CWAHM Devotional

Do Life DifferentDo Life Different
Work-at-home mom: take a deep breath and Do Life Different as you allow these devotions for work-at-home moms to fill the vacuum of your needy heart in the chaos of your busy world.
 
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Archive for Home Business Articles

Oct
19

Five Tips For Landing a Legitimate Work-at-Home Job

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According to the latest American Community Survey data, there are approximately 2.8 million people, not including the self employed or unpaid volunteers, who consider home their primary place of work. The struggling American economy has created the need for companies to cut back as much as possible. This has created growth in the work-at-home industry as it allows companies to save on expenses like office space, equipment and insurance costs.

However, the telecommuting world can be a hard place to get your foot in the door. Linda Dickerhoof, Public Relations Director at VIPDesk, one of the leading virtual concierge and virtual customer service providers in the United States, reports that they receive as many as two hundred resumes a day. With that kind of competition, it’s imperative that you stand out from the crowd. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when applying for telecommuting employment.

1. Do Your Research – This is, by far, the most crucial aspect of your work-at-home job search. There are many legitimate companies that hire at-home employees. However, in order to weed out at-home job scams, you need to know what “red flags” to look for.  A legitimate work-at-home opportunity won’t ask you for any sort of “affiliation fee,” nor will they send you any type of list of employers to contact.

A legitimate opportunity will also not offer an unrealistic salary. The ads that you see offering $5k/wk with no experience usually are just what they sound – too good to be true. Avoid work-at-home opportunities advertised via infomercials, signs taped to a lamp-post, stop signs or via spam e-mail. Always check with the Better Business Bureau to see what type of reputation the company you are considering has, then follow up with an Internet search to see what is being said about the company in blogs, on twitter, and in the mainstream media.

2. Resume Success  – Applying for a working-at-home position should be treated just like any other job application process. The company may allow you to work from home, but they will not tolerate an unprofessional attitude. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that your resume will be selected if it’s anything less than top-notch.

In order to get ahead, put together a professional resume outlining your job experience and highlighting any special skills or training applicable to the position you’re applying for. Keep your resume to one page, if possible.

3. Interviews Are Important – The interview process is more critical than usual in the work-at-home world because the interviewer will not be meeting you face to face. Most at-home employers have a strenuous screening process to filter out applicants who do not fit the professional standards required.

Prepare ahead of time for questions not only about your employment background, but also about what your home work environment will be like (they do not want to hear animals or children in the background). Interviewers will be listening intently to how you present yourself over the phone, so be as prepared and professional as possible.

4. Know What To Expect – One of the best ways to succeed in any career is to know what your employer expects of you. Before your interview, put together a list of questions that will help you understand what to expect from the employer, and what they expect from you. Ask about things like training, support offered during work hours, and specific job expectations.

5. Get Set Up – Once you’ve begun the process of searching and applying for telecommuting positions, it’s time to make sure your home workspace is appropriate. Most employers will be looking for you to have a noise-free home office that includes: a landline phone, a computer (most companies will have specific computer requirements that will need to be met),  and high speed internet.

If possible, do your research ahead of time to ensure that your home office set up will work for a telecommuting opportunity. There are some employers who provide the necessary equipment, but most will require you to have these items in place.

Telecommuting can be one of the most rewarding career decisions available today. It provides flexibility and scheduling that many other types of employment are unable to offer. Prepare yourself to stand out from the job applicant crowd and you’ll find yourself with a remarkable new job in no time.

 

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Oct
09

Organizing Your Home Office

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It can be a real challenge as a work at home parent to maintain an organized home office. Many times, the office or desktop is the last of our worries as we strive to raise our children, support our spouses and run our home-based business. However, keeping up with the clutter and chaos of your office may be just what you need to get you in a working mindset and help you to be more efficient while working.

There a few simple things that you can do on a regular basis that will help to de-stress organizing process:

 

  • Address your home office/desktop chaos in blocks of time. You may need to set aside just a few hours, or you may need an entire day. Decide what will work for you and stick to it. If it’s not possible for you to set aside a block of time, consider using a headset while you are on the phone and be de-cluttering, too!
  • Have the necessities on hand: a trash can, pen, file folders, mail baskets and other organization items that will enable you to sort, throw out and find a place for each item. Envision your goal and purchase the supplies necessary to create that environment.
  • Clear the space you want to organize (the desk surface, one of the drawers, etc.). Then make a pile of all the paper. Begin to evaluate each piece of paper, sorting it by importance. Throw out as much as possible and find a place for each of the other items.
  • If you start to feel stressed, take a break. Make a goal of how far you’d like to get during the time you have available and set an incentive for yourself if you reach your goal. It’s always easier to complete a task when you know you’ll be rewarded.

Once you’ve organized your office, it’s important to take small steps everyday to keep the room clean and tidy. It’s very easy to fall back into the routine of piling things on your desktop and around the room. There are five simple tasks that you can do daily to help maintain your organized space:

1. Clean out your “Inbox”. In today’s world this can apply to postal mail or email. Create a special basket for postal mail that needs to be taken care of right away, and another for items that can wait a day or two.

To keep your email inbox under control, create folders within your email program. Keep what needs to be done immediately in your inbox and distributed the rest into your folders. You can also use “rules” to help separate email and make it easier to manage.

2. Make sure all notes are transferred to your calendar, palm pilot or day planner. It is very easy to pile up a desktop full of paper by writing every note on a Post-it. You can also create an “Idea Book” to catalog all of your business ideas for future reference.

3. Remove all mail, catalogs & magazines from your desk. Put them in their proper place as you receive them. This will considerably cut down the amount of clutter on your desktop.

4. File as you go. This is the most basic and most important tip of all. If you file as you go your records will be in order, your desktop will be clear and you will feel like a professional.

5. Clean off your desktop each evening. There’s nothing better than sitting down at a clean workspace each morning. It helps to keep your mind focused on your business and makes finding important documents a snap.

By following these easy guidelines you will have a clean and organized home office in no time. Having a clutter-free workspace is the first step in creating an organized and professional home-based business.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Hart is the author of several books and the founder of Christian Work at Home Ministries, CWAHM.com.

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Oct
05

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Using #Hashtags

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lightbulbHashtags are simply words or phrases with a hash tag or pound sign (#) in front of them to highlight or emphasize the specifics of the message. For example: If you are posting a message about a product you offer, you might do something like #newproduct #diamondbracelet or #affordable.

The hashtag promptly increases the chances of your post being found when someone uses those terms in a search. They can be a bit annoying but are important if you want your posts to be found.

As with any tool or technique, it must be used properly to work effectively. Below are some ways to effectively and not so effectively use hashtags.

1. Do Not Use Spaces – The words or phrase you want included in the hashtag cannot have any spaces. You do not want your hashtag to look like this: #vegetable gardening.  You need to keep the space out. #vegetablegardening As with a url if you want to separate the words, use upper case letters. #VegetableGardening

2. Do not Use Punctuation Marks of Any Kind – Adding punctuation marks or special characters will render your hashtag ineffective. You also do not want to use all capital letters. You can use numbers as they will be effective within your hashtag.

3. Do Not Overstuff – I have seen messages or posts that were nothing but a jumble of hashtags. This is a definite no-no. Try not to use more than two or three hashtags per message. Using too many might give people the impression that you are a spammer. Use them as a tool, not as your entire message.

4. Do Not Make Them Too Long – For example: #bigsaleonallfurnituresavemoneywitheverypurchase. As you can see this is just a big confusing mess. Try not to use more than two or three words for your hashtag.  #FurnitureSale You want your hashtag to be easy to understand. Read More→

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Aug
31

3 Ways to Keep Your Brand “Top of Mind”

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Keeping your brand “top of mind” with your prospects and customers is an important goal. Why? Because when a need or want arises, your prospect will think of you first and naturally want to reach out to you for help. This will result in more sales, both with new and repeat customers.

How does this work? First of all, you have to build credibility and likeability. Because people do business with people they like, know, and trust. You have to continually be adding value to your prospect and customer, no matter what medium you use, whether an email, a phone call, or a branded card with a personal note.

But what specific methods or strategies can you use to keep your brand “top of mind” with your prospects?

Here are three ideas to get you started:

1) A follow-­up system

Creating a follow-­up system with prospects and customers will be the most effective way you can keep your business “top of mind.”

Most businesses do not do this at all. By practicing this one habit, you can vastly improve the bottom line of your company and bring customers to you. Kevin Knebl, author of “Social Media Sales Revolution,” became a top seller and worldwide speaker in demand by creating a follow up system that truly nurtures relationships. I had the privilege of attending one of his seminars and what he shared was life changing!

Because communication is a timeless principle. Just because we have new technology does not mean the tried and true methods of influencing people is out of date. In fact, they are more important than ever!

This is why “old fashioned” snail mail printed pieces like business cards, postcards, and thank you cards will never go out of style. Brand your identity collateral and use it to keep in touch with your prospects and customers. It will be well worth the investment!

2) A regular e-zine or newsletter

Marketing experts tell us it takes seven exposures to make a sale. Probably in reality, that number is even higher. There is more competition today than ever before, due to the fast- paced world of the Internet.

Providing your customer or prospect with a regular e-zine or newsletter that features information that will make their lives better will keep your brand in front of them continually. The trick is doing market research to know what kind of information they are looking for and providing it on a regular basis.

Read More→

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Aug
06

Saving Money To Stay Home

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Usually when I write something having to do with working from home, it’s about how to create an income. However, making money isn’t the only necessary ingredient in the stay-at-home recipe. The flip side of the coin is making some sacrifices and finding ways to save money.

When my husband and I first made the decision that I would leave the corporate world in favor of working from home, we knew it was going to take more than just me finding a way to bring in money from home. The amount that I would be making was half – or maybe even less – than I made at my corporate job. We needed to find a way to make it on his Air Force salary and my very small financial contribution.

Get Rid Of Non-essentials

In order to cut out some of our living costs, we sold one of our cars and for the next several years I drove around a lovely (I use that term loosely) car that had been my grandmothers, we also changed out insurance compnay to insurancepartnership.org/motor-trade-insurance/ just because it was a little more affordable. It certainly wasn’t my dream car, but it got me around town and we also saved a LOT of money when the time came around to pay tax and licensing fees.

We also cut out cable and anything else that we could find in our budget that we could live without. It’s amazing what things we consider “essential” that truly aren’t.

Keep Things Simple

Another aspect of our life that received serious cutbacks was eating out. This was a hard adjustment for me at the time. When I worked full-time outside the home, it seemed easiest many nights to just stop and pick up supper on my way home. And once I began staying home every day, I still wanted the ease of fast food.

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to make that work, but of course that’s not the case. Instead I began working on my cooking skills and learning to make easy, simple meals that kept us within our food budget each month. Read More→

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Jul
30

When Calling In Sick is Not An Option

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jill-new14feverThe phone was ringing and I couldn’t find the energy to answer it. I knew I should answer, needed to answer, but couldn’t summon the strength necessary. I’d been fighting the discouragement and frustration of a lingering illness for months and didn’t see any end in sight. Doctor’s said I’d see an improvement within six months of beginning this new medicine, but a month in and nothing felt different, in fact, I felt worse. I couldn’t imagine how my business was going to survive if something didn’t change soon.

Dealing with sickness as a mom is always challenging. When you add in the responsibilities of a business it can feel downright impossible. As I dealt with my health problems over the course of the last year, I’ve found a few ways to keep my business afloat while I’m healing.

Schedule your time in small chunks.
During the toughest weeks of my illness, I would set daily goals like “work for one hour” and “work on laundry.” By giving myself small goals like these I was almost always able to achieve them. It is amazing how crossing things off from my to-do list helped me to feel productive. My efficiency was a far cry from what it normally is, but I felt encouraged by these accomplishments.

It’s also imperative to schedule specific times to rest. Despite the fact that I was sick, I felt guilty for feeling so tired all of the time. By penciling in fifteen minutes or so at a time to rest, I was freed from the guilt. It became one more item to check off of my daily to-do list.

The extra benefit was that scheduling it in helped my three-year old to adjust to these short nap times. I would lay on the couch and rest and he would sit with me and watch a movie or play the Wii. This way I always knew where he was and he knew I was there for him if he needed me.

Outsource as much as possible.
My virtual assistant (VA), without even being aware of it, was crucial to me during this time. She was able to take on some of the tasks that I do on a regular basis. What a relief to know that I could count on her to do the things that HAD to be done. Even the weeks when I was at my lowest I knew the necessary tasks were taken care of.

If your kids are old enough you can “outsource” some additional chores to them while you’re healing. My six-year old was such a great source of hope and help to me. By helping me more than usual with tasks like laundry, vacuuming and even cooking (she can put crescent rolls on a cookie sheet better than any other six-year old I know), she felt like she was assisting in my recovery. So often our kids feel helpless, like there is no way that they can help us when we’re ill. This was a wonderful way for her to feel needed and helpful.

Let your family help.
During the months that I dealt with health problems, my family played a crucial role in keeping my business afloat. My husband would often take the kids out to dinner or simply outside to play, giving me time to rest and work if I felt up to it.

Grandma, too, comes in especially handy if she’s available and willing. Although, a neighbor or good friend may be willing to help out when needed.

Don’t take on too much.
Even when you’re feeling your best it’s important to learn the art of saying no. Know your limits and don’t go overboard – even with good activities. When you’re dealing with sickness, it’s imperative that you be honest with yourself about your limits. Don’t try to take on all that you would were you well.

Read More→

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Jul
09

Six Ways to Make Your Marketing Count

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jill-new14According to the National Center for Policy Analysis there are nearly 17 million home-based businesses in the U.S. today. As the number of business rise, it becomes increasingly more difficult to effectively market a small business. And when the small business is run by mom with a minuscule advertising the budget, the challenge becomes even tougher. As moms trying to make our way in this billion dollar industry, how do we best focus our marketing efforts?

Do Your Homework
The best way to get good results from your marketing efforts is to research the sites you’re considering. Look for websites that are aimed at your target market, that have premium ad placements and that are willing to share their traffic statistics, number of subscribers, etc.

Be Bold
Statistics show that the bigger the ad, the higher the response. Double Click, a digital marketing firm, did a study in 2006 that showed a “strong correlation between the size of ads and their clickthrough performance.” So, whenever possible, choose a banner size larger than the standard 468 x 60. It may be pricier, but the results should be worth the extra expense.

Think Fresh
Try to find innovative ways to reach your market. Consider trying a rich media campaign that includes a video advertisement, banners formatted in Flash, and other interactive ads. By finding new ways to present your business or product, you’ll catch the eye of viewers who might not normally have noticed your advertisement.

Be Personal
The potential customers who view your ads want you to connect with them. They want to know how your product or service will make a difference in their lives. Write your ad copy in such a way that it brings the viewers need for your product to their attention.

Another way to make your advertising more personal is to use images – especially real-life photographs. You can find royalty free photos online on various websites.

Be Unique
Make your ad stand out by creating something different and unique – something that represents your company well. Diana Ennen, a publicist and president of VirtualWordPublishing.com states, “With so much competition out there today, it’s important to make your ad stand out and speak directly to your target audience. No one knows your business and clients better than you, so create the an ad that tells everyone why they should buy from you.”

Read More→

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Jul
06

3 Common Logo Design Mistakes that Detract from Your Brand Image

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DanaIn stand outthis Internet age, it is more important than ever to stand out above the crowd. You can get literally lost in a sea of choices these days! So how can you get noticed?

One very important way is through having a professional brand image. Many home-­based business owners make common mistakes when it comes to their logos that detract from their brands. As a graphic designer and brand expert, I see these mistakes often. If you know what they are, you will have an edge up on your competition and you will get the attention you need for your business to thrive!

So here are the three common design mistakes:

1) Using Inch/Foot Marks

Now, you may be wondering, what in the world am I talking about? Foot marks and inch marks are symbols that stand for measuring length. They are straight up and down and they look UGLY. Due to the limitations of the Internet, these symbols have to be used for quotations and apostrophes. But you should not be using them in your brand images and marketing materials! Instead, use what’s called “smart quotes” or “curly quotes.”

Before the advent of desktop publishing, typesetters had the job of turning copy into columns of type. There were standards that were adhered to and widely known in the industry. Upon the introduction of computer layout software and image manipulation software, graphic designers became in effect typesetters. Professionals knew the standards.

But these computer programs became so widely used that amateurs had no idea about the difference between these marks. The typesetting aspect of design got lost.

Why does this matter? Because the image created with smart quotes looks professional and the foot/inch marks look amateurish. A professional image sets your business apart from the competition. That means you will be noticed if you follow these standards.

So how do you use smart quotes? Most software programs have a toggle switch in the preferences window that allows you to turn on smart quotes. There are also keyboard shortcuts, but they are different between PC and Mac. It’s not too hard to find out just by doing a little research.

2) Lack of Aesthetic Design

Making a brand image, a logo, is graphic design. This is an art unto itself and there’s a lot involved in it. Experienced graphic designers understand the elements that go into creating a logo. Basically, these elements are the same principles used in fine art. These range from color balance to aligning of objects, which is a very important standard in graphic design. Images need to be grounded, not floating on a space. There needs to be proportion and evenness.

Understand the elements of design and your brand image will be professional and that will mean it will get noticed!

Read More→

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Jul
02

Market Your Business This Summer And Show Your Best Self

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Diana Ennen, Virtual Marketing bloggerSummer is often a time when things slow down a bit.  Between vacations, holidays, and just wanting that relaxed pace, more and more clients require less time.  What’s good is that means more time for you to cha chill too.  But, unfortunately, it can have a negative effect on the paycheck.  That’s why it’s critical to keep marketing over the summer and we’ll show you ways to do just that!

Here are my top summertime tips for marketing your business:

Social Media Magnify – Step it Up!  – Keep your social media marketing consistent and running throughout the summer.  So often you can see lapses in content when the business owner goes on vacation and even when they just slow down and get “out of the mood to post.”  It’s hot, we feel you!  And if you go on vacation, you know that the week prior and the week after can be just as busy, so a slowdown there often happens for extended periods of time. What you need to do is prepare in advance and schedule posts or hire someone to help.  Also, know you can actually do this early on (like even in May, although we’re a little late on that for this year).  That way at the last minute you aren’t saying, “Man I need to write these posts, because guess what … you probably won’t!  But even if you do slow down, don’t go total ghost and disappear.  It’s better to have some postings than nothing at all.

With your social media too keep in mind that people are more cha chilled during the summer, which rocks.  It’s good to give your postings more personality because of that.  Share more fun videos.  Write more fun tips. Share pics of you out having fun.  Just keep it professional.  And yes, even on your business page, it’s AOK to post a pic of you enjoying the summer.  We just recommend keeping those bikinis off the page.  (Although we know you look marvelous in it!)

Content Marketing Magic – Make it Happen – There are those frazzled business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking at taking a vacation and thinking, I’ll never survive send help!  Well guess what, when your content shows up right at that right moment, it might be just what they need to take action and check you out.  (In a good way of course.)  So write that awesome content to show all you can do.

Write articles & blog postings specially addressing services you provide and especially ways you can help an overwhelmed business owner survive and thrive.  An awesome article outlining how you can help with the summertime blues and overwhelm and adding specific things you can do might just do the trick.

Paid Advertising – Do It – Do It Now – Let’s face it, it’s summer and more people are on social media relaxing than most times of the year.  This is a great opportunity to connect with those you might not otherwise get the opportunity to.  And why not make it easier by paying for ads and targeting your marketing directly to those people. Now you don’t want to throw off their chilled mojo, but you absolutely can advertise in a way that promotes your products and services, and has them clicking to find out more without spilling their beverage of choice.

And once again, let’s pump it up and make it fun.  You will catch more attention with a fun video, graphic, text, etc., than if it’s the same ole same ole boring content.  Let them see that “Hey, that’s the kind-of business I want to do business with.  I bet they are a hoot to work with.”  Now, of course, you don’t want to go overboard, but I bet if you try this out this summer, come fall you’ll like it so much that from now on, your ads will have more personality, which breaks down to more sales and $$$$.  That sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  You betcha.

Networking – Get Out There  – During the summer a lot of folks take off and don’t attend as many networking events as they normally would.  Now you would think that would be a bad thing if you want to get out and network, but it can have the opposite effect.  So often networking events have clicks (oh I so don’t like that term, but it describes what I need to say perfectly.)   And when you attend these events, it’s hard to break into these clicks.  (Oh gosh there it is again.) But when some of the regulars don’t attend, those newbies can often connect on a more personal level with those there. Plus, with smaller groups, the meetings can be more intimate. Now no nasty emails telling me about your group not being a click.  I don’t mean any offense to anyone.  My point being, get out there and network.  Don’t take the summer off.  Try and connect with a few new people and most of all enjoy yourself. Often times event organizers will reward summer-time attendees with more laid back events. Read More→

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Jun
29

What Does It Really Mean to Be “Authentic” with Your Brand?

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Dana“Authentic” is another buzz word heard a lot when talking about branding. I use it myself in my branding courses. It’s core to what I do and how I help my clients.

But what does it mean? And how do you be authentic?

Authentic is being real. It is being you, not a carbon copy of someone else. It is not fake. It does not promise one thing and not deliver.

Finding your authentic identity involves a thorough analysis of your talents, gifts, callings, vision, dreams, weaknesses, personality, strengths, and more. When you fully understand who you are and why you are in business, you can build a brand based on you and your uniqueness. It will truly be customized.

It’s kind of like this: Have you ever driven into a developer neighborhood and gotten lost? I certainly have! Cookie cutter neighborhoods look all alike. I cannot find my destination by memory. I have to work extra hard to know the address.

But when you go to a custom house, do you not remember it? If it is really well designed, is it not worth more?

It’s the same with a brand. When your look is cookie cutter (like from one of those cheap business card templates you can get from the Internet), you will lose customers. You will not be easy for your customer to find because you will not be memorable. There is nothing to distinguish you from your competition.

But when you customize your brand you are adding value to your business. That in the end means increased revenue.

That is why building a brand based on your authentic identity is so important. It has be to be who you are, who your business is, at the core. And part of that authenticity is delivering on your promises.

Read More→

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