Working from Home? Here’s 3 Tips for Success

I am lucky enough to be in a position in which I am able to work from my apartment one day a week. I began working from home because I must reverse commute from Chicago to the suburbs. Unfortunately, there is no train or bus that gets me to work cheaper or faster, yet it still takes me over an hour (sometimes two on the way home) each way.

Working from home makes my life easier for several reasons:

  • It saves money on gas because I get to take one day off of the commute. It doesn’t sound like much, but it really makes a difference!
  • It greatly improves my productivity as the office can be distracting at times.
  • It improves my mood. It is amazing how grouchy being alone in a car makes you. It can be very mentally and emotionally draining.
  • I can do laundry on my lunch hour. I live in a building with 30+ residents and only 2 machines. Nights and weekends are impossible to obtain a machine to do just one load.

On top of that, I end up working more hours at home, as I am able to wake up and head right to my computer and don’t have the added stress of needing to present myself to the public… i.e. I am able to work in my pj’s. I also don’t have the dreaded feeling at 5 PM when I check my traffic app and see it’s going to be at least 1 hour and 45 minutes before I pull into my parking spot. It really lowers my anxiety levels when I can be comfortable in my own apartment. It also allows me to do my best work.

That being said, working from home is not for everyone. Some people are easily distracted by television, cleaning and home improvements. Here are 3 tips to help you have a successful work from home day:

1. Plan out your day the night before. It helps to go to bed knowing what time you are going to start your day and what you need to accomplish. Review any conference calls you need to be prepared for and make sure your cell is charged up. Create a space that will not distract you from your work. Don’t work from your bed or plop down in front of the television. Clear off your kitchen table or post up at a desk. 

working from home tips

2. Stick to a schedule. This is very important! Wake up, eat breakfast, sit down at your computer.  Break for lunch and run any errands you need to run at noon. It is important to stick to a schedule or else you may find yourself at 5 PM asking yourself “What did I do today?”

3. Check in with the office. I try to talk with my manager at least once a day on the phone, if not more. I also make it a point to check in with my peers via email or our internal chat program. If it helps, keep a list as you accomplish goals or move forward in projects for the day. That way when you chat with the office, you can easily recap what you’ve been working on.

Do you have any other tips for working from home? Share them in the comments below.

3 Irritating Things You Do On LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for networking, researching and job seeking.  It is becoming ever important to make sure that your profile is current and you are sharing appropriate content for your audience, whether it be for hiring managers or possible business contacts. Looking forward, as LinkedIn’s advertising model continues to improve, the channel is only going to grow in popularity and usefulness. 

As the channel grows in users, it is important to distinguish your profile from others. Make sure that it is professional and a true representation of what you do. There are many different ways to organize your profile and experience, so make sure that your most current role is visible and obvious to someone who is browsing for the first time. For example, if you are the current Digital Marketing Manager for your company, your title should reflect this, as opposed to ‘Digital Marketing Guru in Chicago.’ Titles like these misrepresent what your current role is. Unless you are unemployed and searching for a new opportunity, your title or headline should reflect what you are currently doing.

So what are some other LinkedIn faux pas?

Commenting on or sharing spammy posts

I could go on and on about how irritating this practice is. Every day I scroll through my feed to see posts that are fit to be Facebook scams–yet they have hundreds of comments and likes! LinkedIn is not the place to solve math problems publicly or share inspirational quotes with a photo of a roaring lion. Not only is this unprofessional, but all of your connections (and more) can see that you contributed to this. It pops up on connections’ news feeds and they also can see how silly you are.

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25,000+ comments?! You’re kidding!

Not having a photo or having an inappropriate photo

Your LinkedIn profile is not your resume. Your LinkedIn profile should actually work as more than a resume for you. It is a social network that allows you to showcase your experience and your accomplishments. It is a happy medium between your formal resume (which hopefully does not include any photos) and your Facebook (which probably showcases too many photos). Use a simple and professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile. It takes 30 seconds to upload a photo and it makes a huge difference in how others view you on LinkedIn.

You should NEVER post a photo that has alcohol in it. This also goes for any vacation photos, group photos (how are we supposed to know who you are?) and any obviously cropped photos. It is not professional to have a photo with the top of someone else’s head in it while you are squished in next to another someone’s elbow. Just your face. That’s it.

Connecting with no prior introduction

Lastly, although LinkedIn is for networking, this does not mean you should go around connecting to others if you do not know them. If you think you know someone through a friend, have that friend connect you on LinkedIn. If you are applying to a job, apply to that job. Don’t connect to the poster of the job if you have absolutely no prior relationship with them. It is very obvious when someone you do not know tries to connect with you- it is intrusive and you are less likely to accept the request. Set yourself up for success and don’t attempt to connect with random people.

What is the biggest blunder you have seen on LinkedIn? Share in the comments below.

Nostalgic IE Ad is Spot On

This Internet Explorer ad was uploaded to YouTube yesterday and it hits all the right spots for me. Pogs, bowl cuts, and Tomagachis all add to this great image about how we have all grown out of the 90′s– and so has Internet Explorer. Maybe enough to convince me to try it?

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I am excited to start off 2014 with a new perspective.

I have a new design for my website, thanks to my friend Jeff at Quick to Impress Inc. They did a great job! Just by requesting a color scheme and explaining the purpose of my site, QTI was able to create a custom theme and implement it for me quickly. I strongly recommend using QTI for any web design, development, SEO, CMS, or mobile projects.

Thanks to this awesome new design, I am pledging to blog more in 2014. Please follow me on Twitter for my latest updates.

3 Cool Ways to Use Video for Instagram

Many were intrigued to see how the new ‘Instavideo’ feature was going to pan out in comparison to Vine. Despite the two having the main similarity of being a social clip video service, this doesn’t mean that one can replace the other.

Instavideos do not loop, however they offer 15 seconds of footage.  This seems like an eternity, as Viners are limited to 6 seconds of looped footage. This requires that Viners to get a little more creative and get to the point quicker. I find there is more comedic content on Vine, while video for Instagram gives more informative and thoughtful content. Instagram allows artsy filters and the option to upload existing video onto the platform. It is also easier to edit an video for Instagram and re-do a scene that did not work as planned.

While there is room for comedy on video for Instagram, it seems that Instavideo is a good platform for interacting with fans, sharing news, and taking beautiful sights to a new level.

Here are 3 accounts that I think are really rocking video for Instagram.

1. Nellcote

Nellcote is an Italian-French fusion restaurant on legendary Randolph Street in Chicago. They use Instagram to showcase backstage and fan-shared photos of food and the beautiful decor of the restaurant. They also often have Twitter based contests. I loved the way that they used video for Instagram to announce the winner of a free brunch:

2. MTV

MTV is pretty self-explanatory. The legendary television station has to find ways to constantly be on the same page as its young fan base. I love how every morning they upload a short video showing 3 news items the viewer may have missed the night before.

3. Stone Grether

This Portland-based musician is someone I have followed since the early days of my Instagram account. He shares beautiful scenery of Oregon and it makes me nostalgic for hiking and the outdoors when I am stuck in the middle of Chicago.

Follow Nellcote, MTV, and Stone Grether.

Instagram for b2b versus b2c

Instagram seems to be the social media channel that is on everyone’s lips. Since its acquisition by Facebook, everyone seems to be interested in how to use Instagram for their business and see if there is actual value that can be derived from it. At first glance, it appears that Instagram is easier to use for b2c companies rather than b2b companies. b2c companies have it easy- they can show off their products to their consumers who use Instagram on a personal level. b2c end users are more likely to see your brand on the channel, like your pictures and engage with your company.

And now our dilemma-Instagram for b2b presents a challenge for marketers. It’s not as easy to engage with other businesses, especially if they are only on Instagram just to have a presence on the network. However, something to remember that b2b companies are run by–gasp–actual people! And, those actual people sometimes act like consumers when they are operating on their personal Instagram accounts. Maybe these business owners are more likely to engage while signed into personal accounts as opposed to who ever is operating their business Instagram account–an assistant, a community manager, etc.

It’s a compelling thought and definitely worth investigating: target not only the business as your customer but also the business owner as a consumer.

So what should you show on your b2b Instagram account?

  • Your employees doing something hilarious. If you don’t have any hilarious employees, what are you doing? Kidding, but show your team and let some of your corporate personality shine through them.
  • Your warehouse. Show your customers where the magic happens.
  • How your company has grown. Do a before and after view your office before you expanded, updated, or moved offices.
  • Relevant pictures to what you are selling. This is pretty obvious. If you sell tires for commercial fleets, snap a pic of an outfitted fleet or show a pic of the open road from the driver’s seat.
  • Your logo in fun places. No one wants to see your boring old logo… keep it fun!

Make it interesting and experiment

It’s easy to get really boring as a b2b company. You can only upload pictures of your logo so many times before even YOU get tired of looking at it. You need to find a way to make it interesting and relevant to your customers. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different hashtags. Create a relevant hashtag and invite your followers or customers to participate along with you. It may be hard to engage customers- but don’t fret. Keep it interesting and engaging and the people of Instagram will reciprocate. Hashtags can also help you see if your customers are talking about you. You can search your companies name or your product to see if anyone is talking about you. Simply go to the ‘Explore’ tab on the app and type it in to see if anyone is tagging you in photos.

Another way to engage customers on Instagram is to change out the link on your profile. This link is clickable and it takes the user out of the app. This way, you are engaging the user and driving traffic to your site. You can hold promotions or let customers know about discounts in this way because you can change out this link as many times as you want. If you add a new photo, you can change the link back so that the link corresponds with the most recent photo. You can put a designated landing page in the link section to track conversions.

It goes without saying you should follow industry accounts and any competitors that are on Instagram. Engage with industry thought leaders, maybe you can get an industry hashtag going. Get your employees involved and make sure that your employees who have Instagram accounts are following you. Make sure that you have an Instagram button on your website so your customers can find you. Since Instagram was bought by Facebook, you know that it’s going to be relevant and around with consumers for a while.  Remember that even b2b customers are really just b2c users are heart. Don’t make an Instagram profile if you’re going to leave it dormant… that is a social media no-no. Lastly, you should have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to take risks! With any social media network, it’s growing and changing. Everyone is still trying to figure out what the value or Instagram is. Even if you cannot immediately see conversion or dollar signs through Instagram, there is definite value in brand recognition.

The Nitrogram Blog is a great source for Instagram for Businesses Tips
Follow me on Instagram!

Life Lessons from How I Met Your Mother

My decision to watch How I Met Your Mother started off innocently. I saw that there were seasons available to stream on Netflix and decided to start with the Pilot. Suddenly, three weeks later I was seven seasons into the show and frantically perusing the internet for illegally-uploaded copies of episodes from the current season.

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Make it happen for yourself: Ted Mosby, Architect.

While Ted has turned into one of the most frustrating characters on television (it’s time to move on from Robin, Ted), I have to give it to him- he is persistent. Whether it’s searching for his future wife or starting his own architecture firm, Ted never gives up. He knows what he wants in life and while it’s not always easy, he is not going to stop until he gets it. When he finds himself at a crossroads in his career, he decides to step up and create his own opportunity. And so, Mosbius Designs is born. Although Mosbius Designs ultimately fails as a small business, this does not deter Ted. He channels his passion for architecture into teaching and becomes a professor at a local university. When an opportunity presents itself later on in life to design a building that is later to be a prominent part of NYC’s (fictional) skyline, he jumps on board. Ted Mosby, Architect indeed.

In life, things don’t always go your way. However, if you work hard and don’t lose focus on what you are passionate about, you will have a fulfilling life. There is always a backup plan.

No regrets: Lily goes to San Francisco

Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen are the college sweethearts you just know are going to end up together forever. So imagine everyone’s surprise when Lily gets into an art summer program in San Francisco…that she applied to in secret. This was a major moment for the couple–and Lily decided not to go. That was, until she did. She knew that if she went to her program, she risked losing the love of her life. But she also knew that if she passed up this opportunity to try out something new, she would:

  1. Grow to resent herself for never discovering what might have been
  2. Grow to resent Marshall for making her choose him over new experiences
  3. Regret the life path that she chose

Lily went to San Francisco and then returned in Season 2 with her tail between her legs. She was miserable in San Francisco for 3 months, but who knows how miserable she would grow to be years down the line if she never gave art a chance in her life? Fast forward to the current season, and she is an art buyer for the Captain. If she never would have gone to her art program in San Fran, she wouldn’t have had the qualifications for her current opportunity.

Don’t let opportunities pass you by. Some people would never risk their relationship over trying something new and that’s ok–for them. As scary as change is, it is essential for personal growth. Embrace change, support your loved ones, and have no regrets.

You can’t hide your past, but you can embrace it and move on: Robin Sparkles

Robin Sherbotsky has a dirty little secret. One that she keeps hidden for quite some time. When Ted and Robin date in Season 2, Robin shows discomfort at the thought of going to the mall. The truth eventually comes out: Robin was a Canadian teenage pop superstar whose hit single was “Let’s Go To The Mall.”

After this embarrassing fact about Robin comes out, she is (understandably) mortified. In fact, one of the gang, Barney, becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about Robin Sparkles. Later on in the series, after revealing that Robin Sparkles had a second hit, Robin actually gives up the music video to Barney. By then, Robin had decided that it was time to embrace her past and be honest with her friends.

You can’t change where you come from or where you’ve been, but you can change where you go. No matter what happened in your past, rise above it, spin it in your favor, and make it work so that it doesn’t plague your future.

Wait For It…

If there is one life lesson that I can gather from How I Met Your Mother, it is to have a point in everything you do, and to GET TO IT. While HIMYM has dragged on so painfully long (have Ted’s kids aged?), we understand that it was dragged on for pure entertainment value. But in life and in your career, everything you do should have a point.

Create an attainable goal, map out your plan to get there, stay on track, and become legen-wait for it-dary. Don’t waste your time at a job you know will not help you get where you want to go. Getting what you want in life does not come quickly, but if you know where you are headed, it is easier to stay on track.

5 Blogging Tips to Get a Fresh Perspective

As a writer for a blog that focuses on a very specific subject, I often find myself asking “Haven’t I written about this already?” This is a common issue for most content producers as the demand for new, interesting, and engaging content rises.  Sometimes it feels like there is only so much you can say about one topic! The real challenge here is finding a different angle and story so that the writing doesn’t become boring and monotone, especially to you. If you are bored by your own content, the chances are that others will be too. Don’t fret- there are a few ways to get a fresh look at a tired subject.

  1. Talk to someone ignorant about the subject. Ask a friend who knows nothing about your topic what they think about it when they hear your keyword or subject. It will be interesting to hear what people first think of when they think of your topic. This should give you a fresh set of eyes to approach your subject.
  2. Look at what you have written in the past. Determine what all of your posts have in common. Are they all list posts? Are they informative pieces? Decide what your normal writing style on the subject is and then attempt the opposite. While you don’t want to change your writing style completely, thinking in a different way will give you a different angle.
  3. Check out your competitor’s blogs. Read what your competitors are putting out there and emulate- but do it better. Obviously you can’t plagiarize their exact copy, but if they are your competitor there is bound to be some industry overlap. Take their ideas and build on them… write the better version of their article!
  4. Write about something else completely. Take your mind off the subject and write about something that is fun and interesting to you. When you finally come back to writing about your topic, your mind will be relaxed and it won’t seem as monotonous as it did before.
  5. Use a generator to help create titles. Use sites like Uber or Generator Land to get your creative juices flowing with title ideas. Type in a keyword on Uber to get a ton of ideas for titles and go from there.

Writer’s block is one thing, but its another issue altogether when you are completely bored of writing about a specific topic. Hopefully these tips will help you get over your ‘topic slump’ and can help get the content machine chugging along again!