Last Updated October 15th, 2018

9 Online Marketing Mistakes And The First Steps Toward Fixing Them

9 Online Marketing Mistakes And The First Steps Toward Fixing Them

We all make mistakes with our online marketing. It’s a part of the learning process. Some are pretty easy to fix while others are going to take some time and a good bit of education to improve the situation. Here are 9 online marketing mistakes and how you can start fixing them.

1. You’re trying to do it all for free.

Yes, a few people have managed to build a successful online business using nothing but free hosting and other free resources. They’re the exception. If you want the best chance at succeeding with your online business, you need to spend a bit of money. Just be careful about it.

My first recommendation is to pay for hosting and your own domain name. The trouble with free sites is that someone else owns the space and can delete all your work at will. That’s not going to help your business very much, and it’s not a risk worth taking. A2 Hosting is a great place to host your websites, reliable and very affordable.

It’s also smart to spend money on resources that will help you build your business, but this should be done very carefully. Don’t buy just because the sales letter told you how easy it would be to make money with their system. Do some research and find out what others think of it.

Be picky about the reviews you trust. If the review is an affiliate of the product, you hope they’re honest, but they may not be. The best reviews not only note what’s great about the product, but what isn’t so great. They may even warn you not to buy if the product isn’t good enough.

know your target audience

2. You don’t know your target audience.

So you decided to start a website on an interest of yours, but you really don’t know how to find people interested in what you have to offer. You know they’re out there, now how do you get them to your site?

The simplest way to do this is to start researching your competition. Figure out who’s selling to your target audience successfully and figure out what they’re doing that you need to do. They don’t have to be exact competition, and may even be somewhat complementary to what you’re doing.

If you’re selling dog training videos, for example, you can look at other websites selling products related to dogs. You should also look at forums about dogs and seeing what kinds of questions people are asking when they’re having trouble training their dogs. Those people are your exact target audience, after all, and you need to know what questions they’re asking if you’re going to attract them.

Don’t ever assume that everyone is a potential customer, no matter how broad the appeal of your product. Even grocery stores consider their target markets, and we all need food! But they know that some people do more of the grocery shopping than others and that they shop in a certain way. Knowing your target audience like that is a huge help.

3. Spelling and grammar mistakes are all over your site.

Maybe you thought at first that spelling and grammar don’t matter online. You look at how your target audience posts on forums and social networking sites, and they don’t seem to care that much about typos.

They do care, actually. Not necessarily for themselves, but they’d rather buy from someone who can maintain a professional appearance online, and that means few to no mistakes in spelling or grammar on your site or in your ads, as well as any other time you’re representing your business online.

There are a lot of great tools to help you catch such mistakes. They aren’t perfect, but they can help.

I like Grammarly and the Hemingway app. The basic versions are free to use. You won’t always agree with corrections they suggest, but they can help you think about what you’ve written. They may even give you suggestions that are completely wrong. But most of what they suggest will be accurate and useful. The basic versions are free to use.

4. You don’t know anything about your conversion rates.

You’ve gotten people to your site and that’s all you know about it. No idea where they’re coming from or how often they’re converting into sales.

While you don’t want to obsess over statistics to the exclusion of all else, you do need to know what’s working for you and make sure that you’re making a profit. That’s especially true with paid advertising, as you want to keep the ads that bring in more than they cost going, and to improve them over time. You can’t do that if you don’t know how they convert.

You should be constantly testing your ad copy to make it convert as well as possible. To do that you need to know what your goals are. It’s not always to make a sale right off. You might want people to get on your newsletter list first, so you can sell other things to them later.

Some kinds of testing are easier than others. You can usually have more than one ad running at a time in your pay per click campaigns, and they’ll be rotated, giving you some solid data on which is generating the most clicks. Just make sure that the clicks translate to income, as you don’t want to pay for extra clicks that aren’t going anywhere. Even changing one word in an ad can make a difference.

Testing website copy is more effort, but it can be worth it. Move things around, change what you’re saying, figure out the best colors and overall design.

work on your marketing

5. You never work on marketing for your website.

The internet is a really big place. Especially when you start out, you need to work on marketing your website so that your target audience can find you.

Backlink building is a good place to start. A well placed backlink isn’t just about search engines; it’s about making your site visible to your target audience.

You can build backlinks with blog comments, guest posting, content syndication and more. A mix is often a good idea.

Social media marketing is a good idea too. It takes time to build a good audience on social media, but it can be well worth the effort.  Some websites get far more traffic from social media than from any other source. Take the time to learn to market on the right social media sites for your target audience.

Paid advertising can go well too, but is by its nature more financially risky. You can buy ads on appropriate websites or do pay per click campaigns through the search engines, but be careful about how you spend your money. Many paid campaigns won’t bring in nearly as much as they cost. Keep tweaking things until you get it right or you decide to try something else. Don’t spend more than you can afford to risk.

6. You don’t understand how online business is different from brick and mortar.

Running an online business is very different from running one anywhere else. Online, your competition is often just a click or two away, and attention spans are usually short. If you don’t do something to catch your visitors’ attention, you’re probably going to lose them.

This leads to competition working rather differently. A person can be in only one brick and mortar store at a time, but they can have multiple tabs open at once online, and compare what you offer directly with your competition. So not only do you have to catch their attention, you have to keep it by being better.

An advantage you have online is that your site operates 24/7/365, which few brick and mortar businesses can handle. If you’re sleeping, your website can still be generating income. When things go right, this can be amazing.

7. You have a lot of traffic, but you aren’t earning much from it.

You’re doing enough right that you’re getting visitors, but they aren’t converting. It’s really frustrating, so what should you do? Traffic that isn’t converting can have a number of causes.

It may be that you aren’t targeting the right audience, and so your visitors have no interest in what you have to offer. In that case, you need to figure out what part of your marketing is bringing in the wrong sort of visitor and fix it, either by tweaking it or by dropping that part of your marketing.

It could also be that your site isn’t doing what it takes to make people buy. Do you have a call to action? Can visitors find it easily on every page of your site? Is there something about your site that’s driving them away?

A lot of traffic coming to your site is nice for your ego, but unless the visitors are doing what you’d like them to do, what’s really the point?

build a list

8. You aren’t building a list.

There’s a saying about how it takes about seven exposures to a product to get people to buy. That is, of course, an average, but it brings up a very good point. You shouldn’t rely just on getting sales from people who happen to come to your site. You should try to get their email addresses so that you can send them more information and give them more chances to buy from you.

You should not email pure ads to your list with no useful information. That’s a great way to train people to not open your emails, make them want to unsubscribe or to even hit the spam button. You want your subscribers to look forward to the information you’re sending them. That way they’ll eventually trust you enough to buy from you.

9. You’re sending all kinds of offers to your list, but no one’s buying.

You built a list because you heard that’s where the money is. But that hasn’t been true for you. Matter of fact, it seems like when you send out an offer, either no one opens your email at all or you get a bunch of unsubscribe requests. You don’t feel as though your list is worth the trouble.

You have to keep things relevant to your list. Keeping with the dog training theme, you should be sending out other offers related to dog care. You should also be sending quality information about training and caring for dogs to keep people interested in opening your emails. Most people don’t like reading constant ads.

Don’t let these mistakes ruin your online business. It’s super easy to make online marketing mistakes. What matters most is how you recover from them and learn from them. You can do better if you give yourself a chance.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 12th, 2018

How To Get Out Without The Kids For Cheap

How To Get Out Without The Kids For Cheap

One of the challenges of being parents is getting out of the house without the kids for a date. It just doesn’t happen as often as many parents would like. Even once a month can be a challenge.

And of course, it gets worse when you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Babysitters cost a lot of money, and it can seem like it’s just flat out too expensive to go out without the kids.

Getting out without the kids doesn’t have to break the bank. You have options.

Get Someone To Watch The Kids

The first challenge is finding someone to watch the kids for you. As I said above, babysitters are expensive. But they are not the only option.

Can Family Help?

If you have family in the area, they may be an obvious choice for watching the kids. That’s how my husband and I got out much of the time when our kids were little. We lived close enough that his parents or my mother could watch them.

Other family members can help as well. My sisters and I have been known to do kid trades. Sometimes it’s to balance out the age spread and let the kids have a weekend with cousins in the same age range. Other times it’s to give one set of parents some time off.

One of the things I love about sending the kids off for time with other family members has nothing to do with getting out with my husband. It’s that they get different experiences with different people.

who will watch the baby

Who Else Can Help?

But if you don’t have local family willing to help, it’s time to start asking friends.

Talk to your friends and see if any of them want to watch your kids. This is easiest if the friends have kids as well and you can return the favor. This way everyone gets the chance to get out without the kids. You may even be able to make it a semi-regular thing.

This can be as simple as setting up a playdate for the kids. Make sure the other parents know you won’t be at home, and to call your cell phone if there’s an emergency. So long as you reciprocate, you should be able to find a parent willing to have your kids over.

Someday Your Kids Can Help

All of this gets easier, of course, as your oldest kid becomes old enough to watch the younger. What age this is depends on state law in your area and your own comfort level. One child may be ready for responsibility by age 12, while another needs another year or two.

The first time or two that you have the oldest watch the younger kids, you may want to only be gone for a short time or be within easy phone reach. This allows both you and your kids to become comfortable with them being on their own.

What If No One Can Watch The Kids?

You say you don’t have anyone who can help watch the kids? That’s more difficult, but you aren’t completely out of luck.

You can have something of a date at home if you have no other options. It’s not quite as much fun as going out, but you can make it work.

The best is when you’re sure the kids are asleep so that they don’t interrupt you. This may be difficult if you’re dealing with a baby – those little ones can be unpredictable! But when you think baby will stay asleep long enough, make some time for each other.

Figure Out What To Do

Dates don’t have to cost a lot of money to be memorable or romantic. It’s less what you spend than what you do. Have fun together. Consider these ideas to get out without the kids for cheap.

Some of these dates are easily done at home, as you may not always be able to get out when the kids are little. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get out. It’s not always that simple to get time away from home.

walking date

Relive An Old Date

When you’ve been married a while it can be fun to go back to do something you haven’t done since you were dating. Many couples have all kinds of fun memories from when they were dating that didn’t cost all that much to do.

Go On A Picnic

There are plenty of wonderful places in most cities for a picnic. It could be a beach, a particularly lovely park, or even somewhere you have to hike a while to reach. Pack some favorite foods from home that you can eat cold.

picnic

Go Hiking

Hiking is a wonderfully cheap way to get out and do something together during the day. You can find a fairly local hike or even drive an hour or two to get to someplace a little more special.

Go To A Street Fair

Check your local newspaper for local street or craft fairs and wander around. This one can add up pretty fast if you get too much into shopping or trying the food, but it’s a lot of fun and some are free to enter.

Go Stargazing

Just head out away from city lights (mountains are ideal if they’re in your area), and enjoy the view. This is particularly fun if there’s a meteor shower going on. The fewer lights in the area, the better, and unless you’re wanting to focus on the moon, stargazing when the moon is in a crescent phase or won’t have risen yet will give you the best view.

There are some great apps out there that can help you figure out which constellations you can see. You may also be able to see some interesting things in the night sky with some binoculars if you don’t have access to a telescope.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for meteor showers. These can be impressive sometimes, and make a great excuse to lie out on a blanket outdoors together for hours.

stargazing

Wander The Farmer’s Market

The Farmer’s Market is a whole lot more fun for adults than for kids, as a general rule. Not only can it make a pleasant date, but you get to explore the whole thing without the kids complaining of boredom.

Visit A Museum

Most museums don’t cost too much and can be very interesting to visit. Pick one that will interest you both.

Attend A Free Concert

Pay attention to when there are free concerts in your area and make plans to attend when possible. Summer is the best time for these in most areas.

Cook A Special Dinner Or Dessert At Home Together

Once the kids are out of the way you can make something special just for the two of you. This idea has the advantage of being something you can do after the kids are in bed if you just can’t find any other way to spend quiet time together without them. Plan a special dinner or even a particularly decadent dessert and make it together.

Plan A Game Night

Game nights can be fun if it’s just the two of you, but they also work if you’re with friends. Play games that you grownups enjoy – it can be a nice break from playing children’s games.

Just make sure the kids really are asleep before you pull out something like Cards Against Humanity.

Watch A Movie At Home

If you don’t want to pay movie theater prices, pick out a movie and watch it at home. You can stream from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any other service you subscribe to, or buy or rent something. It’s nice taking the time to watch something without worrying about whether the kids will enjoy it.

binge watch

Binge Watch Together

Do you have a mutual favorite show? Time to binge watch as much as you can together. This is especially fun if you’re waiting for the next season to start.

And yes, Netflix, we really are still watching that!

Go On A Winery Tour

Many wineries offer free tours. Many will offer free samples as well.

Drive Somewhere Beautiful

Hop in the car together and go on one of the most scenic drives in your area. Mountains, beach, or farm, it doesn’t really matter – you just have to enjoy the view and the time together.

Check Out Local Garage Sales

So long as the weather is nice, you can probably find a lot of garage sales in your area on weekend mornings. If you don’t need to bring the kids along, this can be a lot of fun. You might even find something you need for an incredible price – just don’t go overboard. Too much garage sale fun can lead to having to hold your own garage sale.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 10th, 2018

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 can do for 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.

Most of these things you must spend some time on in order for your home business to succeed. It’s when you take them to extremes that they become damaging. Know your limits. You’ll do better.

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. They may even be damaging, as Google sees them as low quality sites.

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.

Pinterest, for example, is a hugely popular site right now. It’s almost more of a search engine than a bookmarking site, but you have to submit your content for anything to happen, and that content needs some degree of popularity to drive more than minor traffic.

Use the right tools to simplify your social media use. Tools such as Hootsuite, Tailwind, 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.

excess social media

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.

One thing you may find helpful is to set up a work at home schedule for yourself. Give yourself the kind of routine you would have in an outside the home job. Do your best to stick with it.

Will there be times when you need to work incredibly long hours to make your home business a success? Probably. Just make sure that you take enough time for yourself that you don’t burn out.

mistakes

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 or give 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. Doing 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.

This is also why you shouldn’t buy a course for something you want to learn until you’re ready to learn it. If the course is all that useful, it will still be there later. But if you buy now, you may well go onto something else rather than ever use the course.

Guess which path wastes money!

If I’m considering taking a course but I’m not ready for it right then, I bookmark it. I can then find it if I want it, but haven’t spent any money.

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.

My best suggestion is to set aside a specific amount of time for research. How much time depends on what you need to learn.

If you’re going to take an online course, for example, you might set aside an hour a day to work on it.

On the other hand, you might set aside several hours if you’re doing research for a highly detailed article. It takes time to find the highest quality information to write an amazing article, and you don’t want to skimp on the research when that’s the case.

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 payment 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.

making mistakes

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 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 workspace 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 help if your situation merits it.

If you can’t dedicate a space as your home office, don’t despair. You aren’t doomed to failure.

Find the best place to work in your home that you can, the quieter the better. The fewer distractions you have, the more productive you will probably be.

If you have no choice but to work in a distracting space, make sure your family knows what you need from them. Cooperation from the other people in your home can help you beat such challenges.

disorganized home office

9. Being Disorganized

Being disorganized is a huge failing of mine. I’m working on it.

Make some time to organize your home office, whatever that space may be.

Even if you don’t have a dedicated home office space, you can take some time to organize all of the things you need in order to have a productive workday. Make sure all your work stuff is neatly stored and can be easily reached while you’re working.

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.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 8th, 2018

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

Remote jobs can be highly demanding. Not only do you have to do the job competently, but you also have to deal with all the distractions of being at home or wherever else you work. If you don’t have the skills to deal with these challenges, you won’t do well. Employers know that. So what remote work skills do employers want, and how can you demonstrate them?

Demonstrating great remote work skills is one of the keys to landing a legitimate work at home job. The more of these you can demonstrate to a potential employer, the better your chances will be.

All The Regular Skills Of The Job

The skills required of the job itself are the same as if you work in the office. If you don’t have what it takes to do the job in an office with all your coworkers, you certainly don’t have what it takes to work remotely.

Employers may offer training for some of these skills. Sometimes this training will take place in the office, which is one of the reasons why it can matter where you live.

Regardless of how much training they provide, there will be some expectations for skills you already have. Customer service jobs, for example, will expect you to have a good phone voice and some experience dealing with customers. A software developer position will require you to know the right programming language.

If you don’t have at least most of the skills listed in the job description, you probably shouldn’t apply for the remote position. As with any other job, it’s something of a wishlist from the employer, but you must be sufficiently qualified for the position that the employer is comfortable with the things you will need to learn.

These skills should be clearly mentioned in your resume, and you should be ready to discuss them in an interview. A potential employer may require that you demonstrate a particular skill as well.

technology skills

Technology Skills

You don’t have to be in a high tech job from home to need some solid technology skills. Your employer will not be willing to teach you the basics of how to use your computer, even in an entry level job. They will expect that you can use your computer competently.

This may include some basic troubleshooting. Your employer will not hold your hand through simple problems. You may have to notify them if a problem limits your ability to work for a time, but if the problem is on your end, you should have some notion of what to do, even if all you can do is call your ISP.

If a potential employer asks about your technical skills, talk about times you have handled a problem with your computer. It doesn’t have to be something big – most people have not taken their computer apart to fix a problem – but you should show that you know what to do about a computer crash, a virus or other common computer problems.

Your computer should be up to date, of course, with appropriate security software. You should also have a high speed internet connection. Some employers may require that you have a wired connection rather than wifi for security reasons.

If your interview is via Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your computer is completely set up for a video chat. Test it with a friend or family member who can do a practice chat with you. You don’t want to look bad by finding out that your video camera or microphone isn’t working right. Prepare beforehand so you can troubleshoot any technical difficulties before the interview.

communication skills

Communication Skills

Keeping in communication with your employer and coworkers is one of the most important remote work skills. Just how important depends on the kind of work you’re doing.

If you’re a transcriptionist, for example, much of your communication will have to do with feedback from QA, updating your schedule, and attending required trainings.

If you’re working as a software developer, on the other hand, you may be in near constant communication. This is why many remote teams use Slack and other programs to keep in communication. It’s necessary. You need to know immediately when something is changed.

In all cases, you will need the ability to communicate clearly through email and/or chat. If you cannot express yourself clearly this way, you will have a lot of trouble working remotely.

The biggest challenge you may face with remote communication is that it’s asynchronous. It’s not like when you’re talking face to face or on the phone. When something is emailed or posted to Slack or a group chat, the rest of the group may not respond right away.

This makes it important to know if there are certain times of the day when you are expected to check in on Slack or elsewhere. You don’t want to miss out on vital information about the project you’re working on. Attending online meetings and checking in regularly is vital.

Employers may consider what they can see of your communications skills throughout the interview process, as well as consider the skills you’ve used in other jobs. If you’re awkward about talking to a potential employer on the phone, they will probably have doubts about your ability to talk to customers that same way.

time management

Time Management Skills

Time management can be especially difficult for remote employees. It’s far too easy to start a little late when you don’t have to make it to the office. It’s also easy to let distractions decrease your productivity.

If you have good time management skills, you can be even more productive as a remote employee than you would be at the office. Employers know this and expect it.

There are a variety of time management techniques you can use. The right technique is the one that works for you and your job. Here are some to consider:

Whichever time management technique you use, make sure that you get the most important things done during your workday. Showing an understanding of priorities is a big part of using your time wisely.

One big mistake people make is trying to multitask. As a general rule, it doesn’t work. Multitasking can make you less productive.

Instead, focus on one thing at a time whenever possible. Get that thing done before you move onto something else.

critical thinking

Critical Thinking Skills

As a remote worker, you will need to come up with solutions to problems on your own. This makes critical thinking skills vital.

There may be times when you have to get help from a coworker or supervisor, but you need to know when it’s okay to get help versus handle things on your own. No one will be happy to hear from you about problems you should have handled quietly on your own. They’ll be even less happy if you try to handle something on your own that you should have gotten help with.

It can take time to learn the difference.

You can show critical thinking skills in an interview by figuring out what kind of critical thinking the employer wants to see. If you’re expected to analyze data, bring up an example of how you do that.

Any time you’ve solved a problem at a different job can be an example of critical thinking. The best examples to use in an interview are the ones most closely related to what the new job wants from you.

An interviewer may also ask you to demonstrate critical thinking skills by solving a hypothetical problem. Most will be more interested in how you came up with a solution rather than in seeing you come up with a particular one. Be ready to explain how you solve such problems.

organization

Organization Skills

Keeping things organized is key to successful remote work. You don’t want your work files all mixed in with your personal stuff, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally share personal things with your boss or coworkers.

With many remote jobs, a lot of being organized comes down to how you keep things on your computer or the company server. There are a lot of options the company may use.

They might use Google Drive or Dropbox for shared files, for example. Trello, Asana, or Basecamp may be used for project management.

If you have experience with these tools, they may be worth mentioning as a part of how you kept a project organized. Employers need to know if you have familiarity with the tools they prefer to keep employees organized and in contact.

self-motivation

Self Motivation

A remote employee has to be self motivated. You don’t have a supervisor who can come and look over your shoulder while you work. Your employer may or may not notice right away if you’re working as much as you should.

You know who should notice?

You.

As a remote worker, you have to motivate yourself to get the job done, no matter the distractions around you. If you have a strict schedule, you need to stick to it. If the only thing that matters is that you get the job done on time, you get the job done on time.

To show a potential employer that you’re self motivated, you need to give examples.

Start with the parts of the job that interest you. You could express your enthusiasm for the products the company offers, for example. You can also discuss any experience you already have in the industry and how that will help you in the job.

If you have been in the industry for a while, discuss any special training you’ve had, conferences you’ve been to, and so forth. This shows that you’re motivated to learn more about the industry and keep up to date on what’s happening in it.

Training you’ve acquired on your own rather than waiting for an employer to provide it can show a lot of self motivation. If you can talk about a skill you learned because you realized that you needed it, do so.

If you have experience working remotely, you can use this to show self motivation as well. Remote employers often prefer people who have worked remotely before and are familiar with the challenges.

adaptability

Adaptability

Remote workers may have to deal with a lot of changing situations. It can be greatly different from working in an office where everyone works more or less the same hours, and if you need to talk to someone, you can go find them.

For one thing, your coworkers may be spread out around the world. You may not all speak the same language. Sometimes things will go wrong for you that aren’t affecting your coworkers, and vice versa. Other times you may have to help bring a new coworker up to speed.

You must be able to deal with all these situations.

If your internet goes down, for example, you should know how to alert your employer to the problem, set things in motion to get it fixed, and if it will be down a significant time, know what you can do so that you will still be productive.

Often enough, this means having a Plan B in place.

An alternative place to work, for example, will help you if your internet is out. Spending the day in a coworking space can give you internet access when your home internet will be out for hours.

Language barriers can be a significant problem, but employers may have something in place to help. There may be a language in common as a job requirement, for example. There may still be difficulties due to misunderstandings, and you should be prepared to deal with such issues as best you may.

focus

Focus

A good remote worker knows how to focus despite all the distractions of being remote. Just as you have to keep your socialization with coworkers to a reasonable level when you work in an office with them, you need to keep focus on your work when you’re remote.

There will be distractions, even if you’re alone. At the very least, there will be the temptation to surf the internet, binge watch a favorite show or otherwise goof around.

It can help to know what time of day you’re most capable of being focused. This may be the time that you think most clearly, or when you can get everyone else out of the house so that they don’t distract you. Planning your work at home schedule around this is a huge help.

When possible, do your most important work when you can be the most focused on it. Depending on the job, this may not be possible, but do the best you can.

Remember that your focus can be improved by taking appropriate breaks. A 5-15 minute break every few hours allows your brain to relax. It also gives your eyes a chance to look somewhere other than the computer screen, which helps them relax as well.

Taking breaks may seem like time lost when you’re in crunch mode, but they can actually improve your focus and help you get done sooner. Don’t skip them.

time zones

Awareness Of Time Zones

Time zones can be a significant challenge if you’re a part of a remote team, especially if the team is distributed worldwide. If you can’t cope with time zones, you won’t impress a potential employer.

Let’s say your phone or Google Hangouts interview is at 1 p.m. EST, but you’re in Colorado. Do you know what time your interview will be at locally?

You’d better, or you’ll miss it.

When you know your team crosses time zones, you must remember to include the time zone when scheduling meetings, and taking the differences into account. A time that is convenient for you may be late night for someone else. If that’s not routine for the position, you’ll annoy a lot of people.

Obviously, if the team is worldwide, you won’t always be able to have meetings at times that are convenient for everyone. It’s quite possible that the inconvenient times may fall on you.

Be ready for the fact that some meetings will occur at a time that is best for people elsewhere in the world but not for you. In some remote jobs, this is a fact of life.

Other times, the difference will be a matter of just a few hours, but that difference is vital in scheduling. A 4 p.m. PST meeting isn’t going to make people in an EST zone very happy unless they usually work that late.

work-life balance

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining your work-life balance can be challenging when you work at home. They have a way of inching into each other.

Kids and pets wander into your home office when you’re working. You have trouble leaving work alone when you should be focusing on your family. The quality of your work suffers.

These days even people who work in an office can have this problem, as smartphones and email make it so easy to keep in touch with home and work no matter where you are. But when you work remotely, maintaining those boundaries makes an even bigger difference because home and work are in the same place.

Having a comfortable home office with a door you can close is one of the easiest ways to keep a boundary between your home life and your professional life. Teach the rest of your family that when you’re in there, they need to let you work.

Then, when you come out of the office and are done for the day, be done. Don’t go back to work and ignore everyone. Your family needs you too.

Having good work-life boundaries keeps you fresher when you work. You aren’t so stressed from having too little time with your family.

professional

Professionalism

A lot of different things go into showing professionalism when you work remotely. How you’re dressed won’t matter to anyone but you unless you do a video chat. Instead, you show professionalism in other ways.

A part of this is simply getting your work done on time and getting the job done right. No one will consider you a professional if everyone else has to constantly correct your mistakes.

It’s also more professional if you do a good job of keeping your home life and work life separated. While many people understand if your children come into your office while you’re working, it won’t look good if that happens every time you’re talking to someone on the phone or on Skype.

Showing professionalism during an interview is vital. If there’s one time you need to show that you can keep your office free from the distractions of being at home, this is it. A child or your spouse coming over to interrupt your interview tells the potential employer that you will have a lot of distractions while you work, and so might not be as productive as another employee.

You don’t want that.

If you’re being interviewed on video using software such as Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your home office is clean. You don’t want a mess behind you to give a potential employer a poor impression of you.

If you don’t have a home office, of course, make sure that whatever part of your home you’re using during the interview is neat and clean.

Keep Building Your Remote Work Skills

No matter how happy you are with your remote work skills, there’s always something you can improve.

Some things will be obvious, such as the need to keep up in your field. No employer will be happy if you let the skills you need for the job go out of date.

Other things you may have to recognize for yourself. If you find that you aren’t as focused as you should be when you’re working, that’s an issue you need to handle. Same for if you realize that you’re getting disorganized in your work.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking a class. Other times you will need to find a way to improve a problem on your own. There are a lot of books on self motivation and such that may help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 5th, 2018

8 Ways To Brighten Your Child’s School Day

8 Ways To Brighten Your Child's School Day

Going to school can be stressful for kids. They had fun all summer, but now they have to focus on learning. It’s quite a change to make, especially when the kids are little. Fortunately, there are many ways you can brighten your child’s school day that won’t take a lot of time.

A little pick me up can do wonders for a child’s attitude toward school. It’s hard to have a good day at school when you’re hungry or under too much stress, for example. Doing what you can to help with these problems may help your child enjoy school far more.

1. Start with a good breakfast.

There’s a reason why “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is such a cliche. It’s true. If your family consistently has trouble making time for breakfast in the morning, try getting up a bit earlier. It may be hard for both you and the kids to get used to, but it means you can get a decent breakfast into them. And maybe even feed yourself.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to make a meal that looks like a TV commercial. In fact, you may want to take some shortcuts. Here are some things you can buy or prepare in advance to make mornings easier:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • overnight oats
  • yogurt
  • smoothie popsicles
  • muffins
  • and many other make-ahead breakfasts.

The smoothie popsicles are super popular with my kids. They love to brag to their friends that they had a popsicle for breakfast, but it’s really the exact same fruit and vegetable smoothie made the day before as a healthy drink. Use as many vegetables as possible to keep the sugar level down, and find a good source of protein to keep the whole thing healthy.

And yes, lots of mornings the kids just grab the cereal. Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy when you don’t have the time or supplies.

If money is an issue, as it is for some families, look into what meal options the school offers. They may offer breakfast as well as lunch.

2. Pack a note to be read at school.

Another classic, but very worthwhile. My oldest daughter’s first grade class actually had this somewhat formalized, with a “Write-to-Me Journal”. She wrote to us each Friday, and we wrote back to her over the weekend, to be read at school. But of course, notes at other times are also a good idea, such as the classic note in the lunch box.

If you have no idea what to say in a lunch note, there are lots of ideas out there. There are even printable lunch notes that make it super easy. But notes don’t have to be fancy or long. They only have to make your child feel happy.

If your child says they’re embarrassed by the notes or getting teased by friends about the notes, talk about alternatives. Teasing from friends can take away the good feelings the note brings. Together, you can find a compromise that works for both of you.

headed to school

3. Say “I love you” as they leave for school.

Younger kids love to hear this, of course. Older ones may play embarrassed or annoyed, but they need to hear it too. Say it, and don’t worry too much about their reaction. Kids may act embarrassed but it’s also reassuring, so long as you don’t do things in ways that are too embarrassing for them.

Of course, you can be a little playful as the kids head out too. A part of my dropoff routine with my kids is to growl “get out!” when it’s time for them to get out of the van at school. They know it’s a joke.

We combine affection with friendly teasing a lot in our family. It’s what works for us and keeps life a little more fun. Little family in jokes are a way to show affection when there isn’t time for more.

4. Tell them you’re proud of them.

Another thing kids need to hear. I’ve read that it’s better to praise effort rather than to say things such as “You’re so smart.” You want to be sure that your praise is about something your child is doing well.

Also be sure to let them hear you praise them to others. It’s a little extra step that has a lot of meaning when done right. Once again, you don’t want to praise just anything, but when an action is worth mentioning to others, do so and sometimes let the kids overhear.

After school activities can help with this. It gives kids something extra to look forward to during the school day and another way to accomplish something they’ll be proud of.

If you want your kids to do an activity that really encourages effort, take a good look at Destination Imagination (DI). My youngest is on a team right now, and I’ve appraised challenges for it in the past. It really encourages kids to be more creative and to be proud of the work they’ve put into their projects.

One thing appraisers for DI learn is to look at the process the kids use to complete their challenges, not only the results. Results matter, of course, but so do teamwork and creative thinking. We’re taught not to praise results, but to say things such as “I like the way you…” and to mention specific things each child has done in the challenge.

When you see what your kids can accomplish in activities like this, you’ll have a lot of things to praise them for beyond whatever they accomplish in school. Being a good student is great, but kids will be extra happy about the accomplishments they chose on their own.

playground

5. Take the time for family fun outside of school.

The school year is a busy time, but don’t let it get in the way of all the fun you can have as a family. Get out and enjoy yourselves. Play games. Relax. Do something to relieve the stresses of school and homework. It’s good for you too.

Family fun doesn’t have to cost a lot or anything at all. There are lots of free and cheap ways to play with your kids. Family fun is a great way to bond and to get kids talking about any problems they have. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere.

You probably can’t take time out for family fun every day. No one expects you to. There’s too much to get done for most families between work, homework, extracurricular activities and just basic living. Just remember that even doing little things can help.

6. Give the kids time to be kids.

There’s a lot of pressure to put children into a bunch of activities these days. While these can provide some benefits, too many simply lead to stressed out kids. Give them time to play on their own, no instructions from adults. Other than “No TV, no computer, no video games” perhaps. Get them outside.

Outdoor play has been shown to help with the symptoms of ADHD, and the exercise is generally healthy anyhow. It doesn’t matter your age, you should all get outside to have fun daily anyhow. Playing outside helps kids to focus mentally.

Time with friends can be a big help. Just think about how many great childhood memories you have of time spent with your friends and no adults. Your kids should have the opportunity to enjoy that as well.

This can be difficult if your kids and their friends have a lot of extracurricular activities, but do the best you can. This social time can be great for your kids. They don’t need you hovering over them when they’re playing with friends.

child at school

7. Talk about what’s happening at school.

Go beyond “So how was your day?” and similar questions. Open ended questions work better.

Younger kids can be asked about what they enjoyed most about their day. Older kids may be more willing to talk about projects they’re working on. Figure out what topics will get your child talking to you about what’s happening in school. Keep this as a habit and be positive about things so they’re used to discussing things with you, even when there’s a problem.

Kids won’t always want to talk about their school day. That’s okay, so long as they talk to you some of the time and are generally doing well. Accept the times the kids are willing to talk so they don’t feel pressured. The more relaxed your kids feel about talking to you, the better it will generally go.

8. Be supportive when they’re having problems at school.

Going to school has its hazards. Sometimes it will be problems with a classmate, other times it may be a topic that just isn’t sinking in very well. No matter what the problem is, be ready to help your child solve it.

Try not to solve too many problems for your kids, however. In many cases, you’ll do better to discuss possible solutions your child can do on his or her own. It’s good for kids to learn to talk to their teachers when they don’t understand an assignment. Someday they’ll need to talk to a boss or a coworker about a problem, and this way it can become a habit while they’re young.

On the other hand, some problems do require a parent’s touch, a meeting with the teacher or even the school principal. Be ready and willing to help.

Bullying problems, for example, rarely go away all that easily. Not all schools handle bullying issues well, no matter what the rules say. You may need to loudly advocate for your child to get a situation handled at all.

A problem with the teacher may also require a parent to step in. Talking to an authority figure about a problem doesn’t come naturally to every child, nor is it appropriate in every situation for the child to handle the problem. Be there when your child needs your support so they can learn how to handle these situations by watching you.

Having trouble in school can leave your child feeling stressed and frustrated. The better you help them handle it, the better their school days can go.

Remember That Your Child’s School Day Won’t Always Be Great

No matter what you do to brighten your child’s school day, it won’t always be enough. Stuff happens.

The important thing as a parent is to help your child learn to deal with these problems and keep them from becoming overwhelming. Being a kid is tough. If you can help your kids deal with their problems without solving every problem for them, they’ll learn a lot from you.

But also show them that it’s okay to have a bad day. We all do. How we handle those days is what makes the difference in the long run.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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