Last Updated August 13th, 2018

What Does “Find Your Passion” Really Mean?

find your passion

One of the most common pieces of advice you hear when thinking about starting your own home business is to find your passion. It sounds like great advice, but how much thought do you really give to what that means? Is passion for your home business your ultimate goal?

Having a passion for your business means you have an emotional involvement. You have great enthusiasm for the project. The idea is that this will help you to succeed in a home business, as it means more to you.

But is that really how it all works out?

Not necessarily.

Can You Find Your Passion For A Home Business?

Finding your passion may not be as simple as “I love cats. I want my home business to have to do with cats.” That’s great, but is it something you can build a business around? You have to balance the practical with the passion.

Start out by thinking about why you really want to start a home business. There are all kinds of reasons, from wanting more time for your family to needing the additional income and so forth. However, keep in mind that your home business will likely take a lot of time and is a financial risk, so keep your expectations realistic, particularly in the challenging early days.

Don’t just go with the first business idea you have. Start brainstorming and write a variety of ideas down.

Some will appeal to you quite a bit and may be worth further development. Others won’t appeal at all as you give it more thought.

This brainstorming session may come up with some surprises for you. As you think of all kinds of ideas, both wild and serious, you’ll realize how many of your skills and interests could be marketable.

Where Are The Ideas?

You may have difficulty in coming up with ideas at first. Many people feel for a time as though they don’t have any good home business ideas.

You’re probably wrong about that.

There are lots of places you can get ideas from, ones that you can worth with and enjoy using. Here are a few:

  • Magazines you read.
  • Websites you visit.
  • Things you do for fun.
  • Things you keep doing.
  • Stuff you wish you could do but haven’t started doing yet.

For each potential business that appeals to you, make a list of ways you could make it into a business. Not all your ideas will be practical, and you want to weed the impractical out. Some may make great online businesses while others would do better offline.

This is one of the first steps to take in starting your own home business. It’s a wonderful challenge with a lot of hard work. If you don’t accept that challenge, the business probably won’t work.

If you don't accept that challenge, the business probably won't work.

Here’s where many people go wrong in this process: They expect that there will be passion for their home business. It will be fun all the time.

They don’t expect it to be work.

Any home business will be work at times, even if you mostly adore what you’re doing. There will be days that you’re slogging through it all, just getting things done because they have to get done.

No passion. No fun.

That doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong home business, not at all. It might mean that you need to remind yourself that hard work is a part of the process.

Do You HAVE To Find Your Passion?

There is no rule saying you must find your passion before you start your home business. It may even be a bad idea. Passion doesn’t always outlast the challenges you’re likely to face when starting a home business. Sometimes going more toward the practical makes more sense.

The problem with relying on finding your passion is that it assumes you have that one thing that you will love doing. It can be a fixed mindset. A growth mindset, on the other hand, can be better for running a home business. That says you can develop a passion for what you do, even if you didn’t have one at first.

This is something they teach at my kids’ school. The teachers don’t assume that the child who struggles in a particular subject will eternally be bad at that subject. Instead, they spend more time teaching the things the kids have trouble learning.

The idea is that eventually, all of the kids in the class will learn to do well in all of their subjects.

This is why the students may be broken up into groups at times so that the ones that need help in a particular area can get it, while the ones who are ready to forge ahead may do so.

A growth mindset gives you much more flexibility as you grow your business. You take something that you’re willing to learn, regardless of previous interest or ability, and you do it. Passion develops over time this way.

Passion for your work doesn’t have to be inherent in you. What you need is a willingness to work hard.

What you need is a willingness to work hard.

Don’t Limit Yourself

One of the great things about running a home business is that there’s no rule saying you can only have one at a time. While you need to be realistic about how much time each business needs and how much time you can spend on each, it makes a lot of sense to do more than one thing at a time.

For one, you never know which home business will really succeed. Sometimes the idea you thought wouldn’t work out succeeds wildly. The idea you thought would be an easy money maker fails miserably.

In the long run, most people will take earning a good living over passion. If they combine, that’s wonderful. You’re fortunate. But that will not work out for everyone. So long as you are willing to do the work, you’ll be fine.

Here’s the thing: You can always work on your passion project as a side gig or even a hobby. It doesn’t have to be your main thing.

Of course, you can only take on so much at once. Don’t do so many projects at once that you fail at all of them. Start with one, then add things on as you figure out how much time each takes and how much time you are able to give them.

What If You Lose Your Passion For Your Home Business?

Losing your passion for your home business is one of the worst things that can happen in many ways. It becomes so much harder to work on a project that relied on passion, and then you lose that.

How does that happen?

It’s pretty simple.

The day to day slogging through, trying to earn a living from something can take a lot out of you. It really isn’t easy.

There are also some things that are fun to do just because they’re fun, but really hard to do as a business. Consider the following scenario:

You love to knit, so you start a home business selling things you’ve knitted. It gives you the perfect excuse to buy all the knitting supplies you’ve ever wanted. You make all kinds of beautiful projects to get started.

Then the problems start. Disappointed customers whose orders weren’t exactly as they pictured it. Other customers try to negotiate your prices to ridiculous lows considering the effort you put into your products. People demand custom orders faster than you can usually make things. Mistakes happen.

Now your favorite hobby is nothing but stress, stress, stress.

Some people can maintain their passion for their business despite the stress. Others come to realize that the thing they love to do for themselves or their loved ones really doesn’t make a great business.

Your interests will grow and change as you get older no matter what you do. What you love as a young adult may not be what you love later in life.

The real question you need to ask yourself if you lose your passion for your home business is “Can I keep doing this anyhow?”

Hopefully, the answer is “yes.”

That’s especially true if you have generally been having success with your business, but your passion for it has flagged. It’s a terrible thing to have a successful home business that you give up just because you’ve lost your passion for it.

The loss may be temporary anyhow. Don’t confuse temporary frustration with your business for a lack of passion or even interest in your business. Your love for it can come back with time and effort.

Give yourself that time. Figure out why you’re frustrated and what can be done about it. Solve the frustration, and the interest may come back.

Having a passion doesn’t mean you have unlimited motivation to work on that thing. If you assume that your motivation will never decrease, you’ll be incredibly frustrated when you go through hard times or find something difficult.

Avoid that trap. Understand that a change in how you feel doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.

a change in how you feel doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.

Don’t Confuse A Hobby With A Home Business

While it’s true that many people have turned hobbies into amazing home businesses, that doesn’t mean that will be the right choice for you. Consider what it takes to run a successful business as well as work on your hobby when you consider this.

Using the knitting example from above, you might decide to run an online store of some sort. That may not be too hard if you sign up with a site such as Etsy, although you will still need to learn to work with their interface and how to market your shop successfully.

You’ll  also have to:

  • Find your target market.
  • Learn which designs sell best.
  • Learn to track the costs of making your product.
  • Figure out prices people will pay which are still fair to you as a creator.
  • Figure out how to ship your product out efficiently and at a good price.

And that’s just the beginning.

It’s entirely possible that your favorite interest won’t suit you as a home business. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are a ton of things you can do for a business while still enjoying your hobby as a hobby.

Work On Your Growth Mindset

The more you live your life with a growth mindset, the easier it should be to work on your home business, whatever you decide it should be.

Know that your interests can be changed.

Know that if you decide to learn something, you can do it.

Be ready to work hard on whatever it is you decide to do in life.

If you do this, you’ll find your passion develops for the things you decide to focus on. It may evolve over time, but it won’t depend upon a fixed idea of what you want from life.

You might surprise yourself with the things you can do if you don’t rely solely on passion. Plan instead on doing the work it takes to make the life you want with the business you choose.

Do the work it takes to make the life you want with the business you choose.

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 July 10th, 2018

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

How’s Pinterest working for promoting your online blog or business? Are you having a lot of success with it? Even if you aren’t sure how much you’re going to like Pinterest for marketing purposes, I strongly suggest setting up a Pinterest business account. It has a lot of advantages that you’re missing out on if you don’t bother with it.

A Pinterest business account in many ways is not that different from a personal Pinterest account. Your pins look the same to others. Pinning works exactly the same. It’s free. It’s the little extras that business accounts get that make it worthwhile to either switch your account over to a Pinterest business account or start an entirely separate Pinterest account for your business.

What’s The Difference?

It can be difficult to understand why you should make the switch to a Pinterest business account when you can’t see an immediate difference. It won’t give your pins preferential treatment or anything like that. So why bother?

The difference comes in what only you can see in your account. The tools you can use with a business account can help you use Pinterest in a much more effective way.

Take the profile or board widget, for example. You can use it to share your recent pins on your website. This could be useful in drawing more attention to your pinboards, hopefully to encourage more shares of your material on Pinterest and eventually drive more traffic to your site. After all, building your traffic is what it’s about if you’re a business.

The big deal, however, comes from the analytics you get with a business account. There are aspects that make relatively little difference, but some of the features of Pinterest analytics are essential to understanding how well your pins are performing on Pinterest. We’ll cover that shortly.

How To Convert To A Pinterest Business Account

It’s fairly easy to convert a new or personal Pinterest account to a business account. It only takes a few moments, in fact.

If you’re starting a brand new Pinterest account to use for business, go to Pinterest for Business and click Join as a Business. Follow the instructions there to set up your new account. It won’t take long. Pinterest needs a few details about your business and the person managing the profile.

You will also want to provide a link to your website and verify your ownership of it. Pinterest provides simple steps to do this.

If you plan on using your current Pinterest account, you can use this link to convert your account to a business account. Once again, it’s quite simple to do, and you will want to verify your website, just as you would if you had made an entirely new account.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin, the simplest way to verify your site with Pinterest is to go to the Pinterest tab of the Social menu of that plugin, and add the meta tag provided by Pinterest right there. This way you don’t have to mess with your blog’s HTML, which makes some people nervous. Pinterest provides instructions to verify your site other ways, but this is the easiest if you have Yoast SEO installed on your WordPress blog.

yoast verify pinterest

Should You Use Your Pinterest Business Account For Personal Pins?

If you’ve been using your personal Pinterest account for your business pins as well as your personal pins, you may want to consider whether you should continue to do the same when you move to a Pinterest business account.

Keeping your business account strictly business has the advantage of focus. Followers of your business account will know exactly what kinds of pins to expect you to share. This can be an advantage, as it also helps Pinterest to know what kinds of pins you’re sharing.

On the other hand, it can be easier to keep your Pinterest account super active if you do all of your personal and business pinning on one account. So long as you keep your boards well organized and optimized, this may not be the worst thing… so long as your personal pins don’t make your brand look bad.

Some of your personal pins may be interesting to your business followers, of course. This depends on your niche. If you blog about parenting and family life, for example, no one is likely to mind seeing your recipe pins as well.

If you’re truly concerned, but don’t want to have multiple Pinterest accounts to keep track of, you can pin your personal pins only into secret boards. This way you can still see the things you like while logged into your Pinterest business account, but your followers won’t see anything you don’t want them to see.

Enable Rich Pins

If you want Pinterest to show as much information as possible about pins from your site, you must activate Rich Pins. Once again, if you have Yoast SEO, this is simple.

Go to the Facebook tab of the Social menu of your Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure that ‘Add Open Graph meta data’ is enabled. Save the changes.

yoast rich pins

Now go to this page on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins. Give it a link to a single blog post. Click Validate, and see if it worked. That’s all it should take. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to follow the documentation and try to figure out what went wrong. Most blogs shouldn’t have any problems at all.

Making The Most Of Analytics

Pinterest analytics are the big reason most bloggers love their business accounts. It’s a huge help to know how your pins are performing. Just make sure you’re looking at the right statistics.

Monthly Viewers

I consider the Monthly Viewers statistic that Pinterest puts right up there something of a ‘meh’ statistic. It helps you see if your pins are being viewed more, but views are nothing.

Most especially, views aren’t action. You want action.

The one good thing about seeing your monthly views go up is that most likely your other statistics are doing better as well. It’s not a lot of information, but it’s a little and can help alert you to changes that you need to look at.

Monthly Engaged

Monthly Engaged is the other statistic Pinterest puts right up in front of you. It has a little more meaning than Monthly Viewers, but not a lot. It simply means that someone interacted in some way with your pin. You don’t know which way with this statistic, but it’s still good to see this number get bigger.

To learn more, you need to click on the Analytics dropdown menu you see on you business profile, and take a look at the different sections.

pinterest analytics dropdown

Overview

The Overview section of your analytics gives you a quick look at what’s going on with your account. When I look at mine, for example, I see a drop at the moment. This is likely related to the Fourth of July holiday that we just passed as of this writing.

Events like that will cause significant drops in your traffic that have little to do with the quality of your marketing. They’re something to be aware of, but so long as your traffic recovers in an appropriate time, nothing to worry about.

There may also be seasonal drops. Many people find that they get less traffic from Pinterest in summer as a general rule.

A drop in traffic may be cause for concern if you don’t know why it happened. Take some time and find out what has changed so you can figure out how to fix it. Maybe you’ve been doing a little less pinning, or maybe your site is getting less traffic overall, leading to fewer pins. It’s good to know that you have to look, so you can figure out the problem.

Profile

The Profile section of your Pinterest analytics allows you to examine how your pins are performing. You can see how your top pins and boards are performing.

It’s a huge help being able to see which pins are getting clicks or being saved by other pinners. These are the actions you want to see. Lots of impressions are nice but only mean so much if you don’t get clicks and saves to go with them.

You can also check out your all time best performing pins.

These stats will not be limited to pins from your site. This can be frustrating when that’s what you’re most interested in, but also helpful. You might get ideas for topics you need to cover. Clearly your followers like that content – now make it your own and make it better! No copying, and give credit where credit is due.

People You Reach

The People you reach section gives you a little information about the number of people. It’s in the process of being replaced by the Audience Insights report, which is far more useful.

Website

The Website section allows you to see activity from your website on Pinterest. For example, you can see how often people have used the Pin It button on your website (you do have that, don’t you??).

This can be very similar to the information you get in the Profile section, but you will see data only for pins for your site. If there are a lot of other pins showing up in your Profile’s data, this will clear things up for you.

Audience Insights

As of this writing, Audience Insights is not in full release but looks great.

You can see the categories and interests of your audience and their affinity for various interests. I can see a lot of potential for this in terms of deciding what to blog about, and from there what to pin.

You’ll also learn about the demographics of your audience, where they’re from, and the kinds of devices they use to visit Pinterest. This is a lot more information than was available previously, and you should make the most of it. You can even learn about what the Pinterest audience as a whole is interested in.

Make The Most Of Pinterest Scheduling Tools

If you’re serious about using Pinterest for business, you should at least consider using Pinterest scheduling tools. There are people who prefer manual pinning methods as well, but I prefer scheduling, and I can tell you why.

Simply put, scheduling means even when life throws a great big obstacle in your way, your pins keep getting posted.

I’ve been dealing with a horrifyingly huge problem in my life. My father died.

That’s awful for just about anyone, but this case was complicated. I won’t go into too many details, as we’re hoping for legal action on the scam he fell for that completely messed up his finances, but suffice to say the whole thing has been a mess, and I’ve learned things about my father I wouldn’t want to know about anyone. And the finances weren’t even the worst mess we had to deal with.

I’ve lost many days of work time dealing with this situation, as have my sisters. But because I’m using Hootsuite to schedule my pins, they’re still being posted. All I had to do was keep up with reciprocating on the group boards.

Hootsuite has a fairly adequate Pinterest scheduling tool. I think it could be better. But it’s there and I use Hootsuite anyhow, so that’s what I have right now.

What I like about scheduling with Hootsuite, however, is that it’s easy to vary both the images and what you say for each pin. Pinterest is developing a preference for a greater variety of images per blog post and unique descriptions for pins, rather than recycling the same thing over and over. The way the Hootsuite scheduler works, it’s not that hard to switch things up regularly.

My next plan is to start using Tailwind as well. Most pinners who schedule love Tailwind, so far as I can tell. I’ve been too busy to give it a proper chance, but once things get better, I’ll test it as well. I understand its scheduling tool is far more powerful, which sounds great.

When you’re serious about using Pinterest to market your blog, you need the consistency that a scheduling tool can offer. Handling the entire thing manually takes a lot of time out of your day that could be better used elsewhere.

If you want to learn to make the most of Pinterest, don’t forget to consider taking a Pinterest course. Learning how to make the most of Pinterest is much easier if you get advice from someone who has gotten great, consistent results.

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 July 2nd, 2018

How To Become A Virtual Assistant

How To Become A Virtual Assistant

Have you ever wished you could get paid to use skills such as social media marketing, writing, and customer service from home? Maybe you’ve had concerns about the work being flexible enough for your current lifestyle. You might wonder how to become a virtual assistant.

It might not be as hard as you think.

The first thing I will tell you to do is to consider taking a virtual assistant course. 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success is an excellent course to consider. The right course will give you a solid start and help you avoid the most common mistakes in your new business.

But even before you buy into a course, you need to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Let’s take a look at what it really takes to become a virtual assistant.

What Is A Virtual Assistant?

The job title “Virtual Assistant” or VA gets tossed around a lot right now as a great option for working at home. With computers and the Internet making it easier to work for someone else from a distance, this job has great possibilities for many a stay at home mom or dad.

But not everyone understands what it is. It may not help that a virtual assistant may have a wide range of duties, and not all virtual assistants offer the same services.

What Are Typical Virtual Assistant Job Duties?

Your job duties as a virtual assistant will vary. It depends on what you offer and what your clients need. You can simply state that a virtual assistant works remotely from home for other professionals. But that doesn’t really explain what a virtual assistant does.

Your virtual assistant work may include answering emails and other routine correspondence such as email and phone calls, managing social media accounts, creating content for blogs, graphic design, and much more.

The wide range of possibilities is why many virtual assistants specialize. You probably can’t do it all. But if you do a few things better than most, you can find someone willing to pay you to handle that job for them.

Who Hires Virtual Assistants?

Virtual assistants are popular with other people working from home, but they’re not the only ones who hire them. Any small business that needs help with something you can do from your home may consider hiring a virtual assistant. This way they don’t have to hire an employee or provide them with workspace or benefits.

  • Real estate agents
  • Companies needing temporary help that can be done from home
  • Legal professionals.authors
  • Journalists
  • Life and business coaches
  • Teachers and professors
  • Small business owners
  • Consultants
  • Beauty salon owners
  • Therapists
  • CPAs
  • Photographers
  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • and many more.

schedule laptop

Can Anyone Be A Virtual Assistant?

Many people have the basic skills to become a virtual assistant. Not everyone, but many.

Some think of a virtual assistant as being something like a personal assistant. The skills can be similar. However, many virtual assistants specialize in just a few key skills, so that they’re more effective than someone who does more general work.

If you have experience as a personal assistant, that can be a huge plus when you decide to become a virtual assistant. You have much more of an idea as to what clients will ask of you. But it’s not an absolute need to have such experience. Many people start a virtual assistant business with no experience at all as an assistant.

What you absolutely must have are some skills that are good enough to catch a client’s attention, and the willingness to learn more over time. If you have demonstrated experience in these skills, you have something to show potential clients.

If you want to help people in the legal field, for example, experience in the legal or paralegal field will be a huge help. Similarly, if you want to help people who run online businesses, you will to need to understand the internet very well and probably need HTML and CSS skills.

What Training Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant should be well trained in whichever skills they intend to offer as a virtual assistant. If one of your offered skills is social media, you need to know how to manage various types of social media accounts, make them grow, and get a good response rate from posts.

Similarly, if you offer bookkeeping skills, you should know how to use common bookkeeping software, such as Quickbooks. If you offer email marketing services, you should be able to use common email management services and be able to figure the ROI on a mailing.

You can get training on any skills you feel you need to develop further. Sites such as Udemy offer courses on a huge range of topics. Consider these options:

But there’s one more kind of training you should consider to work as a virtual assistant. I mentioned it near the start of this post. A course such as 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success will be a huge help in getting your VA business off to a successful start.

office

What Equipment Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?

Odds are that you already own much of the equipment you need to do your work as a virtual assistant. You probably wouldn’t even consider becoming a virtual assistant if you didn’t already have access to a computer and the internet. Those two things are the minimum you need. You will probably want more things.

Get A Dedicated Phone Number

When you have any kind of a home business that people are likely to want to call, you will probably want a dedicated phone number for that business. You don’t want to answer your home phone like a business or vice versa.

These days, you don’t have to get a whole new phone line put in to get a new phone number. You also don’t have to pay a lot to get a cell phone to use for your business, although you can. But if you want to go the free route, get a VOIP number from a service such as Google Voice.

I like Google Voice, even though I use it very little. You can set it up to forward calls to another number, so that you receive them like any other call, or have calls go to voicemail.

You can make calls through Google Voice, although it’s not as simple as dialing your phone. It gives you the option of connecting through a phone number you’ve linked to your account, such as your home or cell phone, or it can place the call through Google Hangouts.

Google Voice has its faults, and many of them, but it allows you to share a phone number with clients that isn’t your personal number. You can even put it on do not disturb so that you don’t get calls outside of business hours – they go straight to voicemail.

If you’d rather just get a cell phone for your business, I suggest taking a look at Ting if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on another phone line. This is the service I use, and it saves me a lot of money. We have four cell phones on it right now, and the combined monthly bill is usually less than $40. We aren’t heavy users, obviously, but it’s still an amazing deal.

Start A Blog And/Or Website

If you want clients to find you, you must have an online presence. You can seek out clients on your own, but you’ll still need a website to show them what you’re capable of.

Starting a website is relatively easy and very affordable. You need good hosting. Make sure your hosting makes it easy to use SSL connections – which is what makes a secure connection to your website – as it’s pretty much mandatory these days. I’m currently using A2 Hosting and have been generally happy with them. I’ve also used HostGator but left them when I realized that switching to SSL with them wasn’t a simple process on the plan I had. I was happy with them otherwise, and some of their plans make SSL easy to get.

I strongly recommend using WordPress to manage your content. There’s a learning curve, but most people find it’s not that bad, and many clients will use it as well. If you’re hired to post blog updates and such, you’ll need this skill anyhow.

Use your blog as an online portfolio whenever possible. The exact things you should share on it will depend on your niche, but here are some ideas.

  • Details of services and packages you offer
  • Client testimonials
  • Case studies on work you’ve done for clients
  • Contact information
  • Samples of your work
  • Advice you want to share in general

That last one can be important. If you want to keep bringing in new clients, you have to get your name out there as a great resource. People who read and admire what you’ve written are more likely to trust your abilities.

It also helps keep your blog updated. It looks good to search engines if new information is added to your site regularly, and it gives you something to share on social media so you can build a solid following.

If social media marketing is one of the skills you want to offer, you must have your own social media accounts with followers and interactions that show you can do it. The combination of a blog and active social media will demonstrate these skills.

Having your own website with a domain name makes it easy to have a professional looking email address associated with it. This will look much more professional than your typical Gmail or other free email address.

Appropriate Software For Your Business

The software you need will depend on what you’re offering your clients. If you’re doing graphic design, for example, you will probably want to have Photoshop and/or Illustrator. If you will be coding websites or software, there are a number of options listed on this site for you to consider.

Bookkeeping software is good both for the needs of your own business and for any clients you might do bookkeeping work for. Quickbooks is good overall, and many people like Freshbooks for invoicing.

Design Your Own Business Cards

While much of your marketing will probably be done online, you still need business cards. There will be times when you meet someone who would make a great client. While you can simply exchange contact information on your phones, that doesn’t put a physical reminder into the potential client’s hand.

A business card does.

If you want to offer graphic design services, this is an opportunity to show those off in a small space. Make it professional and eye catching.

Don’t go too cheap on the printing. A poorly printed business card won’t reflect well on your business.

code editor

What Should You Do As A Virtual Assistant?

There are a lot of different services you can offer as a virtual assistant. You don’t have to do it all. Many virtual assistants choose to offer a variety of services, however, so that clients don’t have to work with multiple assistants. The more virtual assistants a client tries, after all, the more chances that they’ll go with someone else.

Stick with things you know you can handle well for your clients. If you really cannot make great looking images, you shouldn’t be offering graphic design services. If your grammar is terrible, you shouldn’t work as a writer.

You do not have to be equally strong in all of your skills, of course. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some services to consider:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Online research
  • Graphic design
  • Updating databases
  • Creating presentations
  • Writing and editing
  • Email management
  • Social media management
  • Travel planning
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Website design
  • Following up with clients
  • Transcription
  • Customer support
  • And much more!

Creating Your Virtual Assistant Niche

Creating a niche as a virtual assistant is important. Think about it from your client’s point of view. A real estate agent who wants a virtual assistant is far more likely to hire one who has worked with other real estate agents. That VA will understand their needs much better than one who has never worked for a real estate agent before.

Don’t think that narrowing down your niche means you are limiting your horizons. You aren’t. You’re making your business more appealing to potential clients. If you choose your niche well, you’re making your success more likely.

If you’ve worked in a particular industry in the past, think about virtual assistant services you could offer in that area. Your previous experience can mean a tremendous advantage.

Another idea is to take a look at what other virtual assistants are doing. How can you stand out from the crowd, given your skills and experience?

If you’ve been working as a virtual assistant, and want to try focusing your efforts more, take a look at what you’ve been doing. What do people ask you for the most? What do you most enjoy doing? You can even sometimes include outside interests if you find a way to relate them to being a virtual assistant.

Don’t forget to consider what just isn’t working for you. Sometimes it will mean you need to charge more for a particular activity, but other times it may be better for you to drop it from your list of virtual assistant services.

Finally, think about who your ideal client is? What industry? What services does your ideal client want?

Your niche should always be something you enjoy. If you pick something you really aren’t happy with, what do you think the odds are that you will stick with it?

How Do Virtual Assistants Set Their Rates?

How much you earn from your virtual assistant business will make a big difference in your life. What the best rate to charge your clients will vary, however, both as you grow your VA business and by how difficult the client is.

Don’t underestimate your overhead just because you’re working at home. Here are some of the factors you need to consider.

Your Time

A lot of people new to home business do not value this highly enough. If you’ve done office work outside the home, what did you earn? Average it out per hour. Then remember that the job quite likely came with benefits, such as medical, dental, paid time off and so forth. The only way you’re getting those with a home business is if either your spouse’s job offers them or you provide them yourself.

Then there’s all the unbillable time to consider. There’s the work you do to find clients. Sick days. Vacations. Holidays. Your hourly rate needs to make your income viable even with all those things considered.

Your Equipment

It all costs money, and you may have to spend some to get all the equipment you should have. You may not have to get a fax machine, eFax and similar services may do the job quite well enough, but other things you will need to buy. Reference materials for your specialties. Appropriate software. A business phone line.

You will probably at some point need to upgrade equipment or buy things you haven’t had before for your virtual assistant business. If you don’t have a good home office set up yet, you’ll want to improve it over time.

Marketing

You may or may not know much about the Internet, but there is one simple rule: Build it and they will come just ain’t so.

You will have to market yourself and your business. You’ll want business cards. Flyers, possibly, or brochures. And most definitely a website and you’ll have to market that too, quite possibly using pay per click advertising. It costs money to do these things. Not to mention the time it takes to really get things going. Keep remembering that your time is valuable.

marketing stats

Taxes

Yes, you’re going to have to think about taxes. If you’re losing money it can be a writeoff, but if you’re earning you have a lot to think about. Such as paying quarterly estimated taxes. But think positive. If you’re having to pay quarterly, it means you’re doing something right. But keep in mind that when you were employed by someone else, they paid a part of it.

Insurance

Business insurance may be a good idea. It’s protection in case of serious problems. But you should also be thinking about how your business may impact your needs for your homeowners or renters insurance, car insurance and so forth.

Mortgage/Rent

You may be able to write off a part of these on your taxes, but that also means you can think of them as one of your business expenses. You’ll want to talk to a tax professional about how these are impacted on your taxes. You may qualify for a home office deduction.

Utilities

Similarly, you can consider some of your utilities to be business-related expenses. Your home office uses electricity, after all. And that phone line? What about the Internet connection? Keep asking your tax professional questions.

Travel/Transportation

Do you do any driving in the course of your virtual assistant work? Meet with clients? Even travel long distances on rare occasions? Then you may have some costs of business to calculate in there.

Your Target Market

Your target market matters when setting your rates. You can charge more for some areas than others. The more challenging the skill required, the more a client should be willing to pay to have the work done. If it’s something that just about anyone can handle without difficulty, clients will expect a lower rate.

While the necessary rates can vary quite a bit by where you live, in the United States you will probably want to charge at least $30 an hour. You can go higher, especially on more challenging tasks.

You may want to consider charging by the project for some things. This can be better than charging an hourly rate, but it can also be far worse. Set up your project rates with caution, and make sure your contracts carefully outline what’s included. You don’t want a picky client taking up twice the time you had allotted to the project if you can’t charge them for the extra time.

Charging a project rate limits how much information you have to give clients on how long the project took you. They don’t always understand how much work something takes.

Don’t be afraid to raise your rates as necessary. Sometimes a higher rate helps weed out the bargain hunters, who can be more difficult clients than the ones willing to pay a fair rate to get the job done.

Even with set rates, be willing to talk to clients who want something special set up. If it sounds good, go for it. But don’t let the bargain hunters get you down. Bargain hunters are notoriously difficult clients and can eat up more of your time while paying you less. If someone wants you to drop your rates too far, they probably are not worth your time. There’s no point in joining a race to the bottom in the hopes of getting more clients.

After all, your time is valuable.

How Do You Find Clients?

Clients are the obvious lifeblood of a virtual assistant home business. You quite simply cannot get anywhere without them. But finding them can be a challenge, especially at first.

Look Locally

There are a lot of small businesses in most areas that could use the services of a virtual assistant. You can send out a mailing to a list of small businesses in your area and see about the responses you get.

But be warned, mailings add up fast. And you need to target them to the kind of businesses you want to work for. There’s no point in mailing to lawyers if you specialize in helping realtors.

But mailings aren’t the only way to contact local small businesses. You can be visible in your local business community. Join the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The SBA. Any other business groups in your area, especially if they are targeted towards the kinds of businesses you’re looking to work for.

Similarly, you should be on the lookout for small business events in your area. Charity events can also be good. Have plenty of business cards and talk your services up… politely, of course. You don’t want to look as though that’s the only reason you’re out there.

There are advantages to working with local clients. The big one may be that you aren’t competing directly with every other virtual assistant online. Meeting in person can be nice for some projects as well.

Network With Other Virtual Assistants

Sometimes other, more experienced virtual assistants will be looking to subcontract to someone else. While this generally won’t give you an “in” with their client, it’s work! Use it as a chance to really get things started.

Alternatively, if your skill sets complement each other, have services that you work together on. Maybe one does well on website design, the other on logo design or marketing. It can be very helpful to be able to offer more complete services.

This is not too hard to do. Network within virtual assistant communities. It’s one of the easiest ways to get to know some of your fellow virtual assistants. You’ll probably have to pay a membership fee, but since it’s a cost of your business it should be tax deductible.

Look On Freelance Websites

You can also find work on freelance websites. Places such as Upwork and Guru are popular choices. Don’t underprice yourself even on these sites by too much. Getting the experience matters, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed by low paying work when something better comes along.

When you’re just getting started as a virtual assistant, you can offer small tasks on Fiverr. If you’re good, you can build up to larger tasks on that site. Early on, however, you will want to offer tasks you can do for a small amount of pay. This can help build up your portfolio to get better jobs later.

Join Facebook Groups

There are quite a few virtual assistant groups on Facebook. Take a look at them and join the ones that look good to you. These can help you with job leads.

LinkedIn is another good choice, especially as it has a more professional target audience than Facebook. Seek out appropriate groups on LinkedIn and you may find clients there.

Companies That Hire Virtual Assistants

There are a few companies that hire virtual assistants, and then give the VAs work from their clients. The disadvantage to this is that your pay rate will be lower than you should be asking on your own. The advantage is that someone else is finding all the clients for you. Consider these companies:

Belay Solutions
Time Etc
Worldwide 101
Red Butler
Contemporary Virtual Assistance
Vicky Virtual
Team Delegate
VA Sumo
Virtual Gal Friday

This can be a great way to test out being a virtual assistant if you aren’t certain about what’s involved. You can get your feet wet before having to learn how to market your own business. Pay can start as low as $10 an hour, but some companies will pay $20+ per hour.

I know all this is a lot of information. But if you want to start your own virtual assistant business, you will need more. This is why is still suggest that you consider the 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course to help you learn how to become a virtual assistant. There’s a lot more to learn, and the author, Gina Horkey, has had a lot of success as a virtual assistant. She knows far more than I do about this.

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 May 22nd, 2018

30+ Ideas For Working at Home

30+ Ideas For Working at Home

I often hear from people who want to work at home, and that’s as far as they’ve gotten with it. They seem to want me to tell them what to do. Know what? I can’t do that. I don’t know what kind of work at home job or home business is right for a particular person. That’s your problem. You need to think it out, look at your skills and interests, and start researching the possibilities. Once you’re there, I can probably give some better tips. Just get those first ideas for working at home, and you’ve got a start.

With all that said, here are some ideas to perhaps get you going. Maybe one of these ideas for working at home will help you. It’s not a comprehensive list of work at home ideas, but it’s a start. Oh, and yes, there will be affiliate links in the post here, but it’s potential value to readers that gets links in this post, not whether or not I get paid. There will be non-affiliate links too, in other words.

Work at Home Jobs

As always, don’t pay for a work at home job. Sometimes you may legitimately have to pay for a background check, but look into the opportunity before you do so, as that’s always a risky proposition.

You may need to get training on your own for some of these jobs as well. The training isn’t done with the employer – you have to attend classes at a school or find a good online course. You have a lot of options now to gain the skills you need for the job you want.

Data Entry

Data entry is one of the classics lots of people look at when they want to work at home. It sounds easy, and you can find lots of ads promising you big bucks for filling in simple forms.

The reality of this one isn’t quite so simple. There are indeed true work at home data entry jobs out there, but they don’t pay the big bucks, and they’re on the scarce side. I have some companies listed here on this site, but no idea who’s hiring at any point (as with all other work at home job opportunities) so don’t ask me. You may do better with one of the freelance sites, taking on an individual, usually short term assignment.

If the “job” is filling out ad forms for affiliate commissions, get better advice. Affiliate marketing is great when it works, but it’s not a job and it’s not that easy to make a living at it for most people. At the very least, there’s a tough learning curve and if you’re doing pay per click ads it can get really, really expensive before you master it.

There are better alternatives out there if you think data entry is the one work at home skill you have. You can do more than you think if you give yourself the chance. You need to look at more ideas for working at home.

Customer Service/Telemarketing

Customer service is one of the other hugely popular work at home jobs right now. It doesn’t take a lot of special skills, so many people feel comfortable trying for customer service work at home jobs. You need a completely quiet place to work, a desktop computer compatible with requirements set by potential employers (usually Windows of a reasonably recent sort), a high speed internet connection, a landline telephone, and a good quality, noise cancelling headset telephone that connects directly to the wall outlet (no wireless).

The need for quiet makes customer service a challenging job to do at home with children. Kids aren’t always quiet when you need them to be. Neither are pets. Sometimes even your spouse can be difficult, not to mention the folks mowing their lawn across the street. That’s why you must have a headset telephone that cancels out most background noises.

Medical Coding

If you want to do medical coding from home, you will need training and experience. That’s an absolute. I have yet to see any employers that will train you on the job from home. Once you have that, however, there are some excellent work at home medical coding opportunities out there.

Medical Transcription

Medical transcription is where I got my start working at home. I still cautiously recommend medical transcription, but it’s getting trickier as times change. Electronic medical records have really changed some parts, and you have to be prepared for that. That said, there are still jobs out there. Just remember that you have to get a good quality medical transcription education first, and make sure it prepares you for the current situation.

Legal or General Transcription

Legal and general transcription may be options as well for those who type well. While it is possible to get into general transcription without training if you’re sufficiently determined, I strongly suggest you take the free course from Transcribe Anywhere to get a feeling for what’s required.

You will almost certainly want training for legal transcription. Transcribe Anywhere has a course for legal transcription, including a free mini course so you can decide if that’s what you want to do before spending any money on it.

Transcription is a great alternative for working at home. I think it’s a much better choice than data entry, and there are far more jobs in transcription at home than data entry in my experience.

Bookkeeper/Accountant

Lots of people and companies need a good bookkeeper or accountant. If you have the skills, you can take it home. You may need to meet with clients in person at times, but much of the work may be done at home.

Tax season is a very busy time for bookkeepers and accountants, of course. You’ll need to consider how many clients you can handle even when they all need help around the same time.

Computer Programmer/Software Developer

My oldest sister used to do computer programming from home. I know it’s entirely possible, even though she eventually decided it wasn’t for her. You have to have the skills already, but if you’re a programmer, you don’t necessarily have to go to the office anymore. You can find a company that lets employees work from home instead.

Teacher

Not all teachers work at school. There are charter virtual schools which hire teachers to work primarily from their homes. Meetings with students and parents may be required, but the bulk of the work can be done from your home. In most programs, you do need a teaching credential for this work.

Online Tutor

If you don’t want to go all the way to being a teacher, there are also companies which hire online tutors. You may still need that teaching credential, however. There are a number of companies, however, that do not require a teaching credential for their tutors. Read the job description and requirements carefully so that you only apply for jobs that you’re qualified for. You’re only wasting time if you apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for.

Translator Or Interpreter

It’s a big world out there, and sometimes a translator or interpreter is needed to get through it all. Translators can work from home for a particular business or service, or strike out on their own as a freelancer. You will need to be fluent in both languages you deal with as a translator.

Many interpreters work from home over the phone. You’ll want a good setup so that you can hear clearly and be heard clearly. You might be interpreting between a patient and doctor, for example, and it’s very important to get things right.

Mystery Shopper

Most mystery shoppers don’t earn all that much, but the pay per job can be decent if it’s close enough to your home. It’s a nice way to get out of the house while earning some money. Be aware of the many scams in the mystery shopping arena and make sure you deal with reputable companies. Some people do fairly well, but it takes time to get to where you earn good money.

Health Care

Nurses may be able to work from home answering health related questions on the phone. Nurses can also do case management from home. Most positions require that you be a registered nurse in the state you reside in.

Technical Support

Technical support can be like a customer service position in some ways, except you’re dealing with much more technical information. The pay can be better. Some technical support jobs require a college degree or certification.

Be prepared to deal with problems ranging from the simple to the complex. People call tech support for many reasons, and some of them will have very little understanding of what you need them to do to help solve the problem.

Website Developer

Do you enjoy creating websites? Know your HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and so forth? You may be able to set up a business developing websites for other businesses or find a work at home job as a website developer.

This is one option that many people do a lot of their marketing locally. Not all small, local businesses have websites and may be very interested in having one developed for them. It’s a highly affordable marketing tool, even after the expense of the website.

Graphic Designer

Whether you’re creating a logo for a website or a photo spread for a magazine, graphic designers don’t necessarily have to work from a big office. You can do quite a bit of this on your own for clients or be a work at home graphic designer for a company.

Alternatively, make great designs and sell them on TeepublicCafePressZazzle, or many other websites.

Virtual Assistant

Good at doing things around the office, like handling emails, appointment setting, data entry, online research and so forth? There’s pretty good demand for virtual assistants who can handle a variety of business tasks. Take this course if you want to learn how to be a successful virtual assistant quickly.

Photographer

If you love taking photographs, you can make the most of that by becoming a photographer. You’ll need to develop a good portfolio, and it’s often best to specialize. Some prefer being a wedding photographer while others prefer family photos, for example. Certainly, you can do a few different types of photography, but it may be easier to build a reputation if there’s one you really specialize in.

You don’t have to just take pictures for sale to a particular client. You can also take photos and put them up for sale on stock photography websites. The income from these may be small per sale, but it can build up if you provide an interesting, useful selection of photographs.

Writer

There are lots of opportunities out there for writers, whether you want to be a freelance writer or work for a single employer. There’s also a lot of competition because so many people want to work as writers. You have to find a way to stand out.

It’s a good idea to specialize as a writer. Consider your experience to figure out what areas are best for you to specialize in. You can write articles, ebooks, reports, resumes, and much more. You may want to consider this course, 30 Days To Freelance Writing Success, to get things moving.

Marketing

Ever look at the copy on a sales page and pick apart just how they convince visitors to buy? Are you a convincing writer yourself? You may do well running your own website selling products or you can do marketing for others. A great copywriter can earn very good money.

Social Media Marketer

Just how much of a chatterbox are you on Twitter, Facebook, and other social websites? Are you always finding the great links to share? You may do well marketing other people’s businesses on social media for them. You can be a social media marketer as a regular job, freelance and help several companies with their social media marketing, or use it as a strategy to promote your own online business.

Drive

Driving isn’t working at home as such, but if you don’t need to do everything at home, you can work for Lyft or Uber as a driver. These work if flexibility is your goal and you don’t have to be at home all of the time.

Freelance Websites

This is where the plus in the article title comes from. Just about any job you can do at home, you can find through a freelance website. They’re great for building a portfolio or resume when you’re just getting started, and you can make a living just through freelancing when you’re good at it.

Many freelance websites have you create a profile, then you bid on jobs. Don’t obsess over being the lowest bidder all the time. You don’t want the jobs that don’t pay what you’re worth; they’re reputed to be the most difficult customers because they want so much for less.

Here are a few websites you can check out for freelance job listings. Some are the bidding sort, others are set up other ways. You may need to work at the office at least part of the time for some freelance jobs, but many can be done entirely from home.

Guru
Craigslist (beware of scams)
Upwork
People Per Hour
Freelancer.com
Hire My Mom
Home Job Stop
iFreelance
Toptal
Freelance Writing Jobs

And many more, just do a search with your favorite search engine.

If all you put down for your skills are common things such as writing skills, you’ll have a lot of trouble finding jobs. Some freelance sites won’t accept you with skills that are too common, as they have too many people bidding on those jobs already. Give some real thought to how you apply to freelance sites as well as your portfolio. It’s a good idea to have an online portfolio outside of the freelance sites so more potential clients can find you and review your work. Starting a blog can help you put your skills on display.

Home Business Ideas

There are a ton of possibilities when it comes to running a home business. Strictly speaking, freelancing is a home business too, but many people think of them separately, and so I’m treating them separately.

Now, you can combine a few things to make your home business work its best. You can have a blog, do affiliate marketing, and have an email list that you send special offers out to. You can have your own product and do affiliate marketing at the same time. These things aren’t exclusive; just make sure you learn to do each part before you add on another thing. Taking on too much at once with a business makes it easier to fail.

Affiliate Marketing

This is just one form of online business. There are several other models, but affiliate marketing appeals to a lot of people. No worries about taking payments, dealing with inventory or shipping products – it just sounds easy.

As with any other home business, there’s quite a learning curve, and many affiliate marketers make under $100 per month, from what I’ve read. In other words, don’t assume you’ll make a fortune, no matter what the promos say. One way or another, you have to learn to market, whether it’s online, offline, social media, pay per click, buying ads on other websites or creating your own.

On the other hand, you can market just about any product you can think of. Affiliate marketing is great if you want to run a website about your hobby – just refer people to sites that sell the things necessary for the hobby and will give you a commission. Make sure you keep your recommendations honest – there’s no quicker way to lose a reputation than to recommend junk.

I suggest taking an online affiliate marketing course to get going. It’s not quite as simple as throwing a few links on a page or into your social media stream, believe me! You’ll earn more as an affiliate if you know what you’re doing.

Blogging

There are lots and lots of bloggers out there now. It’s a popular home business model. Affiliate marketing can be a part of it, but you can also sell ad space, get paid directly to promote products or use it to build upon another part of your business.

Most bloggers won’t hit it big. It should be obvious that we can’t all be big name bloggers, but with all the dreams people have about their home businesses, I think it bears mentioning. Keep working on your blog, and you get a decent following and earn a good living, if not the spectacular money some bloggers earn. It doesn’t cost a lot to start a blog, making it worth the effort.

Email Marketing

Nope, email isn’t dead. It’s not even suffering too badly. Just because a lot of people enjoy reading blogs and receive posts through an RSS reader, or keep up with things on Facebook doesn’t mean they don’t use email anymore. It’s still pretty strong.

There are a lot of rules to follow as an email marketer. Don’t buy a list. That’s a great way to get in trouble for spamming. Don’t just send emails from your home computer either. Most ISPs really don’t like that, and may limit how many you send, plus if you get accused of spamming, you can lose your entire internet connection.

It’s much better to go with a service such as Aweber or Get Response. They provide the HTML for your subscription forms, handle spam complaints and unsubscribes, and so forth. The main thing you do is write and send out your emails, and work on attracting people to your list legitimately. Keep it legit, as either company will terminate any account they feel is getting subscribers the wrong way.

Make Videos

Video marketing is usually a portion of your overall business. Unless you get a lot of views, you aren’t going to earn a living from your videos without selling something, whether you do so as an affiliate or sell a product of your own creation. Sufficiently popular videos may also earn an income from ads placed on the video. YouTube is the popular site for posting videos, of course, but you have to watch out for the rules. Google’s pretty strict, and accounts can be deleted.

Take a little time to learn YouTube marketing to improve your chances of success with YouTube and similar sites. Learning from someone who knows how to get things moving can help you avoid a lot of the mistakes others will make.

Product Creation

The wonderful thing about online marketing is that it’s really easy to make your own product. Ebooks, software and apps can sell very well online, and may not be all that hard to make. You need an idea, then you need to take action to make that product a reality. Then start marketing. As with any other business, it will probably be tough at first, you may fail a few times, but keep at it and you might make it.

Life Coach

Many people enjoy working with a coach to get their career, life or home business running better. If you’ve had some success and enjoy sharing your skills, you may be able to earn a living as a coach. You can take a course to learn how to be a life coach and get your business going.

Daycare Operator

How about going the traditional way? Running a daycare from your home has been around a very long time. The hours are long, the pay may not be great, but you’re with your kids.

Network Marketing

This is another traditional way to earn money from home. From classics such as Mary Kay, Avon and Watkins, to the floods of newer network marketing companies out there, you can have fun selling products to family, friends, referrals and possibly even online.

Sell Crafts

Whether you sell on Etsy, eBay or elsewhere, it’s much easier than it used to be to make crafts and sell them online. There’s lots of competition now, but that means lots of opportunities as well.

Store Owner

You can run your own store selling physical products. You’ll need appropriate licensing for your area, a wholesale source for products, a way to take online payments (Paypal works, but you may want to consider other credit card processors as well), and a website to display your products.

Now, you don’t necessarily have to have the products in your home. Some people prefer to use dropshippers, so as to simplify the shipping process and the inventory. Getting stuck with a bunch of something that didn’t sell is a pain, after all. You’ll still have to deal with customer service issues, store promotion and so forth.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. What types of work at home do you think are worth it?

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 May 9th, 2018

Do You Need To Prepare Your Blog For The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

Do You Need To Prepare Your Blog For The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

There’s an important regulation coming into effect on May 25, 2018, for anyone collecting data from users in the European Union. It’s called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and you may need to be aware of it, even if you aren’t in Europe.  At the very least, you must be aware of its existence and decide you need to do.

First things first. I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. It’s an alert for you to find out what’s relevant to your situation. If you want legal advice on this, it would not be a bad idea at all to consult a lawyer. It may take time, however, for lawyers to know how GDPR will impact website owners in non-European countries.

What Is The GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation sets down rules on how companies are to handle people’s personal information. This includes information such as IP address, cookies, location data, name, and email address, but may include more information, depending on what you collect. Information collected must be voluntary – that is, visitors must be clearly informed of the data you collect and agree to it. The request must be in clear language.

You also have to allow users to request that their data be deleted.

It also includes some pretty stiff fines for companies that don’t comply up to 4% of their global annual turnover, or €20M, whichever is greater.

In other words, they mean for this regulation to have some teeth. These fines are meant to be painful even for huge companies that have billions of euros in income each year.

Compliance can mean more than just taking someone off your list when they unsubscribe from your email list. If they want all of their information deleted, you must delete all of it. If they want to know what information you have on them, you have to share that information with them.

You also have to let users know why you want the data and how to opt out of data collection. Collection of data on people under age 16 requires parental consent.

If you want more detailed information, there are a number of sites with good writeups about GDPR, beyond the GDPR website, which may give you more details than you can handle. Try WTF Is GDPRStop whining, GDPR is actually good for your business, and Hubspot’s The GDPR Last-Minute Kit.

What Data Do You Probably Have As A Blogger?

As a blogger, you may have more data on your visitors than you think. Much of it will be quite generic – your statistics program that comes with your website hosting may tell you what IP address your visitors come from, and what pages they visited.

But you probably have more than that. It may be shared with third parties as well.

Do you use Google Analytics? Who runs your mailing list? What affiliate networks or ad networks are you a part of? These need to be revealed and included as a part of the consent you request.

Think about the comment section on your website. It probably asks for a name and email address at the very least, with an option to include a website link. That’s personal information right there. Of course, if you use Disqus or Facebook comments, you’ll have whatever rules they expect you to follow.

Should You Do Anything To Comply With The GDPR?

Many people outside the European Union are unsure if they need to do anything to comply with the GDPR, especially if they don’t get a lot of traffic there. The whole thing looks difficult to handle at this point.

Regardless of your need to comply, you should consider how you’re treating visitors’ data. Are you keeping it safe and using it only in the ways they expect you to?

I’m taking guidance from the various services I use. If Google needs me to put up a notice to continue using their services such as Analytics on my site, obviously I’m going to do it. Same for whatever is expected by the various affiliate networks and my email list provider. They’re far more exposed to risk than I am, so I expect them to know what is necessary. I also don’t want to lose these services. If they want me to comply, I will. I expect most of them to have requirements.

AdSense, for example, has already put out a request for publishers to link to Google’s Privacy & Terms page.  It says, in part, “You are not required to seek consent for a user’s activity on Google’s sites (we obtain that ourselves when users visit our sites). We are asking only that you seek consent for your uses of our ads products on your properties.”

Google is also providing “a range of optional tools to help you with gathering user consent across your websites and apps.”

If you are targeting European users, you absolutely need to comply. If they’re an incidental part of your audience, you should have much less to worry about, although you may still need to keep an eye on how things go.

The challenge with compliance will be minimizing the number of popups about privacy. You know how much they annoy visitors. As things progress, I expect to see a lot of advice out there on how to get consent without annoying your visitors.

Can You Just Block European Users?

Some people have just considered blocking European users. It sounds easier for small businesses and blogs that very little traffic from Europe. Why go through all the trouble?

The big reason I can think of to take the GDPR into consideration and act on it is that other countries may follow. Think about how outraged people have been over the use of their data with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. People will want to have more control over how their personal data is used.

This means more countries may pass laws similar to the GDPR. It’s better to deal with it now. This may simplify things later.

Also, the GDPR is supposed to protect European citizens no matter where they are. If they’re traveling in another country and go online, their data is to be as protected as if they were at home.

Much of this falls into good business practice anyhow. You have to get explicit permission to subscribe someone to your newsletter, for example. You should be doing that anyhow. It is a good idea to have your website served over https rather than http, which is a recommendation from Google in general now, regardless of anything else.

What Tools Can Help?

Many of the big companies you may work with are coming out with tools to help businesses deal with the GDPR. It impacts them too, after all, and they’re bigger targets than you are. They want it done right.

If you use Google products such as Analytics or AdSense, they’re working on tools for you. Some affiliate networks, such as Commission Junction, are working on tools as well.

There are WordPress plugins that can help you with GDPR compliance. Here are a few. No doubt more are coming, and it will take time to determine which are the best. Note that these may not guarantee that you are fully compliant with GDPR. They should help, however.

GDPR – Helps with consent management, privacy preferences, rights to erasure and deletion of website data, data processor settings, data breach notification logs with batch email notifications to data subjects, and more.

WP GDPR Compliance – This plugin helps make Contact Form 7 (>= 4.6), Gravity Forms (>= 1.9), WooCommerce (>= 2.5.0) and WordPress Comments GDPR compliant.

Shariff Wrapper – Many social sharing buttons transmit visitor data as soon as they visit your website. Shariff Wrapper doesn’t. I would hope that soon all share buttons stop doing this, as social media sites are decidedly impacted by GDPR, but if you’re concerned, this is an immediate solution.

GDPR Personal Data Reports – Gives visitors an automated process to request and retrieve their personal data from your site. It also allows them to request data removal and anonymizes and deletes data as appropriate.

Surbma – GDPR Proof Google Analytics –   every visitor to accept or decline Google Analytics tracking.

EU Cookie Law – This plugin is reviewing their GDPR compliance as of this writing, but I included it because it looks like a good start. It even gives an option to lock scripts before visitors accept your cookie policy, which is required by Italian law.

Delete Me – Allows users to delete their own accounts on your WordPress blog.

What Am I Doing?

I’m still figuring things out myself. My process has been delayed be a MAJOR family emergency that is taking tons of time. I plan to do something, but figuring out exactly what tools I will use will take some time. I’m watching for the tools developed by companies that I work with so that I keep up with their requirements. It may become good business practice in general anyhow.

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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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.