10 Reasons Why Tracking Time Matters

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‘Time tracking is such a waste of time!’

I’ve often heard people say that. Honestly, if you are a freelancer, you’ll know that time accounting is a serious task  as you get  paid by the hour. So why is time tracking all that important?  Top of the mind, this is why I think:

1. Albert Einstein had only 24 hours. So do youTime-Tracking
No one is saying you are not a genius like him. Of course you are! But when you are heading a project, you cannot whip out extra time in the last minute.

Quick Tip: PLAN. Go back to the basics. Make a task list and stick to it.

2. Energy Drainers – Count them in too
Your mobile, email, internet and staring at the clock itself will eat away your carefully planned time. They have a unique way to disrupt your carefully planned time. Tracking your time helps to keep them at bay.

Quick Tip: While planning, set aside some time for energy drainers.

3. Bill your time right
Would you like to be paid by the hour for your expertise or by fixing a rate for the ultimate finished product.  As a freelancer your time’s worth should be estimated carefully before you bill your client on the basis of project hours, staff hours or task hours.

Quick Tip: Spend some time to know which project billing method suits you the best.

4. Heard of umm ‘delegating’
Ever noticed the amount of time you spend on actually doing what you love and the time spent on administrative tasks to get to do what you want to do? Share your workload.

Quick Tip: Add more people to the project and let them track their own time.

5. We all procrastinate – No exception
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday”. Ahem I didn’t say that…Don Marquis did and I kind of agree. We procrastinate filling up those timesheets that when the day dawns to send the invoice, we rush and do a shoddy work of essaying the work we did.

Quick Tip: Do it small bits like once in 3 days instead of once a week.

6. ‘I don’t remember ‘ – syndrome
Not everyone is blessed with exceptional memory. As a freelancer, chances are you will be working on multiple projects and for many clients. The simple things might skip your mind when you finally get to your timesheets.

Quick Tip: Use the notes and write it down when it’s fresh in the mind.

7. Busy bees are awfully busy all the time
“I’ll fill it when I’m not so busy”. Well THAT… somehow never happens. Even if it does, then point no 5 and 6 pitch in and the rest is history. Prise out some time everyday to keep track of what you’ve achieved and where you are headed.

Quick Tip: Keep your mobile handy. Before starting the task, click start the timer. Let the app do the tracking.

8.My client ‘KNOWS’ the work I do
I know he does. But let’s be honest, you might be the best person working on the job but you are not the only one. Why make your client track your work when you can do an awesome job of it yourself. Remember… clients observe.

Quick Tip: Send out an immensely detailed invoice of the tasks accomplished with description. It’ll speak a lot about your professionalism.

9. Increased sense of accomplishment
Don’t know about you, but I love the happy fuzzy feeling that comes when a task is complete. It lets me know that I’m almost close to that finishing line and gives me that additional motivation to get the rest of the job done.

Quick Tip: Track your tasks and their progress regularly. Nothing disturbs the mind like a pending task.

10.It’s a friday job
It’s friday today and I know for a fact I have far more interesting things to do than fill up timesheets. So do you!   You often have to reverse engineer your way to noting down what you did the entire week.

Quick Tip: Spend 5 min a day to write down the key tasks. Elaborate later.

Well these were some of the reasons why I thought tracking time is so crucial. Would love to know why you track time. Share your inputs right here in the comments below.

Has Your CRM Application Changed Your Life?

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After undergoing an exhaustive search of CRM applications, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company landed on one CRM tool that has changed her life and she’s vowed to take it wherever she goes.

Business:

On a daily basis, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company, must manage 40 to 50 accounts with mortgage brokers across 20 states while also looking through 200 to 2000 different leads.

The Challenge:

Morelli used to manage all her accounts through Outlook. It was a mess. She forgot people’s names, couldn’t discern key contacts within a group, and she forgot to return phone calls.

“Keeping track of them within Outlook just doesn’t work for me,” said Morelli. “I found myself disorganized, losing business, not servicing my clients very well, and I was just desperate.”

Competitive analysis of CRM:

Morelli wanted to be more organized so she started to do some research on CRM. She wanted an application to look nice, be configurable to the way she wanted to work, and be interactive.

“If I put information in to tell it to talk to me, I want it to talk to me,” said Morelli.

Night after night she pulled up her iPhone and researched different CRM applications. When she saw one she liked she gave it a try. Sometimes she would sign up for the 30 day trial and after she realized she didn’t like it she would cancel the subscription.

Morelli would discover a variety of reasons for the CRM application to disappoint her. Either it didn’t do what it said it would do, was ugly, or it didn’t let her make many changes.

Morelli looked at somewhere between 35-50 different CRM applications. She was frustrated by all of them until she discovered Zoho. What she liked that about Zoho was the lack of limitations. It could work for anyone in any industry.

“The criteria you can set up, it’s unlimited. It’s all within your imagination actually,” Morelli said. “I feel this is my little buddy here. Without it there’s no me.”

With all her research, Morelli set a limit of $125 per month she would spend on a CRM application. That wasn’t a problem when it came to Zoho.

“The price point for Zoho is amazing,” she said.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

Every day Morelli’s in her office looking at 40-50 accounts and 200-2000 leads in Zoho. She needs to know who’s active, who’s inactive, and who she needs to call. Then she has to know if there are any leads. Which ones are the good leads and which ones are the dead ones.

Deborah Morelli proudly flaunts her Zoho desktop

From her first initial setup five years ago, which took her only 20 minutes, Zoho has become a standard part of her workflow as she’s in the application every single day. One extra feature Morelli likes is the ability to have links within Zoho that let her pop into other sites without having to leave Zoho.

As Morelli did most of her CRM research on an iPhone, she is also dependent on using her CRM via her iPhone.

“I can be on my iPhone and open Zoho and it’s just as good as the one I have on my desktop,” said Morelli. “A lot of these CRMs it’s one or the other.”

Zoho goes where I go

Morelli is an unabashed Zoholic saying, “I’m not able to function without it.”

“If I change jobs I’ve decided I’m going to have Zoho a part of my life forever. Because life is business and business is life,” said Morelli who will soon be adding personal to do items as well to Zoho. “Everyone needs some type of CRM.”

“By keeping up with your CRM you’re helping your clients make money and then you make money,” she said.

For those still not sure, Morelli advised you not frustrate yourself and waste your time trying to manage your business through Outlook.

“Outlook doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t know who it works for. It’s outdated,” she said.

Instead Morelli suggests you try Zoho for one month and you’ll see improvement in your business life which will lead to your personal life.

Listen to my full interview with Morelli on Soundcloud.

Elementary SEO: All about robots.txt

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SEO is about making your pages rank higher on search results. But there are certain pages on your website which you don’t want users to arrive at from search results. The robots.txt file is used to exclude such pages from showing up in search results.

Search engines use bots or robots to crawl websites and learn about them, so that they’ll know which websites should show up for a particular keyword. Whenever such bots arrive at a website, the first thing they look for is the robots.txt file, because it contains instructions from the website’s owner. Now, there are good bots and bad bots. The bad ones especially, like the malware bots that are on the lookout for security vulnerabilities, pay no attention to the robots.txt file.

What is the role of robots.txt?

It contains two important information. Which bots are allowed to crawl this website, and which pages on this site should not be crawled.

How to create a robots.txt?

It can be created using any text-editor. The name of this file is case-sensitive, so it should be lower-case only. The robots.txt file should be put in the root folder of your website, along with the index or welcome page, so that the path of this file always is, www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

It usually has two commands. User-agent is to specify the bot to which the following instructions apply. Disallow specifies the pages which are restricted.

A simple example of a robots.txt file is as below.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

So, in the example above, the “*” beside User-agent says, the following commands apply to every kind of bot that lands on this site.
The “/” beside Disallow, represents all sub-directories in the root folder are restricted to bots. That means, no page inside the root folder should be crawled, by any bot.

Here are a few examples. To permit select bots, and keep the rest out,

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

To restrict select directories on a website from being crawled, the commands would be,

User-agent: *
Disallow: /directory/

To block files of a specific type,

User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /*.gif$

To block a particular directory, and everything in it,

User-agent: Googlebot-Image

Disallow: /images/dogs.jpg

Alternate method – META TAG:
You can also include a robots <meta> in the header of every page on your site. The syntax is,

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

The FOLLOW / NOFOLLOW attribute is for the links on that page. If it is NOFOLLOW, then bots should not be following any links on that page. If no meta tag is included, then it implies INDEX and FOLLOW, so there is no need to explicitly mention this.

As with Zoho Sites, you can access the crawler specification in the SEO settings page.

The commands entered here will automatically be saved in the robots.txt file of your website, and can be accessed at www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

Zoho Office Integrates with Google Drive

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Recently we have seen our friends at Google open up their SDK for Google Drive letting third parties integrate their apps into Google Drive. We excitedly pounced on it and we are now thrilled to announce that Zoho Office is now integrated with Google Drive.

What does this mean? To start with, Google users can now open their documents using Zoho’s Writer, Sheet & Show – our word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications. Of course, this integration is not just for viewing your files using Zoho’s apps, but you can also edit your documents and save them back to Google Drive. Better yet, you can also create new documents using Zoho’s editors and save those documents in Google Drive…all without needing to create a Zoho account.

But wait…it gets better. You can even collaboratively work on documents with other Google users, inside the Zoho editors. As all your documents are saved in Google Drive, you have the inherent advantages of Google Drive where your files are automatically synchronized between your various devices.

Taking advantage of all this goodness is actually pretty straightforward. Users just need to install Zoho apps from the Google Chrome Webstore.

Once installed, get over to your Google Drive and click on “Manage Apps” in Google Drive settings menu and check the box next to “Make [App Name] the default for files it can open”. This enables users to access Zoho apps with just a click from Google Drive. In the contextual menu of each document, users will see options to open the document with the respective Zoho editors. Of course, if you prefer to use Google’s editors, that is also possible. Just that you have an additional option with this integration.

If you are trying to create a new document in Google Drive, choose ‘New’ option and you’ll find Zoho Apps under the ‘More’ option. You can edit an existing document by just right clicking on it and choosing the Zoho app.

When you save, the modified document will be saved in Google Drive as a new document, thereby leaving the original document untouched. This new document comes with extensions recognized by Zoho’s apps. For example, a text document, BusinessProposal.doc, from Google Drive, when edited in Zoho Writer and saved, will be saved as BusinessProposal.zdoc in Google Drive. Similarly the extensions for Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show are .zsheet and .zslides respectively.

Collaboration is also simple. You can invite your Google contacts to collaborate on their Google Drive documents and edit them using Zoho editors in real time.  Based on the permissions, you will be allowed to access the document for collaboration.

If you have the Google Drive app installed on the Mac or the PC, you will also be able to access Zoho documents right from the desktop.

To get started, do take a look at the presentation that explains this integration,

We hope you like this integration.  We are excited to bring our powerful Office suite to Google Drive, complementing Google’s applications. As always, we look forward to hear your feedback, questions. We are all ears!!

Update: Our friends at Google gave us an opportunity to share our technical experience about the Zoho Office – Google Drive integration in Google developer blogs. You can take a look at it to know how the integration started, what are all the technologies used behind the scenes etc.,


Just In: Read-Only Mode for Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books

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Continuing from where we left off on the Read-Only mode update for Zoho services, we are happy to announce that Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books services too are now running in read-only mode from our secondary data center in the New York metro region. You can access the services via the below mentioned URL’s.

Zoho Invoice: https://invoice-ro.zoho.com

Zoho Books : https://books-ro.zoho.com

What you’ll see here is an exact replica of your data which is stored in our secondary data center. If an unexpected outage renders the primary data center inaccessible, you’ll still be able to access the read-only mode of your account.

What you can do : Search any record you want,  run unlimited reports and also export various entities like the invoices list, estimates list, Items list etc.,

What you can’t do: As this is a read-only mode, you will not be able to add, edit or delete any record. Integration with other applications like Zoho CRM or Zoho Project is also not possible as it involves adding or modifying records.

We understand the importance of having access to your data all the time, therefore we wanted to kick in the read-only mode to our customers as soon as possible. Go ahead and bookmark (Ctrl+D) the website links and access it anytime you want.

Join Zoho on a 9 Day Cutting-Edge Tech Road Show for Small Businesses

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Small Business Technology Road Show is being organized by the Sleeter Group across 9 cities in the United States. The mission is to empower accountants and small business owners with the knowledge of the latest technology which will improve their business process workflow and boost productivity.

Leading technology companies along with Zoho will be presenting their solutions at this event. There will be sessions by accounting thought leaders and plenty of opportunities to discuss, learn, share and network with some amazing business leaders.

The road show kicks off in Tampa, Florida on 17th July, 2012. The cities covered are:

July 17th       Tampa, FL
July 18th       Atlanta, GA
July 19th       Newark, NJ
July 24th       Dallas, TX
July 25th       Chicago, IL
July 26th       Denver, CO
July 31st       Los Angeles, CA
Aug 1st         Seattle, WA
Aug 2nd        San Rafael, CA

Brainstorming sessions and drill-down workshops on:

  • Cloud solutions on the mobile
  • Online Accounting Software
  • Document management solutions
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  • Accountant-Client collaboration tools

Clock is ticking and the seats are few. Register quickly on the Sleeter Group’s website to enjoy a day to learn about smart solutions that’s going to change the way you do business.

Now register your custom domains with Zoho Sites

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We have made minor changes to how you select a domain for your website. We believe this will streamline the process, and make it easy for you to choose between options. And of course, it is yet another reason for you to pick our PRO Plan. PRO users can now register their custom domain with us. When a domain is registered with us, all the mapping and configuration is automatically taken care of. The domain is ready to be used soon after registration.

When you attempt to publish your website for the very first time, you’ll be prompted to choose a unique domain name. Choose from the three options as in the image below.

Free subdomain:

This is ideal for beginners to get started with. You can learn the ropes of website building with a subdomain.

Map the custom domain you already own

Choose this option if you have an existing domain that was registered elsewhere and you want it hosted with Zoho.

Register a new domain now

Choose this option if

  • you don’t have a custom domain already
  • you are a PRO user.

By registering your custom domain with Zoho, you can escape the process of domain mapping and configuration. We handle it all for you.

Whether you choose a custom domain or subdomain, there are no restrictions on your creativity to building a great website with Zoho Sites.