Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 5, 2015
If you ever run out of ideas of what to blog about, something you might consider doing is reviewing a top website that’s in your industry or on the fringe of an industry you’re a part of. I’ve just written and published a review on one of the top medical information websites in the United States on my Medical Billing Answers blog and I thought I’d share the process I used for writing the review without necessarily talking about the review. Of course, if you decide you want to read it & learn what I had to say… it’s all good.
First, you have to decide what your intention is in wanting to write a review, other than the fact that maybe you couldn’t think of anything else to write about. In my case, my website takes on not only medical billing issues but health topics as well. I was already pretty familiar with the site I decided to review and it seemed to be a perfect fit since I’ve visited it many times over the years. This way, I could see whether it fit my standards or not by looking at it deeper than I had previously.
Second, you have to set up your general criteria for what and how you’re going to review a site. In my case, what I decided to do was come up with 5 questions that I thought a lot of people might search for, but not necessarily the top questions that everyone would search for. For instance, there’s probably a lot of people who go looking for more information on how much water they should be drinking. Instead of going with the norm, I decided to look for information on how much water is too much water to drink daily.
I also decided for some of them to write them up as a question, the way many people do today when searching for information on the internet. I don’t know anyone who would put in “drinking water” expecting to find out how much water is too little or too much so it made sense to do it that way. However, a person who’s been given a new prescription might put in the name of the pharmaceutical and nothing else when wanting to get more information on it; I did that as well.
Third, if you really want to be fair you should look around a bit if you don’t find what you’re looking for immediately. I did that and, unfortunately for the site, a couple of times I couldn’t find the information I was looking for; quite disappointing. That’s the kind of gripe I used to have when I was trying to fix things on my blogs in the past and, when I’d find a site, be disappointed because the articles would leave out a lot of things in the middle, assuming we would already know all the other stuff.
In this case, when I didn’t find the answer on the site I went to the search engine and looked up the information to see if it was elsewhere… and it was. To me, that’s a major fail. However, the extra research helps make the review that much stronger.
Fourth, try not to go in with unfair expectations or personal feelings. Whereas I always thought this site was top quality (it was also one of the earliest sites on the internet covering this kind of information), it’s never been an exclusive site for me to go to. Therefore, though I knew of it, I had no real expectations one way or the other. I wasn’t harder or softer in reviewing it than I might have been if I knew any of the people who put the site up; it’s always good to be neutral before reviewing something.
Fifth, set up a way to grade the sites and then explain it. I decided on the American school grade system of A-F because I figured most people would be familiar with it, though I could have gone with the stars. I felt the letters gave me more flexibility because of the added “+” or “-“… one of which I used in my review.
Those are the steps I took, and I got a post of nearly 1,400 words out of it. I have to admit that I toyed with the idea of adding that sites logo to the post as my image but in the end decided to go with something totally different; that’s all I’m saying about it unless you decide to visit the post. lol
There you are; now, what will you review?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 1, 2015
What do you think of the question above? For the most part, I’m betting the women are going to see this differently than most men. I’m not one of those folks who believes women aren’t harassed online; I know they are. And I think it’s a shame.
I know way too many women who are scared to put their pictures on social media sites because they’re tired of being hit on by men they don’t know. If someone was writing them and saying in a nice way that they thought they were attractive and just wanted to mention it, they might not hate it as much as they do. But that’s not the reality; many of them get solicitations with vile language and nasty suggestions. Who would want to put up with that all the time?
For most social media sites it’s bad enough. For LinkedIn… that’s just incredible! It’s supposed to be a business site, yet it seems that, like everywhere else, there are men who think it’s their personal dating service. Not as many of them are hiding behind fake names because they signed up to hopefully do business with others, yet their behavior can be just as bad as everyone else’s. I know this because this past weekend one of my lady friends called me and asked how she could remove her picture because she was tired of being hit on; really guys? Is that the reputation you want to be known for on a business site?
I’m keeping this post deliberately short because I hope y’all will watch this video. I also hope you comment on it, and I hope those comments support women. I think by showing your support you help to eliminate some of the hate and superiority over stupid men who seem to have lost their sense of perspective.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 28, 2015
I am a professional. That might look like a bold statement until you have an understanding of the definition of a professional.
A professional is someone who gets paid for work that they do. If you cut down trees for a friend and they pay you, that might not make you a professional. If you cut down trees for a few people and they pay you for it, you can call yourself a professional tree cutter. It doesn’t mean that’s your entire career, but if you can make money doing something more than once, you should consider yourself a professional at it. It doesn’t mean you’re an expert; it just means you’re a professional.
When looked at it that way, I can consider myself a professional at a lot of things.
For instance, I’m a professional speaker because I have been paid for speaking engagements and presentations. I’ve been paid for speaking engagements in nine different states, so that makes me even more qualified to call myself a professional speaker.
I can call myself a professional budgeting consultant. I can do that because I have helped 3 – 4 people learn how to budget their money so that they can pay their bills and have money left over for important things. I’ve worked with one client, also a friend of mine, for 7 years, & I have helped her get to the point where she has nearly $15,000 in her checking account. That might not sound like much unless you know where she started and what we had to work with over the years. It proved that you don’t have to make tons of money in order to be able to put money away, and she has other money in a portfolio that will help her when she retires.
I can call myself a professional singer as well as a professional musician. For about 14 years, I used to sing and perform at weddings. I didn’t do it as much as some people might have because frankly I had never thought of myself as a singer it, at least initially. But people seem to like my voice and I could pretty much play any song I needed to in order to perform it. Sometimes I did it for free, but at least 75% of the time I got paid for it. I wish I could call myself a professional songwriter instead, which was my dream at the time, but I couldn’t get anyone to pay me for it; sigh… lol
I’m a professional consultant in a couple other areas also. I’m not going to get into all that because I talked about it so many times on this blog that if anyone is really interested they can look back through the archives and see what I say I do.
I’m also a professional writer. Let’s look at that one a bit deeper.
First, I’ve written for others and been paid for it. Oddly enough, for most of my blogs, even though I’m hoping that people will read them and get something out of them, I’m pretty much writing for myself. I consider it writing for myself because I get to pick my own topics and write in my own style. I have a lot of fun with that, but a major part of the intention of writing all of these blogs is to drive business my way.
Through my main business blog, I’m hoping to get contracts and speaking engagements. On my finance blog, I’m hoping to meet some people who need help setting up their budgets or learning how to save money (I don’t mean investing…). On my medical billing blog I’m hoping to reach out to people who need help figuring out their medical bills, as well as reaching some people who might want some training on medical billing or things associated with it.
For my local blog, at least initially, I was hoping to attract attention of local businesses who might want to advertise on the site by writing about local events. However, that one has morphed into my “I write whatever I want to write” blog, which sometimes touches on local topics. After all, we all have to have outlets for our thoughts that don’t fit anywhere else, right?
Then we have I’m Just Sharing. I love this blog a lot, so much so that I have written more articles here than anywhere else. I actually have more than one intention with this blog, but the main intention is to show a diverse skill of being able to write about many different types of things. I concentrate a lot on the process of blogging and I comment a lot on social media, but when all is said and done it’s really all about the writing (and I have lots of articles on this blog about the process of writing; check out the categories tab on the right).
When you’re writing for others, things change a little bit. If you’re writing for an article farm (if you are, I’m sorry…), they’re pretty strict in the format they want you to write in. That’s not really writing because it’s way too formulaic; guess how many of those sites got dinged badly when Google put through either Penguin or Panda; I never can keep those animals straight when applied to them. If Google didn’t consider it real writing, I’m not considering it real writing.
If you’re writing other things for people, you probably need to more about what you can’t write about than what you can write on. For instance, at my age now, if I was asked to write about today’s pop music I couldn’t come close to doing it justice, since there’s little I know, let alone like. Today’s TV shows and most of the movies; no, nada, zip! Cars… I don’t even know where the oil goes in my car so that’s not happening (although years ago I did write an article about Cuban Cars lol). Video games… I haven’t played one since Civ III in 2004 (isn’t that a shame?).
That’s why it’s better to write about things you know or things that you might find interesting. For instance, I was the primary writer for a wedding dress blog for more than 2 years. It was easy because I always had lots of ideas, it was easy to research, and I’ve always loved the look of wedding gown of all types; hey, don’t judge me! I’ve written travel blogs, real estate blogs, accounting blogs, food blogs… lots of blogs. I’ve written articles for magazines, some of them paid. Probably the only thing I haven’t written for is newspapers; I’m good with that. lol
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good writer. After all, I’ve written 2 books, 2 ebooks, a training manual, and I’m listed as an editor in 2 other books. Because I like to think I’m a good writer, it means I feel that, when I have an offer to write something, I deserve to get paid properly for it.
What does getting paid properly mean? Well, I don’t want to throw out a specific price because you just never know what someone’s needs are, and sometimes people want to pay you more than what you might ask them for. In general though, I want to be paid what I will call a “fair” wage. What that means is that if someone comes to me and asks me to write a 500-word article for a penny a word, I’m going to throw them off my space or ignore them. I live in New York; you can’t even buy a decent milkshake for that kind of money (I don’t drink coffee lol).
If they come to me and offered me $0.05 per word, I might at least engage them to find out what the needs are. That’s still relatively low, but if it’s not a subject that would take intense research (like forensic loan analysis) Overall, it depends on how much research I have to do and how much knowledge I may have about a particular thing. If you want to know what I charge to write articles for people on my own finance blog… nah, I’m not linking to it. If you care just click on the link to Top Finance Blog over there to the right and then click on my advertising policy; I can’t do all the work for you. 😉
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how to value writing, which in actuality is the same thing about professional speaking. People think that all you have to do is sit down with a piece of paper, or on a computer, and just write something and you’re done. That’s not close to true.
I used as an example in a previous post that if people remembered how much they struggled writing papers while they were in high school or college then they would understand how difficult it can be to write articles, especially on topics that aren’t well known. It can take time to research so that you can write an article that doesn’t sound like a direct copy of something that’s already out there. If you already have great knowledge of something, then you deserve to be paid for that knowledge.
When all is said and done, it’s about seeing yourself as a professional and deciding what you’re worth. All of us at some point will provide services at a rate that’s way lower than what we deserve to receive because we haven’t really thought all that much about it.
Another story. Almost 20 years ago my wife put together a dress for a young lady who was going to some kind of party. She quoted the young lady $250, which seemed like a good deal for both of them at the time.
However, the design the young lady selected turned out to have a very complicated buttoning pattern up the entire back. Because of it, my wife had to sew by hand all the loops on the dress instead of being able to use her machine.
On the day the young lady needed the dress, my wife spent 13 straight hours sewing loops on it. She had already probably put in 10 hours before that in cutting out the dress and sewing the other parts of it together. She also probably spent an hour or two beforehand going out looking for the type of material this young lady needed for the dress as well, since that was included in the overall price.
What this means in the long run is that my wife put in close to 30 hours on a dress that she got paid $250 for, which means she made less than $8.50 an hour. That doesn’t sound quite fair does it? After that, she never made another dress for anyone except herself because she felt so bad. If she’d charged what she deserved, the young lady might not have asked her to make the dress from scratch, but my wife would not have lost her passion for doing things like that. At the time she didn’t feel she was worth being paid more; that’s a dangerous mindset to overcome.
When all is said and done, if we don’t see ourselves as professionals at things that were actually good at, and we allow people to try to pay us less then what we deserve, we grow disenchanted and won’t perform as well as we would like. There’s a lot of people who have had broken dreams because they have fallen into the morass of allowing someone else to dictate how proficient they are. One of my friends pretty much lost her career and almost her life because of it.
Of course you have to earn it. If you’ve only written 10 articles in your life and you decide that you deserve $200 per article, you’re probably kidding yourself. If you’ve put in the time and the energy and you have a portfolio of some kind that you can share, no matter what it is you do, then you deserve to at least make enough money where, if it was your full time job, you could live on. We all have to start somewhere, so if you’re new you might take a lesser amount and build up from there.
There you go; my motivational message to you for the day. I’m putting the message out that if someone is willing to offer me what I think I deserve for writing, I’d love to write for you because, for this purpose, I’m a professional writer.
I encourage everyone else to see themselves as professionals in what they do and to be ready to ask for what you feel you deserve.
Do you see yourself as a professional?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 24, 2015
My mother is a genius. She doesn’t know it but she is. That’s because in my life there have been two recommendations she made to me that I kind of dismissed that she thought were really important… and she turned out to be totally correct. The first one was a computer, which she and my dad bought for me on my 27th birthday; the second was the Fitbit Flex tracker, which she bought on my 55th birthday.
You see that picture to the right? That’s the wristband I wear that contains this little dongle that I’ll share in a different picture. The little dongle (that’s what they call it lol) is the actual contraption that tracks my steps and, when I remember to set it, tracks my sleep. It’s the steps part that’s been paramount towards my health over the last year or so.
I can’t comment on any other trackers that are out there, so I’m sticking with the one I know. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever gotten. Mom bought me the first one; since that time I’ve purchased two others for myself and one for my wife.
You’re probably asking why I had to buy more than one; it’s not because it broke or went bad. I lost two of them; one in Memphis somewhere, the second on my final flight back from Memphis, where I knew I had it in Philadelphia but when I landed in Syracuse it wasn’t on my arm anymore; sigh… So, both totally on me.
As with everything, there’s the good and the bad and the questionable. Let’s start with the good.
When I first got it, I wasn’t totally sure of how accurate it was. Now I feel pretty good about its accuracy because I’ve run a lot of tests with it. In central New York, when it gets cold and snowy it’s not the smartest move in the world to be walking around outside. I hated going to the gym, so I created my own course in the house. I tested the steps thing and it’s right on the mark.
To track everything you need to download the Fitbit app onto your smartphone. Actually, that’s the smart way to go, because you can hook the charger to your computer, download software and go that route if you don’t have a phone. It’s just so much easier the other way.
It tracks steps, miles, calories burned and active minutes. The first one is the main goal but the one that’s most important are the active minutes. That’s the one that tells you whether the steps you took during the day were conscious steps, as in walking with a purpose, or just casual steps, like getting up from your desk to walk into another room. The more active minutes, the more calories you burn. If you tie it in with a food tracking app like Myfitnesspal it adds calories to your daily intake. That sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? Well, I’m going to come back to that.
You can also make adjustments based on your stride, which you determine based on your height. So, for me, it takes 10,575 steps to hit 5 miles, but my friend Steve (he’s 6’5″) can get it done in fewer steps. Anyway, that’s my daily goal, and I pretty much smash it every day, as I average between 17,000 and 20,000 steps a day. But there are times when I’m engaged in other work or travel and I know I’m not going to hit those numbers, but I always make sure to hit my 5 miles.
Oh yeah, I mentioned sleep earlier. If you double click on it the tracking mode changes over to track sleep. We all need good sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t sleep well, and this thing confirms it. I average about 2 1/2 hours of sleep a night; no, that’s not good. Most of my “sleeping hours” show me as being restless, which means I move a lot, wake, doze, wake, etc. So, in the morning it’ll show me how many total hours I was in bad, how much real sleep I got and when I got it. Hey, at least I know right?
The overall thing is that having something like Fitbit on you all the time encourages you to move; at least it does for me. I don’t have to count steps, it’s better than the old style pedometer, and if you’re willing you can add other people to your list and compete or just help to encourage each other to walk more. Frankly, anything that encourages us to move more is a good thing.
What it’s done for me is helped me lose inches. If no one’s ever told you that exercise doesn’t help you lose weight, I’m telling you that not. lol You lose weight by controlling what you eat. However, exercise helps you lose inches and get toned, and if you can also control how you eat, the combination works wonders. I’ve lost 4 inches off my waist to the point where I don’t have to undo any of my pants to pull them off; wow! Sometimes I don’t have to undo the belt either; what?!?!? :-O
Can you tell how much I love it? Good; now for the bad.
The wristbands aren’t close to being able to last overly long. My wife burns through her bands every 6 months; I go through one every 9 months or so. The thing is it’s made with some type of rubber that’s pliable enough, but you have to take the dongle out of it every few days to recharge, and over time that takes a toll on that area that stretches open all the time.
That and you can wear the band in the shower and in hot conditions because the dongle is protected, but all the weather changes will affect it also. The replacements aren’t all that expensive, and there are lots of varieties, but having to replace it that often puts some folks off.
I did mention the charging part also. Actually, last year when I was in Orlando for a meeting and then flew to San Diego I had lost my charger. My Fitbit worked for 6 days before it totally wussed out on me. That’s not so bad, but I like to try to charge it every 3 days if I can. I charge it around midnight, and the good thing is it charges fairly quickly if you don’t run it all the way down.
One last thing is the dongle isn’t all that big, as you can tell from the picture. If you’re not paying attention you can lose that… and if that’s lost you have to buy a whole new set since the dongle is actually the Fitbit.
Okay, time for the questionable.
How private is it and what about all the data they collect. It’s as private as you want it to be. People can only find you if you tell them you’re on it, and you can only be added if you have a Facebook account or if you send them email and they decide to connect. If any of you are on Fitbit and want to connect with me, leave me a message mentioning it and I’ll send you an email from the email account I use there and you can add me. Course, remember how many steps I’m getting in; we’re not really competing but I think I might have chased a couple of people off who didn’t realize how serious I was taking my walking. Lol
The question about data… that’s interesting. They track and data to sell to those who can use it for health studies, or for the creation of other types of products that someone might be able to create and market later. You get to set the levels of privacy via the online account you create (that’s where you’re directed to so it can start tracking you), which not only limits what others see about you but what can be shared with these outside sources. The only thing you can’t block is the number of steps you’re taking. They don’t share your email address and you only have to put in your first name, so that’s fairly private.
Finally, prices. I own the Fitbit Flex, where the price goes for between $79 and $99. The range depends on which band you buy and where you buy it from. At the link I’m sharing here where you can look at some before you go to the website I’m sending people to (Buy.com) most of the prices are around $79. There are other brands such as the Charge, which tracks a lot more things than the Flex does, and the Surge (which not only tracks even more things than the Surge but also acts as a watch) that come in around $215 and $250 respectively, and the Zip, which comes in around $60 but only tracks steps. There’s also the Fitbit One which, like the Zip, you wear on your pocket like a traditional pedometer that also comes in around $99.
This is a product I’ll be pushing because I love it so much. There’s a link to the right listed under Product Pages along with books I recommend. If I mention it in any further posts I’ll link to it and you’ll know it’s the product page because you’ll see a blue line underneath it (any time I link to products or affiliate items from this page the blue line is there, unless I’m linked only through the picture; otherwise it’s to an article); you already saw my example above.
If you have any questions please ask. I’ll be doing a video also, which might be strange because I’ve mentioned it in a few other videos, but I’ve never talked about it exclusively. Hey, that’s what marketing’s about right?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 21, 2015
Blab is a new visual social media platform that encourages people to talk to each other, either by actively participating in a video stream with others or watching a live presentation going on and interjecting comments, props (as in “giving props”) or just watching the conversation take place. Yesterday I had my first shot at it.
Of course, I hadn’t planned on even trying it out just yet. I’ve been busy, and my computer wasn’t allowing me access to even watch it for some reason (well, I know the reason, but I’m not divulging it just yet lol). So, when Ileane Smith of Basic Blog Tips gave me a shout out and asked if I’d meet her in a Google Hangout, I wasn’t really thinking about Blab at all; after all, it was a Sunday afternoon.
So when we connected, she said she wanted to do a test run with me and it had to be on Chrome, since it’s optimized for them. That meant I had to sign into Twitter there (I use Firefox almost exclusively), because you have to first have a Twitter account before you can be on Blab. She walked me through the process of getting signed into Blab, shut down the Hangout, sent me a link to the Blab window and off we went.
Like probably anyone who’s been on a Google Hangout, you want to figure out what the differences are. In this case, the connection was quicker, and, unlike a Hangout, if you want to talk to up to 4 people at once all of you have your own squares so you can see and hear each other, unlike a Hangout where you mainly see the person talking while everyone else’s images are below. Since initially it was just Ileane and myself, we had the two two squares. Because she was also the creator, she closed all the other boxes so no one could come in or request to come in since she wanted me to see it and get comfortable first.
I’m not going to get into all the odds and ends of how the thing works, especially since Ileane did a video tutorial on it, which I’m showing below:
Ileane is also offering this explanation guide if you want more information on how to do things there.
Here’s my thoughts on it all. I have to admit it’s pretty cool to use. When you start a program, it sends out a message to all the people you’re connected to there to let them know you’re doing one. The chat message box is already on the side and has a column specifically for questions where, if people put “/q”, then a space and then their question, it pops up in that column so you know where they are to answer them. You also get to select the correct camera and mike if you have more than one, which I got to see when she invited this one guy in and Blab picked up the wrong items for him; very smooth indeed.
Oh yeah; you can record them if you want, and a neat feature is that you can pause it and start again, and it’ll pick up from there. That way, if you’re doing a solo project and you want to pause for any reason and start again, it’s like editing yourself a bit; that’s pretty cool. I don’t know where the videos go so you can load them up to YouTube, but I’m sure I’ll find out easily enough.
So, now I guess I’m on Blab, connected to 3 people. I’m still going to do Hangouts as well because not everyone wants to sign up for a Twitter account, but it seems easier to get them to sign up on Google Plus; no idea why that’s true. Still, for the interactivity, I have to admit that it works pretty well, and I will definitely be using it. Here’s the link to my Blab account, in case you want to check me out one day when I’m there.