Considering a Career Change? 5 Smart Things To Do First

considering_a_career_changeYou’re feeling bored. Restless. Perhaps completely unhappy.

If your current job isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time for a change. But a complete career change isn’t something you should just jump into. Starting your new journey with some planning and research will ensure your transition will be a good one. Here are 5 smart things you should do before making any big changes.

#1 Research the position. Start by researching the field that you are interested in. You want to know as much as you can about it. What the position entails, what duties you would be in charge of, if people in this position are generally happy. Do an online search and check your local library for more information about the job. Speak to anyone you know in the field. Offer to take them out to lunch, or set up a meeting in their office so that you can ask questions about the new career you are considering.

#2 Do a job search. Go online and check sites like Monster.com or LinkedIn to see how many opportunities there are, number of job listings, average pay. Also pay close attention to the type of businesses that are hiring for your specific position as you may find the types of companies are not to your liking.

#3 Update yourself. Would additional education help you land this new position? If yes, take any necessary courses before leaving your current job. You also want to update your resume and cover letter, making sure they reflect your most recent experience and credentials.

#4 Volunteer. Can you volunteer or work as an intern? Test the waters by finding a non-paid position you can do in your spare time. This will give you a taste of the job and will really tell you if it’s right for you or not.

#5 Plan ahead. Lastly, be realistic about your decision. Keep in mind that things many not go as planned; you may not land a secure position right away, or you may end up disliking the job. Make sure you have enough money saved up just in case.

Changing your career is a big deal. Before jumping all in, make sure you are prepared. Do any research, take any courses and make sure you have a back-up plan just in case.

Have you ever completely changed your career? What did you do to prepare?

 

Explaining Freelance Writer Prices

explaining_freelance_writer_prices-1You’ve decided that you need help writing your business content.

Great!

Then you start researching freelance writers and take a look at some of their prices.

Ouch!

While freelance writing prices may seem high, they are justifiable. Let’s take a closer look at how freelance writers come up with their prices.

Hourly vs. Fixed

I often see job listings that request the writer state their hourly rate. Personally, I’m not a fan of the hourly rate.

Why? An hourly rate means the writer really has no incentive to complete your job in a timely manner. What should take 1 hour could easily be stretched to 2.

Or, taking experience and typing speed into account, what one writer can get done in a couple hours could take another writer 4 or 5 hours. I just never felt that was a fair way to charge a client.

My preferred method for pricing (actually, it seems to be the preferred method for a lot of freelance writers) is to charge a fixed rate. This can be per blog post or total project, but the main factor here is that it’s a set price for the final product. A fixed rate gives both the writer and the client the billing agenda upfront. Everything from base price and any additional costs should be discussed before starting the project, leaving no room for surprises.

What You’re Paying For

You’re not just paying for content; many times you are also paying for everything else the writer can bring to the table.

Experience. Writer’s prices often reflect their experience. This takes into account how many years a writer has been working professionally, and also how experienced they are with the type of content you require.

Industry expertise. How well does the writer know your industry? You may find that those who are particularly skilled in the niche charge more, but they also bring with them knowledge that others can’t.

Turnaround time. If you need content in a hurry, chances are you will pay a little more. The definition of a “rush” job will vary from writer to writer, some counting a deadline in a couple days a rush job, others billing anything due in less than a week a rush.

Added value. Since you are seeking a writer for online content, you already know the true value doesn’t lie in the written words – it’s in what those words can do for your business. Besides being able to drive traffic to your site, many established writers can share your posts on their own social networks, bringing you even more exposure.

Conclusion

If you take a look at freelance writer prices, you may see that they vary greatly. As with most service-based jobs; you get what you pay for. While prices may seem high, an experienced freelance writer can offer your business so much more than just words on a page.

 

How to Ignore Your Email and Be More Productive

ignore_email_be_productiveI’ll admit it.

I’m a compulsive email checker. When I’m out, I check it on my phone. At my desk, I leave my inbox open.

But I shouldn’t. Because it totally hurts my productivity. And probably adds to my stress.

I need to seriously break up with my email.

If you’re anything like me and feel you spend way too much time checking your email, you may need to break up with your email too. Here are some tips that will help you ignore your email and get more done.

Turn off your phone notifications. If you have a tendency to immediately check your email every time you here ring, it’s time to disable the notifications. Even if you put it on silent, you still may have a hard time ignoring the email icon. Turning them off completely should help.

Bury your email app. If turning off your notification doesn’t help, make the email app even harder to get to. Move it from your home page to any other page, and place it into a folder. Instead of just conveniently pressing the icon, you would now have to swipe to another page, open a folder and then open the app. You may even try not having it on your screen at all, forcing you to go into your apps folder to find it.

Log out. This works on your phone and on a computer. Logging out makes it that much harder to constantly check your email, maybe even discourages you from checking it often. Like the second tip, anything that makes it harder to get to your inbox will help you ignore your email.

Stay away. If you won’t have time to actually respond to emails, don’t check them. This includes checking your emails on weekends and when you are busy doing other things. Not only is this a time-waster, it can preoccupy your mind until you actually have the time to respond, distracting you from other things.

Don’t use your inbox as a reminder list. Like the previous tip, don’t mark emails as unread or star them to remind yourself what you need to do. Doing so is a visual distraction. Instead, write things down on your calendar or a to-do list and mark the emails as read.

Block your Internet. If constantly checking your email (or any website for that matter) on your computer is the problem, you can use a program to block it. Rescue Time Premium will allow you to choose what sites you want to block and for how long. Or completely disable the Internet for a specified amount of time with Freedom.

Schedule email time. Keeping a schedule is a great way to keep your day productive and on task, and assigning email time fits right in. Schedule specific times during the day to check your email. The key to doing this is actually sticking to your schedule and resisting logging on at other times. If you feel the urge to check your email, remind yourself that you will have time for it soon, and that you have an appointed time for it.

Set an autoresponder. Your email’s vacation responder isn’t only useful for vacation times. Turn the responder on so that everyone receives an automated reply. Your message can state that you will get back to them shorty, or if you often get people emailing you questions, you can list the answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Some of us are glued to our inboxes. Unfortunately, checking email too often wastes time and brings down productivity. Use these tips to help you break up your email so you can get more done.

Conclusion

Now to you: Do you have any other tips to avoid checking your email?

5 Simple Ways to Write Faster and Better

write_faster_and_betterDo you spend too much time writing?

Unless you can write with lightning speed, there’s always room for improvement.

Whether you write blog posts, books, articles or anything really, writing faster (and better!) can help you get work done quicker, raise your productivity and free up your time to do even more. Here are 5 incredibility simple tips that will help you be a faster writer.

#1 Do research first

The last thing you want to do when you are writing is have to cut your train of thought to do more research. Start your writing session by doing all your research and check all your facts. Word of caution: “doing research” online can often lead to checking out other sites that really have nothing to do with your writing. Do your best to avoid this time-suck.

#2 Write an outline

Do you remember starting with an outline in high school English class? There was a reason for that. It’s because it helps organize your thoughts and lay out your content. Write your outline with subheadings and notes for each point. The more detailed you make your outline, the easier your actual writing will be.

#3 Turn off your spell check

This is a huge one for me because I use Word and I can’t stand those wiggly red lines! They drive me insane and must be corrected immediately! So for me, turning off the spell check feature helps me keep my focus on just writing and actually saves me time.

To turn off the spell check in Microsoft Word 2010, click on the “File” tab in the top left corner. Scroll down to “Options” and then “Proofing.” Uncheck the box that says “check spelling as you type.”

proofing pic

To turn this back on, just go back and check the box and those wiggly little red lines will appear.

#4 Write when you are most productive

Most people have a certain time of day where they are the most productive. For me, this is the morning after my kids have gone off to school. I have more energy and get more done. When I do work later in the day or at night, I’m tried and worn out from the day and don’t write as well.

It doesn’t matter if your most productive time is morning or night, all that matters is that you figure out your most productive time.

Bonus tip: Turn off distractions! When you are productive, it’s time to get down and just write. Turn off the TV, find a quiet space and just write. If you find the Internet distracts you, use software like Freedom to literally turn off the Internet for a specified amount of time.

#5 Practice!

Yes, even for writing practice does make perfect. The more you write, the better and faster you will be at it.

Conclusion

Being able to write faster can help you be more productive and get things done quicker. Try any of these 5 easy ways to become a faster (and better!) writer.

Now to you: What helps you write faster? Leave your tips in the comments below.

Is Your Email Signature Working for You?

email_signatureYou’ve taken the time to write a catchy email subject that guarantees people will open it.

Your email body is thought out, but not overly complex.

But you’re still forgetting one essential element of your email.

Your email signature.

The signature line is a marketing opportunity that you may be missing out on. When done right, it can allow you to stand out and promote your business. Here are some tips that will ensure your email signature is working well for you.

Don’t go link crazy. While it’s tempting to include links to your website, ALL your social media pages and just about every other thing out there, doing so can actually turn people away. And having hyperlink after hyperlink following your name just looks messy. If the links you need differ according to recipient, rather than including them all into one signature, consider creating more than one email signature that you can easily swap out.

Don’t forget the small screen. About half of email opens will happen on a mobile device (more than half if I’m the one receiving the emails). Make sure your email signature shows up correctly on all screens and that everything is readable. Also, make sure anything clickable is well, thumb-able. Especially if you use social media icons. Those sucks can show up tiny on a small mobile screen.

Don’t go overboard with the images. Including a headshot or your logo is becoming more and more common, but don’t overdo the images. You don’t want an obnoxious signature. Since some people do set their email to automatically remove graphics, your important information should never be only in your images. Images and graphics are fine, just don’t rely too heavily on them or include more than you need.

Do use coordinating colors. This is much more for aesthetics than anything else. But something that looks good will look more professional. Also, certain colors may not show up correctly on all browsers, turning your carefully chosen color palette into something completely different. Go for simple, matching colors instead.

Do use an email signature app. When in doubt, get some help! There are many available apps out there. I use (and love!) Wisestamp (aff link).

Here’s what my current signature looks like:

wisestamp email signature

Simple, not overly flashy. I don’t include my email address because I use this signature on just one email address. If I used a separate email, I would definitely add in my work email address.

It’s super customizable and you can easily turn it off and in right in your email. Add your company name, your title, phone and fax numbers, website, email address, physical address, social icons, blog feed and more. You can even assign signatures to different email addresses.

If you don’t want to pay for this service, their free account is pretty great!

Conclusion

Your email signature says a lot about you and your business. Make sure it’s working for you by implementing these tips.

 

Easy Ways to Repurpose Blog Posts for More Traffic

repurpose_blog_postsYou spend a lot of time researching and writing an epic blog post. It’s gets social shares and comments and then goes off into the blogosphere.

There has to be more than that.

By taking your old blog posts and repurposing them, you can reach new people and drive more traffic back to your blog. Here are some ways to take old content and turn it into something new.

Podcast. Taking written content and delivering it in another way is probably one of the easiest ways to repurpose your content. Pick a blog post (or bundle a few together) that presents some quality information and record a podcast.

Webinar. Another option is a webinar. You can turn your content into a script and record a video of yourself, or you can create a PowerPoint presentation. The webinar can be marketed as a paid class or even given away for free in exchange for email addresses.

Infographic. There’s a reason infographics get shared a lot. Internet users are largely visual and you can easily turn a list post into a shareable infographic.

Printables. People love stuff they can download and print: checklists, calendars, lists of useful tools, lists of resources. Turn a list post into a printable page of tools or a checklist. Create a printable calendar from a post that contains day-by-day instructions. There are many options for easy-to-create printables.

Social media quotes. Your blog posts are likely full of pearls of wisdom. Go through them and use sentences that can be tweeted, shared on Facebook or pinned to Pinterest.

Emails. List or instruction posts can easily be turned into many emails. Expand on each step, give detailed instructions, examples, images, resources, etc. You could use it as an email series or in your newsletters.

EBook. If you have a bunch of related blog posts, group them together and turn them into an eBook. Add some content into between each post to make sure the entire thing flows nicely, clean it up a little and you have yourself an eBook to sell or use as an opt-in freebie.

Quora answers. Quora is a question-and-answer website where you can really build up your authority. There are so many different topics that the information in your blog posts are sure to be relevant somewhere. Use pieces of your content to answer questions and link back to your original post.

LinkedIn and Medium. There are places to republish your content online, like LinkedIn and Medium. Take your best stuff and republish them and link back to the original article on your site. You’ll get more exposure and more site traffic.

More blog posts. Find a list post that you can expand on and go more in-depth on each point, turning each into a separate blog post. You may even create a series to draw in an audience and keep them coming back for more each week. If the topic was popular with your audience once, there’s a good chance it will do well again.

Conclusion

After spending so much time on your blog posts, you should be able to reuse your content. Pick some of your most popular posts and repurpose them into something else that can get you more attention and drive more traffic back to your site.

Now to you: How do you take your old content and put new life into it?

I’m Back! What Happens When a #Freelancer Suddenly Gets Sick

what_happens_when_freelancer_gets_sickYou may have noticed that my blog has been pretty quiet lately.

It’s not because I wanted to neglect the blog. Not at all. I got sick.

It started back in May when I couldn’t keep anything down. It lasted for weeks. I ended up in the Emergency Room twice for dehydration and really low blood pressure. The attending doctor from the first ER visit … she was gem. When I told her I didn’t have any other symptoms other than vomiting she couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. She actually stood there and kept saying “It’s so strange.” Great. Thanks lady. You’re helpful.

After some tests ordered by my physician, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Basically my stomach muscles were paralyzed so I wasn’t digesting food or liquid. Okay, it sucks but I was happy to have an answer.

Unfortunately it didn’t stop there.

Shortly after, I noticed I was having a hard time lifting my left leg. I had some numbness in both legs for about a month already (my physician said it was due to the fact that I was lacking nutrition) but now I was losing movement.

From there, the motor function in my left leg quickly diminished. Within a week I couldn’t walk on it at all. Couldn’t lift it, move it on my own, nothing.

I visited a neurologist and was sent to the hospital that day. After getting a MRI and a lumbar puncture (which, by the way, is as horrible as it sounds), I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis.

Transverse myelitis is defined as “a rare inflammatory disease causing injury to the spinal cord with varying degrees of weakness, sensory alterations, and autonomic dysfunction.” There is an estimated 1 to 8 new cases per million each year. What luck right? My husband says I should play the lottery.

I was in the hospital for 5 days and given strong steroids to reduce the inflammation. Since I could barely walk, I was considered a fall risk and had to call a nurse for everything. Do you know what it’s like to have to call someone just to pee?

By the time I went home, I had regained some movement in my leg.

Since then I have only gotten stronger. I can walk unassisted pretty well now. I get tired quicker, but I’m walking. I can cook and clean (for short periods of time) again. I started driving again with my husband in the car. As someone who has been driving for a long time now, the break from driving was nice. At first. Being chauffeured everywhere gets old … fast.

So, let’s get to the point of this post.

As a freelance writer, I can’t just call in sick and have someone cover my shift. Getting so ill that you can’t work is something all freelancers may face at one point in time. So here is my advice on how to handle the situation.

Notify Your Clients

Start by emailing/calling your clients. Let them know your situation.

I’ll be honest; I have always been able to move things around just enough to take a single rest day here and there if I was feeling under the weather. But this was a whole ‘nother ball game and I was nervous.

Turns out, I had absolutely no reason to be nervous. I have some seriously awesome clients. These past few months, there were times when their content didn’t get written. Periods where they did not have a blog post to publish. And they were all okay with that.

And chances are, your clients will be too.

Trim Your To-Do List

Next thing you need to do is cut out the tasks that really don’t need to be done right now. In most cases, these are likely going to be the tasks that are non-billable. Things like your own blog (obviously this is me), social media, answering emails, etc. These are the things that you won’t get paid for and won’t seriously hurt your business if you miss a day or two.

Wait or Pass It On?

Now let’s talk about the tasks that you must do. Like your client work. You don’t want to do more than you are up to. If you are really ill, your first job should be to get better. Taking on too much right now will only prolong your sickness.

Basically, you have 2 choices here:

Delay – These are going to be the tasks you can put off for a few days until you recover. Things that have flexible deadlines or even projects for super cool clients can fall into this category.

Delegate – Tasks that absolutely need to get done can be outsourced. Tap into your freelance contacts and find someone you are comfortable handing these over to.

You can hire someone to do the work for you while you keep a portion of the payment as a referral fee. If you plan to completely hand these tasks over to someone else, make sure you are upfront with your clients about doing so.

Conclusion

Getting sick is no fun. Having to stay in the hospital was even less fun. As a freelancer, your work and current projects are always in the back of your mind. If you do get sick, follow these steps to handle the situation like a pro.

Over to you: Have you ever had to take a break from work due to illness? How did you manage your business and health at the same time?

 

8 Ways to Balance Work and Family

balancing work and family, work from home Balancing a work life and a home life can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can make it work for you. Here are 8 tips that will help you balance your work life and home life.

  1. Set realistic goals. It’s pretty much a given fact that if you want to achieve something big, you have to make some sacrifices. While the select few can manage, most people can’t become a CEO and run a successful household. When setting your goals, be realistic and don’t stretch yourself too thin.
  1. Make schedules. Keeping track of work and your family can be difficult to plan. Try to keep a set schedule from day to day and week to week if you can. Always remember to make a written schedule and give everyone a copy.
  1. Take time for yourself. It’s a natural instinct of mothers to sacrifice themselves for the good of their family. However, it’s important to remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. Try to schedule in at least a few minutes of “you time”, whether it be going for a run, watching your favorite TV show, or just sitting in a room by yourself to relax for a few minutes.
  1. Get some exercise. Working out is not only a great way to stay healthy and gain energy, it’s also a great way to spend time with your kids. Instead of hitting the gym, go play ball in the park or take them for a walk.
  1. Prioritize. When making your to-do lists, figure out the things that are most important for you to do and get them done first. If there isn’t enough time to do everything, you won’t feel as bad about what you have to cut.
  1. Take classes. As many people will tell you, there’s no manual on how to be a good parent and have a successful career. But if you search around your community, you can find classes and seminars from people that have been where you are and managed to do well. They can give you inspiration along with helpful tips and tidbits to get through your day.
  1. Watch for burn out. Even if you schedule everything, take breaks, and do everything else above, what you’re doing may just be too much for you. Watch yourself for changes in mood or physical problems. They could be a sign that you’re burnt out and need to make some changes to your plans. Remember, your health is important too.
  1. Learn to say no. If you want to have a successful career and family life, you will have to learn to say no occasionally. If you try to do everything, you’re going to burn yourself out and not be able to take care of anyone. Being a good employee and a good parent doesn’t mean you need to do everything you’re asked.

Cost Considerations When Marketing Your Freelance Services

marketing costsSo you’ve decided to branch out on your own and become a freelancer? With today’s competitive job market, being a freelance worker can sometimes allow you to use your skills and earn the income you need in order to keep yourself afloat.

There are many things you need to consider when it comes to self-promoting, marketing and offering your freelance services to others. You must be committed to working hard and realize that your success is not going to happen nearly as quickly as you would like.

Once you have laid the groundwork for your freelance business, it’s important to begin to consider your marketing costs. Formulate a plan that will suit your budget. It’s not always easy to determine how much money should be spent on marketing your services. Your focus really shouldn’t be on how much you should spend. You need to be true to yourself and determine how much you can afford to spend.

Here are some things you really need to consider when you are trying to decide how much time and money you should spend on marketing.

  1. Who is your target audience and where do you find them? Decide who you will be providing services to. The type of business you intend to perform work for will help you make an initial determination about how much time you will need to spend in getting yourself noticed. Smaller businesses are sometimes easier and require less effort, whereas larger businesses such as huge corporations will require much more time and resources.
  1. What is your budget? Take a close look at how much you can afford to spend on marketing your freelance services.
  1. How much time do you have to spend on marketing? Marketing your business can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Research, strategize and come up with a marketing plan that works. Once you complete your business marketing plan, it’s important to stick to it!
  1. Utilize the free or low-cost marketing resources made available to you. This can include things such as social media and building your own website by utilizing the free resources available such as WordPress or other similar sites. There are also some low-cost websites and hosting packages available for you to use.
  1. Do you have a well-planned marketing strategy? If not, it’s time to get it together and make one. Think about how much you can afford to re-invest in your business and how much payout you must have in order to exist on a day-to-day basis.

A successful freelance business is possible when you implement it properly, plan accordingly, strategize, and stick to your plan. Marketing is one of the most important elements in helping your business get to the level of success you desire. Determine your business goals and manage your time properly. Don’t spend more than you have in your planned budget.

The determining factor in how much time and money you will spend depends solely on the resources available to you. Wise choices and proper strategy will give your freelance business the success you desire and enable you to reach your goals.

 

Why Every Small Business Needs A Website Today

every small business needs a websiteImagine someone doing a search for a product or service you just so happen to sell. They do an online search and find your company information as well as your competitors. If your competitor has a website and you don’t, which link do you think this person is likely to click? If you guessed your competitors, you’re absolutely right.

People today are visual. They want to see something or read what others think before they decide to make any purchase.

That’s why, having a website is crucial nowadays. And for a small business it’s probably the best decision and investment you could make. Why? Let me introduce you to the ABC model of why every small business needs a website today.

A is for Advertising

Consider having a website as a form of advertising your small business. Besides showcasing your product or service you can offer more to your customers, like online specials, seasonal deals and easy shopping.

You can also post photos of your product or show off what customers have to say about your business or the service they received from you.

B is for Building Relationships

You don’t want to offer your product or service and forget about your customer after they buy it. If you want repeat business or referrals, you have to build relationships with your customers. Having a website will keep customers an email away from being in contact with you. And by you replying to their email and addressing their concerns, you’re gaining their trust and that’s a great thing for business.

With options like a sign up page, you can create a newsletter to stay in touch with your email subscribers and offer new deals or exclusive rates.

C is for Competition

This has to be the best reason to have a website. Your competitors, big and small, have a website and are already promoting their product or service and going after your customers.

Without a website you’re practically handing over potential customers to your competition. If you want to be seen, you have to play where the game is at – online.

Debugging the Myth

Some small business owners think it would be too expensive to have a website designed and to difficult to maintain on an on-going basis. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the cost for a website can be expensive, the fact is you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a nice one. The resource that is often overlooked is independent web designers.

If you do an online search for a web designer, chances are you will find an independent designer who can build you a quality website without stretching your budget.

When you think about it, it’s a win-win situation. You would support a fellow small business owner and they in return will build you a beautiful website with the same bells and whistles as a bigger company would, easy to navigate for your customers, and best of all, help grow your business.

A couple things an independent web designer has that a major web design company may not offer is things like:

  • Devoted time to create a website based on your ideas and preferences.
  • One-on-one, unlimited support. A bigger business would consider this an extra service and charge you an hourly rate.

I hope this post will encourage you to get a website for your small business. If you have any questions about web design, I’m here to help!

corina ramosAuthor: Corina Ramos, Quality Websites On a Budget
Corina is a blogger from Houston, Texas and she has developed a passion for creating websites. She helps small businesses grow their online presence by designing beautiful, user-friendly websites at an affordable price. Visit her at  Quality Websites On a Budget and contact her to get your website designed.