How To Stay Focused When You Work From Home

Are you wondering how you can stay more focused when you work from home? Whether you’ve decided to work from home every day of the week, or just a few, having a neat environment around you is of high importance. And I know because I’ve spent hours and hours working from home, either while studying or while not affording renting a studio for my business (you can read my previous post about my workspace in Greece here). And boy it was challenging sometimes. You know, being able to wear your yoga pants all day is not always the best. I know however that if I learned something from all this, is how to f***ing stay productive and efficient while working from home. And here’s my takeaway: 

Follow ‘the bedroom’ rule

What is the bedroom rule, you ask? It’s the rule that in order to have a long and fulfilling night’s sleep, you must keep the bedroom for only two activities. Namely intimate activities and sleeping, of course. This means no TV’s to watch movies, and no taking your paperwork to bed with you.

The reason is so that space remains sacred; you only relate being in the room to the proper activities, and nothing more. Well, the same rule should be applied to the room or space from which you work at home. Keep it solely for working. No browsing the web listlessly, no novels or movies. Keep the space sacred for work. The benefit is two-fold. Firstly, your brain will know it is supposed to be working when you’re in there. Secondly, you don’t get sick of the space because you’re spending too much time in there.

Set your rules

Having your own rules about working from home, like the one above, are all well and good. But what about rules for everyone else? If you live other people they need to know the guidelines. These might be things likes; don’t disturb me between 9 am and 11 am every weekday, unless it’s urgent. Or; no using my desk for random activities. 

But even if you live by yourself, setting rules about your workspace is the most important thing. What I did and hasn’t served me very well in terms of productivity is that I was always having lunch on my desk while watching “How I Met your Mother”. You see where’s the problem, right? If not, let me elaborate.

Don’t mix activities because then at the end of the day you won’t be able to remember whether you had a productive day or not. If you want to watch an episode of anything while eating, go to the kitchen, your living room, you name it, but get the heck away from your desk 🙂

Make a schedule and stick to it

When you work from home, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck. Not literally at least! Maybe just via email. You also don’t have colleagues to cheer you along, or to provide light relief after finishing a hefty mornings work. This means you have to maintain your own discipline to get things done. You can do this by keeping schedules, but being sure you stick to them. A monthly calendar 2016 is a good starting point. Also have weekly planners so you can divvy up your jobs even more clearly and in a more detailed manner. Be sure to keep both up-to-date. Calendars and planners without info and deadlines in them are about as useful as no calendars or planners at all.

What I do is that I have a physical calendar that I always keep with me and then once every a couple of days I go through my digital calendar too and check whether they are in line. That helps me a lot because I don’t feel constantly depended on my phone to check my appointments or to-do lists.

Keep your desk & desktop tidy

A tidy desk equals a tidy mind, right? Right! Keep your workspace as clean and tidy as you would if it were being inspected every day! That means no clutter, no mess, and whittling down the items you actually need close at hand. 

If you are a designer, let alone a crafter, like me then probably you will create messes pretty much all the time. And I know this is part of the fun. But working from home means that when you “leave” work you stay there. Which literally means that you need to deal with your mess 24/7. No good. 

So do yourself a favor and clean up after you. 🙂

Now that we addressed the perks of having a tidy desk let’s talk about your desktop? Your computer or laptop’s desktop that is. If you have your files and documents all over the place, it can really slow you down. It is also a sure-fire way for important things to get accidentally lost, or permanently deleted. Keeping everything into neat and tidy folders will also mean you don’t have to waste time looking for it when you come to need it. On the topic of important documents, make sure they can be accessed online, so you can continue working when traveling or away from home.

Make it cozy

For me that’s by far the most important thing. That has literally saved me at times where I was feeling completely lost and uninspired. Personally I feel amazing in places with natural light, nice plants of fresh flowers and coffee 🙂 So what I do is that I do my best at making my working space as close to that as possible. You might not have always natural light pouring in from the window. Especially if you work long hours and the sun is not up anymore. But you can always take care of all the small details that will make you feel more comfortable while working. Having your favorite mug next to you, good music, some nice candles and fresh flowers and boom! 

So what are your tricks to keep you productive while working from home? Tell me all the secrets!

Develop a Solid Brand Identity in 5 Steps & Without Breaking the Bank

Making a decision on becoming serious about your creative hobby by opening a shop might sound extremely exciting, but you know that it can be extremely daunting as well. Many people, including me when I started, tend to believe that everything needs to be perfect before launching your shop. Guys, I’m telling ya…they don’t. Oh, wait….ABSOLUTELY, they don’t. Is that clear enough? 

Almost a year ago I gave an interview and when they asked me about how I got at this point in my career I said “Luck and mistakes”. And that’s it. Amazing? When I started, two years ago, I didn’t even know what an infopreneur is, let alone I thought of searching on “How to Open an Online Shop” on Google. Now that I think about it, I clearly remember having 20 tabs open in my browser, all from other Etsy shops -the ones I admired the most- keeping notes on every little detail I could identify as useful. 

This guide is exactly what you will need – and exactly what I wish I had a couple of years ago – in order to develop your brand quickly, efficiently AND affordably before launching. So, let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

BRAND NAME

All businesses need a name. That’s obvious. But, what’s not very obvious to some people is that the name plays a rather small role in the overall success of your brand. Try to remember of your last purchase through a platform such as Etsy, Amazon or Ebay…yeah, you probably don’t remember the name of the shop. You most likely stumbled upon the product, bookmarked it and returned to buy it. I’m not saying that the name should be insignificant to you, pick something you like and you resonate with. 

What we want? simple, short, elegant and easy to pronounce. Think of an anagram of your name, or your pet’s name. Or invent your own word, how cool is that? Don’t spend hours on it though! And you know why? it is also possible that someone else got it first. And when that happens (I really wish you that it doesn’t) you will feel terrible. Guaranteed!

Before launching my shop I already ran myLifebox as a blog without its own domain* (of course someone had already bought it) so I went for my-lifeboxblog.com….how messed up was that? Then I started dreaming of launching my jewelry line under the name myTreasurebox so it would be Life=Lifestyle Blog / Treasure=Jewelry! Wonderful right? I might have spent a whole month on thinking everything through. So you realize that when I saw that the names were taken I was so bummed out. Don’t fall in that trap. The name doesn’t matter. Think a few, check if they already exist and choose the one that doesn’t. Also, please don’t go for numbers or extra letters that don’t make sense, i.e. myLifebox64. Not good 🙂 

* PS: it won’t hurt if you check whether your name is available as a domain too, you’ll soon need a website/blog, don’t you think?

DO I NEED AN AMAZING LOGO ?

Now that’s a hot topic! I’ve seen many of you obsessing over your logo and ,ok, I kind of get it. Been there, done that. But I’m pretty sure that it is really early to either spend money for a fancy logo designed by a professional, or, as a matter of fact care so much. Don’t get me wrong. I really pay attention to the details and I do believe that a nice logo and an overall brand appearance will make the difference. I’m just saying that you don’t have to break the bank to do that. There are dozens of amazing websites out there that will generate a logo for you. Some of them might ask for a minor payment but still, no need to spend a lot. 

And here I will tell you a secret…. GO FOR SIMPLE (again!). 1. many people get frustrated by overdesigned, way too colorful/fancy logos 2. simple logo = more room for your actual products to shine!! 

One of my favorite and most inspirational infopreneurs I know, Regina, highlights the importance of “Staying Scrappy” in your business and I couldn’t agree more. Running a creative business will teach all sorts of new creative skills – logo designing included, at least for now 🙂

By the way: Next week’s post will be all about How to Create your Logo without spending a ton of money, so stay tuned! AND if you download the free worksheet at the end of the post you will earn a great bonus preview of that!

WE ARE VISUAL ANIMALS: the importance of PHOTOS 

Now…if you MUST hire someone, let it be a photographer. I really believe you can do it yourself if you are willing to devote some extra hours to it, but you should definitely have really good photos of your products and there are several reasons for that:

  • when people buy something online they want to be sure that what they’ll get is what they saw on the pictures. Therefore, you should take a good close-up photo of anything that might interest your customers and makes your products unique. You also need to pay attention to the scale/sizes of the items. Of course you know how big they are but a photo can be very confusing, thus you need to find ways to indicate their scale. 
  • it is also a matter of safety for you, because if someone feels fooled when he gets his parcel expecting a huge thing and receiving a tiny thingy instead, he will most likely leave a bad review – and you don’t want that!
  • GOOD PHOTOS WILL DRIVE TRAFFIC TO YOU ! I guess you get that. Good photos that are easy on the eye will draw the attention of potential customers, pinners and bloggers. The more likeable the photos the more shareable they are. And you want that! 

But, something you need to understand is that again you don’t need to exaggerate. Don’t go overboard and hire the best photographer, book a studio and a couple of well paid models to do your photo shoot. Of course, when your biz grows enough you’ll do all that. There is a right time for everything. But spending that much money on something that isn’t giving you back is not a key to success. 

KILLER PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS

Hello hello mr. Writer 🙂 Were you good in essays in school? No? bummer! It’s never late tho! OK, kidding. BUT you neeeeed to have good descriptions of your products. Again. Many. Reasons. 

  • safety: as mentioned above, you don’t want to leave any gaps open, misleading your customers. Here you can describe in detail every little detail of your item, making it even more appealing. 
  • SEO SEO SEO: everything on the web need to be SEO friendly. Use your descriptions to do that by adding all the necessary keywords that might a potential customer use in Google Search in order to land on your shop. 
  • people relate to stories. If you have a little behind-the-scenes story of the product to share, then do it! 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS

I already mentioned the word “details” many times. But the little branding details are what will make your business stand out. Use your imagination to find ways and make people buy from you. What would make someone buy something like my product? What problem am I solving by offering my service? What would make me feel special? Are some of the questions you should answer to yourself about your brand, product or service. 

I know it is a lot to ask but you need to find all the little details that will make you unique and different from similar creative business owners. I will brainstorm with you, OK?

  • add a handwritten thank you note inside the envelope
  • design and use special packaging
  • add a small gift inside the package 
  • offer a discount coupon for their next order 
  • offer customizable products
  • develop a story, share it and help people relate with you! 

People Buy from People. That’s what Personal Branding is all about.

— Braid Creative

This quote sums up all my favorite things about being a Creative Entrepreneur. You have always to remember that behind your brand identity is a person, you, that actually adds value to your business. You are the core of your company and you are the one owes to be seen and credited. Feel free to make mistakes and use your own voice until you figure out what truly reflects your taste and personality. 

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to download your FREE WORKSHEET so you can start working on your Business Branding now 🙂 In essence, it is the absolute mini-guide that will help you through all the aforementioned topics PLUS a great BONUS CHEAT SHEET on how to create your own logo 🙂 yeah yeah! 

GET YOUR FREE WORKSHEET HEREhttps://mylifebox.leadpages.co/leadbox-942.js

TOP 6 TIPS FOR ASPIRING ETSY SELLERS

Building a successful and profitable business is not an easy quest and whoever decides to pursue a part- or full-time job by selling on Etsy should develop and follow his own journey. However, being an Etsy seller myself for almost two years, has taught me a great ton of useful stuff that a new aspiring Etsy seller can benefit from. If you are considering to open your own shop take a look at the tips below and you’ll save a lot of time that you’d better to spend on more creative parts of your business!


1 | DO YOUR HOMEWORK

First and foremost you’ll need to do a little searching. Unfortunately that’s not something I can do for you since every business has a different focus. However, it is really important to discover what your role in the industry will be. Search for people who do the same or similar things with you. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses, see what you’d do differently if you were in their shoes and keep notes on everything you notice and you could use in your business development. The best way to reach success is to learn from people that already have it, after all.

I remember when I first launched my Etsy shop I had no clue whatsoever what I was doing, what others were doing and if my designs were something that a) would interest people and b) would stand out of the crowd. It is still really vivid the moment I received a ring I had purchased from Elephantine; in a small pretty box with a nice, handwritten note “Thank you very much for your order, Anna-Rosa :)”. I was totally smitten by that note guys. I mean I loved the ring as well, but that note made the difference. I instantly put a face on the maker behind the piece I was wearing. I cannot say for sure what Rachel’s thoughts were behind her decision to include a handwritten note in her packaging, but I can assure you that this decision is part of her brand. Is something that makes her stand out of other fine jewelry designers. 


2 | DEFINE YOUR LEVERAGE

The next and really important step is to define your strengths and make clear in your business plan what will make you stand out of the people who discovered in the first step. Please note you don’t need to discover something that no one else has ever done before, to make your business a successful one. Chances are that when many people do something successfully, the market has the corresponded need for their product. Of course if you have a breakthrough idea it will be amazing, but don’t try to define your brand differently only in order to to do something new. You will become different by working your way to the top, discovering your own methods of success. By all means, I don’t mean that you should copy whatever other business owners do, I just believe that if you want to make wooden jewelry boxes for example you shouldn’t shift your focus and use ivory instead, only because there are others who use wood as well. Don’t be overwhelmed by the fact that other people love what you love too, embrace the fact that you’re not alone.

Here, I want to stress out that copying is bad. You really need to find your own voice and stand by it. I really love connecting with fellow creatives, learn from them, share our stories and journeys, but I don’t appreciate when I stumble upon “creatives” that clearly copy others. I’ve stumbled upon many copycats and it is foolish to believe that people won’t notice. So, please, be inspired by others’ work and journey but not copy what you see. Of course when I saw Rachel’s handwritten note I did the same for a while – I stopped because I have a terrible character – but that is ok. I was inspired by the way she connects with her customers, I didn’t copy her ring design. Try to remind yourself that.


3 | CONNECT WITH SIMILAR BUSINESS OWNERS

Which leads to my third advice. There are hundreds of people out there doing what you do. As I mentioned above, that is not a bad thing. One of the greatest mistakes we do when we start our businesses is that we feel intimidated by others who are in the same field longer than us and have accomplished more. Of course they have guys! They’re on business for a longer time, they have made their mistakes, they learned and figured out how to develop a profitable strategy. Nothing is done overnight, believe me. So, please remind yourself that Etsy is all about people and dare to connect with them. Most probably they were in your place, with the same questions, when they started. Of course you should always be prepared that they might not want to connect with you as well, but it is always worth the try. Be polite, explain why you’re contacting them and make clear that you admire their work and business progress. Don’t look as a stalker or a weirdo though, ok? Be friendly, it is only a human thing to socialize. And you’ll be surprised by how much people enjoy to mentor or help others.


4 | BE ALWAYS HELPFUL AND RESPOND QUICKLY

Speaking of politeness and helpfulness. For some reason that I’ve never understood, some business owners don’t respond to their messages. I know it might come as a surprise but I’ve experienced more that thrice Etsians not getting back to me while I had contacted them with inquires that would lead to a purchase from their shop. Of course, I cannot blame them because I have no idea what was going on in their lives. But I think it is be more appropriate to switch your shop’s vacation mode on for a while, if you’re not able to handle it. For me it is a golden rule to respond to messages and emails from potential customers asap. Being helpful and kind is the first thing that leads to a good customer review. Of course the product plays the leading role when it comes to reviews, but being kind and letting your customers connect your brand with a person rather than a computer is of super high importance. Help your clients put a face on your business and let that face be a kind one. 


5 | PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS

Now…as I said, while your product is playing the leading role, there are several other details you should pay attention to, in order to communicate a consistent brand identity. Try thinking of what elements build first impressions. Logo. Brand name. Brand description. Photos. Prices. And so forth. All these combined are the first thing people see when they enter your shop. And unfortunately you should work on each and every one of these aspects to build a strong image of your business. You won’t need rocket science, believe me. You won’t need to pay other people to do everything for you either. You’ll just need to work with what you have in the most efficient way. BUT, you’ll need to do everything. I will stress everything out in a second post because I have many things to say on the topic, with many ways to accomplish each task in the most affordable and efficient way, but till then try to keep your expenses to the minimum. Find a catchy but not too difficult name, keep you image simple, your photos neat and clear and try not to be too cheap nor expensive. 


6 | KEEP TRACK OF YOUR FINANCES

A very often mistake new small business owners do, included myself when I started, is that we don’t realize which part of the money that comes our way is actually ours to spend and how much we should save for future expenses, Etsy and PayPal fees and taxes. Unfortunately, many of us cannot afford paying an accountant 5 days a week only to keep track of our expenses and income. Try not to get confused when you see the balance on your PayPal account and always try to remind yourself than “only” a part of it is yours. A couple of great tips to accomplish that is a) to have a separate business account where you’ll save all the money that come from your shop and b) to have a standard “salary” every month so that you don’t mess up and spend more than you should. 


BONUS TIP : Starting your own Etsy shop might sound overwhelming in the beginning and that’s the main reason I’m writing this post. I was totally overwhelmed when I started. I took crappy photos of my products, I hardly had a logo or a consistent strategy. But I figured it out somehow. And I still am. But I’ve learned one thing that you should always remind yourself: THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME TO OPEN YOUR SHOP, JUST DO IT AND EVERYTHING WILL COME YOUR WAY NATURALLY. And I mean it. All the tips above will be useful only if you start acting now. Don’t delay your success and progress by striving for perfection. If I had waited for everything to be ready, I’d probably still be working on it. 🙂 

 

Any great tips you’ve discovered? I’d love to know!