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Small business chat update – Al Hunter

mugs It’s Small Business Chat time again, and today we’re saying a warm hello to Al Hunter from Mobile Remaps, a man who does something I’ll admit that I’ve never fully understood about cars (this is OK: I don’t have a car, I don’t drive, I don’t plan to drive or have a car, and if anyone asks me about this stuff I’ll point them Al’s way …). Al started off with us in January 2012, and at that point he’d been running his company for a couple of years and had big plans. By our next chat in March 2013, things had changed and evolved, and Al was into the mobile remapping side of things. He’s always shared lots of information and advice in these interviews, and with typical detail, this was his plan for the year ahead, this time last year: “By the end of Q1 2014, we’d like to see Mobile Remaps fully funding itself. By this we mean the business it turns over being 100% profitable rather than using funds from Auto Evolution. I say this as although throughout this update we’ve focused on Mobile Remaps, it does not mean we’ll stop doing the bumper scuff repairs, windscreen chip repairs (this what Auto Evolution will focus on once we’ve got Mobile Remaps fully profitable) … but we want those services to be add-on services to cross-sell to our customers for additional profit rather than relying on that to boost Mobile Remaps’ profit. Achieving this will also mean I can give up the part-time job I took up as well … thus freeing up time and money to drive Mobile Remaps forward. Fortunately, I think we have the team behind us now to achieve that. So that’s encouraging. It means, though, a long hard year ahead, often working from 6am to 8pm, just as we did in January.” 

So, let’s see how Al is doing!

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Without sounding cocky in any shape or form… No. I’m where I planned to be. And as such, I’m where I expected to be. Which is good but not great. But it now means that as a business, it should be possible to move ‘onwards and upwards’, as they say. Twelve months ago I said I wanted at the end of Q1 in 2014 for Mobile Remaps to be able to stand on its own two feet as far as profitability goes. And that goal has been met. It’s been a jolly hard slog for a cash-restricted company (i.e. one that doesn’t have thousands of pounds to spend on advertising each month), but slowly and surely we have been developing a solid reputation for both a quality product and service whenever customers have had a question or a concern. And now we actually receive calls and emails stating the reason for contacting Mobile Remaps is because of the reviews that these individuals have read about us online!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In our last annual update, I mentioned that as I felt it important for a business to do what it says on the tin, and because as a business we were introducing a mobile remapping service, we introduced our trading name as Mobile Remaps as well as our website www.mobileremaps.co.uk. At the time, I said I expected the small car body repairs to run alongside the new remapping arm. As it turns out, with the exception of performing car body and alloy wheel repairs for existing customers, we have struck up a partnership with another local company for this service for all new customers that has allowed Mobile Remaps to focus on providing its mobile ecu remapping service. This has been of tremendous benefit, as our mobile remapping business is not weather dependent. As such, the first website I built for auto-evolution.co.uk that featured our car body repairs has remained very static, whilst our mobileremaps website has been very dynamic and is constantly being updated.

Around the 3rd quarter of last year, it was anticipated that our van would get a new livery for Mobile Remaps. As chance would have it (and you do need a bit of luck from time to time!) a former Saatchi executive ‘liked’ Mobile Remaps on Facebook. Having left the corporate world, David responded to a question I put on FB regarding the look and feel of our website at that time. His words were not overly complimentary. They weren’t rude, either. It was his comments stating that our website was ‘not sexy’ from an advertising professional’s perspective that caught my attention. The last thing I wanted was a sexy website as a) I’m not a spotty teenager looking at the back pages of a Max Power magazine and b) I didn’t want to alienate our potential female customers. So, without being precious about our website or brand in any shape or form, I found out David’s number, spoke with him and engaged his own newly started business to provide a marketing strategy for Mobile Remaps. And it’s been this strategy that slowly and surely I’ve been saving towards and implementing when funds allow.

Part of David’s observations were that the original Mobile Remaps Logo was not in keeping with the professional, corporate image I wanted for our company to portray. As the first part of his report, it was the branding image that has taken up my energies when I’ve had the time. It’s taken a while to get our logo and image as I wanted it. Partly I suppose because of my own failure to get across the image I had in my head to professional designers (despite writing what I considered a detailed brief – perhaps too detailed?) and partly because some professional designers simply didn’t come up to scratch and so I went from designer to designer…  But sure as night follows day, my determination to work towards my goal has meant that in February the corporate image started to come to life as we collected our Mobile Remaps van in its new corporate livery. I also commissioned a new corporate uniform with our logo and colour scheme which should be delivered to us by the end of March.

Now that we both have our brand and are building a solid reputation, we can actually start advertising (aside from my own SEO work) to truly move the business forward. And this advertising will be done through online paid-for advertising, social media (our Facebook site is growing all the time) as well as email shots and flyers.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Communicate, don’t dump… My wife is very much a part of my business, even though she has absolutely nothing to do with it. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. But it’s not. My stress in working part time as well as full time on my business has meant time for the two of us has been limited at best. And it’s meant that meaningful communication has often been more like social media sound bites. But in seeing both our reputation grow and as recently as this week [at the time of writing] the realisation of Mobile Remaps’ branding come to life… my wife mentioned that I should be proud of the hard work that has led to where we are at today.

But if there is a learning point here it is this…. I need to include my family more. Seeing my stress and tiredness  has led to my wife and others being stressed more than they would otherwise have been if I had improved my own communication with them about all that has gone on in the background. Due to my lack of communication regarding all the balls I’ve been juggling over this last year, I have appeared distant from my loved ones when nothing was further from my mind. If I had realised this a year ago, I would have changed my behaviour at home instantly. But it only came to a head this January and since then, not only has my stress reduced but I also have a sounding board that I respect and trust which, without dumping all of the world’s business concerns on my wife and family, allows me to obtain an unbiased, unprejudiced and alternative opinion to my own on certain business aspects.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Keep clear and accurate records. It’s difficult to know a good business from a bad business at times, as we found out with a less than satisfactory service from a bookkeeping company. But due to our own clear and accurate records, Mobile Remaps were able to document dates, times, phone records and fees paid for all services (or lack thereof) provided by this third party. Such records enabled Mobile Remaps to not only put an unsatisfactory experience behind them but also focus on the future, which is equally if not more important.

Keeping clear and accurate records has also been beneficial when scouting out new suppliers for products and services and in negotiating better deals… so there are potentially many benefits from this tip!

Develop a strategy for yourself. That old saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ is true here. Having the strategy developed by David for Mobile Remaps gave a focus that was lacking previously. That’s not to say we’ve followed the strategy religiously. We couldn’t. Restricted funds saw to that. But what it did to was provide a goal (working towards being able to afford a complete rebranding exercise) that we could work towards and then once achieved, understand what the next step would be.

Keep an open mind. One of the best things we’ve done this year has been to join the networking group BNI. Originally I visited BNI 3 years ago and was not impressed. But at an alternative networking group an attendee said ‘have you heard of BNI? Why not visit my chapter and see if it’s any different to the one you experienced before?’ Every bone in my body said don’t go but I fought my own prejudice and went thinking… what have a I got to lose except for a couple of hours and perhaps a wrong impression?!  Well for I have found BNI beneficial for the business as well as me personally. It’s improved my communication and presentation skills as well as confidence. I’ve also found it to be a brilliant resource for finding other reputable companies who can help Mobile Remaps grow.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

As I said in last year’s review, I expect from the end of Q1 in 2014 to be a year of growth. And this is still my goal and expectation. Without going into too much detail on goal specifics, the aim for the end of Q1 in 2015 is to be in a situation where Mobile Remaps cannot serve all customers who would like our service. And, by this I mean that we are too busy to travel too far away to see our customers. This situation would lead to Mobile Remaps considering training an employee or franchising the business so that we can provide national coverage with local reach, which I think is the ultimate goal. But before we can do that, Mobile Remaps must first perfect as best it can both its local advertising strategy and service. For after all, the best national companies and franchises are just local business repeating themselves.

Wow – such a lot of useful information which can really benefit other businesses as they think about their growth and branding. Al has a very sensible approach to spending money on marketing which I really echo – only spending when you’ve got the money to spend is good and sensible way to go about things, and can lead to a healthy and growing business, as we can see. I wonder what Al will have to report this time next year!

Al adds: If anyone wants to keep in touch with what we do they are most welcome to keep in touch with Mobile Remaps on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions that may be raised for our attention. If anyone wishes to learn more about remapping, please do feel free to also visit our website at www.mobileremaps.co.uk.

f you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
 

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How to allow comments on your WordPress blog posts

I recently had a cry for help from a friend: she’d posted her first blog post but it wasn’t letting anyone post comments. I told her about the standard way to allow / disallow commenting on blog posts, but that wasn’t helping, and I ended up rolling up my sleeves and ferreting around in her blog Dashboard myself before discovering the answer to our dilemma. So here I’m going to share the correct way to allow comments, and then the way to change your preferences on individual posts – which I have to say is not obvious.

How do I allow comments to be made on blog posts?

We all want people to be able to interact and make comments on our blog posts (well, most of us). The way to set this up is in the Dashboard, Settings, Discussion. I’ve talked about this at length in another post, so have a look here if you want all the details, but basically you can choose to allow comments on blog posts here:

18 setup

As I said above, have a look at my basic WordPress article for all of the information about how this page works: for now, just make sure that Allow people to post comments on new articles is ticked.

allow comments

How do I allow / disallow comments to be made on individual blog posts?

So now we know how to allow comments in general. But what if you’ve created a post and people can’t comment on it? Here we have a post with no place to add a reply or a comment:

no comments

I want to encourage people to post comments – so how do I do that? You might think that this is done in the Edit screen for your post. But it isn’t.

To enable or disable comments on an individual post, you need to go to Dashboard, then Posts, then All Posts, until you get this view of all of your posts in a table:

all posts

Now, hover with the cursor over the post that you want to edit – in this case the top one, and a list of options will appear. Click on Quick Edit:

quick edit

Now you will see the Quick Edit screen, where you can change things like tags and categories, the blog title and … the comments. Here the Allow comments box is unticked:

allow comments option

Tick Allow Comments:

allow comments option ticked

Press the Update button. When we view the page, now anyone can add a comment:

comments

This post has sorted out the problem of how to enable comments on an individual blog post. If you found it useful, please do let me know in a comment, and click on the sharing buttons below. You might want to explore the related WordPress articles on this blog, too.

Related posts on this blog:

WordPress 1 – the basics

WordPress 2 – adding pages to create a website

WordPress 3 – adding images to your post or page

WordPress 4 – adding slideshows and galleries of images

WordPress 5 – linking your blog to your social media

WordPress 6 – sharing buttons

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Blogging, WordPress

 

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Phase or faze?

DictionariesI find these two words being mixed up quite commonly, and it’s one of those ones that … I won’t say it annoys me, because I try to remain calm and focused on the sense of the writing in the face of errors, but it sometimes makes me a bit tense.

The incorrect usage is always in one direction of the confusion. I’ll show you what I mean …

A phase is a distinct period of time or stage (“we are doing the building work in three phases: foundations, walls and roof, with gaps to raise money in between”) and it has some complicated scientific meanings which are related to this idea of separateness and which we probably don’t need to go into here.* The verb to phase (in/out) means to carry out a process gradually (“We are phasing in the new hires so everybody doesn’t arrive at once”) and is used in those scientific contexts I talk about below.

What phased does not mean is confused or discombobulated.

To faze is to confuse, disturb or discombobulate – so the past tense is fazed. “I was fazed by the information he was bombarding me with and had to take a break”.

Faze – confuse. Phase – time period or other separate thing.

“I was not fazed when the phases of the traffic lights were altered, because I had read the notices and knew it was about to happen.”

*Oh, alright then, if you insist: in physics, it’s the relationship in time between the cycles of a system and a fixed point in time; in chemistry it’s a distinct form of matter that is separate from other forms in terms of its surface; and in zoology, it’s the variations in an animal’s colouring depending on the seasons or genetics.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
 

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Using LinkedIn for your business

Using LinkedIn for your business

LinkedIn is seen primarily as a networking tool for the more corporate end of the market. However, you can set up your own business page on LinkedIn now, and there is a lot more interactivity and ‘social’ activity than there used to be – or than you might think.

Setting up a LinkedIn profile

Once on www.linkedin.com you can join up and set up your profile.

1 profile

It’s a good idea to include as much information as you can on here – and in a professional way. While it’s never a good idea to allow typos and grammatical errors on any professional profile, it’s vitally important here, as people tend to make more of an effort, and so any errors will be very glaring.

There are various sections to fill in on the profile; including past jobs allows your ‘network’ to grow, as LinkedIn, unlike other social media, will not let you even request to connect to just anyone. For example, I’ve added my experience in here:

2 profile

… and I’ve added information about the books I’ve written in the Publications section:

3 profile

Find your way around LinkedIn

Your home page will contain a feed a little like your Facebook timeline, with updates from people to whom you’re linked. To find people to link to, you can search in the search box at the top of the screen. Once you’re linked to someone, they will appear in your Connections list, which you can access by clicking the [number] connections icon to the bottom right of your profile picture area.

Your profile also includes a link to People You May Know. This will give you people in networks connected to you by other connections, workplaces or interest groups to whom you might want to link.

4 connections

Click on People you may know and you’ll be given a list of possible connections (I’ve blanked out names and obscured photographs because this is my own LinkedIn profile):

10 people you may know

You can see your invitations and notifications at the top right.

Invitations allow you to see who has invited you to connect and any messages they’ve sent you via LinkedIn:

11invitations

Notifications show you who has liked your updates or shared your profile:

12 notifications

Linking to people on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is different from other social media networks, in that you have to have a tangible connection to a person in order to ‘Link’ to them. If you find someone you want to link to and press Connect, you’ll be asked how you know that person. If you say that they’re a colleague, or that you’ve done business with them, you’ll be asked which of your jobs they are a colleague from – that’s why it’s important to list all of the companies that you have worked for on your profile. If you say that they’re a friend, you’ll be asked to prove you know them by providing their email address.

You can find people just outside your network by clicking on the People You May Know link. This will give you a list of either friends of friends or people who have said that they work or have worked at the same organisations that you’ve worked at. You can connect to these people in the same way. You can also search for people using the search box at the top of the screen (Note; I asked Janet’s permission to use her profile in these images):

5 search

However you access them, click on the person’s name to see their profile and then use the Connect button to ask them to link to you:

6 connect

It will then ask you how you know that person: when you click on one of the radio buttons, you will be asked for more detail.

7 connect

Here, I’ve clicked Colleague, so then it will ask me which company that I’ve worked at relates to this:

8 connect

Setting up a company page

You can set up a company page on LinkedIn for your business – this will give people another way to find you and will provide another link to your website and other social media.

To set up a company page, click on Interests at the top, then Companies from the drop-down.

13 add a companyAt the top right of the next page you’ll find a link for Add Company.

14 add a companyYou will first need to confirm that you’re eligible to create and moderate this page, so there will be an email sent to you to confirm, and you must have a personal LinkedIn account to create a company page.

14.5 add a company

Fill in all of your company’s details and save – and there you go.

To edit your company information, go and find the company page and click on Edit.

15 add a company

Getting social

This section is about social media – so how do you get social on LinkedIn?

Updates

You can post updates, just like on Facebook – do this from the Home page. Your updates will appear on your connections’ home pages, just as theirs do on yours. You can like and share updates in a very similar way to Facebook.

17 updates

You can direct most blogging platforms to automatically post links on LinkedIn – all of my WordPress blog posts do this. You can also link your Twitter account to LinkedIn by going to your account settings (click on the small photo in the top right of the screen), clicking on your name and choosing Manage Twitter Accounts.

18 link to twitterClick on Add your Twitter account:

19 link to twitter

20 link to twitter

If you’re logged in to Twitter you will see this Authorize app message, if you’re not logged in, you will be asked to log in first. And there you go:

21 link to twitter

Recommendations

If someone has done a good job for you, you can click on Recommend in their profile and type in a recommendation. They will be emailed this and will have the option as to whether to publish it or not (this prevents people posting negative comments without the member knowing).

16 recommendations

Groups

There are thousands of interest groups on LinkedIn and these can be a good way to meet new people, spread the word about what you’re doing, and find out what other people are up to.

Access Groups by searching in the top search bar (you can click on the icon to the left of the search area and select only Groups to search) or by clicking on Interests then Groups. Once you’ve joined some Groups, you will find them listed on your Groups page, and then some suggestions underneath.

22 search for groups

When you look at the Groups screen, you can see all of the groups you have joined, and you can also create a group if you wish to.

23 groups page

You will also find suggested groups at the bottom of the page:

24 groups page

Groups work very simply – you can post a new message or reply to another one, just like in other social media like Facebook and Google+. You can choose whether you are updated by email for all posts and replies in the group, or whether you want to just access them via the LinkedIn website.

I have found that some groups do become clogged with too many adverts and not enough discussion, but others can be really useful. The usual rules apply about reciprocity and kindness when using LinkedIn for social media communications.

Golden rules for using LinkedIn

Be professional. LinkedIn is known as a professional and careers-orientated site, although there is certainly room for the self-employed. But you do need to be extra professional and not very personal on here.

Reciprocate – if people like and share your updates and group posts, say thank you and like and share theirs.

Similarly, if people recommend you, or if they use the Endorse buttons that appear at the top of the screen when you log in to say that you’re knowledgeable about a certain topic, do try to recommend and endorse them back.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Business, Social media

 

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Setting up a WordPress blog 6: Adding sharing buttons to your blog posts

Last time, we learned about using the Publicize feature to share your own WordPress blog posts on your social media platforms. Today we’re going to learn about adding sharing buttons to your posts to enable and encourage your readers to share links to your blog posts on whatever social media services they use.

Why should I add sharing buttons to my blog posts?

You write a blog in order for it to be read, otherwise, why bother. It’s human nature to want to share interesting things you’ve read with other people, whether that takes the form of lending them books, cutting out bits from the newspaper to wave at people, or sharing content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. By adding sharing buttons, you will both encourage and enable your users to share your posts, increasing their reputations as people who share good stuff, and increasing your reader base.

What do sharing buttons look like?

Here’s an example of a blog post without any sharing buttons. As standard, WordPress adds a button to “Like” a post (which just alerts you and makes a nice little line of pictures under your post, but doesn’t share anything) and a Reblog button which allows another WordPress user to share the post on their blog, with an excerpt of the content and a link to the rest of it. Other than these, there are no ways to share this blog post at present. You can even turn this off if you want to, see the Advanced Features heading below for more information.

2a no sharing

Scroll down to see what the post looks like once the sharing buttons have been added …

How do I add sharing buttons to my blog posts?

Sharing buttons are handled in the Settings – Sharing section of the Dashboard:

menu

In the lower half of the Sharing Settings screen, you will find the Sharing Buttons section:

2 sharing buttons

Choosing multiple share buttons to appear under your blog posts

All of the sharing buttons that are available to be added are shown in the upper Available Services section. You can add buttons for sharing to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms as well as sites like Tumblr and Digg that curate information on topics onto pages, and Email and Print:

2b sharing options

Here’s an important point to note: When choosing which buttons to display under your blog posts, don’t think of what social media you use, but what social media your audience – your users – might want to use. They’re the ones who are going to be doing the sharing, after all. So don’t limit them – I’d add as many as possible if I were you!

To make a sharing button appear at the bottom of your blog posts, left-click on the button, drag it down to the Enabled Services section and let go to drop it there. It will then appear in the Enabled Services section:

2c adding buttons

Here, I’ve moved everything except for Print and Pocket down into the Enabled Services section. You can, of course, drag any buttons that you don’t want to be visible back up to the Available Services section.

2d adding buttons

What does this look like on your blog post? Compare this with the image at the top of this post:

2e buttons appear

Creating a single Share button

You might find this a bit cluttered: there is a way to just display a single Share button that displays the whole range when pressed. However, I feel that this might present a barrier to sharing, and you want all the sharing you can get, so think carefully before doing this.

To create a single Share button, drag all of your buttons into the darker grey area to the right:

2f 1 share button

Note that this can be a little fiddly: watch out for the dotted square to appear and drop your button on there:

2g little square

Also note that if you leave any buttons in the Enabled Services section, you will see both those and your Share button at the bottom of your blog post: messy! Once you’ve created your single share button, you will see on the preview what it will look like:

2h all under one button

Moving to the view of the blog post itself, you can see that now there’s just one Share button:

2i all under one buttonWhen this is clicked, the full range of buttons pops out and can be clicked:

2j all under one button

How do I change the order in which the sharing buttons appear?

If you want to change the order in which the sharing buttons appear, simply left click, hold the mouse button down and drag the button to where you want it to appear:

2k move around

Advanced options for the sharing buttons

Below the Enabled Services section you will find some more options:

2l more options

  • Button Style allows you to select icon + text / text only / icon only / official button. Note that official button doesn’t always work as services change: I prefer icon + text which is what I’ve used in all of the examples on this post.
  • Sharing label: you can change the text above your sharing buttons from “Share this” to whatever you want to say to encourage people to share.
  • Open links in offers the choice of same window and new window – most people prefer to work in the same window nowadays.
  • Show buttons on allows you to choose what people can share – search results, individual posts, etc.
  • Twitter username will appear in tweets when people share using the Twitter button. It’s useful to include your Twitter ID here so you can keep an eye on what’s being shared – if you have multiple blog administrators, you might want to use an official company or organisation Twitter ID here instead.
  • Likes can be turned on or turned on for individual posts.
  • The reblog button can be turned off.
  • Likes can be added (or not) for comments

What happens when someone clicks on a sharing button in your WordPress post?

You can click on your own sharing buttons to see what happens, and this is what I’ve done here. I’ve clicked on the Facebook sharing button. A Share on Facebook dialogue box pops up and you can select whether to share on your timeline, to a person’s timeline, to a page or to a group, and enter some status text to explain what you’re sharing and why you’re sharing it:

2m in practice

Press Share Link and the link will share on your Facebook timeline.

What does content shared using the sharing buttons look like?

Let’s have a look at what content shared from your blog might look like on a couple of social media platforms. Here’s my shared post appearing on my Facebook timeline because my friends Gill and Jeremy have shared it. Just like those shared links you see all the time on your timeline. If your friends share your link, you should see it come up in your own timeline.

2n in practice

And here’s what a Twitter share or two looks like. You can see that “via LyzzyBee_Libro” has been added to the end of the automatic tweet because that’s the Twitter ID I specified above.

2o in practice

Today we’ve learnt how to add and edit sharing buttons on a WordPress blog to enable and encourage blog readers to share our posts.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, do please comment and/or use the sharing buttons below this post to share it with other potential readers who might find it useful. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

How to set up a WordPress blog

How to add pages to make your WordPress blog into a website

How to add images to your WordPress blog posts and pages

How to add slideshows and galleries to your WordPress blog posts and pages

Using the Publicize feature in WordPress

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Blogging, WordPress

 

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Small business chat update – Stephen Tiano

mugs Got that kettle on? Good, because I’ve got a great interview to share with you today. Stephen Tiano is a book designer. His original (2012) and 2013 interviews have proved to be popular with my readers, and here’s his update for 2014. This time last year, this was Stephen’s plan for the year ahead: “Well, generally, this never changes. I always hope to have at least two books in process at a time. And I’d like each year to see me surpass the most money I’ve ever made annually to date as a book designer. But as to the work itself, I’d love to begin working with reasonably well-financed new publishers to establish a ‘house style’ for their books. (I guess perhaps I’m too influenced by all I’ve read about Jan Tschichold and his work at Penguin in the 1930s, tho’ I hope to continue to take myself less seriously than it sounds to me like he did.)” So, how are things going for Stephen a year on …?

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I have to admit, no. I thought I was going to continue to pick up the pace after a slower year—the way it’s worked out after most other slow years. But it turns out that my market has changed yet again. I adapted when publishing companies seemed to give way to self-publishing. My business is almost all self-publishers these days. Now I’m having to think on my feet once more and move into ebooks from print in a bigger way than I’d anticipated I’d have to at this point.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well, as I said above, the work seems to have moved farther into and more quickly to e-versions. It hasn’t been without bumps in the road, my getting to the point where I’m willing to produce ebooks. For one thing, I don’t like the routes that require me to code. I just don’t enjoy that side of things enough to naturally internalize coding skills. It always requires a kind of intellectual “hunt-and-peck” process. But after a couple of false starts—not exactly failed methods or tools that are lacking, just tools that aren’t quite the ones for what I need to do—I’ve been able to progress.

In the first instance, Book Creator, a great little app that works right on the iPad and makes epubs that can be adapted for other environments, suffers for its lack of the ability to flow long stretches of text from page to page throughout the file. Apple’s Pages is not something I would use for prepping a print book. I’d still leave that to one of the big two, InDesign or QuarkXPress; or else I’d make a move into the open-source Scribus (especially since I’m disgusted with Adobe and have no plans to spend another dime with them, because their perpetual-pay subscription model for buying InDesign, Photshop et al. stinks.)

But Pages sounds like it’s got legs for making pubs that can be repurposed for other formats. I suspect it was just me, but I couldn’t pick it up quickly enough to adapt for some of the particularized effects I wanted.

So, like Goldilocks, I needed to try a third tool to find the one that was “just right”. And that led me to Apple’s iBook’s Author. Now many, if not most, designers, artist, and readers will at least have reservations, if not outright opposition to ever using a proprietary format that’s as closed as iBooks. I mean, it can only be sold through Apple’s iBookstore. But iBooks Author provides a rich environment and splendid tools for presenting a complete multimedia “book”.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Well, I confirmed once again that the more technical job of coding can go hand-in-hand with design. But it’s not the work I’m interested in doing. I guess I wish I’d picked up sooner that print really is becoming a tougher business model to sustain. Oh, print books aren’t going anywhere. But I think off-shoring at really cheap prices, as well as the do-it-yourself ethic that drives many self-publishers, are making it less likely that print book design and layout work is the way for a freelancer in the U.S. to earn a living. It’s possible that in a few more years the same might just be said of ebook design and production.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think the most relevant piece of advice I can give is a real downer: Be prepared to be irrelevant. But don’t live in fear of it, as It’s not inevitable. But depending what stage of your earning life you’re in, keep looking for “the next thing”. Pick up new skills. Make yourself a better value for potential clients.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I’m hoping to be busy again. I want to move on to working in ebooks. But I still love print books and hope to work more of those. In a year … I’m not so sure. I do, however, have a 20-month plan … tentatively. My wife and I are looking to relocate—perhaps staying on the east coast somewhere in the Delaware/Maryland/DC/Virginia/North Carolina orbit; or on the west coast in northern California’s wine country. I’m hoping for a golf community. And I think I’d like to go in-house at a small publisher or university press. We’ll be downsizing some and switching to a slightly less expensive lifestyle, if all goes according to plan. I’ll also be pulling in a pension from another life I’ve lived in civil service. That means I’ll be looking for supplementary income, as opposed to my main deal. In another year, I’d like to have dominoes lined up so that these plans are on their way to reality.

So exciting and changing times in the world of book design, and I do think the advice Stephen gives here is very useful for anyone in any industry – nothing stays the same, and we’re always having to adapt and change to avoid getting left behind. I’m hoping that I’ll have a guest post from Stephen this year about book design, something that I’m not that familiar with, so we have that to look forward to, too. Best of luck to Stephen in looking for his new home and lifestyle arrangements!

Stephen’s website is at www.tianobookdesign.com and you can email him or call if you’re in the USA on tel. & fax: (631)284-3842 / cell: (631)764-2487 or Skype him using stephentianobookdesigner. Do have a read of Stephen’s blog and follow him on Twitter!

f you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Setting up a WordPress blog 5: publicising your posts and connecting WordPress to social media

Continuing my series of articles about WordPress, today we’re going to learn how to publicise posts by sharing them on the social media platforms that we use.

Why should I publicise my WordPress blog posts?

Using the Publicize feature to share your WordPress blog posts has two main advantages:

1. It shares your content and lets people other than subscribers and people who are searching on the search engines know that it’s there.

2. It adds content to your Facebook page, Twitter stream, LinkedIn profile, etc., without you making any effort at all.

If you’re going to share links to your blog posts on social media, you might as well automate it and save yourself the bother of posting about it all over the place, right?

How do I link my WordPress blog to my social media platforms?

Today we’re going to be spending time in the Settings – Sharing area of the Dashboard:

menu

When you click on Sharing, you will come to this Sharing Settings page. There are two sections: Publicize and Sharing Buttons. We’re going to be talking about Publicize today, and Sharing Buttons next time (watch this space – I will add a link when that one’s live):

1 publicize

Looking at the Publicize section, we can see buttons for connecting various social media platforms to your WordPress blog. What this will do in effect is auto-post a link to any blog post that you publish it, at the time that you publish it, without any effort on your part.

1a publicize options

How do I link Facebook to WordPress?

Note that all of the linking is done from WordPress rather than from the individual social media platforms. For example, to link Facebook so that an announcement of every blog post appears in your timeline, click the Connect button next to Facebook. You will be presented with a Facebook login screen. Add your normal Facebook login details and press the Log In button:

1b Facebook

If you enter the correct details, your connection will be confirmed:

1c Facebook

There are two things to note here. One, you can only link one Facebook account at a time, whereas you can add more than one login to most other social media types. Libro Proofreading … is my business page – for this blog, I have linked posts to that account, and then I pop in and share them onto my personal timeline.

The other thing to note is “Make this connection available to all users of this blog?” This is for a situation where you have more than one person with admin rights over the blog: you can choose, for example, your company or organisation’s Facebook page to auto-post to, and make that option available to everyone who posts on your blog.

Once you’ve chosen the account to connect to and pressed OK, you will return to the Sharing Settings screen, and you can see here that my Facebook page has been added to the page:

1d Facebook

You can go on now to connect, for example, your Google+ and Twitter accounts. For Google+, you will be asked to log in then confirm who you want G+ to share posts with:

1f Google+ permissions

When connecting Twitter, again, you’ll be asked to log in and then authorise the app. This is all quite standard and doesn’t mean WordPress will do anything odd to your social media – all it will do is post on your behalf when you publish a blog post (we’ll have a look at what that looks like in a moment):

1g Twitter permissions

When you return to the Sharing Settings screen, you will see all of the social media accounts that you’ve connected to, confirming which accounts they are:

1h all connected

How do I disconnect my WordPress blog from a social media platform?

If you wish to disconnect any of your social media platforms across all new blog posts, click on the x next to the “Connected as [your name]“ message. It will ask you if you’re sure: if you click on OK, the link will be severed.

1e Facebook

To reconnect, go through the same process as above. WordPress may remember some of the steps when you do this, such as your username.

How do I manage Publicize in my blog posts?

Let’s have a look at what Publicize looks like in your blog posts.

When you select Posts – Add New and enter the Edit screen, you will see the Publicize section in the Publish area:

1i when you post

Let’s look at that in close-up. You can see that all of the social media sites you’ve linked to are showing here:

1j close-up when you post

Note that sometimes WordPress will become disconnected from one of them for apparently no reason. A message asking you to relink will appear in this area. Click through, provide the details it asks for and the two will be reconnected.

When in this individual post view, you can click on Edit and choose not to promote a link to your blog post to a particular site by clicking on the cross and making the square blank. You can also change the standard text that goes out with the link in Custom Message:

1k edit publicize

Clicking on Settings just takes you back to the original Sharing Settings screen we were looking at above.

When you’ve written your blog post, click Publish as normal:

1l in action

 What gets posted to my social media when I’m connected to WordPress?

I’m just going to share two examples here, but you’ll get the idea.

When WordPress is connected to Facebook, an entry will appear in your timeline, with any picture that you included in the post (very large in the current incarnation of Facebook!) and a bit of the text, and there will be a link, arrowed here, which will take the reader to the blog post itself.

1m in action

In Twitter, WordPress posts a shortened version of the full URL as a link and the automatic text taken from your blog heading:

1n in action

Today we’ve learnt how to use the Publicize feature of WordPress to link it to your social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress. Next time, we’ll be looking at how you can enable your readers to share your blog posts through the use of sharing buttons.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, do please comment and/or use the sharing buttons below this post to share it with other potential readers who might find it useful. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

How to set up a WordPress blog

How to add pages to make your WordPress blog into a website

How to add images to your WordPress blog posts and pages

How to add slideshows and galleries to your WordPress blog posts and pages

WordPress 6 – sharing buttons

 
8 Comments

Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Blogging, WordPress

 

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