The 2016 work from home business woman's holiday gift guide

As the holidays quickly approach I thought I'd share something a bit fun and lighthearted and different than what I usually share. Seeing as how I work with mainly business women, most of whom work from home at least a portion of the time, I wanted to share some of my gift ideas to make the holidays special for them. I also asked for ideas in The Biz Studio and got a lot of great ideas there as well, so I'm putting all of them together for this first ever edition of the work-from-home business woman's gift guide!

Help them plan

If there's one thing business owners are always looking for, it's more time. The more organized they can be - the better. There are a lot of really fabulous planners out there, here are a few I've used or know are really popular and people find a lot of success with them.

Productive! - This planner is designed by my business coach, Shelagh Cummins, and is all about figuring out what your power moves are and working towards them. They've just arrived in Canada for shipping so check them out.

Leonie Dawson has a whole package that I order every year. It comes with a planner, but also with workbooks that are designed to get you thinking about what you achieved in the previous year and how you're going to make the next year exactly what you want it to be, in both your life and business. It's pretty and all the graphics are hand drawn by her. 

Planner Pad - This is a planner I've purchased several times over the years and works on a funnel down approach. You list everything you have to do at the top of the week and funnel it down to when it will actually get done. 

Passion Planner is a planner I haven't personally used, but know a lot of people who really love it. They like that it balances the personal side of what needs to be done with the business side, It also includes sections that help you figure out what you want to do and how to break down the steps to achieve them.

Pretty paper and pens

Entrepreneurs like pretty stationary and fancy pens. Like, we really love them. Whether it's a gift card or a pretty journal, these are almost always a great gift idea (with the exception of a few people who have fully embraced the paperless way of life :) 

Scribe Delivery - My husband got me this for my birthday and I literally squeal when I get my package every month. So many fun notebooks and pens!

A gift certificate for the things they are regularly ordering - Vista Print, Staples, etc

Pens! Lots of pens! (I think I could get 365 new pens every year for Christmas and still have days where I can't find one) ;) 

Technology

We entrepreneurs use our tech a lot, and if you're anything like me, they wear our way faster than you'd like. I'm going to admit to my Apple bias here, but I'm sure there are great equivalents in Android and whatever the other tech is that I pretend doesn't exist.

A new phone - we spend time on our phones, A LOT. Having the latest and greatest just feels good.

A new tablet - I don't even have a tablet any more to be honest, and a tablet is a great place to do a lot of the readings we're always doing to stay on top of our industries and our business game. 

A new lap top - just like our phones, we spend a lot of time on these and there is little more frustrating that having them crash or tell us there is no more hard drive space. A brand new shiny laptop that runs quickly and without stress is an entrepreneur's dream.

A smart watch - I always notice when people are wearing these and they just seem tech forward. I'm not necessarily one to run with the crowd but I'll admit, there's a lot of envy there.

No more cleaning, no more cooking

A huge theme that comes up is having someone else take care of the cooking and cleaning (a lot of my examples for these are local, but I'm sure you can find something similar close to where you live).

There are all kinds of great local services for cleaning that you can look in to and you can also check out personal chef services (The Magic Fridge is a local one run by a friend of mine) that take the stress out of shopping, cooking and cleaning up after you cook.

There are also lots of services like Hello Fresh (that link will give you $50 off your first order) and Chef's Plate that will mail you all the ingredients for a set amount of meals per week, taking the stress of planning and shopping out of your weekly schedule and also making the recipes really easy to follow with relatively little prep required. There's also Supperworks where you can go and assemble everything you need for your own meals or pay a bit extra and they'll assemble everything you need.

But if they do need to cook, they might love some cooking classes. 

Pampering 

A gift certificate to their favourite spa or for a massage was high on the list for many of the entrepreneurs in my group.

A day away at a spot like Le Nordik or Scandinave Spa for example.

A massage from a local clinic is also always appreciated, such as Byward Massage Therapy Clinic or the Massage and Treatment Clinic in Orleans.

Bring on the drinks!

Beer, wine, coffee, tea - we like a variety of drinks as entrepreneurs, whether it be for during the day or for when we put our feet up at the end of the day. Here are a few ideas when it comes to the drinks department. I'm a big fan of subscription services in this category. :) 

Beer subscription service - we get Brew Box here in Ontario but there are many great ones. 

Nespresso is a popular coffee machine with lots of varieties of coffees - even better if more comes to your door every month. 

How about a box of wine delivered to you every three months? If only I liked red wine this would be perfect for me. 

Meaningful bling

A piece of jewellery that speaks to our goals and dreams is a thoughtful way to commemorate all the hard work business women do.

I know for one I would love a bracelet like this from Citrus Silver with my word for 2017 stamped on it (my word for 2016 was Thrive, my word for 2017 is Open.)

Health, fitness and wellness

For the business owner who wants to stay fit but doesn't have the time to make it to the gym a lot, this one year membership to the 15 Minute Workout Club will be a way for her to easily in sneak those effective workouts.

Help one of your favourite business owners celebrate her creative side and send her off to this weekend women's retreat (I'll be there!) in February where she can play and connect and create out in the peaceful country air. 

A sweet ride

I may not have added this on to the list but an amazing amount of suggestions were new cars. So if that's in your budget this year you may want to consider:

A Tesla

A Jaguar F-Type

A mini Cooper

A Jeep (like MacGyver drove. That's been my dream vehicle since childhood. ;)

I had fun thinking of all the ways we could celebrate the entrepreneurs in our lives - maybe this sparked a few ideas for you. Leave me a comment letting me know if you'll be adding any of these to your shopping list!

To note: A few of these are affiliate links, most are not, but all are things I truly believe in and nothing is included just to make a buck :) 

 

What does your schedule look like?

When you think about your schedule – how do you feel?

For many business owners, there’s an UGH feeling that comes up.

Whether it’s having too many things to do, feeling that time is being wasted, or not knowing how to fit everything into your day, there are so many ways that your schedule can feel out of control and not productive. And not being organized with your time will probably lead to decreased productivity, more stress, and less money (UGH).

So let’s talk about it. I’m going to share some tips and tricks that can help you feel a bit more in control of your schedule.

What do you need to get done?

First things first, you need to be clear on your priorities. Think about the tasks you perform regularly and how much time they should, and do, take. Start keeping a list if it doesn’t come to you easily, so you can see how much time you have to work with. For example, just because a large portion of your business needs to focus on client calls doesn’t mean that there isn’t also administration work or content creation that needs to be done.

By mapping out what tasks need to be on your schedule and how much time they need allotted to them, you’ll have a better sense of what to schedule in your week. It doesn’t need to be precise, just a general guesstimate is good to start (but go for specific if that’s easier for you!).

What are your main task categories and approximately what percentage of your time do you need to allocate to them?

What are your main task categories and approximately what percentage of your time do you need to allocate to them?

 

Take care of you

An unhappy you is likely an unproductive you.

Don’t forget to schedule things for yourself, whether it’s something like coffee with clients or friends, the gym, or even the little things like lunch and breaks.  Blocking time for this kind of thing keeps balance in your schedule and gives you a buffer of time to work with.

Take that information and use it to block certain times of the day during your work week. A basic schedule like the one below works fine, or you can schedule in blocks of 15 minutes. If you know that you have to do certain things – whether they take 5 or 45 minutes - dedicate time to it. Commit it to a time and lock it in.  Commit to going to the gym like you commit to a client call – because it’s important.

Having it in your schedule also takes away the guilt of doing something you feel like you shouldn’t be. If it’s in your schedule, it’s accounted for. If you decide to do it on the fly, you may feel like you’re shirking more important responsibilities.

Can you block off your week to make sure all the things that you HAVE to get done have a specific time and are prioritized?

Can you block off your week to make sure all the things that you HAVE to get done have a specific time and are prioritized?

Appointments that work for you

When it comes to filling in time that you have dedicated to appointments with clients, make suggestions based on your preferred availability instead of working solely around your clients’ schedules.

Maybe you decide Tuesdays are your days for client calls. Start with the 8 am slot, then then 10 am slot, then the 1 pm slot, etc. Once you fill a day of appointments, start another day. This is far more effective for you than a call at 10 on Monday, a call at 1 on Tuesday and a call at 3 on Friday. It means you can dedicate other days and times to focusing on other tasks – admin, writing, development, outreach, networking, etc.

While there are always exceptions, try to keep in control of your own schedule so you can work efficiently. Many of us hesitate to “boss people around” by suggesting a time to meet instead of working with their schedule, but valuing your time and being assertive about your needs will streamline your entire process and benefit the client in the long run.

Pick appointment days and appointment slots and give people times instead of letting them rule your schedule.

Pick appointment days and appointment slots and give people times instead of letting them rule your schedule.

Systems

This isn’t a natural one for me because I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person but systems can REALLY help in so many ways. They help you know what to expect of yourself and they help other people know what to expect of you.

For those with multiple clients in particular, set up an operating system with each to determine how you will spend their allotted time. Include details about the nature and timing of the tasks to be done, their expectations, your expectations, and the amount of communication to occur between you. For example, let them know what time of day or week you will be working on things for them so they don’t think they always have access to you (I know of someone who would only answer emails one day a week for one kind of task. You were not to expect an answer from her on any other day of the week. It was simply the way she worked and people had to work with that).

Set expectations for turn around time. If someone takes four days to give you feedback on something when they were supposed to get back to you in two, the timelines are no longer the same and you shouldn’t be expected to work within them.

Work together so you are both on the same page about how the job is going to look from a time perspective, and be willing to bill for your time. It’s not worth it if you’re worn out and not making money!

What will you try first?

Remember that not all these tips work for everyone. Experiment with and adapt different techniques until you find something that works for you and your business. You and your clients will benefit from being more organized and efficient, and less stressed. Leave me a comment and tell me if you use any of these, or which you’ll try out first!

PIVOT

Last spring I paid two great people to spend the day with me planning out the next few months of my business. We spent a day in a room mapping out sequences of emails and sales funnels that lead people from freebies to great content to paid courses. It was a great plan - I was really excited. We not only mapped out the sequences, but also the topics and brainstormed all of the pieces that had to be written and by whom.

I never took action. I had all of the plans up on my wall so I could see them on a daily basis and every day I would look at them and then focus on something else.

Finally, I realized that I didn't really want to do it. I realized that it wasn't actually the right plan for me. It was a great plan for someone who wanted to focus on moving lots of people through a variety of free content into paid online programs, but that wasn't what I really wanted to be doing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have a bunch of online courses I'm really proud of and I'm going to continue to sell them whenever appropriate because I believe there is value in the course material and it's all still valid. But the reason that I'm telling you this story is because I know I'm not alone. I know that many entrepreneurs spend hours upon hours planning something in their business, and then they realize they don't actually want what they have. And they feel badly about it. And they think maybe they should do that thing even though they don't love the idea. Even though they are resisting it.

Why does this happen and what should you do about it?

Remember your WHY

I'm a huge fan of the book It Starts With Why by Simon Sinek. The book is about knowing what your core values are and how they play out in your business. When you have a solid grasp on your why and you use that to create a strong vision for your business, it's easier to decide what IS a fit and what isn't for your business, and if you're on the right track or if you need to make some shifts.

Step back and evaluate

So many business owners get busy working in their business that they don't have time to work on their business. And when they ARE working on their business, they're doing the day-to-day things to keep going. Sometimes you need to take a full step back and evaluate where you're at. Is it where you meant to be or did you end up there accidentally following the currents driving your business forward?

Ask yourself if you're doing the thing you meant to be doing when you started your business. Are you enjoying what you're doing? Can you see where you're headed in the next year, two years and five years? If that feels difficult on your own, consider getting someone (like a business coach) to help you figure it out.

Know that it's OK to change your mind

Sometimes we simply decide we want to head in a different direction. I've heard the word "pivot" a lot in the business world lately and I have to say, I love it. You can change the direction of your business - pivot the sail - 5 degrees or 180 degrees. It's a word that allows you to realize that change of direction, big or small, may be the right choice for you. You aren't necessarily turning back, you're just changing course, and any good business owner needs to know that that's part of business, and that it's OK.

Welcome the changes and the shifts, even if it means you're going somewhere you never expected to be. Life, and business are like that.

If you're looking for help figuring any of this out, book a free consultation with me to see if any of my Mastermind or one-on-one programs are a good fit for you.

 

5 Ways to Build Your Community Online

5 ways to build your community online

Whether you're trying to build engagement in a Facebook Group or on a Facebook page or just on Twitter or Instagram, there are a few things that are important to keep in mind to build community: 

1. Set the tone

Lead by example! You are the leader of your community. The way that you behave in that community, from the kind of support you give, to the language you use, to the amount that you're present in the group, is key. If you're not willing to demonstrate through your own behaviour how you want the group to look and feel, you can't be surprised if things go off course. 

In my group there is always a distinct drop in participation if I'm away too much. I need to participate a lot if I want others to participate a lot. Also I find that people are really helpful, respectful and follow the "rules" without having to be policed because they see what the group is meant to be like. 

2. Ask simple questions

People have short attention spans, you need to ask questions (at least some of the time) that are so easy to answer people don't even have to think.

Where are you from?

How many kids do you have?

What's your favourite colour? 

Questions like that seem like fluff but what you need to remember is that your goal is to get people to participate, even just once. Once they've commented on something, they'll be more likely to comment again another time. They'll also be more likely to see your content if you're building your community on a tool that operates with an algorithm.  

Even if you're going for something more complex than the questions above, keep the questions pretty simple so they don't have to think too long. If a person is required to think too long they often decide it's not worth the effort and move on. 

3. Always go first

People hate going first. If you ask them a question they worry that what they want to say might not be what you're actually asking for or they don't know how to share the information they want to share. 

When you ask a question or if someone in your community asks a question, do your best to answer it. You're taking away a lot of the anxiety of being the first to post and you're essentially providing them with a template for their own answer.

4. Be relatable

Share you. Share your realness. Let people see that you're human and not that different from them.

The more you can do that, the less intimidated they feel, and people don't engage in places they feel intimidated. It's why the idea of sharing messy realities works so well.  

The time I accidentally uploaded a draft version of my podcast to iTunes I was horrified. I shared that in my community and it was one of the most popular posts I've ever shared. Why? Because people like to know everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Because they like to know that I'm not that different than them. 

5. Make people feel important


When someone posts anything, like it. Even better comment on it. It's a lot of work but you're rewarding people for their participation. When you give them answers and make them feel like they are truly in a place that is there to support them, they will keep posting and commenting, and that's what you want.  

Creating an active online community is a lot of work, but it also can be really rewarding, fun and help you reach your sales and business goals. 

I hope these 5 tips were useful - and that you'll join me in the Biz Studio if you haven't already!