GigFolder Working Again

GigFolder is now fully functional. It took a bit of time after “The Great Update of 2014″. Thank you for your patience!  To reward those who wait, here are a few new goodies:

  • Events now have a specific time associated with them
  • The “Upcoming Events” tab now shows events for today
  • Added a “Skype” option to the event

Coming soon… integration with facebook events!

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Free E-Mail Campaign Manager

MailChimp LogoWhat tool do you use to manage your e-newsletters? I used to recommend Constant Contact as a great, free E-Mail Campaign Manager.  In fact it still is a great tool.  The problem is:  it’s not free anymore.  If you have a lot of email addresses (say, more than 2000), then it may still be your best option.  It has great features and is very easy to use.

But in the category of good FREE tools, nothing I’ve tried beats MailChimp.com.  MailChimp is free for up-to 2000 addresses.  After that, you have to upgrade to a paid-account.

Check ‘em out.  I will be updating my 60-Minute Website For Speakers and Authors booklet to include the use of MailChimp.  I am using MailChimp to prepare my up-coming July GigFolder Newsletter.  So far, it has been a great experience.  I’ll let you know if anything goes haywire after I send out the newsletter.

And besides, you can always switch to Constant Contact if your situation changes.

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GigFolder… now with easier image uploads

The most effective websites tend to have a generous amount of images on them. No one wants to be confronted with huge blocks of text, with minimal formatting and no images. To help make creating these enticing environments easier, GigFolder now supports a direct file-upload capability.  When you are creating your products, speaking topics or resources, you can upload image files directly into GigFolder.  Just click the “Browse…” button next to where GigFolder is asking for an Image URL.  GigFolder will take care of making that image available on the web for you.  It’s easy!  Give it a try.

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Worksheet Improvements

I want to let you know about a simple, but hopefully effective enhancement to the worksheet functionality. Now when you create a new event, the last worksheet from that same client will be copied forward into the worksheet for the new event. This will save your client from having to retype the same information in all over again. Hopefully saving them some time and making their experience a little bit better.

Enjoy!

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New GigFolder features: registration links and product options

I’ve been preparing the new-and-improved GigFolder WordPress plugin.  More on that when it is ready.  But in preparation, I’ve added two new features that you might find helpful.

First, your events can now have an optional registration link. This link will be presented on your calendar if it is specified for the event. GigFolder isn’t managing registrations. But if the event has online registration available, you can assign that to the event.

Second, products can now have up to 7 options. This is great for quantity discounts or size information.

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Lost in a sea of To-Do’s?

Getting Things DoneI’m a firm believer in “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Apparently, that is equivalent to a declaration that “I believe in the tooth fairy”.  Not that David’s book isn’t real.  It is.  It’s great. I love it!  But it just didn’t seem to be having the impact on my productivity as I hoped, at least not lately.

Then it struck me.  I wasn’t actually following the advise in the book.  I guess knowing something really isn’t the same thing as doing something.  Very sad.

So over the last few weeks, I rolled up my sleeves and decided that I would put David’s exceptional advice into practice.  And it was liberating.  My email inbox was empty.  My actions were all filed where they were supposed to be.  I was on the right track.  It would have probably helped if I had actually gone out and reviewed the book.  I have excellent hindsight.

For all my new-found organization, I was still not feeling more productive.  Something was missing.  Then along came my manager with a piece of the solution I was looking for.  She asked me to write up a monthly status report. Not earth-shattering in and of itself, but here’s the part that hurtled me to new heights of productivity…

I took all of the things that I put in my status report that I was going to get done “next month”… and I put them on my calendar.  I blocked out time to do each item.  What?  I can do that?  Set aside time to actually get the things done that I said I was going to?  Wow. It’s been a productive few weeks since that fateful-epiphany. I can’t say that it will change my life forever… but it sure has made this month a lot more productive than it would have been.

Here are a few tips on using Outlook to manage your To-Do lists (I’m sure similar approaches work for other email/calendar programs):

  • Create helpful categories for your task lists.  Don’t think of the Outlook “task list” as just a place for tasks.  It’s actually a list keeper. Here are a few I use:  @agendas (for things I need to remember to talk to people about); @boss (for things I am discussing with my boss). The “@” at the front of the list name is just so it will sort to the top.
  • Many of my to-do’s come from email.  So I have created a special email folder to hold pending email that I need to do something with.  I call it “@Actions”.
  • To schedule your tasks, simply create an outlook calendar item to block out some time.
  • For things that you don’t want to forget (like “get me your monthly status report on Friday”) create the task as an “all day event” (with no alarm).  That way it will show up at the top of your calendar bar.  A nice way to remember something.
  • I sometimes get email that I don’t really know what to do with at the moment. Basically I want to sit on it for a bit to percolate.  To help me remember to respond to the email, I will put a reminder on my calendar for in a week. You can actually drag the email item to your calendar.  Just be sure to set it as an all-day event with no alarm (so it will show up at the top of your calendar).

Most of these ideas come right out of David Allen’s book.  And he has a lot of other fantastic ideas in there.  It really is a great book. I highly recommend it.

How do you organize your To-Do lists and tasks?

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Those Pesky Value Statements (my experience with GigFolder’s Facelift)

The story goes that the cobbler’s family has no shoes.  And I guess that is true with GigFolder. I’ve been trying to encourage people to improve their websites. I’ve been talking “SEO” (that’s “Search Engine Optimization” — basically getting found on Google better) with a few authors. Even on this blog, we’ve talked about backing up WordPress. And it occurred to me: I need to do those things too!  So, I gave GigFolder a facelift.

Some of the features of GigFolder’s facelift:

  • Clearer statement of values on the front page (this was the biggie)
  • An area that shows recent posts from my blog so my clients can keep up-to-date
  • An “Ask For Help” button on every page when you are using GigFolder
  • Easier navigation with “breadcrumbs” — a common technique that helps users of GigFolder remember where they are.

By far, the hardest part was getting those pesky value statements worked out. Here are a few tips on creating good value statements:

  • Don’t create too many.  That waters-down the overall impact.
  • Think about the value from your client’s perspective.
  • Think about the different groups of client’s you want to target.
  • Try to develop statements that have some punch to them.
  • Your value statements should point out a measurable improvement for your client

I’ve spent days (maybe even weeks) developing and refining these statements. The problem is, I got so engrossed in what I think my value is, that I had a very hard time really seeing my value from my client’s perspective.  It sometimes takes an outside force to help see things differently.  Fortunately, marketing-guru Kathi Lipp (who also happens to be my wife) can play that role for me very nicely.

Here’s what I came up with for GigFolder:

  • Save hours every week on paperwork
  • Develop a platform publishers will love
  • Instant web site calendar updates
  • Sell your products online today
  • Access all your information from any device, anywhere

They aren’t perfect.  But they are clear and compelling (well… at least I hope they are). That reminds me:  don’t wait for the perfect value statement.  You’ll miss a lot of opportunity. Work hard on them. Get good feedback. Revise. But you need to get them out there. Otherwise, they don’t really do you any good.

Are you struggling with coming up with good value statements for your ministry?  Post a few statements here by Friday and Kathi and I will be happy to provide some feedback.

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We Have a Winner!

Congratulations Kimberly! You are the winner from the first GigFolder newsletter give-away contest. You have won a copy of Kathi Lipp’s book “8 Steps to a More Bankable Book Table“.

Everyone be sure to watch for other great give-away’s on my blog and in my newsletter. Be sure to sign-up for the GigFolder newsletter. I will be sure to keep the information relevant and easy to use. Take a look at the first newsletter and let me know what you think. I’m always looking for ideas!

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Handling Sales Tax Without Pulling Your Hair Out

I am at an age where pulling my hair out is a very bad idea! I just don’t have that much to go around. So how do I handle Sales Tax without going crazy? Again.

It’s an easy thing to get wrong. So please be advised that I am not a tax accountant. Anything I say in this blog should be taken with all the seriousness as the ramblings of the Mayberry town drunk in Barney’s holding cell. In other words: these are just my thoughts. They should not be taken without consulting much more learned and informed people than I am.

With sales tax, as with many other things, it is sometimes helpful to work backwards. Take a look at the forms or online tools that you will ultimately use to pay your sales tax liability. Then working backwards from that, make sure throughout the year you collect the information that the forms and tools are asking for. For me, those forms are organized by County and then city. So that means that when I am collecting data through the year, I need to collect the following information:

  • Sales amount (I summarize the total amount collected, including sales tax, by event)
  • City and County where event takes place (note that this is different than the City/County of the organization itself… it needs to be where the sales physically took place)
  • Tax rate — needed for figuring out the price to charge.

You’ll want to have a way to record this information in some reliable and convenient form so you will have it when it’s time to do taxes.  I use gigfolder.com to collect all of the above data.  QuickBooks is also an excellent tool for collecting this information in a useful manner.  Frankly, you could also use a spreadsheet. What ever method you use, make sure you are consistent throughout the year, so you will have all of the data when you need it. Don’t put off entering this information, you’ll be surprised at how painful it is to do this all at once.  I do have some experience with this particular pain point.

Here is one more thing that I have found helpful. I find it easiest to only collect total sales income for events (total sales income includes price plus sales tax collected).  This discussion is a bit mathematical. And I have to define a few words in order to show you the simple formula I want to share.  My set up is way more complicated than what I want to show you.  Sigh.  Here’s how I’m defining the terms “total sales”, “sales tax”, and “product sales”:

  • total sales = product sales  +  sales tax

I’m sure accountants would be horrified at my word choice.  But, I couldn’t find consistent/better words. If you know what they should be, please post a reply!

Anyway, back to what I wanted to show you. It’s pretty easy to separate out the sales tax by using this simple formula:

  • product sales = total sales  / ( 1 + tax rate as a decimal)

For example, if you took in $100 (including sales tax) in a city that has a 9.5% tax rate:

  • $100 / 1.095 = $91.32 product sales include (without sales tax)

The alternative is to collect product sales and sales tax information at the point of sale.  If you’re setup to do that easily, great.  When my wife Kathi is out speaking at an event, she doesn’t want to have to deal with collecting/recording extra information during the event.  That would distract her from interacting with the people she is there to see.  Ultimately, that would reduce sales too.

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Publishing a File to the Web — The Easy Way

Let’s face it, there are just some chores that nobody wants to do:

  • scrubbing the shower
  • organizing the garage
  • cleaning out the cat box

these are just a few that come immediately to mind.

I can’t help you with any of those, but here are some everyday web chores I can make a bit simpler for you:

  • You’re sending out an e-newsletter and want to include a link to a PDF resource that you’ve created.
  • You’re sending an e-mail to someone and want to attach a file, but it’s too big to send via e-mail.
  • You’re posting a blog and want to include a link to an MP3 or other file that you have created.

All of these things have a common theme:  you have a file of some kind that you would like to publish on the web so you can provide a link to that file.

No problem.  I have just the tool for you.  It’s called “dropbox” (dropbox.com).  And it’s free (for up to 2G of online storage). Dropbox makes it easy — nearly trivial — to publish a file to the web.  Here’s how it works.

Once you have signed up for dropbox and installed dropbox onto your computer (available for PC, Mac and Linux), dropbox will create a folder (just like your “Documents” folder on a PC).  Within this folder there is another folder called “Public”.  You can drag-and-drop files into that Public folder.  Everything you drop into that folder is published onto the web.  To get the web address, just right-click on the file and select “Dropbox -> Copy public link”.  You can paste that link into your e-newsletter, e-mail or blog.  The file stays published on the web, until you remove it.

It’s pretty easy.

I’ve created a screencast to demonstrate this in action.  Take a look!

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