Charles Tips – Zoom Etiquette

I never imagined myself writing anything about etiquette. However, being in the middle of the web world as I am I get to listen to everyone’s two cents on our new business meeting medium: Zoom. And it is the same for all the video meetings that are happening. Here’s a short list of what people remark about most:

Example Zoom Meeting
Example Zoom Meeting Screenshot
    • Being on time – It appears that people are late more than ever for video meetings. Others notice.
    • Eating – Bad manners at a face to face meeting, most would never think to sit down with a bowl of cereal or a sandwich at a business meeting.
    • Stretching/Exercising – In a lifetime of meetings I’d have never believed this without seeing it happen.
    • Hiding – Everyone knows when you don’t show yourself at a meeting you either aren’t ready or you are doing something else.
    • Bathroom – Do I really need to even mention this? Never take your phone there. Remember Murphy’s Law.
    • Being Unfocused – In most cases private texting is not really private and can be seen my whomever manages the meetings. And what an embarrassment when you text everyone instead of privately. And everyone can see when you’re not paying attention.
    • Kids – We all love our kids. But we just don’t need to include them in business meetings.

Remember this is just a short list of the issues/complaints I seem to hear the most. The bottom line is that if you use video meetings for business you may want to use common sense and take them seriously.

Behaving the same way that you normally would if you were actually present at a face to face meeting will keep your appearance professional – which will help grow your business.

Charles Tips – Working Remote

COVID-19 is dictating much of how we live our lives at this point. Most of us understand we are on the virus’s schedule – not ours. COVID-19 has dramatically changed lives in most communities.

Many attempt to work from home. Some are more fortunate as their work may be more conducive to this. Others can’t and must simply remain home to slow the spread of the disease.

Hopefully some of this info will increase your coping with remote working. I’ve worked remotely on occasion since starting my business in 1998. If there’s a way to get it done I’ve pretty much figured it out. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list and is mostly common sense:

Pros

– You gain your travel time. The importance of this increases with the distance you had to travel to work.

– Travel to work expenses disappear. Gone is the commute wear and tear on your vehicle. Your gasoline cost goes down.

– Driving risks go away. No worrying about being in a hurry and getting a speeding ticket or worse yet having a fender bender. So your car insurance premiums aren’t at risk of going up.

Cons

– Internet service can be slow. During high Internet usage times there can be traffic bottlenecks similar to what happens on the roads. Most people have what’s called asymmetric access to the Internet. In a nutshell this means that information sent from your Internet connection goes away from your device much, much slower than the speed at which it arrives. In techie terms this means your upload is much faster than your download. An example of this is when you type a character on your keyboard and you can see the delay of it appearing on your screen. Add to that the fact that cable Internet service is affected by the number of people online. DSL service is affected by how far away from a connection point you are. Wireless service is even more susceptible to both factors.

– Self-starters do better. Most of us in business for ourselves understand this. We are used to being out on that limb keeping our businesses happening. We understand that working by oneself can take a great deal of focus. It is very easy to become distracted and lose focus. You may need to write out a schedule yourself. It is important that you start work on time and always perform as though you were in an office where others can observe you. Putting on that show for you is every bit as important as putting it on for the boss. And you’ll feel better for it.

– Home computers and laptops can be slow. In the office there may be better machines with more horsepower so to speak to get work done than a machine you are using at home. Be cognizant of things like the number of windows open in browsers, how many programs you have open, and so on. Sometimes spending the additional moments to open and close programs can result in far more productivity and less frustration over the course of a day.

Suggestions for improved productivity

– Separate functions among devices. Let’s say you are connecting to a remote computer. Running Internet based programs from the company workstation uses the Internet connection that the company is physically connected to. Many companies have what’s called symmetric access to the Internet which is faster and considerably more expensive than your home asymmetric service. In techie terms this just means your upload is the same as your download speed. If you have a good data plan on your phone then using your phone separately to look things up on Google or visit sites you need to will help keep your desktop running more smoothly. This is a way of performing what’s called “load balancing” to spread out use across different connections to keep everything running reasonably well.

– Get up and walk around. Not only will you feel a little better but it actually helps to be more productive. If you have multiple bathrooms in your home use the furthest one. It especially feels good for your eyes to look away from the screen on a regular basis.

Setting up your remote services is beyond our scope. However, we can help by referring you to local professionals who do exactly that sort of thing. Feel free to call us at 603-924-9867 and we’ll find a good, reliable local fit for you.

With a little determination, willpower and focus we will all get through this thing. The important piece of this right now is to not overburden our medical systems. Go to https://www.coronavirus.gov for the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) information.

Charles Tips – Hit and Run

Most of us think “hit and run” refers to a car accident. We’ve been using that phrase in the web world since starting this business in 1998.

Most of our web clients have been victimized by website hit and runs. That’s where a web developer hits you up for the cost of building your website and – if you’re lucky enough to have them complete the project – they run.

The main reason is because that initial developer really doesn’t have a robust grasp of the website development field. They stop being responsive to you because they simply don’t know how to modify or alter their work. This usually happens because they used quick templates that they simply don’t know how to adjust or modify.

In most cases I’ve seen, these so-called web developers are part timers doing a little web work on the side. They may provide what seems like a fantastic deal at the time – but leave you high and dry when the time comes that you need changes made to your website.

Although there are no guarantees you’ll never experience this – there are a few things you can check on. First of all see if they are a legitimate business. You can check this and other factors at https://cwcorner.com and in the upper right corner hit the magnifying glass and type “legitimate” and hit enter.

Don’t be the victim of a hit and run – you can minimize it happening to you by checking the potential web developer out before getting involved with them.

Charles Tips – Persistent Scammers

I’ve written several articles about specific scams that are occurring on a regular basis on the Internet. They seem to subside for a short time – a very short time – and then a wave of them happens again.

One of the worst – as far as I am concerned – are the ones where the email recipient is being told they must verify their email. These have some common traits with most Internet scams:

1) A sense of urgency – they want you to take care of this immediately

2) A time limit – they give you within 24 hours to act

3) A threat – they tell you your email will be locked.

The first thing you have to understand is that nearly everyone gets these on occasion. I have received them myself in which they are made to look like they are from CharlesWorks. So when our clients get these they tend to become very worried very quickly.

I can’t stress enough that most legitimate companies will not send out messages like these. To fall prey to these can be a real nightmare. With access to one’s email these days the bad guys can wreak havoc in one’s life. The worst cases are called identity theft!

Don’t be the unfortunate one who falls prey to these scammers. If you have been “notified” of something serious – call your provider up and speak with a representative. Just like at my company – it’s a lot easier for us to allay your fears than to have to try to clean up the mess that can happen with compromised accounts.

Charles Tips – Trademark and Copyright Familiarity

In the web world, copyrights and trademarks can get business owners in hot water. Many experienced web developers have an awareness of when legal assistance may be required to resolve such issues.

While I am not an attorney, I can say with a fair degree of certainty what items are safe to use on one’s website.

First and foremost are graphics that you create yourself or have created for you by someone you hire to produce them. However, an exception to that is if the graphic created is similar enough to a copyrighted work to create confusion to the viewer.

Next are photographs. Usually using your own photographs is pretty safe. Photos not taken by you is always risky unless you have permission to do so.

There are various sources on the Internet for pictures and graphics that allow unlicensed or licensed use – otherwise “free to use” graphics or photos. Pixabay.com is one example. It has many items that can be used covering many topics, classifications and so forth.

I recommend you use an experienced, seasoned web developer. A general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues is more apt to be found by using a seasoned website developer. When in doubt, as a business owner you should consult a trademark or copyright attorney.

Charles Tips – WordPress Proficiency and Training

We’ve mentioned the term WordPress previously. Over 1/3 of all websites on the planet are built using WordPress. It is the most popular website platform. The platform is the environment in which a piece of software is executed.

An important aspect of website operation is determining whether the platform is optimized for your WordPress coding. That’s difficult for most people other than server operators to know. We recommend you find out two things from your web developer:

First is whether the latest version possible of PHP is used. That’s the actual programming language WordPress is written/coded in. PHP doesn’t have to be the very latest, as there are always new versions being developed. However, your WordPress themes and plugins may not work on the very newest version. But if you are using a version of PHP 5.x you may be asking for security issues. If the plugins and themes won’t run on the newer PHP 7.x then you really need to consider upgrading your site to use newer plugins or themes. WordPress itself is kept up better than most software and works great with the very latest PHP versions.

Second is to check that your WordPress installation is running on a Linux based system. Over twenty years in this business has shown us that there are far fewer issues with WordPress operating in Linux based servers rather than Windows based servers.

Hopefully your web developer is proficient with WordPress through experience and training. He or she should know the answers to these questions. If not, we routinely reassure our clients on such matters.

And, finally, the CharlesWorks team wishes you and yours a very safe and happy 2020!

Charles Tips – 3-4 Day Maintenance Response

Web services providers are really not much different than most trades. Response times can vary widely. Most good tradespeople can give you an idea of when they are going to get a job done for you. If they’re too busy for you then you’d normally just find someone else.

One of the major concerns we hear expressed in the web services field is about the general lack of timely service. Before dealing with a web company you should know if it’s a one man show – which dictates whether they can respond quickly to most maintenance requests.

My belief is that small changes should be done within 3-4 work days – if not sooner. If a web company does not have staff to be able to do this in that time-frame, that should raise a red flag. A one person company will always have issues should several of its clients require service during the same time frame. One person cannot be truly reliable to be there every time you will need them.

Unfortunately for most, they don’t find out the service will be poor until they are experiencing it. Not to worry – just make the switch then. A good company has backup staff on board to see to it you are taken care of. Do what’s best for your business – deal with reliably staffed web companies who will have people to help you when you need it.

Charles Tips – Partial Hour Webwork Billing

We hear lots of hype about how the economy is doing so great these days. However, it isn’t necessarily true for all and many have to watch their spending.

Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees
It’s better in YOUR pocket!

One thing to watch is minimum labor/service rates. Checking out how you’re billed for webwork can save you a lot on money over time.

You gain the most advantage for yourself by finding a web company that bills by the minute. Billing by the full hour – or even worse yet – a minimum of more than an hour – is the absolute worst for you as an end web client.

By the minute billing means if a task takes 14 minutes you are billed for 14/60 of the hourly rate. While some complicated website tasks take lots of time – but smaller tasks usually do not take long to do – like changing phone numbers, updating hours, adding or taking down specials, minor modifications to how something looks and the likes of that.

There are companies that will bill you for only the work they do for you – billing you by the minute.

I started doing it that way from the time I started my business in 1998. The business experienced considerable growth. One day, a competitor in my field told me I was “shooting myself in the foot” by charging that way. I ran into him a number of years later. He wasn’t in the web business any more.

There are many companies out there that do business fairly. If you’re paying minimum labor times or so called maintenance plans, then my suggestion is to look for a web company that will treat you fairly. You’ll save a lot of money in the long term.

Charles Tips – Inflated Maintenance Plans

Along with all the many scams out there on the Internet are what I’d call the “inflated monthly maintenance plans”.

Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees
Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees

These are usually fixed monthly pricing plans that include hosting and website maintenance. Such plans are touted as providing the business owner with a means to budget ongoing website maintenance, so-to-speak.

I’ve seen many of these offerings since 1998. I’ve also spoken with many website owners who have had such plans. They’re almost never advantageous to the business owner.

In most cases, business website owners had paid up to several hundred dollars a month for these plans – for many years in some cases. Most never had any work done to their websites. Those who did have work done indicated it was far less value than they had paid for with their “budget”.

Put specifically in dollar terms, some had paid thousands of dollars for only about a hundred dollar’s worth of web updates over time. For that reason I highly recommend businesses avoid such plans.

In short, be very careful about doing business with web companies or web developers that want to sell you these inflated monthly maintenance plans. Paying for website work on an as-you-need-it basis will almost always cost you much, much less in the long term.

Charles Tips – Nightly Website Backups

Your website is an important investment. Whether you made it yourself or paid to have a professional develop it for you – you wouldn’t want to lose it. We have taken on clients who were with the largest company in the world who lost their website because of having no backup. The terms for doing business with that company even state they are not responsible for the loss of the website.

Nightly Backup Server

I couldn’t imagine not backing sites up. Nowadays the technology is ever present to back everything up. In the not too distant past, hard drives were much more expensive than they are now. Hard drive space is extremely inexpensive nowadays – so there’s no excuse for a company to not make backups.

One third of today’s sites are on a platform called WordPress. Security updates happen often and changes can be readily made to WordPress sites – so they need backups at least every day. Whether there’s a server catastrophe or simply one of your employees blowing up your site while making changes – it can be recovered.

Definitely protect your website investment by hosting with a company that provides daily backups of your WordPress website every night for at least a month. That will avoid having to restart your website from scratch.

Charles Tips – Forming Reciprocal Relationships

It’s always great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you.

Businesses built upon reciprocity help each other with success
Businesses built upon reciprocity help each other with success.

As a point of curiosity I usually ask when the last time was that a company received referrals from their web hoster or web developer. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer others back to their own clients.

You need a web developer that does that as a rule rather than as a request. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and experienced at referring business back to their own clients.

That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.

One way that can be done is if the web development company has a directory they can be part of. That helps clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.

If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!

Charles Tips – Where Are They?

Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!

It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can't figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.
It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can’t figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.

I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not. Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.

Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!

Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.

Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.

Charles Tips – An Email Contact is Essential

This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.

Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.

If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.

Charles Tips – Leaving a Voice Mail

Do I really have to say a web developer simply has to have a phone contact where one can at least leave messages?

As unbelievable as it may seem, there are those out there without a listed phone contact. I saw a website recently where there was no telephone number or email address on it to reach someone for service. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you that individual has been in business for many years.

The owner asked me how I managed to get so many clients and grow CharlesWorks to handling thousands of websites. I couldn’t resist mentioning there was no contact information on the website. The response was they didn’t want lots of junk emails and people knowing their phone number.

It reminded me that back in 1998 I started CharlesWorks because I wanted to help as many people with their web related needs as possible. I knew from having been in business earlier in my life that there are always going to be spam phone calls (just like spam emails). But that’s part of the cost of doing business.

So think twice if you can find a phone number to talk to someone.

Charles Tips – Forming Reciprocal Relationships

It is great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you. I always ask folks I meet when the last time was that they received referrals from the web hoster or web developer before moving to CharlesWorks. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer folks back to their own clients.

You need a web developer that does that as a rule. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and will refer business back to their own clients.

That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.

One small way CharlesWorks does that is through its CharlesWorks Directory. We help our clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.

If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!