Tag Archives: Social Networking

5 things you should know about working from home

When this was all I did, I kept EVERYTHING to hand

I’ve been thinking a lot about working from home recently. Partly because I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I work, and partly because my friend Lucy sent me this: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home That made me laugh, but it’s all true.

I’ve told the story of my becoming a full-time writer many times in this blog, and if you’ve read through my back-posts, you’ll have seen me go back to being a part-time writer. Now I feel it’s more important than ever that I capitalise on my chances to work from home. I keep the thought of going back to working full-time at home as my ultimate goal.

Five Things You Should Know About Working From Home

  1. It may not be for you. Sorry to be blunt, but it isn’t easy. And there’s two parts to that. It isn’t easy to be productive in the home environment, and it isn’t easy to find a job that’ll let you work from home in the first place. Yes, people will sell you books explaining how telecommuting is changing the face of the workplace, but I dare you to go ask your boss if you can work from home. He’s likely to say “For god’s sake, you’re a Zoo Keeper! How are you going to feed the lions? Facebook?” Ok, he’ll only say that if you’re a zookeeper, but I bet he doesn’t agree.
  2. Working in your pyjamas isn’t as much fun as you might think. No, really. I see this used as a justification all the time. Folks saying “I used to have to wear power suits every day, and now I sit at the computer in my pyjamas and make $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!”. For one thing, unless you’ve got a computer in your pyjamas, that sentence is grammatically incorrect. For another, how businesslike are you going to feel, in your pyjamas? I once had to do a serious interview with a genuine TV personality. She returned my call unexpectedly early, and I found it hard to remain detached and focussed on taking notes because I was in my dressing gown while talking to Charlie Dimmock. By the way, she doesn’t know this, so please don’t tell her. One traumatised person is enough.
  3. It can be lonely. Just run through in your head how many people you talk to every day at work. Even if you hate the people you work with, can you imagine spending the day alone? You like the thought of that? What about the next day? And the next. And the next. Every day, just you and your PC, only communicating with others by phone or email. You will find yourself cruising Facebook, looking for live users to chat to for the pure human interaction. Well, that’s my excuse. If you find yourself on You Tube looking at kittens, give it up.
  4. An unstructured day can be unhealthy. Now I know that some of you can spend waaay too long in the office. One of Mrs Dim’s first bosses had his desk next to the front window and would always be visible in his office until seven or eight, his face glowing in the light from his monitor. Turned out he was playing Solitaire most of the time, and he ended up having a heart attack at his desk. What was my point? Hang on. *pause* Oh, yeah. even if you like to hang it on at the end of the work day, there are little clues to keep you in the regular rhythm of work. You probably can’t get into the office before 6am. You see everyone else going to lunch between 11am and 3pm (FROM 11am to 3pm if you work in advertising) so you know it’s lunchtime. And at some point they’ll turn off the lights and lock the doors so the cleaners can get to work. If you’re childless and working from home, who’s going to regulate YOUR working day? You are, that’s who. So if you let lunchtime slide because you’re on a roll, or start working at five in the morning, no one’s going to stop you. But no one’s going to make you go outside either, no one’s going to make you take a break, make you eat something. There are days I go outside to collect the weasels from school and I am surprised by the sunshine. If the light’s bright outside, I close the blinds so I can see the words on the screen, and then four hours later I step out the front door….It’s a wonder I don’t disintegrate into a pile of ashes.
  5. People won’t believe you’re working. If you’re a parent returning to the work environment via working from home, the chances are you’ll know other parents who aren’t out at work all day. They may well believe it’s ok to drop in on you at coffee time (read: any time their kids are at school/playgroup/college/scoring dope) and talk your ears off while you’re wondering if your partner will be angry there’s no money coming in from your business today. If you’re at HOME, you’re not at WORK, folks, no matter how fancy your home office is. If you’re working, don’t answer the door. If you answer the door, don’t blame me.

Slightly less clutter, slightly more productivity in slightly less time

So now I’m trying to empower my business, big up my personal brand, claim my webvibe and…you know, earn some money. Today (and I still can’t believe I did this) I decided to take some positive steps towards increasing sales of my e-book (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) and so I went online and discovered the excellent blog by Kristen Lamb . I followed her advice and bought her e-book ‘We are not alone“. Yes, read that bit again. I wanted to promote my e-book, so I went out and bought an e-book. Should I just have sent myself that  money? All will be revealed when I have read through “We are not alone” and followed the advice within. If I can consolidate my social media platforms and expand my webpresence without losing my grip on my brand….I’ll be very surprised.

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Blogtrotting

Use your computer with caution

I didn't have a relevent photo for this one.....

That was a title that made me laugh, then I realised it would have no significance for 90% of the people who stumble across this blog. Never mind, I’m not explaining.

I’ve noticed that my blog entries over the past month have fractured into two distinct streams – the real life commentaries, talking about the riveting renovations and my lack of progress in taking the writing world by storm, and the more Meta pieces about issues that I think might be of interest to folks who don’t know me. When I found myself sitting down to write an entry solely because I thought it might turn up on google searches, I had to stop and think about why I was writing in the first place.

 Yes, I check my readership stats obsessively and I’m unreasonably jealous of those lucky bloggers who make the front page of Freshly Pressed and get thousands of hits but there should be a more pressing reason to blog than getting the big numbers, right? I call myself a writer, and that’s because when I need to express something, or explore an idea, I reach for a pen or a keyboard, not a camera or a paintbrush. This is who I am, it’s what I do.

I’ve been involved in some discussions over on LinkedIn, the business networking site, with colleagues from “PWAC” about the importance of Social Networking and using it to boost your business. That’s why I moved my posts over here to WordPress, as you’ll know if you’ve read them all. I used to have a blog on Yahoo 360, which moved to another place (Multiply) when 360 closed. Let me go off on a tangent for a minute here…I’ll get back to Linked In, I promise.

360 was an online community thing, a bit like Facebook. I had a group of virtual friends, we all blogged and commented and had online talks.  Some of my friends I only knew through their avatars.

Bowzer, for example, will always be a small dog to me, because that’s how he presented himself and he never broke character.

 Kate was a real person, and although she preferred to use Gil Elvegren pictures for her avatar, she appeared in person a couple of times, so I knew what she looked like. This was back in the days when there were fewer weasels and I was just beginning on my great writing adventure. I had more time to waste in front of the PC and these people filled that time and probably a gap in my life too – I had moved far from home and missed having friends to talk to. The important thing for this entry was that my blog back then was a personal joke. I wrote what I wanted to write, I wrote things that were deliberately silly, took joy in including photos that made me laugh and had no relevence to the subject. I was not motivated by anything but the urge to write. Yes, I wanted my friends to read and comment, but their approval and laughter was the only goal I had, not increased business success.

Back to Linked In. Someone posed the question “Why do we have a Linked In group?”  and I used it to whine about my lack of success through social networking – not enough people have bought my book, I’m not getting calls from agents etc etc. I got a gentle slap down from others in the group pointing out how I should be doing the social network thing. It comes down to using social networking as a business tool, and that’s when I pull up short. There are days when I’m out walking the dog and a dialogue is running in my head. I would get rid of it by writing it down, but I can’t use it in my blog because that’s not the wisest business course. I worry about who’s going to read it and what they’ll think. I’m self-censoring. That’s a good thing if I’m whining again, but does that mean I should be running two blogs, one for me and one for business? What happens if more people read the fun one than the business one? What happens if no one reads either one?

Mrs Dim says the posts I put up are interesting enough but too pedestrian and I guess I agree with that. This one certainly is, but unless I’m laying the ideas out, I can’t get my head around them. I intended to talk about the blogs that I follow, the ones that I read on a daily/weekly basis, but I guess that can wait until next time. Meanwhile, in the spirit of capitalising on the power of Social Networking: BUY MY BOOK! (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) VISIT MY WEBSITE: www.tlc-creative.co.uk  Follow me on Twitter! Send me MONEY!

E-Commerce: buying with a click?

Ooh, catchy title. That’ll have ’em flocking to my blog in droves. In fact, that’s a lot of the problem I’ve been thinking about this week. Well, thinking about in the few spaces between bussing the Weasels to Weasel Camp, greeting merry Home Improvement Customers, laundering the Washing Mountain and resurrecting the long-lost Gazebo. Plus it’s hot.

As you know, I finished and made available, through the wonder of the internet, my e-book “Writing a play for the Amateur Stage” (or, if you’re in North America, “Writing a play for Community Theatre”). I knew, as it launched, that this was not going to be the end of the work. Nothing sells itself. But this is the internet, and everyone knows that selling stuff on the internet is easy. You just make a viral video, or tell a few folks, or mention it on your blog, and the next thing you know whatever you’re selling has been mentioned on “Oprah” and you have to give up your day job to stay ahead of demand, you’re appearing on reality TV shows and dating a singer…

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

I really, really thought about making a viral video for the book. I mean, I’m a writer, and I’ve written scripts for films before. Short ones, yes, and longer ones that didn’t get made (yet) but even so, writing a viral is a bit different. For a start, as someone pointed out recently, YOU don’t make it viral. The people who pass it on do that. Setting out to make a viral video is a bit like setting out to write a bestseller. It doesn’t get the title until it’s earned it, and that’s the bit you can’t influence. So I haven’t done that yet. Plus there’s the fact that at the moment I only have the Weasels on hand as volunteer actors, and they’re not interested unless there are special effects and lightsabres involved.

So I talked to other writers about my book. The first problem I ran into was that this is an electronic product. I handed out little cards with the cover on them, plus a neat Tiny URL (http://tiny.cc/ghfo9) that takes you straight to the sales page of our website. Neat, but useless, as you have to then go home and type the URL into something. What I needed was an iPad to demo the book for people there and then. I didn’t even try to convince Mrs Dim that an investment of $500 was a good idea to flog a book costing $10 a time. I needed to show people the book, in situations where I wouldn’t be in front of a PC or laptop. Social situations, relaxed situations. In a burst of brilliance, I realised that what I needed to do was have a physical copy of the book. Something with pages you could turn. Ludicrous as it may seem, I went off and negotiated with a Printer to get two copies of my e-book printed out and bound. It took a lot of explaining. He was concerned that the cost of producing the book would be prohibitive. I explained again that I only wanted two of them. He pointed out that the book wasn’t laid out in the traditional manner, with blank pages included, and so it was rather low on the page count. I reminded him that it was intended as a download, which made blank pages redundant. He asked me again why I wanted it printed. I wondered that too, as I gently banged my head on his desk.

A fortnight later, I have two physical books. Yes, they’re still a bit slim, and they don’t accommodate the changes suggested by Claire Sowerbutt at our last PWAC meeting, but people can look at them without a computer. They can see the product I’m trying to sell them. I’m sure that’ll help with the folks I see face-to-face, but what about everyone else? I’m not going to go out into the world and meet everyone who I think might like to buy the book. The internet should give me the opportunity to present my product to millions of potential customers, and in a way that isn’t half as intrusive as the leaflets that still come through my mailbox about getting my driveway re-covered. I saw a brilliant interview about this on BBC World the other day. A woman was talking about targeted internet marketing and saying it’s not a bad thing. She used an example of a book about Labrador Puppies. Surely, she said, it’s better that the advert for that book only appears on websites about Labradors? The people who visit that website are more likely to want a book like that. Compare that to an advert on the homepage of, say, Yahoo.co.uk, where only a fraction of the people logging on will care two hoots about dogs, let alone Labradors.

I think she’s right, but then I got to thinking about internet advertising in general. I have never, ever clicked on an advertisement on a web page and bought something I wasn’t already intending to buy. I use the internet for all kinds of shopping, from movies and music to electronic AV gear, but I don’t think I’ve been tempted to a purchase by targeted advertising. I get targeted adverts from people like “Things from another World” a comic and Sci-Fi store. They have literally thousands of products I would love to own, and their adverts turn up on webpages I view as well as dropping into my general-use email. I’ve bought one thing from them in the last ten years, and it was something I went to find online. I bought the thing I wanted and I haven’t bought anything from them since.

So what about YOU, dear reader? Do you follow the clicktrail from the brightly coloured adverts on your homepage and make impulse purchases? If you belong to a Facebook group, does it annoy you when people use the Wall to post adverts for their products? Or is that part of what Social Networking is for? I know I would be much more likely to follow a link from one of the people I follow on Twitter than I would be to open an advert. I’ve contributed to independent film production through a Twitter link (For the brilliant “Origin” by the one and only Danny Stack) but I don’t even click for the movie preview trailers on the Yahoo homepage. Answers in the comments box please!