How to Handle Rapacious Clients in an Already Busy Workplace

July 29, 2009

Overworked

[Disclaimer: This is a repost of an article originally from WebWorkerDaily. For the original article click here]

Being a web worker can mean learning to handle many facets of running a small business, including dealing with difficult clients, which can often be one of the biggest frustrations that come with the territory.

But how do you know if your clients are abusing you? Here are a few telltale signs and tips for how to fix and avoid these situations.

The work keeps creeping in. Scope creep is the bane of many freelancers’ lives. You start with one description of what is to be done and end up doing something entirely different, or something that’s way more involved than the original task.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Have a contract and a clear and agreed-upon scope and schedule for each and every phase or project. Outline exactly what is to be done and when it’s due.

The client expects immediate responses or complete availability. Occasionally, you’ll come across clients who want 100 percent undivided attention. They expect emails to be responded to within an hour and work to be completed at an unrealistic pace.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Set expectations from the start. Explain when you’re available to clients, how quickly you tend to reply to communications, and how you prefer to communicate. You may also wish to explain how you work. For example, do you generally devote a set amount of time to each project or client per day? If so, explain this to clients up front so that they know what to expect.

The client expects to be able to chat with you frequently. Some clients prefer to communicate by phone, others expect to chitchat at the start of each call, and occasionally, you’ll even find those who expect to have multiple calls per day. In any case, these clients can be a serious drain on your time, making it next to impossible to stay on schedule with your work.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Make it part of your policy to limit phone communications altogether. It may seem harsh, but phone calls and excessive meetings are actually counterproductive. Keep all phone calls to 15 minutes or less and require all calls to be scheduled in advance. Finally, let clients know your preferred communication methods so that they know what to expect.

The client frequently goes back and forth over decisions or nitpicks with minor changes. When a client is indecisive, it can make working with him a nightmare. He wants things one way one minute, the complete opposite the next. Round and round you go, until you are completely confused and way outside of the original scope.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Clearly specify the number of revisions that are included in the project, as well as the deadlines for each set of revisions. Then communicate frequently about pending deadlines so that clients understand that they must turn in all changes by that point and that any subsequent changes will fall within the next set of revisions or will require additional revisions (at a predetermined and contracted rate).

The client expects free consulting and advice. Many times, this type of client has “friends” working on things for him or her for free, so if you hear this hint early on, you might want to consider this a red flag and run the other way. Unfortunately, it’s quite common to come across bargain hunters, so you’ll have to be firm and stick to your guns if you don’t want your bottom line to suffer.

How to Fix/Avoid It: Again, the contract and scope can be a real lifesaver here. If you clearly outline what’s included in a project or job (including the number of phone calls), it will be much harder for clients to negotiate freebies.

By preparing for these common situations in advance, you can often avoid them altogether, saving yourself time, profit and sanity. Put your policies in place and then stick to them without fail so that your clients know exactly what to expect.

How do you handle difficult clients? What techniques do you use to stay on track

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The Approach of Web 3.0 – What Is It? and What Can You Do?

July 28, 2009

In case you didn’t know that there were different design iterations of the internet, there are, and we’re approaching number 3. So what is Web 3.0? Well to understand the newest form of the Internet, you have to understand how it’s evolved over time. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll rely on how Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the web-browser) describes the Internet. Essentially, Web 1.0 was the read-only web in which content was created and produced by a small group of people. Web 2.0 (the current iteration) is the read-write web. With tools like blogs and social media, Web 2.0 gave us a huge influx of user-created content.

Web 3.0 is more like the read-write-execute web. This is known by a number of different names, such as semantic web, ubiquitous computing (sometimes called “everyware” – now that’s a good pun), or cloud computing. There are really 3 major points to Web 3.0:

User Created Software: In web 3.0 we have tools which make it simple for users to craft and execute their own software and programs.

Electronic Browsing: Web 3.0 also contains the notion of more organized content, perhaps through content-tagging. Put more simply, the web thus far has been designed for readability by people. With web 3.0, content is more easily automatically browsed by computers, making it easier for systems to function through the internet. This makes the web more like a database, and allows for non-browser applications. Leading us to our next point:

Integration with Devices and Hardware: The combination of numerous applications and algorithmic browsability by computer makes web 3.0 the first iteration of the internet that will become truly integrated with our everyday lives beyond the computer screen. We already see basic forms of this, such as video streamed from a computer to a tv, or the picture frames which display a slideshow from an online photo album. Now imagine this in more complex applications, such as a refrigerator which knows when you run out of a certain kind of food and sends an order to a online grocery delivery service. Or even just imagine being able to control everything that plugs into a wall in your house from a single screen. The possibilities are very nearly endless. With enough creativity, one can look at the various objects in any given room and think about how it could benefit from an internet connection.

Other Benefits

There a number of other benefits which should greatly increase the overall user experience with the web. For example, with all the Internet properly organized, the user is provided with a much more meaningful search. If your input is specific enough and what you’re searching for exists, you should be able to immediately find it. And because of the connectivity with hardware, you should be able to search through every existing electronic database. This has become known as “semantic search”. Besides search, there’s also the idea of being constantly “plugged in”. The internet could follow every step of your life. Imagine instead of just seeing ads on facebook based on which groups you’ve joined, seeing ads on tv based on what you just bought at the store. The applications for this technology are endless. To quote the Wall Street journal, “From using easy gestures to grab any piece of information from the Web to having powerful computers in the palm of your hand to being able to quickly dip into complex social networks to getting real-time information from across the globe as it happens, Web 3.0 is an era when computing could become as integrated and invisible as electricity and just as important.”

How Can I Be On The Forefront?

As a business-person it’s crucial to stay on top of every development in the ever-changing landscape of the internet. Web 3.0 is coming about bit-by-bit, we won’t all be downloading the big upgrade from our suddenly outdated web 2.0 anytime soon. So you have time to update your technology and strategy along with the development of the internet. Almost any business has a way they could integrate their hardware with the newest forms of the internet. For example, perhaps you could employ GPS-tagging, something applicable to location-based services such as anyone who ships packages. Bar-code enabled content would be another forward-thinking step. Essentially the goal of all this is to make you and your products more semantically searchable. Currently this is all might be speculative thinking, and the development comes through people acting on that speculation, by innovating and integrating. The best tip here is to be creative when it comes to applications of the Internet and in doing so, be on the cutting edge of the web.

If you want to brainstorm some possibilities together, please contact us info@outofchaos.com


Social Media Marketing: How to Convert Browsers Into Buyers

July 20, 2009

An integrated social media marketing strategy does a few key things for any business which uses it effectively.

  1. Increases Brand Visibility
  2. Improves Customer Loyalty
  3. Helps you gain insights on the markets you serve

There are a number of directions from which to approach the idea of social media marketing. A number of different retailers have shown through example the effectiveness of these different approaches. Here are a few of the ways you can get your company into social media.

  • Facebook
    • Applications
    • Sponsored Groups
  • Myspace Pages
  • Second Life E-Stores
  • Youtube/Video Podcasts
  • Online Communities
  • Flikr Marketing
  • Twitter Updates
  • Viral Microsites

For a list of retailers who have tried out these strategies, check out this list

But the question remains, how does one not only use social media, but use it effectively to convert customers? Well the mistake sellers often make is seeing social media as simply another selling platform. The truth is that social media is much more analogous to the “word-of-mouth” marketing which all retailers know so well. In the real world, word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t work if the person talking about your business appears to be a salesman trying to push your product down the customers throat. The idea is to create an honest, non-invasive connection between your company and your customers. Things like blogs and twitter are effective because they give your company a face for the public to interact with. This in turn can create a community, a loyal cadre of repeat customers, increasing your conversion rate. One of the cornerstones of web marketing is that a community of repeat viewers is infinitely more valuable than a large group of one time visitors.

Essentially, the key to selling through social marketing is to establish a connection between your product and your consumer. Social Media is meant to foster more than just a commercial relationship between producer and consumer. For example, check out this Zappos’ Blog. This is a good example of a blog created around niche retail products. Zappos is selling products, but they give the impression of working with the customer, helping them find the best products. Most of all they foster conversation, both between them and their customers and among the customers themselves. All of this creates an active buying community. In a lot of ways, social media marketing is about getting the consumers and producers involved. In order to market effectively through your customers, work together with them. Social Media is about cooperation. If done right, that cooperation could work to your benefit.

Some reference articles: Read the rest of this entry »


Balancing Website Design and SEO: How To Make A Good Website Work For You

July 10, 2009

One thing that every web-marketer is constantly conscious of is its position on the major search engines, most notably Google and Yahoo. While search engine optimization (SEO) can be an important tool for a marketer’s back pocket, it’s also crucial to consider one’s priorities when marketing online. Basically, you should be asking yourself, do I want a website lots of people are going to see, or do I want a good website that those people are going to want to buy from? A large portion of web developers and marketers make the mistake of overemphasizing SEO while losing focus on the functionality and conversion potential of their site. In a retail sense, this is the equivalent of having a flashy and attractive sign outside the store, with a bare, unappealing, and unorganized interior.

The most common mistake in this area is designers sacrificing use of coding systems other than HTML, as HTML is the easiest for Google’s bot to crawl and analyze. However systems like Flash, CSS, AJAX, and more, while used intelligently and not overbearingly can really spruce up the appeal of your site, making customers more likely to make purchases. Even more problematic is when a web-developer is creating content on a site with more concern for the inclusion of high-return keywords rather than actual quality content.

Omniture, Inc., an online business optimization firm released their “Conversion Optimization Benchmark Survey” this week. The survey is designed to

…offer online marketers best practices in on-site conversion and an opportunity to gain insight about how their online marketing efforts compare to industry peers.

Essentially, the survey helps web-marketers by focusing on monitoring conversion events on your Web site and identifying areas of weakness and strength.

Omniture’s SVP of Marketing, Gale Ennis says,

Industry research indicates that for every $92 spent online to acquire site traffic or build awareness, only $1 is spent to proactively convert this traffic

As a business attempting to not only market, but sell on and through the internet, it’s vital to understand that exposure is a means to an end, not the end itself. Where is your money coming from? It’s through the conversion of potential customers into paying customers through the concrete appeal of your website. Still, don’t take that to mean that SEO should be entirely disregarded. It’s necessary to attract those customers in the first place. The savvy web-marketer will find a way to balance their design and functionality with their SEO, truly optimizing the business potential of their website.

And as always, an article for reference.


Is Google Wave The Future Of The Social Internet?

July 7, 2009

If you haven’t heard of Google Wave, prepare to find out a lot more about it in the coming year. So what is it? 

Google Wave is a real-time communication platform. It combines aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management to build one elegant, in-browser communication client.

The Big Deal

Communication Consolidation: What’s amazing about Wave is that it takes every social media platform you’ve used separately since social media first came into public use and consolidates them in real-time. All your communications with individuals is tracked across every platform imaginable like AIM, email, twitter, and facebook and combined into a “wave”.

Really Real-Time: By real-time, they mean really real-time; you can see exactly what someone else is typing, character by character.

Communication History Playback: Waves are also continuous and essentially infinite. You will be able to look back through the entire history of your consolidated conversations with any individual since your initial implementation of Wave. You can also playback any part of a wave if you wish. You can see how this would be useful for business interactions.

Drag-and-Drop File Sharing: Wave also has drag-and-drop file sharing, attachments are a thing of the past.

Open For Development: Wave is completely open source and developers can build things akin to facebook apps, bots, and games within waves.

Embedability: In a way, this may be one of the most exciting features of Wave, when combined with its other functions. Waves can be embedded in any third party website. Right now, Google is working on implementing Wave with Youtube. This could mean that the dynamic and active waves could replace the static comments we’re used to. Overall, waves could have a huge effect as far as creating and invigorating communities.

What Does Wave Mean For Our Current Social Media Sites?

One might worry that this signals the end for communication platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Email, and IM, but I don’t think that’s the case. Google isn’t looking to supplant your traditional communication mediums. Instead, it’s looking to improve them by making them work together. The prospect of carrying a conversation across all those mediums in an organized thread is an exciting thing. If Wave is a success, it could be a look into the future of our internet communication, where all the pieces we’ve been working with are finally fit together. If you’re in business and want to stay on top of the next potential encompassing communication platform, then stay on top of the Wave. Here’s an article for reference and Google’s own Preview Video.


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