Wasting your free time?

We are never short of advice in our daily on-line lives. We are bombarded with newsletters, links to blogs and articles. Many of them tell us what we should be doing when we are not actually working.

Should we be told what we should do with our free time? Is it wrong to watch television as some say? If we do, should we only watch the news, current affairs programmes or documentaries? If we read, should it only be non-fiction, biographies of successful business people, books by present or past masters of marketing?

I think we need time to relax. We need to take our minds of work from time to time no matter how much we enjoy running our businesses. I think my best ideas come when I am not thinking about work, when I am out and about, and perhaps walking in the local countryside.

I read non-fiction, but I also enjoy novels, and particularly detective fiction. Recently I have been reading that old master of the genre, Raymond Chandler. His writing is wonderful; the way he almost paints pictures in words of his characters, of their surroundings, and the often seedy atmosphere. I wish I could write as well as he did. We can learn from the masters though, and I am sure for my part it can help when I am working to be aware that good writing is a great asset.

You may think it strange that I am saying that I do not agree with the advice of others in how to use our free time, and yet I appear to be giving advice with which many might not agree. My point is that we all need free time, but how we use it is personal to us. Our free time must not feel like work; doing something we have to do.

After all, we are all different. What do you think?

Reading is good training for writing about your business

I like to write, and I have always thought I found it easier because I read a lot. I read other blogs, newspaper articles, I read non-fiction and I read novels. Some may think a lot of that is a waste of time, but I am sure that I benefit from the knowledge and also from the relaxation I get from fiction.

Apparently reading good novel boosts our brain power for days.  That is great news for those of us who may have worried that our reading was too much of a distraction from our work. Now we know that enjoying escapist ideas from other people is beneficial. The better our brains are working, the better we are in business.

I do not claim to be a great writer or even a good writer. After all, however good a football coach I had, I should never have become a good footballer. However, just as I know that having a good gym trainer encourages one to try harder in training, and to enjoy being fit, having the benefit of great writing from others must help us to do what we need and at least ensure our writing keeps fit. That must be good for our marketing.

What do you think?

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Working, resting, writing and walking

Floating boat by one of my favourite walks

The other day a doctor told me I shouldn’t work hard all the time and that I should take breaks and spontaneous time-outs. That is good advice, but actually I already do those things.

It is true that some of what I think of as a break, others might consider work, but leisure is whatever you find relaxing. I know many people and indeed some bloggers keep their noses to the grindstone eighteen hours a day. They are out seeing customers during the day and writing articles and blogs half the night. I certainly couldn’t do that and don’t have the drive or energy. I wouldn’t dare criticise in the sense that one might think that if you cannot make a decent business thrive in more normal hours you aren’t doing it right. Many of these dynamo-types are phenomenally successful. It’s just that we all have the choice as to whether we work all hours.

All of us need family time. Some of the “dynamos” schedule it in. I just like to let it happen. I don’t really watch all that much TV. What television I do watch I mostly like to be informative and instructive though I do like crime drama; most of it anyway. It’s time spent with my wife, though, and luckily she likes to watch much of the same stuff.

I write for enjoyment, even this blog. I hope you find it useful because that is part of the purpose of it of course, but writing gives me pleasure. I am very relaxed right now as I type this. 🙂

For me, another way of relaxing is in reading. I read about almost anything, and I do read fiction. I think that helps my writing style to keep fit. We learn all the time, and often one can see the tricks another writer uses to make the text lively and compelling so that we want more.

I am getting towards the end of the Millennium trilogy which, after the first part of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is very gripping. The English writing isn’t great and the translation occasionally odd (why use “gallimaufry” instead of “hotchpotch” or “mishmash”?), but as we go on, the way of winding up the tension and making the reader champ at the bit is terrific. There is so much we can learn from other writers, famous or otherwise. I regard that sort of reading as gym training for writers. As in the gym, I might not be the greatest but I try.

As you know, I get the best ideas when I am out walking. Although I walk more in the evening I might go out any time of the day if my schedule allows and I feel like it. I am writing this in the afternoon having been out for a quiet walk this morning. I like to look and listen and today I saw oyster-catchers and both saw and heard a curlew. Relaxing like this makes it so much easier to come back to the office with new energy and ideas.

Some businesses in the service sector and even in my sector offer appointments to clients at weekends. I may occasionally see a client at a weekend in the UK tax season, but generally I think that if they can’t make time to see me during business hours or early evening they aren’t the sort of client I want. That is because if they are stingy over time they are probably stingy over paying me. But it suits me anyway to make sure I am not under pressure seeing people at all hours.

I find the best ways of working are:

  • to enjoy what you do
  • to take pleasure and treat as leisure what others might see as work
  • to be organised so that you are not under deadline pressure all the time so that
  • you can take time off when you feel like it, and
  • actually take the time out and have fun

Of course it’s whatever floats your boat, but that is what floats mine. What floats your boat?

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Blogging originality and evolution of ideas

New York Times

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A couple of my favorite bloggers have talked about the apparent decline in original thought. Danny Brown suggests that popularity can breed sameness in part because of pandering to the masses. Gini Dietrich talks about aggregation and automation which encourages laziness on the part of the bloggers or writers, and, I think, on the part of the readers as well.

Evolution of thought

It’s not all bad news though. More people read more stuff than when we relied on newspapers. We see the same ideas or the same advice being imparted. We can scan or gloss over this. What is exciting, though, is seeing people pick up and run with ideas, and develop them. There is a sort of osmosis where new thought filters through and blossoms. Of course we all have many of the same sources, such as Mashable, and I read many top bloggers though I cannot read everything without giving up work and sleep.

At the same time, many have different slants on the same subject. I think it interesting when I read a post one day and then someone blogs on a similar subject a day or a week later, perhaps having read the previous one. As long as original thinking takes place, I don’t think we always need to worry about the “sameness”. Ideas are there to be built on. “On the shoulders of Giants” and all that.

Plagiarism

That is not to say that it is OK for anyone to just copy an idea and spin someone else’s article as their own, or, even worse, just republish a post as though it were their own. That has happened to me and probably to you too. It is very annoying even if it is sometimes a rather back-handed compliment.

Being ourselves

I am not a top blogger, although of course I have ambitions. Don’t we all? However, I do believe that we can best develop by simply being ourselves. Pamela Wilson put it quite well writing for Copyblogger a while back. Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion demonstrates how being ourselves and saying what we believe in a business blog makes for originality and a unique brand. He also shows that we can write about anything we like within reason, which helps our individual personalities to come out.

Yes, in writing this I have dipped into other people’s material. I am being myself, of course. Even if you think I lack originality in thought, maybe I have found you a great blogger you had missed. But perhaps you are already way ahead of the game.

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Cracking content marketing

Another view of the south side of the Googlepl...

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Why am I writing about this?

I am not an expert in on-line marketing, but some discussions I had with a group of people recently emphasised to me that so many people have absolutely no idea how to market their business. They have a business name and they then wait for their network or their network friends to bring them work.

Why should people trust them to do the work? Do they have a track record to point to? Many people seem to think it is sufficient to put up a sign, real or virtual, and then wait for clients, customers, punters or whatever they call them.

It’s no good being anonymous

Many small traders and especially consultants do not appreciate that they need to have a website. Some of course have great expertise in their field but are not web-aware. We know that these days when thinking of taking on a new supplier, so many businesses type the name into Google or even Yahoo (you can get different and interesting results) to find out a bit more. If the business they are searching for is hard to find, or the website if it exists is lacking on information beyond some past career as an employee, no potential purchaser is going to latch on and think about hiring the business or the consultant as a supplier.

Demonstrate your expertise

One of the distinctly web-aware guys in that group I was talking to said that one site he ran for consultants had 8,000 hits a month, which is of course great. However, my immediate thought was, how many of these hits actually led to an enquiry from a prospect to one of the consultants? My guess was hardly any, because what the website does for the consultants is list past experience and services offered. The current format has no room for demonstrating current experience and the consultant’s knowledge of their industry issues right now. That is not to say that the site is no use, but it needs to offer a click-through to a place which is really informative.

Prospects don’t want to know what you have done. They want to know what you can do for them.

Confession

I have a confession. One of my websites has not nearly enough hits as I would like. I need to work on driving more traffic. However, my articles on the site offer very specific information on current tax topics dear to the hearts of many people today, such as lettings and property investment issues as well as (sadly) redundancy and taxation of leaving payments.

The articles contain relevant key words for popular searches, not deliberately but because they inevitably will. I believe they do demonstrate that I know what I am talking about, and the enquiries I get from prospects as a result their arriving on my website are likely to lead to business because the prospects have already qualified themselves with their interest.

Technically in SEO-speak I believe I am utilising almost incidentally the “long tail” in attracting the clients I want. More traffic always helps, but the traffic I get is really good quality for me.

Am I giving away my knowledge for free?

I don’t think that sharing my knowledge with readers will really encourage them to rely and act on the bare essentials because they must know that I cannot cover all the kinks which they would need to know to avoid trouble. I tell them enough to make them sure that they need me and it would be dangerous to act on their own.

There is a school of thought that my “competitors” might steal some of my expertise. I don’t believe this. Most of them have the knowledge. Some will know that they need my help, so that will mean more business for me, and they will become colleagues. What the “competitors” mostly don’t have is the energy to market in the same way or to borrow my turf.

Go for content

I am not a marketing expert. If you are still worried about someone stealing your stuff find out more about why it doesn’t matter.

What you have to do is write though. If you would like someone to tidy up your article copy before you post it, ask me.  Oh yes, that is another of my businesses, and I enjoy writing and have colleagues who do too. In fact I enjoy all my business activities.

Content marketing is great because it is writing about what you know. Start writing now!

I hope you find this piece useful. Please tell me if you do.

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