Archives for November 2012

5 Simple Life-Hacks for the Self-Employed

Increase productivity so you can focus on what’s important

When people imagine owning their own business, they often fantasize about setting their own hours, wearing what they want, working when they feel like it; but entrepreneurship is one of the most demanding ways of making a living, and most of us don’t have the discipline or organization to do it without a considerable amount of help. Fortunately, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to improve your small business, fortify your commitment and get things done.

1. Make room for distractions

This may seem counter-intuitive, but controlled and scheduled distractions can actually make you a more effective worker. Accept that other tasks will make demands on your time during your workday, and modify your goals accordingly (this is particularly true for self-employed parents). Also, taking a ten-minute break to read a chapter of a book or work on another project can help you return to work refreshed and ready to think in a new way. Interruptions that you’ve scheduled beforehand are less likely to disrupt your discipline.

2. Give yourself a workday

If you never clock in, you can’t really clock out—and too many entrepreneurs spend every waking moment half-focused on work while scrambling to fulfill other responsibilities. Entrepreneurs who work that way don’t last very long—it’s less productive, and it’s a sure recipe for burnout. Give yourself a real workday, as long as it needs to be.

Also, don’t assume that 9 to 5 is the best time for your productivity—you know which hours of the day are most productive for you, so schedule your workday whenever is optimal. Of course, you should consider the resources and contacts who will only be available to you during “regular business hours”, but that’s only one factor in your decision.

3. Schedule a ten-minute planning session every morning

Particularly if you’re the kind of person who struggles to stick to a plan, it’s best to make goals that you can hold yourself accountable for right away—and that means starting small, with manageable, quantifiable goals that you can achieve the same day. Then, at the end of the day, take ten minutes to take stock of how you actually spent your time, compared with your plan. It can be an illuminating experience.

4. Mobilize your office as much as possible

To whatever extent possible, empower yourself to get things done on the move; and if things just aren’t cooking in your home office, get up and go somewhere else. A simple change of scenery can do wonders for your creativity and problem-solving capacity. Smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks can help you stay productive at a park, on public transportation, or even in a waiting room at the doctor’s office, just make sure you are using a data only sim. Working in a new environment is also a great way to avoid your pet distractions, and being able to respond to problems wherever you are will keep your business agile and responsive.

5. Make time for education

Especially in today’s business climate, you can’t be a technophobic or rigid small business owner. Entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people on the planet—but the successful ones make time to raise their vision, build new skills, and change strategies that aren’t working. Make it a point to learn something new every day (you can invite a spouse or friend to hold you accountable)—and look for ways to apply what you learn to your business.

Patricia Shuler is a staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.

Hybrid Cellular Begins

I’ve been on the bandwagon for a cell phone service that can be both a cellular phone service, and a voip service that allows you to make calls with your cell phone over wi-fi.  Well, I might be a little late to the party here, but it looks like it’s finally happening.  Check out Republic Wireless.

It looks like they’re working in partnership with the Sprint network.  $19 a month + taxes gets you pretty much unlimited everything.  And, so long as you’ve got wi-fi connectivity, you’ve got a cell phone that can make calls, do data, etc.  If you’re not in range of a wi-fi connection, the phone seamlessly switches over to the Sprint cellular network.

They’re very much still in a beta form as they are only allowing sign ups in waves, and seem to be several weeks out for accepting people through the waves.  They also are only allowing a single band phone at the moment, which limits your cellular network coverage.  According to their site, they’ve got plans for a dual band phone that should be out by the end of  the year though, so that should drastically expand the possible cellular network.  That’s particularly important to me up here in North Dakota where cellular service is notoriously spotty to begin with.

My current contract, with AT&T isn’t up until May (I think), so I can’t even begin to look around too much until then, but you can bet I’ll be checking out Republic when I get there.  As long as they can port my current number over, and the phone they are offering is a dual band, I’ll likely give them a try.  After all, $19 is a far cry better than $90 and the service can’t be much worse than the combination of AT&T and my current phone.

What am I missing?  Are there any technical issues with a hybrid service like this?  I can’t think of any.  They say that it’s seamless, so there’s no switching or apps involved.  Imagine, stopping off at McDonalds for a quick cup of joe, and making a phone call off their free wi-fi at the same time!

Taking Your Small Business to the Next Level

If you’re a small business owner, one of the biggest challenges you face is getting the business past the tipping point; that point where you are doing everything yourself, and you begin to use the services of employees and other small businesses to complete some of the tasks.  If you’re at that point in you business, I congratulate you.  But, I don’t have to tell you about the challenges that you now face.

If you’ve been doing most of the business tasks yourself, it can sometimes be hard to let go of the level of control that you have, and hand some of it over to employees and services.  Finding quality employees can sometimes be difficult.  and, once you have employees, there are a whole number of things that you have to take care of, that you didn’t before.  Obviously, employees will want to be paid.  But, it’s not as simple as just calculating their paychecks and writing a check to them.  You’ve got to worry about all the medicare, social security, unemployment, and payroll taxes for which we recommend this blog post about some examples of people who aren’t on the payroll.

Maybe you already have employees, and have been doing a lot of those things already.  But, maybe those tasks are taking up too much of your time.  While you may consider having a local firm perform you payroll tasks, there are also a myriad of online payroll services that can manage the tasks as well.  I

n many cases, it can be as simple as forwarding the payroll information on to the an external firm and start outsourcing your company payroll, or the online service, and letting them cut the checks and calculate all of the payroll taxes and paperwork.

As your business grows, learning to delegate the tasks to employees and services so that you can dedicate yourself to continuing to grow the business, and if you have many employees in your business you could use a software like paystub for here, you can find out more right here just for this.   Finding the tasks that you need to delegate can sometimes be just as challenging.  Some tasks within your business don’t require your full attention to detail, and can easily be done by employees and services.  Perhaps you run a sales oriented business.  The more sales you do, the less likely you are going to be able to continue to do all of the sales and will need employees to perform some of the sales calls.

Delegating tasks within your company can free your time to focus on growing the business you built.