Living Rhetorically in the Real World A blog about freelancing, writing, editing, business & social media.

24Sep/140

The Pros and Cons of Being a Home-Based Business Owner

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

I love having my own business and working from home – but it’s certainly not for everyone, and there are both benefits and drawbacks to being a home-based business owner or freelancer!

If you’re considering starting your own business and working from home, here are a few things to keep in mind and the pros and cons of each:

1) You get to work in your own space.

  • PRO: Your home is (presumably) a comfortable environment, you don’t have to go outside when the weather is miserable, and you don’t have to worry about a lengthy commute.
  • CON: Productivity can decrease if you let yourself get too comfy (such as wearing pajamas all day long), and it’s possible that you might occasionally go a couple days without getting outside at all (and that can’t be healthy!).

home-based business owner

2) You never know when your next project will come along.

  • PRO: It’s exciting to always have different types of work, and sometimes projects land in your lap without warning (score!).
  • CON: It seems to be a general rule in freelancing / owning your own business that you won’t have any work for a while, and then suddenly all the work will come in at the same time and needs to be completed within a very short time-frame. This can get a little stressful if you aren’t prepared for it.

3) You are your brand.

  • PRO: Most of what you’re doing, you’ll probably love; a lot of the activities you partake in for your personal life can also help to support and promote your work life.
  • CON: You don’t ever really get a break – and you think about your business constantly.

freelance editing services

4) You get to be your own boss.

  • PRO: You can set your own hours based on the times of day that you are most productive, and you get to make all the decisions.
  • CON: If you aren’t disciplined, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble! Not working with people can sometimes get lonely and also means a lack of brainstorming sessions and bouncing ideas off of others, and since you probably don’t have any employees, you have to perform every job at your business yourself.

Before starting your own home-based business, take the time to really think about your work style and work ethic, as well as some of the challenges you think you might face and some of the ways that you could manage those challenges. It will help to make the transition that much smoother!

Have you started your own business? What have you found to be some of the pros and cons? If you’re thinking about starting your own business but haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?

17Sep/140

The Fears You HAVE to Overcome Before Launching Your Business

It was just six months ago that I started freelancing full-time, but before that, I had been doing part-time freelance editing and writing for many years. A lot of work has to go into preparing to launch your business (even if it's a lower-risk, home-based business!), but even if you might have all of the necessary tools and ideas in place, there might still be some mental barriers to get through.

Fear is a major reason why people don't start their business in the first place, and why they shut their business down before it's had the opportunity to flourish. It's imperative to overcome these fears before launching your business, or your business won't be everything you want it to be!

business fears

No fear!

Five fears to overcome before you start your own business:

1) The fear of being unable to find work. There will always, always, always be more places to look for work. It might be a little terrifying when you start out, especially if you have little to no clients, but marketing is something that can and should be an ongoing process. It boils down to putting yourself out there, networking, and letting people know how and when you can help them by offering your services.

2) The fear of being unable to pay the bills. You probably aren't going to make a huge amount of money in the first year - plan ahead to prepare for this! Have enough money to draw on (and several additional back-up plans) for the first few months. But ultimately, if you can put yourself out there enough and find the work, and if you are very careful with budgeting, and if you ensure that not paying the bills isn't an option, it should all work out.

3) The fear of doing a poor job. You need to be confident in your skills / services before you launch your business! Be cognizant that you will always need to learn more, and make sure you have plenty of resources and reference materials within easy reach. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do a top-notch, high-quality job at any of the projects you take on.

4) The fear of failing at *making it* with your business. Again, this one boils down to thinking in terms of not making it is not an option. You can *make it* if you are marketing yourself properly, churning out high-quality work, and charging reasonable prices.

5) The fear of success. This is a perfectly legitimate fear to have, and it's okay! But you do need to overcome it before launching your business. Focus on the happiness and satisfaction that comes from success, rather than anything negative that you might associate with the notion of success.

What barriers would you add to this list that are necessary to overcome before launching your business? Has fear stopped you or someone you know from succeeding? Share in the comments section below!

9Sep/140

Effective Note-Taking: Tips for Writing Notes

It's back-to-school season - and that means that it's time to start doing a whole bunch of writing and note-taking during class! I mastered the art of note-taking when I was in university, and now that part of my work includes professional transcribing and note-taking, I've really managed to cultivate the skill. These tips for writing notes are essential for any university or college student.

If you or someone you know is heading back to class this semester, here are some tips for effective note-taking:

  • Summarize the main points. The point of university is to learn, not to memorize. Unless your professor tells you that they want you to repeat back word-for-word definitions and that sort of thing during tests, it's a good idea to summarize ideas in your own words and to take down key points in ways that you can best understand. If you're new to university, err on the side of taking too many notes. After you review the notes from your first few classes, you'll be able to recognize what information you can leave out.

how to write notes

  • Use different colored pens or capital letters to highlight important information. Have fun with note-taking! Using all-caps, underlining, different coloured pens, and highlighters can help you to quickly identify later on which information you need to know. A word of caution: you might be tempted to colour and highlight everything, so maybe take a break from doing this if your notes start to look like a rainbow.
  • Draw diagrams and pictures. If there are diagrams on the board, include them in your notes! Some people also remember better when they have a visual picture rather than words to refer to. Consider using graphic facilitation to improve your memory.
  • Make additional notes to help you remember things for tests. Did the professor provide a helpful analogy or tell a story when they were explaining a complex theory or idea? If so, jot that down! You'd be surprised at how quickly things can come to mind later if you can associate them with something else.
  • Review your notes afterwards (and re-write them if necessary). There's no point in taking notes if you're never going to look at them again. Make a point to scan them quickly after class or the following day. If it helps you to better remember things, re-write your notes, or add and remove items from them to make studying that much easier for you. It's also a great idea to begin your plan for studying early on in the year: generally your professor will tell you what tests will look like at the beginning of the semester, so you can already start creating cue cards and other studying aids as you go throughout the term. When it comes time to prepare for a test, you'll already have everything ready to go!

What are your best tips for effective note-taking and for writing notes during this back to school season? Share in the comments section below!

20Aug/140

10 Ways to Boost Productivity

Having trouble staying focused? Try one (or several!) of these 10 ways to boost productivity in your work:

1) Step away from the computer. This will help you avoid eye strain, and it can stimulate your creative juices as well. Even just five minutes away from the computer (enough time to make another cup of coffee, do a load of dishes, or deal with some filing) can be enough to get you back on track once you return to your work.

2) Take a quick exercise break. And I mean quick. Do 25 jumping jacks, 10 push ups, or go for a power walk around the block. Get your heart rate up so that you're well-energized for getting back to work.

pretty flowers

Sometimes you need to take a moment to enjoy the outdoors before getting back to work.

3) Switch projects. If you have several projects to work on and your productivity is on a nosedive, why not set aside this project for the time being? Switch to something different and you might be surprised at how much productivity and quality you have left in you for today!

4) Listen to music. Ideally, you'll know what music spurs you on and increases your productivity already, but really anything with a fast tempo and which you enjoy should do the trick.

5) Set a timer and a goal. Challenge yourself! Set a timer for 10 - 30 minutes and make yourself a goal (for example, write X amount of words before the timer goes off)

6) Get caffeinated. Have a cup of coffee, or indulge in a little sugar boost. This might just provide you with the energy you need.

best ways to boost productivity

Set up a temporary workspace in a new location to boost productivity!

7) Do something completely different. Spend 15 minutes gardening if your work is typically based indoors. Doodle or create some artwork if you generally deal with words. Indulge in the opposite of what your work entails for a short period of time, and then return to it.

8) Alter your environment. If you usually work in a cubicle, check and see if you can work in a coffee shop instead. Or try changing the portraits on the walls of your office, or even changing the colour of your computer desktop or screensaver.

9) Have a quick chat or brainstorming session. If you're stuck, sometimes bouncing ideas off of other people can really do the trick. Barring that, chatting for a few minutes with a co-worker or a friend can be enough to refresh your brain.

10) Analyze your work. If you're feeling your productivity plummet, make a list of the different tasks involved with your project. What steps need to be taken to complete the project? How much time will each task take? By writing everything out as simple steps with time estimates, the project will seem more doable - and you'll be much more excited about it!

What tips do you have for boosting productivity? What works best for you? Share in the comments section below!

13Aug/140

Five Ways to Manage Your Time When Business Really Picks Up

Last month I wrote about how to spend your time wisely when business slows down - but how can you effectively manage your time when business is doing really well?

It seems to be the law with freelancing that you either have no work or else you have piles of work! These tips should help out any freelancers and business owners out there who have to juggle multiple projects with tight deadlines:

1) Write a list of everything you need to do.

Since it's likely that you have multiple projects all due within the next few days or the next week, I recommend creating a list of all of the tasks you need to accomplish over the next five to seven days. Include projects for clients, as well as business administrative items, personal business projects, and other commitments or activities that you have planned for the week.

freelance business

Good organization skills are fundamental to managing your time effectively.

2) Eliminate items (or transfer them) as needed.

Is there anything that can be pushed to next week, when you might have a little more free time? Are there things on the list that really don't need to be completed any time soon? Create a new list for next week, as well as a list of items that will eventually need to be taken care of but which doesn't have a deadline, and transfer those items to the new lists. Your main list of items for the week should now be a little bit reduced and more manageable already.

3) Estimate the amount of time each item on your list will take.

Be honest with yourself here! How long does it take you to accomplish each task? Some items might not take nearly as much time as you initially thought when you looked at all of the projects outlined on your list. In fact, some projects might only take two or three hours, max.

Doesn't your list seem much more doable now? When you estimate the amount of time each task will take (and then add 15% onto that, just in case things come up and it takes a little bit longer than expected), you might discover that you have much more time to accomplish everything than you previously believed.

4) Prioritize each task.

This is an important step. Figure out which tasks need to be done now, and mark them as A priorities. Longer tasks should also be marked as higher priorities. If a project will only take an hour or two and it isn't due until the end of the week, make it a C priority.

As you go through each task throughout the week, check in with yourself and where you're at in your day. Are you ahead of schedule? Are you behind schedule? What can you do to ensure you meet deadlines?

5) Breathe.

In university, I was never one to pull an all-nighter and complete an assignment the night before. That's just not my style! Your work is simply not going to be as good as it could be if you rush things and submit them without reading them through again, or if you don't give yourself the chance to step away from the project before returning to it and revising it.

That's why I think it's important to create internal deadlines for yourself (is something due on Wednesday evening? Aim to complete it by Tuesday afternoon, and then give it another look over and submit it on Wednesday morning). It's also important to rest and allow yourself some breathing space before moving on. Your work is not going to be high quality if you try to cram too many things into a short period of time. It's better to rest, or get outside for some fresh air or exercise, and then return to your work with refreshed eyes.

What are your tips for managing time effectively when business really picks up? Share in the comments section below!

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