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.

Writer Beware! 5 Red Flags in Content Writing Job Descriptions

Looking for work? It can be tough to get started as a freelancer, and the sheer number of fake jobs, scammers and “clients” who want content at third world rates is shocking. How can you weed out those questionable jobs on sites like Upwork? Any of these statements is a clear sign of trouble:

“This is an easy job for someone who knows what they’re doing”

“Writing this article should take you about 20 minutes”

“I can’t pay much now, but rates will go up over time”

3x stop

One of the above quotes in a job description is a “red flag” that often makes an experienced freelancer pass over the job, no matter how appealing it sounds. More than one red flag? Run far, run fast, you’re about to have a terrible experience!

Here’s a breakdown of each statement — and why it should worry you:

“This is an easy job for someone who knows what they’re doing”

Run away: The assumption is that the project is so easy that it shouldn’t take much time – if you’re good enough. As a writer considering this project, you’re immediately put on the defensive; of course you’re good enough to complete this task quickly, and you’ll feel like you need to prove it. You’ll likely find yourself justifying your content writing rates with this buyer – and the time you spend on his project if you work by the hour.

“Writing this article should take you about 20 minutes”

Run away: Someone who doesn’t write professionally likely has no idea how long something should take. This statement is almost always followed by outrageous pay rates, particularly for clients who want to pay by the hour. Expect to see this red flag accompanied by single-digit hourly rates, and don’t be surprised if the potential customer wants you to bill in 15-minute increments.

“I can’t pay much now, but rates will go up over time”

Proceed with caution: If you hired someone to work for you, and you were pleased with their work at the rate they agreed to work for, would you automatically raise the pay over time? After all, things are working out great for you – you’ve got someone you like, you’re getting the work you want, why change something that obviously works?

While you can occasionally convert a lower-paying client to a (slightly) higher-paying one, most will simply seek out another provider to do the work at the agreed-upon rate, and the cycle will begin all over again. Prepare for an uphill battle with this customer; you may be able to get them to make incremental jumps of a penny or two per word over time, but be wary if the rate is substantially lower than your comfort zone.

“I pay $2 per 500-word article, and have thousands of titles for you to write. Isn’t that awesome?”

Run away, quickly: This statement is absolute poison for two reasons. First, it is an insanely low rate for writing, and you can do better. Second, if you tie up your time working for Mr. $2-a-page, you won’t have time to look for a better-paying group of client. You’ll be too busy churning out page after page for pennies, and likely burn out very quickly.

“I need your Social Security number/credit card/password/a deposit to verify who you are”

Run away, quickly: While some big companies will require you to complete a W9, an individual who is hiring writers usually will not. You should never have to pay to be hired for a job – or reveal your Internet passwords, credit card or other personal information. Not only is there likely no job here, you may end up losing money instead of making it.

Those first few jobs are difficult to land, but falling for one of these schemes is just going to take up your time and could even end up costing you money. Legit jobs are out there — and recognizing the most frequently used scams allows you to rapidly weed out the losers.

Having trouble getting started? Carol Tice some excellent tips for new and hopeful freelance writers — if I had to start over again, this is the place I’d begin!

How to Launch, Earn, and Grow into a Well-Paid Freelancer!