How to Save Big Money on your Electricity Bill

Wise and progressive people are both environmentally-friendly as well as frugal. I suppose because these two concepts marry the ideas of recycling, reducing, and re-purposing.

At each rental property I have lived in, one of the first things I did was switch all the old incandescent bulbs the place “came with” to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

It made me feel confident that my electric bill would be about a third the price of what it would have been if I didn’t switch bulbs, and it also made me feel good knowing that when I left the place, I’d leave the new tenants with money-saving, environmentally-friendly light bulbs. Compact fluorscents last 9-16 years, but I hope that someday if a bulb goes out, the next “owner” will be more likely to replace it with the same thing.

When I visited my parents home around Christmas, I noticed how many lights were left on in rooms people were not in, as well as the sheer volume of bulbs in that house. And, my parents always raised us kids on “always turn out the light when you leave a room.” I guess that idealism has slipped a bit in their empty nest.

Slightly miffed, (energy-sucking hypocrites!) I went around the house and counted the number and type of bulbs. This included lamps, overhead lights, oven, refrigerator, and garage door opener lights, as well as bulbs in the attic, basement, closets, and outdoors.

I did not count lights that were not in use, like old, unplugged lamps, holiday decorations, or lights in other buildings, like the cabana, gazebo, and pool pump house.

I approached my parents separately and asked them to guess how many lights they have in their house, and how many were currently on.

My mom guessed 49 lights total, with five on.

My dad guessed 30 lights with three on.

They have 121 light bulbs plugged in and available for use in their house. 67 are normal bulbs, 34 are “flame” bulbs (they like their colonial charm), 12 are indoor recessed lighting spotlights,  5 are outdoor floodlights, 2 are small bulbs and they have just 1 mini-flame.

At the time, 19 light bulbs were on.

This is sick!

So, I knew then and there just what they were getting for Christmas.

Santa came with loads of presents: for my parents. Boxes and boxes begged to be opened, their contents yearning to be played with. Usually, they enjoy watching my sister and I open our gifts, but this year, the spotlight was on them. Santa brought them thirteen boxes of compact fluorescent light bulbs, amounting to 64 “regular” CFL bulbs. Because nothing says “I care about your carbon footprint” like the gift of Compact Fluorescents. Previously, I had bought them a pack of CFL spotlights since a few went out, unnoticed. But this would be a sea-change, a huge hit, replacing almost all the regular bulbs.

Because this was my idea, I spent a good portion of Christmas afternoon unscrewing and screwing in bulbs until my wrist ached.

“Save the old ones in case these go out,” my dad suggested. Bull-shit I will. Those things went straight to the recycling bin.

Even with a freezing January, necessitating the use both of the furnace as well as multiple space heaters and much more indoor activity, the savings to their following  bill was immense.

Besides the “green factor” and the long life of CFLs, my favorite thing about these fancy bulbs is that you can put as bright a bulb as you want in any socket. This is because the 19 Watt CFLs are comparable in lumens to a 100 watt incandescent. There is almost no way you can put too high a wattage CFL bulb in, because the watts just don’t go that high. You can make your home as bright as you like.

I also love that there are different “color temperatures” offered. Go to Home Depot and check out the live display. You can get cool, bluish lights or very warm, yellowy lights, depending on the mood you want to create.

Additionally, these bulbs are very safe around children because they don’t get hot like incandescents. They get a little warm, but you can absolutely touch them while they are on.

I vividly remember the first time I touched an incandescent! I was about six or seven and touched a peach-colored crayon to the bulb of the lamp on my nightstand. When I attempted to wipe off the melted way, boy, did my finger turn pink then white fast. It was a bad burn that I will never forget. I am glad my future spawn will never have to learn that lesson.

See if your state is running any special funding or promotions for compact fluorescent light bulbs. Recently the Connecticut Energy commission had a grant where light bulbs at Walmart were deeply discounted. Yes, I know how bad it is to shop there, but this was worth it: a pack of four 19 watt (comparable to 100 watt brightness) were $3.78, and four 14 watt bulbs (as bright as a 60 watt) were $0.76! Often, just one CFL bulb cost $9-$15, so if you have a program like this, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and load up while you can.

Have you switched your home or office to CFLs? How much did you save? Have you had one burn out yet? I’d love to hear about your experiences:


6 Cheap and Easy Ways to Take Product Photos with your Smart Phone or a Simple Camera

1. First, prepare your product. Make sure your product is in shipshape condition well ahead of time. When you clean it, be sure to use the correct type of cleaner for its material, and use a lint-free cloth. Sham-wows, microfiber cloths, and car cleaning towels work great. Wipe it down so if there are sparkles, they sparkle, and if it has a matte surface, that surface has time to dry and not appear streaked. Most importantly, make sure there is no dust or residue marks on your product.

2. Choose and prepare a background for your product.

For smaller items, a white background looks professional. You can use a few pieces of regular printer paper all stacked together so it comes out really white and not gray and opaque. White poster board works great too since it is large and thick. Put your product on half the paper on a flat surface and bend the other half up behind it and prop it up. Don’t make a crease or fold.

If you care to invest a little money, buy a white project tri-fold. The advantage to this is it is large,  stands up on its own, and the two side flaps gently reflect light.

Fabric with flat texture can also work, as can a plain wall painted in a light or neutral color. Just prop up your object so not to include the baseboard or any scuffs on the wall. A wooden table makes a nice “floor”.

If your product is large or must stay outside, choose a natural location. Trees, hedges, a clean fence can make a nice background. You won’t want to photograph near anything distracting such as garbage, fallen sticks, passing cars, or utility poles. If you do choose to photograph outside, be sure to read tip 4. about lighting in order to plan when to take your shots.

3. Prepare your equipment. Make sure phone is fully charged. Photos, especially with flash can take up a significant amount of battery, and some phones may not die but they won’t let you take pictures if you battery is too low.

Be sure there is enough memory to take at least five to seven photos per product.

Carefully clean the lens with dry microfiber cloth that is specifically for cleaning lenses or sensitive glass equipment. If your lens is really grimy, use a product such as Invisible Glass or another appropriate lens cleaner.

Hopefully you have a working knowledge of how your phone or camera works. If not, the internet is your friend! Google the make and model of your phone along with photography tips or how to use the camera on [your phone].

4. Next, you will need to consider lighting.
Outdoors on overcast day is ideal, as is early in the morning or somewhere close to dusk but not right when the sun is on the horizon. For a small product, using a patio table, truck bed, or spa cover to set up your background and product on is great. Just make sure it’s level and not slanted. For example, a car hood or rock would not be ideal.
Typically you will want the sun behind you. Make sure your shadow doesn’t come near your product. This is another reason a slightly cloudy day works nicely.

If you shoot indoors, find a spot with substantial but not direct light. Perhaps use a table or piece of furniture that is not right under a light fixture. You may not want a light behind your product either.

The exception to this is if your product has a reflective surface such as glass, shiny plastic, or anything else with mirror-like surface. If so, consider back-lighting it. You can position a table against a window covered by a white sheer curtain, or in a location with a light source shining behind the product. Just don’t photograph the lamp too, unless you will be able to crop it out.

5. Now, it’s time to actually take the photos!

Shoot from different angles with the camera level with the horizontal middle of your product. This is why it is best to use a table if your product is small. If it is large, squat down.

Be sure to hold your camera steady! Tripods are great, but most people won’t have them for a smart phone or simple camera. If you can, lean your arm on a chair or table to help steady the camera.

Many items are best shot at right angles to the corner of the product, so you can see the front and one side.

Take some from “far” away, such as three to four feet for a small product (like a My Little Pony), or nine to twelve feet for a larger product (like a motorcycle). Also take some close-ups, both with zoom and without. Try using your  macro setting (the tulip setting on your camera) for very up-close detail shots.

If your product is reflective, try shooting head on. A tiny sparkle or shine might look nice, but you don’t want a glare to ruin your photo.

6. Finally, if you’re not sending photos directly from your phone, transfer your photo files to your computer.

You can easily use your Photo Gallery software to crop the photo. Don’t crop it too closely. Negative space (extra space in the photo that is not your actual product) is good, but make sure your product is centered.

Photoshop is only helpful if you have it and know how to use it, and probably isn’t necessary for this scale project. The only other editing you may want to do is to make the background blend in and not be distracting. You can use Paint, or download the free, open-source photo editing software GIMP to make your background all uniformly white, or to blur the background.

Don’t manipulate or change your actual product. Buyers will not be happy if you edit out a scratch that is really there, or make the product brilliant purple when it is actually brick red. Try to show your product as true to real life as possible, and help your product put its best foot forward.

Be sure to save the original and to save any edits as a separate copy. If you are uploading it to a site online, take into consideration the maximum file size or recommended optimum dimensions (perfectly square? option to zoom?). Paint is great for editing your photo to meet these requirements.

Save your edited copy in the correct file format for your needs. JPEG is usually the default and is fine if you need to balance a pretty decent quality with a smaller file size, although it is not good if text is included in your photo. A better option is saving it as a PNG file. It is still a workable, small file with no loss of quality. Use TIFF if you are printing out your product photo.

Best of luck with your product photos!

Starting a Business on a Small Budget: Business Cards

cork bulletin board filled with colorful business cards and larger flyers

When bootstrapping a new business, a wise entrepreneur should weigh the value of every decision.

I found that for certain service businesses that thrive on local support, it can be helpful to advertise as locally and as cheaply as possible.

If you have virtually no budget, creating a website and business cards should be your first two “front-end” steps for starting a new business.

Having a website enables you to have some sort of “storefront” or business identity, and provides basic information to potential customers. It can also help put you on the map, literally. After deciding on and purchasing a domain name, I recommend Vista Print the most for creating attractive, decent quality business cards. They run pretty cheap, as long as you search for a coupon code.

Domain name registration runs about $10 per year, and site hosting could be $7 per month if you can only pay monthly, or $3-$4 per month if you can pay for a year or more up front. I am totally in love with JustHost for both buying domain names (websites; the words between the www. and the .com) and hosting them (keeping them online for the world to see). Business cards can range from free to hundreds of dollars, but for starting up your business, plan to just get 250 cards and spend $10-$25, which includes shipping. Make sure your business is even viable and set up the way you want before you start spending money, only to trash your cards or pick a new business name or domain name.

Once you have your business cards, sure, you can hand them out to your family, friends, people you meet, or anyone who will take one, but an easy way to get customers is to simply post your cards on local bulletin boards or other places cards are allowed.

Cheap or Free Places to Advertise or find bulletin boards:

  • Online: Craigslist
  • Online: similar local websites like Penny-Saver, local newspapers, local chamber of commerce website
  • Public libraries
  • Churches/places of worship
  • Colleges
  • Co-ops of any type
  • Health food stores
  • Doctor, dentist, chiropractor, and vet offices
  • Coffee shops
  • Chambers of commerce (even if you’re not a member)
  • Bars
  • Locally-owned grocery stores
  • Anywhere hippies, activists, homesteaders, locavores, or other new-age, progressive-type people congregate

More Tips for business cards:

  • Don’t scatter them all over town from a plane or otherwise. That is littering and no one wants to touch dirty pieces of paper.
  • If you hand them out to family or friends, give them two or three cards, and choose an ideal time when they are not in a rush and shoving your card into their pocket or oblivion. Perhaps go to their house, mention your new card, and stick a few on the fridge or whiteboard.
  • When you meet people out while socializing, instead of fumbling around trying to exchange names and numbers, simply hand them two cards to keep and tell them to text you. Now. That way they will have your cards, have your number saved, and be making contact.
  • Young Professionals, Rotary Club, Toastmasters, and places you volunteer at are all good places to hand out your card.
  • Don’t print your own cards – they look ripped or cut unevenly, and the printing is often not straight or even.
  • Sometimes flyers are effective ways of advertising a special or an event. These are usually simpler, so it may be OK to print these yourself, but if you cut them, make sure to use a paper-cutter! Go to a library, school you have access to, or office supply store that will allow you to use their paper-cutter.
  • Throw out stained or wrinkled cards, or cards that are in any way not perfect.
  • Carry thumb tacks, tape, and a staple gun if you have one for posting your business cards on bulletin boards
  • If a board is empty and doesn’t have cards on it, maybe it’s because there are no tacks! Leave 5-10 extra tacks for other people. That way, you might be the one who starts making that board a popular spot!
  • I always post four cards. That way, when I come back to visit the bulletin board, I know how many people took.
  • Make a chart of known local bulletin boards (or places to leave a small stack of cards). Pick a morning and start making the rounds. Mark the date and location of each place you left your cards. It’s great to have a record, and know where to go back and target a few months from now, and have a reference for how fast your cards got taken.
  • Bulletin board etiquette: It is OK to move other people’s giant floppy flyers or misaligned business cards as long as you move them to an equally beneficial spot. It’s not nice or ethical to move them to a crappier spot like really high or really low or where they are going to get rained on or covered up.
  • If someone uses six tacks to put up a 1/4 page flyer, it is OK to borrow one. It helps them not look ridiculous.
  • If you are in doubt about leaving a small stack of cards somewhere, or the board is covered by glass, or says “events only” just ask someone in the store if you can put your cards up, or if they can do it for you. Most local businesses are happy to help other business owners.
  • If you are still in doubt or there is no one to ask, just go for it! No one is going to hate you or reprimand you for trying to make an honest living by promoting your business.
  • Use your Feng-Shui skills and pick an eye-catching spot for your card. If you are really tall or really short, imagine eye-level for average people. Unless your business targets really tall or really short/wheelchair-using people.
  • If your business card is blue, don’t put it next to three other blue cards. Likewise, if it is minimalist and professional, or very ornate with a photo, put it near other cards that look different.
  • Consider buying a few business card holders for places where you can just leave your card. I have had good luck making sure I keep track of where I left them, ensuring that they stay full, and putting a return address label on the bottom and inside so they don’t get “borrowed”.
  • Skip the business card magnets unless you have a big budget. They rock, but getting nice ones that don’t look like hell is very expensive.
  • Always carry clean, nice cards! Put them in your home, in your wallet, in a business card case, in your bra when you go jogging (unless you sweat a lot), behind your cellphone case, hidden in your desk if you still work for The Man, in your mother’s purse, everywhere. The worst is when someone asks for your card and you don’t have one! Ahh, lost business opportunity. Don’t let it happen to you.

Now, I hope this is obvious, but there are many businesses that really lend themselves to posting business cards, such as trades like plumbing or electrical work, equipment rental businesses, horseback riding, golf, tennis, or dance lessons, natural health care businesses, artists, photographers, baby sitters, pet sitters, etc.

There are other businesses that really aren’t going to do as well. For example, most people aren’t going to hire a corporate attorney out of the Penny Saver. Divorce lawyer or child support lawyer, maybe. You may or may not want to find a reconstructive surgeon from the bulletin board at your local dive bar. Use discretion. ; )

Good luck!

How to Make a Google Drawing a Specific Size for Print or Web

Photo of Borat from the movie in a gray suit and aviators, giving thumbs up with both hands and smiling

The holidays have brought a lot of requests for gift certificates from my customers. I pulled out my stash of fancy paper I purchased for this purpose, which is actually 5.5 inch x 7.75 inch blank invitation paper, with a whimsical .75 inch foil border by Great Papers. The package directed me to to download the free template at Mountaincow Printing Software. Well, Mountaincow no longer supports Great Papers, and the template provided was a Word document. Being a staunch believer in open source everything, I do not have Word. I use Google Docs and other Google Drive  A quick search revealed that there are no compatible 5.5 inch x 7.75 inch templates that support a .75 inch border in the horizontal format I desired.

So, returning to my Google Drive, I attempted to make a template for my business, and for sharing, too.

Google Docs does not, as of this writing, have a custom paper size option. I could have modified the rulers on an 8.5 x 11 doc, but seeing as I wanted to make a template, this could get messed up too easily by other users playing with the settings. Also, I was concerned at not being able to place text or an image exactly where I wanted.

Google Drawing has no option for image size that I could find, nor any support for making a Drawing a specific size on their help menu that I could find. Thus, I developed this workaround:

1. Determine the size of the document you want to create. Double check it with your own ruler.

2. Is there a border or pre-printed heading or image feature you need to design around? If so, measure how big it is and exactly where on the document it is located.

3. Open MS Paint, or another image-creating software. I use Paint, so this tutorial will focus on the process for people who use Paint. If you use another painting/drawing software, they are pretty simple and similar, so try to follow the best you can.

4. Go in the menu bar at the top, click “Image” and scroll down and click “Attributes”. Here, you can make your drawing a specific size. Choose Inches, Centimeters, or Pixels, based on your needs.

5. Save it as a .png file if you can (or better if using an Adobe product). A file with the extension .png is the highest quality resolution offered in Paint. Even though its blank/white right now, I think it’s a good habit to get into saving files with the best resolution offered, since if you print it or upload it online and it is saved as a .jpeg or similar, it may appear blurry and lacking quality. Save your drawing with a name something like “giftcertificatetemplate.png”. Note where on your computer you saved it. Close the Paint file.

6. Find the Paint file, open it back up, and again, click “Image” and scroll down and click “Attributes”. Double check that the size you desire is the size it got saved as.

7. Open your Firefox or Google Chrome browser. They make everything work right. Explorer and Safari are glitchy and barfy.

8. If you have a google account (Gmail, Google+, etc.), go to Google Drive. If you don’t have a Google account, why the heck not? Google has superior, free, user-friendly products that make our daily lives so much easier. Open one. And for the love of God, please remember to use your Firefox or Google Chrome browser!

9. Create a new Google Drawing file. From the menu bar, click “Insert” and scroll down and click “Image”. Browse and find your “giftcertificatetemplate.png”. Choose it. It should have inserted into the top left corner of your Google Drawing.

10. Using the sizey corner at the bottom right of your Google Drawing, resize the Google Drawing the same size as your inserted white image. You can tell because the Google drawing background is a gray and white check. So resize until you can’t see the gray and white checkers, only your white image. Do your best to make it close, chances are a tiny bit smaller won’t be an issue.

11. Now SAVE. You’ve gotten this far, so by saving your blank drawing, at least you have a document that is the exact size you need your project to be. I like to go to “File” and choose “Make a Copy” as well, so if I mess up my template, I don’t have to repeat steps 1 – 10.

12. It’s all yours! Create the text, insert logos or pictures you need, and design it.

I find the most helpful features on Google Drawings are all the fonts to choose from. If you don’t see any you like, there should be an option on the bottom of your list of fonts to “Add More”. Browse it!

If you go to “Arrange” on the menu toolbar and click “Center”, you can choose to center your text or image horizontally and/or vertically.

If you are going to print it, you can either download and save it to your computer or print it directly from Google Drive. Be aware, when you print from Google Drive, you are basically creating a PDF copy that gets saved to your computer that you can then print. Make sure you know the location where you are saving it. As a default, Adobe Reader will try to fit it to Letter paper size (8.5 x 11). Once you click the print button, be sure to select “actual size” print if your project is smaller than a normal size of paper, or click “Page Setup” and choose your size project or a size larger. If you are using fancy paper, perhaps run a test print on inexpensive paper to see what side of the printer tray to load your fancy paper into, and what side of the paper it prints on.

If you have the patience, I would strongly encourage you to take the extra few minutes and make a Google Template. To do this, make another copy of your document and take out your personal info. In the text and image boxes, sometimes it’s helpful to type “Name” or “Insert Logo Here”, etc, so future users can get a better gist of how it is set up.

Go to and choose “My Templates” and upload it. Label it effectively and give a thorough description. If we work together and spread the effort around and share ideas, we can make the world a better place! 8-)

2 Big Reasons to Cancel your Voicemail

Action shot of silver haired man in business suit and tie stomping on cell phone

Whether you are a parent, business owner, or social butterfly, for many people, voicemail is on the A-team of players when it comes to communication.

For me however, voicemail has long gone the way of the telegram. And gosh, do I love it.

As a high-energy entrepreneur, you may expect me to settle down at my desk after dinner with my phone, a pen and a notepad, to patiently listen to and record details of each of the 30 voice messages I got that day. And then take the time to respond in a timely manner to each one before 9pm. You might think I look something like this:

In reality, I’m all over the place. I sometimes eat dinner at home, but not usually. Sometimes I go out for sushi, sometimes I eat at my boyfriend’s, sometimes I eat in bed, sometimes I drink happy hour wine at the local dive bar for dinner,  and sometimes I don’t eat dinner at “dinnertime” at all. But usually, no matter where I am, by the end of the day, I look something like this:

Now, I will tell you that these photos are not of me. A picture of me resembling the first woman doesn’t exist, and the actual picture of me resembling the second woman I have deemed too disturbing for my readers.

Thus, I have absolutely no time or patience for voicemail. Years ago, I had it. Voicemail, that is, not time nor patience.

When I was a student, almost no one left me voicemails, and if they did, I listened to them hours if not days after I had already called the person back. So I heard the information twice, only the second time it was not nearly as interesting.

Then, as an employee of a corporation, a voicemail meant bad news. Either it was going to be a request to come in on the weekend, or it was a notification that someone was sick and I was expected to pick up the slack tomorrow, or  a call to let me know (after hours, mind you) that I screwed something up. It was rarely good news.

The real fun began when I became a small business owner. People would call and leave ridiculously long messages about their life story, or talk so fast or so quietly or so incoherently that you can’t hear what they’re saying, or call to ask if I can perform a service that is not even vaguely related to my business. When I return the voicemail, I am still met with surprise, “Oh, you’re a horseback riding stable? Do you groom dogs? Could you pet sit my Bichon? I’ll pay you extra to clip his nails.” Sure, I’ll take your money, and watch your mop-dog, but really?!?! Ah, then there is my mom. On some days, she would leave seven messages telling me to watch Bill Maher that night, and subsequently call and leave messages asking if I heard her last message. Are there really some people who still don’t understand how this works?

Oh! And goodness forbid you miss a day of checking voicemails. Now, I had it back in the day when your voice mailbox topped out at 30 messages. I’m sure the sky is the limit as of now. People get really agitated if they can’t get through, and hear that your voice mailbox is full. They start thinking either you’re a slacker or that you’re dead, and tell you so when they actually do talk with you. They call their friends who they also know are your clients to see if they can get through to you. Then everyone is wondering where you are, and why you haven’t responded to their voicemail, or why your voice mailbox is full. Then, next week, you get to hear it five different times from five different clients, their story about trying to leave a voicemail.

I love when you get your first business cell phone and make the effort to have a professional, clear, enunciated voice mailbox greeting: “You have reached the voice mailbox of Melissa Miko of HorsePlay Santa Barbara. Please leave me your name and number, and I will return your call as soon as possible.” and you get all these messages for the person who used to have your phone! Now I love all people and international callers, but twice I have gotten phone numbers where the old owner of my phone spoke a language other than English. How are you supposed to tell them they’ve got the wrong number? Apparently the fact that my voicemail message is in English and states my name isn’t enough, because they keep calling.

On my old phone, I got calls from both English and Chinese speaking friends of the woman who previously had my number. Over the next two and a half years (yes, two and a half, because they kept calling for that long), I learned that this woman had developed a disease of the throat and could no longer speak on the phone, and had fallen into a depression and deleted her Facebook account and was ignoring friends and relatives. Poor woman! But geez, delegate someone to let your people know what is up.

Currently its been seven months since I got my new Connecticut phone number, and all I get are a ton of collect calls from Mexico and have not found one person that speaks English except for a debt collector. Fabulous. But, there are no voicemails, because I don’t have voicemail! I only get calls I choose to answer and correct, or to reject, from that same stinkin’ collect call number.

For me, it got to the point where I was avoiding business because I hated doing this stupid voicemail dance. It caused me anxiety, heartache, and feelings of malice. Someone recommended a voicemail-to-text application; I tried it, but it was annoying and glitchy and still took too long. I actually took my phone number off my website for a while, leaving only my email contact information. It’s perfectly appropriate to email someone at 4:00 in the morning and that not be bothersome or weird.

However, then it dawned on me. I called Verizon, and asked them to disable my voicemail. They did. That was singularly the best decision I ever did for my sanity and my business.

If you choose to do this too, check and see if your phone will give the caller the message, “The user of this number has not set up a voice mailbox account.” or if the phone will just ring and ring and ring. See if you can choose, and determine if you are OK with the result. I feel the former seems a little unprofessional and unpolished, and the latter leaves the caller with a dazzling sense of mystery. Like in Boiler Room.

On my website, I generously place my email link in strategic locations, as well as have a Contact Form that shoots your message right to my email. On my site and business cards I put “Please Text (860) XXX-XXXX”. That way, this “unusual language” makes it crystal clear that I greatly prefer a text.

So, three reasons why you should cancel your voicemail:

1. Lack of efficiency. It is a waste of effort on both ends. The caller wastes their breath talking one-sidedly to a machine/data inscribing robot who may or may not deliver the message to the receiver. OK, in 99% of cases, voicemail works, but what if you are out of range? What if your phone dies and doesn’t alert you that you have a new voicemail, what if the system is glitchy? Plus, voicemail opens up an excuse for shady people, “Oh, I left you a voicemail. You didn’t get it? Well maybe you phone’s broken.” (I love hearing this excuse, and confirming that a person definitely, without a doubt left me, on my voicemail, a message, then revealing I don’t have voicemail. Boo-yah, mofo!)

Next, it’s called caller-ID. The first thing I see when you call is your number, and if I know you, I see your personal contact information, like your name. I see that it is you who has called, plus your phone number that will presumably still be working by the time I get to you. I will call you back long before I would ever listen to your voicemail.

And if you have a restricted number? I don’t want to talk to you anyways because you’re either an individual with way too much drama in your life or you’re a marking salesperson who wants my money.

I don’t want to forego a free moment in my day when I can actually call you back to see what you need, and instead wait until the end of the day to listen to your schpiel along with all the others and call you back when I’m worn out and tired and just trying to get through my list. The whole production seems like a huge inefficiency: You call, you wait, I wait, I listen to a recording of you, I transcribe it, I read it, you still wait, I finally call you back, hopefully you answer; if not, the cycle perpetuates.

Voicemail perpetuates a cumbersome service that delivers little value. why not take advantage of a free service? Because it stinks!

2. Stress. People have different thresholds of pain. People have different thresholds of stress. For me, stress is very stressful! The “notification ringtone” of a voicemail curdles my blood, and the anticipatory cold sweat that breaks out leaves me shakey until I can find a moment alone, where I am sitting down, pen and paper in hand, to check my voicemails and see what is so wrong and urgent that the caller had to leave me a message in his or her own voice? If it was a casual question, you’d just text me. If it wasn’t urgent, you’d email me. Voicemail is such a tease, as if our lives are so chaotic that we must strain and stretch and just can’t wait to hear every last second of your message before gulping a breath in time to listen to the next one.

For those of you who say I should just accept life as it is, and have a nice voicemail because it seems professional, and it’s what everyone normal and successful does, I am here to shake things up for you. Submitting to a product I hate is submission of power, and this I do not like! I have been successful without voicemail. I promise you, it has and can be done!

And I know, voice-to-text software has improved greatly since I last tried it. However, I just don’t want voicemail because I don’t want it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Even if I fiddle with voice-to-text for a fraction of a second, I’m going to be complaining. My eyes are on those programs, just waiting for them to screw up. I’m stubborn. I want to be the successful business owner who is successful despite not even having voicemail! Let’s call it my cause.

I’m sure in this article you can find endless sub-reasons to eschew voicemail, and probably think of some of your own. Whether you decide to banish voicemail from your life here and now, or mildly consider it, or even decide life can’t go on without it, consider not only the output of effort it requires, but also the potential for it to be a stressor in your life. We should aspire to live a life that flows as smoothly as possible.

13 Ways I’ve Tried to Make This Site Friendly to Readers With Dyslexia

Young brunette woman smiling with her hands behind her head sitting at desk in front of a computer

Something that was very important to me when designing this website was that I made it as helpful as possible to people with dyslexia. There are a few people who are very close to my heart that have dyslexia, therefore I want to be able to share my articles with them in the most convenient method possible.

1. The first thing I did was change the background color of my posts from the default color pure white, which is coded as the hexidecimal color #FFFFFF, to a pleasant creamy shade. I use #FDFFED.

2. Supplementary to that, I changed my default font color from true black #000000 to a charcoal gray, #333333. Yes! The letters you are reading are actually gray! But isn’t it easy on the eyes? These first two changes probably benefit all readers since they are so much less strenuous to look at.

3. I then made my font sizes larger. For titles, I changed the size from 18 to 28, and made them bold. I changed my regular-use font from 12 to 16. Another great option I took advantage of was to make the spacing between lines a tiny bit bigger; not too much, but just enough to reduce glare and make each line of text a little more refined.

4. Because I have heard that serifs, or those little fancy things on the edges of some fonts like Times New Roman, are not helpful to readers, I chose the font Arial font family for its clarity. Not to mention, I like it so much better! So sans serif fonts, it is.

As a quick offshoot, Dutch company tested fonts for their efficiency of ink and found that Century Gothic topped the list as using the least amount of ink. Times New Roman was second, but only because the letters are smaller and finer than fonts without serifs. Arial was next, as well as Calibri and Verdana. So I would use Century Gothic because it is just so clear AND earth and wallet friendly, but it’s not as widely supported on the web as Arial.

Back to my main point…

5. I try to keep paragraphs brief. Again, I believe this benefits all readers in keeping their place and being convenient to read.

6. I only use one space after each sentence. Growing up I had a friend who learned to put two spaces between each sentence, and it drove me nuts. That seemed to me a terrible and unnecessary waste of space, time, and effort. Too much wear and tear on that poor space bar and your thumbs! That habit harkens back to the typewriter days when letters were set very close so that pressing the space bar twice after each sentence did in fact help define the sentence.

7. I stick with left-alignment. I don’t justify my text. However, once in a while you will see me center something. I am very conscientious when I do this, but sometimes it just must be done for balance and Feng-shui purposes.

8. I use all real, full words. I try not to use shorthand or Short Message Service (SMS) abbreviations or slang.

9. If I feel I must really stress a word, I make it bold. I don’t use italics or underlines, nor do I use all capital letters or have my site in all lowercase. Some people actually use all lower case letters for style, but personally, I think it reflect submissiveness and low self-esteem, but I’ll save that for another article.

10. I refrain from using textured text or backgrounds.

11.Behind the scenes on my web design, I don’t use frames, because as I understand it frames can mess up the flow of an article for people who use an audio reader.

12. Likewise, I really, really try hard not to use graphics with text in them since audio readers miss them. This is really hard since I love funny animal memes, however, usually the text is so brief or the picture is so cute that the meaning of the text takes a back seat.

13. If I write very long articles, I plan to put a topic list at the beginning, so people can scroll through to the sections they are most interested in.

My Header breaks quite a few of my rules: the text is against a gradient, my Trajan Pro font has serifs, and it’s an image file containing text so most audio readers won’t pick it up. However, if you’re reading my site, chances are you know where you are. Because the header is there for style rather than content, I went with it because I found it visually pleasing.

I am aware that everyone who has dyslexia has different preferences and are dyslexic to different degrees and in different ways, however I tried to make this site as user-friendly as possible. I’m thinking of you, guys!

If you have any suggestions or improvements I should make, please shoot me an email or use my contact form and let me know. Again, what works for you may not work for someone else, so I may or may not change it, but I would love your input and your help. Thank you, and enjoy the site!