Actions to Take When You Lose Your Job

How are you going to pay your bills?

Will you find another job?

Should you start your own business?

Sometimes you know your redundancy is coming and you can start making changes while you still have a day job. Sometimes losing your job just comes as a nasty surprise, perhaps because your employer has gone bust.

Redundancy happens to the best of us and the first thing to get over is the feeling that it is personal. It’s not. Companies run into financial problems, they restructure and some jobs have to go. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

unemployed man

If You Know It’s Coming . . .

Most people know when a company is about to shed staff. They suspect their job will go, but they hope they will be safe. It is better to work on the assumption that your job will be gone very soon.

  • Start to look at your outgoings to see what you can cut
  • Talk to your trade union about what is happening
  • Research the benefits you can expect to get; it’s best to know the worst
  • Start looking for another job, even if it means you lose any redundancy pay
  • Research self-employment ideas, another job might never happen
  • Get contact details of your workmates because they could lead to another job

Preparing Yourself

Stop spending money. Your income is going to be smaller, so your spending must also fall. There is no alternative and the sooner you make the cuts the fewer you will need to make. I know it sounds hard, but I was made redundant myself in 2010, so I know how you feel. Your main priority is to keep the roof over your head and everything else has to take second place to that in your spending priorities.

Phone

If your phone is out of contract then forget any ideas about an upgrade and take out a sim-only contract or even switch to Pay as You Go to get rid of that substantial monthly bill.

TV

Phone your satellite or cable provider and ask if you can cut the number of channels, or even terminate the contract without penalties; there are plenty of free channels to watch.

Internet

You are going to be using the Internet more, whether you start your own business or are looking for a job. However, if you are paying a fortune for a totally unlimited deal that allows unlimited high-definition movie downloads it might be time to ask about a cheaper contract.

Electricity

All your bills have to come down, including your electricity bill. Think twice about using the grill (broiler) or oven, use fewer lights, switch to LED bulbs, take out any halogen spotlight bulbs and take the fuse out of any portable electric heaters.

Heating

You are going to have to buy thermal underwear for the winter, rather than turning up the heating. Wear slippers, jumpers, woolly socks and even hats at home to keep warm.

Turn radiators in bedrooms right down; use the lock shield valve rather than the wheel-head valve to prevent them being turned up again.

Reduce the temperature at your boiler as well as turning down your room thermostats. Fit draught proofing under and around doors; the costs are soon recouped from savings in your fuel bills.

Buy electric blankets and warmer duvets for the whole family to reduce the complaints about bedrooms being cold.

On the Day . . .

Hold your head up high. You have done nothing wrong, so walk away with your pride intact. Make sure you have all the paperwork you need to claim any benefit you are entitled to. You will probably walk out with a redundancy payment; it might seem a large sum, but it has to see you through the next year, so pay it straight into your bank account.

Claim Your Benefit Entitlement

You have been paying social security and taxes all your working life; now it’s payback time. Claim every penny you are entitled to, fill out the forms, smile at the clerk behind the window and take the money that the government pays you back from the taxes you paid in better times.

Debts

If you had redundancy protection insurance on any of your debts then now is the time to make a claim. It usually covers your  payments for 12 months, after that you are on your own again, but 12 months’ respite from your monthly payments is definitely worthwhile.

You should use your redundancy payment to repay anything you owe that are not covered by insurance. The company is not going to go away; you borrowed their money so you have to pay it back, end of story.

Pay off any credit card debts you have and cut up the cards. If you cannot afford to pay cash for something you need then you cannot afford it. You need to become part of the cash economy.

Daily Routine

Keep to your normal routine in the mornings. Shave or put on your make-up every day. Dress smartly, as though you were going out to do the grocery shopping.

If you ever get into the habit of lying in bed until lunchtime and wandering around the house in jog pants wearing three days-worth of facial hair, it becomes very difficult to break it.

Update your CV and send it off with a few job applications every day. Always answer your phone as though it is a prospective employer on the other end; stand up, smile and be positive. (Standing and smiling both make you sound better at the other end of the phone.)

Bear in mind that you are not necessarily going to find a paid job; you will probably have to make your own job, to become self-employed. It is best to start thinking about self-employment from Day One.

You may even be eligible for financial support if you set up your own business while unemployed. Even if this only means a payment equal to the unemployment benefit you would otherwise be getting it is definitely worth having because it will help you to pay your essential monthly bills and reduce the drain on your bank account.

Are You Serious about Working from Home? You NEED an Office

Do you work from an armchair? Or the dining room table?

Do you find you forget things and find it hard to concentrate?

It is very difficult to stay organised as a home worker unless you have a dedicated space, ideally a dedicated room. And by dedicated I mean dedicated to your work and exclusively yours; sharing your creative space is rarely a good idea.

 

The Armchair Office

If you have a laptop computer this feels great, but there are problems, not least with your health. It is difficult to get the uninterrupted quality time you need when you are working in the family living room, too.

The Kitchen Table Office

When I started working online this is where I worked; it’s a disaster. No peace and quiet, having to clear away every meal time and being tied into everyone else’s routine.

 

The Desk in a Bedroom Office

You can make this work if the bedroom is tidy. A spare bedroom is fine; one you sleep in is not. The desk ends up as a dumping place for clothes, money, junk and receipts.

The Shared Home Office

This is no solution at all. You share your space, have other people’s stuff dumped on your desk, have noise when you need silence and you are unable to organise your space as you want it.

The Spare Room Office

This is the only way you can make a success of working from home. If you are serious about working from home then you need to set aside a room for your exclusive use while you are working.

Having a dedicated room as your working space also means that you can walk away to chill out at the end of the day.

My Perfect Office

I have a dream of setting up a garden office in a timber building in my back garden. It will be about 20ft x 10ft with a bathroom in one corner and windows on 3 sides. It will have a sink and kettle for making tea.

I will have 3 workstations at different desks, each dedicated to a different part of my online work. There would be a 28in monitor, wireless keyboard and trackball at each desk. There will only be one chair, because nobody else will be allowed in and more than that would look cluttered.

There will be blinds on the windows for when the light is too bright and two multiple LED spotlight fittings in the ceiling to give plenty of light in the winter at a low cost.

Most important for me are whiteboards for short-term and strategic planning purposes, to-do lists and to keep track of where I am up to in each project.

I would keep one for flow charts that can be photographed quickly. These would give me unique images in my blog posts and be genuinely helpful to me and to my readers.

I can use Excel for planning, but prefer to be able to see everything at a glance while I am working, so whiteboards work best.

Your Office?

What does your dream office look like?

Where do you work now?

Is your work suffering because of your poor work environment?

Please share your frustrations and dreams by commenting below . . .

Image source

Image source

How to Set Up a Proofreading and Editing Service

Do you find errors on every web page you read? Do these errors make you cross?

It seems as though 8 out of 10 pages have spelling and grammar mistakes that make me cringe. Eliminating these mistakes could double sales on an e-marketing site according to the BBC.

There is a definite need for freelance proofreading and editing services to correct all the articles being written for blogs and commercial sites.

Could You Be a Freelance Proof Reader?

Yes you could!

If you are a native English speaker, can read quickly and spot simple English spelling and grammar errors then you have the necessary skills to fix 90% of online errors. The errors you would be editing out are the simple ones that you learnt at age 12: It’s not rocket science.

How Do You Find Editing Work?

You can find low-paying editing jobs on freelance sites, but I advise you to use a different strategy; the 5 Currencies strategy:

  • Use Your Time wisely
  • Grow Your Knowledge – Learn about proofreading and editing
  • Grow your Reputation – Help other people on forums and by answering their questions
  • Grow Your Contact List – The more people you help the more will be willing to help you
  • Earn Money – Some of the people you have helped will pay you for your proofreading and editing services

If you follow this method you will have an ever-increasing number of clients and will not need to work so hard at finding work. The clients will be willing to pay more than they would at oDesk or Freelancer.com because they know you and trust you; they know that you put your reputation on the line with every piece of work you do, they respect that.

Set Up a Website

You must set up a website. This is easy to do using WordPress, but you will need to buy a .com domain name, the shorter the better.

You can list the types of work you do and include testimonials on your site, which will give you added credibility and will give new clients more confidence about employing you.

How Do You Get Testimonials?

You must ask every satisfied client for a testimonial. Nobody will refuse because it’s how the system works. A testimonial takes them 10 minutes to write, but increases their worth as a client in your eyes.

What does Your Client Actually Want You to Do?

Clients normally talk about proofreading when they really mean that they need the article editing. Make sure you understand what your client needs you to do and price the job accordingly. Most clients want you to fix any and all problems that an article has; they do not want to employ separate editors, line editors and proof readers, they just want one person who will do everything.

Some will want to see a breakdown of what you have done; others just want to see the finished copy. You need to make sure your client is happy, so be sure you understand what he is expecting, so you can deliver it.

How Do You Price a Job?

There are many factors that will influence your quote for a proofreading job:

  • How busy you are
  • How much you want the job
  • How well you know the client
  • How urgently the work needs to be done
  • How much editing the piece requires

You need to earn a living wage so do not try to compete on price with people who promise to proofread 10 articles for $10. You will be competing mainly on quality.

Make sure that you always see an article before you quote a price. There is much more work involved in editing a piece by a non-native English speaking writer than there is that of an English writer with a BA in English Literature.

How Long Will the Job Take You?

It will take you at least 2 days to edit a 1000 word article to professional standards that you can stake your reputation on. This is because you need to revisit your work the day after completion, before you send it off.

So, Could You Start a Proofreading Business?

You have seen how easy it is. It will take time to establish your reputation and gain a good list of clients, but these clients will always come back to you for future projects.

Your expenses are minimal, just your Internet connection and an accountant . . . What are you waiting for? Start today by reading more about proofreading and editing.

References
Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales

How To Plant The Seeds of Success For Your Landscaping Business

With summer fast approaching many people are looking to escape the confines of work and other stressful factors, to enjoy some peace and tranquillity in their own back garden. These warm summer months provide the perfect opportunity for all landscape gardeners, established or budding, to increase their client pool, bring joy to many people.

 

However, with the sheer number of companies all vying for a client’s business, it can often be difficult to stand out from the crowd. So, what can you do to improve your brand image, attracting a client to use your services in the process?

Get Your Name out There

When looking for new clients, the important thing to do is get your name out there. The more people who are aware of the services you offer, the more likely you are actually going to get some business. This means promoting yourself by getting your name in telephone directories and producing flyers.

Also, one of the best things to do to get the ball rolling is to inform all of your friends and family about your new business. That way, if any of them run into someone who is considering carrying out work on their garden, they can tell them all about the business you provide and hopefully get you some work.

Professional Appearance

When working on a garden you are bound to get dirty, so you don’t want to be wearing your finest clothes, but you do want to be wearing something that is practical and projects professionalism. This usually comes in the form of a gardening coverall that is personalised with your brand, logo and other information related to your business.
Landscape gardener in overalls with hedge trimmer

While this would cost you some money creating the garment, the benefits it would provide in creating a professional appearance and improving your overall brand awareness make it a very worthwhile endeavour. For more information on how you can create your own branded gardening workwear click here.

Have A Website

You may think having a website isn’t any help to your landscaping company as you don’t sell a product online, but you will be surprised by how much it will actually benefit your business. Setting up a website for your business, not only provides a focal point of contact online, but makes you seem more trustworthy and established in the eyes of potential customers.

 

While these are positive factors, there is one particular reason to have a website that trumps all of these and that is a portfolio.

The best way to attract new customers is for them to actually see work you have previously done. While you can’t drag people round the various properties you have worked on to show them what you have done, you can place them all online for people to see. This means that without leaving the comfort of their homes, potential customers can see everything you have ever worked on. The more they see, the more experienced and capable you look.

Rather than just showing images of the landscaping you have done on various gardens, you could also try creating a number of videos, taking potential customers on a virtual tour around a particular garden you have worked on. This allows them to feel like they are actually there, visualising how a particular path, gazebo or flowerbed would look in their own garden.

Use Social Media

Just like telling people through word of mouth about your landscaping services, social media provides a public platform for you to advertise your services but on a larger scale. In addition to setting up profile pages on Facebook and Twitter and then encouraging people to like and follow you, be sure to check out some of the local groups that people are part of.

Particularly within Facebook, there are a lot of community groups that advertise products and services for sale within a particular geographical area. Finding a group that relates to gardening and placing information regarding your services on there, allows you to promote yourself to a demographic that you know will be interested in what you have on offer.

 

Business Cards & Leaflets

Once you have completed a job for a client and provided them with the garden of their dreams, it is important to make sure they don’t forget about you. When providing them with the invoice for payment, you may want to include a business card or promotional leaflet for them to keep. That way, when it comes to them wanting to have some more work carried out on their garden, your name will be one at the top of their list.

All of these ideas will help you not only get your landscaping business off the ground, while also helping to give an established business a bit of a boost.

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Unemployment Anger – Understand It, Get over It and Move On

Unemployment is a fact of life. It is normal to be angry at first, but anger will destroy you if you allow it to. Anger is pointless and gets in the way of starting again. The sooner you get a grip on your negative feelings the sooner you will find a replacement income.

 

Understanding Your Unemployment

Unemployment happens to the best of us and is part of the economic cycle. Nobody has a right to a job for life; even government jobs are less secure than they once were. Even presidents and prime ministers lose their jobs.

No company or employer wants to terminate an employee’s contract. Redundancy usually happens because the company is in financial difficulties and has to make cutbacks in outgoings to stay afloat. It is not a personal attack on you, you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Making someone redundant is a big step and one that has a negative impact on the company and on the person who has the job of telling you. Of course the impact on your life is much bigger and you are not going to have much sympathy for the HR manager who tells you that your job is gone.

 

Understand Your Anger

Anger at unemployment comes from fear. Fear of losing your home, of having your car repossessed and of the unknown. I know because I have been there.

Fear is paralysing. It stops you from taking the actions you need to take. You need to learn to live with a greater degree of uncertainty than you had last week.

Getting Over the Fear and Anger

Your fear is mostly fear of the unknown, so make plans to remove the unknown.

You need to reduce your outgoings and you need to increase your income. Unemployment might be for a long time, even for ever, so you need to start planning the rest of your life today.

Reducing Expenses

We all have expenses that we can reduce; it’s a sad but necessary fact of being newly unemployed.

  • Contact the company that provides your satellite or cable TV. Ask about reducing or terminating the contract – Free to Air channels will have to do for a while.
  • Terminate gym membership – Start walking and jogging instead
  • Get rid of one car – You are going to be at home for a long time, so you can probably share one car
  • Walk instead of driving – Make the kids walk to school as well
  • Cut up your credit cards – Join the cash economy
  • Use any redundancy payment to pay off any money you owe – the repayments will break you on your reduced income, so pay them off
  • Cancel any trips or vacations, even if you only get a partial refund – The up-front cost is only about half of the total vacation cost, so you get to save the money you would have spent on eating out and entertainment
  • Limit your grocery shopping to once a week – Live out of the freezer, too
  • Stop buying newspapers and magazines – Join your local library and look for jobs in the newspapers there as well as borrowing books

Increasing Income

Self-employment is your best option. You might be able to get financial help setting up your business because you are unemployed. Talk to people, take action and get a business plan in place.

The jobs you could do depend on your experience, but there are many real world and online jobs available to you that you can do on a self-employed basis. Gardening is something almost everyone can do; yard work needs to be done 52 weeks a year, not just in the summer. Other alternatives include doing odd jobs, writing articles for websites and taking a course to learn about being a chimney sweep.

Even if your long-term aim is to find another job, self-employment will provide you with an income in the interim. It looks good on your CV or resumé that you did not just wait for a job to land in your lap, that you created your own.

Moving On

It took me two or three years to grow my writing business until it now provides a full-time income; it will probably take you a similar time with whatever business you set up. Nowadays if someone offered me the option of my old job back, I would have to think hard about it. I might be tempted by the thought of a regular income coming in, but my writing gives me that now anyway. I might be tempted by the 9 to 5, but I would still be writing all the other hours in the day, just in case.

Someone said to me when I was leaving my job that it might be the best thing that could happen to me. I laughed at the time, but I would never have set up my own writing business otherwise and my life would have been less complete than it is now.

Image source

Image source

Accounts for Self-Employed People – Scary Stuff, but Necessary

Accounts for the self employed are an unpleasant but essential chore. If you have accounts then you can argue with the IRS or HMRC, without them they will make an arbitrary assessment of what you owe, and it will not make pleasant reading.

How Complex Do Self-Employed Accounts Need to Be?

The tax authorities will need an account of your income. They will want to know who paid you what and when, so all this needs to be recorded, as it happens. They will also want proof of any expenses, so you will need to keep receipts as well as listing every business purchase in your accounts.

If you are working from home then you can claim a portion of your fuel bills as a business expense, but you will need to keep the bill in case of a tax audit.

Pencil and Paper

The simplest form of book-keeping is just to write everything down in a notebook. This is what I did for many years with my home tuition business. If it is simple then you are more likely to stick with it and to record everything.

Snartphone App

The next step up is the electronic version of the paper notebook, a smartphone app such as Expensify. Many people run their business from their smartphones, so an accounts app makes sense, as long as it is simple to use and you record everything. Be sure to back everything up though and to password-protect such sensitive data.

Excel Spreadsheet

This can be as complicated as you want to make it. In its simplest form it can just be two lists, one of expenses, the other of income. The important thing is to keep it updated every day. I am happy using Excel but updating my accounts spreadsheet was a chore that I always put off and it became  a once every three month monster of a chore.

You can use spreadsheets for everything from a business plan to paying your employees, but it becomes increasingly complicated. There is also a good chance that you will make mistakes unless you are really an Excel expert.

Accounts Software

Accounts packages come at a range of price points. You really need one that includes annual upgrades that take account of all the annual changes to the tax code. These will do everything you want them to do but, they have one big disadvantage: you need to enter data into them. You still need to sit down frequently and to record every income or expenditure transaction.

Small business accounts are big money-spinners and you will find they are heavily promoted all over the Internet, but they are not the accounts panacea that they are sold as.

Hire an Accountant

This is the simplest solution. It’s the one I have gone for, after trying all the previous options. You still have to give your accountant a list of your income sources and expenses, but this is not too arduous. You know the job is going to be done right and you can even ask him or her to fill in your tax return for you, which is a major stress for me and many other business  owners.

The accountant deals with all queries from the IRS or HMRC. He knows what expenses the tax authorities will accept and can help you to pay less tax by giving you advice as to the structure and financing of your business. He will warn you of imminent cash-flow problems and give you advance warning of any large tax bills that are coming due.

Cost-wise an accountant comes in about the same as buying an accounting program and he does all the work, so you have less stress. Finding one is the tricky part; recommendations work better than just a web search because this is someone who you will have to trust and deal with on a very confidential level. You do not have to physically meet your accountant, but most people will want to do so, so a local professional is your best option.

Large accountancy practices will charge more because they have many more overheads such as renting those prestige offices that feed through into your bills. I found a one man accountancy practice where the accountant has a home office, like mine, but much more tidy. He is my own age and I immediately felt a rapport with the guy.

References
Expensify
IRS or HMRC

Planning Time – An Essential Skill for Entrepreneurs

It is not just students who are poor at planning time. Most adults are pretty bad at it too. If you are working for yourself then time management skills are something you will have to develop.

Not All Time Is Created Equal

We all have certain times of the day when we are most efficient. You only have 24 hours in the day to use on your business, and with sleep and other essentials and a bit of relaxation time that comes down to 10-12 hours a day for most people.

You have to use every one of those 12 hours of time you get every day. You have to understand your body and know when you are at your most creative and set that time aside for planning tasks and big-picture jobs. You need to make sure that your best times are uninterrupted by phone calls, emails and chores. Your business needs your best time more than the garden, household chores or shopping do.

You have to take control of your time.

 

Flexi-time is one of the advantages of working for yourself after all and you have the opportunity to synch your body clock and your working time. If you are at your most creative late at night then take your sleep time from 2 – 10am; you are your own boss and you can do whatever works for you. If your best time is when you are fresh, early in the morning then start “work” early.

I am an early-bird myself and get up at 4am most days. I get a lot of planning done while the house is quiet; I keep the mundane business tasks for later in the day when I expect to be interrupted constantly.

How Often Do You Look at the Big Picture?

I never used to understand the phrase, “He can’t see the wood for the trees.” But I do now.

Every day I get caught up in the day to day jobs (the trees) and never have enough time to look at my business as a whole (the wood). Everyone I know has the same problem. Strategic planning means taking time out from the day-to-day business tasks that take up your time on most days.

The only way to build in strategic business planning time is to get ahead on the small jobs and set aside a half or a full day to look at the long-term health and direction of your business.

You Have to Employ People

When I started out trying to earn a living online I was a one man band. I did everything myself for 2 years. My income was limited by the number of hours in the day and how much sleep I got.

time money hourglass

I sat down one day and realised that I was never going to earn enough money trying to do every single thing myself. I had to pay people to get some of my time back.

I could not charge the hourly rates I needed to charge, so I had to pay people to do that work, so I could take on ten times as much, begin to earn a full-time income and get some of my time back again.

Any business, whether it is a real-world plumber or an online writing business, has to grow in order to provide its founder with a decent income and quality of life.

This is the kind of long-term business planning that requires set-aside planning time. Strategic planning cannot be fitted into 30 minutes slots in your normal work days.

No Planning – No Future

Any business owner or entrepreneur who fails to set aside strategic business planning time is on a road to nowhere. You will work 12 hour days and make enough money to get by, but at the expense of your health and relationships.

After 20 years you will be worn out and alone, but still have to work 12 hour days to make ends meet.

When was the last time you took time out to look at your business and where it is going? Comments welcome below.

Citations:

synch your body clock and your working time

Why You Should Try to be a Morning Person

Business Management 101: Strategic Planning for Businesses and Government Agencies

Business Planning Process – Introduction

Business Plans and Marketing Strategy

Start a 24 Hour Drain Cleaning Business

You can start your 24 hour drain cleaning business on a shoestring, with just a pile of drain rods. There is more to it than that, but drain rods will allow you to solve 90% of problems you come across.

On Your Own or Franchise?

Franchises are expensive to buy into and most people will not have the $50K (£40K) that buying into a big name franchise will cost you. You can start on your own but you will need to do some marketing to get your name in front of people; franchisees have the marketing included as part of their package.

As an independent with lower costs and no franchise fees to pay you can do jobs for less than the big franchise drain cleaning companies.

Sewer Drain Clearingblocked drain - you get lots of these with a 24 hour drain cleaning business

This will be the core of your business. It is messy work and smelly, which is why so many householders will pay you to do it for them. Most blockages are caused by toilet paper and sanitary towels; all you need to clear these is a corkscrew-like breakup attachment on your drain rods.

Drain rods are a metre long and have brass fittings at each end so you can screw them together. To tighten them just turn clockwise as you usually would.

When in use always be sure to turn the rods clockwise as you push them into the drain. (if you turn the wrong way your rods could come apart in the drain, which would mean sending a robot down to pull them out  not cheap). You will need a lot of drain rods because some houses have sewer drains that stretch for 50 metres without an inspection cover.

What Do You Need to Start a Drain Cleaning Business?

You will need a bin to carry your drain rods upright. The rods then drain into the bin and you can use a power washer to wash everything off at the end of the day.

Your van will need to be large enough to carry your equipment and to look professional. Small vans look very amateurish and as you acquire more equipment to handle different jobs they will not have the space you need.

A power-washer is another useful tool to have in this business. You need it to clear up any mess and to wash any overflow back into the drain. An electric one means you either need access to your client’s electricity supply or you need to carry a generator in your van; a gas-powered power washer is better and is usually more powerful. Buy extensions that will allow you to jetwash any pipes you work on.

Clean overalls are another part of your professional image. You need at least 10 sets to allow you to change between jobs, necessary to keep your van clean inside as well as to impress your customers.

Anything else you can buy as you learn the job and have a  need for it.

Marketing

A website is essential, though you can build it yourself easily enough. The first place people look for services is online rather than the phone book, so you have to be online. Make sure to include a landline phone number so that anyone searching with the area code in the search query will be directed to your site. You should also include photographs of yourself doing jobs and testimonials.

If setting up a website is a problem then I can do it for you – No charge; all you need to do is to buy your hosting through my referral link. Find out more about free website setup.

Your van is important but less so than your online presence. Nobody takes the details of services they hope never to need, so your van and business cards are very much secondary marketing.

It is possible to set up as an independent contractor without paying an arm and a leg for a franchise, but your business will grow more slowly and you do need to be on top of your marketing.

Image credit: Lee J Haywood

Building Relationships in Business

People are important to any business because it is people who employ you. Building relationships in business is absolutely essential to success. Without relationships you have no business.

If you live alone on a desert island then you have no need to cultivate your business relationships; you would have no need to build business contacts. Businesses need people and you need to cultivate every person your business touches.

Building Relationships in Business as a Freelancer

If you are working for yourself in any capacity then your livelihood depends on your contacts and how you nurture them. As a freelancer You are your Business, so you need to cultivate everyone of your personal contacts so they become business contacts as well. The problem is that finding time to talk to people is next to impossible and this is one job you cannot outsource; you have to do it yourself.Building relationships in business starts with family

Different Kinds of Contacts

People from Way Back When

You will have contacts from your early days, people who taught you what you know today. You need to touch base with these guys once in a while. That way they remember you and think of you if a new opportunity comes up. These are low maintenance business relationships but they still need some maintenance or they will die.

People from Last Month

Building relationships in business requires constant effort. You need to work hard to convert recent acquaintances into long-term business relationships. This is the most intense part of the relationship building process. I am talking about people who have left blog comments, contacted you on G+ or who you helped in any way recently.

There are so many people in this category that you really need to look at contact management software to make sure you follow up every one. At the very least you should copy their email address or contact details into a spreadsheet and record every time you contact each person.

Clients and customers fall into this category of business contacts. Most people are pleased you bothered to contact them and are more likely to come back to you again.

How to Do It

You can sign up for a Google Apps account at $40 a year and use some of the apps that your account makes available. These will import from email lists and spreadsheets, so they make life easy.

You can pay $30 – $60 a month for a hosted CRM program with all the bells and whistles you could ever use.

If you want a cost-free way of tracking your relationship building then use a spreadsheet with columns for each contact madecontacts equal money or a simple database program. You will have to do a bit more work, but there is no ongoing or even initial set-up cost except time.

Your column headings could be:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • email
  • website
  • Linked In profile
  • Twitter profile
  • Known from
  • Contact 1
  • Contact 2
  • Contact 3

Once you have your spreadsheet set up maintaining it is simple. You can see at a glance the people you have not spoken to in a while and set aside time to have those conversations that your business relationship needs in order to grow.

Contacts as Currency

Over the years you have acquired numerous contacts, now is the time to make fresh contact with each one. These people are on your email list or wherever because they thought highly of you in the past. All it takes is a couple of emails, Internet chats or even a Google Hangout and your old relationship will be rejuvenated. It is worth the effort because you already have a great reputation with these people.

Time – Knowledge – Reputation – Contacts – Money

You have invested your Time in building your Knowledge. You have used your Knowledge to grow your Reputation. As your Reputation grew so did your list of Contacts. Your Contacts are the key to making Money in any business; they will help you, partner with you, even offer you work to do. Your Contacts are the people who will spread the word about your business, so the time you spend cultivating your relationships is multiplied as each one leads to more Contacts.

The money comes automatically as long as you build your reputation and mind your contact list.

References
Google Apps

Start a House Sitting Business in Your Home Town

If you want to start a house sitting business you will have very low start up costs, but a very low growth rate for your business.

You have several strategic decisions to make before you even start your business:

  • Local, national or international?start a house sitting business
  • Are you going to employ others?
  • What are you prepared to do?

Local National or International?

There are many agencies and websites where people can find house sitters with years of experience, police vetting and impeccable references. House sitters on these sites often work for free. They get their accommodation free and that is all they want. You cannot compete with free, ever. Free house sitters are always going to be willing to move around, to travel abroad, even, for live-in house sitting jobs.

A local house-sitting service is something entirely different – You contract to perform maintenance tasks on your clients’ homes rather than living in them. Clients may employ you to do jobs while they are out during the day, or to check on their home while they are traveling on vacation. Clients are more willing to pay for this kind of a service than for a live in house-sitter.

How to Start a House Sitting Business

Start out by establishing a reputation for reliability and honesty. The first step is to get a police report on yourself. Without this nobody is going to trust you, so count it as a tax-deductible essential expense. You should also buy commercial insurance to cover any accidents that happen while you are in your clients’ homes. The last significant cost is for an attorney to draw up a standard contract for you to use with each client.

You need a van, but people never want to advertise the fact that they are away from home, so it needs to be a plain, clean van without advertising. You may need to carry lawnmowers and similar equipment around with you, so you need a large van and a trailer to carry gardening equipment.

Your business will grow by word of mouth advertising, so you must have business cards printed professionally. You should also go round every home to hand-post flyers advertising your house sitting services. Professionally-printed flyers in full color will cost you less than you think and will work out cheaper than printing your own using your home computer and printer. Include a photos of you doing some of the tasks you are commonly asked to do.

What Services Will You  Provide?

Yard work is one of the most frequent tasks you will be asked to do. This will include cutting the lawn in the summer months and clearing snow in the winter, so you have to be happy working outside in all weathers.

You will also be asked to bring in mail, basic cleaning jobs and to supervise workmen. These will require key access and you will need to have a system for storing keys, alarm codes and access procedures for each client.

You may be asked to walk dogs, exercise horses and feed chickens, to let the cat out, clean up poop from the yard and do the laundry. The list is endless and the more tasks you can offer your clients the more your local house sitting business will thrive.

start a local house sitting business - Handyman jobsOffer simple handyman jobs, such as unblocking drains, changing light bulbs and simple furniture repairs, too. The more you become known as The Man to Call the faster your reputation will grow.

People prefer to deal with one person they trust to deal with everything from pool maintenance to snow clearance and unblocking drains. It’s up to you to be that one person.

Start a house sitting business that everyone in your home town comes to rely on. You can grow your business if you get more jobs than you can handle, just by hiring another handy man and buying another van.

References
get a police report on yourself