10 Free Google Chrome Extensions Every Entrepreneur Should Install

As the app where you probably spend most of your time on your computer, your browser is useful for much more than just “browsing” the internet.

There’s a lot of features you can unlock by customizing your browser with extensions to better suit your needs—especially if you’re an entrepreneur.

And since Google Chrome has around a 71% share of browser usage, it’s no surprise that many of the most useful browser extensions out there have been built with Google Chrome in mind.

The following are the best Chrome extensions I’d recommend to scrappy entrepreneurs, letting you access more features directly in Chrome and customize your browsing experience to improve your workday in a big way.

A word of warning, though, installing too many Google Chrome extensions can slow down your browser. It’s best to only install and keep the ones that you would actually use on a daily basis.

With that out of the way, here are 10 of the best free Chrome extensions you should definitely check out.

Assistant.to: Schedule Meetings Faster

assistant.to chrome extension

Anyone whose days consist of jumping from meeting to meeting is all too familiar with the back-and-forth dance of finding a time that works for both you and the person you’re connecting with.

You can remove that struggle from the equation by using Assistant.to, a scheduling plugin that lets you check your Google Calendar directly in your inbox and select the times that work best for you.

Your contact can then click the option that works best for them in the email and that’s it—the meeting is booked.

Why You Should Use It:

  • You only have to ask once what time works for your contact.
  • Rescheduling is also supported.
  • Will impress your contacts with how efficient you are and how nicely the options are presented.

Save to Pocket: Collect Content to Read Offline Later

pocket chrome extension

“Looks like an interesting article. I’ll read it later.”

How many times has that been said and never done? A busy schedule shouldn’t keep you from reading and learning on an ongoing basis. That’s why Pocket is so great.

Pocket lets you collect articles—from links, tweets, even your favorite blog’s RSS feed—to read later at your leisure. And the Pocket Chrome extension makes it as easy as one click.

If you’ve got a long commute during your day or have specific hours when you like to consume content, Pocket is a better way to build your daily reading list.

Why You Should Use It:

  • Pocket is easy to combine with other apps via IFTTT and integrated into many blogs and social networks.
  • Choose between “web view” or a distraction-free “article view”.
  • Option to read offline or even “listen” to articles you save.

Clearbit Connect: Find Emails and Get Contact Info

clearbit connect chrome extension

I’ve gone through several “email finder” solutions, but Clearbit Connect has proven to be one of the best.

Clearbit Connect won’t just help you find the email for a specific person or role at an organization, but also see background info about a contact directly in Gmail.

It’s this combination of features that make it more useful than other tools like it.

However, like most free email finders, there’s a limit to how many emails you can find each month, which should be fine for most people. If you need more, however, try Anymail Finder as a backup.

Why You Should Use It:

  • You can search by company, by role at a company and by the name of the person you’re looking for.
  • View detailed contact information in the right sidebar of every email.
  • More accurate and up-to-date than many alternatives.

Streak CRM: Streamline Your Outreach Inside Gmail

streak crm chrome extension

There are a lot of Gmail plugins out there, but none are quite as powerful as Streak. In my opinion, it’s easily one of the best Chrome extensions on this list.

Streak essentially gives your inbox the best features of a CRM software for free. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, you’ll never approach your outreach strategy the same again.

With Streak, you can build “pipelines” from a list of contacts and customize each email with info like your contact’s first name or company name. All you need to do is insert {{field_Name}}and {{field_Company}} into your email to make your outreach appear one-to-one even though you’re emailing many contacts at once.

From there you can track whether your emails get opened, make notes about specific contacts and move them through your pipeline based on their responses.

As an entrepreneur, email is your #1 business development tool. Make it more powerful with Streak.

Why You Should Use It:

  • Knowing when your emails get opened means you know when your leads are “warm”.
  • Create pipelines for all your outreach efforts, whether you’re looking for a supplier or an influencer to feature your product.
  • Create and store email templates or “snippets” that you can call upon with a click when the occasion arises.

OneTab: Keep Your Browser Tabs in Check

https://giphy.com/embed/l0MYxARGBUgvTNPhe?hideSocial=trueAs I write this, I’ve got about 10 tabs open. That doesn’t just make it harder to find specific tabs—it actually slows down my computer.

If you’re a serial tab-opener like me, OneTab is one of the best Chrome extensions you can install.

Instead of closing all your tabs and dealing with the risk of losing a page you actually needed, OneTab lets you collapse all your tabs into “one tab” that speeds up your computer and lets you start again with a clean slate.

Why You Should Use It:

  • If you feel like you always have a hundred tabs open at any given moment, this is for you.
  • One click to hide all your tabs. One click to bring them back.
  • Reduce memory usage by up to 95%!

Block Site: Because Self-Control Is Hard

block site chrome extension

We don’t always choose to procrastinate—it kind of just happens.

Sometimes you end up on Reddit or Facebook without a clue as to how you got there.

That’s where Block Site comes to the rescue and helps you stay focused.

It’s simple. You add all the sites that distract you to Block Site’s list, and then enable it whenever you need to focus.

Any time you’re tempted to check what’s happening on Facebook or what’s new on Buzzfeed, you’re met with a page reminding you that you shouldn’t be there.

Why You Should Use It:

  • It tracks how many attempts you make to visit a blocked site (and with a sense of humor too).
  • It takes enough effort to disable Block Site that it’s much easier just to get back to work instead.
  • You can set a schedule for blocking all distracting sites during your working hours.

Buffer: Schedule Social Media Posts On the Fly

buffer chrome extension

You probably know Buffer as a tool for auto-scheduling posts on multiple social media accounts for the optimal publishing times and frequency.

But the Buffer Chrome extension helps you save even more time by adding the page you’re on right now to your Buffer queue. And with the ability to easily cater the accompanying message and image to suit each social channel you choose, it’s one of the best ways to use Buffer to share the same content across different accounts.

Why You Should Use It:

  • One-click access to Buffer’s post editor.
  • Customize your message for each channel (e.g. 140 characters for Twitter and longer posts for Facebook/LinkedIn).
  • Right-click on images to “Buffer” them directly to your queue or add text over them via Pablo by Buffer.

Effin Amazing UTM Builder: Track Your Links the Easy Way

effin amazing chrome extension

When it comes to online marketing, it’s important to track your every effort otherwise you’ll lose out on the insight that helps you better understand your traffic.

Proactively tracking your links might be an online marketing best practice, but it can also be a time-consuming one that’s hard to commit to.

Effin Amazing UTM Builder lets you add UTM parameters to any link in just a few clicks. If data drives your marketing decisions, as it should, then this is a must.

Why You Should Use It:

  • Presets let you automatically fill out the parameters for each field.
  • Integrates with bit.ly to shorten your links and hide the UTM parameters.
  • Great for identifying traffic that comes from guest blogging, social profile bios, etc.

Momentum: The Best “New Tab” You’ll Ever Open

What’s the first thing you do when you get the urge to put off a task?

You open a new tab.

Instead of succumbing to the slippery slope of procrastination that follows, you can make use of that “new tab” by reminding yourself that you’ve still got things to do.

Momentum is all about that. With a more minimalist approach than other new tab chrome extensions like it, Momentum only shows you things that help you stay productive: the current time, your to-do list, an inspirational quote and image, and the goal you set for the day.

Why You Should Use It:

  • It’s beautifully designed and stays fresh with new images and quotes.
  • Forces you to confront the current time and your to-do list whenever you open a new tab.
  • Unlike most new tab options, it doesn’t prominently show your favorite links so you won’t get distracted by them.

Grammarly: A Spellchecker That Works Everywhere

grammarly chrome extension

Whether you’re sending an email or a tweet, spelling and grammar mistakes can harm your credibility.

You could hire a professional proofreader to check your words wherever you end up writing online. Or you can install the Grammarly Chrome extension.

With it, you’ll be able to easily spot misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and other issues in your writing at a glance.

Why You Should Use It:

  • It claims to be better than the traditional Microsoft Word spell checker many are familiar with.
  • Works through your browser so it checks your tweets, emails, comments, and wherever you write online to preserve your credibility.
  • It doesn’t just correct grammar, it teaches you about it too.

What Chrome Extensions Do You Recommend?

Whether you’re emailing a long list of contacts or trying to stay focused on the task at hand, these are some of the best Chrome extensions you can install to get more value out of your browser.

But this list only represents a tiny fraction of the useful Chrome extensions out there.

So let’s hear some of your favorite productivity-boosting Chrome extensions in the comments below.

How to Outsource Effectively and Earn Back Your Time

As an entrepreneur, you wear several hats. Some of them might even look good on you.

But there will inevitably be some parts of starting and running a business that fall outside your expertise.

On top of that, you’re one person: You’ve only got 2 hands and 24 hours in a day.

Just because you carry the weight of your business on your shoulders, doesn’t mean you need to shoulder all the responsibility alone.

Delegating responsibilities to other capable hands frees you up to focus on your vision and the things only you can do, whether it’s growing your business or even spending more time with your family.

When it comes to creating time and finding talent, ‘outsourcing’ is an essential practice for efficient entrepreneurs.

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Contrary to some definitions, outsourcing doesn’t necessarily mean contracting work out to someone in another country. Instead, look at it as handing off or “farming out” work to a third party that specializes in its execution.

It’s easy to become a  control freak (in a good way) when you care deeply about your business, but that can make it hard to let go of aspects of your business in fear that someone else won’t do as good a job as you or won’t execute your vision exactly as you see it.

On the flip side, delegating too much or for the wrong price can increase your operating costs unnecessarily.

Effective outsourcing gives you back the time and energy you need to focus on higher impact things and maintain a good balance between life and work.

When contracting out a role or task you’ll need to consider:

  • Essential vs. nonessential tasks: Perhaps the most important thing to consider is whether what you’re outsourcing demands your attention and if that attention could be better spent on more essential tasks elsewhere (e.g. business development activities like creating strategic partnerships)
  • Long-term relationships vs. one-time needs: Outsourcing a process in the long-term requires that you build a good relationship with the contractor or agency you’re working with, so that they know your business enough to work better with you over time.
  • Your personal expertise and workflow: Look at outsourcing essential tasks where you don’t have the expertise to ensure quality work and find ways to offload nonessential tasks that consume a big chunk of your workday.
  • Look at automation and “botsourcing” first: Some things are far cheaper and more efficient to automate than to outsource (more on that later).
  • Costs: In many cases, you’ll choose outsourcing because it’s a cheaper alternative to hiring an employee full or part time. But consider whether you have the cash flow to support outsourcing costs and the potential return on investment (more revenue or time to focus on other things) that justifies it.

When in doubt, ask yourself how much your time is really worth. The simplest way to calculate the value of your time is based on the total number of hours you dedicate to work divided by the income you generate per hour you work. Then ask yourself if it’s worth paying someone to have that time back and what you would invest it on instead.


 

 


Delegating: An Essential Skill for Every Endeavour

“As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.”

— Jessica Jackley, Co-founder of Kiva

The first time I farmed something out—a logo—I didn’t get what I wanted at all at first. It wasn’t the freelancer’s fault (they had a history of 5 star ratings). It was because I made the mistake of not communicating what I had in mind.

It’s easy to blame hired help for delivering poor work, but you should be mindful that the person you’re dealing with doesn’t necessarily understand your business, your processes or your vision.

Always appreciate the “curse of knowledge”— you know exactly what you want, but the people you’re working with don’t. Communication is key.

Here are some tips for effective delegation:

  • Define a clear outcome: Describe the result you want (and don’t want). If it’s a measurable result, then agree upon a way to quantify it. Make sure your requirements are clear and, if relevant, that your instructions account for obstacles (“If this happens, then do this instead…”).
  • Over-communicate: Explain why you want it done and what your venture is about. There’s no such thing as too much context or information around a task, so make sure you’re both on the same page.
  • Set deadlines: If there’s a clear deliverable at the end (e.g. a logo design) make sure both you and the contractor are clear about when it’s expected. If you specify a date but no time, the assumption is that it’s due at the end of that day (midnight). For creative tasks, be sure you leave enough time to account for revisions.
  • Be wary of time zone differences: When you’re working with remote help, it’s important to be aware of differences in working hours when establishing deadlines or meetings.
  • Establish a line of communication: Make it easy for both you and the contractor to get in touch with one another if the need arises. Email is usually fine for communicating, but consider using Skype or Google Hangouts since they let you send instant messages, make calls and share what’s on your screen. For more complex, long-term remote teams, employ a tool like Trello or Slack to better facilitate the flow of necessary information.

Help Isn’t Hard to Find: How and Where to Look For Talent Online

Today’s gig economy—for better or for worse—has made it easier to source talent online.

But that doesn’t mean all the challenges are gone.

There’s a lot of debate (among both contractors and business owners) when it comes to pricing. Should you pay per hour or per word (for writers), pay a fixed rate per project, a fixed rate paid out partially as certain milestones are met, or a combination?

It really depends on the contractor, complexity of your project and the nature of the work you need done.

Regardless, scope out complex projects or roles fully before you agree upon a price.

One of the worst things that can happen when outsourcing a complex project is “scope creep”—having the needs of the project change as it develops, usually due to unforeseen circumstances or some misunderstanding with the initial agreement. Make sure there’s a clear record of the requirements of the role or project and establish a price according to that agreement.

With that out of the way, here are some ways you can find talent and places you can look.

Finding and vetting talent through your personal network

For many people, their first instinct when they need talent is to tap into their personal networks to find it based on the recommendation of a friend.

A mutual friend or connection could make it easier to establish a long-term relationship with a contractor. You can post your requirements on LinkedIn or search through your network for a mutual connection with the skills you need.

For creative roles like writing, video creation, and design, you can also reach out to people whose work you like to see if they’re willing to offer their services on a freelance basis.

However, this takes longer and could consume a lot of time, so it might be best to use a marketplace if you want to move faster.

Finding and vetting talent through a marketplace

99designs

Marketplaces have streamlined the way we objectively consider aspects like price, quality of work, customer reviews, turnaround time, and trustworthiness when evaluating talent.

While the inherent competition in a marketplace drives costs down across the board, you might not get to establish the same kind of relationship you would when hiring a solo contractor through their own platform.

However this is offset by the quick access you get to a diverse pool of talent with a fast turnaround that fits your specific needs.

Most marketplaces also handle payments via “escrow”—your payment is held by a third party account until both you and the contractor agree that the work was done. This gives both you and the contractor peace of mind throughout your relationship.

With a general marketplace like Fiverr, you get a really fast turnaround and a wide range of gigs on offer for almost anything you can imagine (get someone to make you a song or share your product in a list of forums). The gigs also offer more flexible pricing delivered in tiers, so can start for as low as $5 (hence the name, Fiverr) with the ability to upgrade your gig to get more as you see fit.

Upwork is a bit more expensive than Fiverr and offers less variety, but the talent is higher quality and more relevant to the needs of starting or running a business.

Some niche marketplaces take a crowdsourcing approach like 99designs (for infographics, logos, etc.), and Wooshii (for product videos and engaging short films) to harness competition, so you get more choices as to the creative direction of a logo or video. You’ll get higher quality results but for a higher price.

Shopify store owners can also check out Shopify Experts for developers, designers and store setup experts .

Finding content writers and copywriters

crowd content

I often hear that writers are hard to hire. Mostly because you need to account for not just whether you want a copywriter or a content writer, but also whether they’ve got the expertise and experience to work within your niche and brand’s voice.

If you want a writer you can work with long-term as the need arises, you can start by looking for existing content you would want on your own blog or website, and then reach out to those writers directly (find them on Twitter, LinkedIn or their Facebook page).

When you’re evaluating a content writer, especially how much you want to pay them, it’s worth looking at not just how engaging their work is but whether they have their own audience.

A writer with an audience might also promote the content they create for you within their own networks, expanding the reach of your blog. Or you can ask for ghostwriting services to publish under your own name, to build your own personal brand, instead.

If you need to produce a larger quantity of written content or copy that’s optimized for SEO, consider a marketplace like Crowd Content as it can integrate with and publish content directly to popular platforms like Shopify, Twitter, WordPress, and Facebook.

Setting up third party warehousing and fulfillment

Third party warehousing and fulfillment probably won’t be a good option for younger ecommerce businesses.

Even with the cash flow to justify it, there are logistics that must be considered when outsourcing an offline process that is core to your business’ operation.

If this topic interests you, I recommend you read Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Third Party Warehousing and Fulfillment to explore it in greater depth or read our Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping.

 

Hiring a virtual assistant for administrative tasks

Virtual assistants are a varied bunch. Some of them are great for handling administrative tasks, research, cold calling, and data entry. The best ones might even provide skills like writing, proofreading or design.

It depends on what sort of day-to-day tasks you want to take off your hands.

Zirtual is a popular solution for dedicated, highly useful VAs that are perfect for startups.

Fancy Hands, alternatively, is a much lighter subscription-based VA service that’s great for time-consuming research, finding quotes, posting to forums and directories, and even staying on the phone to negotiate your phone bill on your behalf.

Employing a virtual assistant isn’t just useful for an extra pair of hands—it’s also a great way to practice the art of delegating as you learn how to let go of tasks and clearly communicate your wants on an ongoing basis.

Automating and “botsourcing” to support or replace outsourcing

Automation is a cost-effective way to supplement or even replace outsourcing. I mention automation here, because outsourcing isn’t just about finding talent—it’s about having more time on your hands to re-invest elsewhere.

With If This Then That (IFTTT) and Zapier you can created automated processes to streamline parts of your business, so you can either make your internal processes more efficient or streamline the workflow between you and a regular freelancer.

For example, if you regularly order social media images off of Fiver, you can have them automatically sent to a Dropbox folder.

IFTTT Recipe: Upload my Fiverr ordered videos to a Dropbox folder connects fiverr to dropbox

Here are some recommended readings if you’re looking to learn more about automation:

  • 7+ Ways to Streamline Your Ecommerce Business With Zapier
  • 9 Clever Ways to Automate Your Small Business with IFTTT

Also, if you’re a Shopify store owner, be sure to check out the App Store—there are a ton of apps to build more integrated processes across your business.

“Botsourcing” lets you offload the execution of daily tasks to a virtual employee.

Hire Kit—your own virtual Shopify employee bot starting at $10/month!!

Chat with Kit via SMS, Facebook Messenger or Telegram to send personalized “Thank You” emails to customers or even run Facebook ads.

 

And Now, Over to You

Many entrepreneurs fled the 40-hour work week to pursue the freedom to live the life they want. So they started businesses of their own. However, running a business is no small feat and it’s not uncommon for many to end up investing a lot more hours in its day-to-day operation.

There’s always something to do, some way you can grow your business, and when your attention is always on the details of execution that keep your business going, you might lose focus on the things that will help you take it to the next level.

If you haven’t thought about letting go of tasks and making more time for yourself, then hopefully this has got you thinking what you can get off your plate.

If you’re already outsourcing tasks and roles, what are they? What sites do you frequent when you’re in need of talented hands? What are some clever ways you’ve automated your business?

Share your experiences in the comments below!

Feeling Lonely? 5 Ways to Cure the Entrepreneurship Blues

I’m prone to squirreling myself away, binging on Netflix and hunching over DIY or writing projects without coming up for air. Suddenly, I’ll catch myself in a one-sided conversation with the dog. I lean introvert on the personality spectrum, but even introverts get lonely.

There’s plenty of proof that introverts make great entrepreneurs, and it can be assumed, more equipped to thrive in the isolation that comes with the lifestyle. Alone and lonely, however, are two very different things.

Loneliness has recently been linked with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, and poor social networks can contribute to a number of other health concerns like obesity. Cabin fever, it seems, is a more worrisome diagnosis than I thought. And, it’s an epidemic: the rate of loneliness has doubled in the past 30 years, with 40% of Americans reporting feeling lonely.

Entrepreneurship’s “dark side” is the psychological toll that can put business owners at higher risk for mental health issues, and loneliness is a slippery slope.

Entrepreneurship can be Lonely

On Monday, I worked from home. I’d tell you it’s my preference – that I’m more productive, less distracted – but the truth is, after more than a day, I miss the energy of others (my dog notwithstanding). Frankly: I get lonely. At home, I don’t benefit from spontaneous group discussion, or connections made at the coffee maker.

“There is a huge difference between being a remote employee and being an entrepreneur or freelancer. Like, night and day difference,” my remote colleague tells me. He’s lived in both worlds.

It’s true – when I work from home, I still have access to Slack chatter, and can hop into regular meetings on Hangouts. There’s a desk waiting for me on the other side. For solopreneurs, the company safety net doesn’t exist and the networks don’t come standard. In both cases, combatting loneliness requires a little proactivity.

Business owners are at higher risk for mental health issues, and loneliness is a slippery slope.

Tom Hanks’ Cast Away character developed systems to connect to the outside world, and established a “social network” – a discarded volleyball with a face – to stay engaged and motivated. Luckily, the deserted Island of Entrepreneurship has more natural resources.

There’s no need to make friends with inanimate objects – beat work-from-home isolation with a few tricks from the entrepreneurs who do it every day:

1. Get Outside

Change the Scenery

For a lot of new small businesses, renting office space can be too costly. But there are happy-medium alternatives to the tiny workspace wedged into the corner of your kitchen: answer emails from a café, rent pay-as-you go hot desks at coworking spaces, or consider pooling together with other entrepreneurs to share a studio.

“I started my business in my basement. I would routinely try to do the laundry, dishes, and my bookkeeping at the same time. It saved me money, but I was wasting so much time that I’d end up working till 1-2am to catch up. Moving into a shared studio space has opened so many doors and helped me make so many new connections. When you work with other like-minded people, especially women, you help each other. You give advice and connect others with new projects, people, and opportunities, and every connection you make strengthens the support behind your own business.” – Sophia Pierro, Owner, Present Day

The new studio also helped Sophia with the lonesome blues:

“I have cats. They help with the isolation but are also super distracting. My new studio is cat-less but I now have studio-mates, which is much better.”
 

Betahouse Co-working Space Barcelona

Co-working space at Betahaus Barcelona

Breathe In

We’ve already told you that fresh air and nature are great for productivity and strategic thinking, but a good dose of green can also alleviate symptoms of depression, loneliness, and anxiety.

“If there aren’t built in reasons to move during your day, find excuse to move – for example, instead of eating lunch at your desk, walk to a cafe or sandwich shop.” – Jason Fried and David Heineneier Hansson, via Remote

2. Crowdsource Your Health

Keep Fit (and Social)

Think about it this way: you have the advantage of a very short commute – a slippered shuffle from the bedroom to your home office. Good luck logging 10,000 steps.

As a busy entrepreneur, that extra hour in the day could be put to good use: fulfilling orders, working on a social strategy, answering customer service emails. But it might be an hour better used to keep fit – studies show that fitness improves concentration and enhances creativity, essential attributes of a great entrepreneur.

Studies show that fitness improves concentration and enhances creativity – essential attributes of a great entrepreneur.

Desk yoga is great in a pinch, but a regular fitness commitment can pull double duty as a way to combat isolation. Join a run club, hit the gym, or sign up for group fitness classes – anything that involves other people. The positive impact on your heart and energy is a bonus.

Eat Well, Together

When I work from home, my meals sometimes consist of a spoonful of peanut butter or a tray of oven fries. It’s an easy habit to adopt when you’re busy – putting work needs ahead of your own.

Planning healthy meals can increase productivity, but it can also be social. For accountability, I use apps that help track eating habits, but also connect me with others. MyFitnessPal has a social component, allowing you to share your health goals with a supportive community.

3. Make Time for Face Time

Technology makes it easy to run a business without ever leaving your couch and sweat pants. Kicking it old school with some real face time (nope, not the app), though, keeps your communication skills sharp, and your social health in check.

Teach and Learn

Connect with other entrepreneurs and hone your craft by enrolling in workshops and courses. For more seasoned business owners, pay the knowledge forward by applying to teach.

“Now that we’re sharing a space, we’re putting a whole new plan into action. We’re starting community workshops, classes, and programs that are connecting us even more with our community.” – Sophia Pierro, Owner, Present Day

BrainStation Classroom

A classroom at BrainStation

Move Your Meetings Offline

No need to be lonely when you can squeeze human interaction into your day-to-day business tasks: visit your suppliers in person, deliver local orders by hand, and meet your designer over coffee.

Attend Events

Whether you’re treating yourself to a trip to attend a small business conference abroad, or popping into a local meetup, events are great for not only for learning new tricks of the trade – they’re also replete with other cabin-fevered entrepreneurs looking to connect.

Shopify Retail Tour Event

Networking at Shopify Retail Tour

Grow your professional support network quickly by attending events that have networking built in.

“I take advantage of the fact that I don’t have a long commute or have to get distracted by others around me. When I want to meet people who are also into fashion or online retail, there are plenty of fashion startup round tables here in Portland, so I try to go to as many as I can.” – Sarah Donofrio, The Jet Set

Networking events also offer opportunities to practice your pitch, source investors, and bounce new ideas off seasoned entrepreneurs.

Retail Therapy

Dabble in retail by taking your online business offline: participate in a seasonal market, open a pop-up shop, or rent shelf space in another merchant’s brick and mortar shop.

The Local Branch Pop-Up

Maker Market booth by The Local Branch

4. Stay Connected

Don’t vote yourself off the island just yet. Make some alliances in your industry if you want to survive.

Reach Out Often

Out of sight, as they say. You’re likely not interacting face to face with your business’ stakeholders or customers on the regular, and maybe your assistant is virtual. Be proactive about making online contact regularly.

“Make a point of reaching out to other people. It can be hard sometimes – I’m quick to assume they’re all super busy and I don’t want to bug them with chit chat – but it’s what keeps me connected.” – Stephanie Shanks, Social Support (Remote), Shopify

A more formal approach may work for you as well: schedule time into your calendar to make contact – it’s one of those items that might otherwise be put off forever.

Meeting Friends for Drinks

“Do a weekly hangout with people in your industry.” – Tommy Walker, Editor-in-Chief, Shopify Plus Blog

Join Online Communities

Even if you’re running a business from a small rural community, there are plenty of support resources in forums and groups designed for entrepreneurs:

Can’t find a group that fits your niche or personality? Start one!

“Online small business groups are great for after-hours assistance and feedback with impartial views.” – Melanie Hercus, Founder, The Local Pantry Co.

Make (Real) Friends

“I joined a few local networking groups of people my age, which have been incredibly beneficial for my business. And now I have a whole new group of friends! It’s impossible to run a business fully on your own, so taking the time (even if you don’t have any) to meet others in your community will, without a doubt, help you in the long run.” – Sophia Pierro, Owner, Present Day

But where do you meet friends as an adult? It’s a big, lonely world out there. There are plenty of apps that follow the swipe-right dating model, but are designed for platonic or business connections.

Try these:

  • Vina or Bumble to meet girlfriends with similar interests
  • Wiith for connecting nearby or at events
  • Weave for building business contacts

4. Stay Connected

Vina: how I met Kayla (I’m not a murderer)

Feelings of loneliness can occur because of non-existent social networks. But, they can also impact people with large networks of toxic or low-quality friendships. Surround yourself with people who support your business and your lifestyle.

“I designate time every single day to take a break from it all and connect. Whether it’s with my husband, my family, close friends or fellow moms in some of the Facebook Groups. This is something I learned to do after a year of fully neglecting my relationships (during our founding year). If I don’t, I just can’t focus because I’m browsing through social media all day long, looking to fill that space.” – Josie Elfassy-Isakow, Owner, MagneTree

Surround yourself with people who support your business and your lifestyle.

Expand Your Wolfpack

Offer an internship opportunity to a student or new grad – barter business knowledge and real world experience in exchange for low-cost help and human interaction. Contact local colleges for information on work placement and internship programs in related fields of study.

5. You Do You

Draw the Line

It’s easy, from home, to blur personal time with dedicated working hours, and you may find yourself bailing on girls’ night out to pack boxes or tackle invoices. Establishing office hours, setting deadlines, or scheduling tasks in your Google calendar can help with work/life balance.

Use tools like Trello or RescueTime to keep you on track. Walking a dog or other daily establishing events can also act as work-day markers:

“Coming back from the dog run in the morning is the start of my day, and I have that clear delineation where I will take her out again at lunch and after work. If an order comes in at 10:00 at night, I’ll take care of it if I’m free. But in terms of sitting at my desk, I try to keep regular hours, like 9:00 to 6:00.” – Valentina Rice, Owner, Many Kitchens

Dog

Get a Life

Kaitlin and Ryan Lawless try to save business conversions for after their first coffee. They take respite from their work life by focusing on their relationship over the daily morning ritual.

Allow yourself to step away from the business to focus on hobbies and friends outside of your industry. The effects can actually be good for your business. Studies show that some hobbies can improve communication skills and work ethic, and help you cope with work-related stress.

“In addition to running my store, I also DJ for OPB radio, and being an indie rock radio station, there’s no shortage of characters there. I always have concerts or pub nights to attend, and am surrounded by people who want to talk about music all night.” – Sarah Donofrio, The Jet Set

Think Positive

“Change the mental story you tell yourself. Remember that there are people who care about you; they may just be busy at the moment.” – Elizabeth Bernstein on loneliness, via WSJ

When lonely feelings come knocking, remind yourself of the benefits of working solo. Without the shackles of a cubicle and punch-card, you’re free to make your own hours or work from the road. Take your business with you while you check places off of your travel bucket list.

And remember, sometimes the grass isn’t always greener:

“As an entrepreneur working in the intense pace of Hong Kong, I would revel in the chance to experience some isolation and loneliness.” – Alexis Holm, Squarestreet

Take care of yourself. Your business will thank you.


 

 

Article was originally posted on Shopify

 

How to Make the Most of Your Weekends to Grow Your Side Business

Building your business on the side is not easy. You come home after a long day of work, you spend the little time you have with your family and friends, and you try to jam in a productive session, working on your side business before going to bed.

Your weekends allow you to get much more done in much larger chunks. They’re usually where you’re most capable of growing your business or having the most impact on your business when you’re working a day job.

However, are you making the most of your weekends? How often do you find yourself distracted or making excuses when you’re not getting enough done? How should you structure your weekends? What does a weekend, optimized for productivity and growing a business, look like?

I’m going to answer these questions and share what has worked for me, and continues to work for me. Additionally, I’m going to share my action plan, exactly how I structure my weekends, and what I do every weekend that has helped me grow my side business and maintain a great work/work balance.

Switch Up Your Frame

The first thing you need to consider is how do you think of your weekends.

What you do during the week should set you up to get more done on the weekend. Don’t use your weekends to support the stuff you do during the week, instead, whenever you come home from your day job and begin working on your business, make sure it supports what you plan to do over your weekend.

For example, if you’re planning to tackle your website’s design over the weekend then choose templates, design logos, draw layout ideas  and write copy throughout the week. That way, when the weekend rolls around, you can focus on the most important task – getting the website up.

Making Your Weekdays Support Your Weekend

Whenever you think up a task or project, but can’t make time for it during the week, David Allen, author of Getting Things Done suggests you add it to a “next actions” list instead of a “to-do” list. Throwing items into a to-do list is non-actionable. If you set an ordered list, of the next things you need to do for your business, it will require and encourage you to make quick decisions.

Think up a great, actionable idea for your business?  Put it in your “next actions” list. Come up with a new marketing idea that will take several hours to implement? Put it in your “next actions list.”

At the end of the week, organize these ideas, tasks, and projects into timeslots throughout your weekends, then pull each task from your next actions list and move  it into your calendar for the weekend. (More on this in the next section)

Now let’s get into what a typical weekend looks like for me, and how you should consider structuring yours to get more done.

How to Structure Your Weekend

Friday

While you won’t have as much time on Fridays to get as much done as you can on Saturday or Sunday, it’s a good time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished throughout the week and what you plan to do over your weekend

Reflect

It’s good to sit down for five minutes, before planning out your weekend, to reinforce what has (or hasn’t) been working for you.

Not taking the time to see where you went right and wrong can stunt your growth as an entrepreneur.Your business only grows when you do. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What were my top wins this past week?
  • What didn’t I get done?
  • Where did I waste time this past week?
  • What was the best part of my week?

You can answer these questions out loud or write them down in a journal or private document (like Google Docs or Evernote).

Plan of Attack

Now it’s time to schedule your weekend. Set blocks of time for each task and get your priorities in check.

Your weekend should be flexible. Things happen and you can’t always stick to your schedule. However, don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Stay flexible for when “life” happens, but don’t stay flexible just because Game of Thrones or your favorite TV show might be on.

Before planning out your weekend,  ask yourself a few questions to get a better perspective on what needs to get done:

  • What must I get done no matter what this weekend?
  • Are there any potential distractions or commitments this weekend that I will need to account for?

Now it’s time to plan your weekend for success.

First, if you don’t know what you should be doing, use the Pareto Principle. Look at the 20% of things you’ve been doing for your business that have yielded 80% of your results.

Next, use a tool like Trello or even Google Calendar to set your schedule for the next two days. Pull the tasks you put off from your “next actions” list and start to schedule them into your weekend. If the task can be done in five minutes or less, do it immediately (yes, while you’re still scheduling your tasks) instead of putting it off for the weekend.

In the next section, I’ll talk about what your Saturday and Sunday might look like to help you figure out how to make the most of your weekend.

Here’s an example of what my Trello board, “Weekly To-Do”, looks like:

Generally, you’ll want to tackle the most difficult or time-consuming tasks first. If you don’t think you’ll be able to complete all your tasks for the day, do the most important things first. The most important task is up to your discretion, but generally, if it has a looming deadline or will make the most immediate impact on your business, it’s the most important task.

Saturday

Let’s carry over that excitement and momentum from Friday’s reflection and planning, and begin to tackle the most important tasks on Saturday.

“Airplane Mode” Saturdays

So, because you hopefully have scheduled the most important or difficult task first, that’s where you’ll be spending most of your Saturday. It’s also likely to be your most time-consuming task, which is why it’s also important to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.

The key to getting more done on the weekends is focus. Sounds simple, right?

On paper, sure, but in reality, there are a lot of distractions and excuses to keep you distracted.

My Saturdays are usually the most productive day of my weekends. I like to put myself into “Airplane Mode”. Much like how your phone’s Airplane Mode which disables all of your phone’s connectivity to the internet, I do the same thing by cutting myself off from distractions.

Though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get much done without the internet there are tools you can use to help keep you from wandering off and browsing Facebook, while staying connected to the internet.

These are the Chrome extensions I use to put myself in “Airplane Mode” every Saturday.

  • StayFocused – Block out the sites that steal your time so that you can work on what matters.
  • RescueTime – Track all your time on the internet to later review where you waste the most time.
  • News Feed Eradicator – Sometimes, I can’t block Facebook using a tool like StayFocused because I use Facebook to manage my ads and pages. However, with News Feed Eradicator, my news feed goes from distraction filled mess to motivational or inspirational quote.
  • Momentum – This extension replaces your new tab screen with an inspirational photo and a reminder of your most important task for the day.
  • Simple Pomodoro – If you’re not familiar with The Pomodoro Technique, it helps you work in small intervals of 25 minutes of getting stuff done and a short 5 or 10 minute break. Instead of plowing through without taking a break, Simple Pomodoro is a timer that will alert you when it’s time to take a break and when it’s time to get back to work.

Sunday

I don’t like to lose the momentum I created on Friday and Saturday, however, even I understand that there are errands and things that need to be done on the weekend. That’s what Sunday’s for.

If I have time on Sunday, I will finish any other tasks, but if I can’t, I will add them back to my “next actions” list or simply schedule them for next weekend.

Schedule Content for the Week

Spend some time automating whatever you can for the following week. For example, every Sunday evening, I use Buffer to schedule all my social media posts until the following Sunday.

You can do this as well. Spend your Sunday evenings briefly scheduling out social media posts, planning out blog content, or scheduling emails to be sent to your email list.

Plan Your Week Ahead

I use Trello (you can use any scheduling tool you feel comfortable with) to plan out the week ahead. This way, I know exactly what I should (and need) to be working on when I get home from work. I’m not wasting time on deciding what to do or trying to figure out what to do next. I just come home and take action.

Set Goals

If you don’t already, I strongly suggest writing down and tracking weekly goals for yourself and your business. Some example goals you can set are:

  • I will easily launch my new ecommerce website by Saturday this week
  • I will easily go to the gym at least 3 times this week
  • I will easily get 10 sales to my store by Saturday this week
  • I will easily double my store’s weekly traffic, from 100 visitors to 200 visitors, by Saturday this week

 

Writing your goals down helps keep you accountable and brings you clarity. How do you really know what you want to accomplish in life and in your business if you’re not tracking it?

Prime Yourself for the Week Ahead

Stop dreading Mondays every Sunday night. Set the tone for an amazing week. Look forward to getting up early, tackling your morning routine and getting home after your 9-to-5 to work on your side business. Make your Sunday nights amazing!

Watch a few motivational videos on YouTube or an inspiring Ted Talk, read a Shopify success story, or learn something new before going to bed. You don’t have to over-stimulate yourself, just put yourself in the right mindset before going to bed.

Rinse and Repeat

Now it’s just a matter of repeating this process and becoming really good at adapting it. You won’t be perfect and won’t always have the most productive weekends – I know I don’t.

However, making an effort to work at it every weekend and putting in that work, even when it’s only for a few hours, can make all the difference. All of those efforts begin to add up over time and before you know it, you can have a full-time ecommerce empire on your hands.

What do you think? How do you, as a sidepreneur, manage to build your ecommerce empire on the side while working a 9-to-5? How will you make this upcoming weekend much more productive? Let me know in the comments below. I engage and respond with everyone.