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Working at home can provide a lot of flexibility. You can work when you feel like it, and if you have children, you can schedule your work day around their activities. Unfortunately, working at home can also be a challenge if you don’t know how to organize your time and become distracted. If you want to successfully work from home, you have to know how to get ready for work each day and to stay professional, focused, and organized. If you want to know how to work from home, just follow these steps.
Get dressed for work as if you are leaving the house. By doing this, you are transitioning yourself from home to work mode. Additionally, if you dress for work, you will take yourself more seriously and maintain a work place attitude. Working in your pajamas and slippers will only motivate you to go back to bed.
Eat before you work. Have breakfast and your coffee and tea at your kitchen table, just as you would if you were leaving the house for work. Don’t wake up late and eat at your computer, or you’ll be blending your “getting ready” routine with your work routine.
Prepare to work in your designated work space. Whether you’re lucky enough to have a home office or just a desk in your house, you need to clear off an area that is meant only for working. You should have a desk that has only the things on it that you would keep in your desk at an office, and you should be working in a clean space just as you would in an office.
Write down your schedule for the day, week, and month. If you’re working a full-time position which requires you to work 40 hours a week, have a goal of working regular hours, from 9 to 5 or so. You can start a little earlier or end a little earlier if it suits your needs, but you should be available during business hours so you can communicate with your colleagues.
- Keep a planner at your desk where you will mark the hours that you will work every day, along with any planned lunches, meetings, and even scheduled breaks.
- Every morning, before you dig in to work, review your planner to get a better sense of what your week and month will look like. If you have a lot of meetings set up for the end of the week, you should try to work a bit more at the beginning of the week to balance them out.
Maintain a killer to-do list. Having a to-do list will make you feel more organized and less tempted to slack off or multi-task. You should keep a to-do list that has three separate lists: things you need to get done that day, things that you need to get done the next day, and things that you need to get done that week. That way, if you get a jump start on the day’s work, you can move on to completing the tasks for the next day or the ones that just need to get done that week.
- You can designate certain tasks for certain days. For example, you can do all of your filing on Mondays, spend most of your Tuesdays communicating with your clients, start new projects on Wednesdays, and so on.
- You can reward yourself every time you check off an item from your to-do list. If each task takes about an hour to complete, tell yourself you’ll have a snack, quickly check your email, or go for a 10-minute walk when you complete it.
Be savvy with your equipment. Being able to successfully work from home means that you will be the master of your computer, phone, and fax system. These will be your lifelines and if you want to succeed in an at-home professional environment, you won’t be able to ask anyone for help. Therefore, before you jump into working from home, you should know the ropes at your home work station.
- Have a firm understanding of any programs your office relies on, such as Google Docs or Excel. Poke around on those programs during your spare time and make sure you know exactly what to do during work hours so you don’t get bogged down.
- Learn to love your computer. You should know exactly how to make your computer work as efficiently as possible. If you’re serious about working on your computer, you may invest in a second monitor, which has been shown to boost productivity.
- Be the master of your phone. You should have a cordless landline phone to avoid any potential problems getting cell phone reception. Learn how to use your phone for conference calls, and how to use the all-important mute button.
- Be one with your printer. Learn how to print, fax, and scan all documents quickly and keep reserves of paper on hand at all times.
Keep an organized desk at all times. Your desk should be just as neat and organized as it would be if you were working from home. The only personal things on your desk should be the same photos or mementos that you would bring to the desk in your office. Your desk should be spacious enough for you to comfortably place your computer on it and leave room for papers and office supplies.
- Keep a cup with pens and pencils on your desk. Every month, go through them and throw out any writing implements that no longer work.
- Have an outstanding filing system. Whether you keep your files in your desk drawer or the filing cabinet next to your desk, you should organize all of your important papers in different and clearly-labeled folders and you should know exactly where your papers are.
- You can keep a filing tray on your desk where you place important documents that need to be filed, but makes sure to file them at the end of the day or week so you don’t get bogged down.
- Keep office supplies handy. Staplers, highlighters, and post-it notes should all be on your desk or in your top drawer, so you don’t spend an hour looking for them.
- Don’t forget to go ergonomic. If you spent all of your time at your desk, make sure you have a chair that supports your back, and a keyboard and mouse that don’t hurt your wrists. If you’re typing all day, consider investing in an ergonomic sideways mouse or a split keyboard.
Don’t do personal things during work hours. Though you may be tempted to complete other errands or chores while you’re working, or even to set up a personal engagement, it’s not professional to mix your errands with your actual work. You may feel that this saves time, but you’ll actually be losing time by trying to get everything done at once.
- If you have errands to run, don’t get up in the middle of your work day to do them. You can quickly try to do an errand like running to the post office during your lunch break, just as you would during work.
- Avoid the temptation to clean your home. Though you may want to scrub down your floors and put away your dishes during a conference call, this will actually distract you from communicating with your colleagues and listening to what they have to say.
- Don’t spend an hour catching up with your best friend on the phone, or hanging out with your friends during the day. You can catch up with a friend during a quick lunch break, but don’t socialize too much during the day or you’ll get off track. You wouldn’t spend an hour catching up with a friend on the phone if you came in to the office, would you?
- Avoid texting your friends with silly messages during work hours. This will slow you down tremendously.
Maintain professional communication over the phone and Skype. To be professional when you work at home, you need to have top-notch communication skills. When you have a phone conference, you should be even more prepared than your colleagues who work at the office because you’ll need to speak up to get heard and make sure that people know who you are even though you work from home.
- When you talk on the phone with colleagues, make sure there are no distractions. Go to a quiet place and make sure your kids or family members don’t interfere.
- Set up a Skype-friendly environment. Chances are that you’ll be using Skype a lot for your conferences, so make sure you set up your computer in a space with a lot of light and with a plain, pleasant background.
Don’t let friends and family interfere with your work schedule. Your friends and family may not understand that “working from home” means “actually working.” They may call you just to chat during business hours, or invite you out for a long brunch or even ask for a favor because they don’t understand that you actually need to be at your desk and take your work seriously.
- First, communicate the importance of your schedule to your friends and family. Tell them to call you only if it’s important — just as they would call you at the office.
- If you have children, create a schedule that works around their schedule so you have designated work hours when you don’t need to be picking them up, making them lunch, or tucking them in for a nap. Don’t try to do your work at the same time as you’re taking care of your family.
Stay connected. Though you’re working from home, you should still get to know your colleagues and to develop professional relationships with them. This will make it easier for you to work with them and you’ll feel more excited about coming to work. Here are a few things you can do to stay connected while working from home:
- Make sure that you can be easily reached at all times. Check your email and work chat program (if you have one) as often as possible and keep Skype open on your phone if you use the program often and need to leave the house. Your colleagues should feel that you’re just as accessible as someone sitting next door.
- If you can, visit your office from time to time so people know who you are. Take the time to meet the people you’ve been talking to, and let them know how much you appreciate them. If you regularly come in to the office for meetings, make yourself known by making great points and asking questions.
Make a distinction between your professional life and your home life. One of the downsides of working from home is that everything you need to work will be available to you. This means that you can work every single hour of the day if you wanted to. However, if you want to stay sane, you have to set designated work hours, and be determined not to do some extra work in the evenings or early mornings when you’re supposed to spend time with your family.
- If you think of something that needs to be done for work after your work day is over, write it on your to-do list and get to it the next day.
- To help create this distinction, you can change out of your work clothes into your everyday or relaxing clothes after work, so you feel less inclined to spend more time at the office.
Change your environment to avoid getting distracted. If you have the kind of job that you can do absolutely anywhere as long as you have a computer, try taking your work to a coffee shop one day a week and see how it feels. If you feel more focused and organized in this type of work environment, and less tempted to do chores or text your friends, then maybe this is a better work environment for you than your actual home.
Don’t spend too much time browsing the Internet. Though you may spend all day at work online, don’t get distracted by checking your email, Facebook, favorite news sources, or any other favorite websites too often. Though you may not think that clicking on your five favorite websites every five minutes is making you lose time, that time not only adds up, but keeps you from fully focusing on your tasks.
- Reward yourself by letting yourself browse the Internet every hour or so, when you need a break.
- If you really need your email to stay connected at work, then leave it open, but if you don’t get any urgent messages, try to check it every half hour or hour or so.
- Do not chat with your friends while you’re working. This will slow you down exponentially.
Avoid multi-tasking. Though you may think that multi-tasking will help you get more things done and finish your work day faster, you’ll actually be more focused if you complete one type of work at a time. Go down your to-do list one item at a time, and you’ll be shocked by how much faster you’ll get things done than if you try to finish four things at once.
Take occasional breaks. Taking a break from time to time will actually help you stay focused. Let’s face it — no one spends eight hours straight working in an office, and neither should you. You should do something to take a sanity break every hour, whether it’s to munch on an apple, take a short walk, or just read on your porch and breathe in some fresh air. Taking breaks will actually make you more focused when you do get back to work.
- Try to go out for lunch or to pick up lunch as often as you can. Though you may spend some money paying for lunch, getting into this routine will help you stay refreshed and will split up your work day.
- Make a goal of leaving the house at least once a day. You’ll start to get cabin fever if you don’t leave your house at all.
- Rest your eyes. If you’ve been staring at a monitor all day, take at least a five-minute break to rest your eyes to avoid straining them and getting a headache.
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Flea markets can be a great way to make some extra money, especially if you make your own goods. Knowing how to get approved as a flea market vendor, the best way to set up your booth, and how to get the most of your selling time are all important parts of becoming a flea market vendor.
Register for a sales certificate. The exact documentation you’ll need is different in every state, but you’ll have to register for a sales or tax permit with your state’s Tax Department. This basically allows you to charge sales tax on your sales. Almost all states require that you have these to sell at a flea market, and the flea market will likely require them as well.
- You must obtain the tax certificate before you plan on selling, although how far in advance depends on the state.
- Some states have different types of tax certificates – some are the same no matter how long you’re selling for, some issue temporary certs depending on how frequently you sell.
- When in doubt, ask the flea market you’re selling at – they can usually tell you what you need.
Check out nearby flea markets. If you live in an area that has multiple flea markets, you might want to spend a few weekends checking them out and deciding where you’d like to sell. If there’s only one flea market near you, you should still go – it will give you some necessary information before you begin selling there.
Ask what booth rent is. All flea markets will charge you a fee to rent booth space in the market. This rate varies from market to market, so make sure you know what that rate is up front.
- Some markets have daily or monthly rates. If you’ve never sold at a flea market before, you might want to pay for just one day until you know if you want to commit to a full month.
- Some markets also have booth space in a covered area. They charge more for these spaces, but you’ll be protected from weather.
Decide where you’d like your booth to be. Checking out the flea market you want to sell at before you register for a booth is helpful because it can help you find the best spot for your booth.
Register for a booth. Once you’ve decided which flea market you’d like to sell at, find out how you go about registering for a booth and reserving your space. Some flea markets will let you pay and reserve a spot in advance, and some give out booth space on a first-come-first-serve basis. Make sure you know how your flea market does it.
Acquire inventory. If you already make a product – jewelry, soap, or candles, for example – you should make sure you have enough product stored up to sell. You don’t want to get to the market and run out right away. If you don’t make a product, you can acquire inventory by purchasing items from garage sales and thrift stores.
- A good way to start an inventory is by hosting your garage or rummage sale at the flea market. Bring all of the stuff you’d sell at a garage sale and sell it from your booth instead. This gives you inventory to start with and also eliminates the need for you to advertise the garage sale – flea markets will advertise themselves.
Calculate prices. You want to make sure that you can make a profit on the things you sell. You should calculate ahead of time how much it cost you to make (or buy) the products you’re selling and then how much of a profit you’d like to make off of them. Adding those two amounts together will give you your selling price.
Price all of your items. Once you’ve calculated prices for your inventory, make sure you have clearly marked prices on all of your goods. You don’t want to get to the flea market, have someone ask you how much something is, and then realize you have no idea.
Acquire supplies. You’ll need quite an extensive list of supplies to get your booth prepped for your first sale. You’ll need a table (or tables) to display your goods, a chair (for you to sit on while you’re selling), coverings for the table, racks if you sell clothes, pens, shopping bags for your customers, a calculator and cash box, a receipt book, any display cases you might want to use, and umbrella if it rains (or a canopy if you can afford it), hand sanitizer, business cards, and stuff to keep you occupied.
- Make sure you know the exact measurements of your booth before you get your supplies together. You don’t want to arrive at the flea market only to discover that you can’t sell anything because your tables don’t fit.
- Check with the flea market to see if they have a list of prohibited items, or rules about booths are decorated.
Arrive early. You can assume that customers will be ready and waiting to hit the booths as soon as the flea market opens. That means you might need to arrive at the flea market quite early to have enough time to prep your booth and make sure you’re ready to sell.
Post your return policy. Make sure that you have a return policy – do you accept same day exchanges or returns? Do you require a receipt for returns? Are all sales final? – figured out before someone asks about it. It should also be clearly displayed in your booth so that your customers can see it.
Organize your merchandise. Even if you don’t sell one type of item, you can keep your merchandise organized by placing similar items together. So all the clothing should be grouped together – by size – all of the jewelry, all of the knickknacks, etc. This will help your customers more easily find what they’re looking for.
Create different display areas. Since you’ll be covering your table with a cloth, you can use a lot of different objects to adjust the height of your display in different places. Boxes are a good way to add height and highlight merchandise you think might sell well. You can also use whatever bins or crates you use to transport your merchandise to the flea market.
Accept more than one payment method. With things like Square, it’s easy to take credit card information right at your table, so you’re not restricted by cash-only sales. It also has the added benefit of creating receipts that you can send directly to your customers, rather than having to handprint one.
Rearrange merchandise regularly. If you notice some of your merchandise isn’t getting much attention or if you notice that something is getting a lot of attention but is buried in the back of your booth, rearrange your merchandise.
- You should also rearrange your merchandise as you sell it, either by restocking or rearranging what you already have out so you don’t have an obvious bare spot.
- Don’t rearrange too often, however. You don’t want a customer to come looking for something they saw earlier in the day and then not be able to find it.
Give good customer service. People will be more likely to come to your booth and look around at what you have if you seem open to conversation. Look – and actually be! – willing to answer your customer’s questions or describe the certain characteristics or value of particular items.
Be prepared to haggle. Some people come to flea markets expecting the prices on merchandise to be a starting point for haggling, rather than a set price. Not everyone does this, but some people will. Know ahead of time how much you’re willing to come down on prices and what your absolute minimum is, and don’t be afraid to stick to it.
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Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your social security number, to open credit card accounts, purchase things, drain your bank account, or even file income taxes. In 2012 more than 12.6 million people reported that they were the victims of identity theft. Given the dramatic increase in identity theft, a number of businesses began offering services to protect against these crimes. These services range from credit monitoring to helping people rebuild and reclaim their identity after theft. While some people may feel most comfortable paying someone else to protect their identity, there are also steps that everyone can take to protect their own identity.
Read online reviews. If you performed an internet search for “identity theft protection,” a number of companies would be listed in your search results. While you may not know which company to choose, consumer agencies and other groups have evaluated and reviewed these companies. You should begin the process of choosing identity theft protection by reading a number of reviews and then by choosing several companies to look at more closely.
- You can find reviews at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/privacy/ and http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/06/12/who-really-offers-the-best-identity-theft-protecti.aspx.
- Some of the top ranked identity theft providers include: LifeLock; Privacy Guard; Equifax ID Patrol; Protect my ID; Identity Guard; Identity Force; and ID Shield.
Compare identity theft protection services. Companies specializing in identity theft protection may offer numerous services that you can purchase. You should read the website for each company that you have chosen to look more closely at and do a side-by-side comparison of the services that each company offers, as well as the cost of those services. This allows you to examine what services may best meet your needs and what services you can actually afford. Services are typically bundled together for a monthly price and may include:
- Credit monitoring to ensure that no new accounts have been opened in your name. If you are concerned about a data breach or you want monthly checks, this service may be good for you.
- Replacement services, that assist individuals in acquiring new driver’s licenses or passports after an identity has been compromised. If you were burglarized or you lost your wallet, the service may be helpful.
- Reimbursement for stolen goods caused by identity theft.
- Identity theft insurance, which includes support from service agents or attorneys to assist you in recovering from identity theft. If you are concerned about a data breach that included an identity thief gaining access to your personal information, this ongoing insurance may be useful.
- Lost wages reimbursement for time that you needed to take off of work to deal with identity theft.
- Services to safeguard your personal information from identity thieves, including computer software to protect your computer from being hacked or online services to minimize the dissemination of your personal information. These services may monitor the dark web for someone selling your information, which may occur before you are aware that your personal information has been stolen.
- Services to help fix problems caused by identity theft, such as blocking errors to credit reporting agencies and businesses.
Evaluate identity theft protection companies’ websites. Once you have narrowed down the list of services that you want to purchase and companies that offer those services. It is very important to closely scrutinize the content of each company’s websites. A number of these businesses have been shown to use exaggerated or misleading content to lure unsuspecting consumers into purchasing unneeded services. When evaluating a company offering identity theft protection, look for the following:
- Avoid companies that state or imply that they can completely protect you from identity theft. There is no company that can provide this guarantee truthfully.
- Avoid providers that only stress the worst-case scenario. While there is a significant threat of identity theft, not everyone will become a victim and even if your identity is stolen, you may be able to manage the consequences.
- Avoid providers that do not clearly provide information about the company.
Select a company that clearly identifies which sources it monitors. It is important for you to choose a company that clearly states the sources it will examine during credit monitoring. You want a company that is monitoring all three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, as well as other public records sources and websites. The company should also state how often it monitors these sources.
Review the company’s pricing plan. A good company will provide you with the cost of each service before asking for your payment information. Most companies will provide tiered protection, which means that as you are willing to pay more money, the company offers you additional services. You should be suspicious of any company that does not clearly identify the pricing for each service.
Review the guarantees or insurance offered by identity theft protection.Carefully review all guarantees or insurance to see what is actually covered by the policy and whether there are any limits on the policy. A 1 million dollar coverage guarantee will only help you if your type of loss is included.
Take steps to protect your identity. Although identify theft can happen to anyone, there are steps that you can take to minimize your risk. Most importantly, you can be aware of documents that contain your identifying information and make sure that you dispose of these items appropriately. When taking steps to protect your identity, consider the following:
- Review your credit card and bank statements carefully and often to check for transactions that you did not make.
- If you receive bills in the mail, be aware of when the bills generally show up. If the bill does not show up, someone may have taken it to gain access to your personal information.
- Make sure all of the claims paid by your health insurance company match appointments or treatment that you or your family received. Identity thieves have been known to place themselves on someone’s health insurance policy.
- Shred all documents with personal identifying information and financial information before discarding them.
- Review your three free credit reports at least once a year. You can access your free credit reports at: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
Monitor your credit reports. If you cannot afford identity theft protection or you choose not to purchase identity theft protection, there are a number of steps that you can take to provide your own identity theft protection. One of the most important steps is to routinely monitor your credit reports. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- In order to maximize your free protection, you should request one report every four months. This way you can use your three free reports to monitor the entire year.
- You can request your free credit reports at: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
- You are entitled to an additional free report from each agency 90 days after you have placed a fraud alert on your credit file. You want to place a fraud alert if someone has stolen your wallet or social security card, or if you were notified of a data breach that included your personal identifying information.
- If you believe that your minor child may be the victim of identity theft, you can request a credit report using the child’s social security number. The credit bureaus may have specific instructions for you to follow when running a report on a minor child.
Consider placing a credit freeze. If you believe your identity information has been compromised, you can place a credit freeze with the credit bureaus. This makes it much harder for someone to open an account in your name because all companies run credit checks before offering a line of credit. The credit freeze prevents these checks and most companies will not provide a line of credit without a credit check.
- If you want to open a new line of credit when a freeze is in place, you will have to follow the instructions from each credit bureau on how to temporarily lift the freeze.
- You should consider placing a freeze if someone gained access to your social security number.
- You can also place a credit freeze if someone gained access to your minor child’s social security number
Utilize free credit monitoring. If your bank, insurance company or credit card offers free credit monitoring you should take advantage of the program. Often these institutions will run monthly credit reports and email you updates as to whether there was an activity through the credit agencies. You should still pull your own credit reports for each credit bureau once a year since these free monitoring services sometimes only use one credit bureau.
Change your passwords and login information. If you believe that someone gained access to your login and password information you should immediately change your password and your username, if you are able. If the website contains any financial information, such as a saved credit card, you should review your credit card charges and notify your credit card company of a potential breach.
Review credit card and bank statements regularly. You should regularly check your bank and credit card statements to make sure that no one misused your card. If you find a suspicious transaction, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
Determine whether you already have identity theft protection. Some banks and credit card companies offer their customers free identity theft coverage. This coverage may include monthly credit monitoring, which is when the bank checks to see whether any new accounts were opened in your name or if anyone ran a credit check on you. Call your local bank and credit card company to see whether they offer this service for free and if so you should sign up for the program.
Understand the types of identity theft services. If you are contemplating purchasing identity theft protection, it is important for you to be a knowledgeable consumer so that you aren’t taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses. Identity theft protection can include a number of services, such as:
- Credit monitoring to determine whether someone fraudulently opened an account in your name.
- Monitoring of black market websites to see whether someone is attempting to sell your identity information.
- Assist in cancelling credit cards and replacing lost or stolen identification.
- Reduction of pre-approved credit card offers to minimize the risk that someone will take the offer and open an account in your name.
- Insurance or a monetary guarantee that if you do become the victim of identity theft, the company will work to restore your identity.
- Freeze or lock your credit report so that no one can access your identifying information without your knowledge.
Recognize the warning signs of identity theft. There is no identity theft protection company can truthfully guarantee that it can completely protect you from identity theft. It is important that you not only take steps to reduce your risk but also be aware of the warning signs that your identity may have been stolen. These signs include:
- You receive a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
- Your health insurance notifies you of a denial in coverage for a condition for which you did not seek treatment.
- There are withdrawals from your bank account that you did not make.
- Businesses refuse to take your checks to pay for goods.
- You receive calls from debt collectors for items that you did not purchase or accounts that you did not open.
- You receive bills for services that you did not use.
- There are unfamiliar accounts listed on your credit report.
- You were notified by a company that there was a data breach and that someone may have gained access to your personal identifying information.
- There are six types of Identity Theft:
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