Getting (and Staying) Organized When Working from Home

So you don’t have a swanky personal office that requires a short but enjoyable commute and a stop at your favorite coffee shop? Yeah, me neither. Luckily, you don’t need a fully furnished office to get your “working from home” work station established. Here are a few things I’ve learned since going rogue.

You don't need a fully furnished office to get your "working from home" work station established. Here are a few things I've learned since going rogue. Getting (and staying) organized- tips from WordsbyErynn

Make yourself a space

It doesn’t have to be a real office, but if you’ve got space available, move on in and get yourself a cushy chair with wheels and a desk you won’t constantly bang your knee on. Seriously though, I’m fortunate enough to have a designated office space (that currently needs a little help), but you’ll often find me typing at my laptop on the couch or plugged in at the kitchen table. For my trade, though, all I really need to actually work is a laptop and possibly a notebook.

So, get yourself a corner of the couch, a sliver of the kitchen table, or an out of the way hide-a-desk where little hands or slobbery noses (I’m talking pets here) can’t reach. Bonus points if you collect all the tools you’ll need and make yourself a somewhat portable box or bag of essentials. Bonus, then you can easily take your work with you on the days the coffee shop is beckoning.

Invest in a planner

I never thought I’d say this, but I much prefer my spiral bound planner, hand written and covered with sticky notes, to any digital timekeeping solution. I occasionally make notes on my phone, but the majority of my work (and extracurricular stuffs, family events, home school outings) is documented in my planner. I’m pretty visual, so this helps me know what I should be doing at a glance.

I note deadlines for projects, sketch out time frames for client orders, even scribble down my plans for meals for the week. Plus, I get to act like a responsible grown up with all this meticulousness and responsibility nonsense!

Schedule time off

You won’t have a boss dictating your days off, so I’m here to tell you- get out of the office already! Don’t plan on working every single day, and don’t accept every project that comes your way if it means you run the risk of exhausting your “me” time. For us WAHMs (or WAHPs, is that a thing? It should be.), we’re already planning around our kids and their schedules, so we need to factor ourselves in too.

By the way, remember the reason we quit our jobs in the first place? We dropped out of the rat race so we could have more free time and flexibility. Don’t ruin that by working 24/7 just because you can. Sustainability, people!

Give yourself permission to have a bad day

So this might not be entirely organizationally focused, but I need to say it. Don’t be so hard on yourself! We’ve all had crappy days at work, it won’t be any different when you’re working from home. It might be even harder, especially since we don’t have sympathetic if somewhat vengeful coworkers to gripe to.

Having an effective work space and keeping track of our commitments are both huge components of successful work at home. But taking our days off and indulging when we feel like ripping our hair out are important pursuits too.

Now excuse me, I’ve got some planning and office renovating to do!

 

Resume Upgrade: Getting Job Search Ready

Last week I listed the different types of online jobs that are out there. This week, I want to focus on the number one game-changer in any job search: your resume. It’s the first piece of ‘you’ that a prospective employer will meet, and it needs to be stellar.

Your resume: the number one game-changer in any job search. It's the first piece of 'you' that a prospective employer will meet, and it needs to be stellar. Resume upgrade advice from WordsbyErynn.com.

Format for reader friendliness!

Whether you’re staying in the brick and mortar market or exploring online jobs, you’ll likely be submitting your resume online. Ensure your resume is optimized for online viewing. Skip fancy fonts and layouts in favor of streamlined text (with just a little color).

Be bold, but don’t be difficult. Word offers a template for resumes that is simple to edit and easy to customize. Just enter your details, then make sure your name stands out and each section heading is noticeable.

There’s nothing wrong with infusing your resume with some personality. Just as long as it’s the professional and put-together bit!

Give your resume an introduction!

You’ll find there are two suggested ways of starting off your resume. The first is an objective statement, typically employed by job search newbies with little to no experience out of college. This statement will outline what you’re looking for and where you hope to go with your vast set of new skills.

The second way to begin your resume, which is preferred for experienced job seekers, is a competencies statement. A competencies blurb will include a brief description of who you are and what you do, where you’ve been, and precisely what you offer to the employer. I favor about three sentences, as this section should be happily short. You may need to tailor this statement to each separate job you apply for, unless you’re going after similar positions in the same field.

Go for more than just the obvious…

Please don’t include a ‘Skills’ section if you’re only going to list Microsoft Office proficiency. If you’ve done your job right, your resume itself will serve as proof of your Word prowess. Rather than elaborate solely on your speedy typing abilities or general computer knowledge in the skills section, list only the programs you know intimately. Most everyone has a functional knowledge of Microsoft or Apple software, but not everyone can manage photo editing programs or accounting software!

… but don’t fluff!

All resumes need a few basic items; your contact info, a competencies or objectives statement, experience/job history, and education. Definitely list all relevant job duties, but don’t stretch out those sections to fill extra pages. One page is sufficient, two if you’ve got a lengthy job history to include. Don’t try to fill your resume with fluff- get in the important details and let that baby speak for itself.

PS- I offer resume writing.

Stumped, or just too busy to spruce up your resume? Hire me to do it for you. Consider me your job finding wing man (er, wing woman?), because I’ll help you look professional and poised on paper (sorry, though, the rest of it’s up to you!).

Online Jobs: Have a Boss or Be the Boss?

You know online jobs exist. But did you know there are a million different opportunities available for those of us willing to put in the work? You might have already skimmed over my posts about signs you need to quit your job and why a work at home job won’t solve all your problems. Now let’s talk about the actual opportunities that await you!

Did you know there are a million different opportunities available for those of us looking for online jobs? Four categories cover them all. Online job talk from WordsbyErynn.com

Online jobs: working for someone else

Do you want to just do the work and get paid, no strings attached? There are two general categories of online jobs where you’re still provided guidelines, feedback, and a paycheck.

Option 1: Apply for a “real” job

There are a huge number of companies that hire qualified, full-time staff who work from home. Some might require occasional travel to a headquarters or training center, others might be strictly virtual positions. You’ll have a relationship with a company and technically be an employee.

The benefits of such a position are that they generally involve benefits, scheduled (aka reliable) hours, and your taxes are deducted just like in a ‘normal’ job. You might need to buy specific job-related equipment. This will vary depending on the type of position. However, these types of jobs can be fairly limiting for your home life. Time off may need to be scheduled far in advance, the same as an in-house position.

Examples of “real” online jobs offered by companies are guest service (scheduling appointments, offering tech support) and sales (if cold-calling happens to be something that doesn’t make you feel ill).

Option 2: Apply for smaller jobs

If you’re not in immediate need of a full time and heartily lucrative position, smaller task-type jobs are abundant online. You can typically log in and complete tasks according to your own schedule. It’s highly likely you won’t even have a phone interview to get in. Odds are you’ll only speak to your ‘boss’ via email. You won’t be considered an employee, and taxes can be tricky.

Task related jobs can be a quick and easy way to earn some extra cash, but it would be rather inconvenient to cultivate a full time income from these jobs alone. You will also need to be fairly tech savvy and willing to troubleshoot issues on your own.

Jobs in this category include website/chat moderators, survey takers, and writers for ‘content mill’ writing sites.

Work at home jobs: working for yourself

This is where the entrepreneurial side of you feels thrilled and a little sick at the same time. Here’s your chance to do something you’ve always loved and [hopefully] get paid for it.

Option 1: Open up shop (and get crafting)

Odds are you’re familiar with Etsy, and if not, you should be. It’s essentially the most well known online sales platform for handmade everything, and it’s simple to get started. Anyone who’s even remotely crafty can hop on and open up shop. All it takes is a little marketing to get your shop the attention it deserves.

You won’t need startup cash for office space or storefront real estate, but you will need to invest in materials for whatever product you plan to sling. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, jewelry crafting, woodworking, painting, printing- all of it finds a place on Etsy.

Check out shops that offer what you plan to sell, calculate costs, and have at it. Ideally you’ll sort out your shop’s branding, images, and sweet product descriptions (need a little help?) before going live, but the beauty of it is you can tweak it any time.

It might take your online sales a while to take off, but Etsy will give you an idea of whether your business venture is viable or not. Who knows, you may end up being so successful that you’ll start your own online store.

Option 2: Set up a site (and get to cold emailing)

Obviously this is my favorite option- everyone quit your job today and redesign yourself as a freelancer!- but I know it’s not for everyone. Establishing yourself as a freelancer seems simple, but it requires as much work as opening an online store, if not more.

All the experts recommend cultivating your own legit website, and I enthusiastically agree. I would never hire someone who based their business on a free WordPress site, because any schmuck can claim to be a professional. So buy a domain name, get in good with BlueHost (I haven’t had a single issue yet and apparently they offer perks for a shout out, though personally I’ve no clue how that works). I also recommend some good imaging software or a subscription to a site like BeFunky, which is super easy for those of us who aren’t designers.

Other business necessities will vary hugely depending on your field of expertise. You might be a writer, in which case a few dozen notebooks and your brain will suffice. For a web designer, a tech support guru, a photographer, or a marketing consultant, your toolbox will have vastly different contents.

The exciting thing about freelancing, is whatever task you’re good at, there’s someone who values that service enough to pay for it. Your job as a freelancer is to spend time finding those clients and convincing them to hire you. Sadly, those aren’t billable hours.

Online jobs: Watch for the scammers

Hopefully you already know where to look for legitimate at home work opportunities, but if not, check out my virtual work Pinterest board for some direction! Wherever you look for online work, stay away from sites that charge up front fees. Don’t pay to apply for a job, or pay to get on lists or take tests!

There are a ton of scams out there, but also endless choices, so take heart- if you’re consistent and start out with a game plan, you’ll find the right online job for your lifestyle. Get more advice and some quick tips in next week’s post on getting your credentials in order for online job searches.

 

Why a Work at Home Job Won’t Solve All Your Problems

It’s been a little over three months since I took the plunge into working from home as a freelance writer and consultant. Last week, I listed the three signs you need to quit your job. But what next? There are some warnings to be given about the pitfalls of working from home. I had so many beautiful, fluffy dreams about how amazing it would be to work from home. I’m sharing this reality check so that you can be better prepared to handle the challenges. There are immense benefits to finding a work at home job, but don’t expect the lax dress code and upgraded coffee selections to solve all your problems.

There are immense benefits to finding a work at home job, but don't expect the lax dress code and upgraded coffee selections to solve all your problems. Work at home job advice from WordsbyErynn.

A work at home job is still WORK.

There will be deadlines, meetings, reviews, and unexpected expenses that will make you wish you could hold your liquor better. Whether you work for yourself as a freelancer or snag a telecommuting job with a customer service company, you will definitely not be surfing that couch as much as people think.

Many online jobs have specific hourly requirements that must be met if you want to stay employed. If you’re sourcing clients on your own, you might have one week of drought followed by two weeks of heavy rain (plus a little lightning). Having the freedom to work at home doesn’t mean we aren’t working as much as people in office buildings. We’re just working differently.

Once you make the leap into working from home, you’ll figure out your own rhythm and how you work best. It’s up to you whether that’s an 8 hour day or one hour blocks throughout.

Getting started might take more work than you think.

You might think that starting your own business doesn’t sound that tough. Expect that finding an online job is as simple as a few applications and some spelling tests? Whether you’re creating a business from the ground up or submitting thirteen resumes a day looking for an opening, you will work harder than you’re working now. I promise you it will be worth it. However, odds are you’ll have some sleepless nights and difficult days first.

Applying for work at home jobs is a part time job of its own.

Consider the success rate of past job seeking ventures. How many resumes did you submit before getting an interview? Before actually getting a job offer?

If you’re looking for an online job to essentially replace your full time gig, you’ll need to get your resume in order and get a cover letter prepared (stay tuned for a post with some help on those soon!). Make sure you have an email address suitable for business communication. The email address you got when you were 16 that references your first car likely won’t impress hiring managers. Also, brush up on your typing and spelling skills since online jobs involve a ton of written communication and form-filling. Be prepared for software and hardware questions, and possibly purchasing equipment depending on the field you plan to enter.

It may take a few attempts before you hear back on any job opening, just like in real life. Happily, one of the pluses of working online is that you can usually start sooner than brick and mortar occupations. Generally paperwork submission and online tests are the only hurdles.

Starting a business is a different beast.

For those planning on breaking cyber or other ground with a new business, the process is even more intensive. Modern businesses necessitate an online home, so web hosting and domain names should be high on your list. Market research and social media growth are key, so developing a strong and recognizable brand will be your first duty.

Seriously, expect to invest a few or a hundred hours in your business development before turning any amount of profit. I spent untold hours contemplating color schemes, font combinations, and website copy for my brand, and I’m just a freelance writer/consultant.

You’ll still have work-life conflicts.

Even if your computer is ten feet away and beckoning you, shit can still happen. Accidents, illness, and plain old procrastination can inhibit the time you can invest in your work. Many online jobs require you to be logged in for a set number of hours, or certain times of day. This might be ideal while the kids are off at school, but potentially hazardous during breaks and summer.

Part of my desire to work at home was fueled by my annoyance at being forced to leave my kids in the first place. Working outside the home should be a choice for parents (and everyone else), but so should working inside the home. The difference between my old job and my career as a freelancer is I have the power. Power to reduce my workload, to increase it, to take days off, to turn down projects. I accept consulting hours that work for me and decline ones that don’t.

So working at home solves a lot of problems… Just not all of them.

But that’s ok! We’re still making an income, attending to family obligations, and living life. I hope for the same freedom and flexibility for you as I’m enjoying. That starts with your decision to find a work at home job, or create your own.

Keep an eye out for my next post on the pros and cons for working at home for a company versus working for yourself!

3 Signs You Need to Quit Your Job

How do you know when it’s time to take that terrifying leap and leave a comfortable yet ambition killing job? If you’re tired of doing what you’re told and merely existing to pay the bills, it might be time to leave the nine to five grind behind. Here are 3 signs it might be time to quit your job and move on to working from home wherever you damn well please.

 

3 signs it might be time to quit your job and move on to working from home from WordsbyErynn

1- You dread your job.

Maybe it’s the excessive commute or maybe it’s your backstabbing, snooty coworkers. Either way, you dread the start of your work week and probably each work day too. It could be that working at this soul-crushing job is merely a means of provision for your family. Possibly you’re just tired of facing your jerk boss and plotting your every move so as not to upset the status quo. We all know rocking the boat means the potential for being thrown overboard.

If you’re standing in line at the grocery store and having pangs of anxiety because you have to be at the office next morning and there is so. little. time. to do everything that’s necessary and important, then your dread is more than the Monday morning hangover blues.

We’re supposed to enjoy our work. Yes, I said it! Life in general is meant to be enjoyed. So if the knowledge that you’re going to spend the foreseeable future within those four walls has you questioning the need for prescription strength coping mechanisms, it’s about time to bail out.

2- You count lost hours.

You feel the hours passing and lament their waste. You can think of a list of twenty other things you could be doing that would make you much happier than sitting at this desk. You consider the cost of things you have to purchase and realize how long it takes you to actually earn them. You wonder if anyone would pay you to crochet coffee cup cozies or paint rocks. You contemplate cutting cable and cell phones and half your grocery budget so that you can live off of meager savings for a few months while you figure out how else you could feasibly make money. You would do almost anything to be able to walk away from this income source and do something, anything else.

Not a fulfilling career, folks. If you’re unable to mentally be at rest at work, you don’t belong there. Yes, a job is a job, but what if you could still pay the bills doing something else? This is a strong indicator that you should quit your job and investigate other avenues of progress.

3- You have talents you’re not using.

Are you currently working at your dream job? I don’t mean the career you aspired toward as a child, or what your degree dictates you’re supposedly good at. I mean the deep down, world-changing, ass-kicking, revitalizing, awakening dream you have to actually do something in life. Of course, not everyone can be a rockstar or rescue all the kitties. The thing is, everyone has a dream that has been written off as impossible when it’s not impossible at all.

I have always been told I’m good at writing. I have an eye for errors in text and always have to refrain from highlighting spelling mistakes on restaurant menus. What I don’t yet know I’m willing to teach myself. I never stop asking questions or planning ahead. None of this got me a job in my ideal field, and none of it mattered at all in interviews for marketing related jobs. It DOES matter with my clients, because it translates into well written and worthwhile copy that they don’t have to stress over. I offer a service that is valuable to many people, the kind of people I enjoy working with.

Is it time for you to quit your job?

I used to think that to do what I loved, I’d need a boatload of money to get started. I had all these misconceptions about timing and missed opportunities, when I’ve actually been stagnating needlessly for years. There are plenty of excuses that can hold you back if you’re willing to let them, but none is good enough to justify wasting your life and your talents (I know you’ve got ’em!).

I know very few people who are actually doing what they love in life. I don’t want to live the rest of my life paying bills and counting hours. Even if my current gig doesn’t pan out, I refuse to re-enter the rat race.

If you’re here because you’re contemplating making a huge life change and want to quit your job, seriously consider it. Don’t settle for a career that makes you miserable. Stop catering to people who refuse to see the value in you.

Stay tuned for the next in my series of posts related to leaving our tolerable yet disenchanting jobs for fresh opportunity!