I am working with a fantastic team of communicators at the University of Washington, COVID-19 Consultancy through the Communication Leadership Program. We are offering pro-bono communication consulting to nonprofits and small businesses in need. We are here to help you survive and thrive during this pandemic. Interested in finding out more? Sign up for our free half-hour consultation and let us help you during this critical time.
As every small business owner knows, it is important to stay connected to your customers. With Covid-19, that has become a challenge, especially if you were not prepared for this sudden transition to social distancing.
As a small business consultant, I’ve been getting questions about what tools I suggest for easing into an online existence. I decided to put together a few free resources to get you over the technology hurdle of engaging with your clients, staying connected to your income, and most of all, keeping your sanity intact.
Free Meeting Scheduler
I cannot stress how valuable it is to have your clients set their own meeting times without having to interact with you directly. It is a huge time saver. It means less back and forth emails, and availability for more clients. It means setting up your schedule to include sanity breaks for lunch, walking your dog, or simply sitting and staring into space.
The easiest way to set up free online scheduling on your website is with Setmore. I like it because it integrates with all of the platforms I use the most: Facebook, Instagram, Slack, Google Calendar, Office 365, Weebly, and Square.
Setmore has a clean, easy design. It provides auto-notifications and reminders, which means I never miss a meeting. Clients and customers are able to reschedule if necessary, so they never miss a meeting. It also allows you to collect payments upfront, which can bring important revenue to your business.
If you use a Facebook Business Page as your website, you can use the free appointment scheduler they offer. Check here for the handy guide on getting it set up on your Facebook Business Page today.
For online meetings, it is important to use a service that won’t leave you frozen on the screen. Zoom is by far the best video conferencing service I’ve used. It’s free and unlimited for one on one meetings, or free for forty minutes with up to 100 participants.
Participants can choose to call in or use the video chat function instantly, or at a scheduled meetup time. It allows each participant to share their desktop, application, or screen. It also has a texting function if you need to mention things without interrupting the speaker.
Zoom also allows you to schedule a meeting directly from Google Calendar or Office 365. Once you sign up for Zoom, download the extension you need and you’ll be ready to face to face, or face to ear, right from your calendar.
Track Your Time
As a consultant, one of the easiest ways to lose revenue is by forgetting to pay attention to your time when talking with clients. Now that people are relegated to working from home, it’s helpful to have a consistent account of how you spend your workday; for yourself, for your clients, or for your boss.
A great free service for tracking time is Toggl. Toggl has a clean, easy to use interface that is multi-functional. You can set billable rates and track in real-time, manually, or with calendar integrations. You can start the timer on your phone while on a walk, and then turn it off on your desktop when you get home. Toggl allows you to create instant reports for your time - perfect for attaching to those client invoices or to make your boss happy.
In this time of global pandemic weirdness, it turns out technology may be a bit of a savior. Working remotely shouldn’t be a scary endeavor for you, for your business, or for your client base. These free services are just a few of the many available, but they are little life-lines for me, and for my mental health.
© Susan MacLaren, 2019
We women business owners are the lifeblood of the American economy. We transform the way people work, we solve problems, we boost job growth, and we are the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Since 1976, the year I was born, the number of women-owned businesses has increased from roughly 400,000 to over 12.3 million in 2018. Between 2017 and 2018, roughly 1,821 new women-owned businesses were created per day.
In The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, author Amy Edmondson explores businesses that create environments where creativity and ingenuity can thrive. Edmondson dives deep into work culture where fear is driven out and replaced by interpersonal risk taking, open communication, and the permission to take ownership of the work we do.
Taking ownership was precisely the reason I started my small business. After years of working for others, I felt a strong desire to create a work situation where I could be fully present, engaged, and candid with clients who sought out my skills and expertise. It is important that my input is valued, and that I create authentic working relationships with people who recognize the importance of voicing ideas, questions, and concerns.
Women face many challenges in a typical work environment. We are often tasked with work chores such as coffee fetching, note taking, or cleaning. Our voices go unheard, our ideas get co-opted, and we are routinely passed over for promotions and leadership positions. It is not uncommon to feel uncomfortable or under-appreciated for the values we bring.
Starting a small business allows women to develop a leadership identity which can help foster a dedicated sense of purpose. It requires that you look outside of the status quo to find an opportunity that aligns with your personal values, and pursue it despite your fears and insecurities. It enables women to set their own schedules, to be paid fairly and equitably, and to be in control of choosing who they work with, and for how long.
Being fearless is at the core of small business ownership. It requires a certain amount of risk taking, learning on the fly, and direct communication to navigate the world on our own. Most importantly, we get to create a trusting environment that brings out the best in each person, creates meaningful exchanges, and allows us to take pride in the work we do. Who wouldn’t want that?
The 2018 State of Women Owned Businesses Report, American Express.
Edmondson, Amy C. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018.
Musings, a bit of sarcasm, and things I find interesting.