Back in the 80s, I wasn’t very technical—well, just technical enough to get frustrated when my husband (now my ex) would change the login for the one computer we had at home. I was a psychologist in private practice and didn’t have much need of the computer, but when I did, he was always on it.
The real problem for me was when I would go to use the computer and find some little thing to be different. That set off a level of frustration that I would allow to derail me from doing what I had set out to do.
My ex was a computer nerd whose day job was the medical director of an addiction unit, so I wasn’t surprised the day he showed me the software program he had written for his staff to use in order to create electronic treatment plans.
From my previous work as a product manager for mental health services, I had created treatment programs all over the country so I instantly recognized that everyone in this field was going to need this program. I encouraged my husband to create a commercial product and worked with the product team to offer my best advice on the software’s operation, design, and marketing—basically what I thought would sell.
The software went to market and we found ourselves in need of someone to run the company. My husband needed to stay in his job as medical director to support our family and fund the software development, and, we didn’t have the money to hire anyone.
At that point in my life, I was quite happy seeing my psychology clients, taking care of my kids and working in my garden. In the real world, I was also interested building, renovation, and design. I really didn’t want to run a software company… you know… I wasn’t “technical.” But, someone had to do it and so, with a great deal of reluctance, I stepped up to take on the position of CEO.
Crossing the Chasm
As you might imagine, I had to sprint to get with the program. First came the vocabulary. I had my husband teach me the 150 technical words and phrases that made me sound like I knew what I was talking about when I talked about our software to potential clients.
On my steep and rapid learning curve, soon, I did know what I was talking about. I became proficient at accounting, spreadsheets, and technical documentation. I wrote research grants to fund further development, and even helped the software design team craft the front-end user experience.
Today when I hear someone say, “I’m not technical,” I do understand what it feels like—to not have skills or confidence in the use of technology. That would be me today if I hadn’t spent those years running a software company.
Howeverrrr… my empathy does have its limits. My experience crossing the chasm to enter the world of technology proved to me that it was easier than I thought it would be.
And, we’re not in the 80s anymore. In 2017, not being technical is a big handicap to anyone who wants to start or grow a business, especially when that business is web design.
It both saddens and frustrates me to have clients ask for help marketing their businesses while clinging to their “I’m not technical” mantra AND refusing to do what’s required to take charge of their business. In the 21st century, being technical is a requirement. It’s not optional.
To be a web design pro, you need to start with a baseline of technical knowledge and work diligently on expanding it. Without a doubt, you will run into situations where you don’t know what to do or how to ask for help. You might as well expect this to be the case and accept it at the front end. Believe me, your journey will be much more pleasant. And enjoyable.
The tech support issues will act as your learning laboratory, to train yourself on what went wrong and how to fix it. Think about it: every time you figure out how to move through a problem, either on your own or with support, don’t you end up feeling more powerful? I know that happened with me 1000 times.
Your technical literacy is a muscle that needs to be used and strengthened. Without this literacy, your ability to be successful will be stymied. And, you’re here to succeed, right?
No More Excuses! Period! Stop Saying “I’m Not Technical”
If “I’m not technical” sounds like you or someone you know, I have some good news. Following are a few tools that will help you move past your self-defeating feelings and mindset that stop you in your tracks and keep you stuck.
First, you must make a resolution: Stop saying, “I’m not technical.” Just stop doing it. Those three words are hurting you more than you know. Here’s why: when you say, “I’m not technical,” what you’re really saying is: “I think I’m not smart enough to use technology.” Or, “I’m too lazy to learn to use technology.” Or (cue your best smug voice), “I don’t need to know all this technical stuff.”
Remember I told you that I was a clinical psychologist? Just trust me here. I know of which I speak.
The truth is…are you ready to blow the lid off? The truth is: You do not have an actual handicap. Nothing is stopping you from learning whatever technology you need to know in order to succeed in your chosen career and reach your goals.
Now, go ahead and admit it: you feel better, don’t you? Bigger. Stronger. More competent. Relieved! Finally, this (imagined) obstacle has been removed, forever!
I know it can be frustrating, and you know I know because I shared my story with you, but everyone can feel frustrated with something new. For some of you, the technical parts of building, launching and troubleshooting websites is all new territory. The difference between being “technical” and “not technical” is persistence. You cross the chasm when you stop getting freaked out when you’re frustrated. There is an answer to every problem, and to find it, you keep trying this or that, Google it, call tech support or ask a friend.
What you don’t do is go back to, “I’m not technical.” That’s a dead end.
Addressing Problem Areas
That mindset is important for newbies as they face the four most common areas that can test anyone’s frustration level. If you can take care of these areas and not get flummoxed, you will gain confidence.
- Equipment. At a minimum, you need a computer, printer and smart phone that work well. Get help if you need to get these, get them set up, and start to learn to use them. Don’t put up with old, temperamental equipment. If any of your essential tech devices are not working right, replace them. This course is going to be challenging enough. You don’t need any aggravation from faulty devices.
- Passwords. When you forget how to log in to your computer or bank account, it’s easy to stay non-technical. And the plethora of passwords we need to keep up with is a huge bugaboo of the 21st century. Feeling more in control of your technology starts with your own brain and organizing abilities.You need to know what accounts you have and how to log into them. Make a list of all of your accounts, with the usernames and passwords. You can use a password vault program, tape up a list next to your computer, or use whatever system you need that keeps your essential passwords readily available and updated.You can use a simple account spreadsheet. For each account, before you write down the username and password, double-check it. If you can’t log in, request your username and/or reset your password. When you get into your account, write down the correct username and password on your spreadsheet. Rinse and repeat for each and every account.Keep this spreadsheet handy (but secure), and when your account passwords change or you get new accounts, update it. You have no idea how much better you will feel and how much time and energy you will save for having this part of your technical life organized.
- Computer Files. Your computer is nothing more than a glorified file cabinet. If you don’t know how it’s arranged, have someone show you. You will need to create a file structure that makes sense to you for organizing all home and business documents, photos, bills, and such. Without a good organizational structure, you’ll experience hours of frustration trying to find what you need only to give up in disgust and relapse into, “I’m not technical”.Don’t do this to yourself. Set yourself up for success.Learn the difference between applications (programs) and the types of files that each creates, such as documents, images and pdfs. You need to know how to create a file, save it and move it to where it makes the most sense for you.Learn to use “search” to find a file.Use your computer desktop like an actual desktop, as a temporary place to stash things until you can get to them. As in “non-technical” life, regularly putting things away where they belong will help you feel organized, which will make you more “technical.”
- Email. Most of us have more than one email address, which can be a source of confusion and frustration. Solve that by getting a Gmail account. Because Gmail is cloud-based, it can collect all your emails in one place and allow you to access them from any computer. Learn how to import or forward your various emails into your Gmail account. You can set one of your email addresses as the one that is used by default when you send an email.
Getting The Help, You Need (Or, Don’t Be a Lame Duck)
Although you may be frustrated or even find yourself in panic mode, having some empathy for the person at the other end of the tech support line may help you get your problem solved faster. The tech support person on the other end of the phone deals with people all day or all night long who are having problems. They appreciate a person who can deal with them calmly and help troubleshoot the issue.
Don’t get insulted if they start with asking really basic questions. You would be surprised at the number of times the answer is something fairly obvious and the person calling missed it. You can make the phone call go a lot quicker by doing a few simple things first:
- Turn your computer off and on again. The “on and off trick” is oftentimes all it takes to solve any technical problem, whether you are talking about a software program, an app, your browser, or your Internet connection. I know it seems crazy, but oftentimes, that’s all it takes.
- Make sure the problem is reproducible. Write down all of the steps that you went through that caused the problem or error message to occur. Like a car having intermittent electrical problems, it is nearly impossible to fix something when you are not able to reliably reproduce the problem to the technician.
- Google the problem. Try a tutorial or YouTube video to fix the problem. There is a website, “Let Me Google That” that offers a snarky way to deal with those too lazy or not Google-savvy enough to search for an answer themselves. When you are tired of being asked a simple question, that you’d also have to Google to get the answer, you can go to LMGT. This site has a search box that looks similar to the Google homepage where you can type in your question. It then provides a link that can be shared with the person asking the question.
This is the snarky part. Send the link to the asker, and they will think they are getting the answer. But what they will get is an animation of the query being typed into the search box which will then show the result. So, when you have a question be sure to Google it yourself before asking anyone else and you can avoid having someone send you that snarky email message.
- When calling tech support, use clear and precise language to describe the problem. Saying “it’s not working”, “it’s broken” or “it’s acting weird” is not helpful. You’ll need to give detail and description around how it’s not working, even if you don’t know the actual terms.
- Write down what you have done recently that may have contributed to the issue. You may not know what is related to your issue so try and remember what things you were doing or had done differently before the problem occurred. The more specific, reliable, and reproducible details you can provide, the better.
- Write down what you have done to try and fix the problem and what happened. Before you call or email someone for help, try to perform the task in question a few times in different ways to see what triggers the faulty behavior. If a problem happens in the same way, provide those details to the tech person.
Later in the course, we’ll go into more detail about troubleshooting WordPress problems. But for now, this will suffice, as you learn to make and keep backups and update your site to run the latest versions of WordPress, your theme, and your plugins.
I really want you to succeed. And I know that you can. If you follow these steps, before long, you will have gleefully kicked “I’m not technical” to the curb. Heck, you’re going to become so confident in your abilities that you’ll wonder one day why you even questioned yourself. At that point, you’ll take someone under your wing… you know, a “non-technical” person. And then, you’ll prove to them that it can be done. Why? Because you did it yourself.