Home office - Part 2

Archive for the ‘Home office’ Category

Sample consulting estimate

Sample consulting estimates are hard to come by. New consultants often have little experience with setting consulting fee rates or they aren’t sure what to include in a project estimate. Setting your rate and accurately estimating what is involved in a project are crucial to consultant success. As a result, I’ve decided to include this sample consulting estimate to help new consultants.

Let’s start with the easy part. Similar to my sample consulting invoice, include the basics:

Name / Company Name
US Federal Tax Payer ID (Business Number in Canada)

Estimate number

Company Name

Next comes the most important part: what to include and exclude from your project estimate.

Billing by the hour

Billing by the hour is relatively straightforward once you understand how much to charge. For example, in your estimate you could state that Project XYZ may take approximately 100 hours and you’ll be billing hourly for your work.

If billing by the hour, most clients would like to see a maximum number of hours outlined in the estimate. For example, ” Project XYZ will be billed hourly at a rate of $180 per hour up to a maximum of 200 hours.”

Per project estimates

Many experienced consultants bill by the project, and, for the most part, I do too. Most clients prefer per-project rates because they know what to expect.

For example, in your estimate you could state that Project XYZ will cost $3100, plus applicable taxes. If it’s a large project, it may be helpful to both you and the client to break down the project cost into sub-sections so that the client can see how you’ve arrived at the total cost.

When billing per project, it is crucial that you outline what is and what is not included in the project. When possible, be sure to outline the project parameters in the estimate or in the contract (yes, you need a contract!).

If, as an IT consultant, your estimate and contract simply state, “I will fix your computer for $1000,” this project is open to interpretation, which can lead to problems.

To you, the consultant,  “fixing” the computer may mean diagnosing a problem and recommending a solution. However, to the client “fixing” the computer may mean diagnosing the problem, recommending a solution and providing all of the required hardware or software required to implement the solution. This dispute over who is paying for the hardware or software could have been avoided by a clear estimate and contract.

Detailed estimates and contracts are one of the simplest ways to avoid miscommunication about what is and is not included in the project. Take the time to write detailed estimates and contracts. Not only will they increase your perceived professionalism, but they will protect you and your consulting business.

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Buying a netbook – 7 tips

Buying a netbook? Then you could use these seven tips that will help you choose the right netbook.

1. Netbooks explained

Do you really want a netbook or should you be buying a laptop or desktop computer instead? A netbook is a small, lightweight portable computer used primarily for browsing the Internet.

Netbooks generally boast smaller screens and keyboards than regular notebook or laptop computers. Most consultants use netbooks as secondary computers rather than as primary computers. Before buying a netbook, make sure that a netbook suits your needs.

2. Budget

Buying a netbook is an attractive option because netbooks can be inexpensive when compared to other computers. When considering which netbook to purchase, consider what you’re going to use it for. Like most products, the cheapest netbook may not be the best bet for your needs. Balance your budget with your wants and needs when it comes to your new netbook.

3. Test drive your netbook’s size

If you’re accustomed to a regular laptop, be sure to try out a netbook before you buy one. Small netbooks can be cute, but some netbooks’ small screens and reduced-sized keyboards can drive users crazy.

Test one out to determine how small a screen you can handle.

4. Memory capacity

How much memory will you need? Be sure to consider how much memory your new netbook comes with. Will it be possible to add more memory at a later date?

5. Battery life

Compare battery life when making your decision. Many buyers end up using their netbooks as portable media centres; while traveling or waiting for a flight, netbooks are handy companions so paying more for a six-cell battery may be a good idea. 

6. Where to buy

Today many of us do our shopping online. But some consultants are wary of buying computers online. What if something goes wrong? What about warrantees? Consider warrantees, maintenance issues and IT support when choosing what and where to buy. Remember, as a consultant you may not have an IT support team to turn to when things go wrong.

7. Do your research!

Before splurging on your favourite model, spend a few minutes researching the product online. What are customers saying? What do people love about it? What is the most common complaint with the product? 

Keep these seven tips in mind when buying your netbook, and you’ll end up with a netbook that suits your needs as a consultant. 

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Friday 5: working from home

Working from home can be grand. In this week’s Friday 5, Des Walsh shares the top 5 great things about working from home (dead link). His number 1 pick:

If I have bosses now, it’s my customers, or me. Realistically, there is no boss in my business. And that works for me.

When you become a consultant or small business owner, you gain freedom unavailable to people working at regular jobs. You call the shots. You pick your schedule. You choose your clients. If that isn’t a great reason to work from home, what is?

Rewarding yourself when you work alone

When you work for yourself, you can’t expect a lot of accolades. It’s not the same as having a boss or co-worker pat you on the back several times a day. You need to be your own cheerleading squad. But what can you do to reinforce your successes?

Tips for rewarding yourself when you work alone
1. Keep track of business metrics. For example:

  • number of clients
  • revenue
  • hours worked
  • leads generated
  • biggest sale
  • highest consulting fee charged

2. Give yourself incentives. If you increase a metric to a certain goal level, reward yourself. A dinner at a great restaurant, time at a spa, a latte, an hour of bicycle rental, a vacation, a new book — no matter whether you pick a small or large incentive, do reward yourself.

3. Keep track of emails, cards and comments from happy clients and business associates. One consultant I know has a "rainy day box" where she keeps such mementos. Whenever she’s having a bad day, she opens the box and reminds herself of a past success.

4. Focus on your own success. Don’t compare yourself to friends or associates who work in totally different fields, businesses and environments. A few years ago, I got caught up in downplaying my own success, just because a local marketing consulting firm seemed to be  doing better than I was. In time, I realized the owners had come from wealth, had no children, had two people running the business full-time and so on. I wasn’t comparing apples to apples.

5. Network. Make connections with new people. The bigger your support network, the more you can achieve and give back.

Hallowe’en for the work from home worker

Happy Hallowe’en! Ah, Hallowe’en in the work place. On a day like today, many corporate offices shed their uptight images and allow employees to dress up and party. When I worked for one software company about 10 years ago, I put on a pirate hat and hook and grabbed a sword and cape. Under the cape, I had taped several floppy disks. I was a software pirate, of course. That went over well with my fellow software workers.

But what do you do when you work from home? Well, I don’t dress up on my own and I don’t go to an office Hallowe’en party on Hallowe’en. Over the years, I have managed to crash other companies’ office parties, though. But no plans for that this year. I’ll leave the dressing up to my son. Of course, because of the flexibility of working from home, I can spend all day — all week if I want — celebrating Hallowe’en with him. And that’s better than any office party.

Big list of reasons to become a consultant

Friday 5: Top 5 reasons to work from home

Happy Friday! It’s time for the Friday Five. Via One Healthy Sucker, here are the top 5 reasons to work from home. For #5:

"Work in your pajamas/don’t have to get dressed"

Even if you do get dressed, you can save a lot of money on clothing by working from home.
You can make do with more casual clothing, saving your splurges for the garb you wear to meet clients — or for what you wear in your offtime.

Where to store home office supplies

  • Keeping on top of your growing list of home office supplies can be a challenge. Even if you have a dedicated home office, it’s still a challenge to store all the supplies. If you find that you don’t have enough space for materials in your home office, try the following:
  • storage bins that slide under your bed
  • a storage ottoman in your living room
  • bins in your garage or storage locker
  • mini-storage rental
  • a bookcase cabinet with doors that you can place anywhere in your home
  • baskets in your closet or above your kitchen cabinets
  • shelves
  • a hutch for above your desk
  • filing cabinet, if you have space

Be creative. There’s no rule that all your home office supplies need to be in your home office. If you insist on buying supplies in bulk, look around your home for places to keep them.

You don’t need a separate home office

If you’re thinking about working from home, you don’t need a separate home office, according to Debra Ng. Just find somewhere to keep your files and your laptop — your kitchen table can do the rest.

Setting up a home office really means finding somewhere to keep your work. You may find it easier to concentrate and switch to "work mode" if you have dedicated space. But just having a place for your things can help. A home office armoire may be a quick solution if you like having somewhere to keep everything without using up much space.

Still, legions of independent consultants work from coffee shops and libraries. Just stick your laptop in a briefcase and you’re ready to go.

Related to home office

Do you miss your commute?

When I became a consultant, I gave up my commute. Now, together, my husband and I put about 5,000 km (3100 miles) on our car each year. Although that’s great for the pocketbook and for the environment, it did mean giving up a few things.

I no longer have 30 minutes to myself twice a day. No talk radio, no radio tunes. No unwinding in the car on the way home from work.

Wait a minute…unwind in the car? I was fighting bridge traffic, downtown snarls and more. Just driving outside downtown for lunch today reminded me why I quit commuting. It took me 20 minutes to drive about 2 km. And this is in Vancouver, Canada, not Los Angeles or even Toronto.

Sure, I don’t listen to the radio as much as I once did. But I’m not exhausted when I finish work for the day. And, if I do want to listen to music or the radio, I can just pop a disc into my CD player or turn on the stereo.

I could wax nostalgiac about my old commute, but the truth is that I don’t really miss it. Do you?

Bunny slippers and the home office

Ah, the lifestyle of the self-employed. Pajamas till noon, bunny slippers all day, soft jazz playing in the background….

Self-employed realtor, Teresa Boardman, shares the truth about bunny slippers, the badge of the home business owner. I don’t own a pair of bunny slippers and I don’t know any home-based business owners who do. I do know several people who wear pajamas till noon, although I’m not one of them. However, I do often trek out to get the mail in my slippers, simply because they’re easier to put on than shoes in a hurry. I don’t wear shoes in the house, that’s all.