A Meltdown and a Retreat

 

It was my birthday yesterday (yay!) and I am now the grand old age of 35. Woolf Works is also turning the grand old age of 1 in a week or so, so it feels like a particularly poignant time. This year has really been the cliché entrepreneur’s rollercoaster – big highs of accomplishment with big lows of ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’.

 

This last month or two particularly has been tough on me and in the interest of ‘keeping it real’ I’m going to be honest about what I have been going through – because I know behind all the happy social media photos we all go through crap times.

 

I had a bit of a burn-out last month, though probably no one else knew it. It’s amazing how conditioned we are at keeping up a façade isn’t it?

 

My burn-out was caused by a multitude of factors including:

  •  working on a bunch of different things simultaneously and without enough planning or support
  •  not packing lunches or snacks for work and so either not eating, or eating takeout
  •  no exercise
  •  not enough sleep
  • two kids who were fighting constantly
  • a husband on a on a long overseas trip
  • over-scheduling myself

It ended in a lot of tears.

But, most importantly, it also ended in a great chance to reassess how I was doing things, which was obviously unsustainable.

Once the tears had passed and I realised it was time to make some changes – some of which are short term, some are long term:

 

  •   Taking control of my work by extensive list making, project-based organization, deadlines and identifying what I can delegate, what is urgent and what is just going to have to wait. I’m also exploring automation and creating pathways and forms that require less input for me while getting the right information out.

 

  •  Seeing a nutritionalist to help with food planning, learn about healthy snacks to fuel long days at work, to learn about healthy menu choices when I am eating out, and to get some accountability and track what I am eating.

 

  •   Seeing a therapist. Yes. Here I am, saying it out loud. And you know what, it feels great to have an outlet and to learn skills to deal with unhelpful thought patterns and negativity.

 

  •    Limiting nights out to two per week and learning how to say ‘No’. There are so many great events on, so much I want to be part of and so many people I want to meet! But if I want to be healthy and effective I need to have sleep. I already have a 2 year old keeping me up – I don’t need to be out till midnight all week on top of that.

 

  •    Exercising when I can. Last year I went hardcore – personal trainer three times a week, running two or three times a week. I’m kind of all or nothing with exercise and the last three months it’s been nothing. Now I’m finding an in-between, something manageable and much less stressful. A swim one morning, a 3 km run the next evening, or a yoga class at lunch time.

 

The last, and quite possibly the best thing I’m doing: A weekend retreat.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Singapore, tucked away from the world. I have a pile of books, some writing projects and my running shoes. I plan to sleep and read a lot and I have been looking forward to this for weeks. It was time for me to get off the frantic bullet train of life and have some time out for me.

 

I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts of getting older is getting to know myself better. Learning my triggers for over eating or not eating, learning to give myself structure to stop the overwhelm and learning that ‘good enough’ can be enough – I don’t need to be perfect.

 

Have you taken a personal retreat? How do you cope with overwhelm?

 

We have two retreats coming up with Woolf Works this year – the first is a Writers Retreat, dates to be announced – a long weekend close by to Singapore with lots of time to write, share, have a massage, write some more and make new friends over dinner and drinks in the evening. Interested? We’ll be limiting the numbers so email me at michaela@woolfworks.sg to be on the first invite list.

The second retreat is to Bhutan where we will be working on mindfulness and self leadership. It will be in either November or March. Lots more info available here and you can register your interest here.

Always great to know your thoughts and feedback. Drop me a line anytime (though forgive me if I don’t reply immediately, I’m taking that email pressure of myself too!)

Tech Tools: Infusionsoft – An All-in-One Solution for Small Business CRM and Marketing?

If you are into small business, chances are you’ve mulled over the dilemma of how to integrate your CRM and marketing solutions into one seamless system instead of using several ones. In case you haven’t heard, Infusionsoft offers integrated marketing and online sales solutions that are especially targeted for small business owners.

infusionsoft

Off the bat, Infusionsoft appeals to many because it hits two birds with one stone: a way to communicate with and monitor your leads as well as manage online sales and other tasks that aim to get continuous business.

More Than Just Email Marketing

The one thing that sets Infusionsoft apart from other systems is that it is more than just email marketing, by leaps and bounds:

1. CRM Feature – Allows you to track customer data; simply input the name of your contact and within seconds you come face to face with every information that is connected to him (from the time he joined the list to a history of all the web pages he has viewed, and everything in between).

infusionsoft CRM

Image courtesy of crmmarketingpros.com

2. E-Commerce Program: Infusionsoft has the power to process not just credit card payments but also PayPal transactions. The system hooks up straight to online payment facilities that also include Authorize.net, Power Pay and other popular merchant processing systems. Included is a shopping cart system, an affiliate marketing program, promotional tools and coupons for deals and discounts.

3. Report Platform: As information is the lifeblood of business success, Infusionsoft aims to provide you with all the data you need from both the micro and macro perspectives. The software includes a feature called “Lifetime Customer Value”. This allows you to identify customers that have spent the most on your business over a lifetime (or a specific period). Other reports include Lead Source ROI, Marketing Channel, Sales and more.

infusionsoft Report

Image courtesy of codegreencreative.com

4. Campaign Builder Component: A popular feature that lets you construct a marketing campaign using drag and drop commands. This allows you to save time on campaign creation thanks to its efficiency tools and lets you gauge just how robust your campaign really is.

infusionsoft campaign builder

Image courtesy of iceaccelerate.com

5. Word Press integration: Makes it easy to plug-in to your Word Press website and includes plugins that track traffic.

infusionsoft integration

Image courtesy of http://ruizhidong.com/

All of this sounds pretty swell, but here’s what everyone is going to be asking about: the price. To be honest, it will cost you several hundred dollars more than your usual CRM tool to enjoy what Infusionsoft has to offer. At present, you are looking at spending $200 to $300 a month depending on which features you intend to get. On top of that is a setup fee that is required to get the whole thing started. In short, you will have to be willing to invest a good amount of money to be as productive and efficient as Infusionsoft aims you to be.

Infusionsoft-all-in-one

Image courtesy of http://www.adinfusion.com/

So, is it safe to say that Infusionsoft is a must for any small business? The answer is in the grey area: yes if you have the funds and the confidence in being able to generate enough revenue to pay for its monthly outlay; no (or not yet!) if your business is up and running but cannot yet fully take advantage of the pretty awesome features Infusionsoft has to offer as you will be putting out more than you stand to earn in return. But once the ball gets going and you are quite confident in the direction and trajectory of your small business, then Infusionsoft is not only a great suggestion but also practically a requirement for even greater success.

Tech Tools: Meet Edgar – And Get More Out Of Your Social Media Updates

We all know that social media presence is a must if you want your business to thrive online. But we also agree that, to some degree, social media posting can be a little bit of a pain in the neck. You need to figure out the types of posts you want to make, the schedule in which you will need to post them, and more. It can get quite a handful at times, which is why it pays to find a really good tool that will help you manage such task. One great tool that you definitely need to try out is Edgar.

edgar logo

Image courtesy of http://meetedgar.com/

The Best Market for Edgar

Using Edgar will most likely lead to the realization that it is perfect for small and burgeoning businesses that want to make a presence online rather than big businesses. Big brands most likely outsource their social media and have the capacity to pay for such outsourcing. But small businesses would like to invest a smaller amount that still yields significant results. Edgar is perfect in that you maintain active presence online with your social media posts yet will not need to spend big bucks or immense amounts of time for it.

A Walk Through

Using Edgar starts with setting up a posting schedule on an automated calendar where you can determine the following:

• The type of content you want to post (and where to draw it from)
• The day the post needs to be published, and
• The exact time you want it to be published

It’s all quite easy and requires very little effort to figure out. You are staring at a simple calendar layout with all the commands present, so you will not find yourself digging through subcategories to input your preferences.

edgar schedule

Image courtesy of http://meetedgar.com/

Capturing Ideas (And Holding On to Them)

If you are on the hunt for great content to take note of for future posts, Edgar also has a Google Chrome browser extension so you can easily add the page or content to your library. This is a strong feature of the tool, because at any given time that you find yourself surfing the web and coming across great content you can instantly file it away for future use. There’s even an option to file it and then instantly predetermine when you want it to be sent, if ever you are excited to get word of it around ASAP.

edgar browser

Image courtesy of http://iag.me/

Your library of content is also organized according to customized themes (ex. Funny & Inspirational, Tech Updates, Business Posts, etc.) that are color coded. At a glance, you can easily see your queue to know how much of each type of content you are posting based on the colors that you see. This is a great way to know if your posts are balanced across all the types of content you want to publish.

edgar cat

Image courtesy of http://meetedgar.com/

It Goes On.. And On…And On.

edgar posts

Image courtesy of http://meetedgar.com/

Another cool thing about Edgar? Once a post has been published, it automatically routes itself to the end of the queue and stays in line for another round of posting. This can go on for all eternity, if you so wish. And if you don’t want it to do that, you can simply take it out of the queue.

Edgar as Compared to Hootsuite and Buffer

You might be interested to know the similarities and differences of these in demand social media scheduling apps in the market. These 3 apps all have the ability to schedule posts in advance for multiple social media networks. They also have the ability to attach pictures to Facebook and Twitter, have browser extension for Chrome that enables uncomplicated scheduling and have in-app analytic reports. Buffer and Edgar on the other hand, have the ability to create a custom, automatic posting schedule – which is lacking in Hootsuite.

Out of these 3 apps, only Edgar has the feature to save posts to a library which can be retrieved for future postings. It also utilizes an auto-refill queuing based on your saved content that allows you to never miss a scheduled timeslot.

Some Observations

Of course, Edgar is not without its limitations. Some of the limitations or hiccups observed so far include:

1. You can’t respond through it. If someone initiates engagement through your post, you need to reply via the social media platform and not through Edgar.
2. You still need to hunt for your content. In the future, it would be nice for this tool to come up with a content search and generator that you can just choose from instead of having to look for them yourself. This will be a MASSIVE feature, and we’re hoping this earnest wish will be heard and granted!

All in all, Edgar is one of those “Oh, definitely!” types of applications when it comes to social media. With the amount of time that it saves you, you can then concentrate on other areas of your business that you want to improve on.

Jumpstart Magazine: Coworking for Women in Singapore

This article was written by Woolf Works founder, Michaela Anchan and was originally published in Jumpstart Magazine.

 

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a major hub for expat workers and the city consequentially finds itself a hub for their accompanying spouses. Often these spouses have left high powered jobs and rewarding careers themselves, to allow their partner to take up a dream international posting.

The role of the depressingly named, ‘trailing spouse’, can be a blessing and a curse. For many, it’s a chance for reinvention: to study, start a family, take up freelance work or volunteer in the region. For others it’s a catapult into a world of lost identity, homesickness and complete isolation. For a third group it’s a time stretch some entrepreneurial wings and to take advantage of Singapore’s relatively transparent business laws, steady economy and high disposable income levels.

Women-led start-ups are thriving across the world as the growth of digital technology fuels new business models and flexible work environments. Mothers can especially benefit from being able to reenter the business world on their own terms, outside the box of 9-5 corporate life.

Coworking spaces are booming across Asia and the world, as this new work era demands flexible workplaces and fluid community interactions. In Singapore we have workspaces for social entrepreneurs, high powered small business teams, artists, designers and tech start-ups. Woolf Works is a coworking space for women.

The coworking model is ideal for women who are often struggling with the balance between raising a family and growing a business. The idea of home businesses run by ‘mum-preneurs’ is inherently fraught – the home is a minefield of distractions and it can be impossible to be mentally engaged completely in the business. Working from a coworking space allows a real mental switch off between work and home, resulting in more productive work hours. It also helps against the dreadful isolation and ‘sameness’ of working alone at the kitchen table every day.

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Woolf Works aims to help women put themselves and their business first. We found that women, and especially mothers of small children, habitually put themselves and the needs of their business way behind the needs of other family members. Working from home really adds to this and Woolf Works aim is to provide a space where women can focus one hundred percent on their business. To achieve this we focus on three essentials for our members:

– A calm, quiet office in which to work productively
– A community of supportive, professional women
– Business opportunities within our network

Our members are a mix of freelance editors and writers, remote corporate workers, and small business owners. We have a range of women from a diverse number of industries. A few examples of the interesting businesses who use our space include:

Woomentum is a global crowdsourcing platform for women entrepreneurs to access business advice, mentorship and funding. Woomentum aims to be the most community-focused knowledge and experience-sharing platform for women in Asia and globally; as well as being the largest reward based crowdfunding platform in Asia, providing women with access to critical capital, particularly at the early stage of their businesses.

Attaby is a three year old fashion design label. Attaby clothing is feminine, easy to wear and designed with the Singapore climate in mind. Attaby clothing is sold globally through their e-commerce platform.

Tekkie Help is a family run business which focuses on getting people’s technology working how they want it to, both at home and at work. They have a growing team of tech specialists and are exploring moving into other markets in the region.

We also have a growing group of writers in our midst, both doing journalistic writing and fiction writing. One of our members, Shasta Grant, recently won a US Short Story competition, which was judged by acclaimed author Ann Patchett.

The role of ‘trailing spouse’ can be lonely and unfulfilling. Coworking spaces for women can provide community and support to expatriate women as well as networks and business opportunities. Woolf Works’ bigger vision is to provide space and community for all women who want to prioritize themselves and their business outside of their role as a parent and a partner.