Sometimes you need more than just a second monitor. You need a floor.

documents arranged on floor

I used to work with a single monitor. Then I discovered my productivity made a big leap by adding a second monitor.

And now I have discovered the essential benefits of a large floor.

documents arranged on floor

I am currently working on two big projects, one of which requires putting together a large body of existing content and formatting it into a cohesive whole.

I tried doing this on my two monitors. But I made slow and miserable progress.

Then I decided to print everything out, almost 300 pages of it, and lay it out on the floor under a number of different chapter or section headings.

From the moment I did that, everything changed.

How come? Because I could SEE the whole picture. I could see everything at once – the sections, how much content was under each, and so on.

Also, something changes when you are walking around, looking at each pile of paper. The physical act of walking, of bending down to move a page from one pile to another, makes a difference.

Hard to explain. Perhaps the closest I have come to this kind of revelation is when I first started using mind maps. With a mind map, you can see the entire structure of the full project. And as anyone who uses mind maps can tell you, mind mapping actually changes how you brain works. You perceive things differently. You see and understand connections and structures in a whole new way.

My use of the floor had the same effect on me.

For this project, it was absolutely the right move to make. I was able to work faster and smarter. A barrier had been taken down. A struggle was overcome.

Floors aren’t exactly high-tech. But I think next time I am working on a multi-section project I’ll do the same.

In fact, I think I’ll use the floor for much smaller projects too.

If you want to see something in its entirety, even when relatively unformed, I suspect it’s hard to beat using a printer and some bare floor space.

If you have had the same or similar experiences, let me know.

Note: If you are working on large writing projects, be sure to check out my writing productivity guide, Writing Rituals.

To set smarter social media goals, think like a B2B marketer.

One of the great challenges of social media marketing is to make sure your time and resources are being used effectively.

It’s all too easy to put a huge amount of energy into social media, across multiple sites, and then scratch your head and wonder whether your hard work actually made a significant difference.

Social media activity is always open-ended. There are always more sites you could become active on, and there is no limit to the time you can spend on the sites where you are already engaged.

Hence the need for a strong strategy and clear limits.

If you work for B2C companies, it can be tough to set those limits. And that’s why, even if you don’t have B2B clients, I suggest you create a social media strategy for an imaginary B2B client. Just as an exercise.

For B2B it is somehow easier to set limits.

Let’s imagine you are working for a company in the food services industry that specializes in selling frozen goods to independent restaurants and bars.

How might you help them with social media?

Here are some options I might explore:

– Look for vertical social media sites which serve restaurant and bar owners etc.

– Search for and join relevant groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

– Create an account on Twitter and engage prospects, thought leaders, food journalists and other influencers.

– Create a geolocation based campaign to implement at hospitality services trade shows and other relevant events.

– Reach out to restaurants and offer to sponsor local, geolocation based deals and offers.

That will do for now.

Each option is fairly clearly defined. Each has a specific purpose. Each is looking to engage with a specific group of people.

It’s this kind of clarity you want to apply to any social media work, especially for B2C clients.

What you want to avoid is goals that sound like this: “Reach out to as many new prospects as possible.” Or, “Use social media to better establish our brand.”

These are very open-ended goals. There are no boundaries or limits. You could spend forever on them, and probably with a very poor ROI.

One way or another, whether you do my B2B exercise or not, create social media strategies and campaigns that address a specific audience, for a particular purpose, within a specified time frame.

Do that, and you’ll be able to apply resources where they matter most, and measure the results you achieve.

Above all, avoid vague, open ended strategies and campaigns that will be a drain on your time and unlikely to achieve tangible results.

The best advice I can give any freelancer.

There is a ton of advice I can give, and have given to freelancers.

But I think the best advice I can give is this:

Always put aside an emergency cash fund equivalent to about two months of earnings.

Why? Because there are always ups and downs in the life of a freelancer, whether you are just starting out, or have been freelancing for years.

It doesn’t matter whether you are just doing OK as a freelancer, or you a superstar. You will always have an occasional month that doesn’t deliver the money you need to cover the bills. Or maybe one month you have an unexpected expense. Or maybe you are sick and can’t work.

You need to have a cash reserve to make up for those months. This is a simple business practice. It’s called cash flow management. Every company, large or small, has to manage its cash flow.

When you have good months, you put some money aside for your cash reserve.

Why is it so important? Well, the first and obvious answer is that you need to pay your bills. But, just as important, you need to KNOW you always have enough money to pay your bills, and have some extra cash left over. You need to FEEL relaxed about your money.

When you are short of money in your business, or even coming close to being short of money, you will feel the stress and become distracted.

As soon as you feel stressed and distracted, your productivity will suffer. You may also start making bad decisions about which jobs to take on – simply because you are feeling desperate.

That feeling of desperation will then undermine your ability to do a good job estimating for projects. You will submit low estimates, just because you need some cash coming in quick.

When you estimate too low for jobs, you undermine your feelings of self-confidence, and undermine your brand.

Suddenly you find yourself in a downward spiral, low-balling on your estimates and having to work even harder to make enough money.

Yes, this is a bad place to be.

For this reason, it is essential you create that cash reserve. Do it before you pay off your credit cards, before you buy the flights for your next vacation.

As soon as you have a cash reserve, everything changes. You dip into it during bad months, and build it up during good months.

Most important of all, you never feel desperate for work.

This means there will be no negative pressure on your productivity, and you can always remain focused on building your business, and seeking out the best, high-paying engagements.

If you don’t have a cash reserve yet, make it a priority, and start working on it today.

Websites are looking more and more like children’s books.

Maybe you remember the first time you picked up a book and – oh my – there were no pictures!

Maybe you put it right back down. Or perhaps you bit the bullet and read your first text-only book, and discovered that a good story helps your imagination create its own pictures.

Switching over to the web, we seem to seeing that process in reverse.

Fifteen years ago most site pages were all text. The images that were included tended to be small, primarily to accommodate slow dial-up connections.

Then broadband came along and we discovered we could not only add more and bigger images to each page, but we could also include multimedia.

There is an important point there: we COULD include more images and multimedia. There is no requirement, it’s just something we can choose to do.

But if you look at today’s websites and blogs, you might be excused for thinking that it was a requirement. No blog post seems to be complete without an image, even if the image in boring and barely relevant.

You know the kind of image I mean. Someone writes a post about working from home, and then they go to an image bank and grab a photo of someone sitting on a beach with a laptop, jumping ecstatically into the air with a blue sky background, or holding wads of cash with a stupid grin on their face.

These images don’t add any real value or meaning to the post. They are visual clichés, and merely decorative.

If an image doesn’t work for you, how about a chart or, even better, an infographic?

Yes, sometimes charts and infographics can add real value. But often they don’t. They are added to the page as eye candy.

Or how about forgetting the text altogether, and shooting a 7-minute video?

Again, for some topics a video can communicate your point more effectively than text. But very often they are used for the wrong reasons, and are either too amateur, or too slick and over-produced.

We can argue about the relative benefits of text versus multimedia, and we probably should.

But regardless, am I alone in seeing a dumbing down of web content?

I’m guilty of this myself, in so far as I deliberately write online content in a way that makes it easy to read.

But are we perhaps going too far?

In our attempts to attract and hold readers, are we making everything too simple and too easy? Are we underestimating the intelligence and attention span of our readers?

I ask, because, as I noted at the beginning of this article, websites are becoming more and more like children’s books.

Lots of images and multimedia, and not too much text.

After all, we can’t expect the poor dears to stay focused if we fill the pages with too many words.

BTW – Before you respond, I do know that images, infographics and video can add enormous value when done well, and used in the right circumstances. And I do know that adding other elements to a text-only page can give you some SEO brownie points. And I do know that multimedia can be a big draw when promoting your pages through social media. I know that stuff.

But even so, I resent having to search far and wide to find a quality writer who has taken the trouble to write a high-quality page.

As with that first book without pictures, a well written text-only web page can stimulate your brain into making all the necessary connections without any extra help.

No pictures of happy, leaping people required.

Finally, I’m bringing all my writing under one roof.

I first published this site in about 2001, and then, over time, created a bunch of separate sites.

In spite of my always advising other people not to do this, for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to create a new website for each new topic area I began writing about.

Looking back, I should have followed my own advice and published as much as possible right here, at

Well, I’m mending my ways. As of now, pretty much everything I write will appear here, on my blog, on the home page of this site.

In my own defence, back when I first created the site, there were no blogs. And when blogs did appear, there was no way to incorporate them into your website. That’s why I created my blog on Typepad.

So my mistake is that I didn’t change with the times, and bring the blog over here sooner.

What can you expect to find here?

All the stuff I like to write about, which includes…online copywriting, writing web content, SEO, freelancing, social media, and more.

Yes, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. And maybe that mixture of interests was an influence behind my creating a new site or blog for each new topic. I didn’t want to confuse everyone.

Does it make it tougher to build a clear brand if you write about multiple topics? It probably does.

But this is who I am. I do have multiple areas of interest and experience. And it’s crazy for me to keep creating new sites and updating them, each time I find a new topic to write about.

This is it. This is where I’ll be writing from now on. You can follow the navigation links at the top to find my various programs, books and ebooks.