Protect Your Online Content 
Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 10:13 AM - Links, Reviews
It's very easy to plagiarize on the Web, but now it's going to be a lot harder to get away with it. Copyscape, an online service by the makers of Google Alert, can help you discover who is using your content - even if it's not exactly identical. Just enter the URL of a particular page, and if there are any matches, you can see which words have been lifted directly from your site.

Copyscape also has a guide on what to do if you find that your work has been plagiarized, as well as a forum where you can discuss your experiences with others.
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Managing Time Thieves, Part 1 - The Phone 
Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 11:57 AM - Phone, Work Habits
We all know people who have nothing better to do but take up our time. One of the favorite devices of these time thieves is the telephone.

In many cases, if I'm stuck on the phone with a client, I can bill the client for my time, when appropriate. But it doesn't always work that way, especially with small businesses and non-profits who have limited resources and are simply calling for advice or to chat. So how do I protect my time without ignoring or disrespecting the person who keeps calling?

Fortunately, most people are intelligent, and are capable of changing how they interact with you, if you set the right example. Here are a few techniques that have worked for me:

1. As a general rule, if you are providing anything of value during a phone conversation with a client, make sure to bill the client fairly for your time. Of course, it's important to not nickel-and-dime the people you serve, but if someone is calling you repeatedly for 15-30 minutes at a time, it is usually not unreasonable to charge them for the service you are providing them. Some clients understand this inherently, and so it's up to you to simply log your time, but others need to have this concept explained in a kind way. For example, "I want to let you know that I am happy to help you with anything you need, but I also need to be a good steward of my own time, so I'm going to have to start charging for phone consultations that take more than 10 minutes." Of course, make sure you actually follow through on this; otherwise, their behavior will change.

2. Most people have a reason for calling you, so you shouldn't just ignore someone if they're calling too much or keeping you on the phone for too long. However, it's important to keep them in check, because it's unfair to you and to your other clients/friends/employees if someone is hogging your time. One way I try to get around this is to limit certain people to only one or two phone calls per day. (Of course, you will need Caller ID to do this.) After that limit is reached, let them leave a voice message and call them back the next morning. This way, it's clear that you're not hiding from the person, but it also sends the message that you are not at their beck and call.

3. Another way to control your time on the phone is to make and accept calls only during certain hours. I would suggest early morning (8:30-9:30 a.m.) and/or late afternoon (4-5 p.m.) - times when you're unlikely to be bothered, but are still within normal business hours. And never take calls at an inappropriate hour (such as 9 p.m.) unless it's someone who clearly respects your time and would have a good reason for calling.

4. If someone keeps calling you without leaving a message, you are under no obligation to return their call. However, if it becomes a nuisance, just answer the phone, tell them that you're in the middle of something (or some other truthful statement), and ask them to send you a quick e-mail or to call back at a specific time - preferably the next day, if it's not urgent.

5. On your outgoing voice message, provide a less intrusive way to reach you, such as your e-mail address. Better yet, if there are certain issues that one of your colleagues or employees (e.g. an executive assistant or business partner) frequently handles on your behalf, provide that person's information as well.

Whatever you do, the most important thing is to be respectful, and make it clear that you aren't dodging the other person (unless your goal is to completely get rid of them). A true professional should be able to treat others with class and kindness, even in difficult situations.

I invite your feedback. Have you tried any of these techniques, or had success with other methods?
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An Introduction 
Saturday, May 20, 2006, 04:29 PM - Life/Work Balance
Welcome to Three Sea Shells. My name is Tom Nagel, and I'm the proprietor of a pair of small businesses, most notably Midwest New Media, LLC, a web development firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about running a small business and dealing with an ever-growing workload. I know I am not alone in my attempts to manage a busy schedule and maintain a healthy balance between life and work (and not the other way around). And I also know a lot of people who are working hard to get their own businesses off the ground.

The purpose of this web site is to document and share ideas and tips on how to be productive and efficient, whether you're a fellow business owner or someone who simply wishes there were more hours in a day.

I do not pretend to be an expert, and I know I don't have all the answers. My hope is that this site is an encouragement as well as a resource, so feel free to share your own thoughts and tell me what works for you.
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