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Simple ways business consultants can better manage risk

There are simple methods business consultants can use to manage risk and avoid unexpected losses.

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Business consulting can be a challenge: how to manage risk

Starting your own business is filled with risk (and reward), and consultants often take on the risk of their clients, depending on how they are advising, making it particularly tricky. There are a variety of methods business consultants can follow to minimize risk and manage it.

Ted Devine, CEO of small business insurance provider, insureon, notes that consultants, “whether they offer advice on management, marketing, human resources, or other areas of business – often operate as sole proprietors or independent contractors. But even if you don’t have a traditional team of employees, you still face a number of risk exposures specific to the work you do.”

Devine offers the following five methods in his own words, urging consultants to take them into account to ensure “unnecessary (and unexpected) losses” can be avoided:

1. Contracts, contracts, contracts

Contracts are key. Regardless of specialty, business consultants often have to immerse themselves in a client’s operations in order to provide sound guidance in their area of expertise. But this investment in a business’ inner workings can lead to blurred boundaries of responsibility. To prevent the scope of a project from oozing beyond the borders of the work you were first hired to do, be sure to use contracts with every client. In addition to establishing clear parameters for your work, contracts help keep client expectations reasonable and can provide invaluable evidence in the off chance that you’re hit with a lawsuit alleging you didn’t fulfill your professional duties.

2. Don’t get fined for your office location

Your home office might be illegal. Many counties have ordinances restricting or prohibiting commercial activity in residential areas. To prevent fines or penalties, make sure you have appropriate permits and adhere to any local rules for as long as you operate out of your house.

3. Insurance may not cover you

…plus, [a home office] has all the usual business liabilities. Making sure your home office is legal is just the start of managing your liabilities. Keep in mind that most home offices are not covered by Homeowner’s Insurance policies. In fact, Homeowner’s policies often include language that specifically excludes home offices and business equipment. Just as importantly, if you receive clients at your home office, you could be held liable for injuries or damage to their property that occurs on your premises.

The good news? There’s a kind of bundled insurance called a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) that includes Property and General Liability Insurance. It protects you from lawsuits associated with injury to your clients and from the cost of repairing or replacing damaged business equipment.

4. Staying out of hot water

You can be held liable for your advice. Even though you’re not selling physical products, consulting still exposes a business owner to liability. Imagine you’re an HR consultant and you’re charged with filling a key top-level role for a technology firm. If you find an applicant who’s eventually hired and it turns out that person faked his credentials and costs the firm money and time, you could face a lawsuit for failing to properly vet the candidate.

5. Classifying employees

Classifying your employees right can save you thousands. If you’re like a lot of business consultants, you work primarily on your own, with maybe a few contractors to help manage your books or your technology. But what happens when you grow and decide to bring on a remote, part-time assistant? Depending on where you live, state law may require you to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance – or face serious fines. Whether you’re currently operating on your own or with a team of helpers, take the time to review your state’s Workers’ Comp laws to ensure that you don’t have to spend your hard-earned revenue on compliance penalties.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to stay focused and motivated when you work from home

(ENTREPRENEURSHIP) Do you find it impossible to stay on task when you work from home? Check out our tips for maintaining focus and motivation when working remotely.

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When you work from home, it is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you technically never have to get dressed. However, you also end up with every possible distraction at your fingertips. Staying focused can be difficult even if you’re Type A, which I certainly am not.

Although I’m no expert in time management, I’ve managed to hone my borderline ADD attention span into productivity with the following tactics.

1. Define your workspace

First things first, you need somewhere to get work done. While some people may be able to get everything done from bed, for others the temptation to nap the day away is far too tempting. Get yourself a desk, or turn a table into a temporary workspace. Just make sure if you have kids or family at home while you’re working, they understand the boundaries of your zone.

Setting up camp in the living room isn’t going to help you if the kids are using it as a play space, and hiding out in a guest bedroom won’t provide much privacy if you didn’t let anyone know that it’s now temporarily your cubicle. Consider making a do not disturb sign for the door, or using shelves to define boundaries in a room.

2. Create a schedule

Okay, I know it’s obvious, but making a schedule for yourself is the next step after setting up a workspace. Determine what needs to get done and when, and share this with your housemates, kids, or whoever else is around. It’s easier to stay focused if you clearly define when you’re working so any potential distractions known when to leave you alone and for how long.

3. Determine productivity

Are you more of a morning person or do you get everything done post afternoon nap? Figure out when your most productive time is and set your schedule accordingly.

You won’t get much done if you’re a night owl forcing yourself to slam out projects at 6AM. Of course, you can work outside of your productivity zone, but you may make yourself miserable in the process.

4. Remove distractions

Nothing is going to get done if your phone is blowing up with texts, your favorite TV show is on, and that fun quiz someone sent you on Facebook is up in one tab while your personal email is open in another. Set your phone to silent if you’re able, or at the very least, let your most frequent contacts know that you’re working.

If you’re like me and have very little self-control when it comes to browsing your favorite sites, you may consider installing a browser plug-in that limits how long you can spend on certain sites, or even temporarily block sites during certain times of the day.

5. Set a timer

Once you’ve created a schedule, widely shared it with your most distractible folks, and are ready to get down to business… there’s still distractions. You know you’re working on something for the next hour and half, but it’s dragging out forever and you can’t stop checking the clock to see if it’s break time yet.

Set a timer on your phone, computer, kitchen timer, or even your microwave. This way you can remain focused and have something externally alerting you when time’s up.

6. Reward system

It works for kids, it can work for you too. Setting up a reward system may help boost motivation, and can be as simple as “if I work for two hours solid on this project, I can watch one episode of this TV show.”

Give yourself a reasonable goal and incentive to complete that goal if the project itself isn’t inspiring internal motivation. I’m a fan of dessert based rewards, but you do you.

7. Go somewhere else

When all else fails, don’t work at home. If you’re able to, get out of the house and go to a coffee shop, library, or coworking space. Shame yourself into working by telling yourself everyone around you knows when you’re distracted. Or you know, find motivation by surrounding yourself with others who are being productive.

8. Power in numbers

Join a group of other freelancers or remote employees to create a support system. While this may open you up to more distractions, having others around who share the same struggle of remote work could help increase your productivity. Some people are more motivated when working independently in a group setting. Give it a try to find out if you’re part of that crew.

Ultimately, you know yourself and what distracts you.

Try to remove as many distractions as possible, and create a realistic schedule for yourself. No one will benefit from working eight hours straight without a break. Give yourself a chance to test out different techniques and figure out what works best for you.

You’re not a failure if setting up shop in the library ends up making you less productive. Just try another setting, or rearranging your home workspace. Ultimately, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with a clear schedule, a clean workspace, and some sort of break/reward system. You can work out the other details as you go.

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Business Entrepreneur

Why CloudApp needs to be in your business toolkit

(EDITORIAL) CloudApp is simple yet powerful for any sized business, keeping your productivity at an all-time high.

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Are you fed up of screenshotting something and taking the time to drag it into a Slack window to share with an employee for them to ask you what you meant by this. Well, so was I. Working remotely occasionally has its blunders when it comes to communication, the struggles of explaining what you meant without the need to meet via a video call or jump over to another person’s desk can sometimes be a tricky situation to be in.

This is the same for in-office situations too. There’s been plenty of times in an office where I’ve had to break my own workflow or someone else’s to head over to their desk to visually explain something. A potentially useful period of time.

A few weeks ago, this pretty much came to a stop. After receiving two emails during a week in October with two types of link attachments, I was curious what they were. Clicking into these links, I got a visual demonstration of what the person was speaking about. I was so impressed. From a screen demo of a website to how something worked and what buttons to click to get a desired outcome. I was blown off my feet.

Simple as it was, the app is called CloudApp. Both available on Windows and Mac, CloudApp’s primary goal was allowing users to capture these moments like a screenshot or a screen record to help explain the thing in front of you, with little worries. The magic didn’t stop there, once I started playing with CloudApp, I recorded a short demo of a site bug/issue that we had and instantly I heard a “ping”. The recording was captured and ready in a paste-able link.

Within seconds, I sent over the visual demonstration. Dead simple, hugely effective.

By the end of the working day, I had visually explained 98% of things in Slack conversations, emails, mobile texts and even to those I was sitting near. It was a crazy addition to my Mac and productivity across my day and it didn’t stop there.

CloudApp also did a host of beneficial things like allow you to annotate images or screenshots, create GIFs, upload files and even record webcam videos too to support your screenshots.

I would recommend CloudApp to everyone. I was so impressed with their toolkit.

The freemium account is great too. You get unlimited screenshots and annotation with 15s of GIF and screen record creation, which was so reasonable for someone getting started. There are additional pricing options too. CloudApp is available for Mac and Windows and is well worth installing to take full advantage of visually explaining things to friends, colleagues, and those struggling to get a drift of what you are trying to talk about.

Download CloudApp for Mac and Windows.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to determine your freelance rates based on data, not your gut

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Setting freelancer rates can be quite the tricky business. This tool does arms you with the data you need to grow your business

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The bulk of my professional career has been spent as a freelancer. The designation of “freelancer” has taken me on an interesting path that allowed for projects and opportunities I didn’t even know existed.

While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity, I now look back on some of these experiences and realize that I was vastly underpaid. For the most part, this is my fault as someone paying for a service is looking for the lowest possible rate and I never bothered to bargain out of fear of losing the role.

It was even at a point where I dreaded being asked my hourly rate because I didn’t know what the norm was. There was always a fear of charging too much and getting dropped for someone cheaper, or charging too little and looking inexperienced.

We recently talked about knowing your worth and how we freelancers often under charge for our services. Luckily, as this career path becomes more and more popular, there are now more resources devoted to helping us know what to charge.

Such a resource comes in the form of Freelance Rates Explorer. Created by Bonsai, this online tool gives users the ability explore rates from 40,000 freelancers worldwide.

“There are many sites like Glassdoor that offer salary data comparisons for full time employees,” said the tool’s developers. “However, there isn’t a site like this dedicated to provide insights on freelancers rates. We had this data, so we built the Rate Explorer to make it easy for freelancers to compare their rates in the largest publicly available rates database on the Internet.”

In order to find the standard rate for their field, users will input their role (either development or design), their skills (full stack, front-end, back-end, DevOps, iOS, and Android), experience (in years), and location. The Rate Explorer then generates a bar graph based on the answers and will show the most common hourly rates based on the number of freelancers and the rates range.

Bonsai also offers proposals, contracts, time tracking, invoicing and payments, and reporting. All of this is designed for freelancers.

As for the Rates Explorer, seeing the numbers calculated right in front of you may make you realize that you’re vastly underselling yourself. This tool can be especially beneficial to use now as we go into a new year and may be updating contracts.

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