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The One Thing I’ve Been Failing At In 2021

I haven’t been blogging…or podcasting…or video blogging here on my own blog. Well, that’s really three things but they are all related to the one master concept: blogging.

Yes, that’s it. I’ve been slacking on blogging. I’m a WordPress consultant. I’ve trained so many others on how to blog for success and I’ve personally been invested in the power of WordPress, the most popular content management system in the world, for over 19-years. But I haven’t been utilizing my own blog, which is sitting here dormant for a few years now waiting for me to resurface and add to it. To give it some love. To fill it with the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained over the years so that it can share the deep insights and experiences I’ve accumulated with anyone who cares to drop by for a read.

I’ve failed to keep up.

Why haven’t I been blogging on my own website? Well, it’s for a number of reasons.

I could say I haven’t been blogging because I’m so busy, right? Sure, I launched my first freemium WordPress plugin, Radio Station PRO, in August. At the same time, I maintain a few client sites through my WordPress consulting practice, Digital Strategy Works. And after taking a year-long break from small business coaching, I rejoined the coaching program at Mountain BizWorks, an awesome nonprofit community lender here in Asheville.

I have also been interviewing for full-time positions while co-parenting our 7-year old son who entered first grade this year. I started interviewing in August with some of the positions taking over 5-weeks to go from resumé submission to final decision. I’d say there were probably around 100 emails and 25 zoom calls. Crafting resumés for multiple jobs also takes a lot of time. But WordPress consultant and Liquid Web’s Chris Lema is also pretty busy, yet he’s found the time to write a post on his blog every day in 2021.

While I’ve recently been contributing content to our Radio Station PRO blog, that’s a bit different than what I should be doing here, which is writing about my experiences – whether that be with WordPress, my clients, or things I discover at random I should share with you – the reader.

But being busy isn’t the only reason for not blogging. Sometimes writing is hard. First, you have to think of something to write. Then you have to craft your prose in a somewhat intelligent and meaningful way while also filling it with details you think the reader will embrace and digest. You also have to edit yourself, like I’ve done to this post over the few hours it’s taken me to write it (while also being interrupted by our 7-year old on a few occasions). You have to do it again and again on a daily basis if that’s the goal. And, writer’s block is certainly a constant. Questioning what you write, when you write it, and why is constantly in the back of my mind, for sure.

In a recent post, “Five Habits That Will Make You Smarter,” Chris Lema writes:

The hardest part is thinking clearly. Having a single idea that you want to share and be helpful all at the same time.” We’re five days from the end of the year and Chris has thought about that single idea every day and executed on it. How is it that he can do it and you or I cannot?

Chris Lema

Well, I can’t beat myself up about it, because Chris and I are two different people. It’s common for all of us to look at what others are doing on social media or as bloggers and podcasters and think, “Wow, why can’t I be like that person? Why can’t I churn out great content like that every day? I want to be just as interesting and thoughtful, but it’s so hard when I’ve got so much to do.”

I reflect back to the moment my Organizational Behavior instructor at New York University wrote this on the blackboard:

“You’re perception is your reality.”

We have the propensity to look at what others are doing and measure ourselves against the quality of the content they produce, the effort they put forward, or the time they spend. But we all have our own lives and face daily challenges that others do not. There are only so many hours in a day, there are always conversations to be had and work to be done, and there are always fires to put out. That’s just how my life is. But it also gives me a signal that if I do want to publish more often, I need to take the time and the effort, which means taking from somewhere else.

I’m a DJ, a coach, a Managing Partner, a consultant, and a husband and father. That’s a lot to fit on my weekly calendar.

I know I am constantly interrupted by things I cannot control every day, so it’s a wonder that Chris is able to pull off writing a blog post daily for 365 days straight. I really don’t know how he does it, but I’m sure once he got started doing it, he figured out how to create a formula for success.

And that’s what I struggle with – a formula for success. Formulas require ingredients. Ingredients are the structure of formulas. Without a structure, you can’t create a formula. We want to structure our days with the ingredients that are the recipe for our formulas, but sometimes life throws at you stuff you just can’t control to interrupt your workflow, impact your progress, and break your formula.

For example, because we’re practicing social distancing over the last two years and many of us aren’t able to socialize in crowded spaces or have parties in our houses without risking someone getting sick, my wife is asked me not to DJ online on Saturday nights, which meant switching to another day.

My goal was to switch my house music mix show I do for the Asheville House Music Society from Saturday nights from 9 to 11 to Thursday mornings from 11 to 1. But that effort is disrupted by the interview process and client work. I haven’t been able to do a mix show for a few months now. It’s disappointing, but I’ll have to figure out another time once things clear up, because they’re a little messy at the moment.

And during the holidays, our son is off from school for two full weeks. His friend who lives next door is in Hungary for the holidays visiting family and at the same time her parents needed to renew a work visa, so playdates are few and far between while yet another resurgence of Covid forces parents to rethink putting our children in any group childcare setting.

When you have a young child, you are their world for the most part and that is especially true now. Parenting during Covid requires an immense amount of attention to your little ones. They are not yet fully self-reliant and it requires hours of working with them for everything from brushing teeth and taking a shower before bed to finding crafting opportunities or taking them somewhere for outdoor play to get their energy out. It’s a constant struggle to find alone time for yourself to get what you need to get accomplished.

I used to bring our son to the local YMCA where he could go for three hours after school, but since we canceled our membership because of Covid, it’s no longer an option. The hours in the day get sliced up by the hour-long roundtrips to school each morning and afternoon.

Then there’s social audio on Clubhouse and video introductions through LunchClub or JoinBonsai, which is my favorite random meeting app of the moment. With everything I’ve got going on, my idea to launch weekly social audio chats about WordPress and house music has fallen by the wayside. I’ve been able to manage calls on both of these new video introduction services, but I have to limit it to once a week, which means I need to pick between them. Since I know the founders of JoinBonsai, that’s the platform of choice I’ll be committing to for the time being. But what does limiting your networking end up doing in the meantime? It might mean fewer opportunities, for sure.

When I was single, it was much easier to self-isolate and get what I needed to get done. I didn’t have a wife and son who needed me to be a husband and a parent. Because my wife has a permanent partial disability and our son is on 32 Duracell batteries of energy every day, it requires me to be much more active in his life than most working fathers are.My wife also has her own small business, to which I contribute digital strategy and web development hours to. When I’m doing that, I’m not doing something else.

I also launched Radio Station PRO in August. Bringing a WordPress plugin to market requires a commitment, as well. There’s product development, project management, and customer support. Since we don’t have a big marketing budget, I’m also doing 1-to-1 sales and business development working through lists of radio stations in the U.S. and abroad. List building is time-consuming, for sure. My development partner is in Australia. He’s available after U.S. business hours, so that puts me squarely into working late nights or very early mornings because of the time difference.

While I relish the time spent with our son playing multiple sports, riding our bikes on the single-track trails or greenways in our area, it whittles down the hours that I can spend on my work. Pair all that with Covid and you can quickly see between coaching and consulting, building Radio Station PRO, and Covid-era parenting of a 7-year old that requires a huge amount of time. So much so, that I’ve been failing at blogging and podcasting on my own site.

So, what do I do now? The only thing I can do is to make blogging part of my regimen again and be patient with it. I’m not going to get to a post a day. Not sure I’m even going to get to a post a week, but I need to start somewhere. And to prep for that somewhere, I started posting to Twitter every day.

Building followers on Twitter is not like building followers on Facebook. On Twitter, far more people are invested in discussions around shared interests without having to join groups. Twitter is kind of an open sea that Facebook and LinkedIn are not. You get both their work and personal insights, which used to happen on Facebook, but not so much nowadays. And, unlike LinkedIn, you can always try and open up a conversation with anyone on Twitter. If they are active on Twitter daily, then they’re going to be far more responsive to your approach than folks on LinkedIn, many of whom are members but not actively posting or networking through the service. While this is changing slightly, it’s not enough to rely on. Twitter is fast becoming my go-to network to build followers and connections. Yes, there’s Instagram too, but for conversations, Twitter is where it’s at.

On Facebook, people seem to love posts about my life and my family, but few – if any – respond to posts about my work. Facebook Groups are where work-related stuff happens and they tend to be siloed. Your personality doesn’t shine through like on Twitter, where my followers seem to be interested in both my work and my life. Kind of strange that’s the case, but because it’s always open and public, Twitter has different work and play feel to it missing from my Facebook wall.

Posting to Twitter daily is now part of my recipe. It’s one ingredient in the formula. But I have to add back blogging, video, and podcasting to this space. Two years ago, I created WordPress for Small Biz, which is a video blog speaking WordPress to Small Business owners. Right now, that site sits dormant, as well. I wonder if I’ll get back to it because it’s a great idea, but I have to choose my battles carefully and invest in the ones that make sense.

Lastly, not only do I have to do it to express myself and share my wisdom and valuable insights, but I also need to get far more familiar with the new block editor in WordPress. One can’t be a good WordPress consultant if you aren’t using the latest and greatest tools.

For these posts, I’m now fully embracing the block editor (I refuse to call it Gutenberg anymore as that ship has sailed) and shifting away from the Classic editor, which will force me to learn and adopt the new tools in WordPress as the platform transitions into a full-site editing suite. I recently finished two client sites and have pushed upon them the benefits of getting uncomfortable by going with the block editor and leaving the Classic editor behind.

The point I hope I’ve made in this post is, it’s easy to beat ourselves up over what we think we’re not accomplishing. It’s true – your perception is your reality. What’s true for you is only true for you at this moment. It’s not the reality for anyone else around you.

People seem to think I’m a genius and I’m amazing at what I do – that’s especially true for my wife who is my biggest fan. But I’m very hard on myself because I have goals I want to achieve and dreams I want to live out. When those things are impacted, I get frustrated and am not as patient as I should be. As a solopreneur, I only have myself to rely on. I’m responsible for my own income and when that income is impacted by interruptions in my life, I’m probably a little hard to be around.

I think being honest about that will help those who read this post identify with the same life issues I face and, at the very least, give some comfort that it’s not only you who goes through these trials and tribulations. Despite the content creators who wow us in social media and on the web with their output, all we can do is be ourselves and create what we’re capable of. If we take it one day at a time today and put in place the ingredients to our recipe, then we’ll build the framework we want not over hours and days, but months and years and that’s okay too.

Do what you can and don’t much worry about what everyone else is doing, because it’s only going to make you feel inferior. If that’s how see yourself, it’s not what others see in you. Just take it one day at a time, like I’m doing right now. Find some time somewhere and sit down and produce something. Find the success in that one thing and then start replicating it when you can. No one is monitoring you but yourself. No one is expecting you to do so but yourself and share with them your truth, so they understand and can support you when you’re feeling insecure about what you’re not accomplishing today.

I beat myself up daily about what I’m not getting done, but I have to remember that raising our son the way we do today will lead to better outcomes for him tomorrow.

Everything else can wait.

Stock photo from of stack of polaroid photos

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Must-Have Tech that Can Save Your Small Business Money

The evolution of technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. More and more tech that once was relegated to larger enterprises is becoming readily available to small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Some of that tech may not be necessary for small businesses, but some of it can improve business operations so much — and save companies enough money in the process — that it can’t be ignored. If you’re a small business owner, here are some of the most critical tech options to consider for your company.

Security Software

First of all, with more technology becoming available, it means that companies are at greater risk of falling victim to cybercrime, which can prove financially crippling to a small business. One of the most important things your company can do is invest in security software.

Some of the things to look for are:

You can find much of the security tech you need — and a plethora of other important tech and electronic products — at various retailers. Also, you can save some serious dough by looking on their websites for daily deals and checking for coupons before you shop.

In addition to purchasing the right kinds of software, there are physical steps you can implement to protect your company from cybercrime, such as:

  • Limiting employee access to certain information and resources
  • Requiring employees to change all work-related passwords every three months
  • Making backup copies of essential company data and information each week
  • Developing a security policy and training employees to follow security practices

New and Improved Smartphone

Getting a new phone might not seem like a good money-saving option at first, but it can benefit your business and help you save money on resources and equipment in the long run. You’ll likely want to keep up with emails and video calls at times when you’re not at your desk, as well as utilize the apps that are necessary for your business. With the right smartphone, you’ll be able to stay on top of all your tasks on the go. When shopping for a phone, stick with necessities like reliability and an easy-to-navigate screen, and avoid the bells and whistles to save money. There are always a variety of current models available with different features at different price points, so do some comparison shopping before making a final decision.

Telecommuting Tools

These days, a lot of people work from home at least part of the time. In fact, companies can save on office space and other expenses by hiring remote workers. To make your operations efficient with remote workers, however, you need the right tools in place. Be sure to get all the video conferencing software and collaboration tools for your business to run effectively.

Customer Relationship Management Software

Another important tech option to implement as a business owner is customer relationship management (CRM) software. This includes applications that do anything from analyzing data to automating customer interactions to observing customer behavior and recommending certain products/services to them. CRM software can help your company build and manage customer relationships, thus ultimately improving sales.

Point-of-Sale System

Customers now expect a faster and more seamless checkout experience than ever before. Actually, many people will lose patience and decide to look elsewhere for an item if they have to stand in line for too long or fill out a lot of information before their purchase goes through. Investing in a quality point-of-sale (POS) system can help to simplify and speed up the checkout process for your customers. Additionally, a POS system can even make it easier for you to keep up with sales and manage inventory.

Along with getting a good POS system, make sure your customers don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops when buying a product. Have you ever gone to buy something on a website only to be met with pages of questions and requirements before you can pay? It can be frustrating, and it defeats the purpose of shopping online. Don’t require users to create an account before purchasing something, and you’ll lower your shopping cart abandonment rates.

Web Developers

Having the right team to back your web presence can boost your business and prevent frustration down the line. Building a website yourself can be easy with the right tools and templates, but a stellar website is what’s going to drive traffic to your business. The best way to achieve this is by hiring outside freelancers who know how to do the job well. For example, HTML5 freelancers specialize in utilizing the latest HTML language to design your website and deliver content (including audio and video) on your website or mobile app. Hourly pay varies for HTML5 developers, but you’ll likely find a pay range of $20 to $125.

Not all the tech that’s out there can help your small business right now, but some of it is downright essential. So, do your research and consider investing in security software, telecommuting tools, CRM software, a POS system, and a new smartphone. These tech options will help your business move forward in a rapidly changing environment.

Photo Credit: Burst

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First, web browsers do not render 300 dpi, so for all you photo fanatics out there, stop uploading uncompressed 300 dpi images to your media library. A browser renders only 72 dpi regardless of the resolution of your images. Yep, I know it reduces image quality, but only to you! Remember, your perception is your reality. The person viewing your image online doesn’t care whether it’s 300 or 72. They just want to see the image. Sure, that doesn’t help photographers or art galleries much, so you’ll just need to go old school and FedEx your printed books instead, if you want your intended audience to see the full resolution image.

Second, reducing the dpi also reduces the file size. If you have 300 dots per in, then reducing it to 72 dpi is only going to help your website visitors download your images faster, especially over mobile phones. Remember that we all have finite mobile bandwidth, except those who pay for unlimited. That means you are burning up your website visitors mobile bandwidth allotment (if not on wifi) by not compressing your images. If I were looking at your photos, then waiting for them to download on my phone and it’s not fast, I would leave your site and go somewhere else. No one wants to wait for your huge images to download on their phone.

Third, you can certainly reduce the dpi and that will compress an image, but remember the physical landscape of the image itself should only be sized to what you need to display on the web. That’s probably around 1800 pixels. I’ve seen some clients upload photos that are over 3000 pixles wide! Resizing your images BEFORE you upload to your media library is important. Fortunately, WordPress now provides a resizing tool inside the Edit feature of your WordPress Media Library, so you can resize photos down. Note: Never resize photos up or you will literally be stretching the photo like a rubber band. That will stretch the pixels in the image and your image will look like crap. You always downsize. Never upsize!

Fourth, you can use a tool like WP Smush, which is a freemium plugin, to compress your images to the best possible size and resolution. When you install WP Smush, you can compresses up to 50 images at a time with the free version. You’ll have to keep clicking if you have more images to compress. It will also not compress images over 1MB, so to process all images and images over 1MB, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid version.

Fifth (and maybe it should have been first), under Settings > Media, you can set the sizes for Large, Small, and Thumbnail images when you upload them. WordPress will retain the original file, but also copy and store resized versions to select for posts/pages. While this does not “compress” the image, it does help with managing the sizes you want to set for your site.

Sixth, remember that PNG is for transparency. You might use PNG for a logo, a small icon, or some other small graphic that may have a special use case, like a drop shadow. Don’t use PNG for large photographic images. It adds data to the image and therefore increases the file size. If you have a photo, always used JPG. There’s no reason to use PNG for any photo.

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If you need additional custom image sizes, you can use a plugin like Simple Image Sizes to create additional settings for you to select when publishing posts/pages:

Here’s the link to download WP Smush:

Note: The Featured Image above is set to  624 KB and 1800 × 916. That means, it will size for most large screens and will automatically resize in mobile responsive for smaller screens. Compression will help the image load quickly on mobile devices.