The thrill of the ride & Making your own luck

Big wheels

It’s rare that I start a blog entry by apologising for the radio silence – but it’s also rare that I go nearly an entire month without blogging – so please accept my apologies for going a month without publishing anything.

It’s certainly not for lack of things to write about, that’s for sure. The past few months have been some of the most exciting of my life; self-employment is in full swing and Pepsmedia is doing great, we’ve had two fabulous holidays (first was a quirky narrowboating trip with friends, second was a relaxing two weeks in Canada to see my family), and life has generally been very good to us.

Amongst all these brilliant events, however, time to step back and admire how far I’ve come since getting to the UK in 2001, which now feels like a lifetime ago.

But today, I’m feeling contemplative. Perhaps it’s because, as of yesterday, Pepsmedia now has a Cambridge office and I’m basking in the autumnal sunshine. Or perhaps it’s because our first employee is starting next week and I can already feel a weight lift off my shoulders, safe in the knowledge that I’ll soon have a secondary brain available to help me (what can I say, the cloning attempts have all failed…) Or it might simply be because I’m in a good mood.

When I chose to take online marketing and social media consultancy seriously, I didn’t know how well I’d fare, but I took the plunge. “What’s the worst that can happen?”, I told myself, “Worst case scenario, I get a new regular job or take on a temporary contract.” But after a good dose of hard work, long hours and a bit of luck, things are going brilliantly. An old colleague commented, saying I was so lucky to be where I was today, doing what I love and working with truly awesome clients.

While thinking about what proportion was luck, and what was blood, sweat and tears, I came across a post by Tara Hunt on people who seem to be lucky, and others who don’t seem to benefit from this supposed luck. Paraphrasing Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, she highlights four main characteristics of lucky people:

Four characteristics of lucky people

  1. Lucky people are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities;
  2. Lucky people make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition;
  3. Lucky people create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations; and
  4. Lucky people adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

To some extent, some days the planets probably do align better for you than for someone else. But generally speaking, luck isn’t about crossing your fingers in the hope that something good will happen, but rather taking every opportunity to MAKE your own luck.

If you’re passionate about something and you want to be “the lucky one who gets to do what they love for a living”, sitting in a job you dislike, slogging away on demotivating work hours a day, the lucky break won’t happen by itself.

Talk to people who understand where you want to be and may create serendipitous situations where you meet the right people to help you get where you want to be. Find pet projects in the evening, things that get you closer to learning the skills you’ll need to get to your goal. If it’s possible, even consider talking to your current boss to see if you can come to an arrangement; for example, my last employer let me move from full time to two days a week, providing me with a “safety net” while giving me the flexibility to get started.

Most of all, enjoy the journey. It’s like a long hike; while the destination matters, you’ve got to keep your head high and enjoy the view along the way!

So while I’m blogging less regularly, be sure to say hi on Twitter in the meantime.

[Photo credit: John-Morgan on Flickr, Creative Commons]

Ten Tips to Avoid the Heat This Summer in Your Home and Your Business

It’s entirely possible that Britain has had the only three days of sunshine it’ll get this summer, and while I’m writing this, it’s monsoon weather out there. Regardless, summer is an interesting time for anyone working running a small business, so here are a few tips to beat off the heat both in your home office and in your business.

Keep your house cool

summer_cocktail

First let’s look at a few tips to keep your house from heating up during the day:

1. Setup fans to make the air circulate

Rather than just letting air blow towards you, setup two fans along a “corridor” area crossing your house or apartment – from bedroom to office or kitchen to living room. One should face inwards and the other outwards so as to encourage the natural airflow throughout the rooms.

2. Get it done before the heat kicks in

Let the fresh air into the house early in the morning. Open all the windows, and let the crisp morning air cool down the house before the sun gets too strong.

In the same spirit, get your toughest work done early in the morning. Once it gets too warm and you can’t focus, you’ll be able to take on the easy tasks (or pop out for an ice cream!)

3. Keep the blinds down

Throughout the day, selectively shut blinds and windows on the sunny side of the house to avoid turning your home office into an oven.

4. Rehydrate

You may not be doing very physical activity when working at home, but when it’s hot around you, you’ll sweat nonetheless. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your brain working at its best.

5. Make iced coffee

If like me, you need your caffeine to get the day going, try this cold-brewed iced coffee. Sure, the soaking coffee grounds look like a bowl of mud in the fridge, but it makes delicious iced coffee and can be prepared in larger quantity to last a few days. It’s a great way to avoid hot beverages if you’re already feeling too toasty.

Keep your business cool

1. Warn clients ahead of your holidays

If you’re a fairly small outfit, you may not have significant backup when you go on holiday. Let your clients know at least a few weeks in advance, so that any urgent work can be communicated ahead of time.

With difficult clients, it’s worth setting the ground rules ahead of time, letting them know that they need to give you at least a week’s notice for work that needs to be done ahead of a holiday. If you let them know that this ensures you can give them quality results and avoid releasing dodgy code on a Friday night before you go away for two weeks, they’ll (usually) appreciate that it’s for their own good as well as yours.

2. Get backup from colleagues

Wherever possible, build good relationships with industry colleagues who you trust and could rely on to take over while you’re away. Whether it’s running a monthly report for a client or being on-call if things go wrong, it’ll be a relief to have someone back home dealing with it so you don’t have to pick up on the beach!

3. Plan your summer development

Before the summer starts, map out everyone’s holidays on a calendar. Based on the availability, plan your development cycle in more details. Avoid making big promises or planning projects too large for periods where only a few people are in.

4. Setup server monitoring

If you’re hosting client sites, applications or services, put your mind at rest by setting up monitoring. We use Pingdom, but there are many services out there providing a similar service.

5. Create a swipe file

A swipe file is a set of templates, examples and inspiration documents, which can serve as resource or starting point when writing a proposal or starting a new project. Whether it’s a physical print file, or a set of notebooks in Evernote, it’s a great way to give any project a kickstart, especially when you’re not in the mood to be writing and would rather be out playing frisbee!

What are your tips for coping with the challenges of summer? Do you bring in extra support for your team, take on less projects or just don’t take holidays? And do you prefer Pimms & lemonade, an air conditioned office or the beach to help cope with the heat? Share your tips in case the warmth comes back! (In the meantime,  I’m off to turn the heating back on!)

[Image credit: “Vicar’s Delight” by Tower Girl on Flickr, CC]

Spring brings change to Pepsmedia.com

With many years of moonlighting and now nearly a year under my belt working full time for Pepsmedia, we felt lately that it was time to refresh our site to reflect the shift in what we’ve been doing for our clients.

The new Pepsmedia siteMuch of my time this year has been focused on strategic planning for blog & social media campaigns, in-house coaching and brand monitoring, interspersed with some gorgeous blog and website designs. So far, it’s been both the most enjoyable and the most challenging experience I’ve ever faced.

Many people ask me whether I regret choosing this economic climate to jump into self-employment, and I always answer that I don’t have an ounce of regret. Sure, I’ve had a few sleepless nights and my squeezy stressball is due for some therapy, but it’s been worth it every step of the way.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with great clients to date, and every new meeting excites me because it keeps getting better. Great projects, great experiences and best of all, I didn’t have to eat beans on toast for too long. (Phew, I hate beans on toast…)

So over the past few weeks, we spent some time brewing a new design for pepsmedia.com and finally launched it this week. Let me know what you think of it!