Posts Tagged ‘Virtual workforce’

4 Tips to Running a Business Out of Your Home

You have an incredible idea for a business, an idea that will disrupt an entire industry. You want to get started right away, but there is one problem: you don’t have the capital to rent an office space. Instead, you quickly decide to convert the kid’s playroom into your new company headquarters and get going. While this sounds like an easy solution, there are several things to keep in mind when running a business out of your home. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for success.

Establish a business address

Asking your clients to send their RFPs to your home address can come off as unprofessional, especially if you live at 1234 Prairie View Circle (it sounds a little residential, don’t you think?).  “I recommend utilizing a P.O. Box or maybe the UPS store near your house as your business’s primary residence,” says Sutton Fell. “You can always change your address later on if you move into a more commercial location.”

Structure your time wisely

????????????????????Working from home comes with a fair amount of inherent distractions: your children may need to go to the doctor in the middle of the day, your dog could get sick and need attention (or a walk or two or three), the pile of laundry in your bedroom may start sending you subliminal messages to be washed. Whatever the distraction, give yourself some breathing room to work during the hours that are best for you.

“I usually plan to work around 50 hours per week, but I have young kids and things come up, so, really, that 50 hours has a buffer built in. If I work around 45 I’ll be fine,” says Sutton Fell. “Sometimes I work in the evening and sometimes in the early morning. It really depends on the needs of my family and what is going on during any particular day.”

Set up a business phone number

Sutton Fell doesn’t believe in using her home phone or cell phone as her main business line. Instead, she uses a third-party phone service provider that routes her calls via a voice message system. “It sounds like you are calling one general number and that number is then linked to different extensions, but, in reality, the call is being routed to my cell phone,” she says.

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Beware of the ambient noise

Make sure to clear your office of barking dogs and crying children before your next conference call; background sound can hurt your credibility, especially if your client doesn’t know that you work from home. “Noise is a really big issue and the exact moment when your baby starts to cry could be the moment when you start to lose trust and professionalism,” says Sutton Fell. “I really suggest dedicating a separate workspace so you can have the utmost quiet throughout your day.”

Rules for Managing Remote Employees

Remote working, or telecommuting, is rapidly gaining in popularity across the United States. While employers are warming to the idea, many lack the knowledge of how to properly manage staffers who work from home.

Here, Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for managing remote employees.

Establish clear metrics

Exact deadlines, check-in times and productivity expectations are vital to operating a business with remote employees, says Sutton Fell.

“Make sure those are clear,” she says. “That way, your employee won’t be left not knowing what they should be doing at what time.”

In addition to helping steer the activities of staff members, clear metrics will also help the business owner.

“Telecommuting allows business owners the opportunity to see when things are going right and when they are going wrong. In an office where everyone sits at his or her desk all day, you may think work is getting done when it isn’t,” she says.

“But with telecommuting, you can tell if your employee misses a couple deadlines or is low on their productivity and you can touch base with them to see what is going on and how it can be fixed.”

Communicate constantly

Touch base with your employee every day (even several times a day) when they first start out. As your staffer gets more comfortable with his or her position, allow the communication to taper, but not much.

“Really try to mimic an office experience by checking in regularly,” she says. “Give instant messager a try. It can help with quick questions and keep you in the loop with your employees.”

Accessibility is important when it comes to communication, she adds. Lend a listening ear when your employee needs it, otherwise the relationships can erode over time.



Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 4 Ways to Communicate With Your Customers

virtual businessDo you have a “virtual assistant” like Siri on your mobile phone? The other day I read a fascinating article about the future of this technology. In the not-so-distant future, it seems, our devices, apps and GPS could be so seamlessly integrated that they will read our calendars and constantly send us reminders and notifications of events and opportunities. For instance they’ll be able to remind us we have a dentist appointment, and then when we’re there, alert us that the bakery next door has fresh-baked cookies on special.

However, there’s a fine line between customer communication that’s welcomed and customer communication that is considered intrusive. (Envisioning that future, my initial “Oooh, that would be cool” response rapidly turned into the reality of how annoying a constant barrage of dings, pings and flashes from my smartphone would be.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to communicate with your customers today. The key is to pick and choose which ones make the most sense for your business and for your customers. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Email: Studies continue to show that while it may not have the “hip factor” of social media, email is one of the most effective marketing methods for both B2B and B2C companies. One reason it works so well is just about everyone has email these days—from Millennials to seniors. For greatest success, be sure you use opt-in email, don’t email too frequently, and include calls to action in each email.
  2. Direct mail: Good old-fashioned direct mail (postcards, flyers and letters) works for many businesses, especially those that target a local customer base or cater to older consumers who still like to receive mail. In an era where most marketing is done digitally, sending mail can actually help your business stand out. Save on postage by using postcards or distributing fliers door-to-door.
  3. Social media: There are so many social media options out there it can quickly get overwhelming. However, one key to social media success is being consistent, so if you’re just starting out with social, start small focusing on one or two social networks. Facebook is pretty much a given for B2C companies, but Pinterest and Twitter can also work well. For B2B, focus on LinkedIn and Twitter. Post regularly, use lots of photos, keep it interesting and useful, and monitor your results. If one social channel isn’t paying off, dial it back and try another.
  4. Phone: When it comes to customer service, the ability to speak to a live person, when necessary, is pretty much essential. Plus, in these times when so much customer support is self-serve, automated or requires people to wade through thousands of posts on message boards, having live phone assistance can really set your business apart. However, the phone is also an ideal way to communicate via cold calls, follow-up calls or to build relationships with prospects if your company has a long sales cycle.

With so many options for communication, there’s no excuse not to stay in touch with your customers today. 

Work Your Biz Wednesday: Virtual Assistant

If you're running a small business, chances are a virtual assistant could help you. Learn how you can leverage one from the Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.

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