A Blog Post About Pens

I’ve always been fascinated with the art of writing, which is strange considering I have writer’s cramp. My love began in middle school when I became bored of the standard issue BIC pens my parents bought me. Every week, chewed-up pens filled my pockets and pencil cases, many of which ‘spontaneously exploded’ in my book bag, on my homework, and in my coat (sorry mom).

Pens were my blessing and my curse, and it seems like I was always holding one.

Around 7th grade, I became more interested in what pens do, when I picked up a book on graphology in the public library. In case you aren’t familiar, graphology is the study of handwriting – an art heavily dependent on pens. As I read further down the rabbit hole into ink pens and cursive, my hand became increasingly uncooperative.

By the time I was 14, I could no longer use those BIC pens, and I moved into the comfort grip models. I started investing in $5 pens, ugly therapeutic writing devices that did not fill my need for expression. They looked like the pens my doctor used – not something a 14-year-old girl would hold while scribbling down poems on the back of her notebook.

And so, the collection began.

I began collecting the oddest pens I could find. I had bendy pens, a carrot pen, furry pens, giant pens and smelly pens. I have a pen made from wood and a pen made from metal. I lost pens and bought more pens. It was an obsession that made writing with my increasingly damaged hand more fun.

I discovered the internet at 16 and began typing all of my writings onto a floppy disk. Soon, all of my pens faded away to the background, as did my study of graphology. The keyboard saved me from pain but took me away from my love of handwriting. I mourned my lost hobby but was grateful for the technology that allowed me to keep writing.

(more…)

I Don’t Answer my Phone

If you know me or have done business with me, you may have learned that I do not answer my phone. Unless it’s from a family member, it’s probably not going to get answered. The funny thing is, I am always near my phone, and most of the time I am looking at it. I simply don’t have the time to tap the little button that would connect our call.

You can’t do business without a landline phone…

Years ago, my father would have said something like the above. It’s probably due to his years of business consultancy combined with constant traveling. Being the daughter of a mobile businessman helped me learn the power of constant communication very early on. He also taught me a little bit about great customer service, the biggest lesson being:

If customers cannot reach you, they won’t do business with you.

Well, my father is from a different generation, because I have not had a landline phone since 2001, yet I have been a self-employed professional for nearly 10 years without one. It hardly seems like a business requirement anymore – especially if you are a solo –entrepreneur. Technology has created new (and cheaper) ways of communicating across distances.

Cell Phones Are Not For Talking

My reluctance to answer the phone skyrocketed this year when I purchased my first smartphone. Yes, I said first. This is because I find the vast possibilities of a smartphone to be distracting from phone calls. I mean, why would I answer the phone, when I could be skype chatting or tweeting? It just doesn’t make much sense.

That is why I am convinced cell phones are no longer designed for phone calls. If they were, they’d have a longer battery life, be more comfortable to hold, and wouldn’t include YouTube. I can’t possibly be the only independent professional to feel this way…

Maybe I should just send an email…

The last ten years, the Internet has proven that it can solve nearly any problem- including the fact that I never have time to answer my phone. First there was Netmeeting. It came installed on my Windows 95 computer but strangely disappeared in Vista. Then there was the handy dandy Magic Jack, which I cautiously purchased from Radio Shack only to lose interest after a few weeks.

By the time most of the world had adopted Skype, I had already used and disposed of a Google Voice number, forgotten the password of numerous GoToMeeting credentials, and pretty much loss hope in terms of what the Internet could offer for voice communications.

A Beacon of Hope?

The great thing about technology is that is always evolving, and it appears voice over internet protocol calls (VoIP) has now reached a point of being worth my consideration again. I have been fortunate to meet two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (yes, Silicon Valley like the genius’s behind Facebook and that ridiculously humorous HBO show) that understand the problems I am facing.

They have created technology that helps busy professionals like me continue to not answer their phones while still making money.

In yo’ face, Dad!

Their company, Smith.ai, combines real receptionists with the best in technology to create a marketing and customer service solution that does not involve me answering the phone. Considering the fact that I plan to stay in business for a while, this is a total win.

 

Jenn Marie Writing & marketing Elance

Jenn Marie Writing & Marketing on Elance

This page does not exist.

Today, Elance removed my profile from their site. I still am unclear as to why they did that, but at this point I don’t really care. It is just one site on the Internet, and not crucial to the success of my business. Unfortunately, many online freelancers are not as lucky.

Take, for example, the freelance virtual assistants working through the site Zirtual. When the website suddenly shut its doors, not only did the company’s employees suffer from sudden layoffs, the freelancers using the site lost access to their clients. Desperate clients went searching for their freelancers via social media while copycat sites immediately tried to sign up abandoned VAs. The employees have started to take action as well, with a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, this is the type of behavior I’ve begun to expect on the Internet. Online websites, such as Elance and Zirtual, or even Facebook for that matter, have no allegiance to their site visitors. Their explicit purpose is to make money off of the use of their site. When that is no longer occurring, the site vanishes – with no commitment to those using the site.

That is why I knew my Elance page was going to disappear in a short amount of time – not because I had done something wrong, but because I was not making the website money. So when announced earlier this year, that the site would be shutting down, and all freelancers were being transitioned to Upwork, I knew that meant all profitable freelancers.

So I am not at all surprised, but I am still a little sad to see my profile go. I put a lot of time into creating wonderful experiences for my clients, and it showed in my reviews and ratings. The fact remains, though – Elance owned those reviews, although I earned them for them. So as that site is slowly erased from the internet, so goes the written record of my time there.

That’s okay, though because it leaves more room for everyone else.

I envision a freelancing website that does not hold individual’s livelihoods hostage. It should be a site that connects freelancers with the clients that want to work with them. It should be easy to use, moderated for scams, and supportive to new freelancers. It should promote top performers while still having a community feel. It should be everything that Elance was not.

Knowing the internet, it will only be a matter of time before something like this exists.

Why I Chose Microsoft Over Google (Cloud Storage Review)

I have always been pro-Google. Ever since I signed up for my Gmail account nearly 10 years ago, I have loved the simplicity and usefulness of their products. I watched eagerly as they rolled out new solutions, sometimes even spending time in Google Labs- where I stumbled across Picasa.

Picasa was probably my favorite Google product. It used the power of search to quickly organize a growing problem on my computer – photos. I simply turned Picasa on and it showed me where all my pictures were. It even included editing features – all of this for free!

Then my computer started going very slow as it categorized all of the photos on my hard drive. I needed to clean some of them off. It was Picasa that convinced me to buy an external hard drive so that I could start backing them up. It helped, but it wasn’t the same. I loved having all of my photos in a single location, but carrying it around on a small drive worried me.

The Cloud- Based Revolution

There were times when I couldn’t use Google products as much as I wanted. For a long time even, it was my guilty pleasure. When I first signed up for my Google account, I worked at Microsoft. The two tech giants were just entering their technology war, and as an employee of one, I had sworn allegiance in the form of an employment contract. All Google URLs were banned from my company computer. So for years, I logged on my email from personal devices, almost as if I were looking at something way worst.

At work, it was my job to sell Microsoft products, but I rolled my eyes when product development said we would now be competing with Google. Introducing Office Online! I thought it was a dumb idea, and swore silently to myself that I would never leave Google for Microsoft in regards to any online service.

I left my Microsoft job shortly after that and was free to use any cloud-based software I chose. I downloaded Open Office and opened a second Gmail account.

Am I Eating My Words?

Fast forward a whole bunch of years, and I have an entirely online business of my own – one involving a lot of online content (plus, all of the pictures I kept taking). My post-Picasa external hard drive is now too full to accept any more documents, and I am in need of an online storage solution.

Immediately, I turned to Google.

I am not a novice to Google Drive. Although I initially questioned the sanity of having all of my files linked to my email, I appreciated having separate Google drives for clients. It was an easy way to share large files, and it included a basic document editor. Why wouldn’t I backup all of my files there?

Well, in the end, my initial concern became the reason. I don’t want everything associated with my personal email.

Here’s an example of my real-life challenges:

  • Photo of youngest child – saved to personal Google Drive
  • Web content for client A – saved to their Google Drive in a personal folder
  • Blog Post for jennmariewrites – saved to business Google Drive
  • Blog Post for client B – saved to their Google Drive in a personal folder
  • Video footage of family vacation — no room

That is four different Google drives, (out of a possible 7). Remembering which drive has the space and where certain content is located was beginning to become maddening. I suppose I could upload, log out, and log back in as needed, but I thought the idea was to make it easier, not harder?

I needed something simple and easy, and for once, Google was not it.

Out of desperation, I turned to Microsoft. It’s been years now, and I’m sure the product development team has had plenty of time to work out their bugs, right?

I signed up for a free trial, and within minutes I not only had 1 TB of space but an entire suite of Microsoft programs to go with it. Yes, I still swear by Open Office, but industry standard is still MS Word.

Because it is Microsoft, it looks exactly like my Windows, which meant no learning curve on how to create a folder or organize anything. I downloaded Word, typed a blog post and saved it to my One Drive. There were very few extra steps, and no “click here to upload documents”. Save. Done. Best of all, there was no cutting and pasting into Google Docs, and then fixing the formatting because of the sworn “we will not be compatible” feud. There was no file converting. I simply wrote, saved, and moved on.

Microsoft Tools in Google World

Okay, so Microsoft won the simplicity test, but would the solution work with my four Google drive clients?

Well, considering I am running a Windows 7 desktop alongside a Chromebook, this question was sure to come up. So I went to the Microsoft Online website, logged in with my ridiculously cumbersome username, downloaded my files to my Chromebook, uploaded it to my Google drive, changed the format to whatever the Google doc equivalent is, and shared with the client.

Okay, so 6 steps… but at least it worked.

I mean it’s not like I was going to compose the writing on a Chromebook.. the keyboard’s too small and it isn’t compatible with Grammarly.