Choosing a Lifestyle Business

For quite a while, my business has been in a good position. It’s continued to grow over the years, mostly with a great group of long-term clients and continual referrals from those clients. The thing about a website is that it’s always changing and growing. Once I launch a website, I almost always continue to work with that client. And, fortunately for me, that relationship continues to provide work for me to grow as my client’s businesses grow. I’ve become good friends with many of my clients and have built a solid base of work for myself.

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Trying Out the Pomodoro Technique

If you read my blog, you know I sometimes obsess about enjoy finding ways to increase my productivity. Everyone is limited to the same 24-hour day. As my kids get older and are in school a bit more, I’ve really worked hard to focus my work time to the hours they’re in school so that we can have fun when they’re at home. This means my [still limited] work time is precious. I’ve talked about attention management in the past and my tendency to get distracted and veer off course. Keeping Post-It notes front and center with my top 3 tasks listed has been a huge help in keeping me focused. My struggle has been, and continues to be, attention management. Working in a technical field means it’s easy to open up a new browser tab and hop on Pinterest when I’m supposed to be fixing a web page.

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Keeping Your Task List Front and Center

About a month ago, I started using a very simple technique to become more focused on my day-to-day work. Something had been bothering me: I’d get to the end of the day and feel like I had done a lot, but the tasks I really needed to get done often weren’t getting done. I wouldn’t call these days unproductive, but I noticed that some days I was unfocused; just flitting from one task to the next, sometimes stopping right in the middle of a task and jumping into another task. I thought about *why* I had these days and came up with a few possible reasons for these unfocused days:

  1. I did not have clearly defined tasks
  2. I started working on non-urgent tasks
  3. I got distracted from my tasks and never returned to working on them

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Attention Management and Changing Habits

During the holiday break, my kids were off from school and I put up my out of office email to let my clients know I was working on a limited schedule. I was around, but not working much. I’m assuming my clients were also busy doing their thing during the holidays, because email, text, and phone were quiet. On the days I chose to do some work, I was amazingly productive and I attribute this to the lack of interruptions that seem to occur during a regular work day. I’ve worked hard to regulate email: I have auto send/receive turned off on my laptop and my phone and I only click that send/receive button when I’m at a point where I can read and respond to emails. But, I’ve noticed that I respond to texts and phone calls differently. Unlike email, phone calls and texts are pushed to me and I don’t want to blindly ignore these methods of communication. If the kids are sick or my parents need to reach me, I want to receive important calls. But, often, phone calls and texts come in that do not need immediate attention. Even knowing this, my inclination is to respond to the text or answer the phone call. This interruption is distracting, pulls me away from the priorities I set for myself and my clients, and puts me at the mercy of someone else’s priorities.

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Pulling the Plug

Almost two years ago, I decided to get my own virtual server to host websites. At that time, shared hosting was OK for certain clients, but other clients were having some issues that are common with shared hosting – emails being blacklisted and slow website loading times, to name two. I did a good bit of research and decided to rent a “managed” virtual server. This server would be located in Texas and be managed for me, but what I thought “managed” meant and what it actually meant lead to a good deal of frustration and stress on my end. I didn’t know that at the time, though, so I plunged ahead, set up the server, then started migrating clients to my server. Over the next year, I’d migrate about 40 websites to my server.

Things were going relatively smoothly, until I had my first issue and my server went down. There was a brute-force attack on my server (a group of computers just banged on the “door” of my server trying to hack into it and, while they didn’t succeed in breaking into my server, they hogged all of the resources and effectively shut my server down). This wasn’t a targeted attack on my server, specifically; it happens all the time in the website world. But the difference was that I was the one responsible for dealing with these attacks and getting my server back online after it went down. This attack happened late at night and I was up late working with the company that hosts my server to fix the issue. This was just the beginning. Because I hosted email on my server, I’d get requests to reduce spam, fix email issues, reset passwords, etc. None of these requests are abnormal, but I hadn’t thought about this kind of thing when I decided to host websites.

Running a server basically meant that I was doing way more tech support-type things than I wanted to. I love to develop websites and I thought offering hosting would be an easy way to help my clients get their businesses online without having to deal with a third party hosting company. It turns out hosting a website is way more involved than I ever thought. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

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