Thursday, June 23, 2011

Putting out fires vs. Growing your forest

When I was Gainfully Employed in sales/marketing/training, on any given day I could have made more calls, come up with another way to promote my products, etc. But as long as I was on track to meet my goals, I could almost always leave at 5:00 to pursue other activities. I didn’t work weekends.

Freelancers rarely control their work flow. Even when you’re already swamped with assignments, most GU don’t want to say no when another opportunity comes up at the last minute.

--don’t want to disappoint a client.
--aren’t on salary and probably want the $.
--don’t know when the next job will come in and so don’t want to miss out on this one.

Example: I already had a full day of work planned plus somewhere I’d agreed to be at 2:00. But at 3:00 the day before, an agent called to ask if I was available to do a VO job in the suburbs for a client I’d worked with before. Of course I want to book work with my agent and keep returning clients. I said yes; she confirmed around a half hour later. I rearranged my schedule.

It’s wonderful to have so much work; I feel very fortunate. But when GU are so occupied with what’s on their plates and meeting deadlines (putting out fires), finding creative energy and making time to move forward on our own projects such as books in progress and submitting or self-publishing completed ones (growing your forest) can be a challenge. Marketing and client relationship building often takes a back seat. Though we want to do these things and they need to be done, we may put them off because there's no income guarantee.

One approach that's been useful is having a writing buddy or group. Find someone who's in a similar situation, then make appointments to get together and work on projects you've been wanting to finish. By helping each other, you don't end up saying, "I really want to do X. Someday."

Not only does this carve out time for individual writing, we focus more intensely than we might on our own....and keep each other in line to avoid distractions like surfing the Internet or spending too much time on Facebook. We feel great about what we accomplish.

Sometimes you make more progress with a friend's help. Sometimes even the motivated need motivation and support.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Repair or Retail

If your printer, PC, phone or other electronic device seems to be on its last legs, is it worth repairing or should you buy a new one? If you buy new, what do you do with the old?

My Canon i900D color printer lasted almost 7 years to the day, before the PRINTER JAM error message kept showing up, though after thorough explorations via flashlight by me and a friend, not paper was found. A search of the Canon site recommended repair.

I called the Geek Squad, who said unless I really wanted this particular printer for some special function, I should pay for repairs. But given the prices and current features, he suggested buying new.

My Canon worked great for years with great quality. After searching reviews online and checking with friends, I’m also considering HP….the number of brands, types of printers, features, and places to buy boggles the mind.

The next question is what to do with the old device. Freecycle is great for things that work. Fortunately the nearby BestBuy will recycle my defunct printer.

We have more electronics than ever, and it seems that they have shorter lifespans than they used we'll be making these decisions more often.

It's too late for my i900D, but here are links to suggestions for extending the lifespan of your printer(s).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Customer Service: 3 good experiences (& 1 not)

I've talked several times about poor customer service...and how it's not only frustrating on that day because: 1) resolution, if you get it, takes too long and b) negative feelings linger and make you not want to patronize that company again if there's another option. I think if more companies beefed up the quality and ease of use of their customer service, sales would increase.

So today I'd like to mention 3 companies that recently provided great customer service.

1) Clog Kingdom
I'd tried on a pair of shoes in a store, but they didn't have my small size, plus Chicago's sales tax is one of the highest in the country. So I went online and found the same shoes here for less money and in more colors, plus no sales tax and free shipping.

I quickly placed my order. Too quickly...because when the confirmation email came, I realized I'd clicked the wrong size (European sizes can be a bit confusing--a 37 is a 6 and a 36 is a 5)...I'd chosen 35 (which is a 4) when I needed 36. The site offered free returns, but I didn't want to wait for the shoes, have to return them and reorder.

I couldn't find customer service info on how to change orders. But there was an email address for a guy named Jeff. I wrote and explained the situation.

Lo and behold, he called the next morning to make sure I knew what size I wanted because of how that designer runs.

2) American Airlines: I used miles for a trip. I needed to change my arrival date but was leery of the cost, red tape, or lack of available seats for miles. I called the number on the e-ticket and was transferred to the frequent flyer line (why they couldn't also list that number on the ticket, I don't know). Within 5 minutes, a very pleasant person had changed my flight. For free. A few weeks later, closer to the travel date, I needed to change my departure. Again I called, and within minutes got the flight I wanted. For free.

Impressive, easy, and makes me want to fly American the next time.

3) I wanted a fancy summer dress. I happened to be near the main Macy's. Unfortunately their dress department was unpleasant in both decor and merchandise display. The dresses were crammed together, and the quality made me miss Marshall Field's. Their petite selection also left a lot to be desired. I did by a cute sequined t-shirt for $14.85 reduced from $49. doubt I'll go there again for anything but casual clothes.

BCBG: Upon entering the Bucktown store, a friendly salesperson approached, asked what I was looking for, and helped me gather items in my size. Perhaps she was a bit overzealous in bringing extra things to try on, but she knew which items ran a little larger/smaller and helped me put outfits together. Almost everything I liked was available in my size, which is rare. I bought a dress.

Good customer service can reinforce or change your attitude toward a company and its products. Maybe some executives are too far removed from what happens in the field and should go on Undercover Boss and see how their customers are treated. Maybe they should implement best practices from companies where they recieve good service.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Getting Around To It

I used to have a circular magnet that said “TUIT” in red letters, which meant “get around to it.” These days most of us have “To Do” lists that are so long, many items fall into the “when I get around to it” or WIGATI category. Some of us may have items that we don’t really want to do but are necessary (such as doing our taxes) or would make our lives easier but seem daunting (like cleaning out the closets).

My DayTimer® yes, I still prefer print calendars to those online. I think it’s easier and faster to flip open my DayTimer and see what’s going on than to click around on my PC, sync with my phone and then when out and about have to poke around the calendar app) has a page near the front called “TO BE DONE IN” whatever month. Lately I’ve found that I’ve been transferring most of these items to the next month instead of getting them done.

Things like downloading and figuring out Dropbox. Learning more about using LinkedIn. Reviewing my AT&T plan and investigating cheaper options/providers. Freecycling items I no longer need or want. Important, beneficial tasks, yet they take a backseat to things on my “TO BE DONE TODAY” list.

I keep thinking I’ll have a free day when I can tackle some WAGATI tasks. Then each week I’m fortunate to see my schedule fill with auditions, jobs, rehearsals, performances, submission requests, and, yes, a social life. None of us can work 24/7.

Years ago I went to a life coach, who didn’t want to get started until I completed assorted tasks I’d been meaning to do. She said these outstanding tasks weigh us down.

I’m going to set a goal to whittle down my nagging task list by at least 3 items a month…what about you?

A couple of articles on the topic:

Life Makeover

Live Bold and Bloom