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How to avoid distractions when you work from home

Working from home can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very easy to get distracted. Here are my top tips on how you can avoid distractions when you work from home:

1. Be clear with your friends and family

When you’re working from home, friends and family have a tendency to assume that what you’re doing isn’t really work. They may expect you to spend the day running errands or doing chores, or they might think it’s OK to drop by for a coffee and a chat. Be clear with your friends and family that even though you’re working from home, you are in fact working. If they want you to do anything else, make it clear that you’re only available outside your work hours.

2. Have a designated work area

This really helps you to get into “work mode” and also helps to signal to family members that you’re working and therefore not available. It also helps to keep you away from things that you might find distracting (eg. the TV or that pile of washing that needs to be folded) and keeps all your work-related things in one centralised location. If space is an issue, it doesn’t have to be a separate room (although this is optimal), even a corner of your bedroom or the end of the kitchen bench will suffice.

3. Make a timetable and stick to it

Sticking to a timetable is challenging, but it’s a great way to stay on track. Tailor a timetable to suit your lifestyle and your job. Don’t think you have to work 9-5 (unless the nature of your job makes that necessary), one of the benefits of working from home is that you can create a timetable that fits around your life. Don’t feel you have to be at your desk by 9am and schedule your timetable 9-5. If you’re more productive at night and you prefer to sleep in, there is nothing wrong with creating a routine that reflects this. Of course, if you have clients who work 9-5, you’re going to have to at least be available on phone and email during this time. The key is to create a routine that works for you, and allows for maximum productivity, and then stick to it!

4. Study time management

Developing great time management skills is one of the best ways to stay focused and maximise your productivity. I strongly recommend studying the GTD system.

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5 Mistakes that new business owners commonly make

1. Not doing enough research

It’s important to do a lot of research before commencing a new business venture. You need to be able to answer questions such as: who is your target market (“everyone” is NOT a target market), and who are your competitors – not just their names but everything about them. I’m shocked at the number of small business start-ups who come to me who are not able to answer these basic questions.

2. Hiring too soon

Staff can potentially be your biggest expense, so it’s important to hold off on hiring staff for as long as you can. There are also many tax and legal requirements associated with hiring staff, which will cost you additional time and money. When you do start hiring, start off slowly. Maybe hire freelancers or casuals a couple of days a week to start with.

3. Spending too much money

Office space, office furniture, computers… it’s easy to spend a LOT of money when you start a new business, but this will likely cost you money that could be better invested in growing the business. Think about what you really need to get started. Do you have to hire office space, or could you convert your garage into a home office? Is new office furniture and computers an integral part of your business’s brand? Or could you get away with using what you already have or buying secondhand instead?

4. Being too financially dependent on the business

It can take time for businesses to become profitable (typically 6 months to 2 years), so if you’re relying on your business to start making money straight away, you might find yourself in trouble. Yes, it’s not unreasonable to pay yourself, but how much you pay yourself needs to be in line with how much money the business is making. If your business isn’t making enough money to cover your expenses, you need to look at other sources of income such as a taking a second job, or cut down on your expenses.

5. Working too hard or not working hard enough

It’s easy to get caught up in your new business, and being dedicated is obviously a good thing, but if you work too hard you can burn yourself out. It’s important to take time off and do things that take your mind off the business. Likewise, being your own boss means that you can do what you please, but if you don’t invest time in your business, it’s not going to be successful. During the start-up phase, I would recommend working 60-80hrs per week on your business.

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Free printable posters to brighten up your office

Here’s some free printable posters to brighten up your home or office!

Whether you stick them on the wall, or pop them in a frame, these posters will inject a little bit of positivity into your life. They are A4 (210x297mm) size, which is the standard paper size in most printers. To print them out, simply click on an image and it will open up the printable version of the image. Right click on the image and choose ‘Save as…’ this will save the image on your computer. You can then open it up and print it out!

If you use them, please send me a picture, I’d love to see what you’ve done with them!

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

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How I threw a 3 day wedding weekend for $8k

10513502_10152451914050865_7691137400238320239_nI purchased a secondhand wedding dress that actually made me money

Out of concern for the environment and slave labor, and because I’m a complete tight-arse, I prefer to always buy secondhand clothing where possible, and my wedding dress was no different. I had a look on Gumtree and found loads of brand new or only worn once wedding dresses for $500 or less. The brand new dresses made me a bit sad, until I found out that it’s common for girls to buy a dress and then change their minds and buy something else (it doesn’t necessarily mean their weddings were cancelled!)

I found one seller that was selling off a load of ex-bridal shop stock, and I liked a couple of the dresses in the photos, so I went along to have a look. When I arrived the dresses that I was interested in were gone, and the other dresses didn’t interest me, so I was about to leave empty handed when the seller said she had one more wedding dress that she could show me but it was damaged. She then pulled out the MOST STUNNING DRESS EVER. It was exactly what I was looking for: a pastel pink strapless ballgown with a train, and the only damage was a couple of small tears. The seller wanted to clear out the rest of her stock, so she sold everything for $500, which included 5 additional wedding dresses and 28 formal dresses. I couldn’t believe it, I would’ve paid $500 just for the wedding dress I wanted! I sold some of the wedding and formal dresses on Gumtree and not only made my money back, but made a profit!

I chose a school camp venue rather than a wedding venue

Wedding venues are expensive. The venues I looked at charged a minimum venue hire fee of $5,000 for just 4hrs, and in some cases you were sharing the venue with 2-3 other wedding parties. For my wedding, I wanted an outdoor, rural location with amazing views and plenty of guest accommodation, and I had to have exclusive use. I looked at a variety of unorthodox venue options including school camps. The venue I choose, Midginbill Hill was perfect because it was a school camp venue during the week but also operated as a wedding venue on weekends. I paid just $1,000 for exclusive use of the venue for from Friday-Sunday. There was also more than enough accommodation for all my guests, and with three different types of accommodation, guests could choose what suited their taste and budget.

I didn’t pay for anything that could be done by myself or friends or family

As a graphic designer, I was able to design the invitations and other materials myself. My wedding cake was going to cost over $1,000, so my mum made it instead (and it looked stunning!) The chair hire company wanted to charge $300 for delivery, so a friend with a van collected the chairs for us.

I borrowed, purchased secondhand, and shopped around where possible

I asked if friends and family and the venue had things that I needed before I purchased or hired anything. I found that a lot of things were cheaper to buy rather than rent. I purchased lots of things from Gumtree, and then sold them again after the wedding. For the few things I did rent, I found that prices varied dramatically between vendors, so I shopped around.

I sent my invitations digitally

Although many people will consider this tacky, I saved a small fortune by sending digital invitations. Even though I have access to trade printing prices, I still would’ve had to spend $200+ on professional invitation printing, not to mention another $50+ for stamps and envelopes. And I still would’ve had to contact all the guests digitally anyway so that I could find out their mailing addresses. It just seemed like an unnecessary waste of time and resources, so I elected to send the invitations digitally. I used a free bulk mail program called MailChimp, and I also create a wedding website so people were able to find out more information about the weekend and RSVP.

Going digital made life so easy. Using MailChimp enabled me to track exactly who had opened the invitation and who had followed the link to the website, so I could easily see who needed to be follow up. I received an email notification each time someone RSVPed, and I was able to export a list of all RSVPs from the back-end of the website and save it as an excel spreadsheet – which was so much easier than having to manually input a stack of RSVP cards into a spreadsheet!

10446488_10152451914685865_4202740142040776326_nI kept flowers to a minimum and made my own bouquet

I used to work at a florist shop, and I know for a fact that as soon as you mention the word ‘wedding’ the price of flowers soars. For my wedding, I spent just $30 purchasing fresh cut flowers from a flower market. I made a rose bouquet for myself plus I scattered rose petals down the isle. I didn’t have a bridal party and I didn’t worry about corsages or button hole flowers, which kept costs down and gave me one less thing to worry about.

I didn’t use a wedding caterer

I found wedding caterers to be incredibly expensive, with prices ranging from $60-$180 per head, so instead I looked at other catering options. I asked one of my favourite restaurants (a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant called Kuan Yin that my husband and I went to for our first date) if they did wedding catering and was delighted to discovered that they did. At $40 per head, it wasn’t the cheapest option that I found, but they supplied a huge buffet of delicious fresh food with plenty of leftovers, so it was excellent value for money, and we received great feedback from even our most carnivorous guests.

I didn’t take things too seriously

Wedding are supposed to be about having a fun and celebrating love! I didn’t want to get caught up in wedding traditions or spending money on things just because it was “expected”. I cut out loads of expenses that just didn’t interest me (such as wedding cars), and my husband and I did things our own way. Overall, everyone had a great time, and we received lots of positive comments from guests who said that it was the best wedding ever!

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Should you rent an office or work from home?

As a sole-trader or small business owner, you’ll likely have to decide whether you should rent an office or work from home. I’ve worked from home and rented office space, and I would say hands down that working from home is a lot better. You save money on rent, you save time on commuting, and it give you the flexibility to work when it suits you. But working from home certainly isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t suitable for every kind of business. Whether or not you should work from home or rent office space depends on a number of factors:

Business Factors:

  • Will your business be relying on walk-by traffic? Is there an alternative way that you could promote your business that would enable you to operate from home instead?
  • Are you legally allowed to operate your business from home?
  • Are you in an industry where it would look unprofessional or be inappropriate for you to work from home?
  • Do you need office space so you can meet with clients? Could you go to their office or home instead? Or could you meet them at a coffee shop or rent a meeting room by the hour?

Personal Factors:

  • Can you get into ‘business mode’ while you’re at home? Or will you find yourself getting distracted?
  • Can you separate work life from home life? Or will you find yourself working more than you should if you work from home?
  • Have you discussed working from home with your family members and any other people that you live with? If applicable, would they be comfortable with staff members and clients coming to your home?
  • Are your friends and family members able to understand and respect that when you are working from home you are in fact working and not available to do other things?

Financial Factors

  • Can you afford to rent office space?
  • Can you afford to rent the kind of office space that is appropriate for your business?
  • If you lock yourself into a lease, will you be able to afford the rent if your business isn’t as successful as you think it will to be?
  • Will office space assist your business to grow?
  • Have you considered other things that you could spend money on to help your business to grow if you don’t have to pay rent?
  • Do you need to pay for office space? Could you barter with another business that has unused space?
  • Could you share office space with another business to save money?
  • Do you need a permanent office? Could you rent a co-working desk by the hour, day, or week-to-week?
  • How much space do you really need? Could you rent a smaller office in the short-term, and move to somewhere larger when your business starts to grow?

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How to save money on graphic design

When it comes to graphic design you generally get what you pay for, so if you can afford to spend more money on design, I strongly suggest you do, but if you’re genuinely on a budget, hopefully these tips will help you save some money. This is very generalised advice based on my own experience as a graphic designer, I can’t speak for all designers out there, but hopefully you’ll find it useful.

1. Don’t hire someone based on their hourly rate.

A cheap hourly rate won’t necessarily mean a cheap job. For example a $20 an hour student designer might charge you for 6 hours for a project, while a $120 senior designer at an agency might only charge you for 1 hour to do the same project. Ask for a fixed price quote that details exactly what is included in the price.

2. Let your designer know your budget.

Generally designers won’t reduce their hourly rate, but if they know what your budget is, they can suggest ways to work around it.

3. Make sure your designer know what they’re doing

A “self-taught designer” that only charges $20 to design a flier may seem like bargain, but if it takes 20 rounds of revisions and several hours of your time to produce something you’re happy with, is it worth it? I’m not saying not to hire someone who is self-taught or a student – just make sure they know what they’re doing!

4. Factor in cost of the printing (if applicable)

Your printing company may charge a file setup or pre-flight fee if you supply your own artwork, so it might be cheaper if you get the printing company to do the graphic design too. Likewise, a freelance graphic designer may charge more for design, but they may have access to cheaper printing prices, so the overall cost may be cheaper.

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Selling on Etsy – Tips & Tricks

1. Know your market

Who is your target market? Are they on Etsy? Look at your competitors. What are they doing? Are their prices similar to yours? If your products are more expensive, are you demonstrating that you offer better value for money? What makes your business stand out?

2. Have great looking product photos

Great product photography should be your number one priority. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer, but make sure your photos are clear and bright. This well really help your products stand out and make your shop look professional.

3. Focus on excellent customer service

Reply to messages promptly and politely. If a customer is unhappy, address their concerns and fix the problem – even if it’s not your fault or it leaves you unfairly out of pocket. If you make a mistake, say sorry. Good customer relations can go a long way. Your best advertising will always be the word of mouth from happy customers.

4. Reward your customers

Show appreciation to your customers by adding little extras to their order. This could be in the form of a small gift or sample, a hand written note, a discount voucher and lovely packaging.