My Favorite Technology for Freelance Bookkeepers

Technology can make your life easier as a freelance bookkeeper. But on the other hand if you’re not careful, it can make it needlessly complicated. Before you chose to implement any new technology, you need to do your due diligence.

Getting recommendations from fellow freelance bookkeepers is a good place to start. While I don’t consider myself a technical guru, I want to share some things that I’ve found that can make your life easier.

For a safe and secure way to share information, I like ShareFile. You can brand it with your own company logo. You pay one fee by the quarter. I think it’s about $90. You can have as many users on it as needed and set up a private folder for each one. If you’re working on a project for someone, you can give him or her a link where they can upload their information. It’s really helpful.

To consolidate your phone calls with an 800 number, I like Grasshopper. You can use it to route calls to any phone number you want. You log onto the panel and set up your parameters so that it goes to your cell phone. You’ll also get an e-mail notification whenever you have a message.

When your staff is virtual, you don’t want your clients to call six different numbers to reach six different people. You want to give them one phone number to call and then choose from the dial-by-name directory. All your virtual assistants get his or her own extension. For $25 you get the number and the service.

For a scheduling tool, I like TimeTrade. It’s a great way to allow people to schedule their own free consultation with you. You set up the times that you have available ahead of time. When someone is interested, they can take care of scheduling their own appointment. If someone decided to schedule an appointment with you at midnight, they can do it right then rather than waiting until the next day to reach an assistant. While the interest is alive, TimeTrade can capture it.

A good motto for incorporating any new technological tool into your business is: Do it if it’s going to make it easier for your customer. That’s the bottom line. If it’s easy, people are going to do it.

There are a lot of tools and programs to choose from out there. And if you’d like to talk with other freelance bookkeepers about what they like, join us at the Bookkeeper’s Club where we discuss subjects that really make a difference to your bottom line.

7 Essentials for New Freelance Copywriters Looking for the Best Website Hosting Plan

Having an online presence (be it a full-service blog or a regular website) is vital to sustaining a freelance copywriting business. After all, the first place potential customers will look for information about you is on the Web. The next thing they’ll want to know is how your services can benefit them and yes, they will look to the Web for this. However, as you undoubtedly know, in order to have a website for them to visit, you will need a web hosting provider.

To start on this journey in search of the right web host, you will also need to know how to select the right service, and, to do that of course, you need to have some basic idea of your own web hosting needs and need to have a logical starting place. Consider the following:

Research

Look for comments from prior or current customers of web hosts that you may be considering to help you determine which webhosting company is best for you. I scoured the sites of writing freelancers, copywriter colleagues and Internet marketers that I trusted as authorities on the subject. In a short time, I was able to figure out which service was best for me. Initially, I basically needed a brochure-type site with no bells and whistles, and I found one. But when I began to grow, my needs changed. At both times, I conducted research pretty much the same way, coupled with an independent check on the specs of the companies in question.

Check out freelance copywriters who are doing what you plan to do. E-mail them and ask them who they use. Ask them if they are satisfied with the service, etc. Hint: if they run ads on their site for a particular company, there’s a good chance that that company is their current or previous web host. Either way, (if it’s not a Google-sponsored, PPC-type ad) it’s a safe bet that these are companies they trust enough since they’ve gone out of their way to endorse them, so to speak.

Round the Clock Technical Customer Service

If you are new at operating your own website, quality customer service should be among the key essentials of the web hosting service. You want a company that has 24-hour customer service and technical assistance. This is true even if you are tech savvy. Not all things will be able to be resolved by you alone. And, as a new business owner, if you are not tech savvy, you will need to work with people who are sensitive and patient as you deal with whatever issues you may have. There’s nothing like an exasperated customer service rep to make you feel worse while you’re in the throes of a website crisis. Been there. Not fun.

Ease of Control Panel

Because I am not tech savvy, “ease of control panel” was right up there at the top of my list of priorities. It was the primary reason I initially selected my second web host – Homestead/Intuit -on which to set up my many websites – for its simplicity. And I loved it, but, as you will see, if you work your business right, freelance copywriting businesses grow and their needs change. In other words, “ease of control panel,” may not be all you need.

Uptime

Uptime is the percentage of time your host is accessible through the Internet. You always want your service to be functioning and available for use, i.e., the uptime. This means you are able to update your website’s pages, and that visitors will be able to come to your site whenever they make attempts to enter your website. When a hosting service cannot guarantee uptime, the results can be disastrous.

Disk space

Hosting space is the amount of room that your web host provides to store your files, including your graphics, HTML, videos, etc. If you’re not sure how much space you’ll need for your site, I recommend you pick a web host company that has unlimited disk space. This way, you can create as many web pages as your heart desires.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that is accessed by your visitors over a period of one month. If you don’t know how much bandwidth you need for your website, choose a host with unlimited data transfer so you can support any number of visitors you want.

Affordable

Hosting service companies are not created equal. You want a host that suits your needs, but one that is affordable. There is much too much competition out there for you to be paying through the nose for hosting service. But there’s affordable, and then there’s cheap. Watch out for cheap. And I certainly would not recommend free. When it comes to website hosting, there is a real truth to “you get what you pay for.” Free hosting is often undependable and has many other downsides that, ultimately, end up being costly to your pocket, to your reputation, to you professionally and possibly, emotionally.

Do plenty of research with respect to web hosting companies. Check to see what other copywriters and marketing companies are using. Chances are, the services you need will be comparable to the services their hosting companies provide.

If you want to go to bed or on vacation without worrying about the functionality of your website and have superior customer support, check this out

How To Successfully Participate In A Panel Discussion

THE MODERATOR

A successful panel discussion begins with the moderator. The moderator should be mindful of each person on the panel and remember everyone has something to contribute. The moderator of our panel contacted the panel members several weeks prior to the panel. He asked panelists to contribute questions for the discussion. As he was unfamiliar with my work, I sent him a copy of my book BETWEEN A CLUTCH AND A HARD PLACE.

What if you’re asked to moderate a panel? I suggest familiarizing yourself with the other panelists, finding out what they write, and asking them to help out with questions and what direction they anticipate the discussion going in. For example, I moderated two panels at the Southern Publishers & Writers Expo. One was on crafting nonfiction. I worked up a list of questions and, closer to the Expo, I submitted the questions to the panelists to see if they had additional areas they’d like covered during the discussion.

Be sure to leave time for questions from the audience. Some of the most probing, informative questions (and subsequent answers) were generated by audience members; and they were questions none of the writers would’ve thought to ask. For example, one of the audience members asked if any of us had been contacted by law enforcement agencies because we have accessed potentially harmful information. All the writers said “no” but I added that I’d undergone an FBI background check when I attended the forensics and biometrics fellowship at West Virginia University. I also related the story about how I’d called the FBI when I was writing the novella WHEN DARKNESS FALLS to ask how a body that had been frozen would look. The FBI referred me to a pathologist who said mine was the SECOND strangest question she’d ever received. (No, she wouldn’t tell me Number One.)

YOUR INTRODUCTION

If you’re familiar with BETWEEN A CLUTCH AND A HARD PLACE, you know it’s a comedic mystery. However, the panel was on technology in mysteries. When I was introduced, the moderator mentioned the technology in my book was via the heroine’s granddaughter who helped out using computer technology. “CLUTCH” has very little technology in the plot. In fact, the story probably uses less technology than anything I’ve ever written. Upon being introduced, each author was given an opportunity to tell a little about him/herself. I explained that I also do freelance writing, that most of my technology experience is derived from researching nonfiction articles, and that my articles have appeared in LAW AND ORDER MAGAZINE and P.I. MAGAZINE.

PANEL PARTICIPATION

You’ll probably find your fellow panelists fascinating. I did. Our panel included a forensic psychologist and an author who restores classic Rolls Royces (so does her protagonist). Don’t be afraid to lend them your support. This is a wonderful opportunity to network, exchange information, and learn. Whatever you do, don’t monopolize the discussion and ostracize your fellow panelists.

This is a terrific opportunity to promote your work. As a show of support, mystery-writing team Jim and Joyce Lavene attended my panel. (Jim and Joyce are lovely people. Check out their books at http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/) After the panel discussion, Joyce came up to me and told me what a good job I’d done. She said, “You’re the only one who used every answer to promote something you’ve written.”

For example, I mentioned that I have a book called DEADLY DOSES: THE WRITERS GUIDE TO POISONS (Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner, Writers Digest Books)that I used to research sarin, a poison used in WHEN DARKNESS FALLS. I did add that heaven forbid anyone I even remotely know should ever die from some kind of poisoning! My fellow panelist Judith Skillings said, “If they do, burn the book! Burn the book!” 🙂

While it can be intimidating to sit on a panel and look out upon a sea of mostly unfamiliar faces, take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. If you haven’t spoken before an audience very many times, this is an excellent way to learn from other professionals and to gain valuable speaking experience.