Friday, June 21, 2013

Use Word’s Reviewing Functions For Maximum Effect

Microsoft Word's Reviewing Tab options include three key buttons: New Comment, Track Changes and Final: Show Markup.
One of the ways Microsoft Word can help your business grow is by allowing several people to work on a document. Several people giving input means the document stands a better chance of achieving its desire results.
From versions 2007 on, Word includes a Review tab filled with tools that lets people comment on a document.
To use the Reviewing functions, switch to the Review Tab and familiarize yourself with the tools. Spelling & Grammar should be used on every document, no matter how many people read it or approve it. The Thesaurus is helpful when you want to avoid using the same word several times in a sentence or paragraph. Word Count is helpful in ensuring some sentences and paragraphs are not too long, which can bore your reader. The Translate function works OK in a pinch … but not as well as having a native speaker review it.
Three key functions are New Comment (Previous and Next are simply navigation tools), Track Changes and Final: Show Markup. Let’s examine each of these functions in detail.

This gives example of Word's reviewing comments.

New Comment

Use New Comment when you want to say something about part of the document. Click your mouse where you want to insert the comment. Alternately, highlight a section and then click to show your comment applies to that portion only.
Use the New Comment balloons to insert corrections and suggestions. Examples can include: “The sales price listed here is wrong. The new price is …” “You are missing a word here.” “Are you sure this is accurate? It doesn’t match what I know.”
In the interest of teamwork and morale building, be sure to include at least one compliment when the writer makes an especially good point.
Another tip: Adding too many comments makes the document impossible to read. The original writer can get confused about what changes to apply and where to make them.
A benefit of the New Comment function is that it automatically inserts the initials of the person making the comment. The initials let the original writer keep track of who said what and who wants what.

Track Changes shows all alterations, no matter how minor.

Track Changes

When Track Changes is turned on, every alteration to the document, to the point of every backspace and minor correction, is documented. This includes major revisions, like chopping out a paragraph or section, and minor ones such as altering punctuation.
Some companies like to use this method on every document. Personal preference is to save multiple named versions of a document when wholesale revisions are going to be made. Having “draft1a,” “draft1b,” “draft2” and “FINAL,” for example, lets you make major changes and not erase critical information from an earlier version.

Final: Show Markup

Final: Show Markup” is one of several reviewing options you can select from a drop-down list. Others include “Original,” “Original Show Markup” and “Final.”
These options let you see what changes were made. The person with final authority can then decide if they like all, some or none of the later changes.
Going to “Final” option (the Show Markup is not selected) lets the reader see a complete version without the distractions of comments and indications of minor revisions. The “Final” version shows you what the document would look like if you printed it or sent it to someone.

Other Tools And When To Use Them

“Everyone makes mistakes but to really screw up requires a committee.” If you agree with that comment, you can understand why Microsoft included the Accept and Reject changes buttons.
Just because one person makes a comment does not mean the boss agrees with their assessment. If the author does not like a comment—the referenced error has been fixed but the reader missed it—they can reject it.
Compare lets you compare two versions of a document side by side. This is very helpful when you want to ensure no errors have been added to a document and that key information is present.
Restrict Editing is helpful when many documents are on an open network. People who may not need to comment, or whose changes could be detrimental, can be locked out by the original author. When an unauthorized person tries to read such a document, they will see a message saying, “Document Locked for Editing.”
They can still copy the document and make changes to the copy, but they cannot alter the original.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Is Your Business Reactive or Proactive?

Business moves at the speed of communications. Excellent communications lets your firm get and stay ahead of the competition. Some businesses only interact with their customers after a change in the marketplace. The more successful firms are those who move the market.
Proactive businesses thrive at the expense of reactive ones.
Reactive firms are like surfers who sit inside the break line. A big wave comes and swamps them. Proactive firms are like the surfers who sit on their boards outside the break. When the big swells come, they are ready to go for a long, exhilarating ride.

Is Your Firm Reactive?

Reactive firms are those who wait for their competition to make the first move then respond. An example is a company that is the only one of its type in a given territory. One day, a second firm opens its doors. The first firm only takes action—it reacts—after its competitor arrives.
Another example involves technology. Does your firm still use fax machines? Do your clients?
If so, you and your clients are living in the past when facsimile machines were standard practice. Now email is far faster and offers better quality  than faxes. Faxes are poor quality (150 dots per inch) black and white only. Screen resolution is 72 dots per inch, but with millions of color possibilities. Screens—and emails—also have the option of attaching documents of at least 300 dpi, which is the minimum standard for quality printing.
One example of how this quality shows up is sending images to clients and potential customers. If you want to send yellow text on a red background, it will look colorful in an email. It will look like gray mush in a fax.
Ah, so you finally equipped your sales staff with laptops? Good for you … except you’re behind the times.
Today having a sales force with cellular tablets—ones that can connect to the Internet and thereby send orders directly to you—is the wave of the present. Tablets have screens large enough to be readable but small enough to fit in a purse or small satchel.
Reactive firms are stuck in the past, both technologically and in their mindsets. “The old days were good enough for us” is their mentality.

Is Your Firm Proactive?

Proactive firms are ahead of the curve, not behind it.
These firms are constantly aware of what their competition is doing. They also make steps to protect their territory by asking questions of current and potential clients. Proactive companies take steps to make it unprofitable for anyone else butt in.
Proactive firms are those who were among the first to adopt the latest technology. They look at new hardware products—tablets for example—and software—like Pinterest—and see how they can serve the company’s needs. They are also keeping their eyes on emerging technologies and threats for potential impacts good and bad.
Instead of shrinking their business, proactive firms are looking to expand it. This expansion might include broadening the physical scope of where they operate, such as going from one city to an entire state. The expansion may include broadening their product and/or service lines, adding kid’s wear to a firm that traditionally only sold women’s clothing.
Proactive firms are active in the present and looking at the future. “Yesterday was OK, today is good but we will make tomorrow even better” is their approach.

Moving From Reactive To Proactive Starts With SWOT

How can a company move from being reactive, responding to intrusions into their sales territory by either abandoning it or taking action when it’s too little, too late?
Start with a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Honestly examine your own firm. Also look at your top competitors and those on the rise.
Where are your strengths? What do you do better than everyone else?
What are your weaknesses? What does each competitor do better than you? Where do other firms out perform you?
Where are there opportunities for you to become more efficient? Where are there places for you to grow?
In what areas are you seeing sales reductions? Where are you seeing drops inefficiency, an increase in customer complaints, a decline in morale?
Don’t say that the current approach is adequate. Constantly ask yourself, “How can we be better?”

There Are Costs In Money, People And Pain

Going forward—growing—is a painful process. You are going to spend money and you may well lose a few long-time employees in the process.
Consider this example. Your SWOT report says it’s time to dump the one centrally located black and white copier you’ve had for 5-10 years and replace it with several smaller printers closer to where people work. If you follow that course of action, you will dump an older piece of equipment. You will also end a business relationship with the firm servicing your copier.
Hiring relatives or friends is always a bad move, no matter how well qualified they are. There comes a time when they get too comfortable and start under-performing. They also may not respond positively to your criticism and performance review.
Use the result of your SWOT analysis to look at ways to move forward. This may mean:
·         Bringing in an outside evaluator to assess each person’s performance. Consider including top management in this evaluation. Is this the right person for their current job? Is someone else better qualified in terms of knowledge, experience and personality for this position? Is this person being underutilized in their current occupation?
·         Evaluate your business relationships with other firms. Are they providing the goods or services you need in a timely manner? Are they providing them at a good price? Is a slightly higher price or slightly longer delivery compensated by consistent products and services?
·         Evaluate your current markets. Compare your progress over time both to your firm and to your competitors’. Are you moving faster than they are, or are you falling behind?
·         Where can we grow?
·         Use social media, such as Facebook, to ask the public, “how can we improve?” You just might get some product ideas you hadn’t considered. Even in a worst case scenario, many people will respond positively because you are asking them for their opinions. You don’t have to act on them, but at least consider what current and potential customers say.
This knowledge m ay well mean ending some personal and business relationships. Long-term employees may be reassigned, asked to retire or fired. Other people may be given a heavier workload without any additional compensation.
Cut out the deadwood—the people who are being paid for doing nothing—and bring in people wanting and willing to work. Get people who are excited to come to work, not those who are more excited about going out for a beer after hours. Make the workplace fun and exciting, not full of stress.
Ask a woman if giving birth to her children was a very painful experience. She will say yes … but the results are worth it. The same thing applies to growing your business. It’s painful but in the long run, your firm will be better for it.
Use your data to make a plan for growing your business.

Use Your Data To Make A Plan

Information filed in a drawer or stuck in some folder on a server is worthless if it is never used. Use the results of your SWOT analysis and any comments from outsiders to create a plan.
Have immediate, moderate and long-term goals and objectives plus plans for achieving them. Make the goals realistic and achievable. If the goals are too outlandish, you can never accomplish them.
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy said the U.S. should have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong fulfilled Kennedy’s promise.
Landing a man on the moon was the long-term goal. The immediate task was creating an organization and infrastructure to make the end goal possible. Kennedy used an existing organization—NASA, founded in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower—for this purpose.
If your goal is to double the number of products you sell, start by using your marketing and sales department to determine which products best fit those currently being sold.
Kennedy’s intermediate goal was creating the vehicles necessary to achieve the final goal of landing a man on the moon. Your intermediate goal may involve adding (and training) staff and equipment to achieve your goal.
Kennedy’s long-term goal was achieved only after the short- and long-term goals were reached. If you use and existing department, or create a new one, then staff and equip it, you can reach your goals.

Be Flexible

Military officers will tell you that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. In the war of business against business, a competitor’s action may make your new business plan obsolete.
For example, if you are planning to market a new line of active wear aimed at older adults, and your number two competitor beats you to it, pause for a second. You might well decide to continue with your own plan as it is. Alternately, you might make some changes to take advantage of holes in what your competitor is doing.
Older adults, for example, tend to get most of their information from traditional media sources such as print publications and broadcast media. If your competitor is only advertising on social media and ignoring print, you’ve got an opening to skewer them royally.

Create A Plan For Creating Plans

Having a plan for creating action plans allows you to move faster than creating each action plan individually.
Start by working backwards from your long-term goals to your intermediate goals to your short-term goals. You already know where you are. After determining your long-term goals, you know where you want to go.
With start and ending points in hand, and a flexible mindset, create the policies and procedures needed to achieve your goals.
Once you’ve created a rough plan, ask your staff for feedback. Ask the people who will do the work these questions:
·         Are our goals achievable? Why? Why not?
·         Are there steps we can eliminate to save time? Are there steps we should add to protect ourselves?
·         How would you change this plan to make it more effective?
Once you’ve gotten feedback, consider rewarding people whose comments made a difference. Everyone likes a reward so people may try harder if they have something to gain.


Being proactive means taking steps to move forward, not sitting around waiting for someone else to act.
Proactive firms are constantly seeking to improve and expand. They conduct regular SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses both to see where they are and how they can get better.
Consider the human element, not just the facts. People are going to be impacted by your actions.
Be organized. Create a plan for creating plans so you can respond faster to threats and new opportunities.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Think Like A Reader

Think Like A Reader when you write ... anything.

How many writers do you know who write from a reader’s perspective? Odds are, you know few if any writers using this approach.
My take is writing exclusively from a corporate perspective is not only old-fashioned, but very ineffective. Writing from a reader’s perspective is essential if you want to capture not only their attention, but their desires.

The ‘Old’ Way Of Writing

In The Beginning … there were stone tablets and ponderous, stone-like marketing methods. Companies decided what products to make. They made them. They decided what products to make available to consumers. Consumers picked the products they liked from the limited—compared to today—choices. Manufacturers were happy. Consumers were slightly satisfied, but often not thrilled.
Business writing followed the corporate edict of. “This is what we have. This is why you should buy it.” This method was based on the desires of the corporation not the needs or wants of the consumer.
Then things changed.
The Internet appeared and all of a sudden—overnight in the eyes of some slow-moving corporations—consumers had access to many more choices. Instead of one brand of breakfast cereal, there were 30, 50 or more. And with this explosion of products all competing for the same consumers, business writing was dragged kicking and screaming into a new century.

Consumer-Centric Writing

“Think Like A Reader” simply means that writers must include the needs of their audience when writing … anything.
Audiences don’t go to movie theaters to hear someone preach a religious gospel. They don’t go the nearest cinema complex to be lectured about morality or the problems with the political party in charge. Audiences go to theaters to be entertained.
Reader’s don’t pick up a gun magazine expecting to read about the latest in women’s fashions unless those fashions happen to relate to camouflage clothing. And they don’t read a cooking magazine expecting to learn how to field-strip a pistol.
Readers pick up different print publications seeking information and/or entertainment. They do the same thing with their online sources. When they go to a news site, they are looking for information. When they go to an entertainment site, they want to be transported to a world far away from their current problems.
And when readers go to a business-oriented website or blog, they want to know why they should spend their hard-earned money on your products instead of someone else’s.

‘Why?’ Is At The Center of This Approach

Journalists use the approach of the “5 W’s and 1 H” in their writing. This stands for who, what, when, where, why and how as in, “who was involved?,” “What happened?,” “When did it happen?,” “Where did it take place?,” “Why did it happen?” and “How did it occur?”
Effective business communications uses this same information but presented differently. Consumers still want to know, “who is selling this product or service?,” “what is this product?,” “when is it available?” and “where can I get it?” A key difference between journalism and marketing is that consumer are not asking “why did something occur?” but instead, “why should I buy it?”
That is where “Think Like A Reader” comes into play.

Consumers Need To Be Sold, Not Told

Back in the days of small towns having one grocery store, shoppers had one practical choice: buy what was available or go without.
Now in the days where even small towns have two, three or 300 grocery stores, consumers have become far better educated. If they don’t like the local selection, they can order it online from anywhere and have it shipped to their door. Consumers want to be sold, not told on what to buy.
Granted, there are some people who will “do as they are told” and buy what a given corporation is selling … but there are a lot less of them to day than there were 20, 30 or 50 years ago. We have access to a lot more information, more than our grandparents often even dreamed of. Your average homeowner can buy a computer hard drive that can store the entire plain text works of the Library of Congress and have extra space, too.

The Essential ‘Think Like A Reader’

“Think Like A Reader” simply means persuading each and every reader that the material you are presenting to them has value to the reader. Your blog post, web page or press release can have value to an organization or corporation as well, but it mustcreate value to consumers before it does anything else.
Your documents must clearly and explicitly explain why your message fulfills a need or want that individual reader has.
Tell each reader why they should care about your product. Explain how it meets their immediate or future needs. Don’t say these message once, but at every opportunity.
For example, let’s say your company sells smart phones. You can list a string of features your newest phone has, but only if you explain how each feature or the combination of all features meets their needs.
Let’s say your phone includes a feature called “parental controls.” Just listing that feature without any explanation is going to generate a shrug at best.
Ah, but change your message and “Think Like A Reader.” “Our newest phone has parental controls. These controls let you limit which websites your children visit and who they can talk to.” You’ve now told readers why your parental control feature is important to them.
Some people like to compare and contrast products. You can create documents that explain the difference between your own products or between your products and those of a competitor.
Phone A, for example may be your lowest priced model. It has a set of features one person could describe as “stripped down” while another person calls them “essential.”
Phone B would likely have all of the features of Phone A plus additional options. For example, if Phone A has a single camera pointed away from the user, Phone B could include a second camera facing the user. You could explain the difference as “allowing users to enjoy face-to-face conversations even when they are miles apart.”

Provide Value

The difference between any combination of similar products today is not in what they do. Three cell phones all let you send and receive calls and surf the Internet. The difference is in the value they bring to specific consumers.
A tablet with a built-in voice to text software offers a value to a select set of workers—say doctors taking notes on a patient—versus one requiring a clunky keyboard. A mobile phone with tiny keys may be effective for writing brief text messages, but lousy when taking notes at a meeting.
Your documents should provide value to your readers. They should give them reasons to read the headline, the first paragraph and every successive graph.
The more value your documents provide, the more likely readers are to come back to you for more.

Think Like Your Readers, All Of Them

Thinking like a reader means not only writing for one group of readers, but adjusting your writing to handle the different needs of varying groups.
Teenagers have one set of requirements in a cell phone. Parents have other needs when buying cell phones for their teenagers. Hunters need one type of weapon. Police officers and soldiers have drastically different requirements.
Taking each of these needs into account means either creating one document that explains everything to everyone or creating a series of documents oriented at specific groups.
For example, your cell phone website could have a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). On it you could rephrase the same essential question of “why should I buy this model?” from several perspectives.
You could explain features aimed at youth, such as its ability to send text messages. You could explain how it has a feature that converts speech to text so users can concentrate their attention on other tasks, such as walking. You could even explain how your service plans allow unlimited text messages for a low monthly rate, regardless if these messages are sent by an individual, a family or a company.
Corporate communicators might create one document aimed at consumers and another at executives. Consumers want to know why they should purchase a product. Executives want to know if they will make enough profit to justify making the product.

Tell ‘Em, Tell ‘Em What You Told ‘Em

There is an old advertising adage that goes like this: “Tell ‘em. Tell ‘Em what you told ‘em. Tell ‘em again.”
Good communicators essentially do the same thing. They give readers a reason for reading their document. Then the good writers give them another reason to keep reading and another and another, etc.
Good writing also has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning tells people what the article is about. The middle gives them the details and the end wraps it up. Every document gives you at least three spots where you can explain why a consumer will want to buy your products.


“Think Like A Reader” is a writing style that puts the needs of the readers first. You are writing blog posts, web page stories and press releases to be read, not tossed in the recycling bin. Readers are the reason you are writing. Write with their needs in mind first, second and always.
“Thinking Like A Reader” means writers seek to persuade readers that the information in each document provides value to them. Tell them what a product does then explain how it benefits them.
Corporate communications that consider the consumer first will succeed while those that put the corporation first will fail. Why? Because you will not have a corporation if all of your customers buy from the competition.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fund Raising Events Should Have Three Goals

This Bishop Lions Club pancake breakfast raised money plus awareness and interest in the group.


The sponsoring group at a fund-raising event I attended several years ago was thrilled with the money it raised, even though participation dropped slightly from the year before. Using a different approach, though, would have generated a lot more money, a much greater turnout and probably increased the group’s volunteer base.
Non-profit organizations are always holding fund-raisers, or so it seems. Yet some seem to attract hundreds of people and raise thousands of dollars for their causes, while others are barely noticed. Why do some events work well and others bomb?
Effective events have clear goals and well thought-out ways of achieving those goals. They also have teams of people working together to achieve them. A good communications strategy will help achieve these goals while a bad or non-existent one will event doom the event.

Goal 1: Increasing Public Awareness

Non-profit organizations should always have three goals in mind for every fund-raising event. In order of importance they are:
1. Increasing public awareness about its cause and educating the public about the organization.
2. Recruiting new members.
3. Raising money to help achieve the organization’s goals.
Increasing public awareness about a cause is a task that needs constant work. The minute the public forgets about a cause and the group working on it, both the cause and the group are banished to obscurity.
Here’s an example. Off-shoots of two nearby local Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) are dedicated to helping low-income student have good shoes. Group A has a website, regularly updates its postings and shortly before the school year starts, runs a massive publicity campaign. Group B does not have a website, has several people who could care less and never seeks publicity or donations. Guess which one is successful?
A good way for many groups to gain public attention is by finding and attending other local events, primarily those attracting a lot of people. If your event promotes literacy, having a booth at high school football games helps since both students and their parents attend. Every person you talk to is one more person exposed to your message.
A second method is by holding events that generate press coverage. You will want to tread that fine line between getting enough press to help your cause but not dominate the local media at the expense of other non-profits.
A third way to gain exposure is using the Internet. A website and social media presence are required for non-profits today just as they are for every business. List all sorts of details about what your group does, who it is and what it needs online. Include a calendar and testimonials from people who have been helped by your group.

Goal 2: Recruiting New Members

The biggest problem most non-profits have is a lack of manpower. People have fantastic ideas that they want to see turned into action but the group does not have enough bodies.
Getting out among other local residents lets groups promote their agendas. They can also find people who might not have any money to spare, but do have free time.
The more active volunteers a group has, the better its chances for survival.
A key to recruiting new members—and this cannot be stressed enough—is be sure your group accepts everyone who expresses an interest. I’ve seen many civic groups that had declining membership despite an effort to recruit more people. Why? Because the existing members only recruited among their friends, not the general public.
Community service groups such as the Lions Club and Rotary International often have problems keeping their chapters going. The issue is they do not recruit enough younger members to replace the older ones who lack the stamina to work large events.

Goal 3: Raising Money

The stated purpose of a fund-raiser is adding funds to your group’s coffers. The more money your group has, the better it can help your cause. But if you are going to raise money, do it wisely and effectively.
Most fund-raisers get their money through a combination of three methods:
1. An admission fee, which often includes a meal.
2. Raffles, with people buying chances to win donated items.
3. Auctions of both the silent (write a bid on a piece of paper, with the highest bid getting the item) and live (highly entertaining) varieties.
Other methods include selling beverages at an open no-host bar and specialty events such as “casino nights” where the money and friendship flow.
Earning money wisely means charging the right amount for the people your group wants to attract. A rule of thumb is the more money you charge, the fewer people will show up.
Also, make sure your admission fee and meal relates well to the local economy. For example, don’t charge a high meal fee in a depressed area. Instead of a catered event, cook hamburgers and hotdogs or spaghetti. You’ve just lowered your charge and your cost and made more money through a higher volume.
Lower fees also tend to attract an ethnically diverse younger crowd, rather than only middle-age Caucasians. Opening the event up through lower prices also means a greater opportunity to recruit volunteers.
Now let’s take a look at raffles. These items are typically donated by group members, such as bottles of wine, and local merchants, such as gift certificates. Make sure there are plenty of good-quality donated items for your raffle, but keep the top-tier stuff for your auction.
Auctions are where the real money is. Get several top-tier items—like designer dog dresses for an event benefitting a pet charity—and many more medium-grade items for your auction.
Lessons I’ve learned from attending and working these events are: set the initial prices high enough to raise money for your group, but not so high no one will bid on them. If an item does not get any bids, save it for a future event and place a different, lower price on it. Even better, have the auctioneer say something like, “We don’t want to store these great items so we’re forgetting the minimum bid. Who wants to make an offer?”
Good auctioneers can then get the crowd going and the money flowing. You may not make the previous minimum bid, but you might make more. 
Also, request people write their names on silent auction items, not anonymous numbers. The idea is to make bidding a game, pitting friends against each other in a gentle competition to see who “wins” the prize. When you don’t know who you’re bidding against, this competition and fun vanishes.
Good fund-raisers generate thousands of dollars for their charities. Why? Because they use both a silent and live auction.

Effective Fund-raisers Also Educate the Public

Effective fund-raisers raise lots of money for their non-profit organizations. They also increase public awareness and provide a venue for recruiting new members. Good ways to achieve these goals are:
Have an organization member speak briefly about what the group accomplished last year and what its goals for next year are. For example, have the president say something like, “With the $5,000 we raised last year we were able to buy 200 new books and several large print volumes for our vision-impaired patrons.”
Explain what the group does, how often it meets and what it focuses on. For example, the president of a pet charity could say, “Our goal is to make sure every pet has a good home and that none go without food or shelter. We meet the first Tuesday of every month at the local animal shelter. Everyone is invited to attend.”
Consider having a booth at the event with photos of past events and items the group bought with money raised from similar fund-raisers. This same booth, staffed with volunteers, can be used at other events to raise community awareness. Let your photos tell people what your group does. Have some printed materials available. Include your website link on everything.
Be sure to publicly thank key sponsors and staff. The organization president should always thank the staff members who volunteered at the event. Sponsors and top donors should also be publicly thanked before the night’s entertainment starts.

Other Ways To Raise Money Include …

When one event starts generating a lot of money and enough interest where larger halls are needed to hold it, consider holding a second similar event, but in a different area. This way, you attract new people who may not be able to make the main event and bring those who had a gas back for more fun.
You can also think about selling advance raffle tickets. Either have a high value prize (one charity holds an annual drawing for a fishing boat, motor and trailer and sells tickets year-round), or prizes limited only to advance sales. The easiest way to do this is by using different color tickets.
Persuade local merchants to attend the event in person. If you can get the top merchants in town to show up—and promote their attendance—people who know and respect them will also come.
Have contests that help generate interest in the event. Pet events could include several animals available for adoption.

And Finally …

When your event is over and all the trash picked up, it’s time for three more tasks:
1. Thank the people who did all of the work. Without people to pick up and buy the food, rent the hall, gather chairs and clean up the trash, you would not have an event.
2. Send thank-you letters to sponsors and key donors. The letters should list the dollar amount of their donation for tax purposes and explain how the event wouldn’t have been a success without their help. These letters ensure you get more donations next year.
3. Take stock of what you learned. Make notes of what worked, what could be tweaked and run better next year and what flopped. This way, you can always a good event better and raise even more money for your charity.
Good luck in your fund raising adventures.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How Much Are You Worth?

Learn what determines the amount you should charge for your freelance services.

How much are you worth?
This is an important question when you are working as a freelancer or independent contractor. If you ask too little, you compete against people brand new to your field. If you ask too much, you might find yourself without any clients.
Let’s start figuring out how much you are worth by looking at two areas that help determine your value: education and experience.

A Good Education is Tough To Beat

Ask yourself these questions: “Why did I or why should I spend the time and money to get a college degree? How will I benefit by immersing myself in a college environment? What is the payoff for my work?”
The answer is usually—but not always—a bigger, fatter paycheck. Education teaches you the skills and provides you with the knowledge you need to do your job effectively. People with bachelor’s degrees earn more than someone with a high school diploma or GED (general education degree/certificate). Those few with a master’s earn even more. The top earners from an educational perspective are the rarified few with doctorates.
According to this site, male workers who finished high school without a diploma had a median income of $28,023. Adding the diploma boosted their income to $39,478.  Earning a bachelor’s degree meant a median income of $62,444 while those with a master’s got $79,342. Women high school graduates had a median income of $29,150 while those with a bachelor’s made $46,832. Women with a master’s degree earned $61,068.
An education is one key ingredient in making money. Experience is another.
Getting an education provides graduates with facts and figures. “How do I calculate this? How should I write that?” You learn the answers to these questions in a classroom or online setting.
Ah, but is education alone enough? The consensus answer is a resounding “NO!” You need experience as well.

Experience Is A ‘Real World’ Teacher

Education may teach you one method of performing a task, but it doesn’t teach you about all the ways to do it. Experience in the real world of dealing with multiple tasks, multiple deadlines and pressure from several sources at once gives you a “real world education.”
Employers—at least those in the United Kingdom—place practical work experience high on their list of qualifications.
Textbooks and classrooms are all fine and good when it comes to performing any task in the “textbook” manner. Then the “real world” gets in the way. Mistakes are made, some of them devastating in their severity.
A newspaper reporter writing about a criminal case can get in a ton of trouble by leaving out one word: “not.” There is a huge difference between writing that a person is guilty and writing they are not guilty. The key difference here is the presence or absence of a single word.
Performing tasks under less than ideal conditions—“hellish” may be an exaggeration but it’s closer to the truth—tends to result in mistakes, foul-ups and, “What the Hell did you do?” rants from your boss.
Experience teaches us how to recognize mistakes before they happen and as thy are taking place. Experience lets us know how to stop mistakes in their tracks and keep the damage to a minimum.
For example, a computer neophyte may respond to an email from a friend saying, “check out this great website.” The novice visits the site and downloads a computer virus that knocks down your machine and everything connected to it.
 Someone with a limited amount of experience would install an anti-virus program first. The protective software would either warn you about what you are going to do or limit the damage to a single machine.
People with extensive experience wouldn’t even open the message, knowing it is likely infected because they have seen similar messages in the past.
Experience, though, takes time. It takes a lot of time, as in years, to gain the wisdom that only making mistakes and learning from them can teach.
So how well does your experience translate to the requirements of a particular employer? This recent blog post from Ask A Manager may help you sort it out.

Being ‘Good’ Requires Education AND Experience

People who are not new to an occupation have the education to understand the “how” to perform a task. They also have the experience to know “when” to apply the book learning … and when to use other methods they learned outside the classroom.
Good, effective employees can look at any given situation and assess it based on their knowledge and experience. This combination teaches them which method is effective and efficient for a given situation, and which methods are likely a waste of time and resources.

Applying Supply, Demand to Your Fees

So the question remains: How much should you charge for a given task or project?
Your education and your experience are only part of the equation. Supply and demand also play a big role.
Research the amount other people are charging for the services you offer in your general geographic area. What is the typical billing rate? Is it by the hour, by the job or by the product?
Now compare that rate to the number of people offering services similar to your own in that same area. If your typical rate is drastically higher than the average, you may not get many clients. If your rate is dramatically lower, you may get people with whom you have problems collecting.
Experience often teaches us that the people who pay the least complain the most because they want what you are offering for as close to nothing as they can get.
These days you also must compare local rates with those in foreign countries such as India. Someone used to paying $5 for a single blog post for an outsourcing foreign supplier may balk at your fee of $15-$25 for what they consider the same product.
It’s your job to explain to them why your fee is higher.

Explain Why You Are Worth More

So let’s make the assumption that the going rate for your services is $50 an hour. An outsourcer is offering a similar product—you know it’s inferior and can prove it—at half your rate. Your rate is reasonable when the top people in your field charge $200 an hour. Where should you adjust your rate if you should adjust it all?
Explain why you earn what you charge.
Here’s an example of how much businesses should pay bloggers and how variables, such as experience and knowledge, affect the pay scale.
The best answer is explain to the client what you bring to the table. Explain your unique skills, experience and education. Show each client that you provide a service while similar on the surface—such as blogging—has greater value to them.
Your blog posts, for example, may include search engine optimization techniques the off-shore versions lack. Your blog posts may also be written by a native English speaker, one who understands the complex rules of English grammar, how to apply them and when to ignore them.
What you need to do is not only tell a client how you are better than anyone else, but show them examples of your work. Ideally have testimonials and compliments from people who appreciate your efforts on their behalf.

Show It, Don’t Say It

Anyone can say anything they want, but can they back it up? If you are showcasing your experience and knowledge, show work samples to potential clients. Give them concrete, “in your face” proof that you know your business and that you are worth every penny you are charging them.
If your previous work samples don’t sway a particular client, offer to create a small sample just for them. If they like it, they can hire you. If they don’t like it, they are free to hire someone else. Be careful, though, to protect yourself and restrict their use of any samples. You don’t want to “give” them something only to find it used against you later on.
Some of these same comments can be found on this web log entry, “6 Steps to Get a Professional Blogging Job.”

Offer An Introductory Rate

Some people offer a low introductory rate. Be careful with that approach because they are some people who will insist on paying you that low rate even after you have shown your merits.
Have stated limits on your introductory rate. Make sure your client understands this rate is for a short time only and is not permanent. Set a time limit or a number of products where you will accept a sub-standard fee. When that limit is reached, the client then has the option of either paying your standard fee or getting someone else.
If you make the mistake of offering the low fee without a stated end, some unethical clients may expect you to work indefinitely for that substandard rate. That low rate then becomes your standard rate, if you let it go long enough.

Keep Records

Keep track of what you do, when you submit it, who you submit it to and what their response is. Having these records will pay off for you in the short and long term.
In the short term, you know what you just finished and ideally, what your next project it. Keeping a record of your progress and providing it to your client also reinforces that you are a person of your word: you deliver on your promises.
In the long term, keeping these records will help you add clients. You can show them proof of your skills by submitting samples done for other people and firms.
Having copies of emails also works in your favor if a dispute occurs. For example, an email where a client agrees to your stated rate supports you if the client decides to pay you less, then claim they never agreed to your original rate.

Know When To Move On

Let’s be honest: some clients are more of a pain than they are worth. They want everything for nothing and complain constantly. These people interpret the adage, “the sticky wheel gets the grease,” to mean: the more they complain, the less they have to pay.
You have a responsibility to yourself and your fellow professionals. Cut these creeps off. Let your fellow pros know if and when you find a client that behaves this way.
You may want to ignore a limited amount of griping from the client when you are first starting out.  Use constructive criticism as motivation to do a better job. If a client asks,  “can you emphasize this?” or, “please write only about us. We don’t advertise our competitors,” do it.
However, there is no reason to accept unprofessional behavior from a client. If you are providing the service your contract states at the rate you and the client have agreed upon, then the client is responsible for upholding their end.

A good contract spells out your rights and responsibilities.

Contracts Keep Your Friends Your Friends

“Contracts keep your friends your friends and keep everyone else from screwing with you.” Written contracts signed by all parties are important in business. Many people do not lift a finger nor perform a minute of work without one.
Avoid a case of, “he said, he/she said” by stating everything up front and in writing. If a client isn’t willing to abide by the terms of the contract—such as rate or when payment is due—they are not worth keeping. Contracts not written by lawyers may have little value in court, but they mean far more than a verbal agreement.
Contracts require both parties to perform a set task or series of tasks. They also spell out the amount, type and frequency of compensation you expect once you have performed those tasks.
This blog entry explains “How to Write a Simple Employment Contract.”
You can consider copying this sample employee agreement then modifying it for your own needs.
Here is an attorney’s Introduction to Contract Law, which is well worth reading.
Nolo Press sells a wide range of legal products designed for the average person. Its book Contracts covers terminology, how to decipher a contract someone hands or sends you and how to change them.

The Bottom Line

Getting paid by someone to perform a task entails rights and responsibilities on both sides of the negotiating table. You need to know how much to charge, when to bend a little bit and when to stop bending. Know your rights as an independent contractor, but realize your clients have rights as well.
Don’t work without a contract if possible. If that is not possible, be sure you have detailed records showing what you told them you would do and what you delivered.
The time you spent getting educated is worth money, as is the time you spent learning to perfect your craft in the real world. Set a realistic compensation level then don’t vary it unless you are willing to degrade yourself.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Bullish and Adopt A Loving Pit Bull Today

Sweet Pea is described as being a great family dog who loves kids, adults and complete strangers. She is house broken and crate trained.
The Posh Puppy Boutique is continuing its series of helping unwanted and abandoned pets find forever homes with loving human parents. Today’s post covers a breed often thought of as highly aggressive, just as the name suggests: put bulls.
Click here for a post dealing with large and giant breeds. Click here for a post dealing exclusively with Chihuahuas. Email David Reynolds at with any suggestions for other breeds, especially those you like.
Most U.S. residents have never heard of American Staffordshire Terriers. However, these same people will often acknowledge knowing these same dogs by their street name of “pit bull.”
The term “pit bull” also refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and any cross breedings between the three related breeds.
Pebbles is a “blue and white” mix who is good with most dogs, kids and adults. She is mellow, well-behaved and gentle with children.
American Staffordshire Terriers were first bred in the 19th Century in the English region of Staffordshire as a mix between English Bulldogs and the White English Terrier, Fox Terrier or Black and Tan Terrier.
Also known as Am Staffs, these dogs are described by the American Kennel Club as being a people-oriented dog who is loyal to its family and very protective of them. These dogs have the reputation for being dangerous and aggressive, mainly because they are often seen in dog fighting events.
Archie is available now through Smilin’ Pitbull Rescue in Stamford, Conn
The notoriety associated with pit bulls gives the breed a reputation based on myth and misinformation, not fact. Many pit bull owners will tell anyone willing to listen that their dogs are sweet, gentle, loving creatures. Their reputation, though, also gives predatory humans pause when seeing one with its owner or in a home.Their gentle true behavior combined with a ferocious reputation makes them nearly ideal family pets.
Pit bulls’ reputation also means that some cities prevent dog owners from having this breed within their municipal boundaries. Here’s another example of how the ban in Ontario, Canada affects one person … who happens to be a Major League Baseball player.
Aerosol and Krylon are a bonded pair of females who were rescued from a highly abusive environment. Both are dog friendly and very loving.
The end result is this: there are a lot of unwanted, unwelcome pit bulls in shelters across the land.
If you are thinking about adopting a dog, you can’t go wrong with any breed. Just be sure the pet is a good match for you, your family and your environment.
To learn more about Pit Bulls, and possibly adopt one, visit any or all of these sites:
  • Pit Bull Rescue Central has educational information and offers guidance to anyone considering adopting one of these dogs.
  • Rescue Me has a list of pit bull rescue sites organized by state.
  • Bad Rap provides information, training, owner support and rescue services nationwide. It was named as the #1 high-impact non-profit for Local Animal Welfare, Rights & Protection by Guidestar’s Philantropedia.
  • Bull911 has a listing of groups nationwide dealing exclusively with pit bulls.
  • Our Pack offers adoption, placement services and education, including same-sex pairings. It is based in South San Francisco.
  • Shortywood is the rescue site that formed the basis of the television show “Pit Boss.” The shows stars “little person” Shorty Rossi, his family and staff as they rescue and help find homes for a breed he considers to be “as misunderstood as he is.”
  • Out of the Pits showcases the true nature of pit bulls as a therapy, sport and working dog. It offers education, programs and adoptions.
  • Ring Dog Rescue is dedicated to “bull breeds” with bulldog lineage. It offers adoption and foster services plus a calendar of events in Virginia.
  • Small Time Dog Rescue & Dead Dog Walking Pit Bull Rescue is an Oregon-based group.
  • Mayday Pit Bull Rescue & Advocacy is a Phoenix, Ariz.-based group dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and placing pit bulls and pit bull mixes.
  • Pit Sisters focuses its efforts on the northeast Florida area. It provides adoptions, events and resources for current and potential pit bull owners.
  • Bless the Bullys is a small Tennessee non-profit rescue that also fights breed-specific legislation.
  • Fugee’s Rescue is based in Raleigh, N.C. Its mission is to rescue, care for and rehome neglected, abused and homeless dogs, primarily pit bulls.
  • Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue based in the Northeast dedicated to find homes for unwanted and abandoned pit bulls.

This list of pit bull rescue sites could go on and on and on, just as it could for any dog breed. Please consider adopting a rescue dog or cat. You deserve a new best friend and they deserve you.
This post is brought to you as a public service by the Posh Puppy Boutique and David Reynolds, pet lovers all. The Posh Puppy Boutique sells stylish clothing and accessories for all breeds of dogs and cats. It does not sell pets.