This post was inspired after I read this article in Sydney Morning Herald.

Forgotten projects gathering dust on to-do lists. Why do we start projects enthusiastically and then abandon them?

Remember that project you started in a burst of inspiration two years ago? You worked on it for two months and then let one day slide, then the next. Now it’s so far down on your to-do list that it causes you to feel guilty. How do I know this? I’ve also got many half-finished projects languishing on my computer’s hard drive.

Before you click away because this post is making you feel guilty, consider this. What if I told you you needed only 1% of effort to complete projects, would you feel better? I will also tell you where to find it.

It’s the 99% effort we put into things that’s mentally exhausting according to the author of the article. I agree. So I’m going to share with you how I found that 1% that always takes my effort total to 100%.

Do a spring clean of your existing projects

Look at the list of things you started one or two years ago. Remove the projects which are now outdated and which don’t excite you anymore. Whittle the list down to 2 or 3 projects that still excite you.

Include your ‘why’

Why did you get those ideas? What were you hoping to achieve from it? Write these down on a piece of paper and stick it to your desk with your ‘why’ you need to complete those. Will they lead to a promotion, new clients or new skills?

Find 30 minutes

Not everyone can find hours in their day but can you find 30 minutes? It might be first thing in the morning after the kids have left for school, or 30 minutes before you log in to your desk. It might even be 30 minutes in your car or while you’re having a coffee. Find your 30 and tackle one project, even if it’s one task.

Break it down

Eat an elephant one mouthful at a time? Remember that saying? Break down your project into 10 tasks and assign a deadline. Why 10? I get bored and lose interest if it’s anymore than 10 steps I need to take to complete something. The fewer steps the better. Do that task in your 30 minutes. Then tick it off. If you want to write a book, break it down into 10 chapters. Then write for 30 minutes daily either on your laptop or a notebook.

Use rewards

Set rewards against those deadlines to help you get over the hurdle and move on to the next step.

Avoid distractions

Check your social media before you start your 30 minutes. Put your head down, bum up and focus on the task at hand.

These tips should help you find your 1% you need to complete that project.

Who knows where it can lead you – More clients, new business bestseller book or media gigs?

Do you have any other tips to add to the above list?


Venessa Paech is an internationally renowned online community expert. She has built and managed a wide array of online communities for ASX companies, start ups, governments and non-profits (including Envato, REA Group and Lonely Planet). In 2009 she founded the Australian Community Manager Roundtables and in 2011 she founded Swarm, Australia’s national community management conference. In 2015, she commissioned and released the Australian Community Management career survey with Quiip and Dialogue Consulting. 

More recently, Venessa began consulting with ParentPaperwork, an Aussie startup replacing paper forms in schools worldwide.  She’s excited about being part of this opportunity and to work with some incredible founders and unique product.

Venessa has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and an MA in Virtual Ethnography. She is a published scholar on online communities, and a popular speaker and consultant on our digital lives and identities – from trolling to personal branding. 

Community engagement is your dealio, what’s your 30 second pitch when explaining to a noob what community is about?

Community is a group of humans who form relationships around a strong common interest. You can have communities of place, of circumstance, of passion, of practice, and combinations of all of these. A community is a specific social structure that is more about relevance than reach. Communities can form across a social network, but the social network itself is not a community (unless its members define it as such). Communities are highly resilient and powerful things!

You’ve just started on a new adventure; can you tell us a bit about Future Culture?

Increasingly, companies struggling with engagement, sustainability and productivity are looking to communities that get these things right. They’re interested in how they can transform a business into more of a community, and their leaders want to lead less like a traditional CEO and more like a community manager (from the inside out rather than top down).

Community professionals are being tapped to meet the market and appetite for organisational transformation – a market where there are already strong contributors in environmental design, cultural analytics and collaborative technology solutions.

Future Culture is a consultancy that connects these layers with human lens.

What are some of the benefits you can provide a business and do you have an end game in mind each time?

We draw on decades of experience building communities in organisations of every type and size, and specialist knowledge in the social science of communities, to help companies build cultures that work.

We audit, train and help build strategies can help constructively transform communications, HR, marketing, operations and more. Community models offer better engagement, cost savings, operational efficiencies and productivity wins. The end game is all about company objectives, and how community management frameworks and practices can help accomplish them.

I’d say sustainability and adaptability are a key part of the shared end game. No one wants to take something new on board only to have it date or fall apart in the near future. Future Culture hopes to apply what community managers have refined over decades to an organisational and workplace environment hungry for new approaches that work, iterate and last.

You’ve played community manager at some crazy awesome companies since early 2000s, what has been the biggest disruptor in the space and how has that changed the way community roles engage with the business and its audience/people?

The rise of social media and the analytics that sit behind it. The challenge is that social media marketing and audience building isn’t the same thing as community building, so it’s important practitioners distinguish the two for their individual value. The upside is that everyone is interested in the space now – they’re aware people are talking about them, whether they like it or not. The smart ones want to listen, understand and add value to those conversations. Community building can offer huge value in commercial contexts, including pure audience building. Ask a community manager about persuasion and motivation and you’ll take away stores of goodies!

When it comes to community, culture and technology, do you have any tips for a business to ensure all three are given much needed flexibility and guidance to enrich its people?

Always remember to put people first. When people are genuinely at the centre of a business, actions and decisions around community building, culture and technology will be guided by the needs of those people. Relationships are the heart of everything and no fancy software or office can ever replace trust, empowerment and respect.

I’d say of the three – focus on building your community, which will forge and codify your culture, then identify technology solutions that best reflect and match that culture. These often happen in quick succession and they are somewhat interdependent – but what you want to avoid is investing in a piece of technology to address a cultural matter, before looking at your people first.

Technology at its best is used to free and enhance what humans do best. It should help you

Favourite flavour of ice-cream?

Ahh, now the really tough questions! Give me peppermint or banana and I’m a happy woman. Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey is pretty much a perfect creation.

Apple or Samsung?

I’m torn! There’s so much value in an ecosystem, and I love the harmony of user experience in the world of Apple. But walled gardens can produce problems, and an overly proprietary web risks marginalising voices and opportunities. If I had to choose, I’d choose Apple and lobby for them to keep interfacing with the rest of the world as much as possible.

What do you think the next big thing in tech will be?

I think 2016 conversations will look much like 2015 – AI, wearables, Internet of Things, VR. All incredible tools that can be game changing, but are a way off mainstream embedding yet. Security and the vulnerability of our technologies will continue to occupy the conversation, and this leads me to my very non-tech answer – people is the next big thing in tech.

We’ve left ourselves behind in technology discourse for a while. The sheen is wearing thin in Silicon Valley and I’m hearing lots of proactive reflection about how we put the humanity back into our technology; how we ensure it doesn’t eat us alive, but empowers us to do more, better.

If you would like to reach out and connect with Venessa, check out her LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

 


Last time I wrote about why you need a copywriter for your business. In this post, I share where to find those secret places, us cool cat copywriters hang out.

So where are you going to find your dream copywriter?

Get jiggy on Facebook

Many of us writers are completely addicted to social media, and in between projects, breathlessly stalk the million Facebook groups we have joined; from Business Business Business to copywriters who work in Sydney and have beards. We do love a Facebook group mainly because it helps us feel connected to the outside world that exists beyond our desks in our homes. So put a call out and see what happens.

Prim and proper LinkedIn

Meh! Not as much fun as Facebook but you’ll find us there with an updated profile page but possibly a little less inactive. Know why I say this confidently? Because in my four years of being on LinkedIn, I have yet to see a callout for a copywriter. Guess those businessy types are too busy eh? If you want to see samples of our work go to our website, call or email us to see if we are the right fit. We will take you seriously we promise and get back to you within 24 hours! Ps: No sales pitches after accepting a LinkedIn request, we hate those as much as you do. LinkedIn groups, sorry simply can’t keep up!

Ask your network

If you have a list of people you contact for business advice then it’s a great place to ask if they know a copywriter you can trust. One, it saves you time trawling through Google. After a while every copywriter’s website looks the same as the previous one, two, referrals are often worth their weight in gold and are never given out lightly. Having things in common with the person referred helps to break the ice and it’s easier to build rapport and get a good result.

Twitter

Again, not really seen many callouts by businesses looking for a copywriter but if you’re active on it then you can look for a copywriter using the hashtag #copywriter, #contentwriter #writer and see who comes up. Check out their tweets and their website and see if they know what they’re talking about. Tweet to set up a meeting and you’re all set.

Copywriter directories

There are some copywriting businesses which have a list of business services where you can search for a copywriter. Generally, if it’s a well known business they will offer you quality copywriters though it might cost you a fee. It’s a good investment because it saves you the trial and error of looking for the right writer (catchy!) yourself.

Google search

You might be wondering why I’ve listed a Google search as your last option. Being a copywriter myself, I prefer to look for other writers on social media first if I need help. The best writer for your project may not always come up on the first page of the results and it also depends on what you’re searching for, which may not always be clear in your mind. Results for ‘web content writer’ could be vastly different from ‘blog writer’ and let’s face it – websites can be made to say anything.

Think of hiring a copywriter as an investment into your business and it is a big deal. You need someone who will understand your business, understand what and why you need content, suggest ideas, be quick to understand and interpret what you need, deliver professional, well written content and quote you accordingly.You need to deal with a real person not some name on an agency’s books or profile on a website like Fiverr.

Please, please don’t be cheap and try to get out of paying a reasonable amount for your copy; we have to eat and would like to go on the occasional holiday just as much as you. Copywriting is a skill, not everyone can do it and those who can need to be paid fairly.

 


Content is king. You’ve probably have heard this saying thrown around as businesses increasingly move online and everyone’s fighting for a piece of social and web.

The goal at the end of the day is: Get more customers and sell more products.

While many people think they can write, the issue is whether or not what you write connects with your customers and brings them back repeatedly to your website. In my experience, most business owners are in too deep to know exactly how their business has evolved or what’s new and newsworthy enough to evoke a response from their target customer. That’s when you need a super hero – not Spidey, but someone who picks out words to earn their daily bread and butter – a copywriter.

If you haven’t come across the term ‘copywriter’ before, there’s a good chance you need one. A copywriter works with words and writes different content for clients on a daily basis. So what you read on your favourite website, or that glossy brochure that leads you to buy clothes at your favourite store, could be the work of a copywriter.

Think of a copywriter as a connoisseur of words. Similar to a vintner, he or she thinks about how they want you to feel after reading about a client, picks out words carefully, mixes them in various combinations and finally comes up with a product that leaves you satisfied and wanting more.

Copywriters come in all shapes and sizes, from those who write about everything to those who focus on a few areas.

My tip for picking a good copywriter? Look at their personal website (not Facebook) and their portfolio and see how it makes you feel. Do the words on their website show a person you’d like to work with? How much care have they taken to create their own website?

You need a copywriter if:

  1. The words on your website and content are dull and boring (you know it and everyone on staff knows it but no one knows what to do about it exactly). A copywriter brings in a fresh pair of eyes, new ideas and can help you identify what your customer really cares about. Dull and boring – be gone!
  2. You are thinking of creating content such as blog posts, brochures, news articles and need easy-to-read and shareable content. If you don’t have the time or in-house expertise to create these yourself then it’s time to look for a copywriter.
  3. You have customers who eagerly ask for regular content from your business, i.e. in the form of newsletters or press releases or even updates to technical type of content.
  4. You suck at writing (and you know it deep down!)
  5. You need a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas to help you in re-positioning or rebranding your business and you don’t have forever to wait or the staff to do this.

Here are a few definitions to help you when you’re looking for the right type of writer for your business:

  1. Copywriter – a person who writes the text of advertisements or publicity material is the traditional meaning. I don’t necessarily agree with this Mad Men type of definition as copywriters these days do a lot more diverse types of writing than what’s covered by this definition.
  2. Content writers are professional writers who produce engaging content for use over the Internet. A copywriter can also be a content writer (check out their portfolio to see what they’ve written in the past, or ask for samples of writing).

The next post will cover how you can find your dream copywriter – stay tuned!

Rashida Tayabali is a copywriter covering health and wellbeing, business, women’s lifestyle, corporate communications and parenting. She loves nothing more than a good book, finding the right words and a cup of tea strictly in that order. Connect with her www.rashidatayabali.com.au


Recently I found myself suffering with a frozen right shoulder. It was extremely uncomfortable, especially while sleeping.

But life still had to go on, I had to look after a three year old, work on my business, chores etc. I wasn’t sleeping well at night and generally crabby and irritable. Unable to work at my computer (believe me I tried!) and with a phone that died, more demands on my time than usual, this past week has been pretty horrendous.

Now I definitely learnt something from this experience (don’t you love a story with a moral?). So here are my five tips for other stressed mums in business who feel like the world is collapsing around them but still need to be there for their kids and business.

1. Make that medical appointment

From past experience (I had a frozen neck at the same time last year) I should have made that critical appointment at the earliest with my physiotherapist and not subjected myself to so much anxiety by waiting until I was in acute agony. So if you’re in pain and it’s interfering with your daily life, for God’s sake go and see a medical professional! Remember that analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first before attending to others?

2. Take a day or two off

If you’re in pain or worn out, the best thing you can do is take a time out and relax. Stop working and take a day or two off to recharge your batteries. Apart from email, do not respond to anything else. My advice is to stay away from your phone altogether.

3. Get off social media

Ever get the feeling that the world is moving too fast on Facebook and Twitter? I had that feeling when I was sick and checking the social networks. I finally switched off completely for a week and guess what happened? The world came back to normal. So if social media is causing you to stress, turn it off and see how much better you feel.

P.S. Anyone wanting to get in touch with you can use old fashioned text and phone calls. Much simpler!

4. Meditate and exercise

When did you last take time to do yoga or simply sit in silence?. If like me you don’t remember then you’re long overdue for an exercise session. If you don’t have time to attend a class, say hello to YouTube. During the frozen neck fiasco, I started watching YouTube yoga videos and I swear it helped me heal faster and sleep much more deeply. Roll out your mat once the kids are in bed instead of attending to emails or scrolling through your Twitter feed.

5. Clear your to-do list

We mums have never ending to-do lists! Ask any mum when she last completed hers and you may get an eye roll with the answer “Never”! If erasing the to-do list is too much for you, go through yours right now and see what you can delete from it. Less tasks means less stress and more time for fun!

Hope these tips help you next time you feel stressed. Don’t wait for a frozen muscle to remind you to take it easy and look after your health.

Right, I’m off to do some yoga…Namaste!


When I started Project Mum, a few friends asked me what type of businesses they too could start. Most of them were mums who hadn’t returned to work after maternity leave and were finding the isolation too much. Others were in the workforce but not finding any joy or inspiration in what they were doing.

Knowing that there might be a few of you in either of the situations above, here are a few of my tips (based on my own experiences) to give you food for thought and hopefully give you the motivation to get started and think of a business idea you will love and be successful in.

1. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses

Usually you’ll find marketers creating SWOT analysis (we love this!) to show us exactly what we are currently facing, what could happen and the stumbling blocks. I recommend you create a personal SWOT to find out what you’re passionate about i.e. current hobbies, weaknesses (hate sales!) and strengths (love talking to people) to create a true picture of you and where your skills and interests could translate into a business.

List as many things for both columns and cross check to see if any of the descriptors could lead to a business opportunity. For example, passionate about children learning (strength), love creating new games for children (hobby) could translate into a video series for parents plus blog on creating different games to entertain children.

2. Talk to people in the niche you’re interested in

I really wish I’d done this back when Project Mum was an idea in my head – it might have saved me time and angst but unfortunately I had a business idea and ran with it first. Find people already in the space and talk to them about what it’s like running a business in that niche. Go to a few networking events specific to the industry to get a feel of what it’s like – try groups like Meetups to find the right people. Also try an Advisory service for small business owners for example as offered by Business.gov.au or your local council.

3. Build your LinkedIn profile

I’ve heard people still ask about whether they need to be on LinkedIn. The short answer to this is Yes! The first thing I do when looking to assess a Project Mum application is search for that person on LinkedIn. Create a good profile and keep it updated. Give it more attention than Facebook and Twitter.

Your profile will help you market yourself to the right people such as influencers, and give you credibility on a professional platform especially when building your new business. LinkedIn is also a great way to keep your finger on the pulse in your market. Join a few LinkedIn groups and keep an eye out for potential gaps in the market that could give you your next business idea.

4. Research, research, research

Has the light bulb gone off yet? If it has, great!Now comes the not-so-fun part: finding out who your competitors are and what they are doing. If there is another business similar to yours; and you feel you can’t bring anything new or different then perhaps wait for the next light bulb to go off.

If you’re like me and simply cannot ignore that brilliant idea that’s bound to make you millions, then identify your competitive advantage, in other words, how are you different or better than your competition? Do you have the latest technology, great skills in sales or know the right people? All these will give you a good head start when building your new business.

PS: Don’t be carried away by your idea and be tempted to skip this step. From experience, it’s better to research your market before spending money and time and realising your business won’t work.

Rashida Tayabali is the founder of Project Mum, a project matching service that connects growing businesses to skilled mums for short and long term projects. She helps solo business owners gain clarity and focus in their business through one-on-one coaching sessions. If you’re a small business owner seeking focus and clarity in your business, or need help in making the leap to self employed and not sure how to begin, register for her brand new coaching sessions by emailing [email protected]

Photo credit: Cucchiaio