Let’s take a moment and discuss your email signature. According to Radicati.com, a Technology Market Research Firm, over 205 billion emails are sent and received each day. That’s a lotta email! An often over looked part of your email is your signature.

How long should it be? How short should it be? What should it include? How should it look? For the most part, it’s a personal decision. But, it is something you need to think about.

Here are a few tips to consider when creating your email signature:

  1. Don’t include every social link you have!
    Sure you have a profile on Facebook, and Twitter, and G+ and LinkedIn and every other social platform out there. But do you need to link to all of them? No! Choose one or two and leave it at that. If you aren’t actively posting on G+, don’t link it.
  2. Don’t include a ton of images!
    Did you know some email systems don’t show images by default? All text signatures are great and will always display, but I agree that they get boring. Don’t be afraid to spice it up a little, but don’t over do it. And, definitely don’t make your entire signature an image. Make sure your signature looks nice without images first, then use them to accent.
  3. Don’t include every form of contact ever!
    There is no need to include your email address! Yes, I have seen it. Maybe it’s just me, but the email is coming from your email address, why do you feel the need to include it in your signature? If you’re up for a phone call, include your number. If you like Skype, put it in there. But please, oh please, don’t list your email, home address, work address, every website you own, home phone, cell phone, work phone, Skype, AOL, MSN, Fac, and everything else under the sun.
  4. Don’t use a ton of different colors!
    Stick to one, two, maybe three colors, but your signature shouldn’t look like a package of skittles spilled in my inbox. The main point of the email is the message, not the signature. Too many colors means distraction.
  5. Shorter is better!
    Yep, keep it short and sweet. Your signature shouldn’t be four times the size of your email message. A shorter signature will also display nicely on a mobile platform and won’t take up so much data to download.

Take a few minutes and configure your phone’s email signature as well. Keep in mind that many emails are read on phones and on the go. For this reason alone, a shorter email signature overall is a great idea.

What do you think? What do YOU include in your email sig?

 

The lazy days of summer are here, the kids are out of school, you’ve lost your desire (or time) to be productive. I get it. You’ve got things you wanted to do, but didn’t finish before the kids interrupted you and they’re just sitting there staring at you and haunting you. It’s easy to fall into a slump this time of year, but you don’t have to, you can beat it in one week with these easy steps. Let’s declutter your business.

Day One: Blog Posts

Get in there and finish those half written blog posts. Spend one day getting them all polished and scheduled to publish. It’s great to get a post started and leave it in draft mode until you finish it up, but you have to go back and finish it! It’s doing you no good just sitting there, waiting. Scheduling posts, if you can write more than one in a day, is a great way to free up some time. Spend a day or two writing when you can and you’ll always have content to post (ahem, a lesson I need to learn myself!)

Day Two: Client Contact

I know you have some clients you want and need to follow up with, but you keep putting it off. Following up and staying in touch with past clients is the best way to bring them back to you. Spend a day getting those follow up emails and calls done. You’ll feel much better, they’ll feel special and it’s one less daunting task hanging over you.

Day Three: Update Your Website

Grab a backup and update WordPress and all of the plugins. If you have someone doing this for you, kudos to you! This is an easy to outsource task and so worth it. Once you’ve got everything on the backend updated, look over your pages and see if any information or pricing needs updated. Have you been considering a facelift for your website, contact your designer (that’s me!) and get the ball rolling. If a new site is something you’ve been considering, it’ll make you feel much better once it’s done.

Day Four: Social Media

Spend today scheduling some Facebook and Twitter posts. Scheduling these ahead of time will lessen the amount of time you spend on those time-suckers each day. Some of the easiest posts for Facebook are image posts that include quotes, spend a little time today creating some quotes and get them scheduled. I just put one together, you can click through and share it on your page! Just click the image and you’ll be taken to my Facebook page where the image is already uploaded and ready for you to hit share. Need help scheduling on Facebook? There’s a blog post for that!

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Day Five: Straighten Your Desk

A clean workspace will leave you feeling much more productive and ready to tackle anything. Take a few minutes today to put away all of your markers and pens, throw away old sticky notes, carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. File away anything you don’t need anymore and sort through old mail. It’d be great to dust off your work surface as well. When all is clean and looking nice, take the kids to the pool. You deserve a little time in the sun after a productive week!

While this will get you back on track to productivity, it’s not a bad idea for it to become a weekly routine, at least for the summer. Doesn’t it feel great to be organized and no longer have those “things” hanging over you for you to keep putting off until tomorrow?

writingIt’s hard. Very hard. I’ve asked you to write an About page and you have no idea where to begin. Take a deep breath and let’s get this done. Follow these tips and get an About page draft written. You can always go back and tweak it to your liking. Follow these tips, get the basics written and then make it perfect later.

Must I have an About page?

Yes! This is most important if you are providing a service, but important for everyone. When I land on your website I want to know about you. I want to know this person I’m about to contact and your About page is the first place I’m going to check. Don’t make me search for it. Call it what it is- About, Meet Stephanie, The Photographer. It just needs to be obvious that when I click this page I’m going to read about YOU.

It must include your name! “Hi, my name is Stephanie Pleasants.” is a perfectly acceptable first line. I want to know who you are before I send a message to you. If I’m going to call you, I want to know how to address you. Get your name on that page and let’s use your first and last name.

I don’t want my photo there.

Yeah, me neither. But, having a visual of you as I type out that contact message helps a lot. Picturing you when I make that call makes the conversation a little easier. Many people remember images. It’s the first step in the know-like-trust factor. Let me get to know you.

Do you like creating videos? Go for it! Talk to me. But, don’t make the video auto-play and do put content there for those of us who aren’t video watchers.

What am I supposed to write?

Write about you and what you do. Keep it short, but not too short. Don’t over inflate it. I don’t need every detail of your life story, just the details that will affect me. A lot of text is going to turn me off, too much isn’t going to be read. I suggest 1 long paragraph or up to 3 shorter ones. Be natural. If you like to make jokes, put them in. Talk to me. Tell me a little about you, what you do, why I should listen to or hire you. Your About page is one more little hook to land that client.

One tip I read was to have a someone who knows you well write your about page. That could work. At the very least that might give you something to get started with that you can then tweak to your liking. Toss in some key words and phrases and you’ve got a something to start with.

Go now. Read your about page and decide if it needs a tweak.

Sing that to the tune of “what does the fox say?”! Here you go, here’s the video (with my favorite Jimmy Fallon) in case it’s stuck in your head now.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puHK73fMXmQ

I’ve had a few instances of confusion lately and I want to clear it up. I totally understand, no one wants to pay invoices they weren’t expecting or don’t understand. So, let’s break it down!

Hosting.

Your hosting fee, whether to me or another provider, typically covers the space your website takes up on a server and the bandwidth used to provide that site to the public. Some hosts (like me) offer free monthly backups to their clients. Beyond server space and traffic and some tech support (like ‘wordpress won’t install’, ‘I’m seeing a server error message’, ‘how do I connect to my site via FTP?’), don’t expect anything else from your hosting fee. Hosting doesn’t cover the look of your site or the work put into your site.

Design

When I charge you for web design, that is the install of wordpress, the look of your site and typically setting up content. I do my best to outline exactly what I am giving you when I give you a quote. What this doesn’t include is periodically taking backups of your website, updating wordpress or plugins, installing new plugins, making changes to either content or design, after we have agreed the site is complete. I do offer email support, you ask me anything and I will get you an answer. Forever. “Hey, how do I…”, not a problem at all.

Maintenance

That’s what I describe this other stuff as. If your email says “Hey, can you…”, then you probably need me to do something and for that I charge. It’s like having a virtual assistant, but we aren’t on contract and you aren’t paying me a monthly fee. Instead, you contact me on an as needed basis and I bill you on an as needed basis. Sometimes these things are small and I just keep track and then bill you $20 after a few things. Sometimes these things have set fees and I bill you after it’s done or within the month because I’m a bit slow at that stuff. Installing WordPress is a flat $20. I don’t use auto-installers, I don’t like them, I do it all manually so I charge $20 for the time I spend creating the database, uploading the files, hooking it all together and creating your login. I don’t typically bill right away for anything under $20. The paypal fees are not worth it. That’s why you won’t receive an invoice after every thing I do, I want to wait and make it worth the time and fees. If I billed for every little thing, I’d have to raise my prices and I don’t want to do that. (Shh, sometimes I totally forget to invoice, bonus for you!)

I do offer things like Monthly backups to my non-hosting clients and WordPress Monitoring and Updating (WM&U) to anyone. The Monitoring and Updating is simply that, I monitor your site for updates and then perform the updates for you. If you are not a hosting client, then I do back up your site before doing updates. I guess you could say that with WM&U you either need to be a hosting client or you are paying for monthly backups as well. This pricing includes the fee for monthly backups.

I will be spending some time in the next month or two trying to clarify all of this in my website copy. I wish I could do everything for free, but this is a business, just like yours. We are both in this to make money, big or small. A lot of what I charge for is time. Let’s face it, you contacted me either because you don’t know how or you don’t have time to do it yourself. That’s what I’m here for, I do the tech-y stuff so you can concentrate on your business.

cameraI have done a lot of work with several photographers. Many have come to me frustrated with their current host, the lack of support and constant outtages are frustrating to say the least. Up until now, I’ve been hesitant to offer a hosting package to fit the needs of the photography industry since the resources needed are so high, but times have changed.

When I first started out, my hosting and pricing were geared toward small work at home parents. That is, a small website that doesn’t need much space and a price to match. Being a photographer, you need images, lots of images, and images take up space and space costs money. As my business has morphed and grown, my offerings have as well.

I am now offering a Photography Hosting package. You get everything in my top level package, with an increased space of 10 GB and a bandwidth limit of 88 GB, for $20 per month (or $225 per year). I know you can pay less and get unlimited space at those other places, but what you don’t get is my top notch support. (As my clients will tell you, that is priceless!) Host unlimited domains, unlimited databases, unlimited email addresses, I personally make backups for my hosting clients each month. No set up fee and for a limited time, I will move your site for you!

Thanks to my (unbeknownst to them) beta testers, I am confident my server configuration and my tech support team can handle the high level needs of a top notch photography business and I’m ready to take my Photography Hosting package public and available to everyone.

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Black Friday – Cyber Monday Special!

Save $10 on your first invoice with code PhotoHost2013. If you choose to pay monthly, your first month is only $10. If you choose to pay annually, you’ll pay $215 which breaks down to $17.92 each month. Coupon valid for new clients only who register between 11/29/13 and 12/2/13 using the code above.

pricingWe all do it. We talk ourselves up, build our confidence, set our fees to a rate we know we are worth, but when it comes down to giving a quote, we drop the price. Guilty! (One of my 2014 goals is to stop doing that!)

Did you know that low rates actually turn clients away? A smart client, the one you want to work with, knows that you get what you pay for. If your pricing is too low, they know the quality is not there.

This is a great article from Meredith Eisenberg over at DecisiveMinds.com about why low rates are bad for business and what you can do to boost your pricing confidence.

I love when I have an a-ha moment and solve a problem, even if it does take a few days.

I use WHMCS to manage my billing and products. It’s been great for selling services, but I’ve recently ventured into downloadable products (like my new ebook!). I knew I could use WHMCS to sell downloadable items, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. I spent days trying to figure out how to deliver the product. I know I had it set up correctly, but I wanted the buyer to receive an email with a link to download. That link was stumping me. I spent a lot of time at the WHMCS forums and nothing I was reading was working.

The original link posted in the forums looked something like this, with id=X being the download id number:
https://PATHTOWHMCS/dl.php?type=d&id=X&serviceid={$service_id}
(I now know that the PATHTOWHMCS part can be put in by using {whmcs_url}, another duh!)

Nothing could get this work. I thought maybe the user needed to be logged in to see the download as available. When I went to the downloads page, I was signed out, that left me thinking my page was broken. I updated my install, I tried a few things to the .tpl file. I tried to replicate the products list on the client area page. Anything to make sure my buyers were seeing the link to download right away from the link given in the email.

Turns out I had put a downloadable item up for sale in the past and I had created a custom email template for that item. After locating it, I found the link I put in there. A link that sends the reader straight to the products page of the client area. That page is where the download link is located. Boom! Problem solved!

For your reference, here’s the link to include in your email:
{$whmcs_url}/clientarea.php?action=products

And, if you’re wondering how to set up the product, here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Upload your Product

Navigate to Support -> Downloads, create a category for your products, upload your product and check the boxes for “Tick this box to only allow logged in clients permission to download it” and “Tick this box if this download should only be available after a product or addon purchase”.

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Step 2: Create your Product Email

Navigate to Setup -> Email Templates. You’ll want to create a new Product Message. I advise copying an existing template and changing the necessary items. You can create an email template for each downloadable product or one generic since you’ll be including a link to the products page for your buyer to access their item. You’ll want to include this code which will be replaced with a link to your buyer’s products page. There they can click the little down arrow next to the item to see the download link. (I’ll be putting that little tip in my email as well so buyer’s aren’t lost!)

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Step 3: Create your Product

Navigate to Setup-> Products/Services and create your item. Under Details-> Welcome Email, you should include the email template you just created. Under Module Settings, select Auto Release, then select one of the options below that. Mine is set for “Automatically setup the product as soon as the first payment is received”. I want to make sure payment is processed before it’s accessible. Last part! Under Other, you need to add the file. You’ll see Associated Downloads. In the first box navigate to your file, then click to add it to the box on the right.

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Done! Happy Selling!

Social Media is an important part of having an online business or website. Millions of people worldwide are utilizing these platforms on a regular basis and hundreds of potential customers are just waiting to be found. People love interaction and that is just what Facebook, Twitter and Google+ provide. There is no better way to market and advertise your service or product.

For an introductory price of $97, I will set up or edit your social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube. That means setting up links, descriptions and graphics that match your website as well as linking these sites to each other and your website where applicable. I can even get you started with a few followers on Facebook and Twitter. If you run a wordpress blog, I will also set things up so that each of your blog posts are sent to Facebook and Twitter when you post them. This is a great way to build content on these social sites.

Let’s get started and move your website in the social media direction!

I’m having a lot of fun redoing my site. I decided I wanted to transition the entire site over to WordPress instead of running a separate blog. I pretty much turn to WordPress for any site I need to do, I should run my site entirely on WordPress right?! I still have some work to do, but I love how it’s turning out. Once I get everything done style-wise, I’ll have to move all my webpages over. Then I get to style my “Cityhall” area where all purchases and billing, etc takes place.

I love bartering my services! I was able to get a few Christmas gifts one year as a result of trading web design for products. Web design can get expensive, but I like to work with clients to make it more affordable for them.

I would love to take an Orlando vacation in September of 2011 (dates, even month, negotiable). Hotels can get pricey and cramped for a family of 6. We rented a vacation home for our last trip and really enjoyed it. I’ve been looking at homes for rent for the past week to see what’s out there. One thing I’ve noticed is that many personal websites look very unprofessional, lack great pictures or are just outdated. When I come across a nice website with a great layout and wonderful images, I’m more inclined to spend time on the site and look at the details, even marking it as a potential. An unprofessional site makes me take a quick glance and move on. A nice, professional site will bring you more bookings. Bookings mean money for you!

I would like to offer my services in exchange for a one week stay in Orlando. I am in search of a home that will sleep six, 3 or more bedrooms, with a private pool preferred, close to Disney. I will update or build you a website showcasing your home. I’ll even take new, updated photos of your home upon our arrival! We’ll work out the details privately.

If you or someone you know might be interested in my offer, contact me so we can work something out!