How to keep your children safe when you’re working from home

As mums we are usually nothing short of obsessed with the safety of our kids, but I don’t often see safety discussed in the business mums’ community. Perhaps we assume we’ve already taken care of safety because we’re working from home? Anyway, I thought it might be good to share some tips  here…

– I’m going to start with a really obvious one…make sure you have an up-to-date and complete first aid kit. It’s surprisingly easy to forget this and find you’ve got nothing but Peppa Pig plasters in the cupboard. Er, yes I’m off to update my own now!

– Make sure children don’t get hold of any materials or equipment they shouldn’t have access to. For example, if f you’re running a craft business, take care with small objects such as beads or tools such as sewing machines. In fact, I know of some mums running jewellery businesses who have a strict ‘toddlers and beads don’t mix’ policy, so the crafting only begins when the kids are asleep. There are plenty of other tasks that can be done while the kids are playing, like answering emails.

– If possible, have your own work space. Many of us don’t have the luxury of having our own office or studio, so your work space might be the kitchen table that has to be cleared away at the end of your ‘working day’. Which might be just before the school run or midnight!

– If you’re working on a laptop while supervising kids playing, be careful of trailing cables and tripping over piles of books or files. Of course, there can be hazards about even if you’re not a crafter. Although the kids can have trip hazards too, which you’ll already know about if your kids are into lego. Ouch.

– Make sure the kids can’t get up to too much mischief If you’re distracted by a phone call. My three-year-old managed to get our front door open and accept a parcel from the postman while I wasn’t looking. By the time I got to the front door I found a rather surprised postie looking at me and a small boy with a parcel in his hands! I’m just glad I found that my little one showed me he knew how to open the door at a time when he wasn’t in any danger. I now hang the keys on a high hook.

– Of course it’s not just cuts and bumps we need to worry about these days. There’s more to safety than just making sure you have all the first aid supplies you need, you now need to think about online safety too. Be careful about how much information you share about your children online, as once it’s out there on the internet you no longer have control over how that information used and by whom. If you’re uncomfortable about putting the address of your family home on your website, then think about getting a virtual office instead. It’s now cheap and easy to get a dedicated business phone line  – see do I need a business phone line? for more info.

So there you go, some tips for keeping your budding entrepreneurs safe while you’re working! Do you have any tips to add?

How a little tool called Workflowy can save your sanity

Today I’m introducing a new guest blogger to Business Plus Baby – Christelle Donaldson of The Handy Marketer. Over to you Christelle!

When it comes to work, I am a very organized person and I make the most out of the tools available at hand. I plan my week, I plan my day, I set reminders, I block time on my own to work on key projects, nothing escapes me. But at home, it can be a different story. I forget to pick up the mail, to put the trash out on the right day, to call my parents when I said I would and worst, to pay bills in time. My husband keeps getting frustrated with me and told me once: “don’t you have a whole army of tools that you use at work? Can’t you use them at home too?” Good question.

I tried a few options: Evernote, Google Tasks, Teux Deux, Reminders, Remember the Milk.  All these fancy apps that can do wonders, if only you stick with them long enough. But that was always the problem, getting used to the app, finding how best to use it and building a habit of looking at my tasks regularly. I found all these tools to be too sophisticated, offering too many options, needing too many clicks to update them.

And then I learned about Workflowy. I instantly fell in love with it and started using it seamlessly at work and at home.

Workflowy is an online tool for taking notes and making lists. It works quite differently from other applications in the way that you simply write lists and keep adding new lists or sub-categories. You can also zoom on a list, collapse or expand items, mark them as complete, use hash tags and search through your lists, making the tool very powerful yet simple to use.

Here is why I love Workflowy:

  • It’s simple: You don’t need to learn how to use it, it’s almost like writing on paper. In fact the help menu is very small since it is so easy to use.
  • There are no distractions: the interface is very minimalist so there are no distractions around. You just write on the page and do nothing else. Workflowy doesn’t offer the option of formatting your text, so you don’t fiddle around.
  • It’s online and mobile: Workflowy is a cloud based tool so you can access it anywhere as long as you can find a browser and an internet connection. This is why I love it, because I can use it at the office and at home without having to install a new software on my computer. The mobile application is also very practical and can work offline.
  • It’s printable: you can choose to print any part of your lists, whether big or small, and make it a full page document. Very practical for shopping lists!
  • It’s beautiful: this might not be important to you, but I look at my list all day so I’d rather have something pretty to look at.
  • It’s free: with a free account you can create hundreds of items per month. So far I never reached the limit, and I know that I can increase it if I need.

I encourage you to have a look at the tool and try it for yourself. And if you are still wondering what you can use it for, I’ll give you a sneak peek into the way I organize it, just from a task management perspective (you could use it for much more):

Workflowy-setup-1

What about you, what tool do you use to stay organized?

Christelle Donaldson is a busy mom working as a professional marketer and blogging at The Handy Marketer. She offers practical marketing tips and is the author of Business Blogging for Beginners.

Do I need a business credit card?

You’ve already got one personal credit card – or maybe more. So do you really need one for your business too?

Having a credit card for business use can actually be a very smart move.  This is because a credit card can effectively give you a one month interest-free loan – if you use it responsibly, that is. Businesses often find they need to pay for something while they are waiting to be paid themselves. So you’ve earned the money, but your client hasn’t yet paid you and in the meantime you need to buy more stock, a credit card can help you bridge this gap.

Another reason for using a credit card is that you are more likely to get your money back if you’re a victim of fraud than you are with a debit card.

But do you really need to go out and get a business credit card? If you’re just starting out and you’re not spending much on your business, then it may just be easier to use your personal credit card. (You may want to check the card’s terms and conditions to make sure they allow this, though). But once you’ve got going, it’ll probably be easier if you separate your business credit card purchases from your personal ones.

Here are some things to think about when you compare credit cards:

APR (Annual Percentage Rate)

This is the annual charge of the card based on the cost of purchases, but won’t usually include fees for things like late payment or withdrawal fees.

I had a quick nose around the web and found that the APRs for business credit cards had a similar range to those for personal cards. That said, there was a wide range of APRs on both business and personal cards, so do shop around if you’re looking for either.

Minimum repayment

Credit card providers will require you to make a minimum repayment you need to make each month. You can compare both this and the fee you’ll be charged if you miss a payment.

Fees

Both personal and business cards can charge an annual fee, although this seems to be much less common for personal credit cards than for business cards.

Other benefits to compare

Some personal credit cards offer rewards such as Nectar/Tesco clubcard points or cashback and some business cards offer discounts on AA cover or travel insurance. Both types of card can offer balance transfers.

Minimum income

Most of the business credit cards I checked needed you to have a minimum income expected income of £10,000 over the next 12 months. Many personal credit cards don’t specify a minimum income.

Credit limit

This is the maximum amount that the credit card company is prepared to lend you on your credit card. It’s always good to have some spare credit available on your card to allow for interest to be added. Otherwise you may go over the limit and be charged a fee.

And finally – keep a good credit rating

Your credit rating is the financial information held about you at the credit reference agencies. Most companies that offer credit (for example for mortgages or mobile phone contracts) take your previous credit history into account, so it pays to keep a good credit rating.  You can do this by paying your bills on time and staying within your credit limit.

Here are other articles in this series, why not take a look…?

Do I need business insurance?

Do I need a business phone line?

Do I need a business bank account?

Do I need a business plan?

Note: this information applies to UK readers only.

Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to grow a business if you’re an introvert

You might think that an introvert is a person who is shy, but that’s not always true. I’m an introvert and I actually enjoy doing presentations and networking.

Yes, I’m a bit weird.

Lately I’ve been surprised by the people who’ve told me they are introverts. Some appear to have total confidence when delivering presentations, but will admit they can only do it if they are well prepared and talking about a subject they know well. Often us introverts have learned techniques to enable us to thrive in places where you’d expect to find only extroverts.

According to The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, introverts are motivated internally, getting their energy from within themselves rather than from being in a crowd. We are thinkers, brainstormers and problem solvers.  We often prefer one-to-one conversation over group meetings. And we also tend to need  quiet time to think and reflect.

These traits can make it difficult for us to meet people, make connections and network. All of these are important when building a business because relationships are essential for getting customers, making sales, getting to know with people who can connect you with new customers, plus finding the best experts and suppliers.

So here are a few things you can do to meet more people if you’re an introvert: [Read more…]

Is it taking too long to get your business started?

One of the huge problems I faced when starting a business from home around my kids was the frustration. It just took soooooo long to get anything done. That was for both things like writing articles (I was so tired and got distracted by kids!) and the way it took months to see much progress in my business in general. I was in start-up mode for YEARS.

If this all sounds familiar to you, you can hear me talking about it some more here:

Yes, in this audio my children show exactly why it takes so long to do anything with kids in tow. 🙂

This slow start can be a problem if you need an income quickly, so here’s my advice on how what to do about it:

Here are those links I mentioned in the second audio:

Elance

People Per Hour

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Don’t miss a thing here at Business Plus Baby   Click here to get my newsletter and  I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.