Just some Tidbits

Alright peeps … you know I love you all so here is some little info from the ICT Trade Mission.

1. YouTube is NEVER getting unblocked. Nope. Got it from the horse’s mouth (funny expression, right?). Had a lively (ahem) disucssion right at the Google HQ at Mountain View. So happens that YouTube/Google has banned the blasphmous video which was why YT was blocked in dear ol’ Pakistan. NOT because YT/G suddenly becamse sensitive to Muslim feelings but because an actor in the video filed a copyright or something suit. Now PTA has no reason to keep the website blocked except that if anyone dares to give verdict in its favor some WAY BETTER Muslim than any of us will take offence and decide that person no longer has the right to live. You know what I mean? So that’s that.

2. The not-so-important ministries in Pakistan such as the IT Ministry are given away to whoever raises their hand first. ‘Nuff said.

3. Higher echelons believe we (as in Pakistanis) don’t have enough talent and hence foreign governments need to step in not only to give us monetary aid but also intellectual aid. For example, NO ONE in Pakistan knows about eGovernance so the government would like to import people who do. Ummm … I’d like to request the Pakistani government to please use google for something other than looking for stuff to ban. Thank you.

4. No one is doing business with Pakistan because we don’t have good piracy laws and the few that we do are not implemented. One point raised was about downloading movies and music. My question to them was, “I want to use iTunes and Amazon etc to buy music, ebooks, movies but we don’t have PayPal and our credit cards are not accepted online. NOT watching latest movies or listening to music is not an option. So, what choices do I have?” Was that a fair question? *Hint: Do not respond unless it’s in the affirmative.

5. Microsoft won’t come to Pakistan until we stop using pirated software. A point raised by many on the delegation: MS needs to lower its prices because when it comes to a choice between ridiculously expensive and free, guess which wins? Pakistan is a good sized market and currently we are using the software for free. If they lower the price a bit we will pay for it because who likes to see that annoying “Your copy of Windows/MS is not registered” message pop up all the time? I wouldn’t mind paying $50 for a good bundle with Outlook and Publisher.

If this gets me into trouble I promise I will write a much more detailed post ‘coz that’s how I roll ;)

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Some ministers believe that YouTube is not relevant to a country like Pakistan and small businesses working with social media do not matter. #facepalm

Schmoozing

When you get invited to a US Embassy event to meet some guy working with the government, your reaction is?

Mine was … *blech

But today I was in GEEK HEAVEN I tell you.

So there is this guy called Alec Ross who is associated with Clinton and ran Obama’s election-winning Twitter campaign. Used to run a NFP. Wants to meet bloggers and ppl active in social media. The Embassy sends some bio that I skim through but all I see is “blah blah blah blah blah”. But I go anyway. I am soon moving to Peshawar (another story for another day … or  maybe not) and thought what the heck. I’ll go see the guy. And then I have never been accused of saying NO to free lunch. So that was a good incentive as well.

So I arrive at the Ambassador’s house. Am greeted by the Ambassador … had no idea who he was until much later during the conversation. Am introduced to this young-ish guy. We shake hands and he says, “Hi, I am Alec”. Me, being me, said, “Hi Alex, I am Maria”. KILL ME!

Small gathering – made me feel very fancy shmancy and important. Then Mr. Alec decided to come and sit with me and start asking about what I do. I give my very rehearsed pitch about WDL. And the usual “oh wow, how great, wonderful, excellent, fabulous” followed. Americans do that a lot, no? I have picked up on it too. “Mr XYZ, what do you do?” “I do blah blah blah”. Me: “Oh how wonderful!”

I was saying …

Yeah, I mentioned how I found most clients through LinkedIn. And he takes out his BB and says you know what – Reid Hoffman is my friend and he will be very happy to hear about this so I am gonna email him right now”.

OH 

MY

GOD!

I find it hard to type any more. My heart stopped for a minute and all I could do was give him one of my goofy grins coz I didn’t trust myself to speak. I knew I was gonna start screaming. And he asked, “You know who Reid Hoffman is?”

Gun – trigger – face – BANG

I don’t know who Hilary Clinton is but I sure know Reid Hoffman.

LinkedIn 

PayPal

eBay 

*drool

Just thinking he has my name in his inbox in an email which he will prolly lay his eyes on in the next … say … 3 hours (he is on US PT) does funny things to my heart. SHIT!

Emailing Reid Hoffman <3

I can’t talk any more. But just so you know – I wasn’t a complete idiot. I remembered to ask about PayPal. Dudettes, back me up on that one.

The land where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields exists …

and that’s where I am gonna be for a while.

byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Webcam Credit Card Reader (?)

Now that sounds like gibberish, right? It did to me. But then found out about Jumio on TechCrunch (of course). Here is how it works:

You plug it into your website, it turns your webcam into a credit card reader, you hold your card in front of your webcam, authorize a purchase, and you are done. Plus, it’s more secure than other conventional online cc transaction as it requires the physical presence of the card in order to work. Jumio even has a wordpress plugin so those using WP for their websites can also benefit from it.

Do you still not understand my excitement? This could be the solution to my PayPal woes. I could add it as a payment option on my website (will tell you my website plans in another post) and customers won’t hesitate too much using it thinking ‘give my credit card details to a Pakistani website? I guess not!‘ because you are actually sending the data to Jumio and not to me.

Did I mention it’s FREE? Yes, dahlins – you heard me right … the darn thing is free to install. You don’t have to pay a one-time fee, a monthly fee, a yearly subscription fee …. nothing. Well obviously, it’s not a charity … they charge 2.75% of your transaction but considering I am using a friend’s PayPal account (OK, who am I kidding -am using the 25-yr old’s PayPal) that’s based in Singapore and costs me about 10% in transaction fees (PayPal fees, converting US $ into Singapore $, then converting it into Pakistani Rs = 10%) 2.75% is almost free.

Now, what I need to find out is how I can withdraw the money. Can I have the money wired to my bank in Pakistan? Would they give me a debit card like Payoneer, or what? The site is temporarily down (uh-oh, not a good sign) but considering the product just went online a month ago, I won’t make an issue of it.

To see how the thing works, check out the video below:

That’s all for now, Folks …

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

How does a VA get Paid?

PAY PAL! Yippppeeee …that was easy.

Stop rubbing salt into my wounds – there is no PayPal in Pakistan!

Yep, if you are a VA working from Pakistan you have to start thinking about how you are going to get paid for your work. PayPal is what most clients prefer but unfortunately they don’t offer their service in Pakistan. Last time I checked it had something to do with the tax laws in our dear ol’ country.

Clients want the easiest most convenient way to work with you. That’s the whole point of hiring a VA – picking up a BB or iPhone or HTC (seriously, who buys an HTC or any other smartphone if they can afford an iPhone??) and telling the VA what to do and knowing it would get done. The same applies to payments – picking up the smartphone, connecting to the Internet and paying you.

I have lost a lot of clients because they can’t pay via PayPal but over time I have figured out a way to go around it. First it was MoneyBookers. I heard about them during my oDesk days. According to the website, Moneybookers is a tool that allows you to safely send and receive money via email – instantly. You can send money from your credit/debit card, transfer money to and from your bank account. Use Moneybookers whenever you need to send money to someone (settle a debt with a friend, pay for online purchase/auctions…) or when someone needs to send money to you. What’s the catch? The client has to be a registered member to use it and most big clients don’t want to bother with setting up an account on a website they haven’t heard of before for you.

This brings me to Payoneer. I am not even gonna bother writing about it because they have also stopped their services in Pakistan. Hurray – happy times! Grrrr … ^%&*^. If you want to read about them, just Google them.

Western Union works wonderfully except their fee for wiring the money varies from country to country and even state to state. Plus, you have to actually go their offices to send the money. So, again too much hassle. They do have a web-based option but that asks for your debit card number and sometimes clients may not have debit cards so again you are screwed!

If you are in a country that PayPal does not support than your only choice would be a simple, old wire transfer. Yep – you give your AC # and your bank’s swift code to your client and she’ll just wire you the amount. It typically costs about $20 to send a wire from the US so you might want to set a minimum number of hours that clients can purchase. I have about 5 clients with pending invoices and the reason why I can’t invoice them is because they owe me less than $35 each and I am still hoping they’ll want more work done so I can bill them.

That’s all, Folks! Plus, considering it took me so long to write this post, all 5 of you (yes, my blog has 5 readers!!) are advised not to hold your breath for the next one. Ciao. :D