Postponing But Not Forgetting

If an article headline ever caught your eye but you didn’t have time to read it right then, there’s an app for you. Instapaper allows you to save the article for reading later. Flipboard for the iPad lets you collect Facebook and Twitter feeds for later reading into your own personal “social magazine.”

Both of these tools are useful only if you actually return at a later date and read the material. Otherwise, they could become the digital equivalent of the magazine rack or newspaper basket that is filled to overflowing with unread material.

If I had a smartphone, I would use Instapaper, but that’s another bit of technology that will have to pass me by for now.

Until next time,

Sarah

Email Marketing

Marketing your product or services via email can be effective and inexpensive. “Top 3 Email Marketing Tips” from E-CommerceGuide provides some additional ways to make every email count.

First, make sure you’re sending to those who want to hear from you. Make opting out easy for those who decide not to continue receiving emails from you or your company. Nothing is more annoying than having to jump through hoops to get your email address removed from a company’s marketing list.

Second, consider using a soft-sell approach instead of a harder push for your products or services. Sometimes, those hard sells are a good thing, but other times, sending out an email with tips on how to do something that prominently mentions your product might snag the customers’ attention better.

Third, use a call-to-action in your email. Asking customers to come to your website via a special link in the email can generate a good response.

Until next time,

Sarah

Finding Free Wi-Fi

Working from home sometimes necessitates finding a place to work outside the house. But why pay for Wi-Fi when there are plenty of places that offer free Internet access.

The December issue of At Home News provides a list of places that offer free Wi-Fi. To sign up for the free, monthly e-newsletter, click on the newsletter tab at the top of this page.

Until next time,

Sarah

Another Tool for Handling Email

Here’s another tool for handling the deluge of email we all get. If you have an iPhone, AwayFind can help manage your email by forwarding only email from selected recipients to your phone, leaving the other email to be answered at your leisure.

You can sign up for a free version of the program or pay for more robust services. The service can alert you via Twitter, SMS, chat or even calling you up and reading the email to you verbally.

If you don’t want to miss important emails from specific senders, signing up for AwayFind might be the ticket to helping you manage your email.

Until next time,

Sarah

Prepare for April Tax Season Now

Before 2010 turns into 2011, there are a few things you can do to make your 2010 taxes a bit easier. Start by making sure your bookkeeping is up-to-date. Find receipts needed for tax purpopses and put them together in one place, like a folder or envelope. Maximize your charitable donations before Dec. 31, and make sure you receive proper documentation from the organization for tax purposes. Upgrade old office equipment. Purchasing new or new-to-you computers and other office electronics, etc., can be tax deductible if you work from home. As with any tax information, consult a tax advisor for specifics relating to your particular situation.

Until next time,

Sarah

Working Virtually

Businesses, especially small companies, are increasingly turning to virtual employees for part-time work, which spells good news for at-home women (and men) looking for work. Inc. magazine has a recent article detailing the rise in virtual workers, “Needed: Part-Time Help, Location: Anywhere.”

The article pointed out that in “a 2010 survey of 330 U.S. employers by Right Management, a talent and career management consulting firm, found that 45 percent of businesses are increasing their amount of virtual workers.”

Many of the part-time virtual positions revolve around social marketing and social media work. Some companies acting as the middlemen for virtual employees and companies looking for such workers include Urban Interns and Evirtual Assistant.

Check out these unique opportunities but be sure to investigate the company with the Better Business Bureau before handing over personal information or starting work.

Until next time,

Sarah

‘Tis the Season for Giving to Charity

If you personally donate to charities this time of year, you might consider whether your at-home business should, too. Perhaps an in-kind donation of your speciality cookies for a holiday party or discounts on products would be appropriate.

Gently used clothing, household goods and office supplies can find new life in charity offices or resale shops. Of course, cash donations are always appreciated.

To vet a charity, go to the Better Business Bureau for general inquiries or to the Evangelical Council of Fincancial Accountability for religious organizations. Make sure the organization is a 501(c)3, so you can list your donation on your federal income tax form.

For more on charitable giving and small businesses, read “Small Businesses Find Value in Charitable Giving” in the Los Angeles Times.

Until next time,

Sarah

Avoid Killing Your Business

To-do lists can sometimes be a drag on a business. In “5 Business Killers,” Fortune magazine explores how you can avoid killing your business.

For starters, keep your focus less on outcome-based performance and more on customer interaction. Second, don’t put up with abusive or creative-draining clients or customers. Third, scale back on some of your products or services.

Fourth, delegate email or schedule specific times to answer your email–and stick with it. Finally, have face-to-face time with clients and customers, such as over lunch or in other encounters.

Until next time,

Sarah

Professional Email

With email now the most popular form of business communication, maintaining a professional demeanor with email is paramount to making a good impression on clients, both new and old.

AOL Small Business has an article on “How to Avoid Office E-Mai Disasters,” which outlines several common email mistakes that are easily avoidable.

First, treat business emails like formal correspondence, not an informal message to your BFF. Use proper English grammar. If you’re unsure about a sentence structure or word usage, check out GrammarBook.com or Grammar Slammer for help.

Use spell check. Most email programs have spell check, so sending out missives with misspellings is easily avoidable. I use Outlook Express and have it set to automatically check spelling when I hit the send button. That function has saved me from many an embarrassing typo.

Use proper formatting. Line and paragraph breaks and proper punctuation allow for the reader to more easily digest your message. Without those, the email can look like one huge run-on sentence or collection of meaningless words.

Lastly, make sure you respond in a timely manner. This means answering the actual email within a reasonable time frame, but it also means making sure you take time in crafting your answer. We’ve all hit “reply all” when we didn’t mean to, or sent an email to the wrong person because we didn’t slow down enough to check the name in the “to” box.

Email is a great communication tool, especially for home-based businesses. But poorly written emails can produce the wrong impression and could cost you clients or customers.

Until next time,

Sarah

Frugality Reigns

The December issue of The Atlantic Monthly has an interesting article about pinching pennies entitled “The Frugal Divorcee.”

The author talks about how saving money literally and by careful shopping, etc., is pretty hot right now. Basically, her last paragraph sums up the story: “The whole country, I suspect, is in for a long exercise in tunnel digging. If we’re to avoid despair, we’re going to have to learn to substitute consolations for indulgences, and we’re going to have to gird ourselves for a life defined largely by small, mean, quotidian struggles.”

Being frugal is good advice in your business, too. Careful planning, careful spending and careful expansion are keys to success.

Until next time,

Sarah