Category Archives: It’s just business

Identity crisis: Me and my blog

“Blogging is hard.”

I went to a presentation at the Statesman for work this past week.  It was all about multimedia and mobile and online — geared for businesses in health care.  Since I now work for a health clinic, I was invited and decided to check it out.

A sales guy for the Statesman threw a lot of numbers at us about how people use the internet and what they’re searching for.  It was interesting.

There was also a discussion about social media.  The social media editor for the Statesman got up to talk about how the newspaper takes advantage of Twitter and Facebook to cultivate readers and develop a community.  Someone asked about blogging and whether businesses should have blogs.  The response: Blogging is hard.

It’s true.  Blogging IS hard.  Especially when you don’t have a clear focus.  Just look at this blog.  It’s been 2 months since I’ve written in it.  I just don’t know what to say, what to share.

Do people really want to know about the nitty gritty details of my life?  Do they really care about my business?  Will I come off as a naive idiot?  Will they laugh at my ignorance?

I really do worry about these things.  I worry about my online persona.  How real do I want to be?

Tirades used to be a lot more personal.  Then it kind of became a pseudo work blog.  And I spent more time on my other blogs.  Tirades has been withering.

We’re in the middle of an identity crisis, me and my blog.

I guess it was inevitable, since I’m going through such a crazy transition right now.  Motherhood.  Career changes.

And I worry about how much I can talk about my life without turning off potential clients or current employers.

Here’s what I need to remember, though.  This blog can be whatever I need it to be.  You know what?.. I could give a flying crap whether anyone reads my blog.  I started it 7 or 8 years ago as my first online voice.  We’re still marching along.  I’m changing.  No… evolving.

And so dear reader, if you even exist, I’m going to stop worrying about trying to present myself in the most positive light.  This blog is no fun as a strictly business blog.  My career is a huge part of my life, no doubt, but Tirades is not going to give you advice on how to design web pages.  Tirades is not going to try to sell you on my skills.

No, Tirades is going to be about stories.  I’m going back to my roots.  I used to write stories.  I spent hours writing stories when I was a kid.  I love to write.  Sometimes my stories will be about my work.  But I bet most of the time they’ll be about those funny instances that stand out.  Like the time I was driving when Andy told a joke and I nearly ran off the road.  Or when I wandered around the Statesman parking lot searching for my car while talking loudly on my phone about the fact that I couldn’t find my car.

I will blog every other day.  I will share my stories, whether through words or pictures.

Yeah.  Life.  I just want to be real.

Your marketing and spelling

Spelling Errors poster: The stand out more when you're trying to be clever.If you need a good laugh and have some time to kill, you should google the words “photo spelling error.”  What you find is HILARIOUS.

I worked for years as a journalist in television and online, and I have a pretty quick eye for spelling and grammatical mistakes.  I’ve been know to mentally correct bathroom wall graffiti.  I’ve also been known to make my own very public spelling typos.  There are few things more embarrassing than posting a big story on the front page of a website that garners thousands of hits every day and then having a viewer call or email the newsroom to point out your mistake.

Yeah — it happens to the best of us.

But there are honest mistakes that are few and far between and then there is sloppiness.  Sloppiness is when it’s obvious you didn’t read what you wrote or that you have no idea the correct usage of “you’re” and “your” and “their,” “there” and “they’re.”

I’ve been on both sides of a business’ online presence.  I’ve been the producer and I’ve been the consumer, so I understand mistakes.  But many people don’t, and when businesses make mistakes in their online marketing materials, it just looks bad.

Your website and your emails to your customers are often the first impression you give a customer.  When I notice spelling errors, my feelings about the business instantly fall.  It just looks unprofessional and small-time.  Plus, if you don’t take the time to read and correct what you wrote, why would I think you would take the time to care about me, your customer?

Think about it — step away from your business — what would you think of a business that misspelled an email headline that’s meant to attract your attention?  What about poor grammar?  In this era of spellcheck — it just shouldn’t happen.

“Yeah, but, Cindy, I’m a terrible speller!”  Guess what — your customers or potential clients won’t give you a pass.  They want professional, and they’ll find a business that is.

Need more convincing or tips on how to overcome your spelling problems?  Check out the links below:

SXSWi Panel: Making Money with WordPress

It’s been a week since South By Southwest Interactive ended, and now that I’m finally back into a routine, I wanted to share some of the amazing stuff I learned through the conference.  I’ll be posting a new one each day this week.

Today’s topic really appealed to me: Making Money with WordPress.  It was presented by Shane Pearlman, CEO Shane & Peter Inc, Alex King, founder of Crowd Favorite, Brandon Jones, Creative Director of Epic Era Studio, and Sonia Simone, CMO of Copyblogger Media.

I’m moving more and more toward WordPress development, as I mentioned in my post about the Interview with Matt Mullenweg of WordPress/Auttomatic, so I really wanted to hear more.

What’s absolutely fabulous is that the folks at SXSWi have already posted audio from the presentation at the above link.  If you don’t feel like listening to it, here are some of the main points I took away.

If you’re a developer:

  • Consider making and selling WordPress themes.
    Wordpress is open-source and you can learn to use it through the tutorials on the WP Codex.
  • Consider starting out by selling themes through a marketplace like ThemeForest, which takes a large cut of the profits but drives marketing and protects the author from support issues.
  • Also consider child themes, which are built on existing code.
  • If you build themes, be sure you know your users and look for niches.  Ask clients what they’re looking for and develop it.

“Content is education and personality” — Sonia Simone

If you want to make money off of the content in your WordPress blog:

  • Make sure your content doesn’t suck.
    Your content should teach something that people actually want to learn and have personality so readers don’t drown in information.
  • Keep your site secure so readers won’t be turned off if you are hacked. will monitor your site for malware/hacks
  • Get a theme with clean code for search engine optimization (some free themes have crap code).

And here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t sell stuff to broke people — i.e. a market not willing to pay for what you’re selling.
    Customers have to have money and also find value in your product.
  • Not define your end product and expectations.
  • Be impatient.
    Content or themes won’t make you money in 6 months.  It doesn’t happen right away — just wait for it.

Now… we wait

One of my many goals this year is to add at least 5 new clients to House on Payne’s list of current clients.  No small order!

That goal has been in the back of my head as I meet with prospective clients and write up project proposals.  In particular, once I wrote just recently gave me a lot of worry.

It’s not that it was a difficult proposal to write, but that I knew it could hire me or not.  In the end, after writing and rewriting for hours and wondering whether I should sleep on it yet another day, I decided that the time had come to bite the bullet and send it off.  It was worse to send something more than a week after our meeting than to try to write the “perfect” proposal, because there is simply no such thing.

Now I wait, crossing my fingers and telling myself if it doesn’t happen, I can move on because opportunities abound!

Afterall, one of my other goals for this year is to be the best me I can be.

I will make House on Payne an amazing success.  It WILL happen.

Goals for 2011

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)
It always seems to me as if I’ve hurdled a great wall when I reach the first day of a new year.  I don’t feel like this from month to month… but year to year — absolutely.
And with the new year — great things!
I relish the possibilities of the new year, and this year is going to be exceptional for both me and my business.  Now that I’ve assessed my accomplishment from 2010, I can really dream — and dream big! — about 2011.
I took a goal-making workshop in early 2010, and what I learned helped me set goals and expectations for myself.  Here’s some of what I learned.
    This is not the time to be realistic.  You’re setting goals!  And if you sell yourself short, you can’t possibly achieve what you really want.  The best way I can describe dreaming big is to think like a 12-year-old.  Remember that?  When the world was your oyster and you dreamt of being a rockstar doctor who would fly to your Hawaii resort with your gorgeous spouse and get phone calls from the presidents sending you on your next secret mission?  Seriously.  Think big.
    You can’t just say — buy a new house.  Describe that house!  Described exactly where you want to be at the end of the year!  That will help you map out your path.  One of my goals is to grow my business by 20% by adding 5 new clients.  Now that I have a specific goal, I can figure out how I’m going to accomplish it — the task doesn’t seem so hard!
    It’s not about what you aren’t going to do — it’s about what you ARE going to do.  Setting goals sets your mood, and positive thinking begets positive results.
What goals have you set for 2011?

Ending the year and looking ahead: TAXES

If there’s one thing that has been drilled into my head as a business owner, it’s that I want to reduce the amount I have to pay taxes on for 2010.

It goes against everything I did as a household manager — I always wanted to see my bank account flush with cash.  But a prosperous business account is another matter.

Over the past month I’ve taken some steps to reduce the amount of taxes I will owe when the IRS comes knocking in April.  Thanks to this article — Last Minute Tax Steps for 2010 — I had some guidance in making decisions about where to put my money.

What did I do?

  1. Invested in my IRA
    My retirement is important, and ever since I left KVUE, I was no longer contributing for a 401K.  Fortunately, I was able to transfer money into my IRA very easily and take advantage of the tax savings
  2. Bought much-needed office equipment
    Not only did I need the equipment for my business, I was able to buy more for less, because companies like Dell have been offering year-end savings.

What are you doing to save?

Reflections on 2010

2010.  Oh my… what a year!

Every year — in the week between Christmas and New Year’s — I find myself in that thoughtful place of transition between the current year and the one to come.   I find myself eagerly anticipating the new year, as if a slate is to be wiped clean and the possibilities of dreams I have not yet realized are closer.  All too often, I forget what amazing things I’ve already succeeding in accomplishing.

It’s easy to brush aside the past year as we set new goals, but I think it’s also important — if not necessary — to look back.  Sometimes I can be a bit hard on myself when I think of what I haven’t done, and assessing the past year is a good way to appreciate all that I HAVE accomplished.

Here’s what I did in 2010:

  1. Left KVUE to pursue web design business full time
    This was a major goal in 2010, and I’m proud that I finally had the courage to take this step.
  2. Secured 3 clients — 1 of them new
    It’s not as much as I aimed for, but it’s a start.
  3. Had a baby
    The birth of my daughter was so momentous.  It’s tremendously difficult maintaining that balance between work and family, but I’m so glad I’m able to work from home and be there for my kids.
  4. Learned to use Quickbooks
    OK — I’m still struggling with this, but I know enough to get by for the time being and aim for hiring a bookkeeper in 2011.
  5. Went to SXSWi
    South by Southwest Interactive was an amazing experience for me.  I learned so much about technology, trends, the industry and the business of the industry that I was able to venture out on my own with a bit more confidence than I otherwise might have had.
  6. Continued my education
    It’s imperative for people in my chosen profession to stay in the know, and I did my best to advance my knowledge.  I started learning as much as I could about PHP and how to design and develop with Joomla, Drupal and WordPress
  7. Connected with other small business owners
    Through the City of Austin Small Business Development Program, I started meeting other people who could potentially help me or hire me in the future.

Now that I’ve looked at my 2010 accomplishments, I can get down to business making goals for 2011, and those goals can be specific and build upon the foundation I’ve already laid.

Happy goal-making!

Doing “the Hustle”

Remember The Hustle?

I remember learning the dance when I was in middle school, along with a bunch of other cheesy dances.  It was fun at the time.

I was reminded of the “Hustle” by my hectic work schedule this week.  I’m pushing myself for a new project I’m working on.  It’s exhilarating, yet exhausting.

I’m sure I didn’t need to put as much detail into the 3 design concepts I’ve put together, but I really want to show both the client and the people I’m contracting for what I’m capable of.  I also want to show them that I can deliver.

I’m finished with my mockups and am about to put together a PowerPoint presentation.  I’ve never done a PowerPoint before, so I’m learning on the fly.

I’ve also been asked to take the final design and create a Drupal theme.  It’s kind of like baptism by fire here.  But I’m so used to spending my career in a newsroom where deadline pressure is a constant, it’s no big deal for me to just handle the additional responsibilities and pick up the pace.

Despite the early mornings, marathon learning and work sessions, I’m thrilled I’ve been given this opportunity to prove myself.  This could be an awesome opportunity.

Here’s my question — when the heat comes on, how do you react?  Are you at your best?  Or do you crack under the pressure?

Next time, I’ll write about my top ways to cope with deadline pressure.

Out of Office: Finding a place to work away from home

I love my home office.

My chair is the bomb.  You’ve gotta have a good chair.  It’s essential to feel comfortable when you’re working.

I love that I can listen to music, see sunlight through the windows, and I’m just a short walk away from the kitchen, where I often trek to refill my water glass.  I also love that it’s mine.  I share only with my husband, and he’s not a bad office-mate.

But sometimes, it’s not possible to work at home.  For the past week, I’ve been driving Luke to a camp near Zilker Park every morning.  Instead of taking 45 minutes- 1 hour out of my work day to drive back and forth, I decided to set up shop nearby.  All I needed was an Internet connection and a chair.

It was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Here’s what I hate — “free” wireless networks that require a password.  That is incredibly annoying.  Two different coffee shops I tried  had that kind of network — one didn’t even post the password (I guess you had to go ask the barista), and the other (The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf — which is essentially Starbucks) said it would log you out for 10 minutes every 2 hours so you could join the real world.  Or get up to buy another coffee, perhaps?  Sneaky.

No thanks.

But I did finally settle on a decent place to work: Austin Java.

OK, so there were downsides.

  1. The chairs aren’t all that comfortable.  They’re wooden.
  2. The music was loud.

But there were plenty of upsides to make up for the negatives.

  1. Wireless was easy to access
  2. Coffee (I only tried the decaf) was good and bottomless
  3. Food wasn’t bad
  4. Good place to meet business contacts and clients
  5. Clean bathrooms
  6. Decent music selection (Yeah, it was loud, but at least it was good!)

I ended up getting a ton of work done, and never once did I feel like I was missing something from my office (other than my awesome chair).  It was also nice to work around other people for a change.  I was by no means the only person working there.  Many other people sat down and pulled out their laptops during my time there.

So to the good folks at Austin Java on Barton Springs Road who handed me my coffee mug with a smile and brought out my bowl of fruit — you folks rock!  Thanks for the hospitality!

3, 2, 1… Go!

I’m so excited… I’m just days away from launching my latest website —

The current site takes you to a temp page, but I’ll let you have a glimpse of what I’ve been working on.

It’s been a long road, and I’m glad we’re just a few days away.  But even though it seems things are winding down, they’re really just ramping up!

There’s so much to do to make sure the site it ready for it’s soft launch, and I have checklists to go through, plus a final meeting with my fabulous client, who’s coming down from Dallas.

At the same time, I have my current web projects with two other clients AND a new project for a tech company in town that’s asked me to work as a contractor on a project!

I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep this week, but that’s alright.  I’m working and loving it!