Working From Home: Me, Myself & I

Entrepreneur, JS

I work from home full-time, which is a pretty recent thing (3 weeks!). I am LOVING life and my job, and this is the first time in my adult life that I am excited to go to work every day and that I make my own schedule.

The positives far outweigh the negatives in my new lifestyle. I can travel more (and have!), as I can work from anywhere with wifi (like a New Orleans cafe, or my sister’s house). I can make my own hours (all of them), I can stay in my PJs and not shower that day (it happens). I can take on new clients, or not. I can choose the type of work that I’m doing. I am my own boss.

But there are certainly a few small drawbacks. It’s easy to oversleep. It’s easier to slack off when no one is watching. It’s easy to keep working well past business hours. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to eat poorly.

I thought I was going to finally have time to go to the gym again. When I was working full time and also building this business, I was working every evening until bedtime and all weekend long. It was a constant grind, and I loved it, but I was busy every waking moment. Previously, I’d gone to the gym 3-4 days per week!

Now, I am finding it all too easy to snack all day, much more than ever before, and then get caught up and busy and suddenly, Husband is home from work, I wrap up my day, and then I want to hang out with him, not leave and go to the gym. When I have time between calls during the day, I’m not going to the gym, I’m writing, organizing, working, marketing, etc.

So, I’ve gained about 10 pounds, which I’m feeling bad and insecure about. But again, I love what I’m doing and that is my own fault.

I do spend more time with my cat, less time with people, and have found it all too easy to stay home for several days at a time. It’s actually an issue, because I don’t have a ton of friends in NY, and I am getting isolated.

To address this, my plan is to try to get out of the house and:

  • Take walks
  • Go with my neighbor and her kids to the park once a week
  • Find somewhere to volunteer
  • Try to get back to the gym
  • Pop into the city now and then

Last Friday, I took the afternoon off and went into the city to meet up with my old boss and some friends for lunch and then drinks, and it was great! I felt like my old self, but better.

Being an entrepreneur is great. I am truly happier than ever, but it can be stressful, isolating, and a bit lonely, and I need to make sure my physical and mental health are properly addressed, not just my business. I used to love going to the gym because it was my “me time,” and now I am having “me time” all the time! Maybe that has been a stumbling block as well.

My biggest challenges in working from home and for myself have been time management and prioritizing tasks and projects. I will be looking more deeply into both of these sibjects soon. I did recently write about time management for Thrive Global, which can be found here.

I am constantly trying to improve. I want to learn, grow, build, make money, write more, and do better every day. So when I am able to identify what I’m doing wrong, I can work on myself and do better!

I guess the advice I am trying to give myself is this: it’s a lot of change, you’re still figuring it out, 10 pounds isn’t that big of a deal, you’re working on it. Relax! You’re doing great!

 

Bonus! Here is the picture of my March employee of the month winner!

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Time Management & Working From Home

Time Management & Working From Home

Entrepreneur, JS

As a working from home entrepreneur, time management is extremely important to me and my success, just like it was when I was an 8:30 to 5:30 corporate salesperson. I think the unifying thing across all jobs and all industries is being able to effectively manage you time and all of your priorities and tasks.

 

When you work from home or are an entrepreneur in general, time management and work-life balance is extremely important, and may be the single most impactful thing in business.

 

It’s hard to turn off being an entrepreneur, and I have long tended to be available days, nights, weekends, anytime. I answered emails, I jumped on calls, I said yes to every “hey, can you edit this super quick?” questions that came my way. I had to learn to turn it off, disconnect, and spend time with my family and a good book.

 

I don’t need to be constantly available. I am providing a service and high value to my clients, I am finally figuring out that I don’t need to sacrifice all of my time to my work and my clients. Yes, my clients’ needs are incredibly important to me. But so is my health and happiness and my family and home life. Finding that balance has been a difficult but necessary road in my life and business.

 

Since I am not available at 10pm on Saturdays anymore, I needed to be as productive as possible during my business hours and manage my time wisely, in order to get everything done! Managing time effectively does not mean just staying busy for the day, it means being productive and getting done the things that need to be done, not just clicking around and checking email!

 

Here are some tips for time management that can help you really have a productive day that allows you to get offline and enjoy life after work!

 

  1. Daily/Weekly To-Do Lists

This is something that has helped me immensely! I tried to get into bullet journaling, but I am not a pinterest-worthy bullet journaler and it didn’t stick. The thing that has stuck is the daily listing of to dos. Every day, I write a list of all the things I want to accomplish either today specifically or this week in general.

 

I don’t know about you, but checking things off of a list is super satisfying for me! I move to dos up from the day before if needed, and I star the things that MUST be done today. Deadlines are written next to the task if there are specific due dates.

 

By rewriting the list daily, I am cementing my tasks in my head and able to really prioritize what needs to be done first.

 

  1. Schedule in Some Down Time

At the office, people get lunch breaks, smoke breaks, walk around breaks, etc. You can’t expect yourself to focus for 8 hours nonstop every day, it just doesn’t happen and isn’t realistic. Instead of giving yourself unrealistic expectations and then being disappointed when you don’t meet them, make sure to give yourself some down time.

 

I start every day with coffee and checking Facebook. I check my email and my social media marketing as well, but I START with coffee, petting my cat, and Facebook before jumping into work.

 

Next, I write my daily todo list, and check my email. At lunch time, I generally log off the computer and eat while I read a book or have a one-sided conversation with my cat. In the afternoon, I might go take a walk, or go to the gym, or just get up and stretch.

 

Have priorities and tasks for each day, but allow yourself to walk around and read the news, and text your friend, too.

 

  1. When Working, Block Out Distractions

Like the down time, schedule work time. Use a calendar or an alert or whatever gets you ready to work, to let you know it’s time to do this task or that activity or call that person. When it’s time to get down to business, do the task. Close out your social media tabs, and focus on the specific activity you need to complete.

 

In my case, I have several clients that I do weekly blogging for. That means on Mondays and Tuesdays, I have to block out time to work on specific client blogs. I will do something like “10 am: Research and write blog for X client on topic Y.” When that time comes around, I turn off Facebook, put my phone face down, and write the blog for my client, edit it, and turn it in. If it take 45 minutes, great. If it takes an hour and a half, great. As long as it gets done. And work gets done faster when uninterrupted and when I’m not allowing my mind to wander to instagram or texting my mom.

 

I also find that when work gets done faster, I feel better about it than when it takes hours or days because I just can’t focus on it. My clients are happy, I’m happy, it’s awesome.

 

  1. Stay Organized

This fits right into my to do lists. Staying organized saves me time and energy, and most importantly, keeps my client information and needs at the forefront. As a solo practitioner, if I lose track of a client or forget to do something for them, I risk losing some of my income! Keeping contracts, invoices, tasks, priorities, client needs, and my work organized is one of the biggest parts of my success.

 

  1. Learn to Say No

This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and is something I still struggle with and work on. I want to be indispensable to my clients, and also prove my value over and over, so I tend to say yes to anything they ask of me.

 

This can lead me to being overwhelmed with work if I didn’t really have the time for whatever I said yes to. I could miss deadlines or be overworked, or be working until late at night, like I did when I was working two jobs.

 

I love writing and editing and being an entrepreneur, but I can’t be everything to everyone. I am still working on saying no when I don’t have time for something or if it is not part of the scope of my work or what I’m paid to do.

 

Side Tip: Don’t Ever Work For Free

Especially say no to doing work for free! Even a trial article for a new client is paid work, though often at a discounted rate. Do not give away your work for free. You are a professional, and your time and skills are valuable. Obviously an exception to this rule is when you are purposely doing something as a volunteer!
In the end, I have to protect my time and keep my work from completely overrunning my home life. In order to be a good wife, daughter, friend, and individual, these time management skills have been important in my personal and professional development and evolution.

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Becoming An Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur, JS

Being an entrepreneur is a major goal for a lot of people, and the Millennial generation is more entrepreneurial than previous generations – by a lot.

 

According to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, the millennial generation are starting business earlier than the Baby Boomers did, but they also are starting a lot more of them, and are more socially conscious.

 

I never dreamed of being an entrepreneur and building a business. I actually was perfectly happy working for my last boss, as he was my boss for several years and became a close friend. He always encouraged my work and supported my training and growth, and I was incredibly lucky that he also encouraged me in my path to being an entrepreneur.

 

Even now, if someone wanted to hire me full time to be a writer and editor, sure! Why not? YOU take care of the taxes and retirement account, the benefits, the liability!

 

But being an entrepreneur has been thrust upon me, so that I can live my dream, and I am in love with it. Sure, taxes are more annoying now and I’ll certainly never get a refund again! Sure, it’s a bit more paperwork, and the responsibility is all mine.

 

On the other hand, I am very Type-A, very organized, and I am loving every second. I am in the exact right moment in my life, the stars are exactly aligned to allow me to do this, and start a business from my couch.

 

I have met some amazing people, found awesome clients that have opened my eyes to new ideas, new ways to live and learn, and have even gotten the chance to do my dream job: book editing and ghostwriting.

 

My entrepreneurship journey happened incredibly quickly. It was almost 3 months today day from getting my first big project to quitting my full time day job. I am still navigating and figuring everything out, and I’m sure I’ll make missteps.
But I’m a businessowner, and that is all a part of the process.

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Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

JS, Sales & Marketing

Social media is extremely important these days. If you don’t have social media accounts and a website, how will people find you, ask questions, learn about you, and buy your product?


With more and more business and commerce happening online, you MUST have an online presence to compete.

 

More than that, social media is a fun, free marketing tool. It’s a great way to engage directly with your audience, talk back and forth to individuals, look for new products, services, and clients, and share fun pictures and content that show you off in a great way.

 

Since you control the posts, you’re able to have fun with what you’re sharing. Share work content, fun behind the scenes pictures, pictures of your office, and more. Share personal anecdotes and moments, and really connect with your audience.

 

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more are ways that really allow you to show off your brand and grow in an organic way, creating a loyal fanbase and a way to share things on multiple platforms, to different audience and target audience members, and allows you to interact in a very real way with people.

 

As our economy has recovered and as technology has progressed, it is clear that online shopping has become the norm. From clothes, to groceries, to office supplies and books, the trend is only moving further towards an all-online life.

 

You must use social media to stay relevant, so why not enjoy it? I love using Instagram and connecting with people, posting pictures of my work and my cat, pictures I find online that make me laugh, and pictures of my real life. Who I am on social media is no different than who I am in real life. I represent myself as accurately as possible.

 

I also post links to my articles and posts, and market my writing and editing business. As odd as it may sound to some, Instagram specifically has been amazing, and I have gotten many clients from meeting and talking to people on there. Others from referrals, and classic sales emails and calls.

 

When using social media for marketing, try to follow the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your posts are either informative or fun, and only 20% are your products or services and “sales-y.” If you come off as only a salesperson, people aren’t going to want to engage with you.

 

While social media isn’t the only tool in my sales and marketing kit, it is a major one, and one that I enjoy utilizing. It’s also something I do for my clients, helping with expanding social media, and social media management. Posting and sharing and hashtagging and engaging with people.
If you’re interested in checking out my social media, here is my Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin!

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Content Marketing & Strategy

Entrepreneur, JS

The best way to increase sales and boost your business is to make your company the go-to experts in your area. By having a solid marketing strategy that includes content marketing, you are increasing your value to customers, establishing yourself as a leader in the industry, and creating a more loyal customer base. Content marketing focuses on ways to engage you audience, and uses content to drive profitable behaviors in customers.

 
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing can be defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

 
The key words here are valuable, relevant, and consistent. Unique content will drive up your rankings and put you in the position of offering them a direct benefit of even just visiting your website. Once you have potential clients on your site, you can get to converting them! Getting people to your site is over half the battle.

 
Strong content is not just blog posts, but also the copy on your website, your ads, and your social media. As opposed to spam, when you are providing free relevant and valuable information, customers are more likely to trust you, and continue to remain loyal to you. Great quality content is a key part of any marketing strategy, including social media, SEO rankings, inbound marketing, email campaigns, and more.

 

 

There are four steps to an effective content marketing strategy, though every company is different and you will want to adapt to what works best for your business and your goals. The first step is figuring out what you want to accomplish and the risks associated, secondly you create a business plan for your goals and the value you want to provide, which includes what message you want to send and keeping your branding consistent. Next you need to figure out your target audience and their wants and needs, and what content and engagement specific to them would look like. Fourth, you develop a channel plan; what channels are you using for this content marketing? These are the platforms you’ll use to put out your content and tell your story, and should also include your criteria and objectives of each platform.

 
Your content marketing strategy will grow and change as your business does. A fantastic way to move your business forward, attract new customers, and increase sales is to offer valuable, relevant and consistent new content in a smart, engaging way that matches your goals and your branding.

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Pricing: Don’t Undervalue Yourself!

Entrepreneur, JS

I have always, always, wanted to be a writer.

 

When I was a kid, I filled journals with the ramblings of being a tortured little sister, and then the angsty poetry of my teenage Myspace years. It progressed to song lyrics, poems, book and story ideas, and the occasional update about my life. I have a whole shelf of notebooks, composition books, and journals from over the years.

 

I am now a writer, and in another post, I will go into excruciating detail about how that came to be, the steps I took, and how it all worked to become a success for me.

 

I am a freelance writer. In my process to becoming an entrepreneur, I did a lot of research and asked other entrepreneurs for advice, for help with things like invoicing, portfolios, small business tools, contracts, and the big one: pricing.

 

I have met a lot of young entrepreneurs over the years and they all have one thing in common: big dreams and a bad estimation of their value. Watching Shark Tank is also a great example of people with crazy valuations! They either completely overvalue or undervalue their companies and themselves.

 

The truth is that your time and your skills are valuable. If it were easy to be a writer, everyone would do it. Just because YOU find it relatively easy to write blogs or create a website or make a logo, certainly doesn’t mean it is.

 

When starting freelancing, most people tend to undervalue themselves. They might say it is because they are so new, or are trying to prove themselves, or they don’t have a portfolio. No matter what they say, it is normal to try to undercharge when starting out.

 

I did it, too! For my first couple of clients, I researched average pricing for the specific types of writing projects I was working on, and I put my pricing just below the average.

 

But those prices didn’t account for the actual time it took me to research and put together the writing, the posting, edits, and client communication. In the end, for my first project, I ended up only getting about $7 per hour, even though the overall price for the article was around “average.”

 

As time went on, I made sure to increase my prices to the point where I am able to make a good wage for the work that I’m doing. Even for my longer-term or repeat clients. This is something I see a lot of questions about in online freelance forums. You can increase your prices, you just have to be honest. Try something like “I have enjoyed working with you, and as of XX date, my prices will be increasing to XY price. Because of our prior relationship, I am going to extend your current discounted price for one more project/month/etc.”

 

I had a phone conversation with one of my bigger clients, and we agreed to almost double my price, plus a nominal fee for research time! You really just have to ask. Your clients already like you and see value in your work, and they will understand that you need to be fairly compensated. This is very similar to how you might handle a salary negotiation in a corporate position.

 

Another thing I see a lot of is questions about sites like Upwork.com and Constant Content, which are sites that take a heavy fee to allow you to bid on work from paying clients, but highly encourage very low prices. Be careful when using these sites, especially about severely undervaluing yourself. Do research on these types of sites before jumping on, and manage your expectations reasonably. Some people do extensive filtering and careful proposals and do well on these sites. I tried it briefly and was very frustrated by the low prices and the amount of proposals on things like “write me 5 blog posts for $6.” For me, these types of sites were not worth my time.

 

Side note: no matter how much you want new clients, don’t give your work away for free. Legitimate companies that want you to do trial work will pay you for it.
Your work, your time, and your expertise are all valuable. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to undervalue yourself to potential clients. Research average prices for your specific work and your location, and take a cue from that. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to raise your prices as you get more experience. You are here to make money. Just because you love it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be profitable!

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First

JS

Hello! I am proud and excited to have started my own business, to be chasing my dream of being a writer for a living. I am excited, terrified, and freefalling into this newest adventure.

 

Who am I?

Well, I am the youngest of 5 kids, including step-siblings, and the only girl. Yes, I have 4 older brothers. I had a very fun childhood, which involved a lot of playing outside, climbing trees, reading in the sunshine, rollerblading, baseball in the cul-de-sac, and being beat up on by big brothers. I was protected, teased, a little sheltered, and happy. Thank goodness I eventually got a big sister when the oldest brother got married. She is the best, and they made me an aunt, one of the best titles I’ve ever had.

I left home for college and never went back to live in that smaller suburban Florida town. My parents, a couple brothers, and my best friend in the world are still there, and I do visit now and then. I did my Bachelor’s degree, and at 20 years old, I graduated and then fell into a sales job at a publishing company.

After the worst of the recession passed, I moved to the big city in 2010. New York City was not an easy place to live, not at first. It was lonely and I was broke as a joke, and not sure that I would make it here. But later that same year, I met the man who later became my husband, and luckily his whole friend group adopted me.

I am now thoroughly a Brooklynite. I love Brooklyn and we are living in our co-op happily with our fat, fluffy kitty named after the singer of our shared favorite band (it’s the Offspring, duh)! We both work in the city. Me, still in sales, him in a tech startup. We could so easily be the hipsters you’re imagining, but we aren’t. We’re nerds who read the book and then see the movie and debate it, board and card game players who argue the merits of Dominion vs. Ascension or play a rousing game of Settlers of Catan on a Saturday night. We live in a very Russian and orthodox Jewish area, and are neither of those things. We’re redditors and imgurians, and we take a lot of pictures of our cat. We go ice skating every December, and every year he forgets that even though I’m from Florida, I know how to skate really fast.

 

I have always been a writer. I have journals from as young as 4, and I have written poems and song lyrics for so long that I literally can’t remember not writing them. Sometimes I accidentally think in A-B-C-B format. I find Shakespeare tedious, but read sci-fi like it’s going out of style. I have 2 partially finished novels. One is a really interesting dystopian future novel with a twist, and the other is a self-help book about getting, keeping, and projecting confidence in part of your life. I read a whole book every other day or so, and my Kindle Paperwhite is my favorite thing ever. I used to have the second generation Kindle and refused to upgrade, but my husband kept insisting I needed a better newer one and bought it for me for Hanukkah. I got him stock in Nintendo that year for Christmas.

I write stories and dream vividly. I have been maintained a personal blog for 5 and a half years with everything from How To posts, fun facts, rants, silly poems, political posts, research-based posts, recipes I created, things I find funny, and more.

I woke up at 30 and realized I was 10 years into a sales career. I like sales, and I’m good at it; I’ve been successful in my sales and marketing career, and I appreciate where it has afforded me to go.

But I needed more. I am a creative type. I sing. And I don’t mean I just sing in the shower. I sang competitively when I was younger, and also did private lessons, chorus, ensemble, musical theater, and was the only alto from my county to go to state level competition one year. I SING. I write music, I have recorded songs that I’ve written, I sing at my desk, when I’m walking to the train, and as loud as I can in the car. I write, I sing, I even played violin for 7 years! Blogging was a good way to get some creativity out, but I have so much in me, and the blog didn’t provide enough of an outlet.

I branched out into contributing articles here and there to other websites, gaining exposure and putting myself further out there. I kept doing that, adding my biggest fish, Huffington Post, to my roster.

I just finally realized that the worst that could happen is that I got to keep my blog and my writing and the sites I already wrote for, so I put up a small ad, I reached out to a few contacts, and I put some feelers out. Within 48 hours I had 4 paying clients, and interesting diverse writing projects. Copywriting, content creations, marketing and sales emails, even doing a Google ad campaign!

 

Of course it’s scary when you try something new and put yourself out there. But being scared is a terrible excuse to quit. If being scared was a valid excuse, we would have no innovation, no revolution, and no skydiving.

 

I am a writer. I am a rollercoaster-riding, skydiving, cat-owning, singing weirdo who writes. And I am so happy and proud to be able to do it for others, and to someday (soon!) make it my full time occupation.

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