How to review your business

how to review your business; woman with notepad and pencil and coffee

Another year has come and almost gone! Can you believe it? I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this fact. As I sit down and start thinking about the past year, I am reminded of how important it is to sit and reflect on everything, especially when it comes to business. 

Do you sit down and review your year, either formally or informally? When you work from home or own your own business, it is helpful to take some time to analyze things. In other words, take a step back and look at the big picture. This will help you understand what is working and what might not be. 

There are some key questions I like to ask myself to help me learn, grow, improve, and be more profitable in my business. Not sure how to review your business? Here are some questions to help you get started.

  1. What is the biggest lesson you learned in the past year?
  2. What worked well for you financially? 
  3. What area of your business made you happiest and filled your cup?
  4. What is not serving you or your business well?
  5. Are there things you want to outsource this coming year, or just stop doing altogether?
  6. What are some things you want to learn or expand in the coming year?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these questions!

 

What is the biggest lesson you learned this past year?

Life, and business, are all about learning and growing. Mistakes happen. Things may not have turned out quite like you expected on certain projects or jobs. Or, perhaps you even over-extended yourself and promised things you could not deliver. All of these are learning opportunities.

What makes you a better person, and business owner, is looking at those times and extracting the lessons out of them. THAT is how you improve. THAT is how you make better adjustments for next time.

 

What worked well for you financially? 

Numbers do not lie. It is one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a business owner. I recommend looking back at your numbers and figuring out what part of your business gave you the biggest ROI this year. What was most profitable? Take a moment to recognize your successes, and celebrate those wins!

Once you can see this clearly,  you will have a better idea of what areas to focus on more, or what areas of your business you should look at doing more of in the coming year. And, if tracking your numbers and sales is not a strong suit of yours, that is an area I highly recommend getting outside help on (see #5) or learning (see #6)!

What area of your business made you the happiest and filled your cup?

While numbers and profitability are important for building and running a successful business, happiness is VERY important too. Do not discount the projects and partnerships that bring you joy. For instance, maybe you do a yearly fundraiser that costs you and your team a lot of time and money. But it truly brings you joy (and probably great marketing). Keep doing it if it makes sense in the big picture of your business and life!

Happiness and passion are huge contributors to drive and motivation. It is also what makes those hard times worth it, so remember that while numbers talk, happiness helps you get out of bed in the morning and do it all again.

 

What is not serving you or your business well?

This can often be a hard question, and sometimes a harder pill to swallow. Occasionally we have dreams or ideas that did not come to fruition. Perhaps it was a project that did not quite turn out how we had hoped. Maybe it was an investment that did not return what you had hoped for.

This is an even harder question to explore when it is personnel. Did you hire someone who is not quite pulling their weight? Do you have a client who is draining time, energy, and resources? Or do you have a business partnership that is no longer enjoyable? Take a long hard look at the things, and people, in your business that may not be serving you well, and ask yourself if you want to carry this into the coming year. It may be a time to break some ties after all.

 

Are there things you want to outsource or stop doing altogether?

Once you have celebrated the good and analyzed the not-so-good parts of your business, you can start looking at how to make changes in the coming year to serve you better. This is the exciting part, because yes, change can be exciting!

Some things in your business may need to fall to the wayside if they are not serving you financially or emotionally. Other tasks or projects may be pertinent to your business, but you find that you simply do not want, or like, to do them. This is an opportunity for you to evaluate if it is time to outsource tasks that may be sucking time and energy from you. Maybe it is time YOU need a Virtual Assistant!

If you want to read more about outsourcing (and time-saving tips), our article on Time Saving Tools for Freelancers may provide additional resources and insight to help. 

 

What are some things you want to learn or expand in the coming year?

Any successful business, and business owner, knows that you continually have to be ready to learn and grow. In today’s society, things are always changing. Technology is constantly developing and new tools are being launched (hello AI). It is important to look at your business, and your priorities, and focus on what will best serve you, and your clients. Be open to change. Explore opportunities to be better and learn new things!

 

Now it’s your turn!

Each of you and your businesses are individual and unique. I hope that the questions above will help you brainstorm and explore the questions as they apply to you independently. Depending on your situation, there are other questions you may also want to explore as you look back and review your year.

The important thing is to set some time aside to review your year, your numbers, and your wins and losses so that you have a clearer picture of where you want to go this coming year. I suggest that you grab a notepad and pen and a cup of coffee (or your favorite thinking beverage). Write down each question and jot down some answers. See where it takes you.

If you want help reviewing your business, or if you are interested in virtual assistant services this coming year, we invite you to set up a consultation appointment with us. We can help discuss your unique situation, and see if we would be a good fit!

 

Here is to a happier, healthier, and more profitable year ahead!

How to Deal with the Identity Shift When Becoming a Mother

new mom looks stressed holding baby and looking at computer

Motherhood is a trip. You can get yourself prepared, so you think, but it’s inevitable that you’ll miss something. So how do you deal with the identity shift that happens when you become a mother?

If you are not a mother yet, I am glad I get to catch you up and fill you in on some things to expect before you enter motherhood. Already a mother?  You will probably be able to relate to a lot of what I talk about in this article. If you are still in the midst of the shift that inevitably happens, hopefully this helps you feel less alone and helps you on your journey. 

Yes, there is an inevitable identity shift that happens once you become a mother. It is hard to fully explain to someone who has not been through it yet, but I will try! I wish I had better insight into it to mentally prepare myself. But I am making progress and I will share some of what has been helping me!

What shifts when you become a mother?

The answer to that is everything! Physical, emotional, and mental shifts all happen. At least they did for me! For our sake though, we will be focusing on the emotional and mental shifts that happen, especially when you are working from home. 

Before I became a mother, I had worked at establishing my own income by working from home. I was intentionally doing this because I knew I wanted to be home with my kids when they were young. I planned ahead and started my own home-based work so that I could work remotely, still earning income for my family while raising my kids. And I still struggled with the identity shift of becoming a mother. I was constantly worrying if I was doing the right thing. 

Working from home is understandably not the case for all of us, but most parents go through that debate of “what next”. Should I stay home? Do I go back to work? What does childcare look like? Do I have enough money to pay for childcare? The list goes on and on. 

That is the initial battle that happens—figuring it all out. And as a new mom, you have no idea what the right answer is, because everyone’s situation is different. What worked for your neighbor might not be right for you. What your sister did might not apply to you and your family. 

Even when you plan ahead, the plan can change. When you become a mother, you change—your wants, your thoughts, your priorities.

The Mom Guilt

Then there is the “mom guilt.” You may have heard of it, and if you have not experienced it yet, you will. If you work outside of the house, you feel guilty you are not with your kids. And when you are home or have to leave early to pick up a sick child, you feel guilty for not giving 100% at work. 

You may decide to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). From talking to SAHMs, they often feel the guilt of not contributing to the family’s income. If this is you, just remember that what you are doing is SO IMPORTANT. Furthermore, as my financial advisor once told me, you are saving your family, on average, $10,000 per year, per child. (In my area, it’s more like $15,000-$20,000 per child, per year, so $30-$40k for a family with 2 children!)

If you are a work-at-home mom (WAHM), there is still a lot of guilt in splitting your time. When you are playing with your kids you feel guilty you are not working. As you sit down to work, you feel guilty that your children may be getting a little more screen time than you would like or that you are not spending enough quality time with them.

For me, I always felt as if whatever I was doing at that moment, was not what I should be doing. Essentially, I was failing at that work-life balance I thought I had prepared myself for.

Tips to help you through the shift

In my experience, I felt as if I almost lost myself when I became a mother. Who was I now? What did I want? I was uncertain if the decisions I was making were right because it was all new to me! As a maternal figure, you naturally worry about your children’s safety and well-being, so there is that added day-to-day stress. In today’s society, it often feels like we have to do it all, and I can tell you from experience, that is not the answer. While we are capable of “doing it all”, that is a recipe for disaster for your mental health and well-being.

So what do you do if you are feeling lost, uncertain, or you cannot find the right balance? Here are some tips to help!

#1 – Set time aside for the priorities.

Protect yourself from being pulled in multiple directions by designating time for each of your priorities. When you are a mom, be a mom and set work aside, both mentally and physically. If you do work (home-based work or other), know and trust that your children are being cared for and focus on the task at hand. In other words, be in the present moment and try not to stress about other things—you will drive yourself crazy.

If you do work from home and are looking for more tips, check out How to Set Boundaries When Working from Home

#2 – Celebrate your new efficiency.

Moms are some of the busiest people I know. And busy people get stuff done. The one thing I have learned as a chronic over-thinker, is I do not have time to over-think as a mother if I want to cross anything off of my list. We have to make decisions and move on. You might make mistakes, and you will learn from them. That is life. There is a reason several employers search for mothers to hire.  In fact, there is a whole agency built around that premise at The Mom Project. Moms get stuff done.

#3 – Trust yourself.

This is a big one for me. When you are uncertain about what path to take or what decision to make when it comes to family, planning, and work—TRUST YOUR GUT. As humans, we do not know everything, and life will continue to throw curve balls at us. The one thing you have is your own inner voice, telling you what is right and wrong for you. Listen to that voice and try to channel it when you are making decisions as a mother, as a woman, as a wife, and as a friend to others.

#4 – Have something that is yours.

It is easy to get lost in your role as a mother or to be consumed by the responsibilities of it all. If I had to give new moms one piece of advice, it would be this one. Have some part of your day that is yours. It is so important to have a sense of self and a sense of accomplishment for YOU. So whether it is a hobby, exercising, a side gig, freelancing, or building your own business, set time aside for yourself. Your mental health will thank you.

Did I scare you away from being a mother? The magical thing about becoming a mother is that you do change. You become a new version of yourself, with little people (who become big people) to love and take care of, and you learn a whole lot about yourself in the process.

I do not think any mother would tell you it is easy or full of joy 100% of the time. There are definitely moments of awe and joy. It is important to celebrate those little daily wins and good moments with your children. It is possibly more important to not lose yourself in the shift of becoming a mother, and discovering who you are as a mother. After all, you are their role model and guardian. Have and do something for yourself so that you can pour from a (semi) full cup! What are you doing for yourself today?

Tips to Get Support in an Atypical Job

family is working together

You may be wondering what an atypical job is. For the sake of this article, I define an atypical job as anything outside of the traditional 9 to 5 or hourly-based positions. More specifically, my focus is on roles where there is not a guaranteed income.  

Some examples of this include freelance work, virtual assistants, online coaches, and social networking. As the remote workforce continues to grow, it is important to discuss this pain point that many of us have faced in the gig economy. 

I will give you a little inside view into my personal experience with feeling a lack of support. Then I can walk you through the steps I took, and give you tips to get support in an atypical job.

Feeling unsupported

To give you a little background, I have held atypical positions for the last 5 years. I have been a 1099 employee, a freelancer, and am in a social networking business. A negative of this is that payment is not guaranteed. You have to make sales. You have to find freelance work. And you have to build relationships, all of which take work!

The benefit of all of these positions is that they give me flexibility in my schedule, and I am able to work from home. However, in setting my own hours, I was often working at odd hours at first. If my husband and I did not have plans, I would sneak away for an hour or two to work at night or on weekends. 

As this continued, I noticed eye rolls when I mentioned going to get work done. If I had an event scheduled, I could sense his frustration. I blew it off for a bit, but as it continued I started to feel resentment and frustration too. Here I was working to bring income to our family, and felt completely unsupported or appreciated!

Playing the long game

We sat down and had a big heart-to-heart. Through that conversation, I realized there were two factors that my dear husband did not quite understand—time and money. 

My husband has always worked from 9 to 5, or rather 7:30 to 4:30 in his case. Coming from a traditional work schedule, working nights and weekends was foreign to him. He felt as if I was choosing work over spending time with him, not fully understanding that I was working at peak hours when my clients were available. 

When it came to the money aspect, my husband did not understand working without getting paid. He has always worked hourly or salaried positions with set pay. In his head, when you went to work, you would get paid for it. Based on his personal background and experience, he could not comprehend sitting down to work for free. As many of us know, that is not always the case, especially when it comes to sales positions, be it real estate or having an online jewelry boutique. Work is put in to build relationships. Time is spent networking, gaining customers, and getting exposure (whether it is online or in person) before the paychecks come in!

His frustrations were valid in some ways. He had no insight into the type of work I was doing. I had to explain to him my side of things, the process of building a business, and why I was doing what I was doing.

Tips to Get Support in an Atypical Job

As I was venting to one of my mentors one day about the situation, she asked if we had sat down and talked about it all. Of course, we had! To help, she shared a few tips she learned along the way too that helped her gain support and respect from her loved one. This list is a compilation of things both of us found helpful in our paths.

  • Communication – I will start with an oldie but a goodie! Communicate, communicate, communicate. In my experience, I had to get to the bottom of what was really bothering my husband about my type of work. That came out through honest and open communication, and asking questions.
  • Set Office Hours – Part of what we discovered in sitting down together and talking, was that the unpredictability of my hours was frustrating us both. This tip came from my mentor—set up consistent office hours and availability. In my role, this involved scheduling events too. By setting up a few consistent nights I was available for events, we also knew which dates were available for us to do things as a couple or family. This applies if you have children too. If they know it is mommy’s office hours, maybe, just maybe, there will be fewer interruptions from them. Having consistency in place can help you all manage expectations of each other!
  • Use scheduling tools – As a social networker, I was hopping online a lot at night and on weekends. After learning this bugged my husband, I searched for more options to work during traditional work hours while still being present online when I wanted to be. And I discovered there are a lot of great tools out there! Utilizing these tools allows me to schedule things ahead of time and be present when the whole family is home. My favorites to use for scheduling social media posts or pre-recording live presentations without being live (yes that is a thing) are Cinchshare and Streamyard. The great thing about Streamyard is that you can stream in multiple places at once too!
  • Create common goals – This tip seems super simple, but I realized my husband and I had not sat down to discuss WHY I was doing what I was doing. What were our goals, both financially and for our desired lifestyle? By sitting down and discussing these together, he became a part of the plan! He got a say in what our goals were and we could discuss the time required to reach them.
  • Share progress – Whether it is with your partner or your children, get them involved. How much money did you make this week? How close are you to your goal? Print out a tracker and have your kids help you fill it in. (Create your own or check out Carrie’s Goal Tracker!) I found that sharing my progress as I worked towards these shared goals was extremely helpful! Previously my husband had seen me putting time in but never heard about the results. By seeing progress, even if it was one foot at a time ahead, he had better insight into the process. Plus, by sharing progress they are more apt to encourage you to hit that goal!
  • Celebrate achievements together – Add to the fun by celebrating achievements together as a family! Did you hit your monthly sales goal? Celebrate with a special family dinner or movie night. Did you earn that incentive? Gift it to your little helper. You can even set a family reward in place when you hit a big milestone. Do something that fits your family, and make it fun!

Which of these tips resonates with you the most? We all have different lifestyles, goals, and family dynamics. Your husband or partner may be super supportive, but you may feel a lack of support from other loved ones. Hopefully these tips will help you come together to set common goals and get the support you need to achieve them! 

How to Set Boundaries When Working From Home

You have to set boundaries when you work from home. Here's what we did.

Are you now a part of the remote work culture but struggling with how to set boundaries when working from home? As someone who has worked from home for the past 5 years, this is something I personally struggled with at the beginning. I was always being pulled in multiple directions. With this pressure, I struggled with focusing on the task at hand. 

I discovered that a lot of people in my circle had misconceptions about what it means to work from home. Once I realized this, I knew my first step was to communicate what it really entailed. Then, I had to set boundaries. Hopefully my experience can help you avoid these remote work challenges

Misconceptions about working from home

In our post-pandemic world, telecommuting is not as rare as it used to be. Prior to 2020, I experienced a lot of misunderstandings when it came to working from a remote office. While my bosses had trust issues, personal contacts thought I was “available” during the day. Looking back, it is no surprise I struggled with feelings of failure in almost all areas of my life at the time! 

Pressure from work

From the work side of things, I had one boss who refused to even entertain the idea, even when he was trying to woo me back to the company. He wanted face-to-face time to get things done in a traditional manner. At the level I was at, he also did not want to set that example for other employees in the company, fearing they would follow suit. (Funny thing is, now that company is hybrid!)  

I partnered with another company that was 100% work-from-home to start. Towards the end of our partnership, I was pressured to be in the office the majority of the time. This example felt like more of a control and accountability issue. They wanted to know what I was doing, where I was, and why I was not immediately responding to an email. While I was a 1099 contractor, they were treating me like a salaried employee. It probably comes as no surprise that this partnership did not last long. 

Overreacting clients

I also have had experiences where clients who knew I worked from home reached out to me at odd hours. Early in the morning and late at night I would get phone calls, emails, and texts with a sense of urgency to them. Now, in a true emergency, I understand the outreach, but it felt like my home office never closed.

Friends and family

On the personal side, friends and family knew I was home during the day.  I was being called upon for favors and social gatherings because of the flexibility in my schedule. As a people pleaser, I found it hard to say no! It was even more aggravating that my husband expected certain things to get done around the house! 🤯***Make sure you subscribe because we’ll have a full article about getting your spouse on board with your work-at-home gig!

Can you sense my frustrations as you read this? The work-life balance I hoped to achieve in freelancing, working from home, and setting my own schedule was coming back to bite me. I had to figure out some solutions ASAP!

In this post, I talked about the pros and cons of working at home. Achieving a work-life balance is a “pro”, but you might see this as a “con” since it does take some work on your part to create the balance that you are looking for!

Tips for setting boundaries

As you can see, I was struggling to keep everyone happy, including myself. Something had to be done. Here are the top 3 things that helped me. 

  1. Communication — As with most conflicts, proper communication is KEY! Make sure to set expectations with all involved parties. What is expected from each person? What is your standard turnaround time? And what is your availability?  Establish these parameters and communicate them. 
  2. Set Office Hours — This is my answer to availability. Set office hours, and communicate those with partners, clients, AND personal contacts. Even if you want to keep your schedule flexible, having consistent work (and play) hours will help everyone, and allow you to set some boundaries. It also helps you mentally leave things at work, and step into your personal zone. 
  3. Time block your calendar Blocking time on my calendar helps me organize my day, and devote time appropriately. Block out time in your day for work tasks, personal tasks, and family tasks. Set a timer if you need help sticking to your time blocks. Am I within work hours? Then I am working. Is it time for family? Then I am mentally and physically focused on them. The simple task of blocking time out on my calendar helps me mentally be where I am supposed to be. Carrie talks about time blocking in this post about time management!

After setting boundaries

Previously, I was worrying about work when I was playing with my kids. Then when I was on a work call, I was distracted by tasks or chores at home I knew needed to be done. By doing the tips above, you also help yourself separate work and play, and not feel guilty about doing or not doing something.

These simple tips help me be in the moment and focus on the task at hand, mentally and physically. I know that I already have a time block to complete those nagging chores. It takes some practice and a lot of communication, but it is possible and will help you be more efficient!

Has this helped you? What strategy will you try to help set boundaries and improve your work-at-home and life balance?

How to Add to Your Income

counting money; how to add to your income

Is your wallet feeling a little lighter? Do you need to add to your income? It seems like everything is increasing in price these days except wages, creating an income gap for many households. 

While we do not have direct control over the raises we are seeing from our bosses, or the economy for that matter, we do have some control as to how to increase the amount of money we are bringing in. For many people, the answer is adding an extra stream of income. Let’s look at some ideas on how to bring in extra income, where to find these opportunities, and how to figure out what’s best for you!

Check your current income or wages

Before we look at exploring other streams of income, it is important to double-check your current situation. Self-employed? Consider increasing your rates or prices. You want to stay competitive and in line with others, but it is important to be properly compensated for your goods and services. 

Ask yourself—Are your rates too low? Have you built up your experience and expertise but kept your rates and prices the same? Do some market research. Be sure to check other similar companies or service providers and compare. You do not want to increase prices without merit. It is also important to know your worth though!

Employed by a company? Do your research, and check if you are being properly compensated for your work. If there is a disparity between your salary, the work you are doing, and what others are getting paid in similar positions, have a thoughtful conversation with your boss or the human resources department. 

Bring in examples of the contributions you are making to the company and the impacts you have made (financial or otherwise). Do not expect to get a raise right there on the spot, but there is nothing wrong with having a conversation. You will convey that you are goal-oriented. My favorite question to ask is how to get there. For example, ask the question, “What do I need to do to see a ___ increase within the next _____(6 months, year, 3 years, etc)?”

Ideas to supplement income

Once you have established that your rates, prices, or salary are in line, it may be time to explore ways to add another stream of income. More than ever before, we are seeing people start side businesses. As people see success in these side gigs they often become their full-time business! 

Interested in starting your own business, are looking for some additional income, or just want to explore what other options are out there? Let us take a quick look at some ideas on ways to bring in some additional income.

  1. Find a part-time job. Look at the time you have available and see what type of part-time job might work for you. This could be remote work or in person.

  2. Freelancing is a great way to use the skills you already have to make a side income. Ideas for freelancing include design, branding, photography, coding/programming, writing, marketing, and accounting.

  3. Explore social selling opportunities. Also known as, direct sales. While this can be considered a love-it-or-hate-it category, it is a flexible way to bring in additional income. There are a lot of options out there and they are always hiring!

  4. Find companies that offer home-based work opportunities in flexible time frames or hours if needed. More and more companies are offering work-from-home options.

  5. Become a virtual assistant! If this sounds like an option you might be interested in, check out our FREE email course that will have your virtual assistant business started in 5 days

Did this list get your wheels turning? 

Where to find opportunities

Now that we have identified some areas of opportunity, the next question that may come to mind is where to find these opportunities. Here are two suggestions to help you get started. 

Good old-fashioned networking is always my first recommendation. As someone who has found most of my jobs and career opportunities through people I have known and networked with, I highly recommend reaching out to people. Let your network know what you are looking for, and spread the word! 

Check remote job boards, such as Upwork, The Mom Project, and LinkedIn. In most cases, you can filter your search by what you are looking for, helping you to hone in on the right opportunity for you. For an inside look at Upwork, read our Freelance Site: Upwork review. 

How to know what is best for you

Once you start out on this path, you might find a lot of options and job posts. A few things you want to consider to help you narrow down your focus are to think about what your passions are and what opportunities will give you the best ROI, or the best compensation for time spent.  

In addition to income, you also want to consider other goals in looking for additional work. Do you want to build your resume? Are you trying to explore an industry further to know if you want to make a switch? Is a better work-life balance part of the equation? These should be additional factors in your search.

Are you starting to see all of the opportunities that are out there for you now? My biggest recommendation is to just get started. Start the search, have conversations, and be open to opportunities. You may be surprised at what you find. Action is the best step when you are feeling fear or helplessness, so jump right in and get started!

Pros and cons of working from home: Is it right for you?

mom with baby working at home

Have you considered working from home? At first glance, the idea of working from home sounds very attractive. While it has many advantages, there are also some challenges of working remotely

Let’s take a closer look at both the pros and cons of remote work. Then I will provide some tips that helped me adjust to telecommuting. By discussing this all, I hope it can help you decide what is right for you!

Benefits of Working From Home

When the thought of working from home goes through your head, do some immediate benefits come to mind? I think we can all agree that rushing out the door and sitting in rush hour traffic is not our idea of fun. Perhaps there are other benefits you have not even thought of yet though. Let’s explore some remote work benefits!

  • No commute –  Since I already mentioned this one above, I will start here. Not only is this a more relaxing way to start your day, but it is also a cost savings! Just think—no gas, less wear and tear on your car, no train or bus pass, and/or no parking pass, to name just a few.

  • Flexibility  – If you are working independently at home or have a company that allows for a flexible schedule, this can be a huge benefit. You can set your own hours, schedule personal appointments, and even attend activities throughout the day, such as meeting up with friends for lunch, your kids’ recitals/sports games, or whatever else you might be missing out on now!

  • Location-Independent  – When you work remotely, you have the option to work from anywhere and be a digital nomad! Is your family planning a vacation that falls on a day you have required meetings scheduled? When you work from home and meetings are online meetings anyway, you can still head out on vacation AND make those meetings. Work from the beach, work from a local coffee shop, or your favorite park!

  • Comfort of your own space  – When you have a digital workspace, you can pick what that space looks and feels like. You can decide if you want to listen to music that day or not, what music you want to listen to, and even how loud you want it playing. Your home office can be any color and any set-up YOU want, allowing you to pick colors and items that make you happy!

  • Work-life balance – Working from home often helps people establish a better work-life balance. You can eat better (and often healthier) meals, you can work on small, personal tasks throughout the day, and you do not waste time commuting, which for some adds hours back into their days they did not have before. 

What other benefits can you think of that working from home would bring you?

Cons of Working from Home

As I type this article from my home office, I can hear my neighbor outside using a metal grinder. Earlier this morning there was a truck outside my house flushing the fire hydrants. Unpredictable distractions are definitely a con to having a remote workspace and something you will need to learn to block out or work around if you decide working from home is right for you. 

What else might have you second-guessing telecommuting?

  • Isolation –  Isolation and loneliness are some of the top concerns I hear when people find out I work from home. “Do you get lonely,” they ask. “Oh, I could never do that. I would get so bored being alone at home all day!”

  • Technology dependence – When your day consists of video conferencing, online project management, apps or website services, and other online resources, you become dependent on technology. If your power or internet services go out, you may find yourself scrambling to get back online and stay on task. 
  • Separation of work and home  – One con that is often overlooked is the fact that your office resides in your home, often creating an overlap of your work and personal space. Some find it hard to turn it off or leave your work problems “at work.”
  • Friends and family respecting your work hours  – Since I do work from home and can have flexible hours, I find that some people think I am available on a whim. When they know I can create my own schedule, they believe I can make time for whatever it is they are asking me to do. As a people pleaser, I had a hard time saying no for a long time, and I found that all of my “yeses” added up to a lot of time being spent on things OTHER than the tasks that helped pay my bills.

  • Home office costs – I know not all of us have a separate room to designate as a home office, so the “cost” we are talking about can vary. No matter the size or location though, there are added costs to working from home that you may not have considered, such as office setup, connectivity, IT support, maintenance, and supplies. Make sure you take these into consideration when you are looking at your own pros and cons. 

Tips to Help the Adjustment

I found that I had a certain adjustment period I had to go through when I moved from working in an office to working from home. As someone who has been down this road before, I want to share some remote work best practices to help. I have narrowed this down to my top three tips.

    1. Set office hours (& stick to them) – By scheduling strict office hours for yourself, you are setting expectations with both your clients and family and friends as to when you are available. It will also help you stay on task and be productive. Setting a consistent schedule and holding yourself to it will also help you separate work and home. Work hours are work hours, and when that time is up you can leave your workspace (and leave work at work)!

    2. Stay productive and manage your time – Speaking of productivity, this is one I struggled with the most. I found Carrie’s article on Time Management Strategies for Virtual Assistants super helpful!

    3. Schedule social interaction – To avoid loneliness, make sure to work in social interaction throughout your day. Whether it is a video conference with co-workers or clients, a lunch meeting, a coffee meet-up, or a walk with your neighbor, block time in your day to be social with others!

Is working from home right for you?

To work from home or not to work from home…that is the question! As someone who has personally chosen to work from home, I may be a little skewed on this one! It truly is a personal choice. 

One thing I did not list in the pros and cons list is the topic of productivity and distractions. I touched on both above, but these factors can play a role on both sides of the pros and cons list. For some people, working from home is more productive. They have fewer distractions from co-workers, fewer meetings, and can focus better within their own space. For others though, working from home makes it harder to be productive with distractions at home, family interruptions, or chores such as the pile of laundry staring at you. 

You know yourself the best—which side do you fall on? Can you stay motivated without a boss or coworkers nearby? Do you crave flexibility and independence in your schedule? Hopefully our pros and cons list and tips for adjusting have given you better insight to help you decide if working from home is right for you! 

 

If you are leaning towards working from home, make sure to check out our free resources for some additional tips!

Using Zelle Payment App

Banking from your phone

While I was trying to figure out what to name this post, I was doing some searching and I came across this story about a woman who was scammed using Zelle. Long story short, she got her money back. But nobody wants to be scammed!

My story using Zelle doesn’t have anything to do with being scammed, but my gosh! I mean, it can happen to anyone, anytime!

What is Zelle?

Zelle is an online payment app that is connected directly to your bank account. Hundreds of banks and credit unions offer Zelle through their banking apps. Don’t worry, if your bank doesn’t have Zelle yet, you can still get the Zelle app from the App Store or Google Play. You no longer have to use the same bank to transfer money between friends and family.

How to use Zelle

Signup is quick and easy through your banking app or online banking website.

You’ll choose to use either your phone number or email address. When you want someone to pay you using Zelle, you give them the phone number or email that you used so that it will go to the correct account.

You can only have one bank account per phone number or email address. So for example, I have my email address tied to one account at bank ABC. And my phone number is tied to another account at bank XYZ. Different accounts, different banks.

Here’s what happened to me using Zelle

I have a client who rents out several Airbnb units. On occasion, for whatever reason, we’ll do bookings “offline”. My client’s preferred payment options include Zelle, Venmo, and wire transfers. Zelle is definitely becoming a more popular selection for our guests as people realize it’s tied to their bank and almost anyone can use it.

We have a new guest who needs to make a payment. In communicating with him, he decided to send a $1 payment to ME to make sure it went through. Well, no sir, “it’s not going to me,” but rather to the owner. “This is her email address: xxxxxxx@gmail.com.”

The entire day goes by and I finally hear back from him. He sends a screenshot of it going to the owner – by her phone number!🤦‍♀️

If you know anything about Zelle, you might know where this is going… Or do you?? Well, you might because I explained this above:

With Zelle, you have the option to enroll with either your phone number or your email address. 

I actually just learned this recently! I pay and accept money kinda frequently, yet I just learned this!

So imagine the ordinary Joe who rarely sends money (and probably never receives it) there’s no way he knows that it actually does make a difference if you send it to a phone number versus an email address.

How I use Zelle for my virtual assistant business

I have received payments from clients through Zelle. It was important that I tell my client where I wanted the payment to go. She doesn’t normally pay me that way, and in hindsight, I should have sent her a Zelle request from the bank account where I wanted the money to go. If we need to do that again, I would send a request rather than tell her my phone number or email address. It just reduces the risk of error.

Curious how you could be a virtual assistant? Take a look at this FREE 5-day email course. Seriously, anyone can do it!

I’ve also used Zelle for personal transactions. I send Zelle requests to my ex-husband so he can pay for things for our kids. And just yesterday I bought myself a gift from a direct sales friend. It’s definitely convenient for exchanging money between people without using credit cards.

Is there a solution?

I don’t know if there’s a fool-proof solution to the issue I ran into with my client and our guest.

If it was my bank account, I could send him a request for the payment so that it comes to the correct bank. But since this is for my client, I don’t have access to her account in order to send the request.

I could use something like LastPass to gain access to her account without having the password. But I would still have access to her bank account, which might feel risky to my client. I wouldn’t want to allow access to someone else.

I’ll be thinking about this and I’ll let you know what I figure out!

 

Have you used Zelle? What’s your favorite app for sending and receiving money?

WhatsApp Business messaging app small business review

WhatsApp Business review

I do content creation for a client and one of the topics I worked on recently was WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business. I learned a lot of interesting things about the app and played around with it for quite some time. So I thought I would write up my own review.

While I was working on the articles, I kept thinking about how I could use this for my virtual assistant business or a direct sales business. Other small businesses kept coming to mind with how they could use it.

What is WhatsApp?

First of all, what is WhatsApp? It’s an instant messaging app. And it’s FREE. Worldwide, it’s actually more popular than any other messaging app. Yep, more than twice as popular as Facebook Messenger. Pow!

WhatsApp vs WhatsApp Business

Standard WhatsApp is the personal account you might have, whereas WhatsApp Business has features that would help small businesses have better communications with their customers.

When I first started playing around with WhatsApp, I simply installed the regular WhatsApp app. I used my phone number. As it turns out, I was able to receive a message from someone in another country (another work thing). I gave them my phone number and received their text via WhatsApp. So just in that instance, I totally can see why, worldwide, it’s the most popular instant messaging app.

Then while I was working on this latest project, I installed WhatsApp Business. It has a whole slew of features that are awesome for a business.

WhatsApp Business with one or two phone numbers

It’s important to note that you can use WhatsApp Business with your personal phone number. But you can only have one WhatsApp account. So if you want to have a separate account for personal use, you would need to use a different phone number for WhatsApp Business.

As I mentioned, I used my personal phone number for the WhatsApp account. When I installed WhatsApp Business, I decided to get a free Google Voice number and use that for the business account. It’s so cool!

Using my phone number and the Google Voice number, I had two separate WhatsApp accounts. Then I decided to un-link the Google number and merge my WhatsApp accounts. When you do this, you essentially lose some stuff, unless you back it up. So I recommend thinking that through before you spend time setting things up on WhatsApp Business.

WhatsApp Business features

There are a lot of features. I am only focusing on the features that I think would be especially beneficial to a small business. Here goes!

  1. Catalog – that’s right, you can add a catalog of your products or services. They allow you to add up to 500 items.
  2. Greeting message – this is an automatic message that you can set up to send to new customers who weren’t already on your contact list.
  3. Away message – this is an auto-reply you can set up for times when you’re not available, such as vacation, or illness. But you can use this anytime. If you’re a solopreneur, you probably spend a lot of your time creating your product or providing your service. You can’t always respond immediately, but you can have automatic responses set up so that people always receive a prompt response from you.
  4. Quick replies – these are messages you create that help you quickly respond to an FAQ. If people always ask the same question, you can save yourself a lot of time, and reduce errors, by setting up quick replies.
  5. Labels – labels allow you to organize your customers and messages. Adding labels to customer messages also allows you to send targeted promos to specific customers.
  6. Status – much like a status update on social media, when you update your status, all of your contacts will see that. This could be a powerful tool for someone who provides a service. For example, a personal trainer, massage therapist, or beautician; say you have a cancellation. You can update your status so that you might fill that time slot on short notice.
  7. Starred messages – you can “star” any message that you want. Then you can filter to look at the starred messages. This could be used as a to-do list of sorts.
  8. New broadcast – you can send a broadcast to anyone in your contact list that has your number also in their contact list. This is another awesome sales tool for contacting a large group.
  9. Convenient – you can log into WhatsApp from up to 4 different devices. So you can work from your desktop, phone, or tablet.
  10. WhatsApp API – as your business grows, they have resources that some larger businesses need.

WhatsApp Business is like a mini CRM. You can organize your clients and messages in a variety of different ways. Labels can help push customers through a sales funnel. I think it’s an incredibly useful messaging app.

Tell me, are you already using WhatsApp Business? You can download WhatsApp here. But before you go,  have you looked at my templates?

 

Is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Freelance Site: Upwork

When you decide you want to get started freelancing, you suddenly find there are sources online just for freelancers! It can become overwhelming with all of the options.

So I’m going to answer the question:  is it OK to use a freelancer website?

Yes.

But please keep reading because, TLDR: you can get started on a freelancer site, but don’t hang out there forever!

In this article, I’m specifically going to talk about Upwork. I’ll even give you my experience with it!

About Upwork

Back in 2018, I wrote a review of Upwork for Full Time Job From Home. Even then, I already had experience getting jobs through the platform.

Upwork is a place where people (AKA businesses or entrepreneurs) can post jobs that they need to outsource. And you (the freelancer) can bid on the jobs that you think you’re qualified for. Pretty simple.

How to be successful on Upwork

From my experience, the way you will find the most success on Upwork is to fill out your profile. Make sure it’s 100% complete. This will help you stand out against the competition.

Back when I was a bigger user ( I haven’t had to log in for quite some time, but I’ll get into that in a bit) I was able to take tests to help demonstrate my abilities. The tests could be focused on English grammar, etc.

I looked around and only found 1 test for myself at this time. I found it under the heading Find Work. It’s called an Upwork Readiness Test which I am able to take.

“The Upwork Readiness Test has 10 questions. It covers the best practices and safety tips that top freelancers use to build successful businesses on Upwork.” It continues on to say that each question has a 2-minute time limit. And they give you links to study up!

My Upwork Readiness Test Score

Oops! I scored a 3.5 out of 5… and failed! 😳😥

Definitely read up using the links they provide! I wanted to speed through the test to see what it was about. Thankfully, it says you can retake it at any time. Phew!

When do I use Upwork?

I’ve been a virtual assistant for over 5 years. I have clients and I have other lead sources for jobs. (You have to check out the Horkey Handbook mini-course!) But once in a while, I like to see what kind of jobs people are posting on Upwork.

Clients come and go. In the past, as clients have left, I have logged into Upwork and started bidding on new jobs immediately.

I think that’s the beauty of a freelancing site like Upwork. If you feel like you need more money – get online and bid on some jobs!

How Upwork works

When you sign up (for free) you receive what they call connect credits. The connect credits allow you to connect with the owner of potential jobs. You get a certain number of connect credits per month, so there’s no reason to hoard them. When they run out, you can buy more.

DON’T BUY THEM!

Just bid on jobs that you want. And when the month rolls over you can get more credits.

Why I say don’t hang out there

I say don’t hang out there because you’ll be competing against some people who will low-ball the jobs to get them. On the other hand, not all jobs want the cheapest labor! Some people need a certain skill that they don’t have and they’re willing to pay more for someone to do a better-than-good job.

Also, Upwork takes a portion of your earnings. Twenty percent, to be exact. So if you bid $40, they’ll take 20% which is $8, and you’ll receive the balance, or $32.

The nice thing is, you can play with the number to get it where you want it. I adjusted the field for the amount I’ll receive after fees, to make sure I’m getting my rate, and it adjusted the hourly rate I will propose to the client so that I can receive my rate after the fees are taken out.

Interestingly, I was able to submit a proposal even though I just failed the readiness test! 🤷‍♀️

My experience with Upwork

I have gotten at least 2 good jobs through Upwork plus other small jobs. One of them I’m still working with! After our contract ended, she contacted me to work on a different project for her and I’m still working with her!

Another client I’m still in contact with and we’re actually connected on Facebook! Needless to say, I’ve had a pretty good experience with it. But as I said, I put the time in, completed my profile, and took the tests they offered.

What to do next

If you haven’t started your virtual assistant business yet, there are a couple of ways to get started.

  1. If you’ve got $19 burning a hole in your pocket, you can take a mini-course from Horkey Handbook and find out if being a VA is something you really want to do.
  2. If you want to dive right in (this is you if you already KNOW you want to be a VA) you can enroll in Horkey Handbook’s FullyBookedVA system. It’s basically full access to all of their courses for as long as you want to stay enrolled.
  3. Or, you can take my FREE eCourse! You’ll receive 5 emails that will walk you through starting your VA business and you can literally start your business this week!

So is it OK to use a freelancer website? Have you tried Upwork? Are you ready to start your VA business? What questions do you have? I’m here to help!

Should I start freelancing during the pandemic?

Should I Start Freelancing During the Pandemic

So you’re thinking about freelancing? In the midst of a pandemic, I’m not surprised! There are many reasons that people turn to freelancing. But should you start freelancing during the pandemic? The short answer (TLDR): yes!

Now I’ll explain.

But first, what is freelancing?

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a non-traditional means of making money. It is non-traditional in the sense that it is not the typical means of employment. Freelancers are independent contractors. They are responsible for their own income reporting and taxes.

Why do people want to freelance?

So why would someone want to freelance? When you’re a freelancer, you’re your own boss. Who wouldn’t like that? Some people don’t work well without a boss telling them what to do. But if you’re a self-starter and don’t need someone micro-managing you, telling you when and how to do your job, then freelancing could be for you!

Freelancers set their own hours. They work from their own home office (or kitchen table). They can take time off as needed and don’t usually have to let anyone know about it.

Freelancers, like myself, are home and available to get the kids online for eLearning. I make sure my 4-year-old is paying attention to his teacher. When he’s done, I hop back online to work for my clients.

If you’re not convinced yet, here are some other pretty interesting statistics that might perk up your ears. According to this article on Websitebuilder.org, 25% of freelancers can find work within 1 day if needed. And in 2019, freelancing contributed $1 trillion to the US economy. WOW!

Should I start freelancing during the pandemic?

Should you start freelancing now, during the pandemic? Sure! It’s a sad fact that you may have to try. But let me tell you why that’s OK.

According to Market Watch, more than 22 million people lost their jobs in the first half of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic that emerged in the US in March of 2020. I’m sorry if you or someone close to you is one of those statistics.

But it’s time to look forward! So…

How to Start a Freelance Gig

 

How do you break into freelancing?

I think one of the hardest things about losing your job or getting into freelancing is explaining why you’ve come to the decision to start freelancing.

If you’re used to working in an office, you don’t realize how mainstream freelancing is in some circles. But I can see how someone might not want to tell their friends and former co-workers that they are now freelancing. It just sounds strange. Or does it?

Change your mindset. Now.

Say this out loud and take ownership of it: I decided to start (fill in the blank with your job or skill) as an independent contractor instead of an employee because (fill in the blank with your key reason for working for yourself).

Here’s what I would say: I decided to start doing marketing consulting as an independent contractor so I can be home and available for my kids when they’re little.

Now, you may have lost your job because of the pandemic and if you’re comfortable saying that, then by all means say that! But if you’re feeling down about it, like you didn’t have a choice, put a spin on it.

Find the reasons that freelancing is an advantage for you and say that you made this decision just in time. Or it was serendipity that you can now be a freelancer instead of an employee.

Say, “I had been thinking about going out on my own for some time. Now it’s a blessing to be home with my kids while they’re eLearning.”

I’m going out on my own

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard someone say, I’m going out on my own. 

Anyone who says that is a freelancer! They may not consider themself a freelancer, but it’s essentially the same thing! They are an independent contractor.

True, that person going out on their own may eventually incorporate their business. But the beginning of the process is very similar.

If you’re not comfortable with the term freelancer, you can say it this way.

Examples of jobs you can do freelance

Let’s look at what you can do. Freelancers take a skill that they have and offer it “on the side”. If you find yourself without a job, you can take something that you did for your employer and offer it on a contractual basis to someone else similar to your former employer.

The examples are going to be endless, but I’ll start a list.

  • Bookkeeper
  • Content creator
  • Secretary
  • Scheduler
  • Calendar management
  • Appointment setter
  • Customer service
  • Designer
  • Developer
  • Programmer

I think you get the idea. Horkey Handbook has published a very long list to give you some ideas of things you can do as a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is basically a freelancer.

How do you start getting jobs?

When you get in the groove and get comfortable with your new role as a freelancer, you’ll see opportunities. You’ll be prepared to talk about it – what you could do to solve someone’s problem. Or better yet, what you can do to increase their revenue.

But what about now? There are several job boards for freelancers. One that I’ve used with success is called Upwork. I don’t use it regularly now, but I probably have looked at it in the last year just to see what people are looking for.

If I suddenly lost all of my clients, I would look there to see if anything caught my attention. According to that article on Websitebuilder.org, freelancers earn over a billion dollars yearly on Upwork.

What’s next?

Well, I guess it depends on if you’re out of a job or if you’re just thinking about your options.

If you’re out of work, I would get signed up with Upwork immediately and start making offers! The site is pretty self-explanatory. Fill out everything as completely as possible. And start pitching!

If you’re looking at options for stay at homework, or to replace your day job, check out this list of services you can provide. You can get it in exchange for your email address. It’s totally worth it!