Saturday, 31 January 2015

Writing for the Web - clearing the clutter

One of the best things you can do to improve your website is to read everything on it at least once a year, and remove any filler content, says Gerry McGovern in his book Killer Web Content.

While I personally dislike the term 'killer content', I can see the value in getting rid of irrelevant documents. Too much information obscures the knowledge you want to share. So, in that spirit, I'll stop this blog here!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Writing for the Web - useful resources

I almost signed up for a great looking course last week, called 'Writing for the Web', which is offered by the New Zealand Writers' College.

However, I stepped back from the brink. My husband pointed out all the other things I am committed to doing this year, and asked how I was going to fit it in. This is so ironic, because I recently advised a non-government organisation to be more realistic in their action plan about how much can be achieved with their available resources!

Yep, much harder to follow my own advice!

Instead I am reading books on the subject and keeping my eyes open for examples of great websites. Here are three that caught my eye this week:

http://www.mobilizemail.com/ - really good, interactive website, with the ability to download some excellent free information on business email marketing.

http://www.sarahselecky.com/ - this website has a nice clean layout, and the blogs about writing are great. I particularly like Sarah's most recent one on 'what I've learnt so far about how to write a novel'. Her discussion about the need for a story outline, but also the freedom within that for the joy of freewriting, is so true.

http://themes.bavotasan.com/ - the offer on this website is to "have your website up and running in minutes with WordPress and one of our themes. Our theme options customizer makes creating a unique and impressive website easy enough that anyone can do it." A theme costs $US 69 and then there are a range of recommended  hosting options, including one through Blue Host for $US 3.49 per month.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Recommended products for your home office

Setting up a home office has given me an excuse to indulge my love of all things stationery. This is a roll call of the top technology I have purchased since setting up my business last year.



Logitech m950t Performance Mouse - for anyone who has ever had concerns about OOS (previously called RSI) this ergonomic mouse is a godsend. It cost more than a $100 but the ability to spend long hours at a computer without OOS means this investment has been repaid in spades. I love the fact it has a rechargeable battery.






Canon Pixma MX726 multi-function printer - this low cost printer (NZ$129) has the capacity to take an XL sized black cartridge, and the cartridges can be refilled. I love that it has automatic double siding, a wireless connection, and that it is really easy to set up and to replace cartridges. An added bonus is that scanned documents and photos are easy to find in the system, using the Canon software.




PaperPro Stapler Full Strip 20 Sheet GreenPaperPro stapler - is there anything more annoying than the toothless grip of an under-performing stapler?  Especially when you're in a hurry, or it's a quality document you really don't want to besmirch with extra stapler marks. I LOVE this stapler which powers through 20 pages, and never has an off day. It makes a strange noise when it staples, but hey. It costs $42.95.


Toshiba Satellite...

Toshiba Satellite laptop computer - bottom of the range, 4GB and cost $599. It goes like a trooper. I tried out the keyboards of a lot of laptops before buying (doing that embarrassing pretend typing thing in a number of shops), and the selling point for me was the feel of the keys - Toshiba all the way. My one regret is buying Norton virus protection. When I installed it, it 'fought' with the pre-loaded 'Windows Defender' that comes with all Windows 8 computers, so I had to pay again to have Norton removed.



As you can probably tell by now, I'm fussy about stationery! And as I write freehand each morning, a flowing pen really matters to me. I was chewing through a range of the expensive ink gel ones, until I came across the Office Max Retractable Ball Point Pens. These come in packs of 10 for about $18. They last for ages, and are just as good as an ink gel pen.



Sunday, 11 January 2015

Writing testimonials

Ever had a sinking feeling when someone asked you to write a testimonial about their product or service?

I sure have. And it's not because I didn't appreciate what they offered. It's just that it can be difficult to clearly express what I valued, in a way that hasn't already been said by others.

It's a big deal to ask someone for a testimonial. I know, because I need to start doing this in 2015. All small business owners care a lot about what people write about them. It's a buzz to realise you've made a difference to other people, and it's also valuable content for the business website.

Two people asked me to write testimonials this month - and in both cases I felt that initial resistance to doing it. My advice is to do it straight away, like plunging into the sea for the first swim of the summer.

Here are some further suggestions:
1. Hold the product or the service in mind, with your fingers poised over the keyboard or paper.
2. Write quickly and from the heart. Remember that it's far more important that you do it, than that it's perfect.
3. Be as specific as you can about what you valued about the product or service.
4. Send it off and savour the fact that it's done!

The two testimonials I wrote this week were for Shades of Gray Miniature Schnauzers  and for Laura Raduenz.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Farewell Laura Raduenz!

I had the privilege of attending five of Laura Raduenz's talks for small businesses, held in Nelson and Mapua in 2014. She is an inspiration to many people in Nelson, with her clear messages on how to make the most of your life and business. Her one to one coaching has helped me to clarify my goal for 2015 and the steps to achieve it, and given me more confidence to take those steps.

Laura is a great example of being clear on what she wants to achieve and then taking action. She and her husband set off next week for their next adventure - living in the woods in America for a year, experiencing all four seasons in that environment.

She has a great gift of encouraging people to think bigger about what's possible, which is magnified by being such a great role model of living life to the full.

Luckily, Laura is available online at http://www.beboldstepup.com/

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Gardening and writing - indicators of wellbeing

We have a wild and woolly garden, made more so this year as we missed out on our traditional spring gardening holiday at home. Instead, we were determined to tackle the property this summer holiday, and ventured out there last week.

Neither of us enjoyed it. It was hot, humid, and the ground was parched. It seemed a tough exchange for the potatoes, beans, tomatoes and salad greens we grow each year.

By the second week, clearing a tract of grasses was uniquely satisfying. There had been a change in the weather - the humidity was gone, and the soil had soaked up a good amount of rain. But the main difference was in our own minds ... we were now rested, more able to connect and care about our crops and our land.

Week One
Week Two
The garden was a litmus test of our own wellbeing, just as writing can be. Some days it's a struggle and you wonder why you got up early to scratch your pen across the arid paper. Other days, the writing flows and connects you with who you are and what you care about.

It's tempting to turn your back on it when it's no fun, and nothing good seems to come of it. But maybe it's like the convovulus I pulled out in that scratchy, sweaty first week - it clears the way for what is to come.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Motueka's coastal path is a perfect getaway

One of the loveliest walks I discovered last year is the pathway along the Motueka coastline. Less than 45 minutes from home in Nelson, it's the perfect getaway when I need a half day break from the home office. Maybe that has something to do with the way it allows me to look at Nelson from a new perspective, and the way the clouds are mirrored in the sea.

Max and I also love the connection with the rural land at the Staple Street end of the track, especially when there are cows about! We'll definitely be back for more walking and and reflection in 2015.