10 Work at Home Productivity Boosters You May Never Have Thought Of

June 24th, 2008

productivity tips for work at home moms

Photo by Paul Keleher

How to Get More Work Done in Less Time

Work at home moms have limited time and energy in which to do our work. We often have to squeeze our work time during nap and bedtimes, or when all the children have gone to school. And even then we still have household chores and other family responsibilities to contend with. Therefore, we need to maximize our productivity. Not only do we need to get as much work done as we can. We also have to do as much HIGH-QUALITY work as we can during the limited time that we do work.

Try these 10 tips to rev up your productivity:

1. TV diet – Watching TV puts the brain in a passive mode and hampers creative thought. TV also tends to make women feel inadequate, probably as a result of seeing all those impossibly thin women. Watch TV in moderation for entertainment, but keep your brain in tip-top shape by limiting the amount of time you do it. One hour a day is more than enough. No, it doesn’t count as research!

2. Exercise – Getting your muscles moving and fresh oxygen circulating in your body will help keep your mind alert and active. Exercise is good for both your body and your brain. Adequate exercise also helps us sleep better at night. More on that later.

3. Sunshine – Scientists have made us afraid of sunshine but the truth is, we need a little of it every day. Lack of exposure to daylight is one of the causes of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that commonly occurs in winter when people do not get any sunshine at all. Lack of sunshine depresses our emotions and zaps our energy, which in turn can limit our productivity. So as much as weather permits, get at least 10 minutes of sunshine a day — wear sunscreen of course.

4. Nature – Nature has a natural order and beauty that is beyond our human capacity to conceive of. If you need inspiration or a brilliant idea about anything, look to nature for answers. Contemplate a flower, the sky or even something you cannot see, such as the wind or the sound of birds.

5. Prayer – Prayer or, if you’re not a believer, meditation enables the brain to quiet down and focus. It helps improve our ability to concentrate, which is essential to our productivity. Prayer and/or meditation also calms our emotions, leaving our minds free to think and create.

6. Distraction – Sometimes the solution to our problem unfolds when we’re preoccupied with something totally unrelated. If you find yourself stuck or blocked, take a 15-minute break and do something else. Read a magazine, bake a cake, play tag with the kids — anything to get your mind off your work. When you get back to it, you’ll be surprised with the fresh insights you have.

7. Caffeine – Caffeine stimulates the brain and keeps us alert. If you’re feeling sluggish, a little caffeine may be all you need to jump-start your productivity. The important word here is “a little”. Getting addicted to caffeine will hamper your productivity in the long run. Why? Because it makes you dependent on an external thing to get any work done.

8. Sleep – Lack of sleep turns our brains into mush. The sleep-deprived brain requires much more time and energy to focus, concentrate and generate new ideas. In addition, lack of sleep makes us crabby — not the ideal state to be in when we want maximum productivity. So if you’ve been sleep deprived make time to sleep longer or take a power nap while your children nap. Staying up all night to work will back-fire on you eventually.

9. Free association – Sometimes our brain edits itself too rigorously, making it near impossible to think effectively and creatively. Quiet your inner editor by doing free association exercises. Begin by writing down a word and then the next word that pops into your brain, and then the next, and so on and so forth. Or go through the alphabet and list down the first word you think of when you get to each letter. Take note of the first words that come to you; don’t try to think only of words that relate to your current work or problem.

10. Routine – Work at home Moms usually squeeze work into those odd hours of the day when we have “free” time. However, try to have some set time periods — around the same time every day — when you do the same type of work. I’m talking about consistency rather than rigidity. Doing the same type of work at about the same time every day trains our brains to be warmed up and ready to go at predictable periods of the day.

The best way to keep our productivity up is to take care of our bodies and work with the natural rhythms of our minds. Forcing our bodies and brains to work to the point of or beyond exhaustion will harm the quantity and quality of our work rather than enhance it. Take good care of yourself and you’ll produce high-quality work in less time.

Related article:

20 Productivity Tips for Work at Home Moms with Young Children

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10 Top Tips For Creating Your Freelance Writer Online Portfolio

June 20th, 2008

freelance writer online portfolio

Photo by Peasap

How to Create a Top-Notch Freelance Writer Online Portfolio

One of the first pieces of advice I received from other work at home Moms when I told them about my venture into freelance writing was to put up an online portfolio.

I knew it made sense. Who isn’t on the web nowadays? And what better way to showcase one’s work, attract possible clients, and generate assignments than an effective website?

Although I was sold on the idea, it took me at least a week before I finally sat down and began creating my freelance writer online portfolio. I was clueless about how to begin. However, I knew that it had to be done, so I began by registering a domain. That was easy because I decided to use my own name instead of a business name (which I would have had to register with the government first).

Actually writing the content of my website took another few days. I read Internet articles about the topic. I looked at other freelance writers’ online portfolios. After a few days, I started writing the pages for my website. I scanned samples of my work and uploaded them. I signed up for a free contact form to give my readers a way to contact me without splattering my email address on the Internet.

Since then, I have revised my website almost a dozen times! Every day, I learn something new about marketing my services and I use it to tweak my website. My first draft was stiff, plain and a bit lifeless. I felt embarrassed about selling myself and worried that the copy was too hard-sell. I still make changes every day so it’s a work in progress.

If you’re planning to put up your own online portfolio, here in no particular order are some of the best advice I’ve gathered these past few weeks (of course, whether I’ve applied all of them to my own portfolio is another matter):

1. Pay for web hosting.

Resist the temptation to get a free or dirt-cheap online portfolio. The lay-outs are usually terrible and you have limited control over the content. Besides, having your own website shows that you are a professional who is serious about this freelancing business. Isn’t www.yourname.com more impessive than www.freewebsite.com/yourname?

2. Know whom you are targeting.

Identify your niche and focus on it. Something I’ve learned from Shelancers is that those who specialize can charge more than generalists can. Decide on the type of client you want to work for, or the specific assignments you want to do, and build your website around those. Your niche will also help determine which samples you will post.

3. Enable the reader to contact you from every page of the website.

The action you want from your reader is for them to hire you. To do that, the first step is for them to contact you with details of their requirements or expressing a desire to explore the possibility of working with you. Make sure you have a contact page and a link to it on every page of your website. Some freelancers include a telephone number. Think about whether you’re comfortable with this.

4. Showcase your most effective work.

Sure, one of your articles may have been a literary masterpiece, but what impact did it have for your client? What goal did you help them achieve? Was it effective aside from being a good read? Therefore, it is necessary to…

5. Explain your work.

Include a brief background about each work sample: What were its objectives? What results did it generate? Why are you proud of it? How did it help your client?

6. Follow basic principles of sound design.

Although you’re not a designer your website should still be uncluttered, easy to read, with plenty of white space, and easy to navigate. If you’re clueless about setting up your own website, then consider paying for the services of a web designer and web master.

7. Consider how you will get potential clients to your website.

Will it be a “passive” website that people find out about because you gave them the link? Or will it be the type of website that will rank high on search engines allowing potential clients to find you? The latter is better in terms of generating job leads, but will require SEO work. Ultimately, the answer is really up to you.

8. Be clear and assertive about promoting your strengths.

Your website should market your services, so don’t be shy about it! Clearly state how your clients could benefit from your services.

9. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

In all likelihood, you will never meet your prospective client face to face, so let them know you as a flesh-and-blood person. Post a flattering photograph of yourself (I’m guilty of not doing this; I don’t have a nice enough picture yet). Place a link to your personal blog.

10. Make sure your portfolio shows you in the best light

I almost didn’t include this because it’s common sense. Make sure your website doesn’t have typos, grammatical errors, distorted graphics, non-working links, and other elements that will portray you as unprofessional and careless.

Your online portfolio is more than your business card on the web. It is your Internet persona, your head hunter, your link to prospective clients. Make sure it works hard for you.

Related links:

Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps.

How to Create an Online Writing Portfolio in 2 Days

How to Build a Portfolio That Gets You The Job

Freelance Writer Online Portfolio: Providing Potential Clients Examples of Your Work Using the Internet

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Scary home business stuff

May 29th, 2008

scary home business stuff

Photo by Bob Jagendorf

I have resumed reading The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business: Candid Advice, Frank Talk, and True Stories for the Successful Entrepreneur and now I realize that setting up a home business is more complicated than I thought.

I’ve been thinking of registering my freelance editorial business, mainly for the tax benefits. Even if I did it as a sole proprietorship there are still many business-like things to consider. For instance, I’ve just been reading the section about insurance and now know that I need to get at least three types of insurance: expanded health insurance (to supplement the provincial health insurance provided by Ontario); disability insurance (to help replace my income should I become too ill to work); and, home-business insurance (to cover the cost of my laptop and other home office equipment should they get damaged or lost). Whew!

And now that I’m about to get my certification in childbirth education, I’m considering registering that business as well. Then I would need even more insurance, such as general liability insurance – to protect me should, for example (and God forbid!) a client slip on the floor during a class, break her ankle and decide to sue me.

No wonder authors Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio called this chapter “The scary stuff: legalities, licenses, permits, financials, and funding”.

Now I have to buckle down and figure out a budget to cover “the scary stuff”, including fees for a lawyer, an accountant, and an insurance broker. I have to admit, this business of setting up a home business is not that easy.

At least I have this book. I’m the type of person who needs step-by-step instructions for the simplest things. And setting up a home business is far from simple.

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Does anybody really make money from “paid” surveys?

May 3rd, 2008

Thumbs-down by desi.Italy

Since my last post, I’ve moved halfway around the globe to Canada. I hadn’t anticipated the impact this would have on me physically and emotionally. I’ve only been able to do the most basic things to keep myself and my family functioning and blogging was all but forgotten. I realized that with the major changes in my life, I needed a home business that was really easy and took almost no time at all. And so I tried … paid surveys!

I signed up with Survey Club and almost immediately received an opportunity to make $4 by joining an online music club and then giving my feedback about it. The whole process took probably 20 minutes and the next day, I had $4 in my Paypal account.

Pumped up by this instant gratification, I did as advised and signed up for half a dozen paid survey membership sites — all for free. Actually, the advice was to sign up for at least 10, but I hadn’t had the time for it. Some sites require you to fill up voluminous pre-screening surveys — to place you in the proper demographic for the surveys. These take up a lot of time.

Six weeks later, I have made … still only $4 from the surveys! I have filled up dozens of them but all I got in return was the chance to win this or that raffle and to accumulate points. I have not won a single raffle. Neither do I remember what the points are for.

Meantime, I have found a website that will pay me $5 for a 250-word article. Takes a bit longer than answering a survey but I will definitely make more money than I have so far from answering surveys.

Perhaps I have simply signed up for the wrong survey membership sites. If you’ve had better luck from paid surveys, do let me know how you did it.

Update on my work at home project: The Thirty Day Challenge!

February 27th, 2008

Photo by Scootie

I’m on Day 10 of my work at home project, the Thirty Day Challenge. I have identified one niche for internet marketing and am now writing three articles for it. I need another niche and fast! With our move to Canada one week away, just keeping up with the challenge is proving to be a challenge in itself. However, I have managed to join a team so I’m trudging along. Perhaps, as for others, it will be more like the Sixty Day Challenge for me.

So far, I have learned how to do market research on possible niche topics using Freewordtracker, Google and Google Trends. The techniques that Ed Dale and his colleagues teach are so simple but unintuitive that they’re so cool! And then Mike Stenhouse and Mike Mindel put these together in an amazing tool — Wordtracker GTrends.

The “golden nuggets” technique is used to “mine” for the ideal niche — one that has a lot of demand but little competition. You’ll have to go through the challenge yourself to fully appreciate what I’m talking about.

I got a bit sidetracked because I had misunderstood the bit about measuring the amount competition for a particular niche. Fortunately, I found some clarification in the Thirty Day Challenge forums, so I think I’m back on track to finding one more niche.

Just got an E-mail today from Ed saying that the Thirty Day Challenge has just produced another millionaire. Now that’s encouraging!

Watch out for my next article: How to avoid work at home scams, part 3. In case you missed the earlier installments, here are the links:

How to avoid work at home scams, Part 1: Do your research

How to avoid work at home scams, Part 2: Use only legitimate job leads