There's no way to sugarcoat the global pandemic of COVID 19 which, at the time of writing has killed 10,033 people and infected 244,950 people across 179 countries and territories, and numbers continue to rise. It has decimated numerous industry sectors, wreaked havoc on global markets and the UN Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) estimated on 9 March it will cost the global economy up to $2 trillion in 2020.
This article in no way intends to trivialise these catastrophic and indisputable facts. It is frankly awful, and no-one would choose this as a way to spend 2020.
But now here we are, and it seems to me that the world can use this time to slow down (in self-isolation) and smell the daisies (in their own back yard), which may, in turn, lead to a more balanced world when we come out the other side.
Respect for our Most Vulnerable citizens
For many of us, taking steps to self isolate, has been less to do with catching COVID19 ourselves, and more about ensuring we don't pass it on to our sick and elderly populations.
In Australia, we have seen government after government, keeping pensions and disability payments low, well below the minimum wage. We have also seen numerous NDIS issues. I hope the respect and concern for these vulnerable community members that has shown itself in this crisis will carry-on into the new world, where we ensure they have the support they need both financially and emotionally.
Many people now realise they may not see elderly parents for some time and are reaching out to them more frequently by phone and Skype. Hopefully afterwards, it will continue. They will realise that time is precious and will make more effort.
Unintended Environmental benefits
As Hubei province shut down (including the lock-down of almost 60 million people), NASA posted the most amazing pictures showing a massive reduction in emissions, and social media buzzed.
The massive cloud of nitrogen dioxide that is visible over China in January disappeared entirely in February.
The European Agency's Sentinel-5P Satellite picked up massive reductions in nitrogen dioxide (caused by cars, power plants and industry) over Northern Italy once it too went into lock-down. And just this week, the canals of Venice seem to be sparkling clean, with dolphins spotted swimming in them.
While it would obviously be impractical to keep the world's citizens in permanent lock-down, it has provided a vision of what the world could be like with less pollution. Hopefully, it will motivate all of us, especially the hardened climate sceptics, to do our bit to reduce emissions and make that a permanent reality.
Changing the way we work and educate
As countries go into lock-down, people are moving to "work from home" (WFH) scenarios and juggling kids with online schooling at home as well.
For years, employers have resisted remote working as a rule, but now they have no choice. They are scrambling to ensure their staff have video conferencing capabilities and all the software and hardware they need, and we even see news and television programs with remote guests.
Kids at home are adapting to online learning, and I have even seen a colleague and friend of mine who works at LinkedIn conducting morning video conferences for his 5-year-old daughter, so she gets social interaction. Freelancers and sole traders have managed it for ages, but now it is mainstream, which opens up a world of work/life balance opportunities in the future.
Connecting with Family
As a mum to teens, I find it takes effort to get them off devices, between running them to sports activities, and their numerous social commitments.
Being engaged in family life comes somewhere at the very bottom of their priorities. While we are not yet in lock-down in Australia, we are spending more time at home "socially distancing" ourselves. Because they can't make social arrangements or go to sport, my kids are more connected and engaged with my husband and me.
Our dinner table conversation is less about their social agenda (who needs dropping where, and when), and more about world events. They appreciate the stresses their parents have regarding the economic fall-out of COVID19, and they actively participate in the conversation to consider how we could manage as a family unit (team) in a possible lock-down.
We have discussed the potential pressure on Australia's broadband network and that we may need to find offline activities to fill the time. To that end, we have talked about books we would like to read, skills we would like to learn or improve, games we could play (apparently we are all learning Monopoly Deal) and even (old fashioned) DVDs we haven't watched. All of these topics contributing to learning more about each other.
For teens who have grown up in the narcissistic world of Snap Chat and Tik Tok, they have impressed me with their willingness to embrace a more offline and family-centric existence. I am actually looking forward to that potential time with them (though ask me again a few days into lockdown)
Appreciating the food we have
We have all watched scenes on the news of people in war-torn countries fighting over food from aid agencies. Never in a million years did I think something like that could happen in Australia until seeing the hideous and frankly sickening scenes of people hoarding toilet paper and fighting in supermarket aisles for pantry staples.
I have seen numerous posts comparing our current reality with the far worse realities experienced by refugees. I am led to believe the fear of a food shortage in Australia is so real, that some gardening centres have sold out of vegetable seedlings and seed packets.
Other people are proudly posting pics of their homemade bread - the result of being unable to find a convenient store loaf. Others still, are making their own reusable toilet paper from cleaning clothes and their overlocker sewing machine (though I must admit I am not ready to embrace that just yet)
While the government assures us that our food security is sound, the whole experience has given Australians an appreciation for the suffering of people in other countries and of refugees.
It has also created an interest in growing and making our own food, which can't be a bad thing.
While COVID 19 is undoubtedly a disaster of global proportions, that we would not wish on our worst enemy, I believe we can find the key learnings and that it will act as a reset button for us all.
I hope it will empower us to move forward, embracing some long-forgotten and old-fashioned values like empathy, family and community, that got lost in the fast-paced pre-COVID19 world. And that we will thrive in a slower, less consumer-driven and cleaner world.
I also want to believe we will embrace the best of technology that allows us to work remotely, enjoy a better work-life balance and appreciate the good things we have in life.
This blog also appeared on LinkedIn and was also published on Flying Solo
How Public Relations can grow your SME - 10 Stories that will get you in the Media - and help grow your business.
Public Relations (PR) has formed part of the marketing mix with large businesses for some time now, with integrated marketing and communications teams with detailed strategies using PR to support key marketing messages and advertising campaigns. However, PR is also perfectly positioned to achieve excellent results as a stand-alone activity - and can be more cost-effective than advertising to boot!
Advertising is paid non-personal one-way communication to increase business - whether that is on television or radio, a billboard, brochure or online on web pages and social media. The same message can be run everywhere, so long as the advertiser has the budget to pay for it. The benefit of advertising is the element of complete control, but it is not quite as believable as PR.
Think about the last advertisement you saw. You knew it was a company saying: "We are the best", and in the back of your mind, you knew that is just their opinion, and not necessarily true.
PR, on the other hand, is about building a positive brand image or reputation of a company by showcasing your products or services as positive news stories or articles in print, online or broadcast media.
PR is about building trust between a brand and its customers, primarily through media exposure and coverage. Remember the last time you read a great review of a product or service in the newspaper or online? Or when you saw a story about someone who solved a problem by using a particular product or service - you were far more likely to believe that news story over an ad right?
A public relations consultant can help you to find those stories about your company, and craft them into a newsworthy piece, and place that in the media consumed by your target customer. These articles are referred to as "earned media" - you have earned the right to be featured in a news story because your company has done something worth covering.
Earned media is considered more valuable than paid media. It is more likely to influence purchasing behaviour because readers think of it as third party endorsement rather than self-promotion.
Many companies don't have the budget for integrated marketing campaigns, and PR can be a cost-effective way to get exposure to your target customers. And every company has a story worth telling. Yes - even yours.
Here are ten ideas for newsworthy stories that can be adapted for most businesses:
If you are interested in learning more about how PR can help your business contact Hamann Communication on +61 (0)415 191 659.
Photo by Knelstrom ltd from Pexels
When it comes to managing your income, freelancing can be a rollercoaster. One month is champagne and caviar, and the next is 30 inventive mince recipes while maxing out the credit card.
Budgeting is not my strength, so I have forced myself to do it right. Now I find that despite income inconsistencies month to month, my lifestyle doesn’t need to suffer. Now I am a few years into my system, I am comfortable to share it.
First and foremost, make sure you are charging a realistic rate, that will keep you on top of your bills and allow you to enjoy life. After all, most of us chose to go solo for the lifestyle benefits.
Charge what you are worth.There was a time when I felt that I needed to undercut everyone else to do a job. I never quite plumbed the depths of Airtasker rates, but I erroneously thought client priorities were mostly about price. I had to work significantly longer hours to reach my income goals, so I set my rate correctly.
Get an idea of the going rate in your industry. A Google search can help. Some business sectors, such as writing, photography and public relations have handy MEAA rate guidelines to help. Sometimes though, you are more niche, more senior, or junior than the rate cards suggest so will need your own calculations.
"Despite inconsistencies month to month, my lifestyle doesn’t need to suffer."
Work out how much you need to live comfortably. That could be the full-time salary equivalent of an employee in the same role. While calculating an hourly rate might seem a simple division of desired annual income divided by the number of hours worked, that will leave you short. There are a few considerations you must factor in.
Consider your business running expenses and add that to your desired income. Include superannuation (10%) and any insurances you might need to pay. For example, if your desired income is $100,000, your business expenses are $10,000, and superannuation and insurances are $11,000. Your total “desired income” is now $121,000.
If you are looking at growing your business in the future, you will also need profit (after you’ve paid your salary), so add a margin on top. If you want to make a 10% profit, then your desired income jumps to $133,000.
How many hours will you work per week? Usually, that is between 37.5 hours to 40 hours. How many of those hours are actually billable? If you religiously take a one-hour lunch break, then subtract that from your weekly hours – though I am yet to meet a sole trader who stops for lunch.
How much time do you need for admin and marketing your business? Let’s assume five hours per week admin and five hours per week for lunch breaks. Your 40 hour week is now 30 billable hours.
Multiply that figure by 52 weeks to get 1560 billable hours per year.
Now take into account public holidays, annual and sick leave. Let’s assume public holidays are ten days, annual leave is 20 days, and sick leave is about five days. That’s 35 additional days (or 280 hours) you won’t be working. Subtract that from your annual hours worked (1560), which leaves you with 1,280 billable hours per annum. Divide your actual desired income ($133,000) by billable hours (1,280), and you get $103.00 per hour.
Had you merely done the first calculation of total hours (2080) divided $100,000 (desired income), without considering your expenses and leave, you would have been left charging yourself out at $48 per hour. Big difference.
Put aside money for tax as soon as you receive it.
It is tempting to spend all your income at once, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to put your tax aside before anything else, so you aren’t caught short by thousands at tax time.
I have a separate account where I immediately deposit GST collected and estimated tax.
My accounting app helps me with that, but I also pay quarterly instalments, so my BAS statement nominates a quarterly sum (useful if you don’t use an accounting app). Once deposited, I don’t touch this money until I need to pay the ATO. Nope – I don’t even look at it. Not my money.
Superannuation. Just Do It!
I also pay superannuation. Religiously. I never used to pay it. After all, there is no legal requirement for freelancers or sole traders to pay super and it can be a significant chunk of your earnings, but I realised there was a good chance that the creative mince meals for lean freelancing months might be replaced by tinned cat food in my retirement years (home brand).
If you don’t pay super but have an account or seven from your full-time employment days, check out the online calculators and see how much you’ll have to survive when you retire. Scary right?
Consolidate all your super accounts into one. Those funds whack you for fees. I chose a super fund that is in the top five performers and has lower fees, but also one that was really easy for me to deposit money into. I pay 10% of my earnings into super. Every. Single. Invoice. Like my GST and tax, I treat the money as if it was never there. I transfer it as soon as I receive it.
Expenses, emergencies, holidaysI have a big media quarterly subscription bill, so I set aside money for it each month. And if I charge my clients for the service, that portion of the invoice is put away immediately. I put it into the same account as my tax money.
I also put aside money into an emergency account. I can dip into it during quieter times if I need to pay for kids’ excursions and things that can’t wait. Ideally, you should aim to have a few months income locked away there, but that can take time.
I also have another account – and I love to check the balance of that. That is my annual leave accruals. I don’t religiously deposit into that, but as often as I can. I save all year for my holiday. It is a pleasure to deposit my money there. Next year we are planning a trip to Europe for the family. Happy days.
While it might sound like there’s not much left after that, it is enough to feed a family and also feel secure I can meet my financial obligations in the quiet times.
It took me years to come up with a system that works for me, but knowing that my finances are in some semblance of order gives me peace of mind year round.
Which reminds me – here’s 44 mince recipes.
This article first appeared on Flying Solo www.flyingsolo.com.au/finance/managing-income-as-a-freelancer
By Fiona Hamann
Principal of Hamann Communication
Like many of you, I started my business on a wing and a prayer. Sick of long city commutes and time away from the family, I chucked in the office job and felt a bit like a trapeze artist without a safety net.
Having resigned from my last role, I had no redundancy to fall back on, so I spent the first year trying to achieve a successful business on a shoestring budget – a cheap, chunky laptop at the kitchen table and excel spreadsheet to manage my invoices, and Google to help me track media articles and source contact details for my PR business.
In short, I had little in the way of any strategy except to work hard and hope for the best.
Each day I would clear my work mess up and use my "office" to serve dinner on, resulting in lost papers and documents and a stilted workflow the next day as I re-setup the previous day's to-do lists.
It wasn't productive, and after a year of fiddling and faffing and generally being very bad-tempered about the inconvenience of it all, I decided I needed to get more professional.
I was terrified of some of the investments I needed to make to improve my business until a close friend told me that I need to back myself. If I don't believe in my company, how could I possibly hope that my clients would?
But there were some pretty expensive changes I needed to make. In hindsight, I am pleased I took the plunge because my business has grown five-fold in three years, and my productivity levels are now through the roof compared to before (unless I get distracted by social media, which has been known to happen on occasion)
Dedicated Office Space
Perhaps the most significant, and non-tax deductible, expense was creating an office for myself.
Luckily, we had a huge rumpus room downstairs, and I could section off the end with a partition wall, and add a window and power points. It cost a pretty penny, but I now have a dedicated office space.
I shut the door at the end of the day and can switch off from work, and my documents are all exactly where I left them when I return in the morning. The added bonus is my house now has a "study" which has added to its value.
I spent money on furnishing my office properly and lashed out on a new iMac, which was faster and much better than the clunky laptop. Thankfully all these items could be written off immediately with the ATO's $20,000 instant asset write-off.
If you don't have the luxury of an oversized rumpus room to convert, or are renting, it is still worth ensuring you have a space that is yours alone for business. You can save a lot of time when you don't need to set up your workspace like a crazy hot-desker each day.
Get your Finances in order
This was definitely something I should have done sooner! I spent two years trying to manage my finances on a spreadsheet. For someone who was barely competent to study “Maths in Society” at school, and is not proficient at Excel, I really don't know what I was thinking.
I think my accountant also hated me intensely at tax time when she saw me walk through the door. Nothing added up or was allocated to the right columns, and my receipts were still stored haphazardly in the obligatory shoebox.
I trialed all the big brands, but baulked at the cost and the complexity, until a friend recommended a company called Rounded, which is designed for sole traders.
I can honestly say, I have never looked back. It offers everything I need at just over $200 for the whole year (and like my office furniture, it’s also tax deductible.)
I can invoice (and track payments) and add expenses, pus screenshot receipts and upload from my phone. It calculates my BAS and estimates my income tax. But perhaps my favourite feature is the ability to set goals and see my business grow on a colourful dashboard.
It has literally saved me hours, saved my sanity and stopped me from getting anywhere near a financial spreadsheet since I got it!
My accountant will be happy this year, as she can now access my data with her own password, and I won't have to see her tutting about my lousy record keeping (cos it's not!)
In reality, I know that accounting software isn't responsible for my business growing, but it really motivated me, and the dashboard pushed me to achieve my income goals.
The time I used to spend on Excel, can now be used on my core business or marketing to new customers.
Don’t Skimp on the software you need for your business
What good is running a PR consultancy when it takes half a day to source media contacts through Google, and the same again to track stories? But media monitoring and databases are stupidly expensive.
This was a big decision for me as it was way, way more expensive than my accounting app, and I would be locked into a 12-month contract. But I bit the bullet and signed up with a media monitoring and database service (Meltwater).
Thankfully I held out signing up until the final deadline. With a salesperson eager to earn their commission, I was able to negotiate the price down, and also arrange a quarterly subscription model, which gave me three months to stump up the cash.
I am now able to offer media monitoring and a media database to my clients, as well as system generated analytics, which gives me an advantage over other smaller sole traders, who generally don’t offer it.
I am on excellent terms with many of my local competitors (there's enough pie out there for everyone to have a slice), and so I sell them media lists and monitoring when they need it, as well as charging my clients a monthly subscription (a proportion of my own monthly subscription), which is a value-add for them. My big investment virtually pays for itself now, which is a huge relief.
The media monitoring has given me back so much time and is far more efficient than the Google monitoring I was doing. Best of all, I don't have to record media lists on Excel (as you may have guessed, my most hated program)
While it is tempting to try and run your business on a shoestring, and invent home-made solutions like McGyver, once you back yourself, believe in your ability and invest in the tools you need for your business, you can take it to the next level – both in terms of productivity and profitability.
This article first appeared on Flying Solo on 25 October, 2018
image credit: @rawpixels
By Fiona Hamann
Start-Ups are increasingly challenging to PR, as there is a new one launched every day, so you need to stand out head and shoulders above the rest.
If your start-up has just received funds via a capital raise or angel investor, it is critical that you negotiate the ability to disclose the investor details and the amount you raised with your investors; otherwise it becomes challenging to get coverage in business publications or national media such as the AFR.
Details that build a fantastic start-up story include the amount raised, the names of high profile investors and a small history of prior successful investments they have been involved with. If possible a quote from investors goes a long way. Details about the pedigree of your company management team are also excellent, as is any story about how the founders identified the need for the product or service you are offering.
If you can't provide investor details and amounts, it is good to show how you have launched your product and smashed your own targets, showing a public appetite for your product or service. However, when I say “smashed”, I mean your figures are comparable to big competitors and are really impressive.
Media are not interested in the story unless you have a good angle. It is not about leveraging media contacts. If you don’t have a newsworthy story, then journalists simply won’t cover it, regardless of how many connections your PR person has.
It is all very well to say ‘We just want to announce we have launched’, but without a compelling news angle, you would be better to spend your money on advertising or social media.
PR is not guaranteed media coverage and relies on a good “news story” for publication.
However, all is not lost
If you are unable to announce investor details, amounts or information that will reassure people your company is solid, then you may want to take a longer view to establish your name in the market. This is called a thought-leadership PR campaign.
By getting your name out there as an expert spokesperson on your topic or market, you can move towards being the first point of call for media when they are running a piece on your industry. Here are three strategies your PR consultant should be able to help you with. Building your reputation in a crowded marketplace takes time though.
A good PR consultant can help you to identify angles and strategies to build a reputation as a thought leader, if you are prepared to play a longer game.
By Fiona Hamann