technology

Biz Mama Series // Remote-Controlling Our Kids

By Ximena Santibañez

Do you ever wish your kids had a pause button, an on/off switch, or a mute button? No guilt or shame, it does’t mean you are a bad mom; nor does it say anything about how much you love your children. There is an explanation behind it.

We are the first fully technologically immersed generations that see TV, the telephone, computers, and electricity as something normal. We were nannied by TVs. We played with computers and video games. We are the generation that added motors to bikes, skates, scooters, and nearly any tool we can think of. 

If we cannot imagine life without electric appliances, the truth of the matter is that our kids may not imagine life without the internet or digital technology. 

But what does this really mean to us? It means that our capacity to wait, endure, and tolerate is diminished. That is why we look for things to stop whatever might disturb us, including a crying baby or the traditional “are we there yet?”. We are used to getting "there" faster and  getting "that" done easier. However, the generations before us did not let us get away with that so easily. The fact that we had access to a dishwasher didn’t stop us from learning how to do our dishes. Nor did we get away with not learning how to do many other manual labors or chores. We had to sit at the table with everyone else, eat what everyone else ate, watch what everyone else watched; and even share not only one phone line, but also a family computer! 

That allowed us to wait, to negotiate, endure, persuade, communicate, and develop more skills that children today don't get a chance to obtain. 

Human beings cannot create and innovate unless we are lacking amusement, fulfillment, supplies, etc. Scarcity and lack are our incentives to make things work and happen.

Just imagine and step into your kids’ shoes for a little bit. What is their incentive to learn if they can Google? What is the incentive to learn Math if they can use an app? Why should they create and imagine when they see that everything has been done and said before? Their incentive is someone so loving that will allow them to be bored. Someone so strong that will rather deal with a messy kitchen and a loud backyard than with her kids being diagnosed with ADHD or depression before reaching their teenage years. Someone so brave that she'll say "no" even though it breaks her heart to hear "I hate you" or see them cry. Someone who will be tough enough to let them experience the world first hand now and then, even when that means some scratches and bruises.

Just like we had those previous generations who taught old rhymes, games, and traditions; now is the time for us to share ours. 

We can share the stories that no video or photo could capture, so that they'll learn some things do not need to be recorded to be remembered. We can introduce them concepts like "friends" and "groups" that you cannot just add or block. The type that you actually need to create and maintain throughout the years, not just when there’s “activity”. We can remind them of the value of "private" and "unique" by sharing with them secrets and deep conversations.

Then, once we have done all of that, there will come a time when we will need to hold their hands and guide them as they start taking photos, and communicating online. We will need to be there when they are joining and downloading, and setting up profiles. We will need to learn about the digital world and new apps with them, as they learn about them.

In the end, we will not be able to block or shut down the digital world that is developing around them. Just like we weren’t able to pause, mute, or turn them off when we were overwhelmed. But we can be present, keep learning, be patient and loving; not only with our kids, but with ourselves as parents.

You can find more of Ximena's work here.

10 Online Tools Your New Business Can’t Live Without

By Haley Brown

 There has never really been a better time to start a business.

Thanks to the Internet, anyone can virtually launch and build a startup or lifestyle business. Just take a look at all these online tools and products at your disposal.

I have personally been using online tools in my business. For most small business owners including myself, the ultimate goal is to overcome the little hurdles in running the business and get more done in the smallest time possible. And I’m a huge advocate for setting your business up for success from the start. If you start out with the right tools, as your business grows you won't need to waste time, money and resources on upgrading them down the track.

So the question is, which tool should you choose? Which one could work best for your business?

Here’s a list of my most tried, tested and trusted online tools, which I’m sure you’ll find helpful in your search to save time and money.

1.    Project Management

Asana
Asana practically manages my life. This project management tool helps me organise workloads among my team. You can manage different tasks and assign them to each member of your team, track the progress of each project from start to finish, and even turn conversations into tasks. It saves precious time than constantly communicating with them over the phone or via email.

Trello
Trello is another project management tool I use. Compared with Asana, Trello is more visually appealing. Here you can see all your tasks laid out across the screen – like virtual sticky notes on a virtual cork board. You can create boards and label them with tasks and then simply drag and drop items to mark your progress.

2.    Email Management
It's a terrible idea to mix web hosting with email hosting. If one goes down, it all goes down. In maritime tradition, a captain always goes down with his ship. If the ship sinks, well, so long Cap’n!

Your web hosting account is the ship in this story.

Now raise your hand if you’ve never had downtime on a host. I don’t even need to see you to know your hand’s not raised. Every host* – even the top-notch ones – experience occasional downtime.

Now raise your hand if your email is a critical part of your business? My hand’s up. I conduct a tonne of business through email, so losing access to email is more than just an inconvenience – it’s a show stopper.

G Suite
Trust Google to give you the best business cloud apps and collaboration tools. G Suite includes Gmail, Google Drive, Docs and Calendar among others. Here I can easily manage emails, chats and even video meetings.

3.    Proposals

 Better Proposals
When you are running a creative agency, writing proposals can be tricky. So rather than spending hours formatting my proposals, I use Better Proposals. It’s easy to choose from their customisable templates. Once you’ve chosen a template, you can type in your proposal and send them via an attractive email template with your logo on it.

4.    Lead Generation

MailChimp
Who doesn’t know MailChimp? It’s my go-to tool for email automation, newsletter processes and lead generation. MailChimp allows me to easily build my email list and create landing pages for my email leads.

MailerLite
MailerLite may be a lesser-known email automation tool but is actually a formidable contender when it comes to lead generation. For one, this tool features more attractive templates and an easy-to-use landing page and pop-up forms builder.

5.    Accounting

 Wave Accounting
I manage business receipts and invoices using Wave. It has basic accounting features and is extremely easy to navigate. Best of all, it’s free. This is perfect for those who are just starting with their business.

QuickBooks Online
You may find that Wave’s capabilities are limited, so QuickBooks might be your best bet. This software is equipped with advanced functionalities an expanding business will need. The basic plan is incredibly affordable, and you can scale up according to your requirements.

6.    CRM

HubSpot
HubSpot may be better known as a marketing and sales platform but it also has a CRM software. Other platforms can be too complicated to use, but HubSpot is not. Also, the pipeline management system is a gem. It lets you sift through your leads and focus on the quality ones.

SalesFlare
What I like about SalesFlare is that it offloads you from the tedious and repetitive task of encoding customer data. This CRM practically fills itself out and syncs contact details with your email, phone and calendar.

And that’s a wrap

These tools have a huge impact on the success of my business. Think of it as the oil to your car’s engine. It makes for a much smoother ride. These tools may have worked for me but it’s also best if you take the time to research and do some trial runs before deciding to invest.

What are your favorite tools? Which online apps and business software you feel you can’t live without?

Haley is the straight-shooting head honcho of Brand Shack, guru in all things websites and branding. Crediting her success not only to her design skills but to her processes and project management that allow her to run her business from wherever her travels take her.

When not backstroking in branding, she loves nothing more than travelling the globe on her quest to find the perfect pina colada.

8 Reasons To Choose Squarespace Over Wordpress

By Rachel Gadiel

One question I hear all the time is how to choose the best platform for your website.

I’ve experimented with various platforms including Wordpress, however in recent years, I’ve become a Squarespace convert and now I host all of my websites with them.

It’s the platform I use for my clients’ websites and it’s the platform I recommend most often to anyone looking to create a beautiful, well-executed, mobile responsive website.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend Wordpress - I believe Wordpress to be an incredibly powerful and robust platform - plus it can make for a lovely website, but at the end of the day it comes down to your specific needs; your skill set; and how hands-on you want to be with your site.

Many people opt for a Wordpress site simply because their designer or website developer recommend it; or because they see the insane number of plugins and programs that can be integrated.

However, in both of these scenarios you can end up finding yourself out-laying significant costs as your site evolves - simply because you don’t have the time or expertise needed to maintain the site and you end up needing to pay someone to help.

Ask any person who is starting a new business how much time they have to dedicate to learning code to configure their website and make changes - the answer is always: not a whole lot.

So today, I’m sharing 8 reasons why I recommend Squarespace as the best option for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to launch a web presence, with maximum impact.

 

1. Squarespace offers an all-in-one hosting and publishing solution.The most significant difference between Wordpress and Squarespace is that Squarespace offers an all in one web publishing solution, with all of their services including hosting and publishing bundled together.

Given this, it offers new business owners simplicity, ease of use and the convenience of having their website, hosting and publishing tools all safely housed in the one platform - which is a very attractive offering to time-poor entrepreneurs and business owners.

The biggest upside to this means that you don’t need to worry about having multiple providers when it comes to your domains and hosting.

The integration Squarespace provides with third party domain providers is brilliant, making it a seamless process to integrate your domain from providers like Google, GoDaddy and Blue Host.

Plus, it also offers the ability to connect multiple domains and then choose a primary domain and configure all other domains to point to your nominated primary domain.

It is important to note that your website code base ultimately belongs to Squarespace as it is hosted on their servers.

But, unless you have a very specific reason as to why your site requires self-hosting (for example, organizations like banks and telecommunications companies have unique security requirements), given the level of convenience Squarespace offers, the benefits are overwhelmingly compelling.

 

2. Simplicity and ease of use.The simplicity and ease of use of Squarespace is not just limited to their hosting and domain bundling - it extends to their entire publishing platform.

Not only is it easy to navigate your way around the various functions of the site, the seamless process it offers users to update images, copy, add pages, forms, newsletter integration, or audio files, make it an incredibly attractive option.

Users need zero coding experience to navigate their way around and the highly intuitive platform, making it a breeze to use.

 

3. Beautiful range of fully customizable designs.Given Squarespace is a closed source platform, the only designs available are the templates they create and offer to their customers.

I see this as a huge benefit as there are so many beautiful design options to choose from. In the majority of cases, users will be able to find a design that matches their requirements.

And if not, they can tweak the templates via the ‘content blocks’ Squarespace offers to suit their needs.

What I love about Squarespace is they are continually updating their range of designs and there are always new designs being added.

4. Seamless eCommerce integration.
Opening an online store has never been easier with Squarespace. All stores integrate with Stripe and incorporate the appropriate taxes rules for your region.

Inventory management, coupons, discounts, order confirmations and invoicing are all taken care of within the platform.

 

5. Your website can grow and evolve as your business does.This is probably one of the main reasons why I’d go for Squarespace over Wordpress. I remember when I had my Wordpress site and any time I wanted to add a new page, or change the layout of something, I’d spend hours trying to work out how to do it, eventually getting frustrated by it and ending up pay someone to help me.

It is natural for your business offerings and services to evolve and grow over time. It should not mean that you need to hire a developer each time you want to add a new feature or page to your site and Squarespace makes it super easy for you to do so.

 

6. All designs are mobile responsive.64% of americans own a smartphone which means there is a strong likelihood the people checking out your website will be doing so from their mobile device.

Add into the mix the latest Google SEO ranking factors meaning organic search results will now take into account how well your site has been optimized for a mobile-friendly experience.

Never before has it been more important for your website to look amazing and offer an exceptionally seamless user experience across all devices, including mobile, tablet and web.

All Squarespace designs are fully mobile responsive, which essentially means that regardless of what size or type of device you are using to view a website, the design will automagically render to fit your screen.

No more having to configure multiple design layouts to work across various browsers; no more ugly designs randomly showing up because the design doesn’t work on a specific screen - none of these are a concern with your Squarespace website.

Even better - there is even a nifty viewer in the content management system to switch between your design and how it will look on each platform.

7. Cover pages are a smart way to promote special offerings, launch products or services and encourage newsletter sign-ups.
I
 love the ability Squarespace offers to create and add cover pages to your site which can be used to your advantage in numerous ways.

From promoting features, special offers or even to as a way to grow your newsletter database, you can put cover pages to work in just about anyway you want.

It also means that if you are just starting out and building your site, you can put up a cover page on your domain and start generating buzz for your site launch, along with capturing email addresses at the same time.

And, if at any point need to update your site design, a cover page will allow you to seamlessly make the transition between your old and new website design.

 

8. Squarespace support and documentation.In case you need more convincing at this point, I think it’s worth mentioning the fantastic support Squarespace provides their customers. Any time I’ve needed support with my site, or even just to ask a question, I’ve been easily able to have a live chat with one of the friendly Squarespace team members who are always incredibly helpful!

There is also a huge archive of support documentation available so it’s super easy to find the information you need.

Their documentation is written in plain English - meaning you don’t need to understand complex coding or design language - it’s written in a super digestible and straightforward way that is easy to make sense of.

Still on the fence? Here are a few questions to consider when choosing the best platform for your new website:

  • What is the most important thing you need your website to do for your business?
  • What are the main functions you need your website to perform?
  • Are you happy to get your ‘hands dirty' and learn some basic (and potentially more advanced) HTML and CSS?

Nothing gets me more excited than helping ambitious women launch their businesses to the world with a strong brand that gets you noticed.

If you’re in the market for a new website, I’d love to chat more about how I can help create a gorgeous Squarespace website for you that will let your dream clients find you; connect with you; as well as positioning you as an expert in your field.

3 Tips For A Virtual Business

Taking-Your-Business-Virtual

By Kristy Smith

With the rapid changes in technology reshaping the way we work, it’s crucial for modern businesses to adopt a new way of thinking, and open themselves to the possibilities of ‘going virtual’

The way we do business is changing. A recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that more than a third of micro businesses now use the internet to enable staff to work from home, which represents an 8% increase in two years, while for larger businesses, more than 75% now have the facility for staff to use the internet to work from home. 

With telecommuting on the rise, the traditional 9 to 5 office workday will soon be a thing of the past. Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this shift in business mindset by setting up flexible and scalable business models that allow themselves and their staff to work remotely with adaptable and accommodating schedules. Some of the benefits of ‘going virtual’ include:

Reduction in costs - with overheads such as office space and commuting expenses eliminated the costs of running business are greatly decreased. This allows entrepreneurs to create adaptable business models that can scale very quickly to suit market trends

Increases in productivity - Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters 2 this is thought to be due to a quieter work environment with less distractions and the ability to have a more flexible work schedule, unhampered by commuting

Flexibility – with no need to travel each day and the ability to work outside of traditional office hours, going virtual suits the busy schedules of entrepreneurs and working families alike. 

So how do we leverage all the wonderful benefits of remote working? Well the devil is in the details when it comes to setting up and working in a successful virtual business. 

1. Make The Cloud your Friend
With all the wonderful technological advances of the past 10 years, there are a plethora of options when it comes to cloud based SaaS programs you can use to take your business virtual. So do your research and educate yourself on all the necessary and relevant systems that will enable you to work remotely.  Choosing and setting up these systems should be your # 1 priority if you want to ‘go virtual.’ Solid systems and administrative practices are the foundation of a successful business. Don’t know where to start? We’ve included a handy list at the end of this article to help you get the ball rolling.

2. Communication is Key
Without the face to face office time you’d get in a traditional work set up, you need to ensure that both you and your team communicate on a regular basis. This means regular skype meetings, project updates, phone calls and emails. For example, you could set up a weekly skype call each Monday to communicate with your team and go through the status of current projects. The key is to keep in contact regularly. When working with a remote team there can be the tendency to ‘set and forget’ and you can become of touch with your own staff, so make it policy to keep in contact regularly

3. Be Accountable
There needs to be clear cut parameters around how your remote staff will work and what’s expected of them. Virtual roles need well-defined job descriptions, and project management procedures must be carefully documented and followed. Many managers say that while they trust their staff, they feel better if they can actually see them and monitor their work. There are programs such as Screenshot Monitor that can assist with this virtually, and implementing a ‘results based’ merit system that focusses on the quality and output of your staffs work is a good way to gauge that your staff are being accountable whilst they work independently.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a handy list of some of the most popular cloud based business software:

  • Project and Task Management: Basecamp, Asana, Trello
  • Accounting: Saasu, Xero, Shoeboxed
  • Email Marketing: Mailchimp, Aweber, Infusionsoft, Web Chameleon
  • CRM: Highrise, Zoho, Salesforce
  • Google for Business: Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar
  • File Sharing: Dropbox, Google Docs
  • Social Media Management: Hootsuite, Buffer
  • Content Curation: Feedly, Zite
  • Communications: Skype, Eventbrite, Go to Meeting
  • Blog Administration: CoSchedule

Kristy Smith is the energetic founder, director and driver of Virtual Elves, a business that provides you an understanding of how to work with a virtual assistant. Connect with her at www.virtualelves.com.au

Born to Blog In The Right Era

LLBlog024A.jpg

 

By Jennifer Abel,

No we were not born to blog but we were born in the right era to blog. Blogging is a relatively new thing to the world, but it has gone viral, viral in a good way by opening up doors to a complete new way of opportunities and thinking.

Blogging is the one way we can express ourselves the way we want , when we want to and about whatever takes our fancy at the time and we have all the things we need at the touch of a button. Thanks to technology, it has opened a whole new world for us, given us opportunities and it is all up to us what we do with this modern age.

Bloggers Must Be Crazy
That's what my Nanna would say if she was still alive (my Nanna passed 30+ years ago). Sorry Nanna, but we bloggers are a unique mob that all start for an abundance of different reasons, like money, boredom, or sheer craziness and the best reason is because we have the passion to write. Having the passion to write is one thing but to do it is another and that is why we were Born To Blog in the right era, and how privileged are we compared to my Nanna.

My Nanna's era V's Mine
To be born in the era of technology has given many of us the opportunity to become bloggers
without having to be a budding author, just look at all our mummy bloggers, foodies & so on (and by no means am I knocking you mummy bloggers & foodies without you, blogging would not be the same) .Take a look at the many authors that would never have been published way back in my Nanna's time , as writing back then was a totally different story.

Thinking back to when my Nanna first left school I can only imagine what her first job as a secretary was like, so far from today's office worker. The big old (which of course was so new then) typewriter that clicked & clacked as she typed, not like us bloggers who can type away on our laptop in the lounge if we choose, with the telly on, poor Nanna didn't even know about TV then. The more I got to thinking the more things I know now I take for granted and realise just how lucky we really are.

Can you imagine Nanna typing away her important business letter, then into the envelope it goes, now off to postal store to send this vital mail on it's way, only to reach it's destination a week later, but this was normal for her, she knew no different, just like many of know now difference when it come to the computer age. We just go ahead and email the other side of the world without a second thought, just like we hit the publish button and within micro seconds our post is visible for the world to see. We can even automate the social scene so all our networks are informed of this must read post! Now that is technology, poor Nanna would be rolling in her grave if she could see the world.

Most women back in my Nanna's day did not work once they married (around the age of 20) instead they were stay at home mums, with a huge work load of manual tasks for the day. No technology at all, zilch, the closet thing to social media was the Women's Weekly which was a magazine read from cover to cover before being handed to a neighbour. We have dishwashers , clothes dryers and so on, but more importantly we have our computers, an instant access to the outside world in seconds, and the instant access to a writing career. A job you can do at home in your PJs if you want, and better still you can work while the washing machine is going, the slow cooker purring away and the kids are at school. I call this luxury, thanks technology.

We don't even have to go to the pharmacy to get our photos developed that could take up to week to get back, we simply throw the card from our camera into our laptop and upload. I can hear Nanna saying "whats an upload love, is it something the dog has done?" We are lucky that we can erase mistakes by backspacing, Nanna had to rip the paper from the typewriter and start all ober* over again. *perfect example so glad I do not have to repeat myself.

We are blessed with all the modern technology making our lives easier ( even though we may not see it), so we have time for what we are passionate about, whether it be blogging or a hobby that we love to blog about, yes we are the lucky ones. Keeping up with the times, we need this modern day luxury of technology, life is fast and we are getting better at it every day, us bloggers need to be aware of constant changes, because if you miss the boat you may not float. (I love that saying !)

Here are a few tips that helped me along the way:

  • If you find or hear of some new program/software check it out , do a little research, and if you like the sound of and you think you will benefit from it, then get it.
  • Keep up to date with techniques by staying in touch with other bloggers, they are your best references. The best way to do this is by using your social media to it's full potential, join like minded groups , and converse.
  • Never be afraid to ask question regardless of how silly they may seem, if you do not ask you will never learn. Over my years blogging I have asked the dumbest but valid questions and got answers I needed. Remember just because it is new technology does not mean you cannot learn how to use it, it could even be of great value to you.
  • My very last tip on blogging is stay true to your words, enjoy what you do, and always smile!

Jennifer is a wife, mum to 5 and nanna to 11 grandchildren, artist and blogger. She has a passionate for older things including her home and her nanna's recipes. She also enjoys gardening, growing fresh herbs and sharing her knowledge and passion through her blog, Nanna's Wisdom.

Image: Tealily