BlogMarketing and Productivity Insights
Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you have a full command of the English language. This blog is a prime example of that. And because we all know that in most cases, blog posts are one person cranking out story after story, sharing their experiences and advice with us for free, we give them a pass. Let’s face it; it’s rare that a blogger will hire an editor to make sure their stories are free of spelling and grammar mistakes.
This blog post is not a rant on grammar etiquette. It’s not a rant on the Oxford comma (I prefer not to use one), or when to use there, their and they’re (I always have to think twice before moving on). I have just noticed that it is becoming more and more evident that no one seems to be using an editor (including myself).
Why? I am seeing more and more stories from companies that are large enough to have an editor on staff, pushing out stories with glaring spelling mistakes. Sure, you used ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ in the body copy but the headline? You can’t make a mistake in the headline.
Since you are probably like me and don’t have a staff of writers or editors, here are some things you can use to help you write that next blog post.
In-app editing tools
I use Google Docs to write. If you write in Word, TextEdit or any other writing app, you already have tools built in. Right now I am looking at squiggly red lines showing me that I have misspelled something. Do you see them? Sometimes I think people look right past them. Click on them and often you will get the correct spelling of the word, a dictionary and a thesaurus. Depending on your app, you may have other options built in.
Let’s cut right to the chase. Grammarly has saved my life. It is a free application that makes sure everything you type is clear, effective, and mistake-free. Grammarly loves the Oxford comma, and you can see it in that last sentence I copied from their website. But I digress.
Mostly, Grammarly checks for critical grammar and spelling mistakes. With the premium version, you get advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context and sentence structure. Vocabulary enhancement suggestions, genre-specific writing style checks and it will check for plagiarism. Unfortunately, it does not work inside Google Docs. I will finish my story in docs and cut and paste the story into Grammarly, check the content and do final edits there. I will then copy the final version into Google Docs for safe keeping. Grammarly is not cheap at $140 a year, but it’s a service that I don’t think I can do without so I don’t complain about the cost. That may be a lie, but I get over it pretty quick.
A real live human editor
Let’s face it; we don’t hire an editor because we are either poor or lazy. You can still have someone take a quick look at your story for obvious mistakes. Maybe in your immediate sphere of friends and family, you have a business partner, a spouse, or a teenager who has better grades than you had in high school. You could even send it to your friend that goes on-and-on about the Oxford comma on Facebook.
There you have it. Three options to help you as you write your next blog post and to keep those typos at bay. And here is one more for the road. When you finish your story, let it sit for a day then come back and proof it. The mistakes you made will be much easier to see.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading about the grammar mistakes I made in this story.
Don’t be an April Fool. Be prepared. Back up your files on March 31st.
That is the header at WorldBackupDay.com, and I couldn’t have put it better myself. World Backup Day was established to help people learn about the importance of regular backups. Let’s face it; if you lost all the data on your computer or phone, your world might fall apart. I know mine would, and that is why I have multiple backup plans in place for when that does happen. And it will happen. Hard drives eventually fail, laptops get stolen, and phones get dropped in the lake.
So let’s cut to the chase. Backup your computers now. Make sure the pictures on your phone is backed up somewhere. If it’s on a hard drive, you need to back it up.
My Backup Plan
I have multiple ways I backup data and the first starts with a backup service. I use a paid service called Backblaze. After an initial backup, the service is continually backing up the most current changes on my laptop. It is even backing up external hard drives that I have attached. The best part is that it only costs me $5 a month. You never see it, and you never have to think about it.
One of my favorite features is “Locate My Computer. ” It came about because some of the Backblaze users had their computers stolen and were trying to find a way to retrieve their devices. They realized that while some of their programs and services like Find My Mac were wiped, in some cases, Backblaze was still running in the background. Backblaze was able to figure out where the computer is contacting them from, so they could retrieve their laptop.
I also use Dropbox which is not a backup but I kind of use it as one. I initially started using Dropbox when I had an office and would sync my computer at work to my computer at home. Eventually, I moved my office back home, and I work off a laptop now. All my work files are on Dropbox so I can share them with others, and those files get backed up to the cloud.
Dropbox has a limit to how much data you can have depending on your plan. To keep from going over and spending more money I backup old files onto a Job Backup hard drive. That drive is backed up as part of my Backblaze plan. I put the files in dated folders that contain files that are no more than about 3.5 to 4 GBs in total data. I then burn a DVD of each of those folders. Why would I do that you might ask? Because I still have a stack of discs and I might as well use them. I rarely ever have to go back to find jobs that are older than a couple of years, but at least it makes me feel better.
As a final backup option, I create a mirror of my computers hard drive on a removable drive. I purchased a Western Digital My Passport for Mac that is a little larger in storage than my laptops hard drive. I love that they are small, portable and are powered by my laptop. I can throw them in safe or some other place for safekeeping. The software I use is SuperDuper! I do this manually, so I have to set up a schedule to remind me to keep those files up-to-date. I always make sure that I back up the computer before I go out of town and I leave the backup at home.
I hope that helps you get started with your backup plan on March 31st. And don’t forget to also backup on April 1st, and 2nd, and… you get the picture.
It’s been awhile since I have posted some favorite posts I have come across online and I wanted to share a few with you.
In Daniel Pink’s latest book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” he states that “Exercise is one of the few activities in life that is indisputably good for us.” You can’t argue with that. What jumped out at me was “Choral singing might be the new exercise.” I grew up singing in choirs, church, high school and college. As an adult, I spent a few years singing with the Birmingham Concert Chorale the highlight singing with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. I always enjoyed singing but if this is true then maybe I should consider getting back into a choir.
All hail the power nap! I love a good power nap. 20 minutes can turn a slow, unproductive afternoon into billable hours. My power nap is simple. I have a sofa not 10 feet from my desk. If I am feeling sluggish, I will recline on the sofa and close my eyes. No curling up or turning off the lights. I don’t think I really go to sleep but it’s enough to shake off the rust. I can get away with this because I work alone. Lunch usually takes 15 or 20 minutes and then I am right back to work. I can justify a 20-minute nap as part of my lunch. Of course, I don’t have to justify it to anyone but my inner boss. Closing your eyes at your company may be frowned upon but if there is a way to get one in, I would recommend it.
I work alone and don’t have any problem with it, I am talking with clients all day long. I do enjoy getting out and meeting with clients and co-workers, it breaks up the day and there is a certain level of planning and creativity that you just can’t get in a phone call. I have read about co-working spaces but never spent any time in one. I have wanted to try one but nothing has really tempted me, until now. This new co-working concept from Hooters Tokyo rents out desk space during the restaurants’ down-time. The discount on chicken wings appeals to me. If they bring this to the states, I might need to clear it with Mrs. Wright before I can try it out.
I have been in the advertising and design business for over 30 years. Most of it as a sole-practitioner or working with a business partner. During that time I have had many prospective clients come across my door, and I have had many that I have entered into long-term working relationships with. I have enjoyed working with most all of them and have enjoyed their company as friends. Most have taken care of paying invoices on time, and for that, I consider myself lucky.
From time-to-time, I have come across some business people who don’t seem to work under the same ethical guidelines that you and I work with. These people will take advantage of you. Probably not from any malicious standpoint, they just feel they are special and should get a deal.
To help you as you continue on your business journey, here are a few business types you should look out for on your journey, especially as a designer.
The prospects to watch out for
The I need a deal — “If you do this logo for cheap, then you will be my guy on all the other projects.” Nobody wants to pass up on a job, but a lot of times we grab the work like we are buying a lottery ticket at the corner Jiffy Mart. The odds are 1 in 175 million, but we are willing to chance it in hopes of being the one. These clients usually pay off the same way. It is rare that your new “client” will pay you the going rate for future work. You have proven that you will give away your work and it will always be valued that way. When they are ready to pay going wages, they almost always go to a larger agency.
Early in my career, I was freelancing for someone who had a one-person marketing firm. Her client was a real estate company that needed a new logo. She talked me into doing the mockups for $25, yes you read that right, $25. She promised me that once she sold it, I could charge more for the final layout. She sold it alright and went straight to the printer who finished the artwork for free. That logo is still in use 20 years later.
The Logo Cage Match — “I used a service where I had 20 designers design my logo for free. I chose one and paid him $40.” Sure, you can get good logos from these types of services. A hundred other companies might have the same logo but that doesn’t matter, it will only cost you $40. These potential clients do not value what you do and the services you bring them. Don’t be surprised when they ask you to lower your fees because they can get a website produced on Fiverr.com for $5 or they could do it themselves using Wix.
In my experience, the upside of the Logo Cage Match client is that you may work with someone who feels they got burned when they had their logo designed. They are now looking for a designer who can help them improve their brand in spite of their logo.
The Phantom (client edition) — There is always a client who has to have it now, to meet a deadline and if you don’t get it done they will find someone else, and there will be hell to pay. Oh, did he mention that he doesn’t want to pay a rush fee? That is a pretty typical scenario; the phantom is the one who makes the demand and then disappears. Need approval for a photo or text change? The phantom can’t be bothered. Do you need FTP access to his original web site? The phantom is nowhere to be found. Of course, you still need to make that deadline.
The designers to watch out for
In all fairness, there are designers that you the client should be looking out for as well.
The Side Gigger — Is your prospective designer working for you as a side gig? They are working somewhere else from 8-5, so what could the problem with that? First off they are working somewhere else from 8-5, and your job will be worked on later in the evening. I don’t know about you, but most business decisions are made between 8-5.
Before I come down too hard on the Side Gig, I have to admit that is what I did the first few years of my career. It worked for my clients and me. You need to decide if you are comfortable with the decreased attention to your project.
The Learn on the Job — Fake it till you make is an unspoken business practice, and that’s true in design and advertising as anywhere else. Technology is ever-changing, so your designer is bound to be behind the technology curve on some things. Just make sure the designer you choose is not learning it ALL on your project. Here is a helpful hint, if you got a really good deal on the project, you might be the guinea pig.
The Phantom (designer edition) — The meeting started off with a bang, you and your designer got along great, and you liked his designs. You set some deadlines, and your designer heads off into the night to create your website or brochure and… nothing. One week goes by then two. You call and can’t get him on the phone. Your deadline passes, and eventually, you get him on the phone. What was the excuse? His dog was sick; maybe he had another job that took longer than he thought. Maybe he wasn’t as fast as he thought, couldn’t make the deadline and was too embarrassed to admit it and hoped you would go away.
So how do you deal with these types of clients or designers? Communication. Talk to your prospective client or designer and get to know them. Do you have a gut feeling about them one way or another? Trust it, a lot of time your gut is usually right. Do they have expectations that you are not comfortable with? It’s better to back out now. Define the scope and deliverables of the project and get it in writing in a signed contract. My answer may sound simplistic, and it could be a whole other article on that subject alone. Think about it, if I had told that first client that yes I will do the comp for $25, but I would get $500 if it was sold and got it in writing then maybe I wouldn’t have felt a need to lead off a blog post about it decades later.