Working from Home

telecommuting

telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

This blog isn’t all about business. In fact, that’s not even the main focus of it. It’s about living better- better health, better finances, better spirits, better living. Business comes in as part of that, because we all would like “just a little bit more money,” and so I want to help point the way.

But not all of us are cut out for business. Not everyone wants to own or run a business. So how can earn a little extra income without running a business?

There are many ways you can earn a little extra at home. Some are more obscure than others, and a lot have misconceptions surrounding them. So starting this week, once a month I’ll post a new “Work at home” tip. These are specifically geared for those who want to work from home, but earning just enough to supplement their income, rather than a business to replace it.

Specifically, these ideas will be done with moms in mind- those who stay at home with their children and don’t have a lot of time to invest in a new business, or may not even want to. Ready- set- go!

Today’s tip- Use what you know

I’ll get more detailed into this in a later post, but for starts I just wanted to do a broad coverage. Many times, working from home just requires using skills you already have. Are you good at cleaning? Try and see if you can find domestic cleaning jobs, perhaps on Craigslist. Writing? There are a host of freelancing websites out there- some are better than others, so be careful what you sign up for. Are you good with kids, or do you have in-depth knowledge on a certain academic subject? Perhaps babysitting or tutoring is the job for you.

We all have varied skills. Some of us are more knowledgeable on some subjects than others. But we all have ways we can apply that knowledge to the benefit of our family.

Example: my husband is a certified computer nerd. He loves nothing more than to take apart a computer just to see how it works. So when I got to talking with an acquaintance who mentioned some computer problems she was having, I mentioned my husband. Usually, he can figure out a problem, and can pretty well fix anything, especially if it’s a virus. Well, as it turned out, we weren’t able to fix the computer- the motherboard was shot. But, she later gave us her daughter’s computer to fix, which had a virus. We were able to fix that computer- and unexpectedly, got paid for it!

That’s just a simple example. There are countless others I could give. The point is, be open to opportunities, even with strangers. You never know where something might come up! Examine your knowledge and skills, and see what use you can make of them.

ROI or ROUS’s?? -Focusing on priorities

Ok, Ok, so I know I promised a post on shoutouts. BUT- I went to write it up… and totally lost what I was going to say (have you ever had one of those days?). Whatever brilliant idea I had about those shoutouts- well, it’s out the window now. I could only come up with a minimum of two paragraphs about the subject.

So, I’m moving on. Maybe one day, I’ll return to the subject. I’m sure you’ll be holding your breath in anticipation, right? ūüėČ

So, for today- you ever hear about ROI? No? Good, you’ve come to the right place. And no, it isn’t about rodents of unusual size, or any kind of rodent for that matter! (for those Princess Bride fans out there- you know who you are!)

ROI is a marketing term, meaning “Return Over Investment.” It’s basically the amount you’re getting in return, versus what you invest. Typically, it refers to marketing, but I make an application to other areas of business, as well.

Weekly, I meet with someone whom I am helping get her business started. We’ve had to discuss this topic many times, and so I’m bringing it to you. In starting a business, there’s so much going on and so much to do. Certain business genres have even more- such as a crafting business, where the owner creates all the products.

With so much going on, it’s easy to get distracted from your focus. It’s easy to get off into side trails and lose sight of the main focus of your business. That’s where you need to look at ROI.

Business involves so many things, especially starting out. You’re working on getting set up, while at the same time trying to get the word out. Sometimes, it isn’t easy trying to decide which of the items loudly clamoring for attention need your attention the most.

ROI helps to bring things into focus. When organizing your tasks for the day, look at your ROI. Which activities will be most beneficial today?¬† If you are creating a product, focus on the ones you know. I ran into this recently with Fern, the lady I mentioned. There is always the temptation to experiment, to bring in something new. Be careful not to become too distracted with that, however. Before you bring in something new, work on solidifying what you’ve already got. Take a hard look at your products and decide which one will give you the most return versus the time and money you’re investing.

Sometimes it isn’t a product at all. There are legal steps that need your attention as well. You need to file that report, but you also need to write that employee handbook. Both are good to have, but both may not be necessary. Do you have employees already? Not planning to hire for a while? Then focus on the file.

Starting a business is tough. It’s also crazy busy. But if you focus on prioritizing your tasks and putting the emphasis on those which are most necessary or have the highest return, it can become easier to manage.

Good luck on starting your journey!

Business in social media: What to post

Before you even start your business, you should create a Facebook page. Before you apply for that store location, you should be posting status updates.

Why? Because it generates interest. People get excited about something new.

Keep in mind, it does come with a price. Maintaining a Facebook page for an unestablished business is more difficult than keeping one that has been around for years.

However, there’s no arguing the potential advantages it can give you. It does mean that what you’ll be posting will be slightly different.

So when you don’t have sales and new products, what do you post? Here are a few quick suggestions:

Updates
Your company Facebook page acts just like your personal profile. The idea is to post updates about your life, sharing it with friends and family. The same concept goes for your business.

I think Patrick describes it well here. Facebook, and social media in general, is about relationships. You develop a relationship with people, and they will follow you. No relationship, and they’ll forget about you in a week. What’s more, they’ll be more likely to turn on you. With a foundation for a relationship, they’ll be more forgiving.

Updates secure that relationship; they develop it. It draws in your followers, lets them know what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a new product introduction, but if you tell them that your application for a business license was just approved, they’ll cheer with you. Continual updates make them a part of your journey, and they’ll love you for it.

Goals and deadlines
Not only does it keep you accountable on what you’re doing, it also gives them something to look forward to. This pays off as you build anticipation for the coming date. Add a grand opening, and the anticipation doubles, and you might find yourself overrun when you finally DO open.

Pictures
People relate to visuals; it helps them to see things. It also makes your posts more eye-catching. Any time you’re at an event, whether it be a trade show or even just out shopping for business supplies, use that as an excuse to take a picture. It generates interest, and also serves as proof that you’re actually doing something.

Shoutouts*
Two birds with one stone: you get to share something that is important to you AND you just might get something in return. Shoutouts are when you single out a specific person, organization, or item, in order to bring attention to it. It’s a great way do a friend a favor while at the same time increasing your own page.

Fact is, while you may not have all the neat updates of a long-established company, you do have something you can contribute. It’s a fickle world and you better deliver, but the payoff is well worth it. You’ll build a loyal customer base and by the time you open shop, with any luck you’ll have a ready stream of customers.

*This is really too large a topic to cover in one post, but I at least wanted to address it. I’ll post a more detailed explanation on it next week, including tips and a short description of online etiquette. Stay tuned!

 

Being a start-up business in social media has its own challenges…

Last week, I discussed the best time to start social networking for your business as part of a series on social networking. (Check here for the beginning of the series: an explanation of social networking and what it has to do with your business.) Social networking can be a fickle thing and is confusing to many, especially for those starting new businesses. Instinct says to wait until your business is established before creating a Facebook page.

In this post, I explained why that’s not the best idea. It’s still doable and it’ll work, but for the greatest impact, you want to create your Facebook page before you even begin your business– even when you’re still in the research stage.

Doing this comes with its own set of challenges, however. A Facebook page for a start-up business is a lot different from one that’s long since established. You don’t have sales to advertise. You don’t have a new line of products to introduce. You may not even have a location to invite people to.

But you can’t just let it slide, either. Continuous updates will be the catalyst for the success of your business. People are quick to forget and quick to move on. They won’t wait around for you to get started.

If a known, established business, say, Walmart, goes a few weeks or even a month without posting, people aren’t likely to miss it. And, they’ll still shop at Walmart. Why? Because Walmart is already firmly established in people’s minds as the go-to place for shopping. They already know it’s there, and they know where to find it.

You don’t have that advantage. You miss a post, and people are likely to forget you. I’ve seen pages who have gone months without posting, and finally post a status update. The result was many angry fans who’d forgotten they had even liked the page and questioned why the post even appeared on their newsfeed. They lost likes over it.

People are fickle. The harshest critic of you and your company isn’t the media or the investors; it’s the consumers. In my last post, I mentioned the reason for creating your business social network early is to make people a part of your journey. The downside of that is the risk of leaving them out of your journey.

People need to be a part of something. When you offer an invitation to join, but don’t deliver, they’ll forget about you at best and feel jilted at worst.

Having a Facebook page for a start-up business isn’t impossible. It’s just not the same as a business that’s already established. It has its own perks, but it also has its own challenges.

Start a Facebook page- or any other social media account- early. Get it going before you even start your business. But to make it successful, you need to deliver. Commit to posting at least once a week. No, you don’t have sales… but you have other things. And sometimes, it’s those unique posts that send your success soaring.

So what do you post, if not sales and product announcements? I’ll share that part with you next week!

Social networking: An invitation for a journey of a lifetime

Well, last week was a day off, thanks to the holiday and the craziness. No, I didn’t go “Black Friday shopping” this year… I had my own craziness at home to deal with. I thought we were just putting up Christmas decorations… well, turns out my husband had other ideas, and well, the decorations are still sitting in the box they’ve been stored in for the last year. But, I do have to admit- my living room looks a whole lot better now with a little rearranging!

Anyway, we’re back on track for work now, and that means- yes, I did promise to explain why now is the best time to set up that Facebook account for your business.

So. We’ve already looked at why social media is absolutely necessary for your business. Gotta reach those people where they’re at, right? With that said, when is the best time to start? I say it’s before you even establish your business.

Wait, what? How do you have a site for your business when you don’t even have a business yet? I’ll give you a few good reasons.

People love start-ups.

Ever hear a success story and get that good feeling deep down? Why do newspapers and periodicals constantly focus on start-up businesses? Because everyone loves a good success story. Everyone loves to hear how some blue-collar underdog managed to build a successful business.

Even better is when they’re part of the story. Everyone wants to be a part of something, to later say, “I was there when they first started.”

Why start your online presence now? It allows your customer base to become part of your story. It’s an invitation to join you on your journey, to watch your business grow. It holds a romantic appeal for others, those who would come along simply to share the exhilaration of success.

It’s your journey. But when you create a social media network, it becomes theirs as well.

Next week: Tips and warnings about starting online before you start your business.

 

Business and Social Media: Into the World of College Students and Teeny-boppers

Most businesses today, especially larger corporations, have at least some sort of online presence. Most have a website, and many have a Facebook page or other social media account.

There are still many, however, who question the necessity of having such a presence. Even if they can see the point of a website, they scoff at the idea of Facebook and Twitter, declaring that these are for college students and teeny-boppers, and NOT professionals.

Maybe that’s how Facebook got its start. But since its inception in 2004, it has exploded in popularity. Now, my 80-year-old great aunt has a Facebook page, and it doesn’t sit idle, either!

What does that mean for business? It means that there is a market just waiting for you. Being a business owner means that you have to start looking at every opportunity for your business. This is especially true for small business owners!

A website may sound like a big step and you may be overwhelmed by all that goes into it. A domain name and FTP transfers? What the heck?!

Rest easy, folks. It doesn’t have to be all that difficult. In fact, forget the website– for now. It has its place, but if you’re going to at least get a foot in the door, I recommend social media.

It doesn’t have to be Facebook, although that is my preference. Start with one, and as you get your page established, move on to the next to reach a greater crowd. Keep them connected, but unique.

I’m a huge fan of meeting the people where they’re at, and that’s exactly what this is about. You can’t expect customers to just show up at your door. No one else does, either. That’s why they advertise. But advertising isn’t always in the game plan, especially for smaller businesses. It’s expensive and difficult to target properly.

Social media gives you a ready-made target audience, and at no cost to you other than your time. That may be precious in and of itself, but I’d recommend it as a good and even necessary investment.

That said- when is a good time to start it? My strong suggestion is to do it immediately, and I’ll explain why in next week’s post.

Do you have a Facebook or other social media site, or know someone that does? If so, feel free to post it in the comments and share! Yes, I’m giving full permission to blatantly advertise in the comments… THIS time. Your comment will appear after moderation, so it may take a little time. From the comments, I will choose a few businesses to feature in a new post! ūüôā

The Sweatpants Conundrum

When I considered what to post on this morning, there were two topics that came to mind. Both have to do with working from home. I labored in indecision for a while, but when I considered that I already needed to implement the second choice for myself, I decided to go with it.

It all comes down to this. Take a survey and ask any professional or blue-collar layman about the perks of working from home. Two of the top answers will be about making your own hours or being your own boss. The third one will likely involve the novelty of getting to wear sweats to work.

Now turn around and ask the same question to someone who works from home. Particularly, ask them what they wear when “going to work.” The answer may surprise you.

It’s a common theme that is spoken about across various WAH blogs, sites, articles, and anything else having to do with working from home. It’s true, the allure of being able to show up at “the office” wearing nothing more classy than what you wore to bed is definitely appealing.

But it doesn’t work.

The mind is a curious thing. It responds to stimulation in our environment and circumstances. It judges our attitude by the mood that we set, and responds accordingly. Sweatpants are inherently relaxing. They are comfortable, perfect for a lazy day of doing absolutely nothing.

So that’s what ends up happening. In fact, I did it myself just this morning. I followed my usual morning routine, which involved, among other things, goofing around on the computer for an hour or two. In my sweatpants. And I got nothing accomplished.

When I was ready to work, I logged in to my usual site and started my work day. But I wasn’t focused. Because I was still wearing sweatpants. After a short time with no progress, I realized my problem, and promptly got up to change. I dressed in pants I knew I was prepared to go out in and set to work.

Within five minutes, I had selected my workload for the day, had my room straightened up, and prepared today’s blog post.

You don’t have to dress up. But at the least, get dressed. It makes all the difference.

– Jeans, khakis, or other pants. Comfortable enough to wear, but nice enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to go out in.

– Put your hair up. I throw mine back in a simple ponytail. If it’s in the way, it annoys me. Remember the girl in that awesome movie, A Series of Unfortunate Events? Violet. When her hair was pulled back, it signified something. It meant she was working. It’s the same here. If you’re not going to fix it up, at least brush it!

– Deodorant. Need I say more?

– A shower, if needed. I don’t take a shower every day- usually about every other day. But when I’m having a really hard time getting the umption to work, often a shower will clear my head and make me feel more prepared.

– Grab something to eat. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s not just cliche. That first meal sets the standard for the rest of the day. I’ll admit, I’m really bad about that one. My breakfast usually hits around 11 am. But then, my workday starts around 12, so it works out.

– Make a cup of joe. If you need an additional boost, go for it. I’ve cut down on the amount of coffee I used to have, but I still enjoy a good cup of coffee to get my mind going.

Now get to work! What are your workday routines?

The Starbucks Agenda

 

Broken promises do not build trust. I know that. I also know that I promised to post a business article last week, focusing on Starbucks. But I have an excuse! Last Monday I was doing my best to bury myself under a mound of blankets on the couch with tissue kept VERY close at hand to catch my ever-dripping nose. Yes, it was that bad. Forgive me?

That said, HERE is the promised post- finally!

So. You walk in, you order your favorite drink. Mine, provided I have the money to indulge, is a white chocolate macchiato with an extra shot and an extra pump of caramel. What’s yours? Do you even like coffee, or do you prefer a smoother drinks, like a green tea?

Many people would say neither. At least, not from Starbucks. They’re too busy, too rushed. And that puts many people off.

But here’s the thing. The same thing that puts people off, is what makes them successful!

I’ll explain. Every business has both a business model and a target market. The business will serve anyone, but will cater to their target market, because that’s what builds their success. A business selling children’s playthings will sell to an adult with no children, but is not likely to target their advertising to them.

It’s the same with Starbucks. Starbucks has a very defined target market, and this is where they focus their advertising and their business. The next time you go to Starbucks, look around and take note of what you see. Who is behind the counter? Who are the majority of their customers? Chances are, the answer to both will be young people. There might be a grey head here and there, but mostly you will find a defined age range of 20-30. They are young, they are successful. They aren’t really here, they are going somewhere. They have a purpose. They are going to change the world.

This target market is what defines the business model for Starbucks. Many of the young people in Starbucks are looking to make it into Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. They are on the go, they have things to do. Starbucks caters to that mentality. This is why for the most part, Starbucks doesn’t have a “come sit down and enjoy yourself” attitude. If you’re going to come and sit down in Starbucks, you better be working and going somewhere. You’re a college student, you’re an aspiring businessman. You’re going into technology, politics, whatever. You’re somebody.

Take it as a lesson for you people who are planning to start a business. The next time you’re put off by a company, don’t push them away. Closely examine them and see WHY you are put off. Chances are, it has to do with their business model.

Now, about that macchiato… what’s your favorite drink? And do YOU love Starbucks?