Personally, I don’t care about the commercialism of the day. I consider it a reminder to acknowledge those people we care about, both romantically and otherwise, in a way we probably don’t think of throughout the year.
I aim to send a note, letter or email to people close to me for Valentines Day, just so they know I care all year, even when I forget to tell them.
For those romantically inclined, I wrote an article on writing love letters, and another on how to present love letters in a special way. I also wrote a number of Valentines articles for Save Time Online, including Valentines ideas for singles!
And for those interested, Valentines Day, Valentine’s Day and Valentines’ Day are all grammatically correct! It depends which grammar rule you believe is more important as to how you write the word!
Valentines Day – the name of an event, such as Good Friday or Christmas Day
Valentine’s Day – the day owned by or relating to Valentine
Valentines’ Day – the day owned and celebrated by valentines (lovers) everywhere
The same answer applies to Mothers and Fathers Day, too.
So what is your preference for writing Valentines Day? Is that just what feels right or have you thought about what is ‘correct’?
I hope you, your family and friends have a lovely day today (whether you celebrate Christmas or not).
I would also like to wish you a happy and successful 2013.
Please note that I will be working reduced hours from now until the 3rd of January so please be patient if I don’t reply to emails or phone messages instantly!
Today is Blog Action Day 2012 (BAD12). That means over the next 24 or so hours many bloggers will be publishing a post about the power of we, showing that diverse people can come together to make a difference.
For me, the timing makes this post easy – I just spent most of the weekend with 3oo fantastic people at the problogger event so have a better sense of the power of we within blogging.
At one level, we were just a group of people sitting in the same room listening the same speakers.
People were talking, mingling and supporting each other – not just for those 48 hours but building relationships that can move us forward in the days and months to come. The organisers and speakers not only encouraged us to mingle (one speaker, I think it was James Tuckerman of Anthill, told anyone sitting next to a person they came to pbevent with to sit somewhere else in the next session) but had made it easy to do so with generous breaks between sessions and a cocktail party on Friday night.
Amongst many other topics, we discussed payment for our work, such as being paid by a brand to promote them within our blogs. While there was an understanding that someone with more traffic and influence can probably charge more than a new blogger, there was a consensus that bloggers should bot accept free or very cheap ‘work’.
The point was that we all deserve to have our time recognised and paid for. And by accepting lower rates we can cheapen the work and efforts of other bloggers as well.
It’s also one reason I hate those content mills where people can buy webcopy, blog posts, articles, etc for a fraction of the price professionals like me charge – it makes it harder for us to earn decent pay rates for our time and expertise if clients think they can get it done much cheaper (especially those clients who don’t understand how to judge quality writing).
Working together and setting some industry standards helps all bloggers and writers.
Discussing those standards at PB Event gave us not only a framework but the confidence to stick to it for a reason beyond ourselves.
The power of we at work.
Leading up the PB Event, problogger (Darren Rowse) himself set a challenge.
If we could fundraise $240, he would attend the final session on Friday in a school dress. A few more targets were added when the $240 was reached in one donation, with the final level being $2,400.
It was fun, but the point was to raise money to help girls in Sierra Leone go to school – $240 sends one girl to school for a year.
I was sick to the stomach to find out a girl is more likely to be sexually assaulted than go to school in Sierra Leone.
Think about what that means. It’s awful.
I’m pleased to be part of PB event where we raised enough to send 10 girls to school.
It isn’t enough, but it is a start and shows we care. Sending 10 girls to school will make a difference to them, their families and presumably their communities.
Darren challenged us to all do the same, to see how much money 300 bloggers’ communities could raise, how many more girls go to school.
Given it is blog action day, I wonder what would happen if all bloggers around the world tried raising some money by doing it in a dress - could we get every girl in Sierra Leone to school?
Could we make it so school is more likely than assault for a nation of girls?
The power of we is strong. Let’s use it for good.
Singing is just saying words in time to music, really. I even get requests to sing most days – Twinkle Twinkle and once I caught a fish alive are some of the most frequent requests. So it’s probably time I recorded my first album and gave Lady Gaga a run for her money isn’t it?
I know how to run, too – it’s like walking only you pump your arms and go faster. So I think I will join the Australian Olympic team, but can’t be bothered training much before London.
Do those ideas sound a little silly?
Obviously there are many things I can do (cook, draw, throw a ball, hammer a nail, first aid and dance just to name a few) but most of those things I can’t do well enough to call myself an expert or expect money or fame for.
So why do so many people think that because they know how to form letters with a pen or type, they know how to write to a commercial standard?
I have come across a lot of examples lately where people think they will start an online writing career for easy cash or because they like the freestyle lifestyle. And others who ‘offer writing expertise’ while demonstrating they can’t spell or write a coherent sentence.
It frustrates me – not because I feel they are any threat to me (my clients want quality and can tell the difference between poor and good writing) but because it cheapens the efforts of quality, skilled writers (like Paul Hassing, Sarah Mitchell, Lorraine Thompson, Desolie Page and Belinda Weaver to name a small sample).
It angers me when these same people put information out there that is wrong or easily misunderstood. If their readers don’t know any better, they could be lead into costly mistakes. Good writers not only write well but, for less known topics, research the material or get expert assistance on the content before posting any content online.
Writing well is a skill – aspects of it can be learnt (such as how to spell correctly and when to use a capital letter) but much of it comes naturally and through experience. Reading and learning contribute to the skills of a writer, so even great writers can improve.
I can write well. I can sing – but only well enough to entertain my toddlers and enjoy myself (Lady Gaga need not fear me as competition!) I know the difference between those skill sets and use them accordingly. Is it so much to ask that other people realistically assess their skills, too?
As well as wishing you well for the year ahead, I want to share some ideas for starting 2012 in a way that will establish a great business year. No matter what has come before, you can set some good foundations for your business (and life!) now and make your life a bit easier.
What can you get rid of – maybe there are time wasters you can stop or activities that would be better outsourced, or perhaps you offer a product or service that costs more than it brings in.
What can you simplify? A complex pricing structure may be unnecessary or perhaps there is no real need for some steps in your packing or ordering process.
Now is a great time to review last year and think about simplifying and streamlining your business
Having procedures in place saves you money and time, allows you to get more help and writing them often shows up improvements to your method. Consistency is important for many aspects of business, and procedures are the easiest way to ensure things are done consistently (as long as your team uses them anyway!)
Taking time to also standardise document codes and updating, repeated communications (think of those emails and letters you write over and over) and having clear terms and conditions will also save you time throughout the year, and probably give you a better result as well.
The financial success of your business obviously closely relates to how much profit you make from each sale so pricing is a critical balance between being acceptable to clients and generating enough profit.
When reviewing your prices, take into account new or increased costs (including flood levy, higher Victorian electricity rates and potential carbon tax impacts), competitor prices (don’t just copy them but take note of what others are doing), changes you have made (e.g. if you give greater value or have reduced costs maybe your prices need to reflect that), use of newer technology (including social media expectations and possibly updating your website for mobile access) and reasonable profit margins.
A price review can take time and it may be better introduced later (such as after the carbon tax comes into effect) but a new year is often a good time to assess things and make the necessary decisions.
Remember to look at the support activities around your business as part of your streamlining. These tasks don’t directly bring in any income so reducing the time you spend on them gives you more time to generate income, and if you outsource them they will usually be cheaper services than things like design or IT work.
Hire a cleaner once a fortnight, get a junior in once a month for filing, get bulk stationery delivered, pay someone to run errands (deposit cheques, grab stationery, buy stamps, stock up supplies, etc) once a month, and so on.
Of course, if this time of year is quiet for your business, now is also a good time to think, get creative and plan for the next 12 months. Taking a week or two now to make adjustments and plan ahead is a good investment – don’t feel you have to be outwardly productive to be a good business week.
Enjoy looking at your business in a new way, have a fantastic 2012 and use your words wisely!
There is an old saying that I like: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Whenever there is a big issue in front of you, your best chance of success (and completion for that matter) is to break it down into manageable pieces and work your way through those pieces.
So I liked another of General Cosgrove’s quotes:
I find complex issues drain energy from people. Many can be overwhelmed. Young people may not know how to attack the beast. Breaking down problems is critical.
Is there a problem you’re facing that you could break into bits? Maybe finding someone to help you break it down would help?
Last night at cubs, I spoke to the pack council ( a group of older cubs given the responsibility of leading groups of their peers) about leadership.
Asked ‘what is a leader?’, their answers included:
In a coincidence of timing, I just read a summary from the current ASFA National Conference* and noted two prominent speakers discussed leadership.
Alexander Downer is quoted as saying that consultation is important but “leaders had to have courage…[and] implement their plan.”
General Peter Cosgrove followed on with “sometimes you can opt-in, sometimes you can opt-out, but sometimes leading is unavoidable…Leaders were able to continue to lead even in times of turmoil.” The summary also states General Cosgrove ‘pointed to the importance of professionals to lead saying that no matter how daunting and overwhelming, professionals had to ask the rhetorical question “if not you to show leadership, then who?.. You are in position, you can’t avoid responsibility.”’
That’s leadership from the young and publicly experienced – what do you think leadership is? Is leadership a role or behaviour? Are you the leader in your business?
* ASFA is the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia and they run an annual conference for leaders in the. super industry