Creating a Work Life Balance When You Work From Home

In 2016, nearly 3 million Canadians identified themselves as self-employed. These brave souls get their work done in small corners carved out of their living space.

There are countless benefits to working from home. Home-based employment means less money spent on food, clothing, and transportation costs. Self-employment also gives you the flexibility to work around home duties and family life.

Time flexibility is a big motivator for those that choose to work from home. But over time, if not careful, that advantage can become a disadvantage. When your home is also your workspace, it can be difficult to separate business from personal life. But with some planning, discipline and healthy boundaries, finding the right work life balance is possible.


Time Management 101

Make the most of work hours to maximize labor returns:

  • Make a schedule. Every week, review commitments like doctor’s appointments, social engagements, etc. Block off work hours and make them a priority.
  • Be reasonable. Remember to leave time for duties like cleaning, eating and relaxing.
  • Post your schedule. Let family and friends know that if you are in the bedroom with the door closed, you are WORKING. Emergency contact only.

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Distractions abound for home-based workers. Use these simple techniques to achieve full concentration.

  • No personal internet use during work time. Avoid personal social media pages, blogs, email accounts, games, and viral videos.
  • Set a timer. Work for a specified amount of time, then take a break.
  • Take care of home first. If you know you can’t work with dirty dishes in the sink, clean the kitchen. Take care of your regular duties so you won’t feel pressured during work hours.

No Man is an Island

A big misconception about working from home is that you have to do it all by yourself. While you are the most vital element to your business strategy, modern technology makes it possible to outsource many tasks, making a work life balance possible.

  • Hire an answering service to help with customer service.
  • Outsource your accounting to a local freelancer.
  • Pay the teenager next door to watch your kids for a few hours during the summer.

Delegate some of your lesser responsibilities to free up more time to do what you do best.

Creating the perfect work life balance means controlling your time, attention, and home-based work environment. These tips are a great start to crafting your ideal home-based career.

3 Services No Small Business Should Do Without

The brave entrepreneurs who establish and run small businesses are the inventors, trendsetters, and visionaries that drive economies all over the world. This continuous wave of innovation has inspired a whole industry dedicated to making operating a small business easier and more profitable.

Why work harder than is really needed? These 3 services will lighten your load while improving customer satisfaction.

Video Conferencing

Modern times have given us technology that makes it possible to hold a professional meeting without the burden of proper pants. However, a recent survey found that small businesses are not taking advantage. What are the benefits of video conferencing for small business owners beyond the lack of wardrobe standards?

Being able to see the other person’s body language and facial expressions gives you valuable information on their true feelings and reactions.

Your associates are less likely to miss an online meeting, which saves you untold amounts of time, energy, and aggravation.

Online conferences mean you can collaborate with people all over the world without purchasing a single plane ticket.

Seeing yourself on camera can take a little getting used to, but it’s worth it to be able to conveniently communicate face-to-face with clients, suppliers, and collaborators.

Answering Service

According to Forbes Magazine, businesses lose $62 billion each year due to poor customer service. Consider hiring an answering service. These professional customer service representatives offer a variety of useful services for small business owners.

Appointment scheduling

After-hours call handling

Record incoming messages

Call forwarding and transferring

Order taking

Provide general information

Increase revenue

Increase client retention

With an answering service, you will spend less time answering questions and more time doing what you love.

Bookkeeping

Unless you’re a bookkeeper, you probably need one. Business accounting software is great, but some issues can only be resolved by an experienced professional. What can a bookkeeper do for your business?

Review records for accuracy during tax preparation.

Provide independent verification of income to lenders, partners, and other financial institutions.

Catch data entry errors before they become big problems.

A professional bookkeeper can also work with you or your accountant to save you money on taxes or evaluate future financial strategies.

These three services can handle many of the small details of your business day, leaving you free to plot your path to ultimate entrepreneurial success.

Four Tips for Staying Motivated

 

Do you find yourself losing motivation throughout the day or partway through a project? With many tasks on your plate, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details and lose track of the big picture and what is driving you to get there. While you can’t expect to feel 100 percent motivated all the time — some days will be more exciting than others — there are a few strategies you can use to keep your motivation levels up.

 

1. Keep your goals in sight.

Try writing down your goals on a little note, or even on a virtual sticky note on your desktop. Every time you see your goals, you will remember why you are doing what you’re doing and will feel more driven to keep going. You can also write down a mantra that really speaks to you. For example, “be the change you wish to see in the world” or “challenges make you stronger” may remind you to push through a challenging task.

 

2. At the end of each day, make a “did” list.

If you never feel like you’re getting anything done, it is hard to stay motivated. So, at the end of each day, write down a list of things you did accomplish. Seeing all that you’re capable of doing in a day will rebuild your confidence, which will keep you feeling more motivated.

 

3. Talk to others about your work.

What you are doing at work is probably more exciting than you realize because you look at it day in and day out. If you talk to someone else about what you are doing, their response may remind you of how interesting your work really is, which will restore your motivation and your own interest. If you’re talking to someone in your own industry, they may even give you some suggestions or insight to add a fresh, new appeal to your work.

 

4. Always have a plan.

If you have no idea how you will accomplish something, it’s tough to feel motivated. So, when you first begin a big task, write down a plan. Knowing you have an approach already mapped out will keep you driven and on-task.

Motivation comes from within, and with the tips above, you can truly harness it and use it to your advantage. Greater motivation will lead to increased productivity and better work results.

First Impressions Matter: Getting Off On The Right Foot With Website Visitors

First impressions are always important. With thoughtful design and the right rapport-building elements, your website can quickly assure your visitors their residential or commercial project will be completed with professionalism and creativity.

 

Guide Them Through

An inviting, user-friendly website design is one of the most powerful ways you can let your visitors know they’re in good hands. When a visitor arrives at your website, it should be immediately obvious how they can learn more about your services.

 

Look at your site from a visitor’s perspective. If it takes more than a few clicks to find the answers to common questions, you might need a redesign. It could be a simple as adding a “Where do I start?” image to help a potential client take the next step toward contacting you.

 

Providing a phone number where customers can always get their questions answered, even after hours, is another way to make the planning process easier.

 

On your home page, clearly state your value proposition. This is the reason customers choose you over other businesses. Positioning this front and center can make the difference between a visitor staying to explore your site or clicking away in disinterest.

 

Earn Their Trust

Including testimonials from customers you’ve worked with is another way to build your visitors’ confidence in your ability to meet their needs in an efficient and professional way.

 

Your website might be the one chance you get to show a potential customer how you can help them. An easy-to-navigate site that expresses who you and your staff are as individuals will make the good first impression you need.

 

Managing Customer Relationships When You Are Your Only Employee

There is little competition for employee of the month in solo operations. Even still, you have to put in the work to earn the title. Just like a corporate employee striving for recognition, it isn’t enough to just do your job. You must go above and beyond, again and again, to grow your customer base and keep them coming back.

The customer service you provide could make or break your business. According to a recent survey, 97% of consumers worldwide said the service they receive is at least somewhat important when they are deciding which brands to buy.

Customer relations is just one of the many roles a solopreneur must fill in their daily work. How can a hardworking business owner keep their customers happy without sacrificing time from their other important duties?

Help Them Help Themselves

These online solutions let them find the answers they need without taking you away from your other tasks.

  • Make your website into an online database. Include pictures, product information, and pricing information. Keyword search capabilities make it easy for customers to search your site for the answers they seek.
  • Auto response e-mail programs let you keep in contact with your customers easily. It can also be used to buy some time when an e-mail message needs a personal reply.
  • Mobile applications give your customers the ability to view account information, order products, and track deliveries right from their smartphones.

Automate to Innovate

Leverage the power of technology to increase customer satisfaction while decreasing the time you spend problem-solving.

  • Help desk software lets your customers submit requests through your website. Some programs even allow customers to contact you via social media pages.
  • Hire a virtual assistant to answer incoming calls, respond to e-mails, and chat with customers online. Professional customer service representatives can complete many common requests.
  • Are you still packaging and shipping your own products? Get someone else to do that! Order fulfillment companies will warehouse your goods. When an order is received, they will send it to your customer. All you have to do is make sure their shelves stay stocked with your products.

These tips will do more than help you earn your employee of the month plaque. Implementing these ideas will give you more time to create superior products and grow your brand.

How To Craft A Well-rounded Business Plan For Your New Business Venture

You have the skills. You have the knowledge. You have a pretty good idea for a business venture that could free you from the daily drudgery of a traditional 9-to-5. To turn your dream into real life, you now need a plan.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that describes the details of your business venture. The plan’s purpose is to create a framework that you can then use to guide your daily decision-making. The information in your plan describes:

  • WHO will participate in the regular operations of your business, their roles, and responsibilities.
  • WHAT products or services you will offer.
  • WHEN you will make these products and services available.
  • WHERE you will offer your products and services.
  • WHY your idea is a good one.
  • HOW you will create/package/transport your goods and services.

Business plans are important. Your enterprise has a far greater chance of failure without a clear vision. Investors are also more likely to take you seriously when presented with a well-executed document.

How Do I Write a Business Plan?

Follow these steps to craft a solid plan that will guide your growing business to success.

  • Start with market research. In the United States, these online resources can help you find out what the local demand for your product looks like, as well as some insight into possible competition. Canadian entrepreneurs will find helpful links here.
  • Define your market. Use your research to build a profile of your ideal customer. Include the geographical location you will serve. Online businesses won’t need to worry about location, but still need to get to know their potential clients.
  • Define your business. Decide what you have to offer that your competition doesn’t.
  • Create a marketing strategy based on what you learn about your potential clients.
  • List all the things you will need to get started on day one. Equipment, inventory, display cases, sample products, and everything else required to make that first sale goes on this list.
  • Create a financial plan. How much money will you need for initial costs and daily operations until your business becomes profitable?
  • Write it all down. Downloadable templates will make the process easier for skittish newcomers.

Developing a workable business plan takes a lot of time and effort. The energy you put into it, however, will save you untold amounts of frustration and help you achieve your business goals.

How To Wear Multiple Hats Without Wearing Yourself Too Thin

Steve Jobs was an unrepentant micromanager. He willingly sacrificed his personal life to spend hours agonizing over design, packaging, and other tiny details most entrepreneurs would gladly leave to someone else. In the end, his commitment paid off. Even after his death, the company he created continues to dominate the personal electronics market.

While managing every nuance of the business process worked well for Steve, it is not recommended for other entrepreneurs. Why not?

Steve had access to two resources you don’t; ridiculous amounts of money and a genius-level command of computer programming. He surely created a cadre of customized applications to help juggle his empire.

How can a busy solopreneur keep pace with the daily demands of conquering their corner of the marketplace without the benefit of unfettered cashflow or demigod-like abilities?

Control Your Time

Your time is your greatest asset. Treat your schedule with the respect it deserves.

  • Make a schedule and stick to it. Include breaks, days off, and time for household and family duties. There will always be more work. Constantly trying to “catch up” is a sure path to career-endangering burnout.
  • Create multiple schedules. A monthly chart lets you see upcoming events like conferences, payments, or product releases at a glance. This will help you plan your daily schedule, which details the tasks you will complete each day.
  • Prioritize tasks based on their ability to make money. Limit the amount of time each day you will spend on non-revenue generating activities.

Get Some Help

Delegate less intricate tasks to give yourself time to attend to more important matters.

  • Pay the neighborhood babysitter to stuff envelopes for your next mailing. Ask your brother-in-law to help you set up your convention booth. Ask the people around you for temporary help when the need arises.
  • Contract with an answering service to provide top-notch customer service on your business phone calls. Spend less time fielding non-sales related inquiries while giving your small business a professional finish.
  • Invest in bookkeeping software that allows you to automate financial records. These programs make recording, organizing, invoicing, and bill paying faster, easier, and more accurate.

Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation is saying no to a thousand things”. Your peace of mind doesn’t need to be a victim in your quest to bring your business vision to reality. Use your resources wisely to reduce the headaches of wearing multiple hats as an entrepreneur.

Carving Out “Me” Time When Starting Up A New Business

Developing an idea into a full-blown business requires superhuman strength. The millions of tiny details needed to plan, finance, and create sales outlets for your products or services take a lot of time and mental stamina.

In your rush towards entrepreneurial success, it’s easy to forget little things like having a social life, household chores, or getting enough sleep. Use these techniques to carve out space in your day to actually enjoy the life you are working so hard to create.

Digitally Enhance Your Reality

What’s the easiest way to get something done? Get someone else to do it for you!

Hire a virtual assistant. These online helpers can help with bookkeeping, database maintenance, research, scheduling and email management. Get all the perks of having an employee without the extra expense or paperwork.

Use productivity apps. An endless variety of digital time trackers, expense ledgers, and communication applications that simplify daily tasks and reduce your desk time.

Hire a cleaning service to refresh your home. It’s not exactly a digital solution unless you book the appointment online. But at least you’ll get a day off from housework.

With a Little Help…

Don’t your friends and family owe you some favors? Ask them to pay up so you can sit down.

Redistribute regular duties so that older children, spouses, and other household members can shoulder some of the burdens.

Hire temporary help. Friends and family will often work for small amounts of cash or large amounts of pizza.

Find other solopreneurs to help complete tasks like graphic design and setting up contact databases.

Prioritize Yourself

You’ve heard it said before that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Make refilling your cup a priority.

Schedule breaks throughout the day. Set a timer as a reminder. Take your breaks, no matter how busy you are. Walking outdoors is great for a quick break. Whatever you do, do it away from your desk.

Establish a day off. For 24 continuous hours do not allow yourself to do anything work-related. This can be stressful for highly-motivated individuals. Do it anyway.

Write in a journal. Spend a few minutes each morning writing about how you feel and what you think. Regular journaling is known to reduce stress and help organize thoughts.

You are your own best asset. Take time to care for your body, mind and spirit so you’re always ready to take on the next big business challenge.

How To Do More With Less When Running A Small Business

Your business may be small, but your goals are big. One day, you’ll be recognized as a leader in your industry, and be paid like one too. But for now, you’re pinching every penny until it screams for mercy.

How can you manifest your vision of success when time and money are short? Use these budget-friendly strategies to increase your customer retention while making the best of limited resources.

Make Them Happy

According to a recent customer satisfaction survey, 65% of participants prefer companies that care about the people they serve. Show your clients how much you appreciate them with these cost-effective customer service tactics.

  • Give them your personal attention. Send birthday email greetings each year. Include a thank you note with a discount code with ordered items. These small gestures can pay off big in brand loyalty.
  • Listen to them. Online contact request forms let customers leave the details of their issue any time of day or night. Instant chat capabilities on your website let your customer ask questions and resolve problems in real-time.
  • Take them seriously. A recent research study found that existing customers are more likely to try your new products. They also spend more than new customers. When a customer has a complaint, do your best to make it right. Customer retention saves you time and money in the long run.

If you can’t find the time to return calls, hire a virtual receptionist. Professional customer service agents will give your customers the personal attention they crave.

Use Your Resources Wisely

You need both time and money to make your business grow. Use these simple methods to control your most important resources.

  • Prioritize. What tasks are essential to keeping your business competitive? List them along with how much time you need each week to get it done. Use this information to create a daily to-do list.
  • Leverage your brain power. Online classes can teach you the basics of web design, bookkeeping, and other vital administrative skills and you can find classes that are free.
  • Keep an eye on your (ROI). Are you spending too much on materials? Are you pricing your products too low? Are your advertising methods really working? Periodically, review your spending to ensure you are staying on course.

Attention to detail, effective planning, and passionate determination are the strategies that will help take your small business from obscure to the Fortune 500 list.

How To Scale Your Small Business Without Hiring Employees

A successful home-based business is the result of years of hard work, sacrifice, and a fierce belief in a positive future. Eventually, your determination and dedication start to pay off and your business starts to grow.

Expanding your small business means increasing your ability to accept orders, provide a greater range of services, and make more profit. If you’re looking to build your business without adding to your permanent payroll, these tips will help you prioritize, reorganize, and revitalize your routine.

Move Into the 21st Century

Technology is your friend. Make your smartphone do double duty as a virtual assistant.

  • Use the cloud to your advantage. You will have access to the files you use most, like contracts and sales information, from any mobile device. This simple step can save mobile business owners a lot of time and missed opportunities.
  • Productivity and financial apps can help you run your social media sites, save information found on the internet, track hours and expenses, create invoices and take credit card payments.
  • If most of your work is done away from your office, invest in a mobile data plan and a portable wireless printer for your laptop. Use any extra time you can to work on your advertising efforts, project plans, or explore additional streams of income.

Virtual Hands to Lighten Your Load

You can get outside help for everyday tasks and special occasions without hiring a permanent employee.

  • Need help for a trade show or large job? Check your local listings for temporary employment services. Candidates often come with background checks, references, and a variety of skill sets.
  • A local accounting service can keep your financial records straight and give you expert advice that can help you make important decisions as your business grows.
  • Virtual receptionists can take your calls, respond to emails, and help your customers via online chat. Professional customer service agents handle your simple client communications while you concentrate on the next level. Urgent or complicated issues can be routed directly to you.

Scale your business by increasing your capacity for work with a minimal rise in operating costs. Streamlining your daily processes will allow you to utilize more valuable time to sell more of your products or services.