Internet Tips for Business Travelers

Many of you know that Launch4Life has a mascot, Bob Launch. We took Bob on our trip to Spain and while we were there he told us that he learned some things he hadn’t thought about before our trip. He asked me to share three tips with you that he believes will make traveling a little easier. Whether you are traveling down to a coffee shop to meet a client, traveling to do a workshop in another city, or trying to connect with clients in other countries, these tips will save you some grief and time.

 

Tip #1 – Secure Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is available at most places you visit, either free or for a nominal charge. But it won’t necessarily be a secure network. How you will know this? Sometimes you will log onto a particular website on your device. It will allow you to do some things, but not all. You will think that a link is broken. But it’s not. The website is trying to protect you. What you need is a Virtual Private Network. A VPN will put a security bubble around you while you are logging in to pay a credit card, your mortgage, or making a transaction with your bank account. In essence it creates a firewall. I discovered a VPN called Windscribe: https://windscribe.com/  The good news is that they offer a free version that was perfect for me for this trip. This idea is great even for someone who only travels locally. If you think you will need more than the free version, the first paid level is only $4.08 per month and provides unlimited bandwidth. But whatever your need, this VPN is something that will make your life easier and prevent hackers. Also, it will allow you to see the websites you visit in your own language, very helpful.

 

Tip #2 – Online Calendars

How do you reconcile your online calendar with different time zones? This is the one that really made me crazy. You can bet I made a couple of mistakes with that. But now I have it all figured out. Whether you use Outlook or Google Calendar, both have built-in time zone converters.

If you have a Google Calendar, here are the instructions to add a second time zone:

  • Go to your Google Calendar.
  • Click the settings wheel, top right corner.
  • Scroll down until you see time zones.
  • Add another one,
  • Click Save at the bottom of the screen.

If you have an Outlook Calendar, here are the instructions to add a second time zone:

  • Click the File tab.
  • Click Options.
  • On the Calendar tab, under Time zones, select the Show a second-time zone check box.
  • In the Label box, type a name for the additional time zone.
  • In the Time zone list, click the time zone that you want to add.

Now when you go into your calendar you can schedule the appointment in the time of where you are currently. It will automatically convert to the default time for your appointment. So much easier.

 

Tip #3 – Wi-Fi Booster

Many hotels and Internet cafes have Wi-Fi. But it may be sketchy and not secure. You can use your new VPN to create security. But your Wi-Fi might still have strength issues. Downloading files or watching videos may be impossible. If you are like us and use video conferencing, having a good network connection is imperative. We plan on purchasing a Hot Spot before traveling to our next destination. I have done some research. There are a number of them to choose from.

I think I like this one called Keepgo: https://www.keepgo.com. It seems to have everything we need. We can use it nationally as well as internationally. We can buy the pay-as-you-go option for the data after our one-time purchase for the HotSpot of $99. They have a 30-day money back guarantee, so I don’t think I can lose on that decision. I will let you know how it works. There are a number of choices out there to review for your individual needs.

Whether traveling down the road or traveling far and wide, knowing these tips in advance can save you a lot of headaches. If you are in a virtual business like us, the ability to “have laptop will travel” is a huge plus. Utilizing these 3 tips will make all the difference. Bob wishes you “happy travels!!!”

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist

Launch4Life

janet@launch4life.com

Project Management for Solopreneurs

Whether you are a large corporation, small business, or solopreneur, organizing your tasks and projects may be one of the most important tools for business growth. While some of us can manage everything in our head, most of us are better served using a dedicated project management tool. The challenge is finding the right tool to help us better manage our projects, so we can be more productive. While there are a number of great project management programs available, most of them were designed for large organizations.

Recently, one of our clients asked if Asana was appropriate for solopreneurs? Our answer was – yes, yes, yes! Whether you’re a big company, small biz, or team of one, Asana is right for your business. Launch4Life has been a big fan of Asana for several years. We use Asana to manage both our personal and professional projects. We love Asana for many reasons. It’s easy to use, keeps us organized, and best of all… it’s free.

Asana allows you to take everything you’ve got going on in both your life and break it down into manageable pieces. With a click of a mouse, you can set up an unlimited number of projects. For each project, you can create a list of tasks and sub-tasks that need to be completed. If a task is time specific, you even have the option of setting a due date. Since Asana was initially built as team-based tool, you can assign tasks to team members in your organization and/or external partners/consultants. But, if you are a solopreneur you can simply assign all the tasks to yourself.

Asana is so much more than a well organized to-do list. It’s actually more of a business management hub for tracking tasks and managing your documents. Each task in Asana can include a wide range of file attachments: PDFs, Bitmaps, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and more. What’s especially helpful is that these files can be shared and/or revised online with other collaborators, or even with yourself. This feature ensures you will always be working with the most up-to-date file.

What I like most about Asana is that regardless of the number of projects I have, all my tasks can be viewed together in one area. By simply accessing the MY TASKS tab, I have a birds-eye view of everything on my plate. Better still, all of the assigned tasks can be segmented by due date: Today, Upcoming, and Later. This feature helps eliminate overwhelm when you are juggling several projects simultaneously.

Here are some reasons that you too may want to check out Asana:

Repeating Tasks – If you find you do the same thing each week (ex. write a blog post that’s due on Monday) you can set that up as a repeating task. Each week when you complete the task, once it’s been marked as “done”, the same task will be automatically assigned the following week.

Accessible Everywhere –  You can use Asana on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Being a cloud-based tool, it works easily with Windows, iOS, or Android devices and can be accessed used any internet browser.

Drag and Drop – All of your tasks can easily be moved around using drag and drop.

Export Features – If you need to export project information out of Asana, you can do so using Excel or send it to a printer.

Customizable Workspace – Asana provides you with a customizable workspace. You have the option to color code projects, view tasks that are in-process or completed, and even view your progress. You also have the option to archive any in-active projects, which simply hides a project from view temporarily.

IntegrationsAsana integrates easily with a whole host of internet-based programs ranging from: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, MailChimp, Toggl, Zapier, and more.

Cost – It costs absolutely nothing to get started using Asana. While there is a premium version, you might find you never need to go beyond the free version. Unlike other Project Management tools that offer a limited free trial, the basic version of Asana has no expiration. You just can’t exceed having more than 15 team members. If you are a solopreneur, having a small team shouldn’t be an issue.

Flying Unicorns – When you mark a task as complete, you’ll sometimes see a flying unicorn shoot across the screen. While this isn’t really a necessary project management feature, it sure does make using the program fun.

The only caveat about using Asana is, just like any other software application, you need to put in some learning time upfront. While the program is pretty much intuitive, you’ll find you get more out of Asana when you learn all it can do. I highly suggest watching a few of their training videos. You will find that Asana‘s help topics and videos are fairly short and easy to digest.

No matter the size of your business, you will discover that Asana can help you stay organized. It’s a great project management tool that allows you to break down all of your projects into bite-sized tasks, assign due dates, attach relevant documents, and keep track of where you are in the process. Asana is one of the easiest programs we’ve come across and with a getting started price tag of FREE, it will definitely not break the bank for any solopreneur.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Does Your Business Have a Crisis Design Plan?

Steve Jobs had a quote “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Your business must have a plan that works in every aspect, during the good times, the bad times, and the crisis times. This blog post is about designing for the crisis times.

Last week I had the humbling experience of witnessing the passing of my wonderful Aunt. In the midst of my grieving, I also had the responsibility of creating the funeral arrangements on behalf of my cousins. My Aunt had not made any preparations nor left a note with her wishes. I had to figure out what she would have wanted, what did the family want, and then rustle up a plan that could be implemented quickly. We only had a couple of days left. Fortunately, it was all in place before she passed.

Conversely when my mother passed away a couple of years ago, she had already set in motion her arrangements along with having paid for it. My two sisters and I were able to be at our Mother’s bedside in her final days as daughters, not worrying about the business aspect. When she passed, all we had to do was make a call that triggered the well-orchestrated plan my mother had created months in advance.  No stress, no arguments, no worries except to grieve. What has this got to do with this business blog you ask? Everything. Because the same plans are needed for your business when you are gone? Who is left figuring out what they should do with the business?

Accidents can happen in a moment. Sickness can beset us without any warning. One could get a bad case of the flu and be unable to even think about that appointment made for tomorrow. Or who is going to open the shop? What about that workshop that was scheduled in two days. Who is going to tell your clients you are not showing up? If you have a partner, then things might not be a total disaster. But if you are a solopreneur there is no one to manage your business while you are out sick. Worse, if you died, is anyone designated to tie up all the loose ends of your business?

No one likes to think about these things, but life happens, and death happens. As responsible business people we need to have documents and plans in place to help our partners or family members manage our business for us.

Here are some considerations:

#1 A list of all the programs you have purchased for your business. Which should be cancelled or continued? Where can they find the passwords? Is your business calendar accessibly so they can contact your clients that you had appointments scheduled with?

#2 Who to contact if you have a lease or own a shop? What about staff members contact information?

#3 If your business is a corporation or LLC, where can your tax id be found?  Your tax accountant?

#4 Is your business something that can be sold by your family? Have some notes that can assist them in the research. Depending on the size of the sales do you have a written business valuation?

#5 If you have a partner, is there a buy/sell agreement in place?

Those are a lot of questions to think about. The last thing your loved ones need to be worrying about is winding down your business stressing over how to figure out how to do that. So, do them a favor. Take an afternoon and write down the answers to those five questions. Pick someone to tell them about the plan, where to find it and what you want done.

My Mom had told us that she had pre-planned and paid for her funeral arrangements. We knew exactly what she wanted. We sisters all worked together to support her wishes. She allowed us to be with her in her final days without stress or worry. My aunt on the other hand, had not made any plans. Her children who lived in Europe, were not familiar with U.S. customs and without me would have struggled to put a plan together quickly. Fortunately, having had my Mom’s experience I was able to take charge and make their grieving a little easier. So, show your family how much you love them, write that plan today. While you at it, it wouldn’t hurt to write down your personal needs message to your loved ones. We saw what happened in Florida on Valentines Day. Things can happen at any age.

Steve Jobs knew what his “time” clock was. He worked with his team for the necessary transition. He also created new apple products that could be built and used long after his demise. We don’t always have the knowledge of how much time we have.

I hope this message gives you the courage to write that plan now. Then you can relax and focus on growing your business confident in the knowledge that “just in case”, your business will transition the way you want it.   Your loved ones or partner will thank you for it.

 

 

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist

Launch4Life

janet@launch4life.com

Working With Clients Internationally

While it’s fairly easy working with U.S. clients when you’re in the United States, it can be a challenge when you’re traveling abroad. Also, as your small business starts to grow, you may attract clients from other countries. Solving the puzzle of working with clients internationally is worth some thought.

A simple solution is corresponding by email or video conference. The Launch4Life team loves using Zoom video calls to meet with clients online. However, we still like to provide customers with the option of meeting by phone. That led us to look for a way to host telephone conferences without breaking the bank for either us or our international clients. After all, nobody likes incurring international calling fees.

For us, UberConference was the magic solution. If you’ve been reading our blog posts for awhile, you may remember we wrote a blog post about Uberconference before. UberConference is a cloud-based conference calling program that offers both a free and business plan. For quite awhile, the Launch4Life team was testing UberConference alongside of Free Conference Calling. We found them both to be great programs. We especially like that they both offer a free version, making it easy to try before you buy. After careful consideration, we agreed UberConference was the winner. And, just this past week we made the decision to upgrade to their business plan.

What we especially like about UberConference is that participants have the option of joining a call using their telephone (landline or cell) or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). VOIP is just a fancy way of saying using your computer’s microphone and speakers in place of a telephone. As a tip, it’s always a good idea to wear earbuds or a headset mic when using VOIP. You will find that it improves the quality of the sound immensely.

If telephone conference call attendees can participate via their computer on the web, it means anyone with Wi-Fi access can join a call. So, if you have international clients or you’re traveling abroad, you will not incur long distance phone charges. Yahoo! It’s hard to believe that joining via VOIP is a feature of UberConference’s free plan. Other free features include: instant or scheduled meetings, notifications and reminders sent by email or text, and unlimited free MP3 recordings.

You may be wondering why we bothered upgrading to UberConference’s business plan? Well, we recently discovered the business plan allows international clients to join by telephone for free. This means our international clients can use a local access number to dial into our meetings. UberConference provides international telephone access numbers in over 50 countries. And as a bonus for us, when we travel abroad we can use those very same international access numbers to meet with clients back in the United States. Sweet!

We’re so glad we took the time to test several conference calling programs before deciding on UberConference. Evaluating which telephone conference platform was the right tool for our business, meant a long and lengthy test drive. Luckily, we found several programs that had a free version. When we first began our research, we had no idea that it would be a need to work with clients internationally that would drive the final decision. Thank goodness all that research didn’t cost us a cent.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

A Simple Way to Stay Organized

This weekend, we tackled a huge project – we moved from one webhost provider to another. What made it especially complex, was we had to factor in multiple domains, websites, and email accounts. Since some of the websites belonged to our clients, we also had to be mindful of minimal downtime.

We thought we were being clever scheduling this webhost migration on Super Bowl weekend. Maybe not such a good idea when your football loving husband is your IT guy. Luckily, he timed everything just right, so he could still watch the game.

Whilst we were in the midst of exporting and importing all the critical files, I constantly needed to log in to the various webhost providers, websites, and email accounts. There was no time to run around looking for the right usernames and passwords. Everything I needed was always at my fingertips.

You will probably laugh when I tell you what’s my secret for staying so organized. I use a recipe box. Yep, that’s it. Just a simple little 6” x 3” recipe box I bought at Office Depot. Inside is a stash of index cards. My cards are filed in alphabetical order and include details on everything needed to run our business. “Zoom” is the program we use for our videoconferencing. It’s filed under “Z” and includes: the website URL, our login information, details on our different meeting rooms, and even the dial-in number and pin for telephone attendees. Just one little index card contains everything needed to effectively use Zoom.

Up until now, my recipe box has been the best way I’ve found to stay organized. With so many different internet accounts to keep track of, having this easy-to-use system has been great. However, as much as I love my recipe box, I am now embarking on a change. This month I will be heading to Spain for 3 weeks on a working holiday. As I work from abroad, I will need access to all the note cards in my recipe box, but since I’m traveling light, the box has to stay home.

So now, I’m in the process of taking all the index cards in my recipe box and putting them online. To do this, I’m using the Apple Notes app. If you’re a Mac user, you might already be familiar with Notes, a standard program on every iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer. What you might not be aware of, is that Notes automatically syncs across all your Apple devices. Once I discovered that nifty feature, I began to see Notes in a whole new light.

The more I began using Notes, I saw it had some other features I wasn’t aware of. Like the ability to organize all your notes into separate folders. I learned that notes can contain more than just text. Notes can include photos, drawings, and even hypertext links. Also, if you’re a Siri user, you can have her type your notes. Simply activate Siri and tell her “Take a note.” Siri will ask, “What do you want the note to say?” Just start dictating and when you’re done, you’re even given an option to make edits. Cool huh? It’s like having your own virtual assistant.

The best Notes feature I discovered, is you can secure access to any given note by locking it. When a note is locked it can only be unlocked if you type in the password your previously entered or use Touch ID (if you have one of the newer iPhone models). Making a note secure is a really good idea if it contains confidential information you wish to keep private. As I’m transferring all my business-related index cards into Notes, I am making them all password protected.

It’s nice when you can find simple solutions to working with today’s complex technology. I have found that the more organized I am, the more productive I become. I count my lucky stars that I no longer have to scramble around looking for passwords and other key information. I guess you could say that my little black recipe box + Notes is the secret sauce for staying organized.

If you would like to learn more about working with Apple’s Notes, I highly recommend reading this excellent article: Notes App: The Ultimate Guide. It contains everything you need to know to become a Notes Ninja.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the migration from one web host provider to another was successful. Although it was a lot more complicated that we thought it would be. The trickiest part was all the email accounts. Luckily, since it was Super Bowl Sunday, I think everyone was so interested in watching the game, they didn’t notice the down-time. Touchdown!

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Coaching A Dinosaur

One often expects that all business people are savvy with technology tools. But as I have been coaching entrepreneurs, I am often surprised to learn that it is not always true. Many are still living in the dinosaur age, the age before today’s technology. Some still use outdated phone devices to communicate for business. Or even if they have a smart phone, they are not harnessing all the benefits it offers.

One of the biggest issues is struggling with technology tools and its vocabulary and how it all fits together. It is hard keeping up with the evolution when you are busy running a business. Without that knowledge, how can your business run efficiently, so you can save money and get more customers? An additional downside is that it also can hurt your everyday life as well. Less time for family, less money, and less time for you. What do you do?

I just had a coaching session with someone who is starting a business and discovered he was still using a flip phone. I found out in an extraordinary way. I was sending him text messages and he wasn’t getting them. I didn’t think to ask in advance if he had texting. After a chuckle with each other, my first advice was for him to take the leap to an iPhone. What will his iPhone do for him that was never going to be available on the flip phone?

 

A Smart Phone will help him be more productive:

  1. Access the wide world web anytime, anywhere
  2. Access his emails – multiple platforms both personal and business
  3. Access social media sites and allow him to post on the fly
  4. Project and time management apps
  5. Respond to messages of customers quickly with text, emai,l and Facebook Messenger
  6. Use Google Maps so he doesn’t miss an appointment by getting lost
  7. Take photos and videos and upload them to social media sites
  8. Take notes
  9. Record audio
  10. Watch webinars and online courses
  11. Listen to podcasts
  12. And more……

It will help him develop his business faster. His response to this list, “Holy Cow, where have I been?” After he purchases his phone, I suggested he ask a friend, a peer who has one, to teach him how to use the new phone. I recommended he not ask the young nephew to help. His nephew only knows this world and may not be able to help a dinosaur become evolved. When my client asks, “What is Siri?”  the nephew will probably say “you’re kidding, right?”

Keep in mind the flip side benefit of this. Many of his customers are using smart phones. If he doesn’t understand their experience how will his marketing reflect connecting with them using the same technology. His email platform and website should all be designed for a Smart Phone experience.

What’s the takeaway? Learn. Listen to podcasts. Watch YouTube training videos.  Get an up to date phone. Find out about apps that will make your business easier. Make sure your marketing can be viewed correctly on your customer’s phone.

Keeping current on technology developments and how to apply them to your business is critical. Don’t be a dinosaur. It will COST YOU Money in Sales.

P.S.  Quick story. I was just traveling to California from Arizona. Stopped for our last gas stop before we crossed the border. I pulled up my trusty “Around Me” app on my phone and figured out who had the cheapest gas. It was a difference of 50 cents per gallon. Your phone can save you money every where you look.

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist

Launch4Life

janet@launch4life.com