World Well-being Week – feel isolated working from home?

World Well-being Week will provide the opportunity for all participants to promote an overall awareness for the various aspects of well-being, including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental well-being.”

This is a fantastic initiative that encourages employers to look at the well-being of their employees; teachers to encourage their pupils to look at their well-being and professional bodies from all walks of life to think about all aspects of what they do. It cat-691175_640doesn’t necessarily mean work/life balance, although I’m sure that is part of it, but also focuses on mental health, the community and the environment.

It got me thinking about my own situation and how I can look at my own well-being and think about others in my situation. I work from home in a very rural area of France. I do have friends here and we meet up from time to time, but for the most part, I am in my own home, on my own, for up to 12 hours a day. I admit to talking to my cat and the chickens…and sometimes the wall…and always to myself! But working from home can be a very isolating place.

When you first give up work to go it alone, it’s exciting…you never have to return to your old job; if you have children, you don’t have to worry about childcare during school traffic-843309_640holidays; you don’t have to sit on a motorway, or get stuck in traffic every morning/evening; the world is your oyster, you can do what you want, when you want. But…well…it doesn’t always work out that way. These things are definitely a plus and whoever you work for might get increased productivity, a lower turnover and lower overall costs if you work from home, but there are some downsides. And it’s vitally important to maintain a work/life balance, as when you are working from home, with little distraction, it’s all too easy to work much longer hours than you would if you were employed.

Working from home also has its distractions…your dog barking, a neighbour popping in for coffee unannounced, family popping round or ringing as they know you’re there. And of course, social media! It’s easy to put Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest on and get lost in it for over an hour without even realising it, so you need to be disciplined.

It’s also been suggested that not being in an office environment can actually hinder your career – out of sight, out of mind – so you might get overlooked for promotions or working on important projects, simply because you’re not visible.

Combatting loneliness

However, I want to concentrate on your well-being if you choose to work from home.

people-1492052_640Most of the time, you will be alone…little interaction with other co-workers, no team to talk to, no one to bounce your ideas around with. In fact, a study conducted by Buffer in 2018, found that loneliness was the biggest struggle among remote workers, with 21% reporting that they’d experienced it. If left, loneliness can lead to depression, which is a common problem for many entrepreneurs who work along on a regular basis. One study found that 30% of entrepreneurs have struggled with depression.

If this rings true with you, there is light at the end of the tunnel as there are loads of ways to avoid loneliness when working at home. Here are a few:

  • wood-bench-986347_640You can work anywhere, so long as there is Wi-Fi. We all tend to huddle in our home offices, but it is just as easy to go to a local café, or even take a break away to a different town…and still work. It is a distraction to be isolated from others, so working from a café or other location, you will meet other people or just be around other people.
  • Work outside. Instead of sitting in your office, why not relocate to your garden, terrace or balcony? You’re still at home, but you are out in the sunshine and fresh air.
  • women-1179435_640Plan a break into your day. Try and get out of the house and your office space once a day. Maybe take a yoga class…you just have to plan it into your day, so you could start a bit earlier on that day, or work a bit later. You could go shopping for meet a friend for a coffee during your break. It will definitely make a difference and a change from the same four walls.
  • Get one of those Wi-Fi portable devices/dongles. This way you can work wherever you like…at the park, the beach, a bar…wherever you fancy working. It comes at a small cost, but it’s worth it for your well-being.
  • entrepreneurs-4208227_640Have a working break. Arrange to have a few days away. Sometimes a change of scenery is invigorating and brings out your creative side. Go to a nice B&B or hotel and enjoy working in a different environment. You could even take a working break in another country, factor in some holiday time whilst you’re there and have the best of both worlds.
  • webinar-4216601_640Have a virtual meeting. If you work as part of a virtual team, or work for a particular person, it’s usual for any interaction to be via email or online chat. So why not arrange a Skype or Face-time meeting. These are great as you can interact with the person on video and it’s like being in the same room. Research suggests that face to face interaction is essential for identifying opportunities for collaboration, innovation and developing relationships and networks.
  • Networking meetings. Another great resource for homeworkers is joining a networking meeting on a regular basis. These meetings generally take place early morning as a breakfast meeting or for a couple of hours in the morning leading up to lunch. It’s worth factoring these into your working life, even if you only go once a month, or once every two months. You’ll meet like-minded people and get the chance to talk to other businesses and share ideas. Networking often leads to collaborations, so what have you got to lose?

Obviously there will be evidence both for working at home and against. It’s really up to you which one you choose to do. It’s worth remembering that you need to be a self-starter, can focus on the tasks you have to complete in a day without distractions and that you are well organised. But all the other aspects I’ve talked about also need to be taken into consideration.

action-2277292_640For me, yes…it can be lonely at times, but I make time every couple of weeks to meet with friends for coffee during the day, or a friend comes to me to lunch or vice versa. I also sing in a band, so I have the weekly evening rehearsal to look forward to and gigs some weekends, so that kind of takes care of my social life. I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what it would be like to go back to a 9-5 office job and, for some it might be an option to do a part time job and work from home too. It’s got to be right for you and your well-being and it’s so important for your mental health to have a work/life balance.

If you have any stories about working from home and how you combat the isolation, I’d love to hear from you…or feel free to share in the comments section.

How to market your business without using Social Media

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Facebook and how it might affect business Facebook pages. However, whilst social media has its place in marketing your small business, it isn’t the only way…there are several other ways, some easy, some fun and some that need a bit more work. Even if you decide to use other forms of social media, give a few of these a go!

  • Attend a conference specific to your business and meet other like-minded people
  • Network…try and get to a networking event. action-2277292_640You may find someone or a few people who you could collaborate with. For example if you’re a hairdresser, you might want to team up with a make-up artist, so you can pull together a package for weddings or prom events. You can put a link to their website on yours and vice versa.
  • Do you know your target market? If you do, find out where they hang out and target those areas with some striking flyers or posters. Of course, always make sure that you have permission to put up posters and leave flyers.
  • Always have a stock of business cards with you and hand them out to everyone you speak to. I’ve met people in a supermarket queue or Dr’s waiting room that I’ve got chatting to and given them my card…there’s always an opportunity! Don’t be afraid to ask if you can give someone your card – you never know when they might need your service. Be as creative as you can with your business cards so they really stand out from others.internet-1181586_640
  • If you don’t have a website, now is the time to think about getting one. There are several good, free website hosting sites that are straight forward enough for you to do yourself…or you can call in an expert to help you…and don’t forget to make sure it is mobile friendly!
  • A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your customers and to let them know about new products, popular products and to entice them with special offers.faces-63516_640
  • Have you told all your family and friends about your business? It’s obvious, I know, but there are always the odd Aunt or cousin you haven’t seen for a while, who may need your services…or may know someone who does.
  • Have you ever thought about a loyalty card? You’ve seen them in coffee shops – you buy ten coffees and then get one free. Offer your customers something special – a free gift or money-off voucher for continually coming back to you for business.
  • Pull together a free pdf or other resource that would be of interest to other people in the same business as you that they would benefit from and share with others. This is something that can take a bit of time and effort to develop, but it can really be worth it if you get it right.
  • Ask for recommendations from your current customers and use them in flyers and marketing material…don’t forget to add to your website.
  • Ask local newspapers, magazines or publications if you can be interviewed about what you do and promote it via your website.
  • blog-428950_640If you’re a blogger, arrange to interview an influential person in your niche…someone who is an expert or leading authority on the kind of thing you do. You could interview them as a podcast or use it for a blog post. Either way, once published, that person will tell his/her contacts about the interview and point them to it…and you will get more traffic to your blog/website and the possibility of them using your products or services.

Finally, have a good look at your website or get a friend to have a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Revamp, update  and refresh any old information – you may even want to think about a re-brand with fresh, engaging and eye-catching business cards, flyers, posters etc. This is not only a great way to attract new customers, but also to bring back old ones.

Nine fundamental tips for your marketing plan

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If you think about marketing, advertising automatically springs to mind. However, marketing (or promoting) your business, is more than just advertising. It helps you to ascertain who your customers are, which customers you want to target and how to get them to choose your products above others in the marketplace.

A marketing plan will also include your existing customers – retention of customers is just as important as gaining new ones, so you need to look at continually reviewing and improving your offer to ensure you stand out from your competitors.

Here are nine fundamental tips on what to include in a marketing plan to ensure you cover the essentials …

  1. Executive Summary – Although the executive summary is at the beginning of the marketing plan, it should be written last. The summary will help you ensure that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed anything out.
    The summary should include details of your business, company name and contact details; what your business is about; your key objectives and your strategy for achieving your objectives.
    This helps you to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together.
  2. Vision or Mission Statement – This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd.
  3. The four Ps – once you know what your vision or mission is – your strategy – look at the four Ps…
    Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
    alone-4269760_640Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
    Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
    Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  4. Market Analysis – this is where you need to do copious research into what your competitors do and what the state of the marketplace is in relation to the products you sell.
    – Who are your competitors and how well are they doing?
    – What makes your competitors successful?
    – Who are your customers and potential customers – what are their geographic area and income levels?
    – What are your sales and distribution levels – what is your set up?
    – How well have your products sold in the past?
  5. Your target markets – it’s crucial to know exactly who your customers are and what they’re looking for. Take time to understand what your customers want and need and understand why they buy particular products. You’ll be able to target your market more easily if you know who you’re talking to, and what their problems are. Everyone buys products for different reasons.
    If you have an existing customer base, you can easily find out some of this information, by sending them a simple survey, asking them a few questions – maybe give them an incentive to reply, such as all replies will be put into a prize draw to win one of your popular products.
    If you’re not sure who your target market is – try this exercise. Write a description of one of your products – for example, if you were selling mobile phones, you might say it’s small and easy to use. Then write the features – in the case of a mobile, it might be that you can use it anywhere and it’s useful in a crisis. Then make a list of who needs this product – with a mobile it might be people under 20 to keep in touch with friends and parents/people in business to keep in touch with business partners when away from home or office/ for older people it’s good to have in case they have an accident in the home or need to keep in touch with relatives or carers…. You get the idea!
    Then try and decide which will be your target market and which will be your secondary markets…probably best not to have more than two or three secondary markets at most.
  6. Marketing objectives – In this section, you are planning the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of a particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be precise, so you have something concrete to aim for, maybe sell 40% more of that product over the next 12 months. This gives you a solid objective.
    Pull together a timeline of your objectives – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it easier for you to review at a later date.
  7. Promotion strategies – what tools will you use to promote your business? You could use:
    – Networking – join a business networking group and talk to people at
    every opportunity
    – Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
    – Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an
    expert).
    – Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
    – Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and
    online
    – Press releases
    – Direct or personal selling
    – Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
  8. Budget – Along with promotion strategies comes budget. You need to know what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it?
  9. Measurement – you should aim to review your marketing plan every couple of months. Look at your various promotion methods and determine which ones work best for you and which don’t.
    You can survey existing customers for feedback; ask for feedback and recommendations; look at what your most popular products are and why. Then you will know what you need to do in future.

Pulling together a marketing plan isn’t something that can be done in just a few hours, it can take days – or even weeks – to ensure you have the right information and conduct the necessary research.

If you need any help with your marketing plan, please feel free to contact me at cindymobey@outlook.com

Les Dames de FER and me

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When I first became an Auto Entrepreneur in France, it was a daunting prospect. I’d worked for a large, global company in the UK and the thought of going it alone, in a new country, where I didn’t speak the language very well was scary to say the least. I joined a French class, so I could learn more about the language, and it was at one of these lessons that I heard about a group called Les Dames de FER. Set up to support small business women in rural France, I decided it was a good idea to join. It was the best decision I made.

Les Dames dLes Dames de FER lunche FER hold networking meetings, where like-minded women meet up and talk about their businesses, share information and experiences and support each other. There are regular sessions run by members to share their skills, such as social networking, blogging and the legal system, to name a few. I have found it an invaluable group to belong to and have made loads of helpful contacts. If you have a problem, there is always someone to talk to and someone always knows the answer.

President of Les Dames de FER

President of Les Dames de FER

As a freelance writer and marketing and communications consultant, I help people to promote their small businesses, sharing my skills with my clients and helping them with building their business and marketing plans, as well as writing website content, blogs and business articles. Being part of the Les Dames de FER group has helped me find new clients through networking with other members and the Foire Commerciale (Trade fayre) that they ran in September, gave us all a great opportunity to have a stand and show exactly what we could do and brought us a whole new group of potential clients.

Even though some of the seminars held are on subjects I know about, it’s still worthwhile going along as you always pick up extra hints and tips and it’s good to be able to discuss a particular subject with other experienced people. They are always very positive sessions and I always leave feeling fired up about my business and confident that I have a valuable service to offer to my clients.

I’ll never be a millionaire, but what I do have is worth much more than money can buy. I have a business, doing something I love and am passionate about, I have grown in self-confidence and have met loads of lovely like-minded women. The support of Les Dames de FER is second to none and I’d highly recommend them to anyone who runs their own small business here in France.

If you’d like to find out more about Les Dames de FER, take a look at their website, where you can find the application form to join.

http://www.lesdamesdefer.fr/