Saturday, September 10, 2011

where do you go from here?

Hello beautiful person! Thank you for finding this blog. I'm so glad you came.

I am slowly moving all of the original content from this blog to my new blog, here. I hope you'll check it out. It's all about eco-friendly cleaning, organizing, healthy living, art, design and my life.

Peace out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

my kitchen smells like

Hello beautiful person! Thank you for finding this blog post. Unfortunately I have moved all of this post's scintillating original content to my new blog, here.

Peace out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

insomnia

This story was originally published as a Facebook note on the morning of December 13, 2007.

A little comedic piece I started at approximately 3am yesterday morning...

10 things to do when you’re awake for no good reason in the middle of the night.

1. Lie in your bed in the dark, worrying about absolutely everything – from the woeful state of your bank account to the war in Iraq. This is an especially cheerful old-school pastime that is bound to entertain you for several hours.

2. Watch YouTube. (I would tell you to watch TV, but I don’t own one myself, and I’m going for a vérité feel in this piece).

YouTube has the added “really wake you up” benefit of requiring user-generated search-parameter input (i.e. you have to type words into the search field) – guaranteed to keep enough of your neurons firing to preclude drowsiness until at least 6am.

Another value-added perk of YouTube-watching is the ability to find several inane videos that you can then forward to all your Facebook friends.* (Yay FunWall and SuperWall!)

(*Warning: excessive use of this entertaining Wall-posting feature will quickly result in the LOSS of all your Facebook friends.)

3. While we’re on the subject of Facebook: It just so happens that FB is probably THE supreme insomniac diversion.

Start by spending an hour or two manually searching for long-lost friends who fell through your “Friend Finder” cracks.

Then browse a few hundred groups looking for ones you might like to join. Try to figure out if Facebook has a limit to the number of groups you can join. (It does. And yes, you may consider that a dare.)

Troll your friends’ Fun- and SuperWalls for annoying chain letters, to forward to all the friends who haven’t already dropped you.

Play your next move in Scrabulous. Then start a bunch of new Scrabulous games when you realize that no one else is going to be playing their moves anytime soon. Try to figure out if there’s a limit to the number of Scrabulous games that you can have going at any given time...

5. Plow your driveway of newly fallen snow. I did not make that up. There is actually some f*cking idiot running a snowblower outside my window as I write this.

(Really. And it is 330am.)

This definitely falls under the “misery loves company” category of midnight diversions.

(I’m imagining a little “Misery” of my own right now – something along the lines of a Kathy Bates scene...)

6. Eat. Forget anything you’ve ever heard about how consuming food in the middle of the night really packs on the pounds. I’m here to reassure you that food eaten between the hours of 2 and 5am has absolutely no calories.

Resist the urge to try new flavour combinations, however. Dipping those Ruffles potato chips into that half-empty jar of crunchy peanut butter is a recipe for gastric disaster. You’re already going to feel crushingly sleep-deprived at work later this morning. No need to add indigestion to the list of complaints.

7. Wake and dial.

This is a cheerful variation of the classic “drink and dial” activity – with the added advantage of sobriety.

Better yet, why not begin a fruitful career as a prank caller? Dial some random numbers and ask for their favorite sleep tips. Just be sure to press *67 first.

(I am currently giggling uncontrollably at the thought of calling up some poor schmuck in the middle of the night. Maybe sleep deprivation is not unlike being drunk, after all.)

8. Clean your apartment.You know it never gets done during daylight hours – so why not take advantage of this “found time”? Running the vacuum is guaranteed to endear you to your roommates and/or adjacent neighbours. (See item 5 on plowing your driveway, above.)

9. Experiment with “white noise”.

This is an especially worthwhile endeavor if you share a bed with someone who is still asleep – and snoring. Turn on the TV to a holding pattern or an impossibly high channel. Set your clock radio between stations. Lug that floor fan up from the basement and play with the speed settings.

How much white noise does it take to truly drown out the sound of a person snoring? And what kind of funky distorted noises can a snoring person make when a floor fan is positioned six inches from their face? On "high"? Oops! Did your companion wake up? Guess they’re not snoring now…

10. Write a list of 10 things to do when you’re awake for no good reason in the middle of the night. (Skip number four, and when people ask, say: "Whadya expect? It was the middle of the night! I was sleep deprived, okay?")

It won’t help you get back to sleep, but it sure is entertaining. Just don’t let your boss see the list – he or she doesn’t need to know much creative energy you’re pouring into useless pursuits, rather than channeling it into your job.

(If you’re a freelance writer, on the other hand, you have just come up with a new article to sell – which could be an effective solution to the bank account situation mentioned in item 1.)

I’ll close with my grandmother’s favorite bedtime mantra: 'Night 'night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

(As a child I never knew what the hell a bedbug was. Apparently there is now a North-American resurgence of bedbug infestations, though. I just did a Google search on the subject of bedbugs. I do not recommend this as a pleasant insomnia-related activity.)

©2007 Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Thursday, October 25, 2007

low-cost marketing techniques - networking

This post is part of a series, based on a talk I gave on the subject of inexpensive marketing techniques to the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada.

How do I market myself as a professional organizer? How do I market my professional organizing business?

Networking

I once had a blind date with a guy who sold financial products for a leading insurance company. During the course of our conversation he mentioned that one of his friends cynically believed that every social interaction - even with friends during leisure time - was simply another opportunity to network. At the time I found this attitude abhorrent, but since becoming an entrepreneur, I've come to realize the truth in this viewpoint.

Maybe it comes down to the observation that there are good ways and bad ways to network. Bad ways would include endless self-promotion and a "take, take, take" mentality; good ways would include nurturing others, and taking the time to listen and help others achieve their own goals.

There are a lot of networking resources out there. One of my favorites is Keith Ferrazzi, "super-connector" and author of Never Eat Alone. His website can be found here. Ferrazzi has a weekly e-newsletter and blog that present valuable networking tips to businesspeople from all walks of life. I like the sense of generosity and warmth that he brings to the topic of networking, which lifts it above the usual stereotype of banal schmoozing.

The opportunities for networking are truly limitless. Each person you meet - each encounter you have - is a chance for you to spread the good news about who you are and what you do. But more importantly, each moment offers the possibility of demonstrating to others how you can uniquely fulfill their genuine needs.

And those needs may not be for your products or services! They may be for something entirely unrelated to your business. But if you can provide the connections and resources that help others achieve their dreams, you will be remembered... and sometime further down the road, you will be rewarded.

Volunteer opportunities are great ways to connect with colleagues, referring professionals or potential clients. Get involved with your professional organization(s); share you skills with others who have need of them. I have been blessed to find work with colleagues that I've met through my board work with the Toronto chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada. Once people get to know you, they'll be more likely to refer your services.

There are, of course, formal networking groups which connect professionals from a variety of different businesses for the purpose of generating leads and referrals (as well as offering fellowship and support). A quick online search will likely find a number of them in your community. Most charge some kind of fee, or require that you bring a certain number of legitimate client leads to each meeting. If you've had success with networking groups, share you stories in the comments section, below.

ACTION ITEM: Today, resolve to treat every single encounter you have as an opportunity to network. Listen deeply to the people you meet, and try in some small way to help them with their needs or goals.

Suggested online search: "networking" "networking groups in [your area]"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

low-cost marketing techniques - maximizing referrals

This post is part of a series, based on a talk I gave on the subject of inexpensive marketing techniques to the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada.

How do I market myself as a professional organizer? How do I market my professional organizing business?
Maximizing referrals

Many professional organizers will tell you that they get most of their new clients through referrals. Organizing is one of those services that require a high trust factor; clients want to know that someone they know has had success with you in the past.

This can make it challenging for new organizers or organizers expanding into new markets to get new clients. It pays to maximize any and all referral opportunities.

Start by ensuring that the products or services which you provide are absolutely exemplary. Do everything you can to make every client's experience with you positive and memorable. Go above and beyond the call of duty - always strive to exceed your clients' expectations. Happy clients are clients who will spread the word about your products or services - the best advertising you could get!

Do everything you can to encourage satisfied clients to refer you to their friends. If they mention that they know someone who could really use your services, ask them if they'd like a few of your business cards or brochures to distribute.

Include them on your e-mail or snail mail targeted mailing lists, so they can stay up-to-date on what's happening with you.

Send thank you cards when you finish a job, and special occasion cards if appropriate. Regularly incorporate into your services such value-added bonuses as tips newsletters or other freebies.

Pick up some insight into client retention and referrals from other professionals such as financial planners. My father has sold financial products for over twenty years, and in that time I've read a lot of his professional literature. Check out online articles such as this one on Client Retention Management by financial planner Ed Morrow.

Consider using formal or informal affiliations with other professionals to increase your referrals. This may not be your cup of tea - I know it's not mine - but many professions regularly charge and pay out referral fees for legitimate referrals or client leads. If you're a member of POC, there was a discussion about referral fees on the Member Forum earlier this year, here. (You'll need to log onto the member area of the POC website to read the thread.)

Networking is also a great way to increase referrals, and I'll talk about it separately in my next post.

If you have any success stories about how you've maximized your referrals, feel free to share them in the comments section, below.

ACTION ITEM: Come up with at least two strategies for maximizing client referrals, and implement them within the next 30 days
Suggested online searches: "maximizing referrals" "client retention management"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

low-cost marketing techniques - targeted mailings

This post is part of a series, based on a talk I gave on the subject of inexpensive marketing techniques to the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada.

How do I market myself as a professional organizer? How do I market my professional organizing business?

Targeted mailings and e-mailings

Large, unsolicited mailings (such as direct mail advertising) can be very expensive, and don't always lead to a significant return on your investment (ROI) if you are a small business owner. Instead, try sending out targeted mailings to prospective clients, repeat clients or others who may be able to refer your services. You'll keep your printing and postage expenses down, and if you focus on people whom you suspect already have an interest in your product or services, you'll maximize your ROI.

You can buy targeted mailing lists from a number of companies, but again, these can be expensive. Why not try compiling your own mailing list? You might start with a mailing to friends and family; they may not require your services, but could send referrals your way.

When I began my eco-friendly cleaning business nine years ago, the only advertising I ever paid for was a targeted mailing to my friends and acquaintances. I composed a letter that briefly outlined my services, and asked that if they knew of anyone who was looking for a home cleaner, they pass along my name.

From this one mailing - to approximately 50 people - came every single referral and lead I ever got for my business. In total, the mailing cost less than $50.

How about creating a mailing list of professionals who might be interested in referring your services? If you are a home stager, for example, you could mail a flyer or other advertisement to real estate professionals who may have clients needing your expertise. Be sure to emphasize your credentials, and include a few quotes from former clients, praising your work. You could even offer promotional discounts or suggest possible referral alliances to sweeten the deal.

E-mail campaigns are another very inexpensive way to advertise your business. Create your own e-mail list and compose an engaging and informative message describing your business and how it can help people. To keep your e-mails from veering into spam territory, be selective about where and how often you send them out. Include value-added material such as tips or links to useful sites to inspire readers not to hit the delete button right away.

Be sure to keep records of contact information - including e-mail addresses, if you can get them! - from all your previous clients. Send out seasonal newsletters or promotional specials that will keep you in their minds long after you've finished their project.

If you've had success with e-mail or snail mail campaigns, feel free to share your comments below!

ACTION ITEM: Go through your address book, social networking contact list, or e-mail contacts and create a customized mailing list for a targeted mailing. Alternatively, research and create a mailing list of professionals who may be able to refer you to their clients.

Suggested online search: "create your own mailing list"

Monday, October 22, 2007

low-cost marketing techniques - promotional discounts and specials

This post is part of a series, based on a talk I gave on the subject of inexpensive marketing techniques to the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada.

How do I market myself as a professional organizer? How do I market my professional organizing business?

Promotional discounts and specials

This topic is vast, and can include free giveaway items (material goods advertising your business) which can be quite expensive for the small business owner. Instead I'd like to focus on promotional discounts and specials involving services and value-added gifts of time or advice.

I've already talked about print advertising (business cards, brochures, paid ads in print media) and posters. An extension of this kind of advertising can involve promotional specials - especially seasonal promotions.

How can you make your business seem more attractive to potential clients? What about offering time-limited discounts on your services?

This can take many forms; some methods I've tried have included offering a certain percentage off my regular fee for a limited period of time, or offering one hour of free service when clients pre-book a certain number of hours. To encourage ongoing clients, you could offer an incentive like "buy ten hours of organizing, get one hour free."

I've had a lot of success with a flyer I distributed, that offered potential clients their second hour of organizing for free. The only catch was that they had to book a three-hour work session (in essence getting three hours for the price of two), and they could only take advantage of this offer once.

How about - as a thank you for their business - giving clients a coupon worth one free hour of organizing, to pass along to their friends? This could be a great way to maximize your referrals.

You can also tie promotional specials to seasonal events such as holidays, spring and fall cleaning, or the back-to-school season. Sit down with a calendar and think of the times of the year when your target market will have special need of your services.

Let's say I want to focus on families with school-aged children. I know that once school is out in June, some families may be interested in tackling large projects like re-organizing their storage solutions, basements or garages. And likewise in the late summer they may be interested in gearing up for the school year, and would be excited to hear about time-management strategies.

Incorporating some of those ideas into my advertising and promotions could maximize those types of seasonal jobs for me.

Providing value-added services is another way of promoting your business. I see my organizing blog - with its tips and advice - as a big promotional service for potential and established clients. You could also send out e-newsletters with valuable tips and advice to existing clients, or send e-mail summaries of your client work sessions, with advice for the next steps to be taken.

I'm continually looking for ways to add value to my clients' organizing experiences, in the sincere hope that they will find my work so beneficial that they will happily recommend me to their families and friends.

ACTION ITEM: Decide on a promotional special that you feel comfortable advertising on a limited-time basis, and create advertising materials to broadcast your message.

ACTION ITEM: Sit down with a calendar and map out special seasonal promotions that you can implement.