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  • 13 Dec 2009 10:09 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    When decorating for the holidays, it’s not about how much money you spend, but how creative you can be with what you already have!  decor-story-nov-candle.jpg

    Start by thinking about what kind of style and / or color scheme you want to incorporate. Once you have your direction, it’s time to start to illustrate it.  Before you hit the store, take a look at what you have in your home.  Chargers, china, or even that mirror on your wall can be the perfect base for a beautiful display to adorn your coffee table.

    Sure, ornaments look great on your tree, but they can also create a focal point on your dining table.  Grab a clear vase, and fill it up with some ornaments, and scatter a few around the base.  Don’t have that many ornaments?  Fill the center of the vase with crumbled tissue paper and push the ornaments around the paper, against the glass, but be sure you can’t really see the tissue paper from the outside.  It will look like you have 60 ornaments instead of 20.

    Don’t buy expensive napkin holders to only use for one month, make your own!  Take some ribbon and tie it around your napkins and adorn it with a small ornament and accent with a sprig of evergreen.  Are your dining chairs not festive enough for your pretty holiday table?  Take some thicker ribbon and tie a bow around the back of each chair.  You could also add some extra special flair to your chairs by again adding an ornament or bit of Christmas tree.  Don’t forget your chandelier over the table.  Add some touches of the season to your lighting fixture with some garland and intertwining red bows. Your guests marvel at your innovation!

    When it comes to creating an environment, you must take into account more than just your sense of sight.  Think about your sense of smell as well.  Yes, scented candles will do the trick, but the good ones can cost a pretty penny!  Grab some unscented candles from around your home and hit your spice rack! Scatter nutmeg and cinnamon sticks around the candles. Other ways to add scent is with extracts.  Vanilla and peppermint are popular holiday scents.  I would not suggest putting the extracts directly near the wick, because a number of extracts can be flammable.  Tie a ribbon around the base or scatter some rocks below, and put a few drops on that instead.  If you have a live tree, cut some twigs off the back of the tree and use the fresh pine to accent a display.  All of these scents will fill your home with the smell of the holidays.

    Do you have a corner in your home that just needs something?  Wrap some empty boxes with some pretty paper and bows, and stack them there.  You’ll be able to enjoy them longer than December 25th!  Is your guest bathroom not welcoming guests with the holiday spirit?  Don’t purchase a whole Christmas bath set.  Instead, drape some holly and a red bow or two around your mirror, and voila!

    Be creative this holiday season and your wallet will thank you!

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    Staci M.

    Unique Event Design

  • 25 Nov 2009 8:36 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    It’s the most wonderful time of year again - the time when we all think about the ritual of holiday shopping. Instead of fighting the crowds at mega stores or limiting your gift choices to things that have cheap shipping from online stores, why not consider fulfilling your gift list by shopping from members of Workishopping.jpgng Women of Tampa Bay?

    After all, the holiday season is indeed entwined with the spirit of giving. When you support WWOTB members, you give your community a great holiday gift: a boost to the local economy. Your purchase is also helping make the season brighter for a fellow Working Woman of Tampa Bay

    We are helping spread Holiday Cheer this year with our Holiday Shopping Spree Contest. From Black Friday until December 20th, any WWOTB member who buys from (3) fellow members will get a virtual raffle ticket for a prize drawing. There will be more than 2 dozen amazing gifts including a $100 spa gift certificate given away on 12/21.

    To enter the contest, buy from (3) of our particpating vendors and tell them you are a WWOTB member. We will notify you on the night of the 20th what your virtual ticket number is and then we draw on the 21st. If you have any questions, e-mail us at

    Here's a list of participating vendors to choose from:

    Dawn Termani  Avon South Tampa

    Michelle Northrup – Intensity Academy

    Olga Carr – OAC Designs

    Robin Borland – Art Rob Studios

    Kathy Glenn – Pampered Chef

    Kathy Glenn - Special Thymes

    Luisa Mayer – Rodan & Fields

    Kristen Mory – Generations Yoga

    Suzin Carr - Illuminated Publishing

    Karen McCrae – Arbonne Tampa Bay

    Michelle Langlois – Edible Arrangements

    Ederle Greene - Sacred Glo

    Megan Henry – Vue Salon & Spa

    Janet Landis Long – Kookie Krums

    Ginger Rockey-Johnson – Mary Kay

    Rebekah Reidy – Fit 4 Fashion

    Joan Putrino – Silpada

    Stephanie Ensor – Flip Flop Embroidery

    Emily Shapiro – Body & Mind

    Melissa Gallagher – Healthy Being

    Billie Jo Grassinger – BiosLife

    Angelique Carter – Life Balance Management

    Krayl Funch – Event & Home Stylist

    Elena Minton – Talk of the Town

    Karen Rodowicz - JK Flowers

    Debra Dakin – In the Pink

    Suzanne Shamblin - Spa Hyde Park

    Jennifer Kenny – Tranzitions Salon

    Catalina Anderson – Makeup by Cat 

    Terri Long – Scentsy Candles

    Thanks to Chief Blogger, Megan Daniel for help with this blog! She'll be blogging more about The Holidays in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

  • 19 Nov 2009 11:06 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Businesses are tightening their belts during this economic climate, but it’s important to show your thankfulness and gratitude to those clients, vendors, and co-workers twho help provide you with the means to put that turkey on your table.


    Here are some ideas for you to implement:

    • Holiday cards are a typical means to thank your clients and wish them a happy holiday season, but rather than sending out a stack of cards with a pre-printed signature, why not set aside some time and write a short note in each card. It will be meaningful to that individual, that you took the time to truly think of them.
    • Another option is to share the thoughtfulness and give to a cause that is close to their heart. If you have a client that runs in Race fgoody.jpgor the Cure every year, why not make a donation in her name to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
    •  To thank those loyal customers, have a special discount or offer that only they are eligible for. Also, be sure to give them last dibs before any price increases. They have been loyal to you and it’s the least you can do.
    • For those few very special clients take the time to personalize a gift for them.  For instance, if you know that Sandy is an avid golfer; give her a gift certificate to a local golf store. They will appreciate that you know them not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level
    • If you have had a great year, why not have a “Customer Appreciation” celebration. It can be as small as dinner at your location for a selected few, or a picnic at a local park, complete with food and activities.
    • However you decide to show your thankfulness, you don’t have to break the bank, just be creative. It’s true that it’s the thought that counts, so show them that you are thinking of them during this season of family and togetherness.

    Staci Mandikas is an Event Designer & Planner and owner of Unique Event Design, LLC. She's been planning everything from weddings to corporate events, for more than three years. Learn more about her online.

  • 02 Nov 2009 8:26 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    You are probably familiar with Microsoft Office, the uber-popular productivity suite in use by many of today’s businesses.  What you may not know, though, is how effective the program is when put to full use, and how it can impact you and your business specifically.

    MS Office is sold in four different “flavors,” but the most basic Standard version comes with Outlook (for e-mail), Excel (for spreadsheets), PowerPoint (for presentations), and Word (for documents).  The Microsoft Website offers a convenient comparison page so you can analyze the different versions, including features and cost.

    Each of the different modules offered within the Office suite deserves an entire blog in and of itself, but today we’ll focus on just the basics of Outlook, which happens to be my personal favorite.

    The Outlook website states:  Office Outlook 2007 provides an integrated solution to help you better manage your time and information. What does that mean for you, exactly?  It means that Outlook provides you, the time-starved-multi-hat-wearing-woman the tools necessary to manage your e-mail, calendars, notes, contacts, tasks and more in one convenient location.  One location, that is, unless you are interested in mobile access.  Yes, you can take it with you!  For example, I use the calendar feature of Outlook to track both of my kids school activities/days off, after school events, holidays, work commitments, jewelry parties, bill paying, doctor appointments, and even gratitude e-mail reminders.

    I classify each event within its appropriate category and then assign it a specific color so that I can see how my month (or day, or week) looks at a glance.  I can also create multiple calendars and overlay them, one on top of the other, in order to keep separate calendars but see all events in a given time-period.  I can then set up my iTouch to synch with Outlook (including contacts, mail, etc) in order to have my calendar with me at all times.

    As if the basics of Outlook weren’t exciting enough on their own, if you take into consideration the various add-ins available, a whole new world of improved organization opens up to you.  Two add-ins that I regularly use include Evernote and MAPILab’s Attachments Processor.  Evernote is a free add-in which among other things allows you to take any bit of information found in an e-mail, or on a calendar item, and organize it effortlessly.  The Attachments Processor is a handy add-in for those who get many (or very large) attachments, and are concerned about mail files growing too large too quickly.  There are add-ins compatible with Outlook for just about anything that you could imagine having a need for, and many are available to download for free.

    What we’ve covered today doesn’t even begin to do justice to the tools available just within Outlook itself, but it may whet your whistle a bit.  If you’re interested in more information regarding Outlook specifically or Office in general, the Microsoft Office website is a great place to start researching.  Have fun with it, productivity tools don’t have to be boring!

    Connect with Angel Sullivan on Facebook.


  • 30 Oct 2009 10:11 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    cartoon_ghost_copy_zcth.jpgThis year, Halloween festivities are tainted by the ghastly pallor of something truly frightening lurking in the shadows: a deadly pandemic flu.  But don’t let this very scary threat spoil your fun.  With a little bit of extra precaution, you can safely celebrate the day of the dead without you yourself becoming a casualty.

    It is not necessary to trade in your monster mask for a surgical mask, although I suspect doctor costumes will be a very popular choice this year.  The Centers for Disease Control  gives some good practical advice:  if you are very ill, running a fever, or have a bad cough, you should stay home!  You might miss out on the party this year, but you will be preventing others from sharing in your misery. 

    The CDC even has a special page dedicated to Halloween germ safety.  There they have information about how to protect yourself from both the H1N1 virus as well as the standard seasonal flu.  You can even send animated “Don’t Be Afraid of Halloween” e-cards to your friends and relatives that include germ safety tips.  One way you can help prevent the spread of germs this holiday is to place candy directly into the bags of eager trick-or-treaters, instead of letting them grab from your candy bowl.

    The most potent protection against any type of flu is to get vaccinated.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and if you must scratch or rub your face, using your knuckle rather than your fingertip is a more sanitary option.  Wash your hands with soap and hot water as often as possible throughout your day.  Avoid sharing utensils and cups.  In addition, the CDC suggests that you avoid kissing, if at all possible. 

                Remember that hand sanitizer is not necessarily for the purpose of protecting yourself from germs.  Using it will protect others from picking up any germs you may be spreading.  If you cough or sneeze into your hands, do sanitize them before you touch anything.  Consider it a part of your daily commitment to social responsibility.

    All sanitizers are not created equal: make sure you read the label.  Select one that uses alcohol rather than triclosan as its active ingredient.  Only alcohol (or bleach) will kill the flu virus.  My personal preference is alcohol wipes, because they come in convenient individually wrapped packets that fit easily into even the smallest purse or pocket.  I have also noticed that many pharmacies now offer alcohol based hand sanitizer in a variety of pleasing scents.  You can also usually find a soothing lavender scented hand sanitizer in the baby care aisle. 

    Even though the old tradition of bobbing for apples may now be a thing of the past, many Halloween traditions still live on.  If you are thinking about giving out bottles of hand sanitizer this year instead of candy, you can expect to fall victim to another time honored tradition: egging. 

    You can connect with Megan Daniel on Facebook.


  • 19 Oct 2009 8:24 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    In 1953, Congress enacted the Small Business Administration with the passage of the Small Business Act.  If your business could use a helping hand, an SBA loan is something you should consider. Even if you aren’t necessarily looking for a loan, offers a multitude of important information any business can benefit from.   


    Contrary to popular belief, an SBA loan isn’t something specifically for people looking to start a new business, but is more so to help fund new businesses that  need help getting established.  SBA loans offer longer repayment periods and less strict affordability requirements than normal commercial business loans.  A very popular use of SBA loans is for commercial mortgages on buildings, because unlike most bank programs, borrowers are not required to refinance every five years.


    So how do you get started?  First, spend some time familiarizing yourself with their website.  Then, go apply for business loans at private banks.  I know this sounds contradictory, but before seeking an SBA loan, you must first provide the SBA proof that you can't get a loan from a private source.  You must be turned down for a loan by at least two different banks before you can apply.  If you live in a rural area, one turn down might be enough.


    Once you are rejected (don’t take it personally), ask your banker if they would grant you the loan under SBA's loan guarantee plan, or if they would work in conjunction with the SBA on a loan.  If your banker is interested, ask if they will contact them using the SBA’s hotline number, which is 1-800-827-5722, to discuss your application.


    If your bank is just not interested in working with you, then you'll have to apply directly to SBA for a loan on their website.  You'll be required to fill out the SBA loan application, and submit other forms designed to help SBA assess the soundness of your business.  You will need to write a business plan, a statement of personal history, and a monthly cash flow projection.  Although this may sound daunting, the website will walk you through completing these documents with ease.


    After you have submitted your application packet, SBA will evaluate your request to determine your chances of success.  If you plan on operating the business by managing all the day-to-day details on your own, that's an important plus.  Another aspect that will help tip the scales in your favor is if the business will be your sole source of income.  The SBA figures that you'll work that much harder at keeping the business afloat if your family’s livelihood depends on it. 


    The SBA will also look at your ability to repay the loan.  They will look over your credit history, and although it won’t preclude you altogether, if you have a bankruptcy on record or a default of another loan, your application will receive an extra level of attention that may considerably slow down the process. The most important thing to remember is not to give up.  Don't count yourself out no matter how weak your financial condition may currently seem.  


    This program was designed to help American business grow - including yours.  Even if you aren’t looking for a loan right now, the SBA also offers several management assistance programs that could prove to be very valuable.  Don’t be afraid to take advantage of everything Uncle Sam has to offer! 


  • 05 Oct 2009 10:15 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Chances are by now you’ve heard of the phrase “The Law of Attraction.” The concept has been made popular by the hit movie, “The Secret.” Even Oprah has shared her thoughts on the topic. When it comes to business, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.  It’s all about keeping an open mind and an attitude of thankful expectation.

    There are many exercises for playing with this law. One involves thinking of a particular object or experience (something small to begin with). Put all of your focus on it. I used a very juicy & ripe tomato when I tried this the first time. Picture it in your mind’s eye with as much detail (and using as many senses) as possible. Once you’ve vividly imagined your test item in detail for a few minutes, let it go. Don’t think about it again… Just be aware. My tomato showed up for me within a couple of days. It was on the side of a large semi-truck, advertising the restaurant: Sweet Tomatoes.

    So, now you’re excited by the idea… you’re probably wondering how you can use it in your life and in your business, right? You can use a vision board to picture a goal you’ve got for yourself and/or your business. Click here for an example. There’s also an amazing digital vision board – for free – on Oprah’s website. You can combine the use of the vision board with the exercise above and your own imagination. There are so many amazing tools available, for those who are interested. Once you start practicing, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ‘coincidences’ that start coming your way.

    My best advice: keep an open mind, express your gratitude on a daily basis, then watch and wait with wonder as your life and business begin to shift!”

    Angel Sullivan

    “A Grateful Heart; A Joyful Life”

  • 03 Oct 2009 1:56 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    “Going green” is all the rage these days, and from what I can see, being eco-minded not only helps the planet, but can also help your wallet.  I know that many of our Members have a home or small office, so I ask: what two major consumables fuel your operation?  I’d bet the answer is power and paper.  With that in mind, here are just a few earth-friendly, money saving tips.


    You can have save approximately $143 a year in electricity costs by simply customizing the power settings on your computer.  For example, if your computer system sleeps for 21 hours per day, it uses just 5 watts.  Leave your computer running for 24 hours a day, and you will use a comparatively large 160 watts.

    To customize your power settings in any version of Microsoft Windows, go to the Control Panel, select Hardware and Sounds, then choose Power Options.  Alternatively, you can get there by right clicking anywhere on the desktop, choose Screen Saver, and then click on “change power settings” at the bottom of the pop up window. 

    Windows will not tell you exactly how much power you’ll be saving buy altering these settings, but you can find out by using a utility called “LocalCooling,” available as a free download at  This program will give you much greater insight into the amount of power that each component in your computer is drawing.

    To make you feel good not only about the money you are saving but also about the reduced impact you are having on the environment, LocalCooling keeps a running tally of how many trees, gallons of fuel, and kilowatt hours of electricity you are saving by employing the various power saving schemes.  You can even use the utility to view how much energy you are saving relative to other LocalCooling users.

    Another easy way to shrink that power bill a little is to make be sure you unplug these same machines when you go on vacation or leave the office for the weekend.  Be aware that even when the computer is turned off, it may still be drawing power for certain components that have stand-by functions.  Using a power strip, surge protector, or battery backup system can make this task more convenient:  just pull the main line once everything is safely shut down. 

    Printing and Paper:

    Surprisingly, black-and-white laser printers are much cheaper to run than inkjet printers.  Typically, the cost per page of running a laser printer is about half that of the average inkjet printer, due to the great difference in the cost of consumables - and that's assuming that you print only in black ink with your inkjet.  If you print using any colors at all, the cost per page skyrockets over the cost of using a traditional laser printer.  While you may pay a bit more up front for the cost of a laser printer, you should quickly recoup that money in regained overhead.  

    If you love your inkjet and don’t want to make the switch to laser, don’t be afraid to refill your ink cartridges.  In my experience doing this, I have noticed no difference whatsoever in the print quality, nor has it damaged my printer in any way.  At local shops like Walgreens, a refill is only $10 and is usually ready in 1 hour.  The last stop for completely spent ink cartridges should always be a designated ink cartridge recycling bin.

    Whether you are running an inkjet or a laser printer, you can drastically reduce your ink or toner consumption by utilizing the settings in the print driver.  If you are using Windows, open the Control Panel's Printer section, right-click your printer driver, and select Properties from the pop- up menu.  You can also get to the printer’s Properties by right clicking on the small printer icon in the notification area in the lower right of your screen.  From within the printer's Properties panel, look for a setting such as "econo-mode", “fast draft”  or some other setting that allows you to specify 50 per cent ink usage (this depends on your brand of printer).  This change will generally result in printouts that are a bit lighter than they otherwise would be, but they will still be perfectly legible, and you'll save a lot in ink or toner costs.

    You can also save on paper costs if you minimize your usage.  It is estimated that paper accounts for more than half of all municipal solid waste.  Setting up good paper usage habits can really help the Earth in a myriad ways, and reduce the number of those pricey reams you must buy.   A good way to start is to “think before you print.”  Ask yourself: do you really need a hard copy of this document?  Use a hard drive backup service or device and just save a copy of everything important. 

    Here are some more nifty printer tricks you can use:  Only print the page you need to review from Word by hitting Ctrl + P then Alt + E.  This will move thee curser to “only current page”; then hit enter.  Try printing on both sides of the page.  This is only for hardcore savers!  First print the odd pages, then flip the stack, and change the output to only odd pages.  When possible, print in “two up” mode by hitting Ctrl+P, look for “pages per sheet, clicking the drop down arrow, and selecting “2 per page.”  This will make a printout on one page that looks like a book.  Make a scrap paper pile and use that stack when you want to print drafts.  Finally, paper that is too used to put back in the paper tray can be cut into fourths and used to jot quick notes or phone messages.

                You can make a difference in your consumption if you pay attention to what you are using and work small, effective changes into your daily routine.  The payoff will be tangibly reflected in your bottom line:  the amount of which will be a direct reflection of how much you are willing to change. 

    So tell me, what will you do with your newfound green money?  I’ll be spending mine at the next Girls Night Out, proposing a toast to all our hard work!


  • 15 Sep 2009 4:16 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Web commerce is growing exponentially, and should be considered a critical component to your business plan.  If you don’t already have a proprietary web sales portal for your product or service, I encourage you to try your hand at entering the online marketplace through Ebay or Amazon.  These sites are a great way to reach a national or even an international market. 

    You can design your own professional looking “store front” which is hosted by the parent site for a monthly fee (between $10 and $15 per month).  If you prefer, you may simply sell items under your username, in which case you will only be charged a small fee to list an item, and another small fee if the item sells.  In both cases the fee is anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars, depending on the level of features you select for the listing and the final selling price. 

    You can choose to sell your products in either an auction style or “buy it now” format.  To set the price, take into consideration the lowest price you would want for the item, but also weigh that against the price other sellers have listed.  The best way to determine what a reasonable price for your item would be is to do a background check on it first by running a search as if you were a buyer.  Remember that something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it!  If you have a unique item or service, you can set the price as you like.  However, if you see that there are hundreds of your item for sale at $10 each, for example, you will have the competitive edge by selling yours for $9.50, and your item will appear at the top of the list of search results. 

    Try Ebay’s “Turbolister” program to really simplify and speed up the listing process.  This software is free to download from the “seller’s tools” section of the Ebay website.  With Turbolister, you can set a template of parameters that will remain unchanged in all your listings, so you will not have to type things over and over again.  This is especially valuable if you are selling high volumes of identical items.  Take a few close up and very well lit photos of your item, which the software will then easily import into your completed listing.   Make sure you set up specific terms in your listings, and follow through with what you say, or you will end up with negative feedback.  You are the boss of your site:  make sure you clearly and concisely state the terms of the sale in each listing, as this will trump any conflicts that may arise.  Otherwise the customer is right!

    If a customer has a problem or issue with the transaction and contacts you about it, you will want to attempt to resolve the situation as quickly and as diplomatically as possible.  Even one negative feedback can severely affect your feedback percentage, and if that figure falls below about 98% positive, customers will look to buy from other sellers with higher marks. Usually buyers will not leave negative feedback unless you straight up lie about the product, and only then after you have ignored their emails.   The more positive feedback you get, the more reliable and trustworthy you will appear to your potential customers.  This is one of the ways that e-commerce differentiates from the real world – wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a similar scorecard next to the front door of every brick and mortar business we venture into to make a purchase?

    Don’t worry about calculating shipping either:  the United States Postal Service is very smoothly linked to your Ebay and PayPal accounts, allowing pre-filled shipping labels to be printed immediately after the transaction.  All you have to do is print out the label and tape it to the box, so there will be no troublesome mistakes in copying the recipient’s address.  I recommend priority mail flat rate boxes: you can then give customers a discount for combined shipping on multiple purchases (always an attractive selling point) no matter what the weight is.  Best of all, USPS will deliver as many boxes in whatever sizes you need (free!) to your home or business, and will pick up your shipments for delivery once they are packed and ready to go. 

    Once you have uploaded your completed listing, you will want to search for your own item.  This way you can see exactly how it will appear to someone who might be looking to buy it.  If your listing doesn’t come up on the first page, try adding additional terms to the title of your listing.  What key words are other sellers using to describe the same or a similar item?  For an additional fee you can also add premium selling boosters such as bold or highlighted words, or a giant sized picture.  You can freely edit your page until the item sells or is bid upon, so check it as soon as it is made public to ensure there are no errors.

    Even if you don’t have one of these stores, you can always benefit from having a PayPal account, which will allow you to avoid the cost of traditional methods of accepting credit card payments.  Additionally, you can accept payments from your face-to-face sales by simply asking the customer to use PayPal and giving them your designated email address for payment.

    And finally - don’t forget to ramp up traffic to your e-commerce sites by including links to them on your social networking pages and your website. You could even create a Facebook Fan Page for your online store and post pictures of new items you've uploaded. There is nothing like a little free advertising. Happy Selling!

  • 29 Aug 2009 1:24 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Since this is the inaugural blog, I feel a bit of an introduction of myself is in order: my name is Megan Daniel.  If you want to know more about me, you can check my Facebook, MySpace, twitter, or LinkedIn pages for more detailed info.  If you really want to stalk me, you can also view my ridiculously boring photos on flikr, or even check out what kind of cheesy B movies I enjoy on Netflix.

    Sound familiar?  You probably also have a presence on one or more of the above websites.  If you are a professional woman looking to increase your product or company’s exposure, the internet is a fantastic place to do it.  It is also a great way to market yourself for free.  However, unlike getting yourself all gussied up and putting a polish on your resume to pitch yourself to clients, your web presence is on public display 24/7, and is accessible to a huge number of people worldwide.  You should treat your online persona with the same attention to detail and mindfulness of the impression you want to make as you would on potential clients (or employers) in person.    

    Try these tactics to make sure your online information is an accurate, sparkling and polished representation of yourself:

    You probably already know about Google-ing yourself, but don’t forget to try other search engines like Yahoo or the new search engine Bing, to cover all the proverbial bases.  Also search the name of your business, to see if anyone has perhaps started a “gripe site” against you.  Remember that on sites like Yahoo, people can leave comments or give ratings under your yellow pages listing.  You can also use these sites to check what people are saying about your competitors, which could give you a strategic edge.  If you have a very common name, or have trouble finding anything at all, try searching deeper:  you can get information that might be in the metadata of web pages by clicking on “advanced search” at the top of the search engine’s page.  Some pages will also let you use signals, which are punctuation marks used to refine your search.  For example, using parenthesis around multiple words will return results only for that particular phrase.  Also be sure to run searches for any usernames or handles you have used in the past, as this may produce long forgotten posts to message boards or comments on websites you might not want to have floating around out on the net anymore.  Usually you can’t delete past posted items, but if you scroll to the bottom of the page, click “contact the webmaster,” and you can send them an email asking to delete the undesirable text. 

    Remember that even if you have your privacy or security settings set up on your social networking pages, there are some things that people will always be able to see.  Try checking your pages at a computer where you are not logged on to see what is accessible to the public.  It is wise to have almost everything set to “only friends.”  Be sure to tweak what you are a fan of on Facebook:  no matter how high you crank up the privacy settings, everyone can see what you are a fan of, so use discretion.  Set your profile picture to the most professional looking one you can find.  Recently, Facebook added a new security setting in response to complaints that pictures left on “public” were being dubiously heisted and used by advertisers.  You certainly wouldn’t want a photo of you attached to some inappropriate product or service, so make sure you lock down your photos.  Make sure no one tags you in a photo you find unprofessional.  Un-tag yourself, and politely ask the friend to refrain from tagging you in the future without your authorization.  If they do it again, un-friend them: they are not worth the bad PR.  It’s also worth mentioning that you should be very observant of undesirable things, people, or activities that may be going on in the background of any photos you post.  If possible, check for privacy settings on any sites used for managing photos such as flikr.  If you still have a MySpace page, you might want to consider minimizing it or even shutting it down entirely.  Many people these days view MySpace as a chaotic hangout for teenagers and lonely singles, which may not be the right forum for you or your business.  If you are a Twitter user, you may want to start posting positive messages that reflect the professional, dynamic, creative person that you are.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn page yet, you should consider setting one up.  This site is more geared to the exchange of professional information via a repository of resumes. 

    Your email address is something else to keep in mind. If your email address begins with something like “lovestoparty” or “sexyvampress,” you will want to change it. This is a surprisingly common faux pas that is easily remedied using free email services such as Gmail.  My best advice is to set up an additional email account using your name, or something that relates to your business. You can then use the POP3 settings on your main account to forward all your emails to one convenient place. 

    After you’ve done your “online” housekeeping, sit back, relax, and relish in your newfound e-confidence. You might want to link your pages to one another, which gives the impression of openness and honesty. Another benefit is that potential clients will feel that they have a deeper connection to you as a person, and will be making a more informed decision when doing business with you.  Don’t be afraid to list links to your sites on your business cards. This will demonstrate how techno-savvy you are.  Be proud of your digital self!

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