, including smartphones, tablets and iPads, desktops, Netbooks, laptops and other electronics.

When do you need a laptop for business?

Before you decide what to buy, think about when you’re planning to use your laptop for business. Consider all the circumstances:

  • Home office
  • Business office
  • Client settings
  • Public transportation
  • Coffee shops
  • Libraries
  • Office sharing and hotdesking
  • Presentations
  • Teaching

What do you need your laptop to do for your business?

Think about how you’ll need to use your laptop for work and business:

  • Email
  • Presentations
  • Document editing, including wordprocessing, spreadsheets and presentations – or something more intense?
  • Specialized apps and programs, such as GIS or architecture, rendering or high end accounting
  • Coding and programming
  • Gaming
  • Video editing
  • Graphic design

What do you really need in your business laptop?

There’s no sense investing in a laptop aimed at college students who game if you really need something just to edit documents. Think about:

  •  How fast your laptop needs to be
  • How big your screen should be
  • How heavy your laptop can be? Will an extra pound throw out your back? Do you really walk around with it that often?
  • How long does your battery need to last?
  • Will you plug your laptop into a docking station when you’re in your more ergonomic office set up?
  • Do you need your laptop to do everything? Will you have another workstation computer or is this it?
  • How will you use your laptop with other devices? Could you get away with a Netbook or an iPad/tablet paired with a keyboard some of the time?
  • Could you soup up your existing system with extra memory, cloud-based drive space or even just running some system maintenance?

Today’s business laptops are so powerful that, in many circumstances, it’s not whether you need a laptop computer for business – it’s what laptop computer do you need for business?! And the answer to that will come down to your unique needs. Spend the time to think through what you need before you end up investigating the devices available. It may save you from being pressured into a purchase you don’t need.

If you’re looking for a laptop for business, pop over to Amazon for some options. Consultant Journal is an Amazon affiliate.

How to use an iPad mini for business

You can use an iPad mini in your business – it’s not just for games and Netflix. The iPad mini turns out to be a valuable business tool.

For example, here’s the iPad Mini:

How to use an iPad mini for business

Combined with a Bluetooth keyboard, case and stylus, you can use your iPad to:

  • Take notes – use the Evernote app to jot down thoughts and points during meetings, when you’re standing in line or waiting for things to get started
  • Create, edit and collaborate on documents using Google Drive’s spreadsheet, document and presentation tools
  • Email – ’nuff said
  • Make video and voice calls – use FaceTime, Skype and other tools, along with your earbuds, to make calls from anywhere
  • Meet – whether you use GoToMeeting or just get creative with voice and video tools, you can run a meeting from anywhere
  • Access your files – DropBox and other cloud-based tools allow you to access your documents from anywhere
  • Present documents like you would on paper – just open up a PDF or other document on your iPad and swipe through it. Or bring along a presentation, report, whitepaper, video or other document.
  • Get the power of your phone without a tiny screen – you probably can’t go without your smartphone, but an iPad can give you that bigger screen and ease of sharing with a client that a phone makes difficult.
  • Gain portability – an iPad is easier to slip into your folio, purse or briefcase, without adding the weight of a laptop.

Do you use an iPad or other tablet in your business? Tell us how you use an iPad mini for business.

Disclaimer: Consultant Journal is part of the Amazon affiliate program.

Label makers for business

I use a lot of nifty gadgets in my business and it just occurred to me that I haven’t talked about them in ages. Well, I was just on Amazon to check on my print books, when I ran across this label maker.

Now, I’m an Amazon affiliate. I’ll be clear about that up front. But I use a label maker in my own business and it occurred to me that maybe other people could do the same. I got the idea to use a label maker from my client, who has franchised her business internationally. She’s always hip to new ideas. I bought my label maker about four years ago.

How do I use my label maker? Well, I put labels on my devices. In fact, I put my cell # and tell people to text me, along with my email. I figure people are more likely to text you than call you. I put labels on my storage boxes. I label things I take along to meetings. I put labels in books I loan out. I put them on water bottles I use at meetings. I put them on anything I cart along with me. I put them on anything I think I might lose or misplace.

I wouldn’t say labels have changed my life. I still label a ton of things with Sharpie markers:

But they’ve been a help. And maybe they’ll help you. I have a Brother label maker (in pastel pink!) that I picked up at Staples, but I noticed the above label maker on sale and thought maybe someone else out there would want to discover the magic of label makers.

Related – Office gadgets I can’t live without

Inbound marketing for small businesses

Inbound marketing for small businesses – that’s the art of getting clients to come to you. When many people think of marketing, they think of pushy salespeople. But that’s more of an old school approach. Many small businesses increasingly pursue inbound marketing techniques that bring clients to them.

With inbound marketing, small businesses – and organizations of all sizes – make it easy for clients to find them and interact with them.

Inbound marketing brings clients and customers in

Instead of pushing your business at customers, inbound marketing puts you and your businesses where those clients are, so that you can start establishing and building a relationship based on trust. Inbound marketing means:

  • Creating and distributing content
  • Developing lifecycle-based marketing and relationship tools for every step of the customer relationship and lifecycle
  • Tailoring and personalizing content to the individuals in your audience
  • Approaching people in the channels where they want to interact, how they want to interact
  • Integrating content and messages throughout all your tools and media
  • Getting permission to keep the relationship going

Inbound marketing examples for small businesses

Some examples of inbound marketing – used by small businesses and even large ones – include:

  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Whitepapers
  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • Speaking
  • Event marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • Pay per click advertising
  • Content marketing

Inbound marketing builds trust

With inbound marketing, you provide the information clients need, as they need it, where they need it. By holding out trustworthy, well-developed content, you establish your business as an authority and a brand of trust.

How do you market to your clients?

Related to inbound marketing

What kind of consulting should I do?


When I speak at industry events or even just go to business cocktail parties, people inevitably come up to me and ask how to get into consulting. It doesn’t matter whether they know I run Consultant Journal or not – just hearing that I’m a consultant seems to get people talking. That’s because many people like the idea of being their own boss, charging for their specialized knowledge, picking their own clients or maybe just having the freedom to schedule their own hours. For many, the idea of being a consultant is a dream, but they’re not sure how to combine their skills and experiences to create their dream business.

Because I spent years consulting to government, universities, non-profits and businesses about career planning, I have a good understanding of what it takes to develop a career path. Many of the materials and tools I have developed have been used throughout high schools, universities and the US and Canada to help job seekers find their way. And, because I’ve been a business coach and a small business advisor, I know what it takes to plan and launch a business. So, with all that in mind, I wrote Discover Your Inner Consultant. It’s a workbook for taking stock of your own skills, experiences, interests and unique attributes to uncover the work you’re meant to do. If you’re ever asked, “What kind of consulting should I do?” – this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

This workbook is a hands-on guide to help you on your way to identifying the kind of work you do. Based on a personal inventory, the book helps you identify what you love, what you hate, what ideas you have and more. If you’re not sure where to go, this book can help you find your way. You can order Discover Your Inner Consultant and start working on it right away.

Professional email address ideas for common names

Your professional email address may be one of the first ways you make an impression upon prospective clients, employers and contacts. And it’s one thing to come up with a professional-sounded email address if your name stands out. But if you have a name like Robert Smith, Jane Jones, Meiling Li, Jose Martinez or Mo Khan, there’s a good chance your name has already been taken. So what do you do then?

First, read our post on Seven terrible secrets revealed by your email address. You want to be sure that you’re not making the common mistakes that people with any old name might make. So start there.

But, say you’ve already done that. What do you do when your name is taken?

What you can do about your professional email address when your name is taken

Before we get started, it’s important to know any rules related to the host for your email. For example, Gmail does not treat periods as periods. So email to jane.jones and janejones goes to the same person. It’s the same account. If there’s already a janejones, you won’t be able to sign on as jane.jones or jane-jones. But other email providers may allow you to do so.

Combine your names

  • First name + last name = RobertSmith
  • First name . last name = Robert.smith
  • First name – last name = Robert-Smith
  • First name + middle initial + last name = RobertTSmith
  • First initial + middle name + last name = RTrevorSmith
  • First initial + middle initial + last name = RTSmith
  • First name + middle name + last name = RobertTrevorSmith
  • First initial + middle name + last name = RTrevorSmith

Modify your name:

  • RobSmith
  • RbtSmith
  • RobTrevSmith
  • RobertTrevSmith
  • RTrevSmith

Invert your name:

  • SmithRobert
  • SmithRT
  • SmithRob

However, if you invert your name, some people may forget and transpose the names. Then RobertSmith may start getting your email.

Combine your name with your business, profession, degree or city

  • RobertMLTLaw
  • RobertLawyer
  • RobertChicago
  • RobertSmithLawyer
  • RobertSmithChicago
  • RobertSmithLogistics
  • RSmithMBA
  • RobertSmithMD

Associations

Did your college give you a lifelong email address? Find out if your old email address is still available or sign up for an alumni account. MoKahn@almamater or mkhan@alumni.almamater may be an easier find than MoKhan@ major email provider.

You can also check with your industry, professional or other associations to see if they offer a lifetime email address.

Set up your own domain

Buy a domain and simply forward the email to your favourite email provider, regardless of whether you have a website set up. You don’t need to have a website to forward your email.

Set up an email address for a specific purpose and forward it

Some people find that they can stick with the long, unwieldy or typo-prone email they’ve been using for years. They do this by setting up a separate email account and forwarding it. So jobhuntrobert@ may be forwarded to RobertTrevSmith82. Some email providers will even allow you to set it up so that you respond from the same account, meaning no one will ever know your secret identity, at least not when you’re replying to recruiters.

Set your email to show your name, not your address

Make sure your email is set up so that messages say, “Jane Jones” or “Jane K. Jones” not “jjonesengineer@”. And use your full name. A client, recruiter or business contact scanning a list of recent emails or trying to search a huge history will not be able to tell “Jane” from all the other “Janes”.  And, honestly, if you’re not in elementary school, most people will need your last name to help distinguish you from others.

Whatever name you choose, keep it professional. And bear in mind the norms for your industry. In some cases, an email such as “TheRealMeilingLi”, “MrJoseMartinez” or “OhThatJaneJones” may produce a smile without reducing your credibility. This may go over better if you’re a graphic designer than if you’re a corporate tax attorney, so weigh up your choice.

Combine a Personalized Email Address, Website and Blog

You may have figured out how to set up a solid email account. But, to be honest, a generic email account will never bring the same respect that one with a brand behind it will.

Problems with Generic Email Addresses

You’re creating future problems. A generic email address from Gmail or your Internet Service Provider may suffice, but what if the email provider changes, closes or falls out of favour? Suddenly, you have to update all your contacts, but possibly also all your logins and accounts elsewhere.

You’re losing a chance to brand. With a personalized domain name, you can build on your professional brand identity, whether you own a company or not.

Creating a Personalized Domain Name

You don’t need a website to have a personalized domain name. In just minutes, you can set up a domain like FirstName@DomainName.com and set that email to automatically forward everything to your favoured email address. You can even configure Gmail or other email accounts to respond using that email address too. If you ever change Internet service providers or email accounts, the change will be invisible to your clients and contacts, since youre FirstName@DomainName.com can just point to the new account.

That being said, it can be even more powerful to sent up that domain to include a business card page, a profile, your professional social media contacts, or, ideally, your professional blog or website.

Why Build a Blog

If you receive my Six Tips for Building Your Expert Status emails, you already know I’m a huge fan of building your professional status by publishing and building authority. Building a blog is faster and easier than you might expect.

With a blog, you can publish and share articles or comment on other articles and content you share. It’s a way to build your voice, your professional brand, your credibility and more.

Why get your own website

With your own website, you can build an online presence – as a professional or as a company.  You can present your professional image, articles, photos…whatever you need to build out a brand. It can be a simple 5-page website or something far more sophisticated.

Interested in a mini course on building a website and a blog? Sign up here.

How to move forward with your professional address and website

Whether you’re building a domain name, blog or a website, you can take some of the same steps:

  1. Pick a focus
  2. Choose a platform
  3. Find somewhere to host your blog
  4. Select your domain name
  5. Set up and design your blog
  6. Start writing and posting
  7. Go live!

1. Picking a Focus for Your Blog

Take a few moment to consider:

Are you creating a blog or a website? A blog presents your posts. A website can offer up information about you, your resume, portfolio, services, testimonials – whatever you want. Setting up a website only takes a little more time, if you just want something basic.

What will your website or blog be about? Is it about you, your company, an approach, a specific topic?

Got an idea? Great! Let’s move.

2. Choose a platform

To put together a blog or website, you need a platform. I’ll come right out and say I prefer WordPress. You could choose something else, like HTML, Drupal, Wix, Shopify, Weebly or another service. But I like WordPress. I find it easy to use and I use it for all my personal and business sites…and it’s what I usually recommend for clients, too. It’s open source, has a ton of plug-ins, a large user community and it’s free.

3. Find somewhere to host your blog or website

Think of this part of your blog or website experience as the campsite for your tent! You’ve got all your camping gear ready, now where will you pitch your tent? You need somewhere to keep your blog or website. I suggest starting with a hosting provider that provides a lot of prepackaged services, if you’re just starting. You can always move up to your own server or more customized packages, if you’re more experienced or if your budget allows. I’ve signed up as an affiliate partner for Bluehost. I take you through all the steps to signing up here.

4. Select your domain name

A domain name – the URL for your website – should tie into your brand and your message. Your own name, your business name or another strong brand will likely work best. I like using the name suggestion tools at Nameboy and Webnames when I’m stuck for ideas. You can buy a domain name at one place and then port it over to the place you choose for hosting, but you may find it easier to keep everything at one place, if you’re still learning all this. Bluehost does both, which is one of the reasons I partnered with them.

5. Set up and design your blog

I recommend using one of the packaged themes, until you get a bit more used to things. You can also cruise through the templates at WordPress or ThemeForest.

6. Start writing and posting

You can just make a list of topics and start writing. But, for best results, you might want to create a bit of an editorial calendar – a list of what you’re going to write and when. I keep mine in a spreadsheet, but you could just as easily write it down or put it in a document or on an actual calendar.

7. Go live!

When you’re all set, release your work to the world! You can choose whether to use word of mouth, a marketing campaign or other strategies and tools to tell others.

If you want to set up your own site, you can look at some of the packages at Shopify or the hosting packages at Bluehost, along with my post on how to sign up and set up your blog, website and domain. I’m an affiliate partner for both, which means I receive a commission if you sign up. These aren’t the only places you can get set up, but, when I took a look around for some packages to recommend, these seemed to be the best fit for Consultant Journal readers.

Consulting Fees – A Guide for Independent Consultants

Learn proven models for setting your consulting and freelance fees. Our new book trailer highlights some of the content and review from Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

Almost 10 years ago, I wrote a post on how to set consulting fees. At the time, there was nothing else online. The post went viral and people started contacting me for more information. I’d dared to talk about money – a taboo subject – and, to top it off, I was sharing how I went about setting my fees. Soon, Consultant Journal had a loyal following and I’d published a short ebook. Over the years, I’ve expanded and refined that information to develop a full book, available both on this site and through bookstores worldwide.

Need help with your rates? Pick up a copy of Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.