All posts by Dave Caolo

How to Hire Remote Workers From Start to Finish

How to Hire Remote Workers From Start to Finish

Many startup founders enter the recruitment and interview process without an HR background. It’s difficult territory, compounded by the fact that many aspects of an in-person interview—the initial handshake and eye contact, body language, an appearance of nerves—are completely absent when talking with a remote candidate.

Additionally, when your star employee could be anywhere in the world, the challenge evolves from finding a needle in a haystack to first identifying the right haystack to search.

As with the traditional interview, hiring the right remote candidate is possible with planning, thoughtful execution and a few steps unique to this type of arrangement. Let’s begin with what to do before you announce the open position.

Before Interviews

Create a platform for recruitment

It might seem old fashioned, but blogging is a simple and effective tool for managers looking to hire remote talent. If you’re already running one on your website, that’s great. Use it to share aspects of your vision and work culture.

If you don’t have a blog, Medium is a great platform for one-off articles and publications around certain aspects. Use their keywords wisely to be seen by wider audiences, or hunt for a Medium publication that might publish your work. LinkedIn is also a great resource for this.

Regardless of platform, recruitment articles should focus on the culture your startup is building. Describe the startup and how you see it working. Highlight habits of the people you have on board now. Is it a rewarding place to work? Do you currently employ remote workers, even freelancers? Anyone who’s excited to read this article will be a candidate for joining the team.

Plan how you’ll manage a remote worker

As the manager, you must set clear expectations and identify how communication will take place right from the start. Write out a formal check-in schedule by setting weekly, monthly and quarterly meeting times. Doing this ahead of time will allow you to find a rhythm that works for your small team and sets you up to share this arrangement during your initial interviews.

Also, make it clear that you’re applying the same schedule of accountability to the rest of the team, so that remote workers do not feel that they’re being treated differently.

Define how communication will work

Communication is critical when you have remote employees, and a big part of effective communication is using the right tools. Many companies use Slack. Again, identifying the tool you’ll use ahead of time will allow you to go to your potential employee and say, “We use [x] for communication. Are you familiar with it?”

Also, decide on things like how quickly a remote worker should respond to email, what being “in the office” looks like (for example, logging into Slack), and how and when check-in calls should occur.

Write an attractive listing

When writing a job posting meant to attract a remote worker, keep language in mind.

This should be obvious but avoid words like “ninja,” “pirate” or “rock star.” Unless you’re after someone who owns a collection of shuriken, wears a shoulder-mounted parrot or is named Eddie Van Halen, skip the silly titles. They make people back away, not apply for a job.

Instead, write a very detailed, specific job description. What’s the best way to do that? Work the job yourself, said Basecamp’s Jason Fried in a Reddit AMA:

“When it comes to an all-new position at the company, we like to try to do it first with the people we have so we really understand the work. If you don’t understand the work, it’s really hard to evaluate someone’s abilities. Before we hired our first customer service person, I did just about all the customer service for two years. Before we hired an office manager, David and I mostly split the duties. That really helped us know who would be good when we started talking to people about the job.”

Two years is excessive. Typically a few days will do it. And yes, do the job itself, noting the required tasks and expectations. Here’s the kicker: do it remotely.

Take a Saturday and spend an afternoon performing the identified duties from home or the local Starbucks. Communicate with teammates via the tools identified earlier. Note what the experience is, as this will inform not only the role but the language you use in the description.

Also, be aware that you may attract people who are seduced by a romanticized vision of working from home. Write your listing in a way that dissuades their application in the first place. Instead of “Work from the comfort of your own home,” try phrases like, “We’re eager to add to our distributed team.”

Put their skills to the test

Lastly, have remote candidates apply in a way that demonstrates their ability to use remote communication tools. Perhaps they can join a Slack channel meant for potential hires, or record a quick video and deliver it to a shared Dropbox folder. Maybe you’ll have them post something to a Trello board. That right person will be happy to complete these brief and atypical tasks.

The Interview Process

Congratulations, you’ve got a list of candidates with a follow-up. Now the real work begins. Conduct a successful remote interview process by following these steps:

Conduct a video call interview

Once you’ve found some potential candidates, invite them to participate in a video interview. Google Hangouts is fine, but you can also use FaceTime, Screenhero or whatever else.

A video interview is important for several reasons. First, notice how the candidate reacts to the invitation. Do they offer several options, taking time zones into account? Do they offer multiple ways to connect, like Hangouts or Skype? Communication is so very important with a remote worker that these little things can go a long way to help identify the right fit.

A video interview also allows you to notice things like body language, dress, appearance and confidence. During this initial chat, work the following questions into your interview:

  1. How will you balance your home/work life?
  2. Is your timezone compatible with our team?
  3. Do/will you use collaboration tools?
  4. How will you remain accountable? At this point, describe the accountability schedule you defined earlier.
  5. How often will you move around (if the candidate likes to travel)?

Watch out for any candidate who lacks a solid answer for number one. Additionally, be wary of snarky answers like “What balance?” The gung-ho worker how brags about consistently putting in 16-hour days will burn out or experience home trouble that affects work.

Interview with the rest of the team

As I said in the first article in this series, a startup consists of driven people who work long hours closely together. The ability to get along is just as important as skills and experience. Let your potential hire have a video chat with the whole team so that you can identify any potential personality conflicts before he or she is hired.

After the group interview, send a quick message to your whole team asking for their thoughts.

Test the candidate with a small, relevant project

After your video interviews, a few candidates will emerge as top choices. Give this group a small project to complete that’s relevant to what you do. It should take no more than a few hours, and you should be prepared to pay them a set hourly rate to complete the task. Make sure that it requires interaction with members of your team so you can test their communication skills.

If all goes well at this point, you can make an offer. A little pre-interview planning, skill assessment and input from the whole team will go a long way towards finding exactly who you need.

Hiring Remote Sets You Up For Success

Hiring remote workers can be great for your startup, provided you’re thoughtful and intentional during the hiring process. Your chances of success will increase when you follow the steps outlined here.

With a little effort and luck, you’ll find exactly the person you’re looking for.

Ready to find the perfect remote hire? Try Authentic Jobs.

The Basics of Making An Offer To Your First Hire

The Basics of Making An Offer To Your First Hire

Recruiting and interviewing your startup’s first employee is a thrilling and trying time. For startup founders who often lack HR experience—and are already deep in the activity of launching a business—the process is downright daunting.

Once you’ve found a candidate that checks all the boxes, it’s time to bring them on board. This process can be broken into four steps: covering the legal requirements, negotiating, making an offer, and planning for their first day.

In this article, I explain how to navigate each step of making a job offer with suggestions to make your life easier along the way.

The Legal Requirements of Hiring

This is arguably the least exciting aspect of hiring a new employee, but it must be done.

First, you should read this full article from the United States Small Business Administration (USSBA), as well as anything that’s unique to your city or state. Again, it’s not thrilling, but all of this must be completed before the new hire can log a single hour of work.

Additionally, you’ll need to have your new employee complete a W4 and an I-9 if you’re based in the US. As with the tasks listed above, these forms must be complete and on file before an employee begins work.

If these acronyms have you dazed, opt for online services that make this process smoother. WorkBright, Agile HR, and Zenefits are a few to consider. These services cost money to use but will be a lot cheaper than an in-house HR professional.

You should also make sure payroll is lined up before the new hire comes on board. For example, do you have a finance person in-house or will you use an outside service? Often times an accountant will run payroll for a small business or startup.

Navigating Negotiations

Now that the legal boxes are checked, turn your attention back to the would-be employee.

Before making an offer, request and check references. Make sure you get two professional references and one personal reference, then pick up the phone and call them. Ask the professional reference if they’d hire the person for the target position, and ask the personal references how long they’ve known the candidate and their thoughts on their personality and work ethic.

If that goes well, it’s time to negotiate with the candidate. Remember, a formal job offer is a give-and-take for all involved. That said, it isn’t about “winning.” Your goal shouldn’t be to walk away the victor, but to come to a result that makes everyone happy.

Salary is a logical place to start. First, define what your limits are. As a young startup, money is likely tight. Identify a number that represents your absolute limit for salary *and* benefits. Make your first offer a little below that figure so you have room to negotiate.

Next, be aware of what your competitors are paying those in a similar position, as well as what your candidate was earning at his or her previous job. To fill in any gaps between your ideal number and what competitors are offering, consider things like bonuses and benefits. Flexible schedules or equity might go a long way.

At this stage, be willing to walk away. That’s not easy to say and even harder to do. If your would-be hire becomes inflexible or unreasonably demanding during the negotiation process, it’s best to let him or her go, as disappointing as that might be.

Making the Formal Offer

Once you and the preferred candidate negotiate a plan forward, contact them by phone or video call if you haven’t already. A face-to-face discussion is more effective at conveying your enthusiasm than an email would be.

Next, draft, sign and send an employee offer letter. It should include:

  1. A job description, including job title, duties and responsibilities
  2. Required hours or schedule
  3. Starting date
  4. Salary/wages and benefits

Of course, all of these items should have been discussed in the negotiation phase. Put a deadline on when the letter should be signed and returned to you by the employee. Giving candidates 24 to 48 hours is standard practice.

As a young startup company, you’ll also want to have a Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement signed by the employee (here’s an example). Without this agreement, they may be free to discuss your intellectual property or take work they created for the company with them upon termination. It’s best to protect yourself from day one.

Put the signed documents in a new employee file to be built over time with performance (records of promotions/demotions, performance reviews, disciplinary actions/warnings, awards or commendations) and separation records (termination paperwork, letters of resignation and exit interview notes). This will help you stay organized in the event of termination.

Preparing for the Start Date

It’s nearly time to celebrate and thank everyone who helped you get here. Hiring is a major milestone and one who should be proud of.

But first, consider that a new job is an exciting and difficult time for both employee and employer. Take these last steps to ease the pain for everyone.

Make a list of routine expectations. Years ago I was given a list of “Ongoing Tasks” I’d complete routinely, week after week. These did not change. Next, a list of general “To Dos” which changed from week to week and finally a list of “Open” tasks that I could address when I had time. I loved these lists, as I knew exactly what was expected of me as the new guy, and I plugged all of them into a daily routine that worked.

It’s also a good idea to plan the new person’s first week for them. This will be the time they’ll learn the product inside and out, read up on policies and procedures, and attend any planned orientation sessions you have. This ensures that they’re informed and reduces stress on their part. By week two, they can move on to “real” work.

A welcome kit with company-branded items isn’t a bad idea, either. Source: LinkedIn

Four Steps to Startup Hiring

Congratulations on bringing someone on board. It’s an involved process but one that’s certainly manageable for those who plan ahead. Be diligent and careful, purposeful and smart.

Follow the steps outlined in this series and use it as a checklist. May your employee roster and your business grow to great heights.

Expanding your team? Use Authentic Jobs to find your next hire.

Woman Taking Notes

3 Secrets For Leading Remote Teams to Success

Managers looking to successfully lead a remote team should have two concerns: hiring the right people and making sure everyone is on the same page after that.

While simple in writing, it’s hard to resist the temptation to treat remote workers as mythical beasts who are better left to their own devices. This isn’t Hogwarts, and remote workers aren’t wizards.

Great managers of remote workers do three things in common to ensure employees are happy, productive, and feel included. As I said, it starts with hiring the right people.

Find the Right People

Hiring remote from within

A successful remote team is staffed by the right people. Hiring managers looking to hire remote for the first time should consider a timed trial period to see whether the arrangement works as part of the company’s culture.

Define a start date, check-in times to monitor progress, and a wrap-up to discuss what was learned and what lessons can carry over if you plan to bring on more remote workers. Resist the urge to make it a one-month trial—you’ll need at least a few months to settle into the flow of remote work.

When selecting workers for this trial, consider employees who are productive and reliable without a lot of direct hands-on management. Be clear that they’re part of a trail and are expected to provide feedback on the arrangement as well as complete work as usual. With their comments, you’ll gain valuable insights on if and how a remote team will function and contribute to your business.

Hiring remote from outside the company

First, know where to find people who want to work from home. Job boards such as Authentic Jobs have lots of people specifically searching for remote work.

A remote applicant will likely describe themselves as a self-motivated, independent worker. Words are cheap so look for concrete evidence of this in their work history. Did she start a podcast or blog? Has she launched a website, product or a business? Has this person taken a chance with a startup? Someone who has a hand in projects like these typically have the focus and drive to work well in a remote setting.

Still, a little guidance will be necessary. As the manager, take care of this by defining expectations at the hiring stage. For example, communicate how you monitor progress and productivity by explaining the position’s monthly, quarterly and annual goals (as well as project-specific objectives) as well as outlining regular, mutually agreed upon check-in times.

If you and your remote team can schedule a day back at the office, great. If not, focus on finding the right tools.

Use the Right Tools

I spent five years in a virtual newsroom with AOL. There was an Editor-In-Chief, a Managing Editor (yours truly) and a stable of full-time writers and freelancers that spanned three continents. Even those of us who were in the U.S. were scattered from New York to California. In fact, no two of us were in the same state. Yet we had clearly-defined “office hours,” a strong work culture and concise, and effective team meetings thanks to some fantastic online tools.

Back then, we used IRC as our “office” (decidedly old school), but today my choice is Slack. Basecamp is another fantastic option, with a focus on recording a project’s history and all relevant communications. You should also consider Skype for meetings (and interviews), and a service like Trello for project assignments and coordination.

In the situation where workers are dispersed across time zones, setting rotating meeting times on these tools makes it so one individual or group of individuals isn’t always getting up early or working late. Check out this list of 19 products for managing time zone differences—many even integrate right within Slack.

Rules and Policies

As I mentioned earlier, setting rules and expectations in the hiring stage can ward off frustration later on. Sticking to these rules and expectations is key to ensure everyone is on the same page when they can’t be in the same room.

Here are a few I recommend:

  • If you’re “at work,” you’re in Slack (or IM, IRC, etc.) Email is fine but it can’t beat the immediacy of live conversation. Require remote workers to be in the tool of your choice during their work hours. Get site-based workers in the habit of doing this, too.
  • Set times for check-in meetings. This is a time you’ll all get together, either in person or virtually, to catch up, offer feedback and see where people are at.
  • End meetings with identifying action steps and the responsible parties. “So, the action steps are [X]. [Y] will report in a week.” That way everyone, including the “away team,” know’s what’s expected of whom.

I recommend keeping any rules in a central, easily-updated location to make onboarding easy. Then it’s easy to grab the latest copy and forward it to a new member of your away team.

Finally, be careful when discussing remote workers if you have an office-based team. It’s easy to use language that creates an “us vs. them” mentality that you definitely want to avoid. Be as generous with public praise as you are with all employees. This will prevent local workers from feeling “different” than your remote workers, and helps the distributed team feel included and acknowledged.

The 3 Steps to Success

With a little time and attention to these details, you’ll have a remote team that hums right along.

Successful management of remote teams relies on finding the right people, using communication tools, and setting expectations. Remember that home-based staff are just like the person in the next office… plus pets, a full kitchen and potentially a gaggle of kids at their feet.

Try Authentic Jobs your next hire.

Dog Napping On Woman Typing On Computer

8 Low-Cost Perks That Attract and Keep Great Employees

A good perk can make your company stand out in a sea of job descriptions and motivate existing workers to stay on board longer.

Perks are well known to lift workers’ happiness and comfort levels. Of course, you needn’t offer the legendary perks that Google does like free food, workout classes and access to trained massage therapists to compete in the job market.

Here are 8 perks that provide value without breaking the bank.

Lifestyle perks

1. Flexible work hours.
Giving employees have a say in when they work doesn’t cost a thing and lets them feel empowered. Plus, it’s a fantastic perk for parents or students who are juggling school and schedules. Options include a compressed schedule (four ten-hour days) or the chance to work remotely.

2. A relaxed dress code.
Again, here’s a perk that takes nothing away from the bottom line and is something that most employees will appreciate. You could start with the typical “casual Friday” or let workers dress down on a day they aren’t scheduled to spend any time with clients.

3. Become a dog-friendly office.
Employees in dog-friendly offices collaborate more, are less stressed, happier to work overtime, and less likely to skip work according to a study by Central Michigan University. Of course, transitioning to a dog-friendly space is a big undertaking that requires some prep work. Start off by forming a dog committee of both owners and non-owners. The Bark published a great how-to on getting started.

Financial perks

4. Help repay student loans.
Startups and small businesses often attract young workers, many of whom are just out of school. Considering that many bachelor-level graduates leave school with hefty student loan debt, this is a serious recruitment and retention tool. The best way to get this done is through a service like, Gradifi or EdAssist. These companies acquire funds from you (say, $1,000 per year) and then apply it to various student loan services, on behalf of employees.

5. A commuter stipend.
If your company is in a large city, consider a small monthly bonus to help with commuter expenses. This could include Lyft or Uber rides as well as public transit.

Workplace perks

6. A welcome kit of branded swag.
Put together a welcome package including a branded water bottle, notebook, and a hoodie or T-shirt. It’s a small, effective way to say “Welcome to the team.” You’ll likely see the hoodies or shirts around the office on casual Friday.

7. In-house activities.
I once worked for a small company that had monthly, in-office activities that occurred after hours. One month it was board game night. The next month it was whiskey tasting. This is a great way to build cohesive, bonded work culture.

8. Offer food.
Large companies offer employees no-cost vending machines and 24-hour access to prepared hot meals. You can do this on a much smaller scale by stocking up on bulk items and keeping containers in break areas full of pretzels or granola bars, with free drinks in the fridge.

Perks are just the icing on top of a great job

Of course, you don’t have to match the big companies to create perks that attract and retain great workers. After all, working for a small company is already rewarding for the type of worker who likes to be hands-on and influence the direction of a growing enterprise.

But even as a small company, it pays to show workers and potential hires that you take their happiness seriously. While pay, location and hours help applicants choose a job, on-the-job perks give them a reason to stay longer once hired.

Start you candidate search with Authentic Jobs.

Planning Effective Interviews

Planning Effective Interviews

Hiring new employees is a big decision. There are anxious moments when you realize you’re responsible for another person’s financial well-being, and that any hiring decisions affect your well-being and that of your company.

There are benefits too, and they’re huge. When a person signs on, they’re saying “no” to other opportunities and saying “yes” to helping to make your dream a reality. That’s a big show of faith.

Additionally, when you’ve got another person, another mind, dedicated to your vision, things start to move forward quickly. Very quickly.

This article is the first in a two-part series about hiring. First, I’ll share how-to’s and tips for conducting a traditional, in-person interview. Then, we’ll dive into hiring a remote worker. Both articles will guide you through anxious moments and suggest exactly how to begin the rewarding process of hiring the perfect fit.

Start Preparing Way Before An Interview

First and foremost, make the commitment to invest the time that recruitment, interviewing, and hiring demands. When you’re a one or two-person shop, it can seem like any time spent away from the product or service you’re nurturing is poorly spent. However, rushing into the process leads to bad hires, which is terribly expensive.

To really invest the time wisely, follow the three steps outlined below.

1. Set aside an hour at the start and end of the day

Make an appointment with yourself as you would with any important contact or associate. Maintain this appointment until you’ve completely wrapped your head around your hiring process.

2. Define your company’s core values

Your company’s core values tell prospective employees a lot about the job. Consider Apple. Words that come to mind are probably innovation, cool, “think different” and passion for design.

In a speech to Apple employees, Steve Jobs once said, “What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their job done… Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core… It’s core values… is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”

With your values clearly defined, it’s easier to convey them to a candidate.

3. Design an on-boarding process

There’s a tendency to ride the momentum and excitement of bringing someone new on board by handing them a bunch of work with a hearty, “Go!” However, properly bringing a new person on board builds a foundation for a great relationship.

Since many employees often work long hours—and considering they probably weren’t there for the inception and early days of the business—they really need to feel like a part of the team. Here are a few effective strategies:

    1. Have them meet the team via email prior to their start date. Or do so in person. This can be informal and even include fun ice-breakers. I once worked at a startup that held a weekly “board game night,” and as a new hire, I found it a welcoming, low-pressure way to meet everyone.
    2. Create a brief orientation day, including sessions on company policies, but also topics like company culture, company history, intent and strategies.
    3. Prepare a proper workstation with a laptop and other required tools. A mug or T-shirt with a logo is another way to say, “Welcome, you’re part of the team.”

There’s the typical HR stuff to complete, of course, but going a step or two beyond is worth the effort.

Designing The Perfect Interview Process

With those preliminary steps taken care of, it’s time to begin recruiting and interviewing. Thinking about this stage well before you start looking at applications gives candidates an equal chance and helps you weigh priorities before wasting people’s time.

Screening applications

When the applications start to come in, look for the following:

  1. People with startup/small business experience. True, a small business is not a startup, but someone who has worked at one is comfortable in small teams and having a lot of responsibility.
  2. Look for side projects, even if they aren’t related to what your product or service is. People who take projects on or create them for themselves are generally eager to try new things, dedicated, and not afraid to work hard.
  3. If you’re hiring for a web startup, hire people who understand the internet inside and out. Developers, coders, and designers should have a vibrant social media presence or portfolio. Twitter can give you a good idea of a person, even if it means scrolling through 100 tweets.

Once you’ve identified the best candidates, it’s time to begin the interview process.

Give candidates an initial test

First, have applicants demonstrate their skills or abilities. Many applicants know how to answer common interview questions or drop buzzwords.

Cut through all of that and have them complete a task similar to what they’d face at work. For example, if you’re hiring a salesperson or marketing pro, have them sell you something. In an interview for a sales position, my manager ended the interview by handing me a cup of tea with the instructions, “Sell me on this cup of tea. You have five minutes.”

Additionally, pay attention to who completes the task and who goes the extra mile with it. The former is good, but the latter should move directly to your short list.

Conduct the initial interview

At last, you’ve identified some candidates and you’re ready to begin the in-person interviews. Once they’ve arrived, there are some topics to address right away.

First, look for people who are real and clear. This can be a bit hard to define, but be wary of people who use cliche phrases and terms. Instead, go for the person who speaks their mind. You need people who are smart and driven, of course, but also not afraid to disagree with you.

Share your vision for the company and the likely long hours they’ll be putting in. This who don’t balk make the cut and should move on to the next steps.

Have them interview with everyone

You’ve got a small company, so let the short-list interviewees sit with everyone on the team. Particularly in startups and small companies, team members work long hours, very closely together. Therefore, it’s crucial that people get along.

That one minor personality conflict will be amplified a hundredfold when you’re all working in close quarters six months down the road. Don’t overlook it. Go for the people who can honestly explain what they like and dislike. Those are the people who care and will tell you the truth when they claim to believe in the core values you defined earlier.

Don’t forget to check references

Skills, experience, and enthusiasm are worthless in a person with a poor work ethic. Anyone who struggles to provide solid, believable references should be nixed.

Hire as soon as it makes sense

When you feel it’s time to grow and it makes sense financially, make the hire. Adding another person to the team takes whole projects and routines off your busy to-do list. The added brainpower and sheer work hours are a real lift to everyone.

Adding to your team is daunting, but when approached carefully, thoughtfully and with the right preparation, is very likely to be successful. Be sure to step back from the resume and engage your candidates, share the work culture, seek examples of their work and ensure they’ll fit in well with the team.

Let Authentic Jobs help you make that great hire.

Strategies for Side Project Success

Strategies for Side Project Success

Side projects can be a vehicle for personal growth and discovery. Even when the result isn’t long-term financial gain, the education and experience that comes with a new product launch is always rewarding.

Side gigs have allowed me to learn new skills, meet smart and interesting people, and explore aspects of business that my full-time job does not offer. Those who freelance or work from home often generate ideas for side projects, each a new rabbit to chase down a hole.

But should you follow? The answer is a resounding “maybe.”

With careful consideration, respect for the work that pays your bills, and the ability to stay focused, you can pursue a side project successfully. You can—and should—follow that rabbit, as long as you do so with patience, intention, and discipline.

Strike a balance

Pursuing a side project while another gig pays your bills is tough. Many people talk about finding the time to work on a project, and that’s a problem. You don’t find time for something like this: you designate it.

If you have an hour after dinner to pursue a new venture, write it on the calendar and make it an official date. It’s harder to shrug something off if time has been set aside for it.

Note that I suggested only designating an hour. It’s not much time, and that’s intentional. Your billable hours should be the priority, even when an idea is new and exciting. Take it slow so you aren’t robbing yourself of paid work.

Make a plan

Any successful side project should start by clearly defining the idea. I do this with a mind map, which is like a semi-organized brainstorm. It’s an excellent way to get all your thoughts, ideas and reflections on a single topic written down for later reference.

Start by writing the idea in the center of the document and then branch out all of the things that help define it and make it into reality. When you’re done, it’s easy to see all of the components of your side project in one place. From there, you can put them into categories and get to work during your designated time.

Define essentials and enhancements

Ideas usually start flowing freely once you’ve defined the new project and put it into a mind map. It’s a great feeling, but it’s important to be mindful of what’s necessary and what’s just fun.

I recommend using two lists to separate the two. Name the first “Essentials” and use it to record what must be in place to get a minimum viable product up and running. The result is a clear roadmap getting you from where you are to where you want to be.

Name the other list “Enhancements” and use it to record things that are fun features to have like that cool animation, integrated Twitter sharing, and so on. Only turn your attention to Enhancements once the Essentials list is completed.

This takes will power, but remain strong. You can delay that gratification.

Beware the enthusiasm bell curve

It’s normal for enthusiasm to taper as you work on the more mundane parts of a side project. If it’s a business, this could include opening a business checking account, determining the cost of the product or service, registering your business, and so on.

This is a dangerous time because it’s usually when that second idea pops into your head. It’s tempting to turn to the new idea and leave the original plan in the dust, but abandoning ideas halfway through is how side projects never get finished.

Plus, take comfort in knowing that you’ll feel the same way about the second idea once you’re halfway through launching it, too.

Know when to put it aside

Sometimes a brilliant idea comes to you at the exact wrong time. If you can’t dedicate time to work on a side project right now, it’s still possible to seize the opportunity by:

  • Filing it for later. If a new idea appears when you can’t work on it, store it for later. Put a reminder on your calendar on an appropriate date in the future.
  • Grabbing the domain name now. If you must delay work, grab the related domain name now before it gets scooped up.
  • Identifying the small steps that you can do now. This will often result from your mind mapping session.
  • Conducting relevant research. Read books or subscribe to a relevant podcast to listen to while in the car or during downtime. There’s a great book called Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky that addresses much of this.
  • Working on behind-the-scenes planning. Think about everything that must be done before you can begin work. When you’re ready to pick the project up again, all of the planning will be in place.

The keys to planning and managing side projects

Side projects take focus and planning but can be hugely rewarding—both financially and for personal growth.

Maintaining momentum when you begin a side project is key to getting it across the finish line. Break tasks down into small chunks, set attainable goals for the week, and create a series of small wins for yourself.

As Jerry Seinfeld says, don’t break the chain. Work smart, and good luck.

Continuing Education for Remote Workers

Continuing Education for Remote Workers

A pro stays on top of the game through continued education. Modern trends and tools allow you to retain a competitive advantage, and the best way to stay current is through continuing education. For home workers who run the whole show – from production to marketing and HR – this is crucial. Whether you’re a writer or a designer, a coder or a wedding photographer, you must stay current to stay competitive.

Telecommuters face a similar challenge. Those working within a reasonable distance from the home office may spend the day at the building for an in-service, workshop etc. Workers who are truly remote – in a different city or state – face a greater challenge. In that case, getting to the office is more difficult. Throughout this article, I’ll highlight options for both the freelancer/small business owner and the telecommuter.

However, getting that education isn’t easy.

Many industries have employee betterment built in. For example, my wife is a public school teacher who’s required to attend a certain number of classes and workshops, all tailored to address the latest regulations and teaching techniques. When an appropriate workshop or conference is identified, the school arranges enrollment and foots the bill, and the school day proceeds as normal when she’s away.

As a telecommuter, you’ll probably get paid during an in-service day, which is an advantage over your freelancing brothers and sisters. What’s critical for you is to clearly communicate where you’ll be for the day. Remember, you coworkers are used to not seeing you. For them, it’s just another day. Be sure that all collaborators know you’re unavailable for the day, and when they can expect you back.

If you’re a freelancer or a one-person shop, the story is different. In addition to taking the time to find a good event, you’ve got to register, possibly travel and definitely pay out of your own pocket. Additionally, time spent at a conference or workshop isn’t billable, so no money is earned on that day(s).

In this article, I’ll list several ways you can stay on top of what you do, without sacrificing a huge amount of money or precious billable hours. There are many great resources available if you know where to find them, and many are inexpensive or free. But first, a look at determining the true cost of attending an event.

Bang for your buck

The cost of attending say, a workshop goes beyond the price of admission and maybe a sandwich for lunch. There are a finite number of billable hours in a day (unfortunately we have to sleep sometime). For me, cost = money spent (tickets, food, travel) + time spent, where the latter refers to time that cannot be devoted to billable work. True, the education acquired will hopefully enhance billable work and maybe even your rate, but you’re starting out “in the hole” if you will. If I’m taking a sixty-minute workshop with an entrance fee of $1200 and my rate is $100 per hour, I’m out $1300 for that day.

To offset this, I put a few dollars away each month specifically for continuing education. It’s not a lot but is there when I want to sign up for a webinar, workshop or conference. With some money set aside, it’s time to find an event worth attending, starting with a freebie.

To the library!

Despite predictions to the contrary, the internet did not kill your local library. Those run by forward-thinking staff see them has hubs of information for their communities, not merely housing for paper books. A part of this revival is workshops and talks, often given by community leaders across disciplines. These are typically totally free and offer one-on-one time with a person who really knows their stuff.

If books are your thing, interlibrary loan can let you find exactly the title you need. Again, library cards are free and the time commitment here is very low.

Here’s a quick tip for books you own. When I’m reading a business book that I’ll refer to later, I take notes on an index card as I go. For example, when I come across a great little nugget of information, I’ll make a quick note on the index card with the page number. Then, when I’m through reading, I’ll tape the card to the inside cover, giving me an analog, custom, book-specific wiki. No more flipping to remember, “Now where was that part again?”

Local Schools

Is there a college in your area? She what they’re offering for adult education. There’s a community college in my neighborhood that offers adult classes in the evenings, conveniently accommodating a working person’s schedule.

You can also find business classes, like guidance on writing a loan proposal, working with taxes for the self-employed and more. When I started writing on my own, I took a class like this and discovered that I had to register myself as a business with my town office. I wouldn’t have know that otherwise.

Entrepreneurial Resources

No college in the area? Look into small business support organizations. These groups are set up to help small business owners get off the ground. You’ll learn regulations that I described earlier and have some time for networking, too.

Web Based Training

There are so many great resources online for the self-motivated (that’s you, home worker). DeVry, Lynda and more are ready to go and are free of travel expenses (note that Lynda access is also sometimes offered free through libraries). If you’re a coder, check out Udacity, Treehouse, CodeSchool and others.

Conferences and workshops

Finally, the biggies: conferences and workshops. Definitely the most costly but often the most beneficial. Why not the family along and make a little vacation out of it? Also, look for a smaller, less expensive (both tickets and travel) local events if you can’t get to the biggie.

It’s important to stay good at what you do, and that means staying current. With a little work, you can find the venue that’s perfect for you. Now get to it.

Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.

Managing Working from Home During School Vacations

Managing Working from Home During School Vacations

The good news is that summer is almost here. The bad news is the same.

For the home worker who’s also a parent, summer break means the pitter-patter of little feet is about to invade your office. The noise is the least of your concern, as feelings of guilt could permeate your work hours. “It’s summer, I should be spending time with the kids!”

Here are our tips on dealing with all of that, plus dealing with clients around vacation time and why you do, in fact, deserve time off.

First, the kids.

Set expectations

The most important thing is the set expectations, both for yourself and for the kids. Be honest about the fact that you won’t be able to work for seven uninterrupted hours anymore. Additionally, explain to the kids (depending on their ages) that you need some time away to work. I recommend working in “kid breaks” to spend time with them, as well as adjusting your work day into smaller chunks of time. I like to get out of bed an hour or two before they do to work on my most important tasks for the day.

If you really need extended quiet time for work, consider a co-working space. Desks Near Me and Share Desk can help you find a clean, professional co-working space close by. There’s often a fee associated with these, but it’s much lower than the cost of renting an office and, for many, worth the investment in quiet productivity.

Vacation Levels

Something else to consider is the family vacation. For as long as I’ve worked from home, I’ve experienced what I call the three levels of vacation. Each has you traveling while adjusting how and when you work.

A Level One vacation is really just a change of scenery. Perhaps you’re in a novel city, state, or country, but your work schedule remains intact. You’ll rise from bed when you typically do, put in a full work day and stop at quitting time. When the day is done, you’re free to explore your new environment. Some would call this a “working vacation” but that term is entirely too depressing to me. Stick with Level One. Which brings us to the next step up.

Level Two features an abridged work day in a new setting. Perhaps you’ll put in four hours instead of a full eight, and use the extra free time for leisurely pursuits.

Finally, a Level Three vacation features no work at all. You’re offline, off the grid and enjoying time away from the grind. It’s a rare, coveted arrangement that many home workers, especially freelancers, can’t pull off without proper planning. It’s difficult but not impossible.

Addressing client needs

First, let clients know you’ll be taking time off. It’s easier said than done. It’s natural to want to be seen as that person they can always rely on or reach out to. The problem with setting that precedent is they might take you up on it. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to get time away as that client expects your accessibility to remain consistent. Set expectations well ahead of time.

Depending on the client, note that you’ll be traveling and have limited (or no) availability between certain dates. Start this conversation weeks ahead of time. That way, when you get that “urgent” email about the update that must be in place within the next 24 hours or the world will cease to exist, you can remind that person that you won’t be around, as described earlier. Also, you should have a Plan B person waiting in the wings.

Years ago, I was doing copy editing on the side and had collected several clients. I also knew a few other copy editors with whom I’d swap war stories over a beer, including a guy we’ll call Chris. Chris was talented and efficient, and he became my go-to guy when I was unavailable. If that civilization-threatening emergency did come up, I could let Chris know, confident that he’d handle it, and receive a little pay from me in the meantime.

When choosing a Plan B person, consider that their work will reflect on you. Identify someone who’s trustworthy and good at what they do. You don’t want to return from a week of fun in the sun to discover that you’ve got to undo some damage. Additionally, be willing to reciprocate when your Plan B person wants some time off.

Next, create a budget and stick to it. One downside of being a freelancer is the lack of paid vacation time. When you aren’t working, you probably aren’t earning. Crunch the numbers and determine exactly how much you’ll lose and save accordingly. This planning also informs how much you can safely spend while you’re away.

Should you take time off?

Now let’s consider: when you work from home, do you really need a vacation? Don’t be fooled by the fact that you work from the comfort of your own home. You’re still working after all, and your batteries (for lack of a better term) drain just as quickly as the cubicle-bound. In short, you need and deserve time off.

Here’s a bit of fun for the person who can’t bring themselves to abandon email entirely: create a secret vacation-only email address. Give it to that small handful of mission-critical contacts. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something will remaining in contact with important folks ALL while avoiding the vast majority of messages you typically receive.

Yes, summer is coming and that’s a good thing. Take some time to manage your expectations and those of the kids. Take frequent kid breaks to recharge your batteries and to let them know they’re on your mind. If you do take a vacation, clearly define how and if you’ll work while away and finally, find a co-working space if quiet productivity is of the utmost importance. Have a great summer.

Looking for a new job? We’ve got your next great opportunity on Authentic Jobs.

Personality type and working from home

Personality type and working from home

Quick, which personality type is best suited to work from home: introvert or extravert? The tempting generalization to make is that solitude-loving introverts will shine as home workers while their gregarious counterparts will suffer. I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dry.

Personality certainly affects a person’s ability to work from home successfully. Right off the bat, there are several traits that will benefit any home worker:

  1. Self-motivation
  2. Superior communication skills
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Tech savvy

Good communication skills are so important for someone who rarely, if ever, works in the office with the rest of the team. The same can be said for self-motivation, resourcefulness, and comfort with tech tools, as those tools will often foster communication. But is that the entire recipe?

You might be tempted to add another item to that list: an introverted personality. Home-workers often spend hours at a desk without seeing another person. Virtual meetings happen, yes, but that’s not the same as working face-to-face. Does this mean extraverts are doomed to telecommuting failure? Not at all.

Let’s get scientific with it

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a questionnaire designed to identify psychological preferences. It’s where we get the terms “introvert” and “extravert” in the first place. The questionnaire was designed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. According to Fast Company, about 80% of Fortune 1000 companies use it to help employees the relationship between their personalities and their professional lives.

The MBTI says of the extravert:

“[I get] energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people.”

Likewise, introversion is described like this:

“[I get] energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with.”

Which one would you add to your remote team? The tempting answer is the solitude-loving introvert. However, Michael Segovia, lead trainer for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, says that anyone, regardless of their personality, can work from home successfully.

So which works best?

The key, according to Segovia, is to recognize how you feel energized — and productive — and take steps to make that happen. For example, a person who is extraverted receives energy from a bustling environment where he or she can bounce ideas off of others. A daily video check-in maybe what that person needs.

Meanwhile, a mostly introverted person may struggle to find the quiet he needs in a busy or noisy household. Likewise, these quieter folks could struggle to ask for the interaction or support they need. Again, a regular video check in is a good idea.

These two types also tend towards traits that are very beneficial for the home worker. The people-driven extravert is often a great communicator, which is crucial for a home worker.

Likewise, he or she is often self-confident and fond of talking with others. These qualities make it easier to network, land deals, talk with potential clients and customers.

On the other hand, an introverted worker is typically energized by time spent alone, protective of their privacy — important for remote work — and thoughtful. These folks won’t struggle with extended periods of alone time.

In either case, employers should be sure to offer plenty of face time. The benefits of face time have been demonstrated scientifically as well. A study published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2015 suggests that “…a balance of face-to-face and virtual contact is optimal” for all home workers, regardless of personality type.

Of course, the world isn’t simply divided into introverts and extraverts. Really, the ideal telecommuter is structured and disciplined, regardless of personality type. A self-motivated individual will be more successful than their counterparts.


How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

You’ve got an interview for a sweet remote working position. Congratulations. Now it’s time to prepare. Of course, you should follow the advice that any candidate should adhere to, like researching the company and your interviewer, appear enthusiastic and so on. There’s also prep work that’s unique to a telecommuting interview that you must not overlook.

There are questions you should ask, others you should expect, as well as things you ought to do before and during the interview to demonstrate that you are the very person to join a remote team. Here are the best practices we suggest for anyone preparing to interview for a telecommuting gig.

Do your Homework

Whenever you interview for a job, you’ve got to do your homework. There’s the usual stuff, like learning about the company and the people you’ll be talking with, understanding the field and so on. There are also a few key things you should do before interviewing for a telecommuting position. These things will help identify you as a person who can work from home successfully.

First, demonstrate that you’re comfortable using the tools that of a self-reliant home worker. If your would-be employer suggests a time that won’t work with your schedule, suggest alternatives. This seems obvious, but it demonstrates the flexibility that a remote worker just has. A tool like Doodle is great here, as it’s just the kind of communication tool that those managing remote workers love.

Also, send a calendar invite, and provide times for your location as well as your interviewers. In doing so, you demonstrate an awareness of the time zone dance and accommodate for it. Finally, suggest several options for speaking, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, UberConference, etc. With that done, it’s on to the interview itself.

Interview Logistics & Preparation

Understand that the interview for a remote job will likely be conducted remotely. You’ll probably have an audio call (phone, Skype, etc.) and a video component. Each has unique preparation steps.

If you’ll be interviewed by phone or other audio call (Skype, etc.):

  1. Don’t “check out” during the conversation. It’s easy to be distracted or otherwise let your attention drift when the interviewer can’t see you. No looking out the window or letting your gaze drift to Twitter for a second. Act as if you’re in the same room as your interviewer.
  2. Be aware that you can’t rely on facial expressions or body language to convey information. If you’re smiling, they don’t know it. Therefore…
  3. Your voice takes on increased importance. Since you can’t rely on visuals to convey enthusiasm or interest, speak clearly and with energy. They can’t see the spark in your eyes, so let them hear it in your voice. I’m not saying to be artificially animated, but be aware that of how you sound.

If you make it past the phone- interview, you may have to participate in a video interview via Skype or Google Hangout. Additionally, I once had to record a video of myself answering questions I received via email. Both are common practices when interviewing for a remote job. Here’s how to prepare for this bit and do well.

  1. Look presentable. Again, this goes without saying. Yes, you’re home, but this is not a casual affair. Get dressed.
  2. Be aware of your background. That epic Led Zeppelin poster is awesome, but an interviewer doesn’t want to see it. Ditto the pile of laundry. Make sure your environment looks professional.
  3. Be aware of lighting. Is your face visible and easy to see? Sit aside a window for nice, natural light.  
  4. Be aware of audio. No, you don’t need a professional mic but if you’re in an echo-y room, move. Even the mic on your ear buds will often be better than the one that’s built in on your computer.

Remember, a part of a video interview is to test that you can work with the tools you’ll need to communicate with your employers. If you struggle with a simple video call, the probably won’t want to have regular remote meetings with you.

Lastly, just before you get started, kill bandwidth-hogging apps like Dropbox, etc., turn off any unnecessary noise in the area like the TV or a noisy air conditioner and finally, wear headphones and a mic, even a cheap one.

Questions to expect

First off, you’ll hear the questions that pop up in most interviews, like “What do you know about the company?” and “Why should we hire you?” Prepare for these remote-specific inquiries as well:

“Have you worked remotely before?”

An interviewer will want evidence of your ability to work independently. Past remote experience will be good here. If you don’t have any experience with remote work (or very little), emphasize the experience you do have. Did a snow day force you to work from home on a wintry day? If so, how did you cope? Does your current brick-and-mortar job require a lot of independent, self-directed work (for example, photo editing at your desk)? Explain how this demonstrates your ability to be self-directed without a lot of interaction/supervision from others.

“Do you have a home office?”

While an employer may be happy with having you work from home, they might not want you at the coffee shop where prying eyes can look over your shoulder and see something that ought to be confidential. Additionally, they may require that you have certain basic equipment in place, like a certain internet speed or a scanner. If you’re on an audio interview, do your best to paint a picture of your workspace.

“How do you handle distractions?”

You know this question is coming. Have an answer ready.

Questions to ask

The questions you ask can be just as important as the answers you provide. As someone interviewing for a remote position, these three should be on your list:

  1. How do remote workers communicate with each other and people back at the office?
  2. How long has remote work been offered at the organization?
  3. How many employees work remotely?

By and large, interviewing for a work-from-home position is much like any interview you’ll take. With the tweaks and preparations mentioned above, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of nailing it. Good luck.