business
Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success, Work at Home

4 Home Business Productivity Hacks You Need to Know

As rewarding as starting a small home business can be, it is a lot of work. That can dissuade some people from starting their businesses in the first place. After all, when you are first starting a business from home, there’s a good chance you’ll still need to keep your day job. That means the amount of time you have to work on your business is limited.

Don’t let this stop you from pursuing your entrepreneurial goals. While it is true that you may need to squeeze growing your business into small windows of time at first, doing so is much easier when you keep the following productivity hacks in mind.

1. Make a schedule.

The times you spend working on your home business may be fairly random and sporadic when you first start out. Depending on the nature of your schedule, you may only be able to work on it during your moments of free time, which might not arrive consistently.

schedule planner

That’s a reality you have to accept. That said, odds are good you can take a look at the week ahead and identify times you know you’ll be available. Plan on using these times to focus on important business tasks. Although your schedule may not be regular and consistent at first, it’s at least necessary to plan your week ahead of time, knowing what business goals you want to accomplish.

This highlights another important point: you also need to prioritize your to-do list. You don’t want to waste the precious free time you have focusing on tasks that aren’t high priorities right now.

2. Improve your home office.

Busy new entrepreneurs know the value of a home office. You’re more likely to be productive when working in the right environment. Some features of a home office are essential. You need proper lighting (ideally natural light, which helps boost productivity), all the tools and resources necessary for completing business tasks, and a reasonable space in which to work.

Beyond that, you can decide what aspects of a home office are more likely to have a positive impact on your productivity. Maybe you find you focus on your work better when the door is closed. Perhaps it helps to have some relaxing music on in the background. Some people feel they get more done when their home offices are decorated with motivational posters and similar iconography. 

This is an opportunity to indulge your creativity! While a home office serves a practical purpose, it can also be a space that reflects your personality and brand.

3. Track your time.

The nature of every home business is different. That said, in this day and age, odds are good that running yours involves using the Internet to at least some degree.

timer

This can obviously lead to distracting situations. From YouTube to social media, there are innumerable ways you can waste time or engage in low-priority, low-impact tasks related to your new business. This is particularly true when you don’t have a supervisor watching over you. If you’re not used to managing your own time in this capacity, it makes sense that you might become distracted.

The problem is, the more time you spend on such diversions, the less time you have to grow a successful business. Thus, if you’re prone to getting distracted on the Internet, you may want to use a time-tracking app. It can provide you with a report that helps you grasp just how much time you have available. Many people are surprised when presented with a clear breakdown of how they truly spend their time.

4. Wear the right clothes.

This might seem like a somewhat strange tip, but it’s in fact quite valuable. You already know your working environment can have an impact on your productivity. The same can be said about your clothing. Research has actually shown that people feel more productive when they are dressed professionally.

Yes, it may be tempting to wear your most comfortable outfit when working from home, but the effect this could have on your mindset is likely to be negative. You’re better off dressing as if you were going to the office instead. This will trick your brain into entering “work mode,” making it easier for you to stay focused and accomplish key tasks.

There will ideally come a time when your small home business is so successful that you can quit your day job. However, to achieve that degree of success, you need to work hard during the early stages. These tips will help you do so on a tight schedule.

home office
Business, Entrepreneurship, Funding, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

How to Earn Money Passively, Even as a Busy Entrepreneur

Almost anyone can learn to successfully create reliable passive income streams. This is true whether you’re a college student, retiree, or even a kid.

Busy entrepreneurs can also earn passive income. However, they may be skeptical that this is truly the case. While a passive income stream should eventually allow you to earn money in a hands-off way (that’s the entire point), all passive income side businesses do take time and effort to set up. Depending on the nature of the income stream, it might also require a degree of regular maintenance.

An entrepreneur could thus understandably assume they simply don’t have enough time to earn passive income. Luckily, that’s not the case. Even if your professional life keeps you exceptionally busy, you can still earn extra money on the side. The following are a few ways you may do so:

Invest Your Income

It’s important to know what you’re getting into when investing your money. You don’t want to lose your investment because you didn’t conduct proper research. You will need to consider your options with care before deciding to make investments.

money management

That said, there are plenty of low-risk investments you can make that wouldn’t take very long to research. You can also consult with a financial expert to identify low-risk investments. While they might not yield the substantial returns that can come with higher-risk opportunities, the fact that you don’t have to worry much about them allows you to invest relatively passively. You can set aside money on a regular basis without being overly concerned.

To boost your passive income earnings over time, consider reviewing your monthly spending as well. Your goal is to identify expenses you can cut. This provides you with more income to invest. 

Market Your Expertise

As an entrepreneur, you undoubtedly have a certain degree of expertise in your niche. You could thus provide others in your industry with valuable information in a form that also generates passive income for you.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You can, for example, write and publish an ebook. If you don’t have time to write it yourself, you can draft an outline and hire a freelancer to write the first draft of the book. You or a close member of your team can then make any necessary edits to ensure it accurately represents your insights.

That said, plenty of entrepreneurs are passionate about their work. They love talking about their industries, even outside of work. Does that sound like you? If so, consider turning that passion into side income with a podcast. This is another way in which you can share your expertise. Through advertising agreements, you could monetize the podcast. You might also use the podcast to promote an ebook if you create both.

An online course is another option to consider. As with the ebook example, if you lack the time to create an online course, you could hire someone to create it for you. All you’ll have to do is provide them with enough information to ensure their work matches your standards.

Upsell to Your Customers

It’s worth noting you can also use your current business as a means of generating passive income. For example, maybe you offer consulting services to other business owners. You might thus generate a premium product (such as a training program for their workforce) that you can offer in addition to your basic services. This allows you to earn extra money off your existing customer base.

business partners

Once more, you don’t have to create the product yourself if you’re simply too busy. You can coordinate with experts to create it for you. Once they have, all you have to do is incorporate it into your existing marketing campaign.

Monetize Your Hobbies

Entrepreneurship involves quite a bit of work. You need to put forth sustained effort if your business is going to succeed. That’s why it’s particularly important for entrepreneurs to have hobbies. They’ll help you manage the stress that comes with running a business.

They can also potentially help you earn passive income. For example, maybe you’re interested in photography. You could offer photography services to customers, or simply sell prints of your own photographs online. Perhaps playing music is more appealing to you. If you’re talented enough, you might earn a few extra bucks playing paid gigs when you have the time.

Is making money off your hobby truly passive? No. However, because you already enjoy your hobby, it will certainly feel that way. And these are merely a few examples. The main point to remember is that being a busy entrepreneur doesn’t have to stop you from earning passive income. You simply need to choose the right strategy.

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Business, Education, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Mentorship, Productivity, Success

What You Need to Know about Finding a Business Mentor

Running a small home business (that hopefully grows into a large business!) is a dream many people share. However, not all people with this dream pursue it.

There are many reasons this is the case, but many people feel they lack the knowledge and experience they would need to build a strong business, and they don’t know where to turn for help.

Luckily, there are many resources available to budding entrepreneurs interested in developing their knowledge and talents. In particular, a mentor can serve as one of the most valuable sources of support and advice for new entrepreneurs. A mentor who has built their own business can share their expertise, answer your questions, offer feedback, provide encouragement, and generally assist you during the early stages of growing your business.

But what do you do if you don’t know any successful business owners who would be willing to act as your mentor? How do you meet people who would be willing to mentor you? The following tips can help you find a mentor who will help you launch and grow your business.

 

Attend Networking Events

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t think of your business mentor simply as a resource to help you achieve your goals. You can only benefit from mentorship in the long run if you have a genuine relationship with the person helping you grow your business.

speaker

Start your mentor search by attending networking events. Trade shows, conferences, professional organizations, university alumni groups, events hosted by local business incubators, and small business development centers (SBDCs) all offer great opportunities for networking. Don’t try to find a mentor right away at these events. Instead, focus on meeting people and developing relationships with them.

Volunteering is another good strategy for finding a mentor, particularly if you volunteer with an organization that’s related to your field. Even if you volunteer with an organization outside your field, you’ll still meet plenty of people from many walks of life, all of whom can teach you something new and expand your personal network. And of course, you’ll also be giving back to your community.

 

Use Online Resources

If you’re only looking to pick up a specific skill, consider that you might not need a mentor for that purpose. There are plenty of learning resources available to you online, including sites like Study.com, Udemy, Khan Academy, and others. Community colleges and university extensions often offer online classes as well.

However, the internet is also your friend when you’re seeking a mentor. Online services such as MicroMentor and SCORE mentoring are designed specifically to connect business mentors with mentees. You may also want to try looking for local groups on Meetup focused on careers and business networking.

 

Ask Friends & Family

This probably seems obvious to you. Of course, if you already know someone who has successfully grown a business, you would have likely asked them to serve as your mentor already.

However, even if none of your friends and family members have ever owned a business, they might know someone else who has. There’s a good chance one of your friends is also friends with a business owner, and you just weren’t aware of it. So if you ask your friends and family if they know anyone who could serve as your mentor, they may be able to set up a meeting with someone.

This point underscores an important truth about networking: even if a connection can’t directly help you, they can probably put you in touch with people who can. Increasing your primary connections exponentially increases your secondary connections and your odds of finding the help you need.

 

Contact Owners of Similar Businesses

You obviously don’t want to look for a mentor who owns a business that would compete with yours. There’s little chance they’d be willing to help you out.

That said, you might consider looking for businesses that are somewhat similar to yours, but not direct competitors.

business

For instance, perhaps you want to start your own graphic design business. If you’re looking for a mentor, you could research similar creative businesses in your area to find a mentor. Because the nature of their work is similar to yours, but not similar enough to make them a competitor, you might reach out to the owners of these businesses to ask if they’d like to take you on as a mentee.

 

An Essential Point to Keep in Mind

As the above tips illustrate, finding a business mentor doesn’t need to be as difficult as you might assume. However, you do need to remember a key point when developing this type of relationship: the relationship also needs to be valuable for your mentor.

There are plenty of instances when mentors simply enjoy the rewarding experience of helping someone grow a business. However, even if your mentor is helping you for altruistic reasons, you should still ask yourself how you can help them. Maybe you have a different form of expertise they lack. As they mentor you in business, you could mentor them in another area. Maybe you could introduce them to a helpful connection, or you could provide your business’ product or service to them free of charge.

office
Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Organization, Productivity, Technology, Work at Home

Home Business Blogging Tips You Need to Know

You probably already know that your small home business needs a website if it’s going to survive in the long run. Although there are exceptions, customers go online when they’re trying to find a business. Without an online presence, you’re missing the opportunity to connect with these customers.

That doesn’t mean a website alone is enough. To leverage yours to its full potential, it often helps to maintain a blog on the site as well. The following points will help you better understand why a blog is important, and what you can do to optimize yours.

 

Understand the Value of a Business Blog

Let’s be honest: posting consistent blog entries can be hard work. When you run a small home business, you already have plenty of other tasks to occupy your time. Blogging regularly may not seem like the smartest way to use that time.

This is an understandable attitude. However, it’s also holding you back.

A blog is a valuable promotional tool. It helps people find your website: in fact, businesses with blogs receive 55% more website traffic than their counterparts without blogs. This is primarily because the blog helps the website rank higher in Google search results—meaning that when people search for, say, an accountant in your area, your website will appear before your competitors’. A basic website that includes your physical location, hours, contact information, and descriptions of your products or services is essential, but a regularly updated blog gives people even more reasons to visit your site repeatedly. A blog can also help you establish a brand identity and position yourself as a knowledgeable authority in your industry.

Blog CMS

Blogging is also valuable because it’s cost-effective marketing. Depending on the platform you use to host your site, blogging features may even be included. That means blogging costs nothing more than time, if you do it yourself.

Just remember that your blog needs to feature genuinely informative, interesting content in order to deliver value. The following tips will help you do just that.

 

Provide Value

This is by far the most important principle of content marketing. You need to give your readers a reason to visit your blog. Yes, you’re using it as a promotional tool, but no one will be interested in your content if you only use your blog to advertise your products or services, or spend every entry rambling about how great you are. While you can promote yourself directly, in general, the blog’s primary purpose is to help you maintain engagement with your audience.

That’s why your blog needs to deliver value. The way it will do so depends on the type of business you own.

For example, maybe yours is a graphic design business that creates branded imagery for other business owners. Your customers are likely interested in learning how strong graphic design can improve their marketing. Knowing this, you might write blog posts explaining graphic design concepts—for example, “10 Graphic Design Secrets for Attracting Customers” or “5 Ways Colors Affect Customer Behavior.” Your customers can directly use the information in these blogs in their own businesses.

That said, “value” doesn’t only mean “information.” Everything you post should be factually accurate, but there are instances in which the real value might come in the form of entertainment. Perhaps your business involves public speaking coaching. A blog featuring YouTube videos in which people make funny public speaking blunders could appeal to your target audience. There’s a fine line to walk when you focus on entertainment, however; you don’t want to stray too far from your business’ purpose, and you don’t want to appear unprofessional.

What’s most important to remember is that readers aren’t that interested in your random musings. They’re also not interested in blog entries that do nothing more than ask them to buy a product. If you want people to read your blog, give them a reason to.

Blog CMS

 

Ensure the Writing is Strong

Not everyone is a naturally gifted writer, and that’s okay. However, a blog needs to be relatively well-written. The prose doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but it must clear and concise.

Take your time to write strong blog entries and to check them for spelling and grammar errors. To make your writing the best it can be, read your blog post out loud to hear how it sounds—or even better, have a friend or family member critique it. You can also hire a freelance writer. They can create blog entries based on your outlines or notes.

 

Maintain a Consistent Voice

The writing in your blog should be clear and readable, but the tone and style also matter. Your tone and style should mirror your brand.

For example, if you run a small B2B consulting or accountancy firm, you might want to write in a more restrained, professional tone. This lets your clients know you take your work seriously. On the other hand, if you create jewelry or art and sell it online, the tone of your writing can be more conversational and casual. Most importantly, the tone should remain consistent across each entry. That’s key to maintaining a branded identity.

It’s also important to remember that it takes time to master blogging. Don’t expect your blog to yield major returns right away. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand which blogging tactics are most effective.

customers
Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

Adopting a Customer-Centric Mindset: What You Need to Know

Many factors can affect how likely it is that a business will succeed. That said, as the owner of a small business, you can become so focused on the minutiae that you forget one essential truth: you’ll never succeed if you don’t provide your customers with high-quality service.

It’s crucial for all business owners to adopt a customer-centered mindset, as this will help their operations to stay afloat. While you may have a small, home-based operation now, the odds are good that you want it to grow. That may mean hiring new employees in the future. If you’ve already instilled a customer-centric culture in the business ahead of time, your new hires will be more likely to adopt such a mindset early on.

How do you go about cultivating this customer-centered mindset? The following tips will help.

 

Understand Your Customers’ Needs

In order to build successful businesses, all entrepreneurs need to realize the importance of meeting their customers’ needs. Quite simply, a business cannot survive without customers. Business owners with a customer-centric mindset will encourage feedback from their customers. Customer feedback will help you to improve your products and services. In addition, these interactions will enable you to build a rapport with your customers and could potentially boost referrals from satisfied customers.

feedback

Businesses with a customer-centered culture understand that customers always come first and will attempt to tailor their products and services to suit their needs. As a result, you can develop products that are better and easier to use.

 

Include Visual Reminders Where You Can

This blog has previously touched upon the importance of organizing a home office if you’re running a business from your own home. You need a space where you can focus on your work without distractions.

That said, a distraction-free home office isn’t the same as a decor-free home office. On the contrary, it’s a good idea to add some visual touches that can reinforce your customer-centric mindset.

The nature of the decor will depend on your personal taste (as well as how much space you have to work with). Maybe you’ll put a poster in a visible spot featuring a quotation about the importance of providing the best service that you can. If you don’t have space for a large poster, or feel that it would be too distracting, you could frame similar messages on smaller postcards and arrange them on your desk.

The main point to remember is that focusing on the customer is something you want to keep in mind whenever you’re working on your business. With visual reminders, you’re less likely to lose focus of that important principle when attending to other tasks. Every time you look away from your work, you’ll be reminded of how important customer service is.

 

Communicate with Your Customers

We live in a fast-paced world. Due to digital technology, staying in touch with one another is easier than ever.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword for business owners. On the one hand, you have the opportunity to coordinate with both customers and your eventual hires more easily when you have several means of doing so. On the other hand, customers now expect you to be more communicative. They’ll hire someone else to provide your services if they can’t get in touch with you regularly.

listening

You can avoid this by making sure that your customers clearly know that they have multiple ways of getting in contact with you. Include all this information on your website and social media accounts, and remind customers of it during your initial interactions. Most importantly, when customers do reach out, you should respond as promptly as you can. They need to know that you take their concerns and needs seriously. They’ll definitely get the wrong impression if they struggle to get in touch with you, don’t hear back in a timely manner when they do, or feel your responses aren’t thorough enough.

 

Stay Focused on Customer Service

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re ever going to fully reach the goal of adopting a customer-centric mindset. There will never be a time when your approach to customer service is absolutely perfect. There will always be room for improvement. Working to cultivate a business culture that prioritizes customer service isn’t about reaching the “finish line.” It’s an overall way of running a business, one that you should put into practice every single day.

Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Success

Here Are the Most Affordable Office Spaces for Small Businesses

Starting a home business is exciting. You have entrepreneurial goals, and you’ve decided you’re ready to pursue them. One of those goals is likely simple: growing your business. That means there may come a day when your business is too big to remain a home-based business.

There are many reasons why you may need to rent office space. Maybe you’ve hired employees and don’t have enough space in your home for them to work. Perhaps you need technology and/or resources that aren’t available outside of an office. Maybe you’ve found the home environment distracting, and you have always planned to rent office space once you could justify the cost.

That brings up an important point. Most businesses grow gradually. When you’re finally ready to take your business out of the home, your budget might still be so low that you need an affordable office solution.

Whether you’re ready to expand your home business now, or you plan on doing so in the future, these options can help you grow without spending more than you can afford.

website

 

Coworking Offices

Coworking offices are becoming more and more popular because they cater to a wide variety of workers. Everyone from “solopreneurs” to serial startup founders can take advantage of the benefits these spaces offer.

First of all, they’re scalable. You don’t need to rent an entire office to use a coworking space. If all you need is a desk and access to office technology, that’s all you have to rent. Additionally, lease terms with coworking spaces tend to be more flexible than typical office lease terms. In fact, it’s not uncommon for office rental leases to be as long as five years. That’s not ideal if you have little need for an office and its features.

With a coworking office, you can rent space as you need it. If your business continues to grow, you can rent more space. If you decide a coworking office environment isn’t right for you, you can easily cancel your membership without incurring the penalties of early lease termination.

As a bonus, coworking spaces provide many of the resources and office features you would need to pay for yourself if you rent a traditional office. This includes Wi-Fi, desks, printers, and more.

A coworking office is also a great choice for a workspace if you simply get lonely running a home business. Many people who use them report greater satisfaction in their work thanks to the social opportunities these spaces provide.

 

Virtual Offices

It’s worth noting that some budget-friendly office solutions for home business owners don’t consist of actual physical spaces. However, they offer many of the same benefits of a traditional office at a fraction of the cost. That may be ideal if you’re happy working from home but need to use certain office features from time to time. If that’s the case, a virtual office may be perfect for you.

Although the specific features will vary depending on which virtual office company you choose to work with, a virtual office typically provides mail services, a receptionist, an official business address, and access to conference rooms or workspaces outside your home when you need them.

Some people use virtual offices to ensure the legitimacy of their business. You may want a receptionist answering the phone when clients call. You may want your mailing address to sound more official than your residential address does. If you need to meet with clients, you may prefer to do so in a conference room, a more professional setting than your home.

Consider this option if your home meets some of your needs as a business owner, but not all of them.

home office

 

Shared Office Space

It’s not uncommon for larger businesses to rent out more office space than they actually need. Whether they’re planning for growth or simply couldn’t find a more suitable office in the area, they may have unused space they’re currently paying for.

Businesses in this situation sometimes rent out this space to others. This helps to reduce their own expenses.

This type of arrangement offers many of the same benefits as a coworking office, so it might be the right choice if you don’t live near a coworking space. However, you’ll need to find a business in your area offering such an arrangement, and you’ll need to make sure you negotiate terms so you’re not paying for more space than you need. Additionally, because most of the other employees in the office will work for the same company, socializing with others may not be as easy as it would be in a coworking office.

That said, like the other options listed here, it’s an arrangement worth considering if your home office is no longer meeting your needs. Remember, as a business owner, growth is one of your main goals—finding the right office solution is key to achieving it.

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Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Marketing, Organization, Productivity, Success

Managing Client Relationships: What You Need to Know

Running a successful home business can be a very rewarding experience. That said, it can also feel complicated sometimes. You may get discouraged if you allow yourself to get overwhelmed with all the tasks and duties associated with owning your own business.

That doesn’t need to happen. Yes, when you focus on the specifics, it is true there are many tasks involved in running a business, from setting a budget to completing projects. That said, succeeding as a business owner is actually fairly simple, even if it’s not always easy. You just need to provide your clients with valuable products or services.

Thus, it’s important to focus on strengthening your relationships with clients, particularly if you perform collaborative, long-term work with clients. You don’t want to constantly win new clients, only to lose them in the near future. These client relationship tips will help. If you’re looking for ways to ensure you don’t lose the clients you earn, keep them in mind.

 

Treat Them as Unique Individuals

Don’t make the mistake of promising personalized service while treating all your clients the same. You’re much more likely to make the right impression if you get to know the individual needs of each customer, particularly for clients with high-volume needs and/or with whom you will work on an ongoing basis.

business

For instance, maybe you have a small home business developing websites and content for other businesses. Maybe one of your clients is an attorney. When they need updates to their website, you need to know precisely what their specific goals are in order to deliver a strong finished product. What type of brand do they want the website to represent? Are they focused on attracting local clients, or do they want to expand their reach? How can added content, such as a blog, help them attract more visitors?

The answers to these questions will be different for a client who is an attorney and one who sells apparel via an online store. In addition, for a client who sold apparel, you’d also ask yourself how ecommerce solutions can improve such a website. You’d ask how visuals can make the products more appealing. You’d consider how to make the site easy to navigate for people seeking specific items.

This is key. By treating each client as unique, instead of taking a “one size fits all” approach, you’ll better serve their individual needs.

 

Know How They Like to be Involved

Another factor to consider when tailoring your approach to each client is the degree to which different clients want to be involved in the process of setting goals and completing projects. For example, maybe some clients want to be actively involved. They contact you relatively frequently, they make suggestions, and they monitor your progress to ensure you’re on schedule. This type of client would likely appreciate if you got in touch with them often to provide updates or ask questions.

On the other hand, you may have other clients who prefer to outsource and truly delegate their involvement. After establishing goals for the project, they’d prefer it if you worked independently, only getting in touch with them when it’s truly necessary to do so.

You’ll make the wrong impression on the latter clients if you’re reaching out to them with every minor question and update you have. Even if you’re well-intentioned, it will indicate you aren’t accounting for their other priorities. As a result, the next time they need your services, they might hire someone else.

 

Get Personal (to an Extent)

Your initial interactions with clients will usually be somewhat formal and professional. While you don’t want to come across as a robot, you don’t want to be so casual that the nature of the relationship resembles a friendship more than it resembles a client-vendor relationship.

business partners

That said, if you’re going to be working for the same clients for a long period of time, eventually, you want them to get to know you a bit, and vice versa. You’ll reach a point where it’s acceptable to include a little bit of personal information in your communications with them. For example, maybe you want to let a client know your availability is changing because of a family obligation. You might use this as an opportunity to share information about your family members’ interests or hobbies.

Share this kind of minor personal information, and clients may begin to feel more comfortable sharing similar information about themselves. This leads to a closer relationship in which you’re more likely to have their trust. If you are on friendly terms with your clients, it might be easier to address challenges and mistakes when they arise.

The point to keep in mind is that this is all fairly simple. Yes, it takes work to implement these tips, but the importance of client relations can’t be overstated. When you treat each client as an individual, and focus on pleasing them, you’re far more likely to succeed as a home-based business owner.