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  • #972808
    BehindtheMask
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    • Total posts: 2
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    Hi all,
    It’s nice to be here and to find some others who share the joy and pain of soloing!

    I’m a communications specialist. My clients tend to be either corporates, or small to medium consultancies with corporates as their clients who want me on a project or longer term basis as part of an account team. I’ve been going since just before Christmas I suppose (it snuck up on me – I’m The Accidental Soloist!). Right now I have a lot of work – truth be told, more than I can handle, even charging at an hourly rate that makes me blush – in spite of not having set up some basics like, hmmm, let me see…

    • A business name
    • Business cards
    • Any accounting system more sophisticated than the world’s most basic Excel spreadsheet

    – you get the picture!

    I DESPERATELY need to take some time out from working IN the business to start working ON the business.

    Tech-wise I’m set up well – the home office is excellent and well-equipped. YES with real desks, good chairs, networked computers, automated backups (a couple of them), Dropbox (love Dropbox), etc. You’ll notice the plurals – I’ve learned the hard way that things can and do go wrong, and for some reason it’s always when I’m most busy, so it’s great to just hurl the chair over to another desk, turn on another computer, and pick up exactly where I left off. I have been a soloist before, and I learned the hard way how many valuable hours and days could be lost to equipment failure and how much stress this caused. It also felt unprofessional to be sidelined by this stuff and that diminishes the quality of my service even more than not having a business card. As well, I spend a lot of hours here so need a pleasant and organised environment, and good ergonomics. I also have good onsite computer support, having married wisely ;)

    I have (at last) worked out a business name that I’m happy with, tested it using a sophisticated research tool (ie I ran it by a few people whose judgement I trust!), and now the registration form is somewhere out there in bureaucrat world – I don’t envisage a problem there. I’ve registered a domain name, bagsed my name of second choice in the twitterverse, and that’s about it. By the time my designer is back from holidays, I should have the registration in my hot little hand and be ready to go to visual ID.

    So far, my list of things I need includes (I know this will might sound like overkill, but I’m a visual person and this stuff makes my heart sing) –

    • Logo
    • visual ID, incl fonts and a colour palette
    • Business card design
    • Letterhead design/template (no need for paper – *bliss*)
    • Web page design
    • Powerpoint template
    • Twitter page design (I am half hearted about Twitter, but might as well complete the package
    • Something for launch?

    ummmmmm there was other stuff but it escapes me…..

    I’m half-hearted about web – I view it as being as critical as a business card, a must-have, but I don’t expect it to bring in clients or sell for me. I really do NOT want to write this, do NOT want to design it, and want the whole thing to go away. I suspect the only way it won’t die the death in a corner of cyberspace is if I blog to it – um, occasionally – so I need to find a way to make that easy. Does anyone have any suggestions for the best way to approach doing a website, or experiences to share (good or bad)? I’m thinking this could be easy software or templates, or people to do it for me – although I would want to have a site that I can update myself and does not depend on long term contracts or anyone other than me. Hosting suggestions?

    I charge on an hourly rate, so need a good time recording system. I am loving using one on my Android, but am finding it a little limiting. I need a small number of clients but a large number of task descriptions. I *don’t* need it to hook into an online service; all I need is CSV download and the rest is straightforward. I’ve been looking various options but am getting bogged down, not to mention getting rather sick of having to sign up for trials (what another login, another company with my info, another password?) only to not be really happy with what’s on offer. Does anyone in a similar situation to mine have a good recommendation? Likewise simple accounting for my kind of operation? My Excel spreadsheets work just fine, but there might be a better way.

    Finally, I am looking for marketing advice. I know more or less who my targets are. I know my capacity is limited as I do not wish to be anything other than a soloist (although I can sub some work). But I *do* know that just rolling along hoping it happens can only work for so long, and having the good fortune to have more work than I can handle NOW does not guarantee my future. I also need someone to support me around what I should do to “launch”. I want someone who has expertise in reaching the markets I want to reach, rather than people with expertise in marketing to a consumer or small business market. I need someone to help me get a meaningful business plan. Can anyone make a recommendation?

    Two more things I would appreciate a view on – Fax. In the years when I was a soloist “before”, I watched fax turn from an occasionally useful tool to a vehicle for offers of holidays and toner. I no longer have a fax line connected. I don’t think a client has wanted a fax from me since – oh… who could say? Occasionally I have needed to send a fax, but usually that’s when *I* am the client, and I’ve simply ripped the plug out of the phone, shoved it into the fax, sent the fax and that is it. My question though is – is there still a “credibility” associated with being grown-up enough to have a fax number on your business card?

    The second is similar – I have a separate business line. Most clients call me on the mobile. I liked the “credibility” that comes with having a fixed line and a business address – not just a mobile – but am absolutely sick to death of the multiple telemarketers ringing me each day “just to let you know that from next week your telephone will cost you…”. I don’t mind the cost of the line but I’m sick to death of the interruptions (even when I hang up!), and am contemplating ditching it. But again, there is that credibility factor. Thoughts?

    Generally, I’m keen to find ways that help me look and sound professional, and I’m keen to find tools to make my administration and back office smoother.

    And finally, if anyone knows where I can buy an extra 12 hours in every 24, or some time out, that’d be nice too! I don’t want to burn out before I begin!

    Sorry this is so long! – I’m horrified at how long this got and how many things I’ve asked, so I hope I’m not completely out of line here.
    Megan

    #1057988
    MyGreatIdea
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    omg Megan…any wonder your head is exploding lol !! But you’ve come to the right place – welcome :)

    Firstly, have you thought about adding trademarking your business name and logo to your list?

    I also have good onsite computer support, having married wisely ;)

    ahhh…a smart lady

    Does anyone have any suggestions for the best way to approach doing a website, or experiences to share (good or bad)?

    WordPress. I’ve just had mine changed over and made my first edits – it’s sooooo easy.

    I need someone to help me get a meaningful business plan. Can anyone make a recommendation?

    I started with a one-page plan which was simple but made me think. Email me if you’d like the layout and I’ll send it to you.

    I don’t mind the cost of the line but I’m sick to death of the interruptions (even when I hang up!), and am contemplating ditching it. But again, there is that credibility factor. Thoughts?

    If the line is in your name (not a business name) then you can register with http://www.donotcall.gov.au

    Good luck :)
    Wendy

    #1057989
    Melbourne Web Design
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    • Total posts: 28
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    Hi Megan,
    hope you are well. Its great to hear your business is going well. Keep on growing.

    I run a small web Development / Design business and also come up with Ideas and Concepts for clients. I can definetly help out in

    • Concept development
    • logo design
    • web design
    • graphic design

    and give you some ideas on business names even.

    Would be glad to help in any way I can. Please visit my website at http://www.3rddesign.com and feel free to give me a call or pop me an email at any time. I am mostly reachable by the mobile even on weekends.

    Thanking you,
    Joe

    Joseph Fernandez
    Creative Director

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Website: http://www.3rddesign.com

    #1057990
    StellarScott
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    • Total posts: 239
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    Hi and welcome

    Maybe first thing you need to do is prioritise and set reasonable goals on your list so you dont explode

    Time recording-
    are you using ‘Time tracker’ by frank android software https://market.android.com/details?id=com.softmimo.android.timetracker lets you add and customise task descriptions , has automatic time record etc

    Marketing/ buisness names etc –
    Have you tried your local business enterprise centre. http://www.becaustralia.org.au/ They should be able to provide you with some contacts names sources and deal with people just like us all the time.

    Accounting system – Sometimes an excel spreadsheet is fine if you have a very small number of clients invoices and expenses. However might be worth talking to a professional book keeper about the best accounting system for your needs and then you can agree on how much you want to do and how much you want to outsource.

    Good luck and maybe read some of that forum on what to do after a bad day :)

    #1057991
    Anonymous
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    • Total posts: 11,464
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    Hi Megan,

    Nice to meet you, and congratulations on your success so far!

    There’s a lot to do isn’t there? Maybe you should add “find the perfect virtual assistant” to your list, so that you can hand responsibility for some of the details to someone else while you get on with the important stuff?

    For time tracking and invoicing, I’m a huge fan of http://www.getharvest.com/ – which let’s me add unlimited numbers of tasks to my projects. Switching to that from my old Excel spreadsheet was a complete life changer. It has an android app too (not that I’ve used it).

    Good luck with everything, and we’ll look forward to your contributions to our chats,
    Jayne

    #1057992
    PerfectNotes-Kathy
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    • Total posts: 500
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    Hi Megan,

    Drop me an email at [email protected] – we can probably help to free up some of your time to think about this stuff – and possibly help with some of the changes as well.

    Thanks,

    Kathy

    #1057993
    BrookeC
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    • Total posts: 3
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    BehindtheMask, post: 71473 wrote:
    I’m half-hearted about web – I view it as being as critical as a business card, a must-have, but I don’t expect it to bring in clients or sell for me. I really do NOT want to write this, do NOT want to design it, and want the whole thing to go away. I suspect the only way it won’t die the death in a corner of cyberspace is if I blog to it – um, occasionally – so I need to find a way to make that easy. Does anyone have any suggestions for the best way to approach doing a website, or experiences to share (good or bad)? I’m thinking this could be easy software or templates, or people to do it for me – although I would want to have a site that I can update myself and does not depend on long term contracts or anyone other than me. Hosting suggestions?

    Hi Megan,

    Sounds like you’re very well organised! In terms of your website, I think you’re right that it’s critical these days. I’m working on my own now for that reason (I’m an editor for the publishing industry and for the web). There are a lot of web designers on flying solo who can provide some great advice, and I’ve heard some good things about WordPress too, as well as Joomla, although apparently that’s full-on than WordPress. If you want or need help with getting the content together and structured according to your audience, give me a yell!

    Good luck,

    Brooke

    #1057994
    BehindtheMask
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    • Total posts: 2
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    Thanks for your feedback everyone. I guess where I am really struggling right now is in knowing that I have so much to do but so little time, and need to be deadly efficient with my time (which is not conducive to having time to think).

    The good news is that my business name is registered – Woohoo! Next stop, my lovely designer.

    Jayne, thanks for the feedback on Harvest, and SSW I will also try the Time Tracker one (also handy to see the same guys had a mileage recorder – such an obvious app which I’ve looked for without joy). I will check it out.

    Jayne, I am not altogether sure just what I would do with a virtual assistant – ? (although a live one to do an hour of filing and shredding a week would be handy).

    I think a bookkeeper might be a start though (thanks SSW, that was a great reminder) – I don’t have a lot of invoices and expenses and doing my BAS has always been a straightforward hour from “shoebox” to in the spreadsheet and completed, but my time poverty and complete hatred of the job – the weeks of procrastination, fear and loathing that hang over my head before that hour (usually after midnight) – make it a natural to get rid of it. (although then I guess I’d be deprived of that fierce relief when it was done!).

    Joe and Wendy, check your PMs… although as this message has taken ages to write give me time…..and I got timed out in the meantime…

    #1057995
    JacquiPryor
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    Hi Megan,

    Wowsa… busy, busy, busy! Sounds like you have thought of everything, which is probably the most important. Putting all down in writing gives you a ‘list’ to check off as you get through it, which we all know is satisfying!

    To echo Couple It’s post – have you thought about registering the name as a trademark? If not, you should! :) – Registering the business name does not, believe it or not, give you the right to actually use the name! If someone has registered the same/confusingly similar name as a trademark it would in essence “trump” your business name registration. Happy to answer further questions/help on this point if needed.

    Concerning your post re fax – given you are a ‘communications specialist’ – I can’t help but think fax would play a part in your job ;) – We have a fax machine at work, which shares the line with other things (Alarm/Eftpos etc) and use it only occasionally – we have a virtual fax box for incoming faxes, which is great – comes straight into our email inbox, which means we can just save/forward etc electronically that way. Would suggest this might be something that suits your purposes? This way you don’t need a separate phone line just for the fax.

    Regarding ‘land line’ – I agree, makes you seem like a ‘real’ business and therefore more credible. I am pretty sure there is a place where you can list your number on a ‘no telemarketing’ list – that companies should be referring to before they ring. If you receive calls after listing your number, you can either (a) have the satisfaction in pointing out to them that they are breaching those rules by calling and should really be checking the list and (b) have avenue to complain/report them for not following the rules!

    Regarding ‘website’ – if you don’t intend to use a site for attracting new clients but more to simply have presence on the web and basic info – there are ‘diy’ site packages available, which include (in most cases) the domain name registrations or renewals/hosting/email etc and can be quite inexpensive. Just depends what ‘style’ you are after really, as these are all templated – and you would be limited on certain other features that a web designer/developer can bring to you. They are, however, so simple to use and maintain. The couple of companies I know that provide these are SmartyHost and WebAlive (am sure there are others). We use Smartyhost DIY sites (see, for example, http://www.completeip.com.au) and suits us fine as we are service based it’s mostly just a vehicle to share information, not selling products or anything too ‘flashy’.

    Regarding Accounting – MYOB might suit your business – it allows time billing easily, plus is used by so many accountants etc makes for end of year financial stuff nice and easy, as can just zip up the file and send it to them and off they go. Am sure they have access to other software too. Personally, I use MYOB for a service based business and does the job easily/well.

    Regarding printing for business cards etc; we have found and use Martin Print (http://www.martinprint.com.au) – so easy, quick and quite competitive in price.. we use local printers when ever we need flyers/brochures or anything ‘fancy’ printed simply for convenience.

    Phew – I too am shocked to look back and see how long my post just became! Anyway, all the best with it!! If you find somewhere that sells you the extra hours in the day, please let me know!

    As mentioned above, if you do have questions/need help on trademark registration or related – just shoot me a message.

    #1057996
    bluepenguin
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    It may not work for you, but after years of searching for a good time keeping solution, I came across this:

    http://cgi.ebay.com.au/LCD-Digital-Kitchen-Cooking-Count-down-Up-Timer-Alarm-/190518495014?pt=AU_Utensils&hash=item2c5bc98726

    hehe… maybe a little raw, but I have a bunch of them my time is very nicely managed.

    #1057997
    BrettM33
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    Wow Megan… that IS a LOT to have going on in your mind hehe… as well as having so much work on your plate!

    What is it that a “communications specialist” does exactly? I’m curious.

    As for your website, I would be more than happy to assist you with that. Once designed & programmed I could integrate it with a CMS such as WordPress to allow you to easily update the site & also give you the ability to have a blog.

    Feel free to send me a PM if you are at all interested at discussing further. :)

    Best,

    Brett

    #1057998
    Elissimo
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    • Total posts: 7
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    Wow I thought my head was going to explode reading that post!

    RE: Time management software
    NCH software has a free time-keeping software called HourGuard. It allows you to keep separate accounts while billing for many tasks and sub-tasks at different hourly rates. It exports in .CSV and the .PDFs it saves by default are simplistic and easy on the eye.

    I’ve used it for quite a while now and I find it easy to use and reliable.

    #1057999
    BrettM33
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    Elissimo, post: 72863 wrote:
    Wow I thought my head was going to explode reading that post!

    RE: Time management software
    NCH software has a free time-keeping software called HourGuard. It allows you to keep separate accounts while billing for many tasks and sub-tasks at different hourly rates. It exports in .CSV and the .PDFs it saves by default are simplistic and easy on the eye.

    I’ve used it for quite a while now and I find it easy to use and reliable.

    I also use that. :)

    #1058000
    MikeB
    Member
    • Total posts: 25
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    Hi Megan

    Yes, WordPress would definitely be your best option. It is not only user friendly and easy to pick up but also very SEO friendly as well.

    Therefore as time goes by you will find you will pick up clients, although you don’t seem to be suffering from this problem at the moment.

    The other thing about wordpress is it is very versatile. You can use it as a website, blog, shop front or forum etc. Probably more than you need, but the important bit is it can be adapted to how you want it.

    If you’d like to find out more I’m more than happy to spend some one on one time with you discussing your options.

    Regards Mike

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