To Work from Home or Not
My decision to develop my business and a home office was not an easy one. Fears of failure, financial loss and homelessness each played out in my mind. There were so many “What ifs.”
I took each one in turn and determined solutions I could implement. Asking for help, learning, and skill development were all considered viable options. The most difficult one? Learning how to ask for help, a skill in itself. The second half of that is learning to accept the help.
Taking the First Step
Your first step is research: learn what works for others, consider you and if you can adapt suggestions to your style. There is nothing set in stone that cannot be changed. Flexibility is key to any plan.
There is a plan. Considerations for making a move to becoming self-employed should include all aspects of your daily life. For instance:
- Financial: paying the bills and feeding oneself. Create a survival fund with enough for at least six months.
- Home Office Needs: what will you need to set up a home office?
- Niche: your specialty. What will you do in your new business?
- Schedule: what hours are you going to work?
- Distractions: how will you cope with distractions?
- Services: what services will you need to support you in your home business?
Questions to Consider
Before you quit your job, consider creating a plan of action. One that will allow for the process of moving from employee to business owner.
- What is your skill set? What do you excel at? Feel great doing?
- Is there a niche for your skill set?
- If there is one, how much competition do you face? Is there room for you.
- Do you have to improve your skills or can you get started immediately?
- What do you need to get started?
- Business Cards
- Home office equipment: computer, printer, fax?
- Space at home or will the kitchen table offer enough room?
- What do you need to do to minimize distractions?
- Can you set a schedule to work by at home and stick to it?
- What plan do you need to create to mitigate contingencies?
- How will you cope with your naysayers?
- How will you cope with overwhelm?
- Who can you ask for help? Advice?
A very important tool to have is a notebook, pencils, and pens. You will want to write notes, make lists, jot ideas. I find writing instead of typing is more productive and I retain information better. I created a work journal.
Challenges You May Face
Working from home is very different than working for someone else in his/her office. The rules are different, they are created by someone else. Working in someone else’s office translates to pay no matter what. You can get away with slacking off, that is until you get caught. Slack off at home, spend too much time reading emails, surfing social media, etc. and you do not earn for the time.
Discipline is important, focus, creating a schedule you can work with. Making room for distractions and emergencies is a must.
Moms and dads desire to be home with the children. The children and pets have a schedule of their own. Good luck getting them to understand you are too busy working to play. My dogs have finally settled into a schedule that works with my business hours. It took us a lot of trial and error to get it right and to help them adjust. Bladders operate on their own schedule.
The other challenge I faced it getting my friends to understand that just because I am home does not mean I am at their disposal. I had to provide a schedule and stipulate emergencies were acceptable reasons to reach out. The next was to define an emergency.
I was the other one I had to train. It is so easy to put off working on a project. It is much more difficult to put off clients. When I scheduled time for me to work for myself, it was easy to allow others to intervene in my plans. I have to keep giving myself permission to feel guilty when I say no. The process goes like this, “I cannot right now, have to finish this project, however, I have time….” That works for all involved. Including my clients.
I am the hardest one to train. I love to play, take naps, and eat junk food. However, it does not pay the rent. After the first few weeks, some rules became a habit that I have maintained. Others are flexible rules and continue to evolve.
Patience & Practice
We can be our own worst critics. In the few years I have sought inside for my personal truth, learning to overcome obstacles I set up, changing behaviors and developing mindfulness skills to improve my life, the one constant is self-punishment.
We learn as children punishment or discipline is the correct behavior to changing bad habits. Mistakes are made, punishment or discipline occurs. Yes, punishment or discipline, they do not share the same ingredients, similar in results.
Parents seek to correct their children to conform to a set of rules. It is a life lesson, one that carries into our adult life. One that I never considered was a habit. I make a mistake, self-punishment. Reinforced by employers who have enforced that behavior, playing the role of parent at work. I know I am not the only one who has had employers rage at them for mistakes.
Our parents, teachers, employers are all role models for us to learn from. What have you learned? Each of us learns how to yell, be angry, punish and on the opposite end to love and nurture. Yet, I believe one of the most difficult is to love and nurture self.
You will make mistakes in developing your home based business, working from home as your own boss. The first reaction is to self-punish, rant, yell, or some other punishing behavior. This is your chance to cultivate patience. For some this is not a challenge at all, for others it is.
Patience, back to the drawing board, and practice. Set up a schedule for your self that is similar to going to someone else’s office. Behave as if you are going to an office, be your own employer. Become the best employer/employee you know how to be for you.
If you slack off, remind yourself, do not punish yourself. Set up a time for personal email, social media surfing, and play time. Don’t forget to take breaks, lunch, and what I like is recess. Find that balance that works for you.
Don’t give up. Give yourself permission to be:
- Angry (irritated is a form of anger)
- Temper Tantrums (make them safe and productive)
Give your self permission to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, adapt, and succeed.
Find the solution that belongs to you. Systems do not fail, people do. You can implement all the techniques, software solutions, etc. They only work when you work them. Experiment and adapt.
For every obstacle there is a tool to remove it. Find the one that works for you. Utilized the freebies, the trials, before you invest. When you do invest and it does not work for you, ask for a refund.
Have a contingency plan. Create a emergency or survival fund for the first year. Many suggest six months, but I like a year of savings, of course it is still a lean spending habit I developed. I read somewhere that you should pay yourself first, at least 10% of your income from your business.
Work it so it matters to you. This is not complete. There is more.
Do you work from home? What works for you?
What is holding you back from moving to a self-employed status?
Good morning, reading my emails, always checking my SPAM folder to ensure legitimate emails do not end up in there. I came across this, took a peak and decided this needs to be published:
SPAM Email Job Offer
“E.S. Co. has an open vacancy for Logistics Manager in your area. The Logistics Manager position is remote, so you will be working from home. Thus you will have an opportunity to work with a flexible work schedule per your convenience. Shall you take the position, you will be trained on the company. The possibility to get promoted is guaranteed to all company’s employees.
Payment rate: the first trail month goes with the salary 2550$ to be paid at the end of the month, after the completion of the probationary period the salary will be rigid $3,250/month – the sum total to be divided into 2 biweekly payments.
Additional incentives: after the probationary period you will also receive extra weekly bonuses per package based on your performance.
Key duties are: to access the Control Panel with tasks every day online; to receive, examine packages in order to ensure quality control, and ship them out with prepaid shipping labels; to cooperate with a senior supervisor and your colleagues online; keep record of incoming and outgoing packages online; to submit daily reports to the Logistics Department.
Perks and benefits kick in after the trail period of 31 days: full insurance on the company, 28 days of paid vacation a year. Personal days off are generally procured according to the company’s policy.
For the purpose of obtaining more details regarding the position, please reply with the following information:
– Your Cell Number:
The applications with phone numbers are given priority.
We appreciate your prompt response, and wish you to have a great day!
Do Not Take That Job
There are so many problems with this email. It is not a legitimate offer. It asks you to practice illegal activities that when it comes time to answer for you will be held legally responsible. And there is no way to shift that to anyone else.
Research companies before you send your personal information. Ask questions of similar types of job offers. Do not be afraid of asking. Be safe, not sorry. Do not be desperate for work. Yes, money is needed and times seem desperate, but taking a job that sounds too good to be true generally is a problem.
Legitimate work at home positions do not ask you to do anything illegal or immoral, well, unless you are involved in the sex trade and then, it is up to you what you will or won’t do. 🙂
Job boards offer you the opportunity to develop your skill, establish a terrific reputation. The draw back is there is a load of competition and the pay sucks for those of us living in the higher cost of living countries. To get started? It can be a benefit, especially if you need cash yesterday.
Resources are abundant. Search, research, determine if it will work for you.
Got a great tip? Job resource? Insight? I can use the information, lets share.
An Introduction to the Topic of the Virtual Assistant History
I decided today to write a bit more about what it is I do and why. Thought about the beginning, at least for me, say about 15 years ago. I was exploring how to earn a living from home and learning how to make my way through the virtual world, otherwise known as the Internet.
A vast world it is to. You can communicate with any one at nearly any time. Time zones are the limit to real time communication with someone on the other side of the globe from you. Yet, we can make friends, create business partnerships, and interact with any one who has a computer and an Internet connection, even cell phone service. Technology is both amazing and yet limited only by one’s imagination.
A View of Time
15 years does not seem that far away, yet when you look at the history of technology and the capacity of the Internet, it feels more like a life time. Can you keep up with the changes? New apps, software, and gadgets all designed to improve and increase productivity and income.
Nothing works unless you work it, however. Meaning that you can have all the best in technology and if you do not know how to use it, or pick it up, turn it on, it means nothing. Dust collectors.
A View of the History of the Virtual Assistant Industry
Looking up the history of the virtual assistant industry I found several links to a variety of histories. The date of the first VA seems to be 1996, I cannot remember if it was then or a few years earlier that I decided to work from my home, actually my kitchen table. But the date seems to hit a memory cog.
History shows that the first assistants were in office, secretaries to administrative assistants, working from minimum wages to specialty niches offering an increase in wage and benefits. That has not changed for the virtual assistant. Competition however has grown, due to the Internet. Wages are as low as $2 p/hr for virtual assistants who work in the Philippines, India, and other countries. Gratefully many prefer those of us who live in the same country and rely on our skill sets. It pays to specialize.
Where Would I be Today
Had I stuck to my goals, fulfilled my dreams, no telling where I would be today. However, I let others talk me into forgoing the virtual world and working in someone else’s office for less pay and more aggravation. Burnout was the trigger that sent me back to working part time at a shop and part time at home learning how to get set up and get started.
There are so many choices now. You can specialize as a real estate assistant (licensed or licensed agent), legal assistant, pick an industry and someone needs an assistant. Hone your skills and you become invaluable. Specialize in one or two industries and you open the playing field.
My History and Experience as a Virtual Assistant
My experience has developed through working for non-profits, attorneys, real estate brokers and a tax preparer. I have honed my skills at bookkeeping (Quicken, Quickbooks, Excel, and a couple of others), writing for business correspondence, flyers, brochures, and other presentations. My computer skills now include building, repairing, and troubleshooting computers. I can work on my own car as well, there is nothing to doing an oil change and spark plug change. 🙂 I am well rounded in my skill set, but I excel at teaching others how to do what I do. I have worked myself out of a couple of jobs, but now I find clients would rather let me do the work, because they do know how once I teach them, but have a preference to delegating. Yeah for me.
A Code of Ethics is Important
A code of ethics is also important. Be true to your word, if you cannot work with someone, then don’t. Let them know up front, with loving kindness. Your reputation will be all the better for it.
Interview the client, do not let them interview you. I believe it is a two way street, but far too often we get lost in the employer/employee concept and allow for someone to have authority over us. You are your employer. Create a list of your ideal clients, experiment with different industries. Get to know the personalities of those in those industries. Get informed to make a healthy decision.
Never let another dictate your skills or your fees. Create the contract to benefit both you and the client, make it clear. Have a contingency plan and a guarantee, delivery plan.
I have a canned draft proposal ready to edit and send to any potential client, as well as a list of questions I ask to ensure I am the right fit for them and vice versa. Communication is either by email or voice call, sometimes chat. Learn how to read what is written, there are key words that will give you an idea of the person you are dealing with. If in doubt arrange for a phone call.
NEVER BE DESPERATE FOR WORK. It comes through in all you do. Determine your income needs based upon bills and other essentials. Prepare for lean times. Ask for the support of others, sometimes you will need a cheer leading squad.
ALL WAYS BE HONEST WITH SELF FIRST. This also is translated into your interactions and work. If in doubt say so. Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Resources for Becoming a Virtual Assistant
My research and reviews of agencies offering training and information have netted a huge cache of links. Sorting them out is a task alone. I am providing you a few I have followed for more than a minute, looked into their offerings.
A Note: Consider this, many do need further training to hone their skills. Many wish to improve or adapt new skills. Do your research first before you pay for any services. You will find freebies and paid training, services, resources, etc. If you are seeking to save more than you spend, try the agencies that offer free training and testing.
You do not have to have a certification to show you know what you do. Experience is always the best choice.
If you want to start with a company try UpWork. They provide testing to prove your skill set to potential clients, a time keeper, and a payment processor. You are competing for clients, so you have to be on top of your game. Many who do work for far less than many of us. There are other sites similar to this, it is a good way to get your feet wet and try out different industries.
The VA Handbook offers some advice on setting up your website to get you started. Some great ideas and advice. Start with what you can afford, if it is free it is a good start.
I enjoy reading Entrepreneur.com, they have a wealth of insight, information and tips to being your own employer. You can read the suggestions on why one should pick a VA, what the suggested criteria is and learn how to develop your business to meet those suggestions.
The rest I leave to you. I like Google to search because I can find scholarly articles as well as news. Browse, interact, meet, and get to know how others are doing their business. It goes a long way in helping you develop your private corner of the Virtual Assistant Industry.
Questions? Need some help? Get in touch through my contact page, find me on social media sites.
Share and comment, I am interested in your views.
The food service industry is changing rapidly. The laws, regulations, always adding, changing, updating, and removing according to the economy and health concerns.
There are a few organizations working hard to change the way the food industry serves consumers. From the organic and non-GMO to improving food handling practices.
The GS1 company is one a of a few working to change the face of food service to improve efficiency and safety. You can read more about their Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative.
The NPD Group conducts research relevant to various industries to track and help provide the relevant information to understand the changes occurring within a given industry. The food service industry is one of many research studies conducted.
A case can be made that even if you work in the food service industry, education is important. The July coupon deals for obtaining a discount on your continuing education will expire soon. Learn2Serve offers a variety of food service certifications to assist you in advancing in your career or preparing for a new career. From serving to management and eventually owning your own restaurant, the competition is stiff. You need the advantage certification and degrees can provide you.
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Learn2Serve offers corporate training discounts for organizations that want to keep their employees up to date on the latest regulations and technology in the food service industry.
They offer TABC, HACCP food safety, harassment prevention, and BASSET Certification. New courses are added regularly and they have expanded to several new states to offer the training relevant to that state. Check out Learn2Serve now.
Register to stay up to date on the latest opportunities for training and employment, at home work and in the field. Or subscribe to the RSS or join me on one of the social networks.
Are you out of work? Got Skills? Tired of the commute and lack of security with your employment?
There is a solution. Did you know that if you have the desire you can develop full time employment in your own home office?
Here are a few of the freelancer job sites to get you started.
Freelancer Work Sites
Are you an expert programmer, designer, writer, translator, marketer, researcher and/or admin contractor? Elance offers testing in each of your specialities to lend validation to your skill set. The tests are short, yet go along way with the people who use Elance to hire part time/full time talent.
This is a community of people seeking work and people seeking to hire the right person. Writers, filmmakers, photographers, programmers, and others will find plenty of work once they get past the ‘being a newbie.’ Register an account, develop your skills list, build a winning profile. Free to get started, but if you want more bids p/month you will need to upgrade. Payments are handled through Elance. All work is contracted and completed through Elance. The benefit to these types of sites is you will get paid if your work is satisfactory. The more jobs you successfully complete the hire your ranking within Elance.
If you are a freelance programmer, web developer, designer, writer, data entry sign up at Freelancer to begin show casing your skills.
A community of writers, programmers, etc. There are other ways to earn and share your expertise.
Promote your profile with a widget. Connect your profile to Facebook. As a free member your bids are limited per month. Take skills tests at $5 each and save to your profile.
Payments are made upon approval by the client. Get started here. Set up an account or sign in with Facebook.
Guru is a community of writers, software programmers, web designers, graphics, and many other titles. Employers post for free, you bid on the project along with others, if you win the bid, develop the product, and it is accepted, you earn votes, stars, recommendations. As a free member you are allowed so many bids per month. Upgrade to earn more bids and show off more of your profile. To begin, click here.
Are you a writer for hire? oDesk is the largest marketplace for online work.
A community of employers and writers, programmers, and webmasters. Freelancers bid on jobs they are qualified for, after winning and completing the project, clients may approve or ask for changes. To read more and set up an account, click here.
As a freelancer you are in competition with at least 40,000 plus freelance writers.
Another community of like minded individuals and freelancers. Bid on the work you can do, complete and get paid. Working your hours and doing what you like best. Get Started Here.
There are over 200 communities on line for freelance workers. Each one specializing in programming, writing, technology, and similar industries. You are competing with thousands of other freelance workers. Many of them live in the Philippines, India, the Unites States, and other countries. When placing your bid remember there are others who can do the job cheaper, so make your bid count. Highlight your skills, make those the employer is seeking stand out and worth your bid.
You may wish to set up more than one profile, try setting up on each of these freelance sites. Check each day. At least in the morning and again in the afternoon.
For those sites offering skill testing, use them, they will enhance your profile on those sites. Hone your skills, peruse other profiles, especially those with the most work and highest rankings. Look at what they are doing. Give it your best shot for the next 6 months to a year.
Thank you for taking time out to let me know what you think. If you know of another resource for freelance workers, contact me, I will be happy to add it to the budding data base I am developing.