September 23rd 1996. Armed with a Nokia 1610 brick and a very fancy Sony cassette dictaphone, I was ready for my first day as a newspaper reporter.
We had no email, no internet and if the fax machine went kaput close to deadline, panic and sometimes tears erupted in the newsroom.
There was an actual darkroom where Darkroom Dave would process photographs using trays of weird-looking chemicals.
I would go to Altrincham Library to search directories and noticeboards for local groups who could be a source of stories.
And we had a team of 16-year-olds who acted as messengers carrying photos and documents from our base in Castlefield to head office on Deansgate.
Hard to believe that this was just over 20 years ago.
Now it’s hard to imagine a world without the internet and digital technology. We can’t escape it, short of decamping to a desert island. And for those of us whose original IT education wasn’t the super-connected social media fest it is now, it’s easy to feel like you’re being left behind.
I should be a complete computer geek. My dad started his IT career in the late 60s and I grew up surrounded by a catalogue of computers through the ages – a PET, an Osborne, a BBC Micro, Spectrum ZX80s and ZX81s, an Amstrad 464 ...
Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to all things techy (I have a paper diary and always will.) I infuriate my husband by declaring that we’ve got enough gadgets now, we can survive, we don’t need any more. Google “Smartduvet” and you might just agree with me.
I’m impatient with misbehaving PCs, don’t really care about how it all works just that it actually does, and can sometimes be reluctant to try out something technologically new.
However, as a small business owner, I’m making a conscious effort to abandon my stubbornness. Luckily I’ve long been a social media addict. As a copywriter and proofreader, words will always be my thing so posting my ramblings comes easy.
It’s all the other clever tools available to us that I’m beginning to embrace. I now have software to issue invoices rather than cobbling them together on Word, 2009-style. I’ve experimented with vlogging (privately, not ready to go public just yet!) and am having oodles of fun playing with photo-tweaking apps.
I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m approaching the task positively and am excited at the prospect of streamlining my systems, engaging more on LinkedIn and Twitter, and deciphering the mysteries of iCloud.
If you’re just setting out into the world of entrepreneurship and IT really isn’t your thing, take heart. If I can understand it, anyone can. Here are my technophobe’s top tips for technophobic start-ups:
- Have an open mind. Be willing to make changes to how you work. Being a luddite isn’t an option anymore!
- Don’t be scared of technology. It is your friend. You will learn to love it, honest.
- Teach yourself the basics and beyond using online tutorials, YouTube, the app or programme’s help feature, or lovely old-fashioned books such as the Dummies range.
- If something baffles you, ask an expert. There are plenty of them out there. If you don’t know any experts and you’re not on social media (yet!), you’re bound to have a friend who can help get the ball rolling.
- With social media, pick and choose what suits your personality, business and lifestyle. You don’t have to sign up to every type on the planet. For me, Snapchat is a very weird waste of time and I only use Pinterest for personal inspiration.
- If you like the sound of them, get yourself and your business on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn first. Each have simple guidelines on how to set up an account and make the most of it.
- Designing your own website is touted as being super easy even for the uninitiated. I found attempting to create a DIY site time-consuming and tedious, so I surrendered and got a professional to do it. You can easily get a beautiful site for under £1000, if not less.
- Get a smartphone, if you haven’t already. As a business owner, you need to communicate on the go via email, social media or – gasp – an actual phone call.
- Explore more – look into blogging and vlogging, widgets and webinars and the ever-growing list of productivity tools to make your life easier.
- Go forth into this brave new world with gusto. These are exciting times.