Working from Home: Striking the Right Balance Between Work and Family

I get asked this one a lot — balancing a successful writing business with four kids and a life isn’t easy, but if you don’t carve out some time for things you enjoy, you’ll go crazy. Striking the right balance between work, self and home can keep you from becoming a frazzled, stressed out mess. If you’re a freelancer (or want to be one), then the quality of your work will also improve when you are not trying to cram too many things into an already packed schedule.

Finding a Balance between Work and Family

Anyone who works needs to find a balance between the professional commitments and family life – but it can be much more difficult to do so if you work from home. When you have an office to go to, you automatically have a built in “start” and “stop” time. When your office is your dining room, you can find yourself wandering in there to do “just one thing” multiple times per day and night. How do you strike the right balance between working at home and family time? These tips will help:

Schedule dedicated work hours: Believe it or not, setting firm work hours each day will actually help you spend more time with the family. How? When you can work uninterrupted, you can work quickly and efficiently. Every interruption, even “Where are my socks?” or “I can’t find my book” will disrupt your train of thought and actually prolong the amount of time you spend working – or trying to work.

This became far easier when my youngest started pre-school; until then I had to rely on sitters and working odd hours to get stuff done. Training the family really helps you focus on work — and then leave that work behind when you are done.

Your missing sock is not an emergency.

My kids are used to hearing “Is anyone actively bleeding or on fire?” If not, then don’t interrupt!

Leave the office behind: When you’ve completed your tasks for the day or the hours you planned on working, close the door on your office, even if it is only figuratively. Don’t check your email, leave the laptop closed and resist the impulse to return one last phone call. You’ll be able to dedicate all of your attention to the family and not stress about what you might still need to do.

This one really helps, particularly if you have a home office. When you can get away from the physical place you work it is easier to focus on real life. Once that workplace collides with home, it is a lot more difficult. If you wouldn’t drive back to the office to work on something, don’t do it from home outside of your chosen hours, either.

Grab an extra hour: You can’t add an extra hour into the day –sorry, we each just get 24, and you have to sleep sometime—but you can add a work hour when everyone else is sleeping. If you’re an early bird, get up one hour before anyone else, and get to work. Night owl? Schedule some tasks for after the kids go to bed, and enjoy dinner and bedtime together.

I seriously hate mornings, but since I need to drive the kids to school anyway, getting up an hour earlier did wonders for my schedule and life balance. If you have not yet read The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), I strongly recommend it. It turned this night owl into a morning person for sure! (Well, the ideas in the book and lots and lots of coffee).


Outsource: Consider hiring someone else to do tasks for you. You can outsource professional tasks or home tasks. From a weekly cleaning service to virtual assistant (VA) services, web design or even social media support, outsourcing some tasks can help you build your business without overbooking your time. Right now I am using outsourcing for my VA. professional editing and  Pinterest management and am desperately in search of an awesome cleaning service.

Balancing work and family when you work at home isn’t easy, but it can be done – and when you figure out what works for you, the whole family will be happier.


Note: This post contains affiliate links to products or books I love and recommend!


Network Security: Is your Business at Risk?

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime costs the US economy about $445 billion each year. SMBs are particularly at risk, since they often lack the funds needed for dedicated network security. The benefits of cloud computing, increased mobility and cooperative networks allows SMBs to do more than ever before, but may also be exposing small businesses to risk. From your own employees to the apps your workers use, your mobile devices could be exposing your network to criminals seeking to steal your data or cause you harm. Becoming familiar with some of the most common network security issues faced by SMBs can help you protect your business and prevent a costly breach or hacking attempt.

SMBs Largest Security Challenges

Employees and your Network

According to network security experts at IBM, human error accounts for business data theft and security breaches the majority of the time; about 95% of problems can be traced back to employee error. You don’t have to have a malicious insider lurking inside your business to be harmed by your employees; most fall prey to phishing scams or malware and inadvertently let an outsider access your network.

Employee security risks take many forms:

Using mobile devices as part of your business network doesn’t eliminate your risk; it may actually increase it, since employees have more ways to access your systems and more ways to accidently let an outsider in. Education about security and the importance of password protection and device protection is a must if you want to avoid falling victim to a hacking scheme. Creating and enforcing data protection policies in the workplace can also help mitigate your risk of loss due to employee error.

Ransomware and Malware is on the Rise

In March 2016, the Horry County School District in South Carolina ended up paying over $10,000 to regain access to their own network. Hackers used a form of ransomware to lock the district out of their own data – and only restored them after the ransom was paid in Bitcoin.

By convincing an employee or insider to download a file (sometimes featuring celebrity images or popular films), the hacker can also send along malicious files. Once installed, you’ll be facing a variety of scenarios, form a full shutdown to a ransomware attempt like the one experienced by administrators in Horry County.

Ransomware is not restricted to computer networks; if you have any kind of network and someone gains access via a virus, they can easily lock you out of your own systems. Education and the management of devices, including BYOD products, is a must if you want to avoid struggling with this growing threat.

 Failure to Backup

Less than half of all SMBs properly and regularly backup their data; this approach ensures that the loss of a device or a network breach is particularly disastrous. According to figures from the Ponemon Institute, 62% of business owners had no plan for data recovery in the event of a disaster, breach or theft of their devices. Simply creating regular backups and opting for cloud storage can protect your business from a variety of issues and ensure that even if your phone is lost or stolen, you can still operate your business as usual.

Lack of Policy Increases Risk

67% of SMBs allow employees to download non-vetted apps onto devices used to access the company network, according to a recent report by IBM. These third party apps could be benign, or could be harboring a virus. Since apps for mobile devices can literally be installed at the touch of a button and are fully equipped to access all parts of that device, including sensitive files and identification information, unvetted third party apps pose a significant risk to SMBs and networks. A mobile device policy that covers not only the physical protection of the device itself but strictly outlines the types of applications that can be downloaded onto the device is a must for a secure network.

SMB Data Protection Solutions

Your network consists of more than just your office computers; any device that can connect to your system is a potential risk; simply being aware of who is accessing your network via what device can help you make the best decisions about protection.

  • Any device that accesses your network needs to be physically secure and use a password or pin that can’t be easily guessed or transferred to an outsider.
  • Anti-malware and virus protections need to be installed on all devices, including BYOD models.
  • Educate employees about the importance of data and device protection and institute protocols for lost or stolen devices.

Understanding that all devices that are equipped to connect with your network have the potential to harm that network and taking proactive steps to mitigate risk can help protect your business from cybercrime. Education and awareness training for employees and a firm, enforced mobile device policy is a must for any SMB using cloud technology; while regular backups offer options in the event of a breach.

Taking steps now to learn about cybercrime and protect your business can prevent a costly breach from taking away the business you’ve worked so hard to grow.

Want a piece like this one for your managed services or security blog? I love writing about tech and network security! Let’s chat about your goals and what the right content can do for you.

Unique Selling Proposition: What is it, and Why do I Need One?

What is a unique selling proposition – and why does your business need one? Your value proposition is what sets you apart in a crowded marketplace and what allows you to appeal to your target prospects. Every competing business in your field is after the same group of customers, so your unique selling proposition (USP) is what makes you unique and what appeals most to your prospects. Correctly identifying your target customer and then crafting a unique value proposition that they just can’t resist will allow you to stand out and thrive in a crowded marketplace.

Creating your Own Unique Value Proposition

It doesn’t happen overnight, but the time you spend now correctly developing your USP and really defining your product and customer will pay off in the long run. You know you have an amazing product or service but this process allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of how you can best appeal to consumers and where to invest your marketing efforts.

Start with your Audience

Who is your target customer? How do they spend their time? Are they male or female, buying for themselves or someone else – and what is motivating them to make that purchase? How old are they — and what concerns them most? A 20 year old college student will have far different concerns and goals than a just-turned 50 year old professional. It’s tempting to think that your product has such wide appeal that everyone will love it, but really taking the time to define your target audience ensures that you are directing your efforts in the right way.

Ideally, you’ll be able to come up with a complete image of your target audience and be able to define them in a few short sentences. If you are selling a home organization system, your target persona will likely be female with children in the home, but you need to look even closer.

Is she worried about the budget every month or can she afford simple luxuries? What does she do to treat herself, and what does a typical day look like for her? Answering these questions can help you correctly target your market and make sure that you are presenting your product to a group that wants it, can afford it and is likely to purchase it in the near future.

Learn from your Competition

They may not offer the same product you do (your business is unique, after all), but you do have competition targeting the same market you are. Taking the time to look at how your competitors big and small are relaying their message to your target audience helps in several ways:

  • You see what resonates with your target prospects, without spending any actual cash
  • You gain an understanding of the messages your targets are used to receiving, so you can develop ways to stand out in a crowded market
  • You learn how your product can fill a need for this group that is not already being met

You can also use that competition to stand out – if everyone in your area is approaching customers in the same way, novel approaches to marketing and messaging will help your brand stand out.

What is your Message?

What is your brand’s mission and what one thing do you want buyers and prospects to know? How will you improve their lives? Distill your offering to one simple sentence and you can build your efforts around this concept. Do you help buyers feel better about themselves? Help them save time or money? Beautify or simplify their lives? Get to the heart of how your product helps your customer and you’ll find your unique selling proposition.

Make a list of the key benefits of your product or service – -basically the “why” people buy and what they get from their purchase. Your list could be hundreds of items long or just a few key points; getting these ideas down on paper can help you refine your unique value proposition and understand what resonates with your buyers. You do not have to go it alone; your employees and current customers may also be able to provide valuable input – a survey can help you gain essential information about your product and buyers.

Once you have that one, pure message, you can begin to build your marketing plan around it. Your unique value proposition isn’t going to just pop into your head in 10 minutes – give yourself plenty of time to work it out and to really think about how you will position your brand. The more time you spend on this step, the more successful your marketing efforts will be.

Ideally, your USP should be one sentence that defines your brand and makes you stand out from everyone else.

Incorporate your Unique Selling Proposition into your Marketing

Once you have your value proposition, put it to work for your business. Every printed material, blog, tweet and post your business makes needs to relay your value proposition in some way. This will not happen overnight, but by constantly being aware of your message and seeking out new ways to relay it to your customer, you give your marketing team something solid to work with. Over time, your value proposition should permeate every aspect of your business; customers should be able to instantly grasp your USP whether they are visiting your website, following you on social media or viewing a video you’ve produced.


Correctly targeting your value proposition takes time, but taking the time to work through the process can help you make a valuable, lasting connection with your target market. Once you’ve correctly identified your USP, you’ll know where your marketing and advertising efforts should be focused and avoid wasting capital on efforts that won’t really make a difference.

Once you know your USP, then creating a content strategy is pretty straightforward. I’d love to help you craft a compelling lineup of content designed to capture the attention of your prospects and convert your prospects into actual leads for your brand. Check out a ready to go content package — or send me a note to talk about content that addresses your target customers and USP can do for your brand.