Category Archives: Geeks in a Box

Converting your facebook friend page into a fan page

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. They made me do it. If you have to convert your “friend” profile to a “fan” Page, click here.

Be aware that when you convert your profile to a Page, your profile pictures will be transferred, and all of your friends will be automatically added as people who like your Page. No other content will be carried over to your new Page, so be sure to save any important content before beginning your migration.

The account associated with the profile you previously maintained will be converted to a business account, which will be the sole admin of your new Page.


5 Ways to Surf Faster

Stop blaming your Internet Provider and follow these tips. 🙂

1: Use a fast browser

Not all browsers are created equal!! In the 90’s Internet Explorer monopolized 94% of all Internet Browsers.  Not the case today. Some browsers are simply faster than others, don’t be afraid to switch. The top speed you will find, in the current crop of browsers, belongs to Google Chrome. If you’ve grown accustomed to your little blue “E” or Firefox, you’ll notice a dramatic increase when you use Google Chrome. Of all the ways you can speed up your internet experience, this is by far the best.

2: Disable Flash

Flash pretty much saturates the web. It’s almost impossible to get away from this technology. Problem is, Flash can be slow, so it directly affects the speed of your browsing experience. You can have Flash turned off by default and then re-enable it to view what you need to view. The biggest problem with this is that some browsers require an add-on to block Flash. For Chrome, you need the extension Flashblock. There’s also a Flashblock extension for Firefox. Internet Explorer has a built-in tool you can access by clicking Tools | Manage Add-ons. In the Manage Add-ons dialog box, double-click Shockwave Flash Object. Then, click the Remove All Sites button. This will disable Flash for all sites.

3: Clear Your Cache

Pronounced “cash”, you need to clear your cookies and cache or set your browser to do it for you. Depending on the browser you use, visit the help section for that browser to see how to clear yours.

4: Get rid of toolbars

Toolbars gone wild! Are you guilty? Browsers so filled with toolbars they take up the majority of real estate in the browser window? Most users don’t realize toolbars slow down their browser. Some toolbars take up way too much precious computer memory, while others eat away at bandwidth by sending and receiving data in the background that you’re not even aware of. The math here is quite simple: The more toolbars you have, the slower your browser will run. UNINSTALL!

5: Use tabs, not windows

Too many tabs can cause problems, but they’re still your best bet for browsing efficiency. How do tabs speed up your experience? A couple of ways. The first is all about organization. With multiple tabs in a single window, it becomes quite a bit faster to locate the page you want to see. You don’t have to maximize a window, discover that it’s not the right one, minimize it, maximize a new window… until you find the correct one. A single window open with multiple tabs is far easier to search.


When To Bill Clients for Phone Time

If you aren’t billing clients for phone calls you really should start. Just be sure you know which types of calls warrant an invoice to your client.

Consultants are not only IT practitioners but typically business owners who must manage an exponentially larger client base than people would think. We must be very good at multi-tasking and time management. I alone manage 236 clients.  I have a staff of 5 who handle a lot of the back end programming and graphics work, but I alone speak and interact with our clients. Accordingly, we must learn to think like other service providers, such as accountants and attorneys. That means billing for telephone calls, something I’ve found most IT, PR & Marketing people hesitate to do. Most of us believe the practice will rub clients the wrong way.

Last month, for the first time in my 13 years of being in the IT business, I kept track of my actual time on the phone with clients. Whether it was answering a “quick” question they had, or actually trouble shooting a problem, or assisting in what a lot of clients warrant as an “emergency”. I logged 82 hours of just phone time.  If I would’ve billed for those actual hours spent with clients at $75 an hour, which is going rate for my line of work, I would’ve been ahead $6,150 for the month. Considering a 40 hour work week, and 4 weeks in a month, that makes a 160 hour work month. 82 of those hours I spent on the phone for UNBILLED time.  I literally lost an average of  four hours a day to telephone calls — that’s half my day. That time and expense simply must be accounted for.

When to bill clients

What does this mean? This means I need to make major changes to my way of conducting business. I was floored to see how much actual time I spent dealing with clients and making minor fixes for them and never billing them, because I “only spent 5-15 minutes with them” , and I feel bad about invoicing someone for mere minutes of my time. But those minutes all add up. I don’t intend to begin collecting credit card numbers each time I take a call, but it does mean I need to stand up for myself a bit more and let clients know that my time is money, and we have other clients that rely on us to complete their jobs as well in a timely manner as well.

I vow!

I vow from this day forward to charge clients for any calls about these types of requests:

  • Set up the customer’s email accounts on a new BlackBerry or iPhone or new computer or new software because they won’t take the time themselves to read the directions or call their carrier, or at least try and troubleshoot on their own, or just “google it”.
  • Eliminate a virus or spyware infection remotely
  • Give instructions on repairing a printer that’s not printing
  • Teach them “once again” how to use the CMS portion of their website, since we’ve already shown them how, but because they don’t update their site often, they “forget”.
  • Give marketing advice on how to drive more traffic to their site or store
  • Set up their facebook or twitter accounts for them
  • Explain why clients should get a twitter, FB, or Blog in the first place
  • Set up new email accounts, since our clients have full access to do this themselves

We’ll see how well I do at my new vows. I have a soft spot for my clients and I’m bad at being a softy when it comes to them. I tend to spoil rather than teach. Seeing my numbers from last month, I now realize why I always seem to be behind and have no clue where the hours of my day went. It’s possible I could’ve had that vacation I’ve always dreamed of or the granite in my kitchen, or upgraded my own computer system, if I would just bill according to the actual work I perform.

I’m not trying to be petty, there are several reasons why we need to bill clients for these calls:

  • The time me and my staff spend addressing these issues pulls them away from other billable tasks we need to complete for other clients. That means the time spent providing technical support over the telephone is actively costing us real money.
  • When walking clients through troubleshooting steps and instructions for repairing errors, or giving your best advice on how to grow their business, I’m sharing expertise, knowledge, and know-how that possess very real market value. I need not fear “being the bad guy” just because I’m charging for time and expertise; in fact, I’m providing solutions.
  • Attorneys and accountants charge for telephone calls, often billing in quarter-hour minimum increments. You wouldn’t expect to call an attorney or accountant, spend a half hour discussing the implications of a contract or tax issue and not receive a bill. Clients who consume a half-hour of an IT person, or marketing persons time to solve a computer issue or figure out how to get a commercial shot or improve traffic to their business shouldn’t expect to be serviced for free.

Sure, potential new clients are going to call inquiring about the services we provide. Other callers will have questions about a quick network problem they are experiencing. (as long as we’re the ones who set up the network) Still other calls will be maintenance contract clients reporting a problem or requesting an onsite service appointment. There’s no need to bill for those calls. Those are costs of doing business.

While it’s unnecessary to charge your regular on-site rate for telephone calls, IT and Marketing professionals should determine the hourly charge for telephone advice and support. More important, we should begin billing callers for services received, even if it means invoicing customers just for quarter-hour calls. Because, as my cell phone records prove, I often lose chunks of entire days just answering the phone.

If you aren’t billing clients for phone calls, Erik Eckel says you must start — just be sure to know which types of calls warrant a charge.
Consultants are not only IT practitioners but typically business owners, too, who must manage an exponentially larger client base. Accordingly, IT consultants must learn to think like other service providers, such as accountants and attorneys. That means billing for telephone calls, something I’ve found most consultants hesitant to do, mistakenly believing the practice will rub clients the wrong way.
Last quarter my cell phone logged 60 calls on a single Friday. If I spent just four minutes, conservatively (some remote support and assistance calls require 20-30 minutes or more to complete), on each of those calls, I would have lost four hours in a single day to telephone calls — that’s half a day. The time and expense (the cell phone provider charges my consultancy handsomely for those minutes of service) simply must be covered.
When to bill clients
This doesn’t mean your consultancy must make major changes to its business operations and begin collecting credit card authorizations each time it accepts calls; no, it just means using common sense.
Bill for these types of calls
You would, however, charge clients for any calls about these types of requests:
* Set up the customer’s email account on a new BlackBerry or iPhone
* Eliminate a virus or spyware infection
* Repair a Windows system that will not boot.
* Reset passwords
* Provide step-by-step directions on how to restart a failed QuickBooks Database Server service
* Give instructions on repairing a stalled printer
There are several reasons why your office needs to bill clients for these calls:
* The time you and your technicians spend addressing these issues pulls you and your staff away from other billable tasks you would complete for other clients. That means the time you spend providing technical support over the telephone is actively costing your consultancy real money.
* When walking clients through troubleshooting steps and instructions for repairing errors, you are sharing expertise, knowledge, and know-how that possess very real market value. You need not fear “being the bad guy” just because you’re charging for time and expertise; in fact, you’re providing solutions.
* Attorneys and accountants charge for telephone calls, often billing in quarter-hour minimum increments. You wouldn’t expect to call an attorney or accountant, spend a half hour discussing the implications of a tricky contract or tax issue and not receive a bill. Clients who consume a half-hour of a technician’s time to solve a vexing computer issue shouldn’t expect to be serviced for free.
Don’t bill for these calls
Sure, potential new clients are going to call inquiring about the services your firm provides. Other callers will have questions about a quick Windows or network problem they are experiencing. Still other calls will be maintenance contract clients reporting a problem or requesting an onsite service appointment. There’s no need to bill for those calls. Those are costs (both in time and cell phone minutes) of doing business.
How much to bill clients
While it’s unnecessary to charge your regular on-site rate for telephone calls, IT consultancies should determine the hourly charge for remote telephone support. More important, consultancies should begin billing callers for services received, even if it means invoicing customers just for quarter-hour remote support calls. Because, as my cell phone records prove, consultants often lose chunks of entire days just answering the phone.

When clients demand same day/weekend/or after hours service

When a client demands same-day service, it can wreak havoc on your IT  schedule. I’m going to share what has successfully been helping us deal with these client “emergencies”.

When more clients request same day service than your IT dept. can accommodate, you need to manage the problem so it doesn’t lead to frustrated employees, lost customers, and bad business. Here’s how to prevent a meltdown when all of your clients want same-day service. And inevitably this seems to happen all at one time. Your phone won’t ring with any issues for weeks, then poof in the same day, they’re all having a meltdown.

Set expectations up front
Problems often begin during the first client meeting. Salespeople can sometimes promise the world to get a new client. However, it’s not in your best interest to suggest that your company can respond to calls within four hours if the office isn’t equipped to act that rapidly or isn’t open on the weekend and the phones shut down at 5pm.

You should explain how after hours and weekend “emergency” calls really work. There’s nothing wrong with promising a quick response due to a true emergency — just make sure clients clearly understand what qualifies as an emergency. I’ve had clients blow up our phones after hours because they can’t figure out how to set up a new outlook account on their new computer or put music on their MP3 players.  I’m sorry, but that’s not a crisis, and not something we even support. The client needs to do a tiny bit of watching our video tutorial or reading our faq section before having a meltdown. Or actually “google” what they need help with.

Define response times in contracts
Client contracts should clearly state how quickly your office will respond to an actual problem. Response times should be defined in a way that leaves no room for misunderstandings. It’s too vague to state “Consultant agrees to respond to trouble tickets in one day.” Instead, the contract should read “Consultant agrees to provide onsite support within 24 business hours when email- or Internet-affecting outages occur” (you can change the language to match the service your office will provide). The response times promised in the contract must be something that you can back up.

Don’t get angry
There’s a natural temptation to get angry  and be short when clients demonstrate shortsightedness or prove difficult. For instance, customers who have been warned repeatedly to replace their obsolete outdated systems and then demand you recover all their data and replace the unit the same day the computer dies. Or, the clients who take 90 days to pay, dispute invoices, and demand you have a technician onsite within an hour of their call. This one is one of my favorites. You don’t pay us for months for actual work we did to the site, but expect instant responses when you want to know how to attach a picture of you and suzy to your email blog.

Getting angry doesn’t help the situation. You signed up for this when you became an IT person. Take a deep breath, listen to some feng shui music and move on.

Charge more
There’s a reason many other industries have adopted “rush” or “same day” fees: they work. I suggest doubling your regular rate for same-day service, after hours calls or weekend jobs. This weeds out quickly what is an “emergency”

You should satisfy clients who require same-day service in a way that discourages them from making unreasonable demands and charge for your efforts and overtime fees. When you respond to unanticipated calls on short notice, it almost always means another client is being pushed back, which is unfair to them, and someone must work late to accommodate the day’s other regularly scheduled tasks.

Conclusion
In the 13 years I have been doing web design and marketing work, I have found that the more often you make an exception for a client, the more often they expect it. The more you try and give, the more they seem to take. Instead of appreciating the fact that you’ve just given them free advice, or burnt dinner to take their call at 7pm and stayed on the line with them until they understood how to check their email, or been late to another client meeting because they wouldn’t let you off the phone, or called you like a psycho 12 times in a row and you finally had to excuse yourself at the wedding because something MUST be wrong for a client to call that many times over and over, the more you realize, sometimes you just can’t be nice like you want to. Billing people for your actual time resolves this problem quickly. This balancing act is difficult for even the most seasoned veterans to master. I struggle with it daily because I am from the old school where you bend over backwards for your clients and they are “always right”. There are clients I know I could help and that I genuinely like speaking with, but we have recently had to put our foot down, because we felt we had way too many clients taking advantage of our generosity. It’s also ok to cut the ties on those clients that hinder you more than help you. If a client is constantly demanding and pushy, yet (this is a real life instance) pays you an average of $25 a month. You are more than likely hurting your actual paying clients for this one overbearing, time consuming client who doesn’t appreciate you or your time. And heaven forbid if you actually invoiced them for the real hours you spent giving them advice, phone time, returning emails to them and so on. We have recently started firing clients, for this behavior and it’s a liberating feeling. Not to mention the extra time we have to work on clients who actually pay their bills on time and honestly do appreciate us. 🙂


How to “unlike” or delete pages you “like” on facebook

It is amazing to me how many pages I was subscribed to on FB. I got tired of seeing posts by 100’s of random pages and people. I went through and deleted a majority of them, especially ones that posted constantly and cluttered up my news feed over and over again. Now I can actually see posts from my friends and businesses I want to see, and not all the rest of that crap!

Log in to your Facebook account, click on the option Profile at the top right of the page, and then on the Info link in the left column. After doing that, click on the “Activities an Interests” one, you will see the pages that you liked. If you have many pages you may have to click on the links that say “Show other Pages” or “Show All” a little below the pages in order to see them.

This way you will see a list of all the pages that you are connected to on Facebook in one nice list, then you can go through and “unlike” them all at one time! Took me about 20 minutes to delete all of the ones I wanted to, but well worth the time spent!


Working From Home

I am fortunate to be able to work at home. It has a lot of perks, my favorite being  my 30-second commute to work. There is a sense of empowerment and freedom in being able to work in my own home office, primarily because I can control the environment in which I work. Note that what works for me may not work for you, we’re all different. Not everyone is cut out for this glamorous life of pajama parties. The kitchen, the television, the house that needs cleaned, the recipes you could be creating, the errands you could run, the friends that drop by, the lunch dates, all can be incredibly persuasive distractions if you have no boss breathing down your neck to get things done.  Personally, I thrive working from home — as a matter of fact, I put in more hours at home than most people do at their “real jobs”.  (Another thing that annoys me, as I frequently get referred to as “not having a ‘real’ job”) I am quite productive for some days, a 12 hour stretch, without even leaving my chair, and in fact, knowing when and how to “leave” work or “shut down” and relax is my biggest downfall. So here are some tips:

1: Love Your Office!

This sounds so elementary, but it’s crucial. As a designer, I couldn’t wait to design my new office when we built our new house. Light fixtures, paint for the walls, art work, you name it, I thought it all out. I even painted my own magnetic chalk board on the wall.  You can’t work effectively if your “office”  is the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of your bedroom.  You need a room designated just for you and your work. Approach your work-from-home office professionally. Make it a quiet workspace, with ergonomic seating, proper office tools good  software, computer equipment, and good lighting. Your office doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, but does need to be comfortable for long work hours.

2: Let Your Body Move To The Music!

NO TV! You’re in control here. My music is set to automatically mute when my phone rings, so clients can’t hear it.  Music personally makes me more productive. I listen to a lot of Spa and Feng Shui type music while I work, which keeps me in a peaceful state of mind. Figure out what works for you. You might work better to Metallica, but again, you’re in control of the tunes!

3: Keep Set Hours!

I am not productive in the mornings. I’m just not, never have been and don’t pretend to be. To most peoples standards, I sleep in late. I get up at the same time everyday, but it’s usually around 8:30 and I am in front of my computer by 9am. I am horrible about taking breaks and most of my breakfast and lunch meals are eaten at my desk, which is what NOT to do. I think this is incredibly important. Take breaks, and take a normal lunch like people with “real jobs” take. Also, I work well into late evening hours, which after the first of the year I am determined to try and break. Close of business is when I need to punch out and close my office door.

4: Talk To Real Humans!

Spending the whole day in front of a computer where you only talk to people via Facebook, Twitter, IM, Phone, and Email is not real social interaction. It’s good to get out and take a break, or actually shower, dress and go see a client from time to time or hit that networking event you keep meaning to get to. You do need to keep your social skills up since you’re not surrounded by co-workers to keep up on them. A serious hazard for home workers is isolating yourself, but that comes along with the territory. Ideas come from many different places, but they mainly come from interacting with real live people.

5: Dress To Impress For The 30 Second Commute?

Not me. Even showering is optional. Most “experts” say that you should dress professionally so your mindset is right, I disagree. Part of my perks on getting to work from home, is my comfort level. As I sit writing this article I’m still in my Victoria’s Secret flannel PJs. I’m super comfortable which makes me more productive in my mind. If I wanted to get all dressed up and do my hair and make up to look socially acceptable, I’d get a “real job”.  My computer screen doesn’t care what I look like, and video chatting with clients will never be an option in this office. 🙂

Let me know what works for you if you are among the lucky ones like me who get to work from home!


10 things you should know about Word 2010’s mail merge tools

1: Know your data

The best place to start for any mail merge process is with a clean data list. If you’re new to the data game, or you aren’t the one responsible for keeping track of your donor or customer list, that may be an unfamiliar task. The list of data you use — which could include names, addresses, products, donations, and more — may be stored in an Excel worksheet, an Access table, a text file, or even an Outlook contacts list. Word can use data from a wide variety of sources, so don’t worry — you’ll get to import the data in the next step. But before you begin the merge process, look at the data to see what the fields are (First Name, Last Name, Product, for example) and get an idea of the fields you’re likely to use in the merge process. This will help you later when you create your letter.

2: Start your merge document

When you’re ready to create the document you want to merge the data into, you have a couple of options. You can use one of Word’s merge templates (click the New tab in Backstage view and type merge in the Search Office.com Templates box; then press [Enter]) or create a new blank document where you can add the desired text and fields. If you start with a template, you can use the fields that are already in place when you merge your data. If you start from scratch, you’ll need to add your own fields to the document (which you will do in step 6).

Figure A

Some templates already have merge fields entered for you.

3: Think output

Word gives you a range of choices for the type of merge document you want to create. Click the Mailings tab and then click Start Mail Merge to see your choices. The first choice, Letters, is the most common, but you can also create labels, envelopes, email messages, and even a directory you can use for an employee roster, a product listing, a course catalog, or something else that fits your needs (Figure B).

Figure B

Begin the process by choosing the type of document you want to create.

A few versions of Word ago, the developers-that-be introduced the Mail Merge Wizard — to the relief of many users. The wizard walks you through the whole merge process step by step. If you’d like to use the wizard, click Start Mail Merge and click Step By Step Mail Merge Wizard. The wizard appears in the task pane on the right side of your document and leads you through choosing the document type, selecting recipients, customizing your list, adding fields, and producing the output. If you choose not to use the wizard, read on.

4: Import your list

Once you select the type of output you want to create, you’re ready to add your data. You can add the information you want to merge with your document by typing it directly into Word, importing a list of existing data, or adding data from your Outlook contacts. Click Select Recipients in the Mailings tab and then choose the option that fits what you want to do. If you choose Type New List, a dialog box appears so that you can add new addresses and contact info. If you select Use Existing List, the Select Data Source dialog box appears, so that you can select the file containing the information you want to add. If you choose Select From Outlook Contacts, a dialog box appears so that you can choose the address list you want to use.

If you’re adding data from an existing file, click the Data Sources arrow in the bottom-right corner of the Select Data Source dialog box and select the file type you want to use (Figure C). Click the file and then click Open to add the file to the Word merge process.

Figure C

Choose the type of data file you want to import by clicking the Data Sources arrow in the Select Data Source dialog box.

If the data file you add to Word includes more than one data table, Word will prompt you to choose the table containing the data you want to add. Click OK to import the data for Word to use in the merge.

5: Include only the info you want

Now you can choose the data you want to include in the document. That’s one of the great things about the Word merge process — you can import your data list as it is and then use only the elements you need. Choose the data you want to include by clicking the Mailings tab and clicking Edit Recipient List. In the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, you can sort, filter, and select the data you want to be included in the merge (Figure D).

Figure D

Use the options in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box to choose the data you want to include.

6: Use ready-made fields

Another way Word can help you customize your merge document is by adding ready-made fields to your document. You’ll find a collection of fields in the Write & Insert Fields group in the Mailings tab. Click Address Block to add a set of address fields to the document or click Greeting Line to add a salutation. Click Insert Merge Field to insert one of the fields from the data file you’ve imported in the document.

7: Match fields to get the right data in the right place

You can tell Word which fields to map to specific merge fields in your document by using the Match Fields tool in the Write & Insert Fields group in the Mailings tab. To match a field, click Match Fields. Then, in the Match Fields dialog box, click the arrow of the field you want to match and select the field in your data file that you want to match to the Word field name. You can do this as many times as you need to in order to match all the fields you want to include. If you plan to use this data file regularly in different merges, click the Remember This Matching For This Data Source On This Computer check box to save the settings. Click OK to save your changes.

8: Inserting data conditionally

If you have a conditional nature to the merge you’re performing — for example, if you want to include one phrase if a customer purchased Product A, but a different phrase if the customer purchased Product B, you can use the If…Then…Else rule to set that up. Click Rules in the Write & Insert Fields group on the Mailings tab and click If…Then…Else. Choose the field name and the comparison setting (for instance, Equal To or Not Equal To) and then choose the data you want the field value to be compared with. For this example, you might choose the Product field, select Equal To as the comparison setting, and enter Product A as the Compare To value. In the text boxes, enter the text you want to be displayed if the Product field does show Product A, as well as the text to be displayed if the value is not Product A.

9: Preview the merge

After you finalize the data settings and rules you want to use, you’re ready to take a look at the merge in real time. To preview the merge, simply click Preview Results in the Mailings tab. Click Next Record and Previous Record to page through the different documents. Look for a specific recipient by clicking Find Recipient and entering the recipient’s name in the Find box and click Find Next. Click Auto Check for Errors to ensure that nothing will hang you up in the real merge. You can simulate the merge and check for errors at the same time, merge the files but elect to be prompted at each error so you can fix the problem, or finish the merge and receive a report of all errors at the end so you can go back through and deal with any problems that occurred. The first time or two you do this, you may want to choose the simulation option so you know how to correct the errors in the merge before you need to do it live. This can save time and trouble — and headaches — when you’re working with a huge merge project.

10: Wrap it up

Finally, you’re ready to accomplish the goal you’ve been heading for all along: printing those documents, sending those email messages, or creating a set of documents you can save and file or edit and send. Use the Finish & Merge tool in the Finish group on the Mailings tab to accomplish this last step. When you choose Edit Individual Documents, the Merge Documents dialog box asks you to choose which records you want to merge. The merged documents are placed in a new Word file, ready for you to save. The Print Documents selection displays the Merge To Printer dialog box so that you can choose the records you want to print. Just enter your settings and click OK to send the files to the printer. The last option, Send E-mail Messages, displays the Merge To E-mail dialog box, which enables you to choose the recipients, select the format for the message, and then choose your records and click OK to send.

Author: Katherine Murray