Remote Work Digest: March 21, 2019

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

Can’t Concentrate? 5 Insidious Ways Your Office Design Can Make You Less Productive | Monica Torres, Huffpost.com

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Office design can influence how much productive work you get done in a day. If you regularly find yourself listlessly staring at your work, you may want to consider whether the following environmental factors and work space design choices are holding you back from your full potential:

1. The Stale Office Air You Breathe
If you work in an office, most of your time is likely spent indoors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the majority of Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. And the air you are breathing in these enclosed spaces could be impairing your cognitive function.

Bringing more fresh air inside, or having a good ventilation system, is linked to better employee performance, according to a 2017 study by researchers at Harvard University, Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical.

2. The Poor Lighting You Endure
Being close to natural sunlight can make or break an employee’s experience. Employees prioritize natural lighting so much that in a 2018 poll by research firm Future Workplace, they picked it as the top office perk over having a cafeteria, a fitness center, or on-site child care.

And no wonder: A lack of natural sunlight can take a physical toll on our bodies, according to a study on 313 office employees led by Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. Employees exposed to more natural light reported fewer instances of eyestrain and headaches.

3. The Colleagues You Sit With
Office seating plans may not take into account how proximity to certain types of colleagues can influence your work. In a 2016 Harvard Business School study that analyzed the speed and quality of 2,000 workers’ performance at a tech firm, researchers found that sitting within a 25-foot radius of a high performer could positively boost the performance of colleagues by 15 percent.

But bad habits can be contagious, too. The study found that sitting close to a toxic neighbor — defined as someone who was fired — increased nearby employees’ risk of being fired. “Once a toxic person shows up next to you, your risk of becoming toxic yourself has gone up,” said Dylan Minor, one of the authors of the study.

4. The Temperatures Your Colleagues Can’t Agree On
In a CareerBuilder survey of 3,321 employees, 53 percent said they were less productive when it was too cold, and 71 percent said productivity suffered when they were too warm.

Even researchers have different conclusions on the ideal workplace temperature. One 2006 study from researchers at Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy Technologies Division found that employees’ productivity peaked at around 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, while a separate Cornell University study found that a warmer 77 degrees Fahrenheit was the optimal temperature at which workers would make fewer typing errors and produce more work.

5. An Office With No Plants Nearby
Natural greenery in your line of sight is not just good company ―it can also help people concentrate, research on attention restoration theory has found. The theory holds that you can rejuvenate your attention capacity by looking at nature because when we enjoy nature, we are using effortless attention.

Before you even sit down at your desk and get started on the day’s work, there are a multitude of visible and invisible ways your productivity is being affected by your environment. You can probably add a plant to your desk, but you may not be able to switch to a seat with a high-performer nearby or to a desk near natural light. If you notice your workspace environment is less than ideal, speak up about it to your manager or human resources.

You spend more than 2,000 hours a year at work. It is best for everyone to make those hours count for you.

How managers can prevent developer burnout: 10 Tips | Alison DeNisco Rayome, Techrepublic.com

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Burnout is a common phenomenon in the tech industry, particularly for developers: Close to 60% of developers report suffering from burnout, according to Blind, for reasons including poor leadership and unclear direction, work overload, and toxic work cultures.

Here are 10 ways that managers can help prevent their developers from burning out.

1. Allow remote work and flexible scheduling
Particularly in areas where most workers have a long commute, allowing at least part-time work from home can make a huge difference in reducing stress and burnout. If possible, no meetings should be scheduled on work from home days, to allow developers time to focus on their work, said Cristian Rennella, CTO and co-founder of elMejorTrato.com.

Flexible scheduling can also reduce stress, said Paul Wallenberg, senior manager of technology services at LaSalle Network. “Can they start earlier and leave earlier, start later and leave later, can they maybe condense their work week and work 10 hour days for four days, or even work remotely and still engage successfully in your standups? If the answer is yes, give them the autonomy to do so and create a schedule that works for them,” Wallenberg said.

2. Encourage vacations
This may require some cajoling, said Mark Runyon, a senior consultant with Improving technology management and consulting firm. “This can seem strange, but as developers we often get so wrapped up our projects and tight delivery deadlines that we feel it’s never a good time to take our much needed PTO,” Runyon said. “It’s essential to get away, clear your mind and relax so you can come back with a fresh perspective. If you always push vacation away for another day, you’ll continue to wear yourself down, and be less effective in your job.”

3. Set realistic deadlines
Some startups take pride in the “let’s be bold” mindset by setting unrealistic deadlines for developers—a sure way to burn out your team, said Flo Defontis, founder and CTO of Air360.

“Even if we all like some adrenaline sometimes, there’s so much one can take,” Defontis said. “For developers who take pride in their work, being forced to write code in a hurry (which usually results in bad code) is just horrible. Especially also because they also share responsibility when something breaks and customers are impacted.”

4. Create a culture of recognition
“What’s worse than having too much work to complete is the lack of appreciation for the work that is done just to keep up with demand,” Shanks said. “Burnout can manifest from a lack of a reward or even just appreciation for their efforts.”

5. Encourage physical activity and wellness
Allowing time for physical activity, even just taking a walk, during the workday can help avoid hitting blocks in coding, Runyon said. A physical break from the computer can help clear a developer’s head and allow them to see new solutions or facets of the problem they are solving, he added.

6. Build variety into the schedule
Managers must create the right combination of business-driven work and more challenging, creative work, said Megan Power, Agile Scrum Master at Salt Lending Holdings. “Working in a business environment means that certain types of more ‘grunt work’ are sometimes unavoidable to meet business objectives,” Power said. “But if a developer is given only this type of work, they are likely to burn out faster than if they have some more challenging and creative work mixed in.”

Developers need to work on new projects over time, rather getting stuck on one with a long timeline, to keep the work feeling exciting and fresh, said Kristen Youngs, co-founder of Coaching No Code Apps.

7. Offer professional development and training
Allowing developers to learn new things beyond their current job can keep their work more interesting, said Clare Watson, operations director at Zolv. “When you work with the same software or language every single day, it can be easy to, eventually, burn out,” Watson said. “Look to learn a new method of accomplishing your current responsibilities. Learning a new coding system, for example, is a great fix for keeping things fresh.”

8. Keep the team balanced
As teams grow over time, their tasks will change, which means managers must constantly reassess and realign talents and responsibilities, Orser said. “If that means new roles open on a team, a manager can modify the way the group is operating, allowing higher performers to take on new responsibility and try leadership roles,” Orser added. “They can then backfill the roles people have outgrown or add in skills and specializations from new hires to fill identified gaps.”

9. Clearly define roles and goals
Clearly defined roles and objectives alleviate stress in that developers are not left uncertain or guessing what their responsibilities are, Cooper said.

While some projects need developers to burn the midnight oil close to a deadline, “as managers, our responsibility is to set clear goals for our team so they can avoid the firedrills which can be 100% prevented,” said Nancy Wang, senior manager of product management at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “Make sure to plan out your sprints and milestones, and give your team enough buffer time in case a Sprint takes longer than it should.”

10. Communicate the business purpose (and in general)
Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and developers can help ensure both receive constant feedback and make changes if needed, Power said. Considering a team member’s input and implementing it where needed will also help them feel more engaged and motivated, she added.

Lacking a support system to talk through ideas or struggles can lead to developer burnout, Youngs said. “Communicating regularly with developers that their work is helpful and appreciated can make a significant difference,” Youngs said. “It helps assure them in their job role and also gives them satisfaction over the work they’ve done. I also like to have a completely open-door policy and ongoing dialogue about any issues with work. It can be a huge relief just to talk through a problem out loud with someone who understands the situation.”

4 Essential Mental Health Tips For Freelance And Remote Workers | Abdullahi Muhammed, Forbes.com

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A remote work arrangement often enables you to establish better work/life balance; spend more time with family and reduce the pressure/distractions of working in large open offices. But freelancing also comes with an emotional toll. Stress and on-the-job burnouts are no strangers to the independent worker.

Per recent survey conducted by Epson in the U.K., 48% of freelancers working from home admitted that they find their tenure to be “lonely” at times and 46% claim freelancing is “isolating.” Indeed, freelancing can aggravate your mental health issues unless you invest in establishing healthy routines. Here are four essential tips to help you work in that direction.

1. Learn how to negotiate with yourself
Learn how to negotiate with that critic sitting inside you. Get better at creating more realistic daily to do lists; celebrate your accomplishments every day and practice gratitude. Cognitive scientists say that people who regularly do the “three good things” exercise — name three good moments or things that happened during the day — witness considerable improvements in mental health and overall happiness. So give it a try as well!

2. Socialize beyond your niche
Socialization and networking are often prescribed as the best recipe for dealing with the “lonely freelancer” syndrome. “Regularly interacting with other people is utterly important for those working solo,” said Cynthia Telles, Director, UCLA Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence. “However, despite the common line of advice, freelancers should stop seeking company of other freelancers. When the people you see the most experience the same woes and deal with the same anxieties, you can find yourself trapped into a feedback loop of pressure and stress, aggravated by the experience of your peers.”

3. Budget for more expensive forms of self-care
Investing in better things for yourself — a more comfortable chair, a better laptop, warmer socks — means investing in your business. The better you feel on a daily basis, the more motivated you are to do the work and earn more money.

4. Learn how to handle rejection
Fear of rejection and criticism is one of the common issues holding people back from becoming freelancers. Working for yourself means that every negative comment will land right in front of you. A lot choose gig or freelancing work as a better way to channel their passion for design, writing or coding. And that’s why rejection and criticism for freelancers often feels more personal than for corporate employees.

Beverly Flaxington suggests trying the following techniques:

  • Practice reframing. Change the narrative from, “I’m talentless, no one will hire me!” to a more positive statement, “Finding the first freelance job is hard for everyone. I’m no different.”
  • Channel your self-confidence. Make a daily list of things that you’ve done well. Regularly review your achievement and celebrate them.

But here’s some good news as well: learning how to deal with rejection strengthens your mental health. A stronger mental health means that you can resist other daily downers and remain productive and contemporary with your line of work.

How to Make Money Working from Home in 2019 | Brian O’Connell, Thestreet.com

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With the advent of digital technology, it’s relatively simple to not just make extra cash working at home, but make a good chunk of money doing so.

Plus, there’s no commute, you’re your own boss, and nobody is calling you into a snooze-inducing two-hour meeting where nothing is resolved and no action taken.

Who needs that when you can set up shop in the comfort of your own home and make a decent amount of cash in the process?

Intrigued? Ok – let’s get your work-at-home campaign started with a full menu of great ways to earn money at home, where you’re the CEO, and where corporate America can’t bother you.

Great Ways to Make Money from Home

1. Start With Work-at-Home Job Sites
Zip Recruiter and Flex Jobs are great places to start. Pop in your areas of specialty and both sites will send you job opening alerts when they arise.

2. Handle Data Entry or Bookkeeping Online
You really don’t need a degree in accounting to handle basic office tasks like data entry, payroll or bookkeeping. Just study up online and leverage your digital skills to full advantage. Good digital office help can easily earn $25 or more per hour.

3. Be a Good Neighbor
You can earn good money by accepting shipments from delivery companies like Fed Ex (FDX – Get Report) , UPS (UPS – Get Report) , and the U.S. Post Office for your neighbors, who may be at work or traveling. Just sign up at the site and start accepting your neighbor’s packages – at your house. You can earn about $3.50 for each delivery.

4. Drive Your Car
Sign up with ride-sharing sites like Uber and Lyft and make hundreds of dollars per week, driving folks around on your schedule. It’s not uncommon for drivers to make more than $500 per week on ride-sharing drives. If you’re comfortable behind the wheel, this gig could be for you.

5. Rent Out Your Home
That’s the idea behind home rentals like Airbnb.com, which enable homeowners to rent out their properties to travelers for a night or more. You’ll need to provide basic amenities, like towels and sheets, and must respond to potential renters within 24 hours. Airbnb hosts who rent out their homes regularly can make up to $30,000 annually.

6. Be a Babysitter
If you love children and have the time, you can open up your home as a babysitting service. Child care sites like Care.com and SitterCity will hire you (after you pass a background check.) The pay is good, depending on your experience – experienced baby sitters can make over $25 per hour.

7. Be a Virtual Assistant
Experienced virtual assistants can earn well over $50 per-hour, and can often set their own schedules. Sites like TaskRabbit can help you find virtual assistant gigs.

8. Be a Professional Tutor
Do you specialize in a particular academic category, like math, science or writing? Put that knowledge to work as an at-home (or online) tutor. The best path is to be certified by the National Tutoring Association. Once you do that, you can take training sessions, search jobs, and swap tips and educational strategies with other professional tutors.

9. Participate in Surveys
There’s a growing demand for professional survey takers, and there’s decent money in doing so. Professional survey sites like Swagbucks, Paid Surveys or Survey Junkie and earn up to $250 per month, or earn survey swag like gift cards and new products just for participating in free-to-take surveys.

10. Be a Web Site Reviewer
You don’t need any professional certification to do so – just be computer efficient, be diligent, take instructions well, and be good at writing up your thoughts on a given web site. Plenty of Fortune 500 companies partner with UserTesting, and regular web site reviewers can make up to $30 per hour.

11. Be a Freelance Writer
Sites like Freelance Success, Indeed.com, Contena, and LinkedIn regularly cater to freelance writers, offering job leads, advice, and even access to editors and content providers who hire freelance writers. Good freelance writers can earn over $100,000 annually if they specialize, and market their abilities to the right clients. Sites like Upwork and Guru.com also offer job leads, but the pay is often poor and you’re competing with loads of other writers for the best gigs.

12. Work With Focus Groups
Sites like Harris Poll Online, 2020 Panel, Brand Institute, and Engage will pay you cash or gift cards for an hour or two of your time participating in a focus group. You’ll study a product or a service, answer specific questions, and partner with focus group companies on market research campaigns.

13. Be a Digital Travel Agent
If you have the gift of passport wanderlust and know your way around an airline and hotel itinerary, becoming an online travel agent can be a profitable pastime. You’ll be working with excited clients who are passionate about their travel. Get started by partnering with travel agent hosting companies like the Airlines Reporting Corporation or the International Airlines Travel Agents Network, where you can get access to gigs, learn the craft, and earn hefty commissions helping people set up their travel plans.

14. Channel Your Inner Pet Sitter
Pet sitters are in high demand, as families who travel and business professionals who work late hours need someone to walk, fee and otherwise take care of their pets. Sites like Care.com, Rover and DogVacay can get you started. Before you know it, you can be making $20 or more hour for taking care of Fido.

15. Rent Your Vehicle
Sites like RelayRides, Turo and GetAround will advertise your vehicle to potential renters (you’ll need to keep your auto in pristine condition) and you can earn about 65% of the total ride cost by renting out your vehicle. Or, you can rent your vehicle out to Uber drivers at HyreCar and earn up to $12,000 annually for doing so, according to the company’s web site.

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Remote Work Digest: February 14, 2019

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

Hosting Your First Webinar? 3 Tips for Success | Syed Balkhi, Business.com

2cee678cef0f84b7694202d8def5ca98A webinar is a presentation where a host shares information with an audience. The information can be anything, so long as it educates your audience by giving them new and exciting information, or provides value to them via information that may be much harder to understand without the host. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 61 percent of B2B content marketers use webinars as an effective tool for marketing their business.

Here are three tips to help you nail your first presentation.

Consider Content Over Your Pitch
Imagine if you were invested in an upcoming webinar, only to find out that it was a big sales pitch. Two things would likely happen. First, you’d probably be disappointed in the host, and second, you would be less likely to go back and watch the next webinar from that creator.

Harvard Business Review cited in their findings that webinars are at their most efficient when they teach a newly emerging technology. The reason for this is simple — people are looking for trustworthy information from a reputable source. Immediately jumping to the pitch can destroy your chances at appearing credible.

There’s nothing wrong with working on your sales pitch and perfecting it. However, your primary concern should be educating and engaging with your audience.

Use Time to Your Advantage
A general rule of thumb is you want to avoid the first and last day of the work week for your target audience. This is usually a time of getting new projects started or closing up existing projects and loose ends.

Webinar Ninja did discover a “sweet spot” as it pertains to time though. Typically, you can expand your reach by hosting your webinar between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on “good” days for your audience, and in their time zone. They found that during this time, their webinar presentations had a 47 percent attendance rate. When mid-low 20s is the average attendance rate, it’s safe to say there is a proper time to host your first webinar.

Use All of Your Marketing Channels for Promotion
You’re going to want to bring out the big guns, create social media ad campaigns via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or whatever other outlets you frequent. Make sure you market your target audience, explain the benefits of the webinar and the cost (if applicable).

At the same time, every customer who comes to your website should know that your webinar is coming. You can create custom optin popups for customers and encourage them to sign up for your mailing list for more information on the webinar as the date of the presentation approaches.

Finally, you’re going to want to send out reminder emails to your lead lists leading up to the webinar. A good rule is to send a two-week reminder, one-week reminder, one-day reminder, and two day-of reminders.

Conclusion
There’s no doubt that it takes nerves of steel to do your first live webinar — but it’s so worth it. The experience and personal interaction you get with your customer base are unmatched. You’ll be able to reach a wider audience, provide valuable information about emerging technologies and ideas, as well as your brand and how you can help.

If you’re using insights to track your traffic and sales post-webinar, you’ll be able to see if your event had a marked impact on your business.

Pros and Cons of Working From Home | Robin Madell, Money.usnews.com

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Just like working in an office, remote work comes with pros and cons. To explore both the benefits of working from home as well as the drawbacks, I conducted informal interviews with more than 100 people with remote working jobs. Below are some of the top themes that emerged about remote workers’ favorite aspects of telecommuting and the challenges that come with a work-from-home lifestyle.

The pros and cons of working from home are:

  • Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
  • Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
  • Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
  • Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
  • Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
  • Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.

Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
When you work from home, while you still have to meet your deadlines and be available when you say you will be, you generally have wider bandwidth to tend to other responsibilities without jeopardizing your job.

Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
“It’s a constant balancing act to make sure you’re taking enough time for your family and yourself,” says Carrie Hill, co-founder of Ignitor Digital Marketing, who has been working from home for the last six years. “The pitfall is that there’s always a computer on and available, so setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries is pretty important.”

Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
It’s easier to get into a flow state of deep work when you’re in your home office without colleagues dropping by and sitting down impromptu to talk about their weekends. Limiting unnecessary interruptions from your colleagues and boss is a big plus of working from home and is one reason why many remote workers are more productive than office-based workers.

Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications
“Just like in relationships, it can be easy to misconstrue tonality of someone’s messages. We’re often blind without body language and facial expressions to rely on, and we assume the worst. Therefore, there needs to be extra effort made in maintaining positive communications,” says Michael Sunderland, managing director of Full Stack Talent.

Pro: These is no commute time or expense.
You can save a lot of money and avoid wasting hours that others spend simply getting to and from work when your office is right down the hall. Avoiding traffic battles and long-distance schleps tops the list of benefits for some of those who work from home.

Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
What can be a blessing can also become a curse in the form of cabin fever. Some freelancers and others who work from home lamented that the place they work during the day is the exact same place they’ll be sitting later that evening and that getting involved in their work often translates to spending a huge portion of the day indoors. Many stressed the importance of scheduling lunches and other meetings to keep them in the mix and avoid the rut of never leaving the house.

Remote work has clear benefits, but no situation is perfect. Understanding the reasons to work from home – as well as the reasons not to – can go a long way in learning how to work from home successfully.

Look Before You Leap: 8 Things to Know Before Taking the Dive into Self-Employment | Melissa Thompson, Axcessnews.com

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Working from home is a completely different experience than working in an office and there are many things you need to think about when becoming self-employed. It can be easy to overlook some of them with the buzz of taking the leap.

But if you read this guide to eight things you need to know before becoming self-employed, you’ll feel much more prepared.

1. You’ll Need Space To Work
Working from home may need a bit of reorganization of your space.

It helps to have a dedicated work space, even in your house. This will help you make the distinction between work life and home life. So when you are sat at your desk, you’re at work.

It will also help you keep all your work supplies and paperwork in one place and prevent you from losing things.

2. You Are the Team
If you have been working for an organization, you were probably part of a team. But if you’re going to become self-employed, you’ll be on your own.

That means there won’t be an IT department to call if you are having tech issues. There won’t be anyone to do your filing or tidy up after you, and there won’t be someone to pick up the slack if you are snowed under.

3. No One Will Sort Out Your Taxes
You may have had all of your taxes taken care of if you worked for a larger company. But if you are self-employed, your taxes are your responsibility.

But don’t be too daunted! There is plenty of advice available online about your tax responsibilities that will help you estimate what you owe.

4. Self-Employment Needs Financial Planning
If you are used to a regular paycheck each month, becoming self-employed can be a bit of a shock to the system.

It’s unlikely your income will be that consistent, especially in the first few months. So you need to plan for this and budget accordingly.

Work out the minimum you need to make, and what your essential expenses will be, and always have a back-up plan. Make sure you won’t be overstretched when you first start out, there will be enough to worry about!

5. Saving Is a Must
Because your income and your tax are your responsibility, it is important that you put money aside for your tax bill.

Whether you factor it into your regular budgeting or set up a specific savings account, it is essential you save some money.

6. Insurance Is Your Responsibility
Things like health insurance, dental plans, life insurance, and earnings protection will be down to you to sort out.

If you are the main breadwinner in your family, then insurance is even more important, as anything that prevents you from working can be really serious.

7. Keep Your Contacts
While it might feel like a relief to walk away from your old job, you should still try and leave on good terms. Becoming self-employed can be a risky venture, so you will need as many contacts as possible.

You never know when your old business contacts or old colleagues may come in useful in the future, whether as clients or just to ask advice. So keep hold of that contact list.

8. You Still Need a Schedule
It can be easy to get distracted when you work at home. When you don’t have a manager or a team to coordinate your schedule with, it is easy for your working day to lose some structure.

Even if you are not arranging meetings you should still create a daily schedule and stick to it.

So those are eight things you should know before you switch to self-employment.

You will need to be organized, manage your finances and your taxes, and take care of your own benefits. But hopefully it will reap rewards and you won’t look back.

5 Tech Careers You Can Do From Home | T2conline.com

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Are you currently in the tech field or hoping to make a transition into the field in the near future? Maybe you feel as though the daily grind and commute to work is just taking too much time out of your schedule, and making it hard to keep the household running smoothly where the kids are concerned. If so, it may be time to look into careers you can do from home, in particular tech careers.

Here’s a look at five that may just be exactly what you are looking for.

PCB Designer
Because technology is becoming more of a requirement in businesses across all industries, there are constantly new plans and projects being pieced together and then implemented. This is where an IT project manager comes into play. They will build the project, set up the team, identify issues, track all the steps and milestones, and ensure that everything moves smoothly.

Web Designer
As a web designer, you’ll be responsible for building websites from scratch and re-designing existing ones. This means your coding skills need to be on point.

IT Project Manager
Because technology is becoming more of a requirement in businesses across all industries, there are constantly new plans and projects being pieced together and then implemented. This is where an IT project manager comes into play. They will build the project, set up the team, identify issues, track all the steps and milestones, and ensure that everything moves smoothly.

System Administrator
For many businesses out there, a system administrator is a crucial part of their team, as this administrator is who ensures their computer system runs efficiently and properly at all times. You will work to configure and upkeep the servers and computers, which thanks to technology can all be done remotely nowadays.

Software Engineer
In this position, you will work to create and then develop software for systems and computers. Most likely you will be working as part of a remote team, which can also be a benefit for those who like to be part of a group and collective atmosphere.

Each of these careers can prove to be an excellent choice for anyone looking to pursue an at-home tech career which provides all the flexibility you’re after.

Remote Work Digest: June 16, 2018

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work | Andrew Medal, Entrepreneur.com

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Working remotely can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompany documented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

Struggling with your calendar

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

1. Create your list of tasks.
2. Prioritize the list.
3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

Chasing clients for payment

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.

Convert Your Office Job To A Work-From-Home Arrangement | Manon DeFelice, Forbes.com

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A recent survey of over 5,000 workers by FlexJobs found that telecommuting 100% of the time is the most desired type of flexible work arrangement among job seekers. Such arrangements appeal strongly to working parents and others seeking better work-life balance.

Before you ask to switch to a telecommuting arrangement with your boss, consider the following tried-and-true tips.

1. Build your case with solid research. Instead of just listing all the personal reasons why you want to work from home, present your boss with a face-based presentation on how remote work arrangements can be a benefit to the company.

2. Offer examples of other companies’ flex policies. When you show your employer that other companies are going flex, he or she might be more inspired to implement a flexibility policy at your workplace. Present your boss or manager with sample flexibility policies, such as the nine examples included in this article from 1MFWF.

3. Try working flex once a week on a trial basis. If your manager needs convincing, let her test-drive your telecommuting capabilities one day a week to see how it goes. If your boss goes for it, use that day as an opportunity to show just how productive you can be when you work from home.

4. Be a communication whiz. Convince your boss how easy it is to stay closely in touch with you, no matter where you are. A wealth of technology can help teams stay connected around the world, from Skype and Google Chat to Basecamp, Slack and many more.

5. Offer to take a salary cut. Many people feel that working from home is a reward in itself, saving you the hassle of commuting and increasing your quality of life. You can assign a monetary value to it, and suggest a pay savings for the company by letting you telecommute.

6. Get another flexible job offer, and let your boss match it. A job offer from another company can be very motivating for your boss to let you switch to a work-from-home arrangement.

What if your boss can’t match the competing offer? Then maybe it’s time to make the move to a more forward-thinking company—and start living the work-from-home lifestyle that you envision for yourself.

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You for Entrepreneural Success | Deep Patel, Entrepreneur.com

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If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales
A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognize that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful startup.

2. Human Resources
HR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

3. Customer service
Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership
To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants — these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

8 effective time management tips for entrepreneurs working from home | Toby Nwazor, e27.co

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If you are working from home, you will understand how challenging it can feel at times to manage your time effectively so as to increase your productivity. Below are eight points that can help you do that.

1. Prepare your to-do list every night before you sleep
If you really want to manage your time effectively, then you should wake up with tasks on your mind. And the best way to do this is to make a list of the next day’s tasks at night before you go to bed. That way, you can maximise your morning hours and achieve a lot more before the rest of the world get to work.

2. Prioritise your tasks
It is not enough to prepare a to-do list, you need to prioritise your goals. Divide your tasks according to what you must do, what you should do, what you want to do just because it’s nice, what another person can do for you, and what must not be done.

3. Work out a schedule, and maintain it
Assuming you had to go to work, what would your schedule look like? Duplicate it for the house. If you decide to work from 7 am to 4 pm, so be it. Make the people you live with understand it. This means that there will be no running of errands around that time, neither would you decide to hang out with a friend that just came into town.

4. Define and own your workspace
A few weeks ago, I hired someone to redesign my office. I told him I wanted to have an ‘office feeling’ whenever I entered that particular room, and he did it. After that, I noticed that I work faster when I get into the office and focus on a particular task.
You should do likewise. This will help you more if you live with a someone. In that case, let them know that unless it is very important, your office is where you work and there should be no distractions.

5. Work when you are the most productive
Although you work at home, you need to find out when you are the most productive. The secret is to schedule your most important tasks at that period. That way, you will accomplish more in less time.

6. Cut off distractions
Cut off every distraction. This could entail telling your family, or the people you live with not to disturb you when you are at work. Make them understand your schedule.

7. Avoid clutter
Don’t allow your workspace to be cluttered. This includes arranging your system files and folders and managing your email better too.

8. Take brain breaks regularly
You must try to avoid having burnouts at all costs. This is especially important if your job requires creativity. Work at a stretch for some time, but make sure to schedule breaks into your plan. This is the time you get to rejuvenate, listen to music, call a friend, or maybe just read a novel.

When you do this, you will come back rejuvenated and ready to take on more tasks.

 

Freelancing for Students: Top Sites for Consideration

Freelancing is a complicated means to making money because basically, it’s self-employment. As some of you may know, this can be a challenging path to follow, especially when you’re juggling classes and meeting clients as well as the stresses of daily life. This, however, does not necessarily mean you have to give up on one or the other. It simply implies that you’re going to have to find a more effective way to get jobs. Luckily, there are dozens for sites that cater to your specific needs. Here are a few reviews of some general and specialized job sites. Continue reading