January 14th, 2016

Your Work at Home Job Hunt – Are You Prepared?

Your Work at Home Job Hunt - Are You Prepared?

If you want to work at home, you need to be ready for your work at home job hunt, just as you would for any other kind of job. Your search will generally go better when you plan things out in advance and are generally prepared to apply for the jobs you find. There are several strategies which can help you get ready.

Know What Kinds Of Work at Home Jobs You Want

I often have people email me asking how to find a work at home job. Asked like that, the question lumps all work at home jobs together and is not a good start. “Work at home job” indicates where you would be working, not what you will be doing. It’s rarely the most important consideration when preparing for your search, even when home is where you really want to work and you have good reasons for that preference.

What matters more is the kind of work you are interested in and qualified for. Employers won’t be all that interested in why you want to work at home, although they might ask in an interview. Far more important to them will be the skills and qualifications you bring to the job. Figuring out what you want to do prepares you to figure out your qualifications in the next step.

Figure Out Your Qualifications

In some ways, your qualifications matter more when you want to work at home than when you want to work outside the home. Training home based workers has different challenges, as does supervising them. Add in how many people really want to work at home for various reasons, and things get pretty competitive.

Review your experience from other jobs. What makes you qualified for the jobs you want? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Some work at home jobs require special training before you apply. Medical transcription and medical coding are two popular options that require you to get training on your own first. Some jobs also require certifications and a couple of years experience. Other jobs, such as software development, may require a college degree or significant experience. Be realistic about what you’re qualified for and what you can get qualified for.

Network

Put the word out that you’re looking for work. Friends, family, former and current coworkers, your alumni association, members of your church, parents of your children’s friends, neighbors, members of any organization you belong to – all can be helpful in your work at home job hunt. You never know who will have information about job openings.

Be clear about your employment goals and be ready to tell people about them. You may have only a few seconds in person, so have your pitch ready.

Include LinkedIn in your networking efforts. You might be surprised by some of the connections you can find once you’ve started. Make sure you understand how to use LinkedIn. Be professional – LinkedIn isn’t about your personal life. Participate in groups, be valuable.

Write a Better Resume

How does your resume look? Is it ready to send off to employers? When was the last time you updated it?

Here’s the thing about resumes. You should have a resume that you can readily adapt to each job you apply for. Pay special attention to the exact skills and qualifications the employer is looking for. Many companies have a computer sort resumes before a human ever sees them, and having the right keywords for the job improves the chances that a human will consider yours.

Read up on what makes a good resume. There are plenty of books on resume writing, and many are available in Kindle editions so you can access it right away.

Plan Your Cover Letter

Like your resume, your cover letter should be customized for each application. Plan out a basic one, and take the time to edit it for each job.

Your cover letter should be an introduction to you and your skills. Exactly how you should write your cover letter will depend in part on the industry you want to work in. As with resumes, it can pay to read up on what makes a good cover letter.

Some online job applications will not have space for a cover letter, and if that’s the case, don’t try to figure out how to send one. Go with the information requested by the employer.

Find Your Preferred Employers

There may be some employers you would really like to work for. Find their website and where they post job openings, both on and off their website. If you have any connections with people who work there already, on LinkedIn or other websites, let them know what you’re looking for. You might hear about openings before they’re posted if you’re lucky and have done a good job networking.

Discover the Best Keywords For Your Work at Home Job Hunt

Don’t rely only on the employers you’ve already heard of. Figure out the best keywords to help you find other opportunities you’re qualified for. “Work at home” is not the best keyword for home based work much of the time, although it has its uses. Too many scams use it for it to be your best primary keyword. “Telecommute,” “virtual” and “remote” are often better. Combine them with the kind of work you want; don’t use them alone.

Choose Good Job Boards

There are plenty of job boards out there to help you with your job search. The work at home job board here at Home With the Kids is free. Other job boards such as Indeed, Monster, Dice and Simply Hired can also provide good leads, although you will need to sort out the jobs that actually offer you the opportunity to work at home.

You can also consider paid job boards such as Home Job Stop. The advantage to such sites is that they may do more screening of employers, to make sure they’re legitimate. A good paid job board will be focused on what you need from it – work at home jobs, for example – and have a clear refund policy in case you find the service unsatisfactory.

Be Sensible About Your Goals

Do not set a daily goal of so many applications or anything like that. It’s a waste of time to apply to jobs just to meet some arbitrary goal you’ve set yourself.

Your goals should have more to do with accomplishing a successful job hunt. Some days you might spend several hours reviewing job listings and applying to interesting positions. Other days you may not find much you haven’t looked at already. An arbitrary goal may push your to put too little effort into some applications or apply to jobs that aren’t really relevant to your skills.

Taking these steps to prepare yourself for your work at home job hunt can improve your chances of success. It may take some time – most job hunts do – but with persistence and a good match of your skills to the jobs you apply, you might land the job you want.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

December 31st, 2015

10 Ways to Work at Home More Effectively in the New Year

 

10 Ways to Work at Home More Effectively in the New Year

After the hectic holidays, it’s good to get back to working at home effectively. It’s also a good time to look at your old habits and decide which need to be changed or improved. An honest assessment of how you’re working will be a big help in making the new year better than the one before.

1. Know Your Personal Roadblocks

We all have personal roadblocks that limit our work hours, the chances we’re willing to take, the changes we haven’t yet made. Take a close look at what’s keeping you from getting the things done you haven’t managed to do yet. Commit to making it happen, whether it’s working more hours, promoting your website or home business in a new ways, or starting something entirely new.

2. Talk to Your Family

Solid communication with your family about what you need from them to successfully work from home makes a big difference. Remind them about when they’re allowed to interrupt you and deal with new problems that have come up. Family can be both your greatest obstacle and the greatest help in your ability to work at home.

Do the same with any friends who have made working at home more difficult for you in the past.

3. Update Your Goals

Are you accomplishing everything you would like to in your work life? Do your current goals really reflect where you want or need to go?

Take a look at your goals and decide if they’re still right for you. You may want to update some, drop others, and break still others into smaller steps.

4. Review Your Schedule

How well does your schedule work for you? Are you productive at the times you need to be productive?

Consider changing things up if your schedule isn’t working for you and if your type of work gives you that kind of flexibility. Make the most of whatever flexibility you have to improve your productivity.

Your schedule should also include some clear time off. Have times of the day when, short of a crisis, you do not work. You need time to be with your family, friends and to do your own thing. Make sure you get it.

5. Organize Your Home Office or Work Space

How does your home office or work space look? It it messy or disorganized? Now is a good time to get it back into shape. Remove distractions, make sure the things you need are easy to find or reach.

If possible, make your work space more clearly defined, even if you don’t have the space for a home office. Certainly a room with a door you can close is a huge help – my oldest daughter found that out recently when she did some catch up work for school in my office. She was impressed by how much easier it was to work in a dedicated space with the door closed.

6. Work on Your Communication

Many people find communication with employers, coworkers, clients and so forth difficult when they work at home. There are many ways to handle this. You might schedule online or in person meetings. You might text updates regularly. However you need to communicate with anyone you work with, make sure it’s effective.

7. Review and Update Your Tools

Take a look at the tools and supplies you need to do your job. Are they as current as they should be? Is there a more effective option within your budget?

This can include your computer, the software you use, and any other equipment. You may also want to take a look at your internet connection, making sure it’s the right choice for your work and personal needs, and that you’re on the right plan.

8. Update Your Skills

How current are your skills? Is there something you would like to learn that would make you more effective or help you progress in your career or business? Pick something you would like to learn and make time in your schedule to learn that new skill or update an old one.

9. Promise to Take Breaks

Make a promise to yourself that you will take breaks throughout your work day, just as you would in an outside the home job. You don’t have to limit yourself to 15 minutes as you would at other jobs unless your employer requires that strict a schedule, as some do. Take the time you need to refresh yourself. Go for a walk, get some exercise, do something not associated with work. You’ll come back better able to focus and generally more productive

10. Don’t Neglect Your Social Needs

Isolate is a major problem for people who work at home. You don’t have coworkers right there to chat with. If you want a social life, you have to make it happen.

If it works for you, try working at a coffee shop or other place with wifi. Make time to do something fun with other people during your off hours. Chat with friends on social media when you aren’t working.

Don’t let your social time interfere with your work time, of course. Socializing when you should be working is a major problem for a lot of people who work at home. Don’t let it be a problem for you.

I hope these steps will help you plan for a productive New Year working at home.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

November 18th, 2015

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

One of the things I look forward to most in my new home is setting up my own home office. I haven’t had a space other than my bedroom to work where I can close the door if necessary before. The new house has a lovely room for an office with lots of cabinets and space. It will take some time before it’s fully functional as a home office – I don’t want to spend a ton of money so soon after buying a house. Still, it’s fun to plan ways to make my home office productive and comfortable.

Equipment

Your office equipment is the most important part of a good home office. Consider what you need for the work you do.

For me, the big thing is a good computer. I have a nice laptop, although with a home office I may eventually look into a good desktop system with dual monitors. There are times when it would be nice to have a second screen to work on.

Take the time to set up your equipment neatly. One of the most frustrating parts of my recent move was untangling all of the cords behind the entertainment center and at the computers. A few zip ties or velcro straps can get these under control. It also looks nicer.

A decent desk and chair are also important. These are things I would need to look for – the way things have been rearranged at the new house, there isn’t a spare desk for me, or an office chair. Kitchen chairs can be moved around, but they really aren’t comfortable for a work day and I do not want that as a long term solution. Short term, sure, I can handle that. Long term, ergonomics are important. The sooner your desk and chair are ergonomic, the better.

Consider ergonomics with your keyboard and mouse as well. The wrong setup will cut into your productivity and may cause physical pain.

You should also consider if you need a dedicated office phone line, video or audio recording equipment, a printer, and so forth. A carpet protection floor mat is important if your office chair is on carpet – it also makes rolling your office chair around more comfortable.

Lighting is important. Windows are great for natural light and maybe even a nice view, but you may need more, depending on the time of day. My office has a ceiling fan, so I’ll have gentle cooling and light in one, which is nice. It’s pretty, too. You may need task lighting for particular activities.

Storage

Sufficient storage matters in your home office. If you work almost entirely online, your storage needs may be minimal. On the other hand, you may have significant storage needs.

My office has storage that far outstrips my needs. There’s an entire wall of cabinets and shelves. These will be used for other things, not just my business needs. Pretty much the only thing it lacks is a file cabinet… good thing I already have one of those. Doesn’t match the cabinets, but I have one.

Think about the supplies you need daily, weekly, and so forth. Are they accessible? Will it interrupt your work to get supplies when you need them? Are they in the way when you aren’t using them? The organization and storage of your work supplies depends on your needs, and your setup should reflect that.

How Dedicated?

Not everyone can have a home office that is 100% a home office. Many use the space for multiple purposes – often a guest room. So long as you can use it exclusively most of the time, it can help you be more productive. Be aware of IRS rules for the home office deduction if you take it.

My new office will probably also be part library and part guest room. That mean bookshelves and a futon or sofa bed. We’ll see what we find. The big thing is that I will be able to work without being interrupted when I want.

Rules

Solid rules for when your family can come into your office are very important if you want to be productive in there. You don’t want to be interrupted for every little thing, yet you may want to be readily available to your family for the right reasons.

Talk about your expectations with your family. How much are you hoping to work each day? What hours? When can you be interrupted? What are your expectations of the other adults in the home?

These rules may vary by the ages of your children. An infant may well be in the office with you, a toddler may come and go fairly freely if you’re the only ones home, but as children get older they should be able to manage quite a bit without your help, and come in only for emergencies.

Don’t forget about friends and neighbors who might drop by during the day or call on the phone. Will you accept personal calls or drop in visits? The more you treat your home office as a professional working space, the more professional others will view you. That means you should expect your working hours to be respected just as they would if you worked outside the home.

Common Home Office Setup Mistakes

Setting up your home office wrong can limit your productivity. Try not to make these basic mistakes.

Having too many distractions in your home office is a big mistake. Don’t put a TV in there if you can help it. It’s much too easy to watch TV when you should be working.

Don’t let your kids’ stuff clutter your office. I’ve done this one, allowing my kids to put papers from school on my work desk. Big mistake – it’s better to have a place where children can put things that need your attention but won’t distract you while you’re working. Our new house has a small built-in desk that I’m using for mail and papers from the kids. I need to organize it better yet, but it’s an improvement over putting it all on my work desk.

Do personalize your space and make it pleasant to be in. Office plants, photos and basic decor can make your home office a much more pleasant place to work.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

November 4th, 2015

Working at Home and Moving – a Difficult Combination

Working at Home and Moving - a Difficult Combination

These past couple months have been difficult, although in a very good way. We bought a house at last! It was quite the process and really took away from my working time, but we’re finally settled enough that I can really start trying to get into a routine again.

Buying a home when you run a home business has its own challenges. We had to do so much more paperwork on my income compared to my husband’s, as he has a nice, stable job with predictable income. Fortunately, my income has been better than his for the past couple years, and I could prove it. Still, it’s extremely distracting to keep getting calls asking for new information or updated records.

Then there’s packing. Tedious and time consuming packing. Being at home, I did quite a bit of it, despite my husband’s protests that I shouldn’t take so much time off my work hours. If I hadn’t, we would not have moved on schedule, and I knew it.

We’ve been in the new house about two weeks now, and we finally only rarely have to go digging for the box that has something important. There’s still a lot to do, but the important things are mostly where they belong. Unpacking is mostly more fun than packing – it’s so nice to find your stuff again. So far, the only thing missing is the power cord to the television, but fortunately, it takes a standard computer power cord, and we had a spare from an old computer.

We’re enjoying the layout of the new house. The kids think it’s pretty interesting getting to park in the back of the house – that’s where the garages are. I’m happy about my new office space – there’s one room kind of tucked oddly away downstairs that will do great. I haven’t had a dedicated office where I could close the door before. I still need to find a desk for it, but that will come.

I’ll still be organizing this new house for some time to come – most say it takes them months to really get settled, but I’m so glad to be where I can work a reasonable amount again at last. I really haven’t enjoyed only being able to do a minimum of work to keep things functioning.

 

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

September 9th, 2015

9 Mostly Useless Things You Can Do For Your Home Business

9 Mostly Useless Things You Can Do For Your Home Business

There are a lot of things you need to do to grow your home business. Unfortunately, there are many things that sound as though they will help your business grow, but are in fact pretty much useless, sometimes even damaging.

1. Excessive Use of Social Media/Social Bookmarking Sites

Social media use is a must for online businesses these days. It’s one of the best ways to bring attention to your website and what you have to offer. But there are limits to how much you should do with them.

The first reason for this is that a good social media website can be a huge time suck. The more social ones such as Facebook may tempt you into interacting with family and friends when you should be working, while sites such as Pinterest may catch your attention with ideas you may never use. They’re each useful in their own way, but you have to think about how you’re using your time on them.

Just plain social bookmarking can take a tremendous amount of time. There are literally hundreds of social bookmarking sites out there. Most of them won’t provide any significant traffic or search engine relevance and are a total waste of time.

If you want to make the most of social media and social bookmarking, know which sites are best for generating traffic for your business and focus your efforts on them. The best sites will generate traffic for you, and if your shares are interesting, others will share them with their audience as well. It takes time to build an interested, involved audience, but it’s worth the effort.

Use the right tools to simplify your social media use. Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer can make it much easier to plan out your social media use effectively. When you’re done, close them so they aren’t a temptation.

2. Spending Too Much Time on Email

Email is another one of those things that can be vitally important to your business yet be a huge time waster. You need to be ready to respond to questions when clients have them, but you shouldn’t be spending large parts of your day reading your email.

You can consider handing off many emails to a virtual assistant or have response templates for the most common questions you receive. Either can save you a lot of time with your email, so you don’t have to take much time with routine questions and can focus on the ones that need a more carefully considered answer.

Another important thing to do with your email is to unsubscribe from all the junk. If you have tons of emails that just sit unread in your inbox, think about why. Is it a newsletter that doesn’t really interest you?

I keep some control over my inbox by using filters to sort out emails by type. This limits what falls into my main inbox. It also allows me to see which emails I’m tending to ignore and that I should therefore unsubscribe from. I sort out email from shopping sites, political emails, newsletters and so forth. Business emails are sorted by which site of mine they’re relevant to.

3. Working Too Hard

It’s easy to overwork when you work at home. You’re setting your own rules, and you may need to earn a lot to make it all worthwhile. You may have set some highly challenging goals for yourself. You tell yourself that the more you work, the more you’ll earn. But that’s not necessarily true.

Take a break and improve your focus and productivity. Working too long makes you less productive, not more. Many people find a break helpful to get past a mental block or to come up with new ideas.

4. Doing It All Yourself

When you’re running a home business, it’s easy to feel that you have to do it all. It saves money, or so it seems. It saves the trouble of training someone to help you.

Hiring someone to help you with certain parts of your home business, however, can be worthwhile. It’s not always convenient and it’s not always cheap, but it can improve your profits. Why spend so much time on the things that don’t really earn money for you if you can pay someone else to do it? This allows you to focus more on things that will make money.

This is one of those things I don’t do enough of, and I know it. It’s difficult to change. It’s giving up a bit of control. It’s worrying that someone else won’t do the work right. Sometimes I’ve hired something out and it has gone well. Other times it has been a bit of a mess.

Take a look at hiring a virtual assistant for routine emails and other matters that don’t need your personal attention. Finding the right one and training him or her in what you need done takes time, but it should be worth it in the long run.

5. Excessive Research

There’s so much to learn when you run a business from your home. It’s easy to spend too much time trying to learn how to run your business better, and too little time actually running it.

It’s much more important to take action than to keep learning things you aren’t ready to use. Don’t spend a lot of time reading up on things for your business that you aren’t ready to act upon.

Another trap is browsing unrelated sites when you’re looking for information. It’s easy to follow links to things you don’t need to read during your work hours. Save the random reading for your spare time, not when you need to work.

6. Working For Free

Sometimes you will have people or companies try to get you to work for them for free. They’ll call it good exposure or something like that. Truth be told, it’s often not worth the effort to work for free.

There can be times that working for free is okay, but only on your own terms. You might volunteer for a cause you believe in. You might write a guest post for a website that will get you exposure to an audience you need to get in front of.

Where this goes wrong is working for free on someone else’s terms. They contact you and suggest you do something for them for free. For example, some companies will get bloggers to host giveaways for little to no pay, even though this can be a lot of work. Companies might ask you to promote the giveaway, maintain contact with the winner and ship the prize to the winner. You have to track entries, deal with problems relating to entries, and make sure the winner qualifies for the prize. You can request pay for running a giveaway – it’s a great advertising opportunity for the sponsor too. Make up a media kit for your blog so that it is easier for advertisers to see your policies.

7. Striving For Perfection

This is a mistake so many people make when starting a home business. They want everything to be utterly perfect before they even get started, and continue on that path as they go.

I know someone who wants to start a resource website on a particular topic, for example. He has been talking about it for years, but nothing has ever happened with it. Why?

He wants to have a ton of pages ready first. His topic is huge and he wants his site to be fairly comprehensive right from the start. This is a mistake. He’s put work in on it, but gotten nothing for it because he hasn’t published any of the site yet, so far as I know.

It’s better to start small and grow. This gives people time to discover you. It gives you time to make beginner’s mistakes while your business is small and few people will notice. If you monetize from the start, it gives you the possibility of some income coming in as you build. This also limits the frustration of feeling as though you aren’t getting anywhere – traffic takes time to build, but you’ll always have something to work on, something to work on to make your home business reach the goals you have set for it.

You can also get caught by this in little ways every day. I’ve caught myself many times spending way too much time picking out just the right image for a post, then just the right font for the text on the image… the time all this takes adds up. Relax a little about these details. You want everything to look good, but when the differences are small, who else will know what options you considered, or judge you for it?

8. Working in the Kitchen

Lots of people who work at home don’t have a home office space. It’s a bit of a luxury to give over that bit of space dedicated to your work, and it may be difficult to make that commitment. But if it’s at all possible, it’s a very, very good idea.

Working at the kitchen table or in the living room, or even in your bedroom means you are surrounded by more distractions, and this impacts your productivity. I speak from experience here, having worked in all those spaces. The bedroom has the advantage of being a space where you can close the door, but it’s probably not that functional as a work space unless you have a desk in there.

Having a dedicated home office space also means you can consider taking the home office deduction in your taxes. This is something you would want to consult on with your tax professional – don’t ask me if your situation is right for that because I don’t know. The money off can be pretty nice if your situation merits it.

9. Being Disorganized

Being disorganized is a huge failing of mine. I’m working on it. The process of deciding to buy a house and going into escrow has certainly pushed matters – I had to search for certain financial paperwork that wasn’t properly filed. I also need to get rid of clutter to get ready to move.

An online acquaintance of mine, Lynn Terry, did a big home office reorganization recently and posted about it on her blog. She shared a variety of tips on how to get your home office organized so that you can be more productive and why you should get it done.

Getting organized takes time and commitment. It’s not just getting organized, it’s staying organized. The good part is that once you have a good system down, it’s easier to remain organized. You’ll save time in the long run by taking time now to figure out what works for you.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.