4 Ways to Be More Productive When Telecommuting

telecommuting-by-fireTelecommuting offers you many freedoms—you can work from home, while traveling, from a coffee shop or park, and you can work flexible hours. However, the freedom of telecommuting presents some at-home challenges that you don’t face in a traditional office environment.  Here are ways to overcome the challenges you face when telecommuting.

 

Create a Workspace

If you work from home it is important to create a workspace that has everything you need to be productive. If possible set up an in-home office space or a desk that is all yours. If you are working in a shared space, ensure that you have an area to keep the tools you need to be productive.  This could be file cabinets, office supplies, printer/scanner, or private telephone line.

Set a Schedule

You may be telecommuting because it offers you the ability to have flexible work hours, but it is still important that you set a clearly defined work schedule. When you telecommute it is easy to get in the habit of saying “I’ll do it later,” but later turns intotomorrow.

Your schedule does not need to be the same each day or each week, but it does need to be clearly defined. Make sure that you are up by a set time each day (even if you’re not showered and dressed) and limit your breaks to no more than one hour when possible. Stick to your daily schedule to maximize your productivity.

Limit Distractions

This one can be especially challenging when working from home for a variety of reasons.  A movie is on that you want to watch, it’s nice outside, or your family is home. Limit distractions by closing personal email, disabling personal phone alerts, resisting the temptation to check social media, turn off the television in the background, and stick to your daily schedule.

Another challenge of telecommuting is helping your friends and family understand your work schedule.  Oftentimes our loved ones make the mistake of thinking we are “at home” and not “working at home.” This can lead to distractions from lengthy phone calls or unexpected visits during work hours. While you may be able to enjoy some of these distractions on occasion, you still have work to get done. As difficult as it may be, set clear boundaries with your loved ones so that they understand that while you may be at home, you are also at work.

Hold Yourself Accountable

When you work in an offsite office you are less likely to take personal calls, surf the web, or do other time-wasting activities. This is in part because you don’t want to waste the company’s time and money and in part because you don’t want to get caught. When you are at home the only person who truly knows how you are investing your time is you. This means you have to be the one to hold yourself accountable. If it helps set a goal for the amount of tasks you would like to complete each day and don’t end your work day until all tasks have been completed.

Telecommuting is often most challenging the first few months while get into the groove of your daily routine. Once you learn to create a schedule, system for productivity, and learn how to hold yourself accountable you will be able to truly enjoy all the freedoms that telecommuting can offer.

About the Author: Jan Meyers is a published author and freelance resume tips researcher – she suggests searching through the banking jobs with moneyjobs.com listings to see if any fit the criteria for a telecommuting position. Although, most often, a company will bring on a new employee and allow them to work from home later down the line – to get a better idea of these types of jobs, click over to moneyjobs.com right now.

 

5 Powerful, Alternative Marketing Strategies for 2013

imagesIn today’s economic climate, marketing has never been so important. While you know that your marketing mix is important, you will need to focus on alternative strategies that will communicate your message more effectively if you want to compete. Direct mail marketing, billboard advertising, and radio advertisements are all still effective ways to reach your target audience, reinforce your brand, and promote your products or services, but implementing new marketing ideas in 2013 is critical. Here are 5 affordable yet powerful alternatives strategies that you can implement into your marketing campaign this year.

1. Express Your Opinions to Be Heard

You know that Internet marketing is important, but are you using your social profiles to their full potential. If you want your message to be heard, you will have a lot of noise to compete with. Many of the companies in your industry are saying the same thing, so to cut through the noise you need a different message. One way to be heard by the masses is to express your own original opinions and thoughts. While you are taking on more risk to be criticized or judged, you are also getting the attention you need to stand apart.

2. Crafting a Story Worth Sharing

You want likes, retweets, and referrals. While your marketing message may describe what value you can offer and your mission statement as a company, you need to create content that is truly worth sharing if you do not want your messages to be filtered out. Craft a press release or a true story about your business that people would want to read and encourage your target audience to share and repost.

3. Form a Proactive Strategy

Being reactive is important is a public relations crisis, but when it comes to marketing, being proactive is the best alternative. Test and measure your current campaigns, adjust your strategies accordingly, and move forward by scrapping efforts that are not working and focusing on those that are.

4. Creating Content for the Web

You know that website content is important, but do you know how important content off of your website is? Off-page content is a critical part of optimizing your website for more traffic. It can be posted to blogs or article directories and must be informative and relevant to your industry. By implementing this strategy, you can increase traffic to your site and establish yourself as an authority in the industry.

5. Re-branding

Does your branding really stand out? Can it be identified easily? Sometimes, revamping your branding to breathe life into it is essential to marketing. By reviewing your logo, your printed materials, your images, your graphic design, and everything related to branding, you can breathe life into your efforts and better connect to a targeted audience.

Marketing is not all about spending a small fortune for a television commercial or a radio spot. While these are techniques that will contribute, these alternative marketing strategies are effective way to communicate the right message on a limited budget.

Author Bio

Hayley is a freelance blogger. To learn more effective marketing strategies, visit the Domo library.

 

 

 

Business Smart: 5 Legal Situations You Need to Consider Before Start Up

LEGAL_RESEARCHAre you starting a business and wondering whether you can do everything on your own? Starting a business, even a small one, can be difficult. Not only do you need to create a business plan, you also need to consider all of the legal liabilities that are involved with starting up. From naming your business to creating an entity, there are a number of ways that you can violate current business laws, and doing this can cost you a great deal of time and money. Before you start writing down your plans and acting on them, here are five legal situations you need to plan for.

1. Trademark Infringement

You cannot just choose any business name, unless you are using your own legal name. When you are choosing a business name, you need to be smart and check to see if the name is already trademarked. You should also be sure that the domain for the name you choose is available. If you order all of your marketing material and then try to register a fictitious name that is already in use, you will need to order new materials and come up with an entirely new name. 

2. Structuring your Business Legally

Many entrepreneurs choose to structure their businesses as an LLC because they will not lose their personal assets if the business faces litigation. You must learn how to form an LLC and learn about the ramifications of choosing this legal structure before you fill out the forms and file them. Failing to understand the consequences can land you in hot water with the IRS. If you choose to form a corporation, which requires a board of directors, you must file all of the appropriate articles of incorporation with an attorney to ensure the administrative side is in order.

 

3. Deciding Whether or Not to Patent a Product

If you are manufacturing products, you may have to decide whether or not you should patent your products. You may not actually need the rights to a product that you would earn by patenting and it is a very long process that will cost money start ups cannot typically afford. If the patenting is not going to give you a marketplace advantage, assess whether or not you need to take this start now.

4. Applying for Licensing and Permits

While you always need a business license, some service providers need special permits and licenses, and these must be applied for before you can start your operations. Applying for permits and licenses can be difficult if you are not familiar with the process. Do not wait until you want to open your doors to apply for the rights to get these licenses and permits. If you are not sure where to start, you can use a program like Lexis Nexis legal software and get access to all of the documents you need to file for these licenses well before you are ready to open your doors.

5. Vendor Agreements

If you will be dealing with vendors, you are going to need to create contracts and non-disclosure agreements that protect your rights and your business interests.

If you want access to all of the documents you need to structure your business, use technology to your advantage. With advanced software programs, you can do your very own legal research and avoid some of the common pitfalls small business owners make.

Tips for the Woman in Charge

womanworking_1It is undeniable that women have come a long way in the workplace.  Walk into any boardroom today and an increased number of women are sitting at the table.  Many are taking the lead at Fortune 500 companies while even greater numbers have become entrepreneurs, striking out on their own and successfully starting their own businesses.

Still, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Women face many obstacles in the workplace such as colleagues disrespecting and/or refusing to take a female executive seriously simply because she’s a woman.  Being aware of these potential obstacles allows us to better prepare for responding to them in the future.  The following is a list of tips for consideration when running a business from the female perspective:

  1. Be Ready to Face Discrimination.  Women business owners should be prepared to face discrimination and harassment from employees, from colleagues, business partners, clients and customers alike merely because they are women.  On the flip side, women employers should be sensitive to others and aim to create a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment and make sure that they implement and enforce zero tolerance policies for discrimination.  It is important to provide all employees and supervisors with training on how to identify and avoid issues of discrimination and harassment.  It is equally important to respond immediately to any discrimination or harassment complaints with a thorough investigation and corrective measures if needed.

 

  1. Realize Employees Have Lives Outside of Work.  Understanding that employees have obligations and responsibilities that extend beyond the workplace to spouses, parents, children and communities can go a long way.  Whatever personal path a women business owner has chosen, it is important that they are aware of family responsibility discrimination and how to avoid claims of unfair treatment based on caregiving responsibilities.  They also need to understand the state and federal laws that entitle employees to take leave and time off for family and medical leave, military leave, etc.

 

  1. Be Honest and Do Not Sugar Coat Things or Avoid Issues.  Many women feel the need to avoid conflict and “play nice in the sandbox”. Although this approach can lead to better collaboration, at times, it can be limiting in providing employees with necessary feedback for improvement. The women in charge should never be afraid to be candid in employee evaluations and performance reviews.  Women business owners should be honest with employees, including supervisors and managers who will set a tone for the organization and be held to higher standards of conduct in a leadership role.  If an issue arises, it should be dealt with head on.  To be a successful business owner, you need to take the reins and get the job done, even if it means that others disagree with you.

 

  1. Embrace Technology.  Women business owners should take their often superior communication and social skills and put them to use in the workplace, using technology to their advantage and to the advantage of their employees.  Employees can be connected and are able to give more to work when they are able to connect to the workplace in new and different ways.  With the rise of the internet and social media over the last decade, employees are more connected than ever.  Consider flexible scheduling and telecommuting options which will enable employees to work from home and on the road.  This can help create a positive work atmosphere and increase employee morale.  Also consider implementing a Bring Your Own Device Policy which will allow employees to use their own personal computers and smartphones to connect to the workplace while resulting in a cost savings for the employer.

 

  1. Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Help.  Women business owners should not be afraid to reach out and consult with professionals especially when it comes to complicated issues such issues as immigration, health care, benefits, and payroll.  Such issues may require a little more experience and background that go beyond the scope of your talents and asking for help may end up saving you time and money.

 

 

 

5 tips for mastering LinkedIn

We’ve heard over and over again that networking is an incredibly important part of building a business. Make connections. Find resources. Build your network. Seems simple, right? Well, networking can be difficult and keeping up with the connections you have previously made is time consuming and often unrealistic. Luckily, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to help with this. Here are 5 tips to optimize your LinkedIn presence and help grow your business.

  1. Complete your profile, completely. If you only put a few things up on your profile, you won’t be as credible. Putting all of your education and work allows others to see your past history and work experience. Also, make sure and add a picture that is appropriate to the field in which you work.
  2. Find contacts. You can upload your contact list directly to LinkedIn and it will tell you how many of them are on the site. You can start by adding all of those people. LinkedIn will then tell you whom else you might want to connect with and you can sift through that list to add more contacts.
  3. Find LinkedIn Groups. Groups help you connect with like-minded people. You can join alumni groups, local business groups, or groups in a related field.
  4. Use recommendations to your advantage. Within your network, ask for recommendations on your work, and make sure to return the favor by giving recommendations to others.
  5. Use the LinkedIn Answers section. By answering questions you can show your expertise in an area. By asking questions you can get good advice from professionals and experts.

 

How to Create a Productive Working Environment

2101652-workgroup-interacting-in-a-natural-work-environmentWhether you are an entrepreneur looking to upgrade your home workspace into an office environment, you want to shuffle your existing office layout around, or you simply want to move into a bigger office, it is important to remember your employees during this process. Productivity is key to your profit margins and creating a happy workforce is essential! You might be surprised how much of an impact the layout of your office can have.

Measure Up

Before you start flipping through catalogues or searching for furniture online you need to know how much space is available within your selected premises. Make a scale drawing of the office, or hire an interior designer or architect to do so – this will allow you to make cut-outs of different types of furniture and place them in a variety of positions. Try out different floor plans before you purchase a range of new items in order to save both time and money. This also means that you will have to measure the space so you won’t run into problems later on.

In order to keep employees content you must ensure that they have enough space to walk around, room to manoeuvre office chairs at their desks, plus the opportunity to hold conversations to allow breaks in the working day.

Selecting Furniture

If the office is open plan, you will have a choice between desks facing each other and cubicles. Although cubicles ensure that distractions are minimal, they are also not conducive to encouraging conversations about work and can restrict movement within the office. Desks are a lot more popular for many open-plan offices and it was even reported by HR thought-leader Dr John Sullivan in 2012 that Google were responsible for the “death of the cubicle” with their scientific approach to the workspace. New ideas can be shared and innovation is encouraged using the desk model, while cubicles act as a physical barrier to eye contact and communication.

Additional items such as printers, scanners and fax machines should be placed within peripheral areas and since these can be loud you should try to avoid having them too close to workers where possible. Think about health and safety carefully – is your furniture stable enough to support them?

Colour Schemes

Colour schemes are also important within the working environment, for example going for a very bold colour like red or orange has been proven to encourage productivity but may cause employees to feel more stressed, increasing heart rate and even blood pressure while green and blue are said to give off calm and relaxing vibes. Why not go for a combination? You should also think about the lighting, for example are your windows large allowing plenty of natural light to come through?

Make sure you consider your office space with care and you will reap the benefits in the long run!

 

Why customer feedback is important for your business

Building relationships with customers and keeping them happy is key to the success of any business. Otherwise unhappy customers are unlikely to result in repeat sales and could sour the reputation of a business by giving negative reviews to others. While getting feedback in a traditional brick and mortar business is relatively straightforward, this isn’t always the case with an ecommerce business. Nonetheless, it’s important to get customer feedback. Here are some reasons why and some ideas for getting quality feedback.

First of all, feedback is helpful for determining what the overall needs and wants of your demographic are. While the specific needs of individuals may differ, the customers of each industry will typically have a common list of needs and wants. By gaining a basic understanding of what your customers expect, you can gear your business to meet those expectations. Otherwise, losing touch with your demographic is kind of like blindly throwing darts and hoping that you hit the target.

Another major reason for getting customer feedback is so that you will know what your business is doing right and what needs to change. If you get consistently positive feedback on a particular area like product selection, you can simply keep doing what you’re doing. If you keep getting complaints on another area like customer service, this will let you know that you need to make some key changes.

Even though negative feedback may seem painful or unwanted at the time, it can actually help you out more than positive feedback in many cases. This is because it will force you to address any areas that are lacking and improve your relationships with customers. Besides this, you can convert a considerable amount of customers into repeat customers by getting feedback. As long as you can provide customers with what they’re looking for, it’s reasonable to expect that they will come back for more and share your business with others.

While it’s not always easy to get extensive feedback when running an ecommerce business, there are ways to get at least some feedback. For example, using systems to manage customer feedback will automatically send your customers a customer satisfaction survey after they make a purchase. This will allow them to provide a rating that is good, poor or bad and write a brief sentence or two about their experience with your business. Once you get a reasonable amount of data, you should be able to spot trends and take the necessary actions to address any common complaints.

Author: Jennie is a customer service consultant and author. Away from the office she enjoys spending time with her family and scrapbooking.

Dell Education Challenge

This past week a friend of mine shared with me Dell’s newest competition. It’s open to any graduates or undergraduates in any field of study. Your business plan can be non-profit or for profit and they are offering $30,000 in prizes and awards. Guys, this is a huge opportunity! If you have an idea and you want to run with it, don’t be shy about it. Enter into the competition and get the ball rolling. All it takes is an idea to get things started, and what a better time to start than now.

 

 

 

 

So here’s my challenge to you: Get going on your idea. Whether it’s talking to an investor, a partner, setting up a website, or creating a product, don’t delay. Take opportunities to put yourself out there and take risks. You’ll never regret it.

Tips for Successful Business Women Using Social Media to Reach Their Target Audience

In the new age of social media, is there a real business advantage, or is it simply meant for posting photos of your decadent dessert or having the highest score on Words with Friends? A recent survey indicates that there are over 144 million Americans that regularly use at least one social networking site. Interestingly enough, most of these social media outlets are dominated by women.

Retailers and women’s sites are booming with the recent popularity of their social networking pages and the draw to Pinterest is skyrocketing. Some retailers have even seen a 6000% traffic increase! In fact Pinterest drives more women to some websites than Facebook and Twitter combined. This is fascinating news if you are a business owner, salesperson, or marketing professional who needs to get attention to your company.

“Pinterest is the newest and fastest growing social media website today, and how to use Pinterest for business should be on your mind,” says social media and marketing specialist Bill Crosby. Reaching 10 million unique visitors each month, savvy and successful business women are taking advantage of this priceless marketing opportunity. He also indicates that 80% percent of its users are women, so it presents itself as a powerful marketing tool to help women in business attract literally millions of female customers that may have interest in the product or service. These marketing professionals and social media gurus are seeing their sales boom, their email marketing list grow, and their businesses thrive with the new opportunity social media networking sites present.

So just what are these wildly successful women doing that gets them noticed on the social media network? Read on to find out.

Savvy Social Media Secrets of Successful Business Women

Provide High Quality and Useful Information

Interest in your business will grow with each post you make with information your audience actually wants and needs. Your content should be unique and targeted for your audience. Providing useful information in an area in which you excel is the best way to become an influential user that people turn to.

Use Social Media as a Main Marketing Tool

You can find valuable information about what your customers and target audience like and want, and how they feel about promotions, contests and other strategies you use. You can get feedback on products and services and build an email marketing list from followers so you can contact them directly with offers.

Spotlight Your Goods

Give followers the chance get a more in depth look at your product or service. Physical retailers know that as customers interact with products they get attached to them and are more likely to buy them, make social media serve the same purpose. Show the manufacturing process, educate them about the history of your company, spotlight an employee, or show them the materials used to make your goods.

Directly Ask Your Customers What They Want

What better way is there to know what your customers want then asking them? Don’t be afraid to get product ideas and suggestions directly from your followers. You can even have them participate in the decision making process and making them feel they are being heard.

Many successful business women are utilizing the social media network to grow their businesses and are having extraordinary results. No matter what strategy you use, or what social network site you choose, be just be sure that you do take advantage of this remarkable marketing opportunity.

How to keep good hygiene in the office

As working women, a majority of our time that we are awake is spent in an office. Whether we like it or not, our workspace can affect our mood, productivity and hygiene. If we let things go unclean for too long, there’s no telling what kind of germs will latch themselves onto us. So, we’ve come up with a little list of easy tips to keep yourself and your office in good hygiene.

  1. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer out for everyone to use. Just because we pass around papers and documents doesn’t mean we need to pass around the germs with them.
  2. Keep clutter to a minimum. A clean desk equals a clear mind. If your papers and office are organized, you will feel more at peace and less stressed at the end of the day.
  3. Clean out the kitchen at least once a week. The office refrigerator and pantry can quickly become a hazard if you aren’t careful. Tell employees that you will throw out any food left on counters or in the fridge every Friday. Even things kept in Tupperware, it needs to go. You don’t want mold and bacteria growing anywhere.
  4. Make personal hygiene a standard. You don’t want frazzled or scraggy looking employees. Make sure everyone in the office is on the same page with personal hygiene.
  5. Keep yourself looking healthy. After long nights in the office, you might see wrinkles carving their way around your eyes and forehead. You can avoid that with wrinkle serums. Here’s a site we found that has some good products to try.

Following these steps will lead to less sick days and a happier office. We know it’s worth the extra squirts of hand sanitizer and paper filing.