Finding My Flow

Well I just don’t write in this blog like I used to. When I started out I aimed for two posts a week. Now I’m lucky to get in a post every two months. But you know what? It feels fine. And I think that’s because right now I don’t feel like I’m still jumping. And while I haven’t exactly landed solidly somewhere, right now it feels more like I’m swimming, or rafting maybe. I feel like I’m finding my flow, and working with it. Like I’ve landed in a big river and now I need to really pay attention and steer myself in the right direction. How’s that for a life metaphor?

So what’s really going on? Well, I guess to put it simply, I’m busy. Working. In a good way.

Last weekend my family went skiing without me on both Saturday and Sunday. I couldn’t go because I was launching a new website. Skiing with my family is my most favorite winter activity, especially since my kids have become such competent skiers, (I think they’re passing Todd and me up!) but I was happy to be left at home, because I was so excited to be launching a new website; one that I’ve been working on for months, and I really needed to be distraction-free.

The site is ARC Dance, and it’s my biggest freelance project to date. ARC Dance is a dance company and ballet school in my neighborhood, and the director needed to replace their existing site with one that was easy to navigate, easy to maintain, responsive to all types of devices and screen sizes, and included well organized information about their camps, classes, schedules, performances, and calendar. She also needed e-commerce built for on-line registration, ticket sales and donations. Looking back on it all, I think, Wow, the two of us built this whole site together!

I got this job because a friend of mine, an artist who I traded building a new website for art camp for my kids, recommended me. (See, that free work really does pay off!) Initially I was hired to add ticket sales to their existing site, which resulted in a great working relationship, and led me to be chosen to build the new site. At first it didn’t seem like a huge job, but as we got plugging away at things, it became a lot more complex than originally anticipated. But working with a very smart and very engaged business owner made all the difference in the world.

When I think about it, it all boiled down to trust. And understanding. Like any good relationship. I think that’s one of the things that I love most about creating websites for small businesses. There’s just a small team of people dedicated to building something important and valuable. Conversely, that was what was often missing when I worked “for the man.” During the twenty or so years that I worked for large companies, there were only a handful of times that I felt like I was working on something truly important and valued. Too many times a project I was working on got scrapped because of budget reasons or leadership changes. Small businesses just can’t afford to work like that.

Besides the ARC Dance site, I’ve also been working on a few other sites, including a new web application for Nordstrom (not a small business but still a great job), a website for a company that provides commercial cleaning services, and a site for an Architect/Contractor. It’s been just the right amount of work, at just the right time, and I just hope I can keep up this steady flow.

But what about Suzanne Harrison Home and the pillows?

Well, that needs to be incorporated into the flow somehow. Because that work is really important to me too, and it’s the perfect balance to working on a screen for so long. It’s something that I love doing, something that comes 100% from me, and something I think about a lot. But I also need to make some money. And right now the money is showing itself through web development.

My dream is to find the perfect flow. Although I don’t believe such a thing exists. Life is too unpredictable. The current may flow really strong in some places, and barely at all in others. And there can be big unsuspecting rocks just below the surface, or an eddy that puts you in a swirling motion, or God forbid an unexpected waterfall, or worst of all, a dam! Best case scenario though, is that the river, which started from just a trickle of a spring, keeps moving and growing, getting fed and strengthened by tributaries, traveling many many miles through all types of landscapes, carrying along nutrients and sediment, providing food, energy, and recreation along the way, as it heads towards where it’s mean to go, towards something bigger, eventually depositing its nutrients in the river delta, and becoming part of the ocean.

Wow, I really took that metaphor to the limit, didn’t I? Instead of just saying, “You’ve got go with the flow!” Which is also so true! I totally need to go with the flow. But going with the flow still takes work. So, I’ll keep working on all of my projects, keep making adjustments, keep meeting new people and learning new things, and keep trying to keep it fun and interesting. Mostly, I need to keep the faith that the flow is taking me where I’m meant to go.

Suzanne Rafting

Investment Advice

Today I’ve decided to write a post about investing. Now you may be thinking to yourself, Investment advice from Suzanne? That’s crazy talk! Well believe me, I would never dream of giving advice on how to invest your money (although if you have some for me, I’d gladly take it.) No, today I’m going to write about investing in terms of time not money.

First, let’s turn to the dictionary for a definition of “invest.” Check it out:

Dictionary - Invest

Wow! I had no idea that the word ‘invest” had so many meanings! Gotta love the dictionary…

The thing is, or at least it seems to me, that investing your time is a lot like investing your money. The more you invest, the greater your return over time. Of course you must invest wisely! Yes, it will feel risky, especially at the beginning and through the dips, and there will be times when you may want to adjust your investment strategy, but it you are persistent, you will surely earn profitable returns.

Why am I writing about this? Well, because four years ago I changed my investment strategy. Four years ago, almost to the day, I got out of what I believed had become a bad investment. For too long I had been investing my time and energy in something that would probably never pay off. I was working my butt off for people who didn’t appreciate me, and for a company I no longer respected. I was getting a decent paycheck, but I was going nowhere. It was time to pull out.

It was scary, but I decided that I needed to invest in what I believed in, and what would probably give me the best returns: my family and myself. Has it paid off? Definitely. How so? Well, it’s not like I can put a dollar value on it, but I decided to try and chart it out:

Return On Investment Chart

Note: This is not a scientifically accurate chart.

Right now, being self-employed, I am not making as much money as I was back when I had my full-time job. Plus, insurance is complicated and expensive, taxes are also complicated and expensive, and so many things that were taken care of by “The Man” I have to take care of myself – I need to buy my own equipment and software, be my own tech support, do my own accounting, etc. But, knowing how to do these things myself are part of my investment in me! Not only am I increasing my skill set, but I’m understanding the “big picture” in a whole new way.

What’s also exciting (and scary!) is knowing that my success or failure is completely up to me. I’m not waiting for a lucky break or a big promotion or an awesome boss to help me out. Instead I’m trying to make the best choices possible, and become more and more competent at what I do. Over time, as my portfolio of work has grown, so has my skill-set and confidence. Even though I don’t know where the next client will come from, I never have to worry that I might get fired. And, looking back on my web work for the past four years, I’ve gone from having only a few clients and doing work for trade, to juggling three or four jobs at a time. Hooray!

Then there’s my family. I just want to be with them as much as possible. I’m realizing how this time with my kids is flying by, and I don’t want to miss out. Not only do I want to spend time with them, but I want them to eat healthy, get exercise, be creative, try new things, have fun with their friends, play with their puppy, and stay off those darn devices as much as possible. For me, I feel like that is easier when I’m around.

You know what they say: “Time is money,” which I totally agree with in terms of business, but in terms of flexibility, and freedom, and living your life to the fullest, time is a gift that becomes more precious with each passing day, and so I intend to invest my time as wisely as possible. Because this is was matters most:

My family

Gaining Momentum

Things have been really humming along lately. I have been working on three new websites and started back part-time at Nordstrom.  I ran out of Wizard of Oz pillows, so I spent two full days last week silk screening more. I sold pillows at a “Handmade Sale” on Sunday, and had some new ones in the collection. And I have been diligently working on my business plan and branding for Suzanne Harrison Home.  Whew!

Sounds crazy, but it’s actually perfect. Mostly. I remember back when Todd started his business, how it seemed like he was always either worried about getting enough work, or worried about how he was going to get all of the work done. And he still does sometimes. Maybe that never goes away.

I’m not really stressing about getting my work done, because I am fortunate right now to have clients with very loose deadlines. But I have put personal deadlines in place to help me manage my workload.

What’s happening to me is that I feel like I’m not making time for the other stuff that needs to get done – like working in the yard, getting our summer planned, putting the ski stuff away, and laundry! I love the work I’m doing right now, and there’s plenty of it, but I’m letting it consume all of my time, putting other things off, letting the little things slide, not meeting some of my personal goals and milestones for the year. But…

Who cares? Does it matter that much? It’s hard to say. I always want to do a thousand times more than is actually possible, but I still get a lot done, and I really try to be systematic about my priorities. Will there be more work after I complete these websites? When should I start looking? Should I block off some time to focus more on Suzanne Harrison Home? Plus, summer is right around the corner – what will this be like when the kids are out of school? I have no idea…

I’ve decided not to overthink it, and just keep plugging away at everything. Making sure I have some billable hours in every day. Making sure I do a little bit of pillow work and/or marketing every day. Making sure I spend only a little bit of time texting, emailing, scheduling, etc. Making sure I’m there for my family, and taking care of myself.

This image came through my email the other day from Tai Lopez, and while I wouldn’t exactly call myself an entrepreneur, I think it’s really great:

10 Habits

#8 makes me laugh because I don’t exactly have a team… Or do I? I am always telling my kids “Solve the problem – don’t make it worse!” Hmm…

 #9 sounds like something to strive for because I am constantly shifting gears between my various “business activities” throughout the day.

But… at the end of the day, I am happy, and hopeful that all of this effort will pay off. It may not be paying big right now, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the freedom and flexibility I have. Plus I am learning so much about SO MUCH! I’m not sure where I’m going to land with all of this, but I’m excited, and feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Hooray!

Ready, Set, Organize!

The other day, as I was cooking dinner and listening to Fresh Air, my ears perked up when I heard the speaker, a linguist named Geoff Nunberg, talk about his pick for the word of 2015. I was expecting it to be a word related to iPhones or technology, and was surprised to hear that the word he had chosen was “gig” which he described as “the name for a new economic order.”

I always thought of the word “gig” in terms of musicians playing a show, but I guess now it’s also used to describe freelancing, and it’s the wave of the future.  Nunberg says:

The lifetime job is history, we’re told, a victim of technology and the logic of the market. Instead, careers will be a patchwork of temporary projects and assignments, with the help of apps and platforms with perky names like FancyHands, Upwork and TaskRabbit.

He also says:

As the head of a freelancers’ organization puts it, we’re no longer just lawyers, or photographers, or writers. Instead, we’re part-time lawyers-cum-amateur photographers who write on the side.

Like me! I’m a part-time web-devloper-cum-pillow-maker who blogs on the side. I had no idea I was part of this “gig economy.” Cool!  I think…

Because while I love my patchwork life, it can be pretty stressful sometimes not to have a steady income with steady benefits, and it’s really hard to keep everything organized. What should I work on today? How do I find time to get my bookkeeping done, my taxes paid, my inventory up-to-date, my kids fed, my house cleaned, my emails answered, my projects done, and find new work and sell pillows and write in my blog?

That is why my word for 2016 is Orgainize! And that is why I’ve spent a lot of January setting the stage to be more organized in 2016.  

What have I done?  So far, just these three things…

Thing 1:  I purged!  

I cleaned out my desk, and my files, and my laundry room, my fabric stash, my closet, and my kitchen. I was fast and I was ruthless and I got rid of so much crap. I had actually been holding onto fabric that I had gotten when I worked at a fabric store way back in the 80s. I had two blenders! I had pay-stubs from the 90s. It took quite a bit of time, and I often wondered if this was the best use of my time, but I was kind of on auto-pilot. And then I was done. Sure, I could have kept going and tackled the living room, the shed, the bookshelves, the freezer, the list goes on, but this felt good. And right. Now I had room to organize.

Thing 2:  I created my 5 x 5 Plan.

What is a 5 x 5 Plan? I didn’t know until a few weeks ago when I came across Natalie MacNeil’s website She Takes on the World, and her post Create Your 5 x 5 Plan for 2016. In it she suggests that you write down five goals to work towards in 2016, and then write down five milestones for accomplishing these goals, giving each a deadline. I loved the idea, and I appreciated her emphasis on being flexible with your plan. That if an opportunity comes your way, it’s okay to replace a goal with something else you really want to pursue, and that “You can complete a goal simply by crossing it off your list.” She also suggests you create a vision board for each goal, which I haven’t done, although the visions are very clear in my head.

Here’s what my 5 x 5 plan looks like for this year:

Suzannes 5x5 Plan

Thing 3:  I created a time management plan for 2016.

For me, I find that I’m best at getting things done when I write them down and then have them visible, like my sticky boards. So I decided to create a loose schedule for the week, and try as best as possible to stick to it. I know things will fluctuate and I’ll need to make some big adjustments for the summer, but I really want to maximize my time by doing laundry only once a week, planning meals and grocery shopping just once a week, and not procrastinating on bookkeeping and other things.  We’ll see how it goes, and again, I’m gong to remain flexible and make adjustments along the way.

Here’s what my time management plan looks like:

Suzannes Time Management Plan 2016

One other little thing I did was set a timer on my phone to go off every weekday at 12:30pm, to remind myself to take a short break. To meditate. To stretch and maybe lift some weights or do some sit ups. I spend way too much time in a chair in front of the computer, and so I need to make sure I get away and move my body and still my mind for a little bit.

My contract job at Nordstrom ended recently and even though I have some freelance jobs going on, I’m feeling a little anxious about the amount of time I’m spending on all of this organizing. My hope is that in the future I will be so organized that I won’t need any significant breaks, and that I’ll have enough “padding” in my bank to feel better about doing the un-billable work that needs to get done in between gigs.

Interested in learning more about the gig economy? This is pretty interesting: Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce.

2015 Review

2016 is here, and it feels great.  The holidays came and went in a whirlwind, like they always do, but we had a lot of fun. We slept in, we shopped, we baked, we decorated, and we celebrated Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Years with family, friends, food, and fun. We saw Star Wars and we skied a few times. What more could you ask for? Nothing! But if sure feels good to have it all over with!

Why is that?

xmas Tree 2015Maybe it’s because the holidays are like the last paragraph of the last chapter of a long book, and no matter how good, bad, or mediocre the story, we’re glad when we’ve finished it, and we’re excited to get started on the next one. That’s how I feel at least. I thought 2015 was really good – great characters, full of meaning, lots of fun, with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. And now I’m ready to start 2016.

Last year I picked a word to focus on for 2015, and that word was “Integration.” I chose it because I wanted to take my seemingly separate endeavors – web development, pillow-making, and blogging – and turn them into a more cohesive thing. I also wanted to integrate more people into my work.

After ringing in 2016 I started reflecting on last year’s word and I was feeling like I had failed; like I hadn’t integrated much at all in 2015. In fact, I felt like I’d done the opposite and dis-integrated. (Ha! That makes me look at the word completely differently now.) But, isn’t disintegrating actually a means of integrating? You know, like how you disintegrate sugar in water, the sugar seems to be gone, but it’s really still there, it’s just in a different form and now you’ve made simple syrup! Hmm…

integrate

For 2015 I really wanted to start working with other people more, like with my office-mate and graphic designer friend. I also wanted to find mentors to learn from. And I wanted to create one type of business that integrated everything somehow.  Well, none of that really happened like I thought it would.

In fact, I quit going to my office when I started my Nordstrom job, and eventually gave it up altogether. Maybe my word for 2015 should have been ”quit!”  Because I also quit doing Todd’s bookkeeping. And Krypton quit meeting. I also quit hanging out on the playground after school. I quit coloring my hair. I quit sewing all of my own pillows.

But that was what I was thinking last week. This week I’m thinking very differently. I’m thinking that I totally integrated things last year. It’s just that I had to disintegrate a little too.

I may have given up my office space, but I got a new one at Nordstrom, as well as new people to work with, and lots of new web development challenges that got me really excited about the work and my abilities. I often thought to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!

I also did a lot of silkscreening, made a bunch of new pillows, sold them at craft fairs, and often though to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!  Good grief.

So how then did I integrate? Well, mostly I integrated internally. I realized that all of the things I’m doing are important to me. They fulfill me and make me who I am.

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.  –Aristotle

In 2015 I worked on my branding and came up with a tag line for my pillow business:

Style. Comfort. Inspiration. Fun.

Turns out that those four words, beyond the pillows, are what I believe in completely. I believe we all have our own personal style that we need to be true to. We want to be comfortable. We need inspiration and to be inspirational. Life should be fun. So no matter what type of work I’m doing – web developing, pillow making, blogging, or “momming”, that is the sensibility I strive for. And that is the integration I accomplished in 2015.

So Fashion Business Cards

And I’m not done integrating yet. But I suppose it’s a constant process…

So what is 2016 going to be about?

It’s hard to say just yet, because I’ve only just started the first chapter. But the word for 2016 is:

Organize!

I need to organize my time, my money (Ha ha! Like I have so much it needs to be organized!), my pillow inventory, my workspace, and my house. I need to create web-sites for me and standard processes. I know, it sounds really boring, but I’m excited about this word, and I’m really excited to get organized and into my groove in 2016. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

The Job

My View at Work

My View at Work

For the past four weeks I’ve been working as a part-time contractor at Nordstrom, doing web development work.  My first week on the job coincided with the last week of school, and on the Sunday night before my first day, when I was saying goodnight to Miles, I said, “Remember, you’re going to have to get yourself to school tomorrow because I’ll be at work.”  And Miles said, “Ok.  But why did you get a job?  Summer is just about to start.  What were you thinking?!”

I have to admit, I”m not sure what I was thinking.  It all just kind of happened.  My friend who I share my office space with had recently signed up with an employment agency that specializes in creative work, so I decided to check out their web site, and when I did I noticed that there were lots of WordPress jobs listed.  So I applied for one of the jobs on-line, and the next day they called me and asked me to come in for an interview.

The interview went well, and I was shown a job listing for a WordPress web developer at Nordstrom – for a full-time, on-site, temp-to-perm position.  I told her that none of those three things interested me, but she said she’d talk to them and get back to me.  When she did she said they would be okay with flex-time, off-site freelancing, and so she set up an interview.  After a phone interview and and in-person interview, I got the job.  (Ok then, here we go!)

I talked to the kids about it and told them that when summer vacation started I’d be working at home in the mornings and we could go to Greenlake in the afternoons, and that sometimes I’d have to go into the office, and they said, “Fine.”  So on June 8th I got up early, made myself a ham and cheese sandwich, wrapped it in foil, shoved it in my purse, grabbed my book, and headed to the bus stop.  It was kind of fun being back on the bus with the other commuters, and I really enjoyed my thirty minutes of me time, reading my book and playing Words With Friends with Barb.  Then I jumped off the bus and walked the few blocks to the Nordstrom headquarters.  It felt like it had been a very long time since I’d done this, and it was actually pretty fun being part of the working-world down-town morning hub-bub again.

The closer I got to my office, the nicer the outfits of the other people on the street got. When as I entered the building and got on the elevator, I thought, Wow! The employees here dress nicer than I ever do.  And the shoes!  There were so many super stylish people – both guys and girls, but mostly girls, but I guess that’s not too surprising.

Anyway…

For the past four weeks I’ve had my ups and downs, adjusting to my new schedule, finding the right bus route, figuring out what to wear (I gave most of my fancy work clothes away) and making sure the kids are occupied while I’m gone.  Like most everyone who starts a new job, I felt like an idiot at the beginning.  I couldn’t find my way around the building, felt insecure about the number of hours I was working, wasn’t confident in the approach I was taking with the work, and worst of all, I accidentally sent a test email message to everyone in the stores.  (I had pasted in the Lorem Ipsum for dummy content and got a message back, “Why am I getting an email in Latin??”)  Good grief!

But little by little I’ve been gaining confidence and finding my groove.  I still have a ways to go, but this feels like a pretty good gig:  flex-time, the ability to work both remotely and on-site, for a good company, with exposure to all sorts of new learning opportunities and a regular paycheck.  I don’t think I could have done this last year or when the kids were younger, but I am very thankful that this opportunity came along when it did.  Now I just need to find some time to make pillows (and write in my blog.)  I have a sale coming up on August 15th at the Seattle Street Food Festival.  My first big one.  More to come on that!

Rejection Stinks.

Snoopy RejectionOn Sunday I got an email from the Urban Craft Uprising that said:  ”We appreciate all the work you put into your application, but regretfully are unable to offer you a spot at our upcoming summer show.”  Darn it!  That was supposed to be the craft fair where everyone saw my pillows and couldn’t live without one!

I had turned in my application and photos on March 20th and I was, for some reason, pretty confident that I’d get in.  I’d heard a lot of rejection stories, but that didn’t sway my confidence.  Until Sunday, when I checked my email, I saw it there in my inbox, and even before I opened it I knew it was going to say “Thanks but no thanks.”

The funny thing is, when I read the email I wasn’t at all upset.  Well, honestly, my initial thought was Why didn’t they like my pillows??  My pictures were so good!!  But then I was kind of relieved.  Now the pressure to get everything done for that big sale – only two months away – was gone.  Now I would have more time to focus on the other things on my sticky board, like hosting another Art Walk sale on May 8th, improving my Etsy site, and creating a site of my own. I also have a web-site to finish and another to start.  Plus, I will hear back in May if I got into the smaller Urban Craft Market which is part of the Seattle Street Food Festival. I think I might also apply to the Renegade Craft Fair, a new Seattle craft fair happening August.

I’m sure I’ll apply for the Urban Craft Uprising again some day.  But first maybe I should get some smaller shows under my belt. Sure, I would have liked to have been chosen, but I’m totally okay with how things played out.

 A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.

- Bo Bennett

What’s weird is that about two weeks ago I got a different and totally unexpected kind of rejection, and it wrecked me.  After receiving an email inquiry through the contact form on my web design site, I scheduled a phone interview about doing some freelance web work for an on-line marketing company.  It turned out to be a conference call with a couple of guys – the owners – who started by explaining their business, followed by me explaining my process.  However, just a few minutes after I started talking, I could tell they were totally uninterested in working with me.  They wrapped up the call pretty quickly and said they’d be in touch.  What just happened?  I was baffled.

I followed up with an email thanking them for their time and immediately I got a response back that they weren’t interested right now, but that they would keep me in mind if future projects came up that were a better fit.  This time, I was devastated.

I’m pretty confident about my web work and my process, and I was totally confused.  What did I say wrong?  What am I doing wrong?  I didn’t sleep well at all for two nights.  I wrote imaginary emails in my head defending myself and explaining how they must have completely misunderstood me.  I wondered if I should write them back at all.

Soon after I got this brief email newsletter from Tai Lopez:

The tough truth about life is that some things just take time. Most people aren’t strong enough to deal with that fact.

Stay on the rise,
Tai
Tailopez.com

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it totally turned me around.

Finally I decided to write back and say “Thanks for keeping me in mind if a future need arises” and included a quick blurb about me and my process.  I liked it, and after I sent it off I felt so much better.

The whole experience really made me think about who I am, the type of work I want to do, and what I’m good at.  Just because they didn’t pick me, would I have picked them?  Would I have wanted to work in that type of environment?  Who knows.  But it made me think a lot about what I want, how I present myself, and how I need to own who I am and how I work.  When you’re working for yourself, that is something that takes time and effort and experience.  I need to be patient and to keep the faith.  I need to remember my commandments.

I think another big issue is that to me rejection = no money and I want to make more money.  But making money means doing work I am capable and proud of.  And let’s face it, weather it’s making and selling pillows, or doing freelance web work, I’m still pretty new to all this.  I still have a lot to learn, to develop, and to present well.

Unfortunately I’ve never been a very patient person.

Rejection isn’t failure. Failure is giving up. Everybody gets rejected. It’s how you handle it that determines where you’ll end up.”

- Richard Castle

Technology: A Love/Hate Relationship

Old TVOkay, let’s face it, I love technology.  It’s been my bread and butter for more than twenty years, and my iPhone is probably one of my most loved possessions.  I love streaming movies and TV shows on my Roku.  I love Skyping with my family.  I love to blog.  I think the only thing I really hate is that human connection thing that we’re losing.  I hate that when people have their devices on, the people right in front of them become invisible.

Our devices have become strongly embedded habits, and I’m not sure if at this point we can change that.  But I’m going to try and do my part.  I’m going to keep saying hello to people I pass on the street even if they have their headphones jammed in their ears or are texting madly while they walk.  And I’m going to really try to be a role model and not take out my iPhone when I’m hanging out with other people.

But I digress.  This blog is not about hate.  And it’s not about me being so damn superior.  No, it’s about love, and sharing the love.  So today I would like to share with you the technology I really love right now.  Here goes…

My Cozi Calendar

A few months ago on the playground I was complaining about Google Calendar’s interface and said “I wish there was a calendar that would print out nicely and help me schedule chores, meals, and to do lists.”  My friend responded, “There is, it’s called Cozi.”  So I went home, checked it out, and signed up.  I imported my Google Calender, the kids’ school calendar, Miles’s basketball and soccer calendars, and a holiday calendar.  I color coded our schedules by person, and included an FYI category for stuff we may want to do, like an art walk or an event at Seattle Center.  Every Sunday the upcoming week’s calendar get’s emailed to Todd, Nadine, and me, so everyone’s in the know, and I can also print out an easy-to-read copy to hang on the fridge (for Miles).

I look at the upcoming week’s calendar on Sunday and plan a week’s worth of meals and make a shopping list, all of which are stored so nicely on Cozi.  When I go to the store I just take out my iPhone and start checking items off the list.  If I call Todd and ask him to go to the store, he can use his iPad app to see what’s on the list.  And I’ve started making all sorts of other lists:  Suzanne’s To Do List, a Honey-Do List, a list of chores, and To Do’s for jobs I’m working on.

On Sunday nights we have a quick family meeting, and we talk about the schedule for the week and the meals that are planned so that there are no surprises, and everyone can give me their input.  If they complain during the week about what they’re getting for lunch, dinner, or snacks, I’ll say, “You helped plan these meals, so think about what you want for next time.”  It works pretty well.

Todd seems to really like it too.  The interface is beautiful, it’s easy to use, it looks good on all devices, and it’s free!  We’re hooked.  Check it out.

Evernote

evernoteEvernote has got to be my most favorite new app.  Ideas and inspiration are always whipping through my brain, and instead of writing everything down in a multitude of notebooks, I now jot them down in Evernote.  I currently have three virtual Notebooks created in Evernote:  one for Blackbird Iron, one for SuzanneJumps, and a general Suzanne notebook, which has the most notes in it:  movies I want to see, books I want to read, ideas for fabric, funny quotes from my kids, a list of things I’d like to make, and so much more.

Todd started using Evernote last year to keep track of all the details of a really hairy job he was working on, and now he and his partner are using a shared installation of Evernote.  They can create notebooks for a specific client, and then store emails, photos, notes about conversations with clients, and more.  They can take photos with their phone, add notes like dimensions right onto the photos, and then add them to their notes.

Dropbox

dropboxIt seems like Dropbox has become an ubiquitous standard for cloud file storage and sharing.  It also has a great interface for storing and presenting photos.  It’s free for 2 GB of storage space, but you can get up to 16 GB through referrals.

When I’m building a new website one of the first things I do is create a folder on Dropbox that I share with my clients so that they can drop in their content and images files, which I can then access from anywhere.  Dropbox makes it possible for me to easily work at home or at ‘the office’.  I’ve set Dropbox up for Blackbird Iron so they can easily store, organize, and most importantly share and access all of their contracts, drawings, and photos from anywhere .

Email stinks for file sharing and storage, yet that’s what so many people still use.  I think the combination of using Dropbox and Evernote is an amazing way to organize your business and life and gives you the freedom to work anywhere.  Hooray!

Freshbooks

freshbooks-iconFreshbooks takes accounting to the cloud, and is what I’ve been using to invoice my clients.  It’s free for up to three clients, which works great for me so far since I currently only have two paying clients.  Besides the invoicing feature, it also offers expense tracking (which I will start using now that I pay rent), time tracking, and reporting – like profit & loss, balance sheet, and what you need to pay your taxes.

I learned about Freshbooks through the Mogul Mom, an awesome blog I subscribe to, filled with all kinds of great ideas and advice.  Wouldn’t it be nice if some day I could call myself a mogul mom?  Or ‘mom tycoon’ also has a nice ring to it…

WordPress

wordpress-logoMy blog was built using the standard WordPress Twenty Eleven theme, I built Blackbird Iron’s web-site and Carolina Whole Health’s website using purchased themes that I customized, and I am building a new web-site using the free WordPress Responsive theme.  So I guess you could say WordPress is my web development framework of choice.  I totally love it.  It’s easy to use, free, open sourced, based on PHP and MySQL.  There are millions of people out there developing sites with WordPress, so if I have a question about how to do anything, a quick Google search is usually all it takes to find an answer.  When I’m done building a site I turn over the content management to the business owner.  And if you just want to build your own totally free blog or web-site, just go to WordPress.com to get started.

New York Library Public Domain Image Library:

nyplI ♥♥♥♥ The New York Public Library!!!  They have most graciously scanned and provided access to hundreds of thousands of public domain images from the library’s holdings.  When I’m looking for an image for my blog, if I don’t have a photo or a drawing of my own, I always turn first to the New York Library’s Public Domain Image Library.  It is the most amazing resource for images.  Check out this incredible collection of art deco images.  I really can get lost in this space sometimes.  Not only do I find amazing images here, I get to travel back in time, and get exposed to all sorts of inspiration.  I really truly love the generosity of people and organizations that share freely on the internet.

Wikimedia Commons:

wikimedia commonsWhen I can’t find an image from the NYPL, the next place I turn is Wikimedia.  It is a repository of free-use on-line images and other media which, like Wikipedia, is sourced and maintained by volunteers.  Anyone can upload their media and become part of the community, and there are millions of files available to use.  Pretty incredible.

And finally…

My Roku:

rokuRecently we moved the TV out of the TV room (now Nadine’s room) and into the living room.  In the past we would have had to figure out how to rewire our cable connection, but now there is no cable (woo hoo!) – just a little Roku box, about 4″ x 4″ x 1″ that plugs into the TV and runs on our wireless connection.  It allows us to pick and chose the TV we want to stream (Netflix, Hulu+, PBS, TED Talks, Amazon, and the list goes on and on) and has games (You Don’t Know Jack) and specialty programs, like my yoga channel.  I love it!

Last night I was so happy to finally get cozy in my bed and watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey on my iPhone.  My kids can’t fathom having to watch their favorite TV show on a certain day at a certain time.  They have no idea what a TV Guide is.  And that’s not a bad thing.  But I am nostalgic about the olden days when all of America gathered around their TV sets to watch Happy Days at 8pm on Tuesdays, followed by Lavern & Shirley at 8:30.  And those cheesy commercials!  They just don’t make ‘em like that any more…

I love not having a cable hookup or paying for cable, but I think I may actually have to go out and buy some old-school rabbit ears to hook up so we can see the Winter Olympics next month.  I just LOVE the Olympics!!!

Could you feel the love in this post?  I hope so!

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CarolinaWholeHealth.com

For the past month or so I’ve actually had a paying job (woo hoo!), creating another web site.  Again I worked with my friend Sonya at KB Design, used a WordPress template as a starting point, and I have to say, I really enjoyed the whole experience.  My client was my friend Maureen who I met through the ‘Dragon Ladies‘ circle.  She is a graduate from Bastry University who just moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to start her practice as a naturopathic doctor.  Besides being an overall wonderful person, she was so great to work with, and I wish she could be my primary care provider.  Even if she can’t be my doctor, I love all of the links and information on her site, especially on the ‘resources’ page.  Check it out:  http://www.carolinawholehealth.com.

Developing this site with Maureen and Sonya was a great learning opportunity for me, and so different than creating Todd’s Blackbird Iron site.  Todd’s site was a lot more about imagery than information, and was actually a little more complicated to pull off because of that.  Working on Todd’s site I didn’t worry about how long things were taking me or how much it was costing.  And I worked autonomously:  writing the copy, choosing the photos, and making design decisions.  With Maureen’s site, on the other hand, she sent me all of her copy and was very involved in the design and overall user experience.  She needed links to external services like MailChimp for newslettters, Bookeo for scheduling appointments, YouTube to embed a vdeo, and Emerson Ecologics for ordering supplements.  And she wanted a mobile-friendly version of the site.  Plus, she was on the other coast, with a three-hour time difference, and a very busy schedule.  Yet she was the perfect client:  savvy, confident, nice, and appreciative.  How lucky for me!

So besides getting to learn more about creating Word Press sites, I’m also getting a lesson in freelancing.  Now that we are wrapping things up I need to think about things like training, invoicing, and maintenance.  And how to get my next job!  Maybe I should be my own next client?  Hmmmm…

If you happen to live in the Chapel Hill area, or know anyone who does, make sure you refer them to Dr. Maureen Dunn at www.carolinawholehealth.com.  Thanks!

BlackbirdIron.com

Woo hoo!  Blackbird Iron + Design finally has a website.  Check it out.  They’ve been in business just over two years, and have been able to get steady work without one, but they were always saying “We really need to get a website out there.”  Well say no more!

I always wanted to build their website, but when I was working full time it was really hard to find the time in all of our schedules to make this happen.  But after our friend Sonya at KB Design created the logo and business cards for them this summer, we decided to work together on creating the web site.  I think it worked out pretty well.

Sonya picked a WordPress theme, then created two design options in PhotoShop, and sent them to me.  Then I worked with Todd and his partner to pick the design they liked best, write the copy, and pick the photos to be included.  Then I put it all together and built the site.

I think it was a really smooth process, and so great to work with Sonya.  I hope we can do more projects together.  Anyway, check out the site when you have a chance.  I’d love to hear any feedback, good or bad.  Thanks!

Blackbirdiron.com