Please note: this is a sponsored post presented in partnership with MailPoet.
All things considered, the chances that a first-time visitor will come to your website again are low.
The reason? Attention is a limited resource. Your website is just one entry in the browser history of the average internet user who might visit dozens or hundreds of other websites in a single day.
It’s not enough to just have great content and share it with the world. You must also give interested website visitors a clear call-to-action to subscribe for updates if you expect to see them again.
Part of this call-to-action should involve setting expectations for what people can expect to receive in their email inboxes as a result of opting in to your email updates. Besides sending offers and notifications of new blog posts, you might consider putting together an email newsletter as a way to connect with your online followers.
The Advantages of Sending a Regular Email Newsletter
Although many people would like to let you believe otherwise, email newsletters aren’t dead.
According to the Radicati Group , people sent and received 281 billion emails PER DAY in 2018, and the number is expected to grow to 333 billion in five years time. In the US alone, more than 85% of adults send and receive email, with 99% checking email daily, as much as 20 times per day!
One advantage of email over social media is that email is delivered directly to your inbox (email has a deliverability rate of 98.7%). By comparison, declining organic reach on social networks like Facebook are hovering around 0%. Unless you can outsmart the algorithm or have a budget to invest in advertising, you should not expect your message to make it through to followers.
To be sure, email marketing can take on many different formats but sending an email newsletter affords a lot of flexibility in terms of the various content you want to share with subscribers.
SaaS Email Marketing Solutions
The stack of an API + resources + an interface hosted online are now referred to as SaaS (software as a service) solutions.
SaaS solutions are complete applications that host/support multiple users from a single code base. Examples of traditional email marketing platforms include Mailchimp or MailPoet. They can take on different user interfaces and involve different integrations. For instance, MailPoet comes in a plugin form, while Mailchimp is a cloud-based SaaS service.
For someone looking to send an email newsletter, there are several email services available to choose from. One of the most popular options is Mailchimp. If you’ve built your website on WordPress, you might be curious to see how plugin-enabled email marketing options like MailPoet measure up.
Here’s what you need to know about both services, and how MailPoet vs Mailchimp compares:
Mailchimp is the most well-known email newsletter solution today. Founded in 2001, it is also one of the earliest established email marketing solutions.
People often default to Mailchimp because it offers a generous free plan for beginners who have less than 2,000 subscribers. The free plan includes all of Mailchimp’s best features, including automation (which, up until recently, involved an additional $10 charge) and landing pages. Depending on how frequently you want to communicate with your subscribers, the caveat of Mailchimp’s free plan is that it only allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month.
If you want the option to send unlimited emails, Mailchimp’s pricing depends on how many subscribers you have. For instance, anywhere between 0-500 subscribers costs $10/month for unlimited emails. Pricing also scales up when you surpass the 2000 subscriber limit in the free plan.
Mailchimp offers a lot of useful email marketing features, such as segmentation, social media integration, and ecommerce features (such as abandoned cart, product recommendation, and order notification emails). Mailchimp connects to ecommerce platforms such as Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce without requiring third-party connection services (although it’s worth noting that Mailchimp recently ceased to support a longstanding integration with Shopify).
Because Mailchimp is widely used, there are several WordPress plugins available to extend its features for various website functionalities.
To be sure, there is no shortage of email newsletter plugins to integrate email marketing capabilities with WordPress.
What makes MailPoet stand out from the crowd is the fact that it is the first email plugin for WordPress to offer its own sending service, with new releases every week. They’ve been around since 2011 with a user base that grows by over 5000 active websites per week. With MailPoet, users have the options to send emails from MailPoet’s own web host or a third-party service.
Why Your Email Should Not be Hosted with your Website
MailPoet knows that most emails do not reach people’s inboxes because they either end up in the spam box or the web host does not send the email because it’s prioritizing web hosting.
Normally, web hosts are used to send emails but because scammers can gain access via SMTP, PHP code injection, or botnets, the emails sent from your web host can easily end up in spam. Val Vesa shares an experience where hackers loaded his server with a simple PHP file that sent out spam emails, resulting in domain blacklisting. If your domain is blacklisted, traffic will reduce by up to 95% and emails will bounce.
The main reason your email shouldn’t be hosted with your website is because you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket. If your web host fails, your email will also be affected. You also don’t want to unnecessarily take up disc space that could be used for your website activities — especially if your host charges variable pricing for bandwidth use.
For instance, GoDaddy only allows users to send 250 emails per day on the regular hosting plan. This is because web hosts would rather “focus their time and energy on your hosting than the email”, according to Mika Epstein of Dreamhost. As such, another highlight of using MailPoet is their dedicated sending service, which allows users to use their web host to send emails to thousands of subscribers quickly.
Some web hosts are good at hosting, but not so good at email hosting. It also helps if you keep email separate in case you decide to switch web hosts, as it will be easier to transition to other options later on.
You don’t have to open another tab or create another account to send email newsletters or get list signups; you can do everything from your WordPress interface! MailPoet syncs with WordPress so that you don’t have to upload and re-upload images to another program — you can access images from the files you’ve already uploaded on WordPress.
MailPoet offers a simple and easy to use drag-and-drop builder; more focused design options.
With a premium account, access advanced analytics that track opens, clicks, and unsubscribes. In the future, I’m told this may become a free feature for smaller plans — stay on the lookout!
Contrary to popular belief, does not get delayed. In fact, MailPoet has high deliverability rates because even if you can opt to send emails via your web host, they have their own dedicated sending service. MailPoet delivers over 30+ million emails per month (for 7,000 users for over 300,000 websites).
MailPoet is trusted by large brands, such as SAP, TripAdvisor, and DHL.
Like Mailchimp, MailPoet offers a free plan for its first 2,000 subscribers — making it possible to compare both to each other without having to spend any money to get started.
You can access all of the following MailPoet features for free:
Over 50 templates to choose from.
Drag-and-drop email builder.
Automated email notifications for your blog.
Welcome email sequence for new subscribers.
Support via chat, email, or WordPress support forums (and a dedicated knowledge base).
In exchange for using their services for free, MailPoet branding is automatically added to your email footer (which is also true of Mailchimp).
Like Mailchimp, MailPoet offers additional features once you become a paying customer. Paid plans start at $99/year for an unlimited number of subscribers, and includes all of the features on the free plan, as well as:
A 30-day money back guarantee for you to test these additional features, risk-free.
Note that Mailchimp does not offer a comparable unlimited plan in terms of subscribers, making this a no-brainer for a WordPress website that caters to thousands of subscribers.
MailPoet also offers a premium plan with pricing that scales depending on your number of subscribers and comes with all the features outlined above. With this plan, you can pay as you go and stop any time you want.
MailPoet vs Mailchimp
Developers create new software solutions when they see lapses in the products they currently use. As a result, new solutions are constantly coming to the market.
One thing many Mailchimp users find inconvenient is the fact that their pricing plans are strict and costly. Spending can quickly go up if you’re not careful. For instance, for anywhere between 2001 and 2500 subscribers, you immediately get bumped to a paid plan worth $30/month, and then anywhere between 2,501 and 10,000 subscribers, you pay $80/month.
Mailchimp may be the most popular email newsletter solution today, but MailPoet holds its own for the specific use cases outlined above.
Both offer free plans that support up to 2,000 subscribers, but free plans only allow access to a certain set of features. Both offer plans that support sending unlimited emails, but MailPoet takes it a step further and allows you to send emails to unlimited email lists. By comparison, Mailchimp only allows you to send emails to one list at a time.
Both email tools are relatively easy to learn to use in terms of basic functionality and are easy to configure, though MailPoet offers what’s arguably a more intuitive drag-and-drop designer. Additionally, Mailchimp’s forms are pretty basic to the point that you may have to create your own templates. If you’re not a designer, you may have to spend time and money to import your own forms or change the existing forms.
One of the greatest benefits of MailPoet when compared to Mailchimp revolves around the time it takes to get your email marketing program up and running. MailPoet offers a product that works well out of the box, allowing you to get started in minutes. Furthermore, since you’re using it in tandem with WordPress, which houses all of your content, it reduces the time necessary to create a newsletter.
An edge Mailchimp has is that it makes stats available on their free plan, while MailPoet limits this feature to their Premium plans.
Final Thoughts: MailPoet vs Mailchimp: Is MailPoet a Serious Alternative?
Although many people proclaim that “email is dead”, it is still people’s preferred communication method when it comes to business correspondence (and talking to brands). On that note, email newsletter solutions are helpful in driving traffic back to your website.
Mailchimp trumps MailPoet in offering more advanced analytics and ecommerce-focused features, even on their free plan — MailPoet offers these only on their Premium plan. In terms of value for the money, MailPoet comes ahead, since one of the top issues users have with Mailchimp is their inflexible pricing plans. Also, MailPoet’s free plan supports sending more than 12,000 emails per month (which is Mailchimp’s limit). In terms of built-in design options, MailPoet also offers more templates and a more intuitive design interface.
Finally, if all you really care about is email deliverability, Mailchimp and MailPoet are similar. At the end of the day, it’s easy to see MailPoet as a serious alternative to Mailchimp, especially as far as WordPress users are concerned. As far as which one you should pick, it will ultimately come down to required features compared to budget as your email marketing efforts scale up.
What are your thoughts on using Mailchimp versus MailPoet? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you in the comments!
In addition to the $1000 cash grant, the winner will also receive access to my online course, Teach Me How to WordPress. It’s about building a WordPress website and fleshing out the content to help accomplish business goals and has a value of $197.
But that’s not all!
I don’t want to just give this freelance contest winner the cash, then leave them without a lifeline while they’re in the process of growing their freelance business.
To help ensure a successful path forward, I’m also offering the winner the opportunity to work with me as their mentor by also including once monthly, hour long phone coaching sessions for 12 months following their win.
All in all, The Blogsmith Freelance Success Grant package has a value of:
If you don’t win during the time period in which you initially submitted your entry, that doesn’t mean you won’t win in the future — so don’t be discouraged! I’ll still be considering these entries during subsequent rounds of this pitch competition.
Why I’m Launching The Blogsmith Freelance Success Grant
It was because of a mentor and friend that I ultimately had enough courage in my decision to quit my corporate job and give this freelancing thing a try. This same mentor also provided me with enough work to cover my minimum bill payments while I brought on my first clients.
To try and match the generosity of my first freelancing mentor, I want to pay it forward by providing three distinct benefits to the recipients of this prize:
A not insignificant amount of money to use to take your business to the next level. When you’re first getting started, it’s hard to justify spending money on anything you consider non-essential. I want this freelance content to provide the opportunity to experiment a little with tools people otherwise wouldn’t early on (or go to a conference, hire help — whatever makes the most sense for where they’re at).
Education for leveraging your website to make sales. I’ve had a lot of success using my website and online persona to generate business. Since WordPress now powers a third of the internet, it makes sense to teach this subject in tandem with a primer on the WordPress dashboard. I’d like to help the winner of this pitch competition make progress with building a high-converting freelance portfolio website.
Accountability and ongoing mentorship. I co-founded the local chapter of Freelancers Union because I genuinely enjoy counseling new freelancers about issues that we all have to deal with at some point. I’ve developed multiple strategies for dealing with touchy client scenarios that are best learned sooner, rather than later. With the opportunity to check in with winners on a regular basis, I hope to help them grow through accountability for their goals and offering support when they’re handling tough situations.
Donating money and time isn’t something I do thoughtlessly — I have limited resources on both fronts! But I’ve found enough success as a freelancer that I feel very comfortable with contributing both of these things towards someone who might flourish with these inputs.
It’s also one of my goals for this year to do more to give back. This seems like a great way to hold myself accountable to this commitment.
I’m really starting to think that my life’s purpose is to help people create their dream jobs on their own terms, which is why I’m giving this freelance contest a try!
How Selection for The Blogsmith Freelance Success Grant Will Work
The only barrier to entry in this pitch competition is how well you convince me that you’ll put this opportunity to good use.
With a minimum of 300 words, please answer the question, “How would $1000 change your freelance business?”.
If you’ve just started freelancing in the past few weeks (or the past few months), this probably won’t be a good fit for you. I’m most interested in selecting a winner who’s been at this for at least 6 months — who’s given it a bit of a go and who knows that this is the type of lifestyle that works for them.
That said, I’ll be doing this selection more than once. If you’re reading this the first time as a new freelancer, you’ll be eligible by the next one.
Sign up to be alerted about news and submission reminders for The Blogsmith Freelance Success Grant (both for this round and for future rounds). You’ll also be subscribed to regular email updates, including my newsletter every Thursday (where I share my best advice):
Enter to Win: The Blogsmith Success Grant
Entries for The Blogsmith Freelance Success Grant: Round One will open up on 9/5/19 at 11 AM MST.
The entry process for the first round of this pitch competition starts April 5, 2018, with no entries accepted past April 18, 2018. A winner will be announced by April 25, 2018. The date of the next grant contest will be announced after the conclusion of the first winner selection.
Pay it Forward to Your Fellow Freelancers: Spread the Word
This post is brought to you in partnership with National Business Furniture. Please note that I’ve included affiliate links for products I use, love, and recommend for problem-solving in your business.
Working from home certainly has its perks. Among the best include saving on gas and travel time, wearing sweatpants all day, and having the flexibility to start your workday whenever you work best.
Even if you’re not a freelancer, increasingly more companies are offering the option to telecommute — from once a week, up to every day. According to Census Bureau data, 40% more US employers now offer the option to work from home compared to five years ago. On that note, the telecommuter population grew 11.7% last year, the largest year-to-year growth for this statistic since 2008.
Additionally, there are at least 4.3 million people who work from home at least half the time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that at least 1.4 million businesses are run by a husband and wife team. Knowing both of these things, it seems fair to assume that there are many couples who work from home, together.
Most couples who have enjoyed long marriages agree that the key to a happy marriage is to give each other space. It’s important to maintain an independent sense of self and have your own thing going on, so that you have something to talk about with your spouse when you’re together.
So, if you live together and work from home in the same space, how do you maintain your independence and keep from getting sick of each other? How do you make sure that your workday activities don’t get in the way of your partner’s ability to do their own work from home?
Here are some tips that have helped me and my fiancee strike a winning balance in terms of learning how to successfully work from home together:
#1: Don’t Assume, Communicate
Just because you and your partner both work in the same space doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the same work style.
So if you work best with music blasting, this might mean putting on some headphones if your partner seems agitated whenever you launch Spotify. At any rate, instead of just assuming that what you’re doing is 100% ok with the person you share space with, it never hurts to directly ask. Furthermore, by keeping the other person in mind with anything you during the workday, you’ll reduce the potential for arguments.
While you’re in the mindset to improve workday communication between you and your partner, you’ll want to get specific with regards to what the ideal work/life balance looks like for both of you.
Resentment can occur if one person has workaholic tendencies that cut into the time you spend together outside of work. The same can be said about one person having more flexibility than the other to work during whatever times they work best (instead of a strict 9-5 schedule).
According to Rachel Dresdale of The Confused Millennial, who works from home with her partner, “Getting on the same page about your working habits is crucial for growing together.”
#2: Have your Own Dedicated Work Tools
This is important! Nothing is more frustrating than needing to do something urgent but having to share a cluttered desktop with your partner, who has a more pressing deadline. For both your sanities, have your own computers/laptops, chargers, phones, and any other tools you need to do your job on a regular basis.
Ideally, you’ll also each have your own desks. If you can, try to get standing desks, as these are perfect for constantly keeping you on your feet. Sitting for long periods of time without standing up for breaks is said to be the new smoking.
Thanks to this partnership with National Business Furniture, I recently redid my workspace centered around a better desk and I’ve never been more productive!
The execution of this will very much depend on your living space.
Do whatever you can to configure separate workspaces, preferably from different levels of your home. If you don’t have a multiple-story home, working from different rooms is similarly helpful. In the worst case scenario, if you only have one large area to work from, you can also put in room dividers.
It’s best to set spatial boundaries as early as now to avoid passive-aggressiveness, which could lead to arguments.
If you’re lucky enough to each have your own dedicated room for doing work, use it as a communication tool to signal to your partner if you need time for deep focus or a client call. Though you might go as far as posting “Do Not Disturb” work hours, a fun alternative might be to affix an “On Air” radio-style light to easily make things clear.
In the actual worst case scenario where you’re both working from home in a studio apartment, you might consider investing in a coworking space membership. Deskpass is a great option, depending on what city you call home.
If funds are low, don’t forget free and cheap workspace resources — your local coffee shop and the library. In general, getting out of the house can be a great way to gain a fresh perspective when working from home.
#4: Separate Workstations from Living Areas
Avoid mixing in your work life with your home life. If you have the space, try to make it so that your workstation exists separately from common living areas, so that there is a physical distinction for when your workday is done. Make it a rule that when you get up from that area, your workday is over.
That being said, you can schedule some lunches or break times together in the kitchen, or if you want to take a longer break, eat out for lunch. During these times, avoid talking about work. This time should be used to refresh each other’s mind from work.
Though it might sound extreme, try to make your living areas no-technology zones (or limited technology zones). Time spent here should be focused on unwinding from work and enjoying each other’s company.
Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism can help you understand the benefits of cutting down on technology use and how to implement a digital detox. I’ve also shared my thoughts about periodically getting space from technology on my newsletter.
#5: Take Breaks at Different Times
One of the best things about working from home is the flexibility it provides. You can take a walk, go to the gym, or do errands at any time of the day that’s most convenient for you.
While it can be fun to occasionally take advantage of this flexibility by planning an outing with your partner, don’t be tempted to do it all the time. Instead, use it as an opportunity to give them space and give them time to focus on work, uninterrupted.
#6: Share Work Appointment Calendars
A little mystery is good in any relationship but when it comes to defining “do not disturb” times, clarity is the best move.
To avoid constantly having to check in with each other throughout the day about when you’re going to be on a call or when you need time for deep focus, you can cut out the middleman by simply sharing your work calendar with your partner.
This is most effective when you’re consistent with using a tool like Google Calendar to set appointments with coworkers, clients, and other people who you work with on a professional level. It’s even better if you’re the type of person who uses your calendar to set tentative times for when you’re planning to work on projects during the day.
Once you commit to some type of calendar-based system for communicating busyness, you’ll now also have to commit to checking it before bursting in on your partner’s workspace.
#7: Be Each Other’s Accountability Buddies
There’s probably enough nagging in your relationship with your partner (or so Dan would say about me with regards to keeping our space clean), so you don’t want to step on any toes when it comes to getting work done. That said, if your partner has expressed to you their difficulties with getting things done on time or staying accountable in general, they might benefit from having you act as their work accountability buddy throughout the day.
If you see your partner slacking off, don’t be too quick to judge or call them on it — but don’t be afraid to ask them what they hope to accomplish that day and how they’re going to get there. A good partner inspires the other to be their best self. At the same time, if you notice that they’ve been working hard for hours on end, encourage them to take a break.
At the end of the day, when you both work from home, you are the most knowledgeable about each other’s work habits. If you notice that your partner is having issues with creating a work/life balance, you should definitely call attention to it for the benefit of their wellbeing.
#8: Prioritize Your Relationship
Though most of the advice I’ve shared about learning how to successfully work from home with your partner involves creating separation during the workday, you certainly don’t want to create too much separation from your partner in general.
With both of you working from home, there will certainly be times where the lines of work and life outside of work get blurred, especially if you’re at a stage where you’re just starting to get your businesses off the ground or if your partner is in the middle of a big project with a looming deadline.
Because you work from home, it can be too easy to keep working until 11pm, or to take calls from halfway around the world at 2am.
To protect yourself and your relationship, you need to set strict work office hours. Without someone telling you it’s time to go home, it gives you the excuse to procrastinate and work until the wee hours of the morning if you have to, leaving no time for your relationship.
The truth is, people glorify being busy. When it comes at the expense of having a great life outside of work, it’s nothing to be proud of. The secret isn’t to work hard, but to work smart. What use is working long hours if they’re the result of procrastinating with menial tasks?
Remember, one of the greatest perks of working from home is the ability to spend more time with the ones you love. Make sure that the work environment you’ve created for yourself supports this.
Final Thoughts: How to Successfully Work from Home with Your Partner
Learning how to successfully work from home with your partner can be challenging or stifling when you first think about it, but with proper communication and planning, it can be a very rewarding experience.
What other tips can you share from the experience of working from home with your partner? Or questions you still have if you’re about to take the leap? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve been freelancing since my early college days. It all started with a project my then-boss didn’t have time for.
For me, this effectively sanctioned my pursuit of paid projects outside of work. I definitely stumbled through the process of dealing with my first freelance client but luckily, didn’t completely mess it up.
This early freelancing experience taught me an important lesson:
I have a skill that people are willing to pay for. Even outside of a traditional employer/employee relationship.
From there, I went on to graduate. I worked two sales gigs as a foot in the door to my real dream job: marketing. I ate up every opportunity I could find to grow my existing knowledge — including light freelance assignments.
Eventually, one of my freelance clients, turned mentor, helped me see that I had it in me to support myself doing the things I like to do most, full-time. He became my first really big client, giving me enough work to cover my basic needs, and enough time in my schedule to do work for other clients, too.
Fast forward to today…
It’s been over three years now that I’ve been freelancing full-time and I’ve gotta say, this freelance thing ages like a fine wine.
It gets a lot better… over time.
I’ve managed to achieve a rare and beautiful work/life balance. But it took time and hard work. It involves continuously challenging myself to get outside my comfort zone.
Here’s what I’m trying to say:
If you put in the tough work now, you’ll be that much closer to your dreams, with just a few years or months to go.
On my journey to finding success, I’ve shared a lot of the lessons learned along the way for various clients and freelancing publications, which you’ll find below. I love mentoring new freelancers — I also co-founded an in-person meetup for locals: Freelancers Union Spark Denver.
I put this all-in-one guide that you’re reading together because I wanted new and growing freelancers to have a resource to consult at any stage when they learn how to start freelance writing.
The following represents my best advice for how to start freelance writing — some of my favorite pieces to write:
Scaling Up From a Side-Hustle to Full-Time Freelancing
Please don’t quit your job to freelance without a solid plan.
You may be fantasizing about leaving in a fit of rage, when you just can’t take it anymore.
But unless you have some published samples to demonstrate your abilities, an emergency fund to cover a few months of rent as you wait for clients payments to process, and ideally, a couple clients lined up, the first few months of working for yourself are going to be a rude awakening.
So for the love of God, at least consider my advice for building a freelance writing side gig that you can scale up when the time is right:
I can’t think of a better test run for the entrepreneurship side of freelancing than an entry-level job in sales. I learned so much by starting my post-college career with a sales job at Groupon.
My #UnpopularOpinion for new freelancers to learn how to properly support themselves?
Put in a few months (to a year) at a sales-driven organization and work your way up from warm leads sales (people proactively reaching out to your team to inquire about making a purchase) to cold calling sales (reaching out to people who may have never heard of your solution before).
There’s nothing quite like the pressure of a sales manager and metrics to teach you essential closing and follow up techniques. A sales job will also help you learn how to maintain a consistent pipeline of work opportunities.
Freelance writing involves a special kind of sales: pitching topics to editors and brands.
An effective freelance writing pitch includes the following:
What’s in it for me?: Answer this for your prospect.
Do your research and pitch an article based on common topic threads you notice are being covered — just make sure to contribute a unique angle.
Share industry expertise: A good writer who’s also an industry expert is basically unstoppable (and easier to compensate more).
Share 3rd party testimonials in the form of listing off relevant clients that you’ve worked with. Your best published samples will help seal the deal.
Engage with brand ahead of time: For example, by sharing their articles on Twitter. Then, call attention to it as part of your pitch. Doing this makes it so you’re more than a writer — you’re a member of their audience.
Here’s an example of how this might look written out:
It might seem like I overdid it a bit in this pitch but check out what my recipient said in response! Oftentimes, going the extra mile in your pitch is what sets you apart from others, who might just send a quick note with a sample and call it a day.
Make it as easy as possible for someone to see you as their future writer by connecting the dots in your pitch.
Building Authority (& Backlinks)
When I first committed to learning how to start freelance writing, I applied for a staff writing job at Search Engine Journal. At the time, I honestly was being a little too ambitious — I didn’t have a lot of experience or published works to show off (or learn from).
Although I didn’t get the job, they really liked me and invited me to be a contributor (check out my first article about duplicate content on LinkedIn and Medium). I’ll be honest with you: I don’t make any money writing for Search Engine Journal. But all the business it’s helped me to win justifies the time spent on creating quality content.
Writing guest posts for high authority blogs can be great inbound marketing for your business, in addition to providing samples that you can leverage to get well-paying gigs. Guest posting can also be a great way to build backlinks to your freelance portfolio website, which will help you to come up in relevant searches.
If you’re unsure where to start reaching out, Theme Circle put together an awesome guide for where to guest post, organized by topic and authority (measured by domain authority, which is important for SEO).
Just as with building up your freelance client roster, the key to success is a good pitch:
I really have a problem with the fact that most job board postings aren’t transparent when it comes to payment. You’re expected to spend time customizing the perfect pitch, but oftentimes, your efforts result in an invite to write a free test piece. It only goes downhill from there.
Yeah… no thanks.
But there are some hidden gems if you stay on top of job board postings. I started writing for Sprout Social after responding to a job post I found on ProBlogger.
Here are my best job board-related resources to help you with how to start freelance writing:
So if you want motivation to constantly be striving for the next level of what you can achieve when you learn how to start freelance writing, I encourage you to sign up for their newsletters and pay attention to their ideas and processes.
On that note…
If you’ve enjoyed this article so far, sign up for my newsletter, where I share my best content marketing tips.
How to Get Clients, Then Make (More) Money:
Everyone fakes it until they make it in some areas, but I only ever feel confident raising my rates after I’ve taken on projects and clients that push me out of my comfort zone, teaching me something new.
Here are some of my other best tips for getting more clients and making more money:
This is a sponsored post in partnership with National Business Furniture. Please note that this article contains affiliate links.
The new Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (featuring bestselling author and decluttering expert Marie Kondo) couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, especially since the new year has just begun (at least as of this publication!).
Here’s the trailer to provide some context:
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
The Netflix series features people and families who are a little overwhelmed with the accumulation of stuff that makes up their living space. Kondo’s KonMari method encourages people to say goodbye to the things that no longer bring them joy — one of the simplest but most effective ways to give yourself permission to declutter.
A Guide to Decluttering, Using the KonMari Checklist
The KonMari method is different than other popular organization methods because it advocates tidying up according to category — not by area. By piling up all your items that are part of a related category, you get a better idea of just how much stuff you really have (which will then motivate you to cut down on duplicate items).
The major categories in the KonMari checklist include:
Komono (miscellaneous items)
To declutter, hold each item and ask yourself whether it sparks joy.
Yes, you must touch every item to see how your body reacts. If it does not spark joy, respectfully thank it for being of use in your life and let it go.
Here’s a common question that comes up when going through the KonMari checklist:
How do you deal with the someday items — the items you think you’ll wear or need some time in the future?
For this, Marie Kondo says that when possessions aren’t used, they are stripped of their dignity, so the most positive thing you can do for them is let them go.
Let’s go through each category of the KonMari checklist to share specific strategies that will help clear the clutter in your life.
A great first step is to start with your clothes. Most people have so many pieces that they never use.
Consider further breaking down this category in terms of the following clothing subcategories:
After you’ve determined all the clothing items you want to keep, consider the KonMari method of folding for efficient storage:
Then, once you’ve sorted through all the old stuff you were never going to wear anyways, consider upleveling your existing wardrobe with Stitch Fix. You set your own pricing regarding the types of items they include and can share notes regarding specific needs: for example, business attire, a wedding, upcoming vacation, etc.
I’ve been using Stitch Fix for a few months now and recently ordered a box to complement my Portugal vacation. I ended up keeping everything they sent me! Since the stylist behind each box explains the purpose behind their suggestions, the pieces I choose to keep get used instead of adding to existing clutter.
Theoretically, it sounds like a smart idea, but I can’t personally limit myself to just 30 books.
That said, whenever I move, I take the time to get rid of:
Books I’ve read that I know I won’t read again
Books I’ve accumulated that I know I’ll never actually read
Additionally, whenever people stay over in my guest room, where we have our two big bookshelves, I encourage them to look through my little library and take a volume if they are compelled to! This has been a satisfying way to reduce clutter and rehome my favorite novels.
With New Year’s resolutions still fresh on your mind, it’s the perfect time to embrace decluttering by getting rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful: both in your personal life and home office.
According to a study by Kenton Global, your physical workspace affects your mental workspace.
Having a cluttered workspace affects your ability to focus and process information, which can overload your senses and cause you stress. According to the same study, 62% of those surveyed said that having a cluttered workspace makes them unhappy.
Additionally, according to recent research by National Business Furniture, three out of four supervisors believe that office clutter is a sign of disorganization. Along with a messy personal appearance, these are two of the things preventing them from awarding a promotion.
If you think you have a problem with clutter in your workspace, this adapted KonMari checklist can help you fix that:
#1: Admit You Have a Clutter Problem
Are you unsure if this article’s even relevant to you?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you have a clutter problem:
If asked to look for something in your office, do you have trouble locating it?
Do you have office supplies everywhere (e.g. your office, kitchen, and car)?
Do you have a hard time letting go of things?
Has someone teased you about your clutter issue?
Whenever you attempt to organize your things, do you have a hard time knowing where to start?
Once you admit you have a clutter problem, you can correctly address the issue.
Determining the reason behind your clutter problem isn’t a waste of time. In extreme cases, it may actually be reflective of a mental disorder (like hoarding).
Whatever the reason, getting to the root of why you have an issue parting with certain things will help you understand the right approach to tackle your mess in the rest of this KonMari checklist.
National Business Furniture’s Clear the Office Clutter ebookoffers a simple test to determine your clutter personality, in addition to actionable tips for how to get started according to each personality.
#3: Visualize the Destination
The KonMari method advocates that after choosing a day to tidy everything up, and before you start your purge, you visualize what your ideal lifestyle would be.
Have a concrete goal and don’t limit yourself to a broad idea like “I want a clean house” or “I want to live clutter-free.”
Next, follow Marie Kondo’s method and ask yourself whether the item is useful, beautiful or joyful.
For example, family photos aren’t useful to your work, but they can help inspire you when you hit a work stump.
Just remember, you don’t need a pile of them on your desk, maybe just one beautiful framed photo of the people you care about (or put your favorites in an album). When I worked at Groupon, I printed dozens of square photos from my Instagram in white border frames from FoxPrint, which resulted in a beautiful, personalized desk space.
On that note, you don’t need 40 pens — especially if only 3 of them actually have enough ink to write. Be scrupulous when it comes to cutting down on duplicate items.
Finally, determine which items are most important in terms of their frequency of use.
These are the items that should occupy the “prime real estate” space on your shelves and tables and should be within easy reach. Items that you don’t use often should be placed in clear storage boxes or areas far from reach.
#5: Buy Organizers
Though Marie Kondo might say that buying organizers exacerbate the problem of having too much stuff, a modern home office definitely benefits from having additional storage containers.
Once you know which papers you need to let go of (e.g. five-year-old memos or checks that were cashed months ago), you’ll want to create a better filing system for your paperwork.
According to the IRS, you should keep records that support an item of income, deduction, or credit shown on your tax return — at least until the period of limitations for that tax return runs out.
This period of limitation is the time in which you can amend your tax return to claim a credit or refund, or when the IRS can assess additional tax. This is usually 3 years from the date you filed your tax return or 2 years from the date you paid your taxes: whichever is later.
Keep records indefinitely if you don’t file a return and check the IRS website for notes regarding other special cases.
Receipts are usually valid anywhere between 50 days to 3 years, depending on what you bought.
For example, gas and electricity bills make for ideal proof of payment and proof of address. If there are any disputes pertaining to these bills, they usually get settled within a year’s time, so bills should be kept for two years at a time. Credit card bills should be kept if you’re expecting a rebate for something.
Important papers to keep:
Vehicle receipts: they help calculate depreciation if you want to sell your car.
Jewelry: for valuation reports in insurance companies; alternatively, you can keep relevant warranty cards.
Records relating to insurance premium payments: unless these are also logged online.
Home loans and rent and home purchase documents: keep rent receipts for a maximum of six years and keep home loans and home purchase documents permanently as they act as proof of payment and ownership of the house.
Compartmentalize according to the type of receipt and the year it is applicable to (it also makes it easier to dispose of them when the proper time comes).
Some receipts and papers fade over time, so you should scan them for posterity. A receipt scanning app like Neat should help — although I have some beef with them (awful customer service), they’re what I currently use.
With a system in place, the next time you receive a paper and have handled it, don’t just leave it in a pile on your desk — square it away for filing immediately.
Take this to the next level by digitizing important files that can then be accessed anywhere. Blogger Abby Lawson shares tips regarding her family’s paperless filing system on Evernote.
But don’t limit yourself to just your paper files; also take the time to organize your computer files.
Additional tips for digital decluttering:
For your desktop/laptop:
When you download something, make sure to name the file appropriately and ensure that every file belongs to a dedicated folder. Don’t leave anything on your desktop — that’s just asking for clutter.
Set a calendar reminder to upload important file folder content to a cloud storage solution like Google Drive periodically — perhaps once a month.
Use your “Downloads” folder as temporary storage for files you don’t plan to keep. For example, when I’m scheduling social posts for clients, I keep all relevant images in my Downloads folder, sort by date added, and purge said files once I’m done.
Delete any files and digital documents you won’t use again like old essays and stuff from old projects.
Backup your most important files on an external hard drive for bonus points!
For your email inbox:
Unsubscribe from email lists and newsletters you don’t regularly take action on.
Use filters to send spam emails directly to the trash. You’ll figure out trigger words/senders over time if you just pay attention.
Delete rarely used online accounts.
Delete and unfollow people you don’t know or don’t interact with on your social feeds.
#7: Make it a Habit that Sticks
Once you’ve finished organizing your home office, keep it clean.
Take a few minutes out of your day to put things back in their places (Marie Kondo says you should always showcase the items you use most, and when you’re done, put their items back in their homes) and eliminate paper as much as you can.
Final Thoughts: Using the KonMari Checklist to Clear the Clutter From Your Life
Clearing the clutter from your home office does not have to be an overwhelming task. With this KonMari checklist, you can create a workspace (and home) that will help you be your most productive self.
If you want to dig deeper into how your personality contributes to a clutter problem, check out National Business Furniture’s ebook, Clear the Office Clutter.
I’ve never advocated for quitting a 9-5 job to freelance full-time without a solid plan for finding success.
One of the easiest ways to bridge the gap is to first experiment with your prospective freelance business as a side hustle. Once you start establishing productive processes, brand attention, and a loyal client base, scaling up is just a matter of the time you can put into your business.
The subject of starting a side hustle that is capable of sustaining you as a full-time freelance business is just a happy dream for many. It’s something to aspire to, but an impossibility for the average person.
I think that thoughts like these are completely out of line.
It ultimately takes a mix of luck, strategy, and motivation to turn the dream of running a profitable freelance business into a reality. The modern hustler is not without options.
You don’t have to work a corporate grind if you don’t want to.
Of course, the average American works for the man for dozens of years before they retire.
It’s hard to get excited about the future if you think it’s going to be a replay of constantly dreading Mondays, waking up way too early, and pretending to be busy at work, even when you finish early (and you’d rather be home).
But what if you could take your future into your own hands?
The future of a person’s career can be a source of terror because of a job’s role in being able to pay bills and the access it provides to important benefits (like health insurance).
The thought of being without these things is stressful.
Yet, even if you manage to stick around for a long time, it’s ultimately up to someone else (and your company’s cash flow situation), as to if you advance up the ranks and earn more money.
But let’s get one thing straight:
Self-employment is not for everyone.
That said, it’s really not as hard as you’d think to find success if you take the time to learn how to turn your side hustle into a business.
I’ve written many articles on the topic, each with a slightly different focus and stance:
Though each article attacks the topic from a different angle, there are many commonalities between them, especially with regards to starting a side hustle with full-time freelance business potential.
Here’s what I’m trying to say:
Ultimately, your side hustle doesn’t have to remain a part-time job forever. With the right strategy, it can replace your 9-5 as your primary income generator.
So, what if you could wake up every day, excited to get to work on something you’re passionate about?
No matter what step you’re at in starting a side hustle, here’s how you should proceed with turning it into a full-time gig.
1. Plan as much as possible before quitting your 9-5 job.
Let’s go ahead and assume that you already have a side hustle that you’ve been making money from. If you’re still figuring out the specifics for starting a side hustle, refer to these side hustle ideas.
But even if you know exactly what you want to do and you’ve executed on it, it’s important to use your next few months to get things on track for the full-time business your side hustle will become.
Let me be brutally upfront about the way to find success:
Before you quit your existing job, you should plan to work double time.
I’m not saying that this is the way things should always be, just a reality when starting a new venture.
Here are several common freelance business concerns to address before taking the leap:
Set a budget, and determine where you can trim the fat. The first few months of self-employment can be hard, and you don’t want to go into debt over the things you don’t absolutely need (and may not even have time for). Struggling financial is a stress that you don’t want to take on in addition to everything else you’ll have to worry about. Popular budgeting tool Mint can help you identify current spending trends to help you determine where you could be saving.
Save your money. While you wait for money to come in from your side hustle turned full-time freelance business, it’s important to already have an emergency fund stashed away. While this ideally involves 6 months of living expenses, just 3 months will still put you ahead of the game. Realistically, even 1 month is better than nothing.
Research benefits options. Here’s the real kicker: when you leave your 9-5 for self-employment, you’ll lose out on company-sponsored benefits that you’ve probably taken for granted until now. Freelancers Union is a great place to start looking for group medical insurance and dental options. If you’re married, your partner’s benefits may be accessible to you (I was able to get on my fiance’s by signing an affidavit of domestic partnership). Just don’t wait to figure these things out until the last minute!
Get real about what to charge clients. A good place to start? Hubspot’s Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator. Don’t forget that paid vacation and sick days are a thing of the past, unless you account for them in the price you charge. So don’t undersell yourself! You’ll end up paying for it in extra work to close the gap. Your rate will change as time goes on, but give yourself a solid foundation to start with, even if you still need to prove yourself in your industry.
Start finding clients now. On the down-low, start letting trusted members of your network know that you’re about to turn your side hustle into a full-time freelance business. Referrals can be the best clients, and it’s a lot less stressful to quit your 9-5 when you have some jobs lined up on the other side.
There’s also a lot to be said about getting (and staying) in the right mindset both before and after you quit your 9-5 job. More on that, later.
2. Give yourself a deadline to quit your 9-5 job.
Deliberating when to turn a side hustle into a business, many people put off the important step of actually quitting their 9-5 job… forever.
Time is a self-employed person’s most precious asset.
When transitioning from a side hustle to being completely self-employed, your work will take over your life. When you’ve made the decision to quit your 9-5 job, you’ll probably have to temporarily stop going out after work and limit weekend outings in order to get everything ready.
Just make sure that all this work isn’t for nothing. The extra work you’re putting in now is to ensure your success when you become completely self-employed.
So do yourself a favor.
Give yourself a deadline to quit your 9-5, and stick to it. Make sure that it’s enough time to do all the things detailed earlier, and more.
Just don’t give yourself enough time to psych yourself out and change your mind!
Once you’ve committed to the idea of starting a side hustle that becomes a full-time venture, create an action plan to make it happen.
And don’t skip your self-imposed deadline to quit your 9-5 job.
3. Find separation between your business and your personal life to avoid burnout.
It’s tempting to get excited and work yourself to death when you’re first starting out.
Knowing that the amount of money you make is ultimately up to you can be both a motivating factor… and the scariest thing in the world.
But when trying to turn your side hustle into a business, you are your own worst enemy. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to work so hard that you eventually burn out.
Here are some practical tips that I’ve learned from experience to help you avoid burnout when you become your own boss:
Set a scheduleand stick to it. Block out time for things like calls, client work, and responding to emails. Don’t forget to also schedule in time for breaks and personal activities, like going to the gym or reading a book. In general, if it makes it onto your schedule, you’re more likely to treat it like an important to do item.
Take frequent breaks. The Pomodoro Method involves using 20 minutes to complete a task, then 5 minutes to take a break. But besides short, periodic breaks, make sure you’re also taking a lunch. It’s easy for new freelancers and entrepreneurs to fall into bad eating habits. A failure to maintain consistent meal times will come back to hurt you.
Shut down at night. It can be tempting to be tied to your email/phone to check up on your freelance business, even after typical 9-5 business hours. In order to avoid burnout, it’s a good idea to create separation between your work and personal life. If you work best at night, give yourself a break in the morning. And if you must respond to an email at night, schedule it to actually be sent during your normal business hours by using a program like Boomerang. You don’t want to set a precedent that you’re available at all hours, otherwise people will take advantage of your precious personal time.
Get enough sleep and eat healthy. If you’re not getting 7-8 hours each night, it will affect your ability to do anything productive. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and your body so that you can give your work 100%. The same goes for healthy eating. It can be tempting to eat fast food when you first get started so that you can devote more time to work, but beware of the Freelancer 15 (and how eating bad affects your ability to get work done).
Sleep in. Ok, not all the time. But since you get to set your schedule, you get to decide when you’re ready to start the day, and even if you actually want to change out of your pajamas or not. With all the difficulties that come hand-in-hand with self-employment, it’s important to also enjoy the perks that come with being your own boss.
4. Set SMART business goals, and hold yourself accountable to them.
Setting goals is an important practice for running a successful business.
Business goals might represent your highest aspirations, like making a certain amount of money each month. Or, they can involve several smaller goals that make up milestones on the way to larger goals.
In any case, goals should always be “SMART,” which is just an acronym for:
An example of a goal that is too vague and not “SMART” is: “I will make $100,000.“
The “SMART” version of this goal might read something more like, “In 2019, I will make $100,000 by December 31st, after first having a $2500+, $5000+, and $7500+ month.”
After all, a six-figure freelance income doesn’t come out of nowhere — it must be built up over time.
By creating smaller, step-by-step versions of your major goals, you’ll be able to stay motivated and find things to celebrate on your way to success.
Besides business goals, it can also be useful to create “SMART” goals for other areas of your life: personal goals, fitness goals, and others of the like. After all and as previously discussed, these things can have a notable impact on your freelance business success.
Make sure to document your goals in a place where you’ll have to often see and face them. Post It notes on a bathroom mirror is an easy and in-your-face way to always stay reminded of what you want to accomplish in your life and business.
My modern home office desk has dry-erase panels for keeping things in perspective. Don’t underestimate how your workspace design impacts your ability to find success after starting a side hustle.
5. Scale up your business with a plan.
Business growth doesn’t happen until you’ve built a solid foundation and chugged away at work for a while. It’s exciting to take your side hustle to new levels, but don’t focus so much on growth until you’ve gotten everything else right.
High growth with bad processes means more work and stress than could ever be worth it. A low quality of service will create a bad customer experience that won’t soon be forgotten or forgiven, likely sabotaging your future efforts.
Part of scaling involves determining the specific tools and processes that can help you be as efficient as possible.
I wish I had experimented more with various freelance tools before quitting my full-time job.
With what I know now, I’d recommend getting to know these tools (or tools like them) before starting a side hustle:
Quickbooks: Invoicing software. Charges a monthly fee and processing fee if clients pay with a credit card.
Evernote: Very searchable note-taking app for keeping track of projects and client notes. There’s a free basic version available.
Todoist: Task management app that can be used to collaborate with team members. There’s a free basic version available.
Google Docs: Free document management over the cloud so you can always access important files, no matter where you are, and collaborate in real time with team members and clients.
Buffer: Whether you’re managing a client’s social media, or working on personal branding for your own, Buffer offers free and paid options that make it easy to constantly keep your network updated (without having to spend a lot of time on planning).
When deciding between different software tools and marketing campaigns to scale your business, move forward with caution. Throwing money at a situation won’t necessarily improve it, but careful strategy surrounding growth can lead to great results.
Just as with your first few months of self-employment, try to keep freelance business expenses at a minimum.
That said, if adding a team member or expensive software program will free up a significant amount of your time to make more money — full speed ahead!
Final Thoughts: Starting a Side Hustle & Making it a Full-Time Freelance Business
At this point, you may leave this page having learned something new but also might fail to act on this knowledge — even if a non-traditional self-employment situation as the result of starting a side business is your greatest aspiration.
The secret to running a successful full-time freelance business is to take action. Certainly, actions should be measured and informed. But regardless, nothing can happen until you take that first step.
Intentions alone don’t result in change.
Getting through the difficulties of taking the first steps can help you see for yourself that turning your side hustle into a business is possible. Planning ahead will help you understand the level of commitment necessary to achieve success. Act as if you have nothing to fall back on, and you may be surprised at how successful you can be.
Once you’ve completed the groundwork, the next step is to quit your job.
This is one of the most simultaneously stressful and liberating things you can do for yourself. Once it’s done, celebrate, then get down to business. You’re going to be busy!
What questions do you still have about turning your side hustle into a full-time business? I’d love to help you out! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
This article is brought to you in partnership with National Business Furniture. Check out the first article in the series about creating a modern home office space. Please note that this article contains affiliate links for products I use and love.
Productivity is an important consideration for anyone in the workforce.
Companies aim for high productivity rates so that they can achieve the optimum level of operational efficiency, thus being able to achieve their goals of lower operational costs and improved quality — while also maximizing profit.
But benefits aside, one of the greatest resulting effects of increased productivity is happiness.
Happiness and productivity actually enjoy an adversarial relationship: when employees are happy, they become more productive. Conversely, when employees are productive, they become happy.
However, wanting to be productive sounds easier than actually being productive.
Employees are just humans after all, and prone to distraction. According to a 2006 survey, productivity losses cost companies $544 billion a year, as every employee wastes 2 hours a day to distraction on average.
The Relationship Between Workspace Design & Productivity
When determining the cause of low productivity, workspace design is often overlooked. However, countless studies have shown that the office environment has a measurable impact on employee satisfaction and productivity.
Study results determined that >50% of surveyed employees claim that when their working space is not up to their standards/expectations, it can affect their mental health. However, for the most part, employees are dependent on companies to make changes if they want to improve the workspace area.
The best kind of lighting is natural light, so it’s best to have an office with a lot of open windows. The fresh air coming in as a result is an added bonus. If you can’t have that, the next best thing is to install ample blue-tinted bright lighting.
The best working conditions differ from person to person: some prefer total silence while others prefer a bit of background noise.
If there’s one thing to be agreed upon, it’s this: music with clear lyrics can distract you from thinking critically, so it’s only recommended when you’re doing menial or repetitive tasks. Personally, I find this most true when I’m listening to songs that I’m familiar with — signing along makes it a bit hard to focus on content writing!
One advantage of working from home is that you don’t have to contend with the way others work because you have your own space. However, there will always be certain instances that are out of your control.
If you find total silence too distracting, try getting a noise machine, while if you have noisy neighbors during the day, try noise-canceling headphones.
#3: The Impact of Color
Those who champion color psychology believe that colors can affect your mood and influence your perceptions. Scientists have found that your office color can affect your productivity even when you don’t realize it.
Blue, the world’s favorite color, is said to be stable and calming; green is best for those that work long hours because it reduces fatigue, while yellow is good for stimulating creativity.
Entrepreneur shares a useful infographic for incorporating color psychology into your decisions about structuring a productive workplace:
The aforementioned study considered an office full of male employees, which was the norm in the latter half of the 20th century. In the modern workplace, women’s’ body temperatures must also be considered.
There’s no arguing that women have different body chemistry than men. As a general rule, women have lower metabolic rates and tend to have more body fat, which makes them more susceptible to the cold.
With regards to office temperature, another factor that should be considered is the way your office space is designed. For example, larger windows that let in a lot of sunlight may make the room feel warmer, especially during the summer months.
To regulate temperatures in your home office, consider getting a Nest Thermostat, a smart thermostat that senses what temperatures you like and builds a schedule around that. It even knows when you’re away via your phone’s location, and automatically sets your home to EcoTemperature mode to save on energy. As an added convenience, you can track your energy usage via the app.
4 Workspace Design Tips to Maximize Productivity in Your Home Office
#1: Know Your Preferences
While temperature, lighting, and noise conditions all affect productivity, the best part about working from home is that you can design your office space around the way you work best.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, shares some general questions to help you find your most effective working conditions:
Where will you work and for how long? This might be a home office, or if you like having people around you, a library (or a coworking space if you can justify the expense). Also, make sure to give your working session a specific start and end time so that it doesn’t feel open-ended, resulting in procrastination (and a bad work/life balance).
How will you work throughout the day? Establish some work rules to keep you on track, like no social media scrolling until you’ve accomplished the day’s major tasks.
How will you support your work? Establish rituals that ensure your brain gets the support it needs to operate at its optimum level.
Finding your best working conditions is one part knowing yourself and one part experimentation. Keep playing around with different factors until you land on the specific situation that makes you excited about working every day.
#2: Invest in a Good Ergonomic Seat
According to the National Business Furniture’s Happiness in the Workplace study, ~50% of respondents said that the kind of chair they have is an important factor at keeping them happy at work.
Conversely, >50% of respondents said that having an uncomfortable workspace will make them unhappy.
To be sure, sitting at a desk for 8 hours can take a toll on your back and legs. With this in mind, it is important to invest in a good ergonomic seat: not just so you can be comfortable, but also to avoid injuries.
According to Smart Furniture, the Herman Miller Aeron chair is one of the most recognizable in the business world. Released in the early 1990s, the Aeron is the original ergonomic chair, designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick to support the human body throughout the workday.
With a 98.52% customer satisfaction rating and 2.8% return rate, the chair comes in 3 sizes and has a 12-year warranty. The $820 price tag may seem intimidating at first, but the health benefits alone outweigh the discomfort you’ll feel from lower-quality alternatives.
While it’s good to be productive, you should take breaks often to reduce the possibility of burnout.
Scientists have called ‘sitting’ the new smoking, as sitting too long can increase your risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
To combat these potential negative consequences, move around or take small walks every so often, especially when you feel like you’ve hit a productivity wall. You can also do simple bodyweight exercises at your desk, such as lunges, stretches, dips and squats.
To create movement in your home office, position some of your items (like your phone) far away to encourage you to take short walks. You should also explore the use of standing desks. If you’re not ready to completely redo your desk setup, consider the use of a stability ball instead of a seat.
#4: Get a Plant
Though it’s not as obvious of a workspace design productivity factor as temperature or lighting, scientists have found that poor air quality can negatively affect productivity.
Getting a plant doesn’t just improve air quality by giving you oxygen — t it can also help keep you calm. A study conducted by a UK research team showed that having plants in the office boosted productivity by 15%.
Succulent Studios provides a convenient process for adding more greenery to your workspace — sign up for a subscription and you can get succulents delivered to your office every month for an affordable price!
Final Thoughts: Home Office Workspace Design Strategies to Improve Productivity
Productivity and happiness are interlinked and can be subtly influenced by the workspace.
What workspace design changes will you make to create more productivity?
Please note: this article is brought to you in partnership with SiteLock.
Website security is an important component for any and every website, but few take the initiative to properly protect themselves.
You might think that configuring an SSL certificate or installing a few WordPress security plugins is enough to cover your bases. And to be sure, it’s a good start — it’s better than what most people do. But taking a more proactive approach to website security will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, assuming you become a target (which will happen, more likely than not).
But cyberattacks don’t just target websites of large enterprise companies. In fact, it was found that 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses websites but sadly, it takes about 197 days (6+ months) for a business to detect a breach on their network. By then, the real damage may have already been done.
Using a firewall and website scanner is a good first step when it comes to protecting your website from the worst cyberattacks. But you can take it to the next level with a solution that can also proactively fix vulnerabilities and malware attacks.
Let me walk you through a website security solution I’ve found to be particularly helpful in protecting my website. This is my SiteLock review.
The SiteLock Solution
Founded in 2008, SiteLock is the global leader in website security and is the only provider to offer complete, automated, cloud-based website protection.
While there are certainly other solutions that offer a similar type of service, what differentiates SiteLock is that it is the only provider to automatically remove website malware and fix common threats and vulnerabilities. Armed with these tools, SiteLock protects over 12 million websites worldwide.
In fact, another unique SiteLock feature is its ability to patch vulnerabilities in between security updates — even if you don’t have the latest version of the WordPress core software. It can also clean malware without breaking your website design. SiteLock functions somewhat like a WordPress maintenance service that runs in the background (except it’s inclusive to all websites, not just WordPress).
Depending on who you host with, you may already have access to some of SiteLock’s features. SiteLock has partnered up with several popular hosting providers such as HostGator and BlueHost (among others).
But it keeps getting better. SiteLock also helps accelerate website speed (via caching to help save bandwidth and saved requests). If you collect credit card payments on your website, you’ll be happy to know that SiteLock meets PCI compliance standards for businesses of all sizes.
Let me walk you through some specific details of my SiteLock review, as well as an overview of the company’s helpful Dashboard, packages, and pricing, so you can evaluate whether or not SiteLock may be a good fit for you.
SiteLock: Praise and Criticism
In the interest of transparency, SiteLock isn’t infallible. While they have their fair share of rave reviews, they also have inspired some less than savory opinions.
To be fair, this mix of reviews is normal.
There seem to be a lot of good SiteLock reviews from customers that genuinely found SiteLock’s services helpful and raved about their customer service and support.
Curiously, a lot of SiteLock’s criticism stems from agencies that also offer website security services. Although it’s normal to see competitive messaging in the market, the question is whether or not these vendors have ulterior motives for creating content designed to outrank SiteLock for similar services.
Currently, SiteLock is in good standing with the BBB and some of the top online review platforms, with an average of 4+ star reviews:
The bottom line? Before you make any conclusions about SiteLock, it’s best to do your due diligence regarding WordPress website security and try the product out for yourself. I’ve done mine, and I give SiteLock my stamp of approval for the company’s fast and friendly customer service, automated security solutions, and free website risk assessments (discussed more at the end of this blog).
Furthermore, as a multi-year WordCamp organizer, I can vouch for SiteLock in terms of their generosity and helpfulness within the WordPress community. Over the past years, they’ve been a consistent sponsor at numerous WordCamps, they’ve participated heavily in speaking opportunities to help educate the community on the importance of website security, and also developed products specifically for WordPress websites.
I’ve only had good experiences when working with SiteLock employees during WordCamps.
Now, for my review of SiteLock products. Let’s take a look.
Walking Through the SiteLock Dashboard
When you login to SiteLock, the dashboard gives you at-a-glance site visitor statistics and a security summary.
These visitor statistics give you a preview of how many visitors your website has on a given day and even differentiates the human visitors from the bot visitors (both good and bad), which can help you understand who (or what) your bandwidth is really serving.
The most salient feature of SiteLock, however, lies in the Security Summary part of the dashboard. It displays the date of the last scan, as well as details of the scans and updates needed, if ever.
The icons on each circle represent the following:
Green check: Everything is in good condition.
Yellow exclamation point: Something is pending or needs to be configured.
Red X: There was a scanning error, a vulnerability was found, or active malware detected.
Gray arrow: You must upgrade your plan to use this service.
You can download a summary report for all scans/updates on the dashboard or download a report for each individual scan — ideal for passing on to anyone who helps you with WordPress web development for any further fixes.
SiteLock Security Summary
As part of my SiteLock review, let’s take a run-through of each aspect of the Security Summary part of the dashboard:
The Application Scan checks your running web applications to see if there are any vulnerabilities and code weaknesses that hackers can use to gain access to your website.
This ensures that the actual domain owner is the one in control of the website domain. If not, the email on file for your SiteLock account is sent an alert.
The Malware Scan checks for malware and other malicious links to pinpoint and remove malware that can cause website blacklisting, suspension from web hosts, or a poor site experience.
When you click on the malware scan button on the dashboard, you’ll be directed to the page that shows the dates your website was scanned, how many pages were scanned, how many malware links were found (if any), and the status of your website.
Look for a green status indicator to know that your website is in good shape.
The Network Scan checks server ports to ensure that the appropriate ports are open for the correct server type. If you need to make any changes, follow up with your web host.
Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) is a set of standards used to protect customers’ credit card data online. If you accept credit card payments, you must be compliant.
With Sitelock, you can become PCI compliant in 3 easy steps, all of which SiteLock will guide you through. You start off with a simplified PCI questionnaire. You can also add the PCI compliant web application firewall (WAF) to meet PCI requirement 6.6 and block bad bots from entering your site.
Think of this as similar to HTTPS—a security standard to protect important customer information, more important now than ever in the wake of GDPR.
The Platform Scan goes through your entire website and categorizes issues in five categories: low, medium, high, critical, and urgent.
The Risk Score section displays your website’s likelihood of compromise on a scale of low, medium, and high.
A low risk score (the baseline risk) means your site is just as likely to be compromised as a site that similar to yours. A medium risk score means your site is 6 times more likely to be compromised than low risk websites, and a high risk score indicates the risk is 12 times more likely.
The Blogsmith, for example, was characterized as low risk. SiteLock also shares information regarding the factors that can affect the website’s overall risk score, such as providing easy access to contact information (like your direct email address).
Clicking on the SMART button shows details regarding any malware issues that have been found and cleaned from your website.
As shown in this screenshot, SiteLock scanned 33,000+ of my website’s files and didn’t find any malware but did make some file modifications. Looking into the data, SiteLock’s file modifications are often related to plugin files, which may otherwise provide easy backend access to your website.
Though I don’t currently use this feature, you can also connect SiteLock to your WordPress database for an even deeper scan. Just follow the easy step-by-step instructions to get set up!
SMART/PATCH shows the items that are scanned by the SMART tool and need to be patched. Items can be classified as patched, reverted, or vulnerable. If there is nothing that needs to be patched, the patch status displays as “N/A.”
The Spam Scan checks your website’s IP and domain against other spam websites to ensure that your website isn’t flagged as spam, which can affect email deliverability (among other things).
SQL Injection Scan
SQL injection (SQLi) is one of the most common web hacking techniques. It usually occurs when you ask a user for input (as in contact forms) and the hacker gives you a SQL statement that you unknowingly run on your database.
The SQL Injection Scan checks for any SQLi vulnerabilities that can be taken advantage of to steal data from your website.
The SSL scan checks your website to ensure that users don’t see a certificate warning or error when visiting your site. If you haven’t switched to HTTPS yet, it provides a great reminder to get that done!
The TrueShield button provides your web application firewall (WAF) stats.
This includes data such as:
Visitor statistics, which differentiate between human and bot traffic. You’d be surprised to know that most traffic that lands on your page are from bots.
Visitors by country, which is helpful if you notice that a lot of malicious bot traffic comes from a certain IP address. You can then block that country’s IP addresses.
Visitors by client. My website gets a number of visits from New Relic, Google Bot, and SEMRush bot.
World map shows which regions most traffic originates from.
Cached data. The black bar represents the total data transmitted in megabytes, while the red bar represents the total bandwidth saved while using TrueShield. Subtracting the red from the black can yield the net bandwidth, and since cloud service web hosting providers typically charge in terms of bandwidth, knowing that SiteLock saved some is certainly a useful, money-saving feature.
Cached requests. The black bar represents the total number of requests received while the red bar represents the total number of requests saved by using TrueShield. This shows the net requests passed to origin, meaning most of the website content was served from the SiteLock network at fast speeds.
The last section shows any threats your website may have encountered. In this case, most threats came from bot access control. However, in this case, no details were made available. You can use the details here to generate the PCI report.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is another type of website vulnerability that allows attackers to inject client-side scripts into web pages viewed by other users. SiteLock’s XSS scan helps prevent attacks by scanning for XSS vulnerabilities that can be used to steal visitor data.
SiteLock Pricing Levels
SiteLock offers three subscription plans, priced at different levels depending on the type of solutions included: SecureStarter, SecureSpeed, and SecureSite.
Note that if you ever need to cancel your subscription, SiteLock requires that you call in to cancel. This is for security purposes and to ensure that your products are properly disconnected so as not to unintentionally impact your website.
Starting at $30/month, the SecureStarter plan is best for personal websites. It guards websites from malware, bad bots, and other cyber threats.
Notable features include the SMART scanner, which scans 500 pages and automatically detects and removes malware once a day; as well as the Pro WAF feature, which is used to block bad bots aiming to hack into websites (at the same time, increasing site speed).
The web application firewall (WAF) included in the SecureStarter plan supports SSL and comes with 24/7 customer service support.
The SecureSpeed plan is $50/month and promises to repair hacked websites and prevent future infections.
It includes the same features as the SecureStarter plan, but the Pro web application firewall (WAF) feature is upgraded to a Premium WAF feature. The Premium WAF feature does everything that the Pro WAF feature does, with the addition of customizable traffic filtering and the blocking of website data attacks.
Another feature introduced in the SecureSpeed plan is a one-time Emergency Hack Repair, which covers manual malware removal and blacklist removal/suspension.
The SecureSite plan is at $70/month and is recommended for business websites as it protects websites with a combination of software and professional services.
It includes all the features of the SecureSpeed plan and upgrades the number of pages scanned to 2500 (which runs continuously, multiple times throughout the day). Instead of detecting and removing malware once a day, it does this constantly. Also, this plan offers unlimited blacklist removal and emergency hack repair (instead of just having a one-time option with the SecureSpeed plan).
The SecureSite plan also includes the INFINITY Scanner (instead of the SMART Scanner). This includes all SMART Scanner features, plus automatic vulnerability patching for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, as well as automatic database scanning and cleaning for WordPress sites, and the detection of website infections.
This is the plan I used and am specifically reviewing, and I highly recommend it — it grants access to a lot of value.
Final Thoughts: SiteLock Review: No BS Guide to Protect WordPress from Cyberattacks
Popular WordPress publication Torque recently posed the question, “Should You Pay for WordPress Security?” and after digging into the topic for my own blog, and those of clients, I can wholeheartedly answer, “Yes.”
My experience testing out SiteLock for this review has been mostly positive.
There have been a few situations where I had to get in touch with customer service after installing the scanner, mostly to ask about whitelisting the IP addresses of certain tools I use (like Ahrefs) that SiteLock otherwise blocked as a possible bot intrusion. Luckily, every time I had questions, I was met with a fast and friendly customer service response.
After configuring SiteLock, I feel a sense of relief in knowing that even if my website gets hacked, I have plenty of SiteLock tools I can use to automatically fix these problems, then learn more about them and why they happened, at my leisure.
The most useful SiteLock features (emergency hack repair, automatic WordPress version patching, etc.) are associated with the highest cost plans, which may not be realistic for the average blogger. But for the average small business owner, spending $70/month for the work seems like a worthwhile investment for the peace of mind it provides. That said, starting with a basic $30/month SiteLock plan can still absolutely help with the automatic detection and removal of malware for up to 500 pages.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get started, SiteLock offers a free website risk assessment to determine how likely your site is to be compromised by a cyberattack. The assessment reviews your website and calculates your risk score on a scale of low, medium, and high — ensuring you’re informed about any potential threats you might face.
After reading my SiteLock review, what other questions do you have about this security solution and WordPress security in general? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Andréa and Brent Jones were some of the first freelancers I met who helped me to understand the importance of processes.
Both had social media down to a freakin’ science — editorial calendars with daily themes, image templates, and a solid engagement/analytics process. They turned what can seem like an overwhelming process into a very manageable system.
The good news for you? Andréa has documented all of her best social media processes for students in her new membership community, the Savvy Social School.
Video Training Library
The main draw is the video training library.
At time of publication, there are 34 lessons about different aspects of social media management, with new content added on a regular basis. One of the newest additions? One of my Skillshare classes — “Tweet Like a CEO”!
Access to Andréa’s video library is an easy way to skill up in social media, while staying up to date on best practices for new tools. The Savvy Social School offers easy access to Andréa’s previously standalone courses and tech tool walkthroughs.
Content is added every month, so there’s always something new to check out.
Done-for-You Social Media Image Templates
One of my next favorite features of the Savvy Social School is Andréa’s done-for-you post templates.
Just download the files, customize them for your purposes, and schedule them on your social channels! Even if you’re good at creating graphics, these templates can provide inspiration if you’re currently running low.
Of course, the real value of the Social Savvy School is tied to the opportunity to interact with others — including Andréa, herself! The community forum brings all Savvy Social School students together to find opportunities to collaborate, commiserate, and create.
Checklists & Workbooks
Hopefully, my Savvy Social School review has demonstrated that there really is a lot of value packed into the Savvy Social School — and there’s still so much more to tell! One of my favorite aspects of membership is access to several workbooks, checklists, and spreadsheets for organizing social media and creating value for clients.
Best of all? These resources are based on the same tools Andréa uses with her social media clients. They weren’t created just for the Savvy Social School — but members still benefit from them!
Live Group Coaching Calls
You could pay thousands of dollars a month for a business coach… or you take advantage of the group coaching calls included with a Savvy Social School membership.
Every last Thursday of the month, students are invited to join Andréa to go over the latest and greatest as part of this social media bootcamp. An added benefit of this particular community is the chance to tap Andréa’s experience when it comes to finding and dealing with clients. Submit a question during the month leading up to the call and Andréa will work it into her planned call.
Even if you can’t make the monthly calls, Andréa records each one and shares the results in the Savvy Social School so that nobody has to miss out on her knowledge drops.
Savvy Social School: By the Numbers
Savvy Social School costs either $37/month or $370/year (with two months free when you pay annually). If you’re going for a month-to-month membership, Andréa makes it easy to cancel (but why would you want to?).
These stats demonstrate all the value in the Savvy Social School, at a glance:
41 students to date
400+ done-for-you posts
26 tech tutorials
5 full-length courses
Final Thoughts: Savvy Social School Review: A Social Media Bootcamp for Freelancers
Still not sure what to expect from this social media bootcamp?