A Jack of All Trades Tips

Read these 17 A Jack of All Trades Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Home Office tips and hundreds of other topics.

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What about rebates?

Get your rebates

Often when you buy new computer equipment, there are rebates offered by the manufacturers. I'm fairly disorganized, and I've found that it is very easy lose the items needed to send in, or to forget to send it in altogether! So be sure to get all of your rebates, because a dollar you earn in rebates, is as good as a dollar from selling your products or services.

   
How do I determine my home office technology needs?

Understanding your technology needs

As a small office/home office practitioner, you don't have an IT department who can come in and wire you up with what you need (unless you're telecommuting for a company that employes you). It's the job of the CIO of the organization to determine how technology can best support your business goals, and so determining your technology needs is up to you. And that effectively makes you the CIO.

   
How do I manage my small company´s money?

The Lifeblood of your company

Your cash flow is the lifeblood of your company. And so if the cash flow isn't adequate to support the needs of the business (and of your own personal income), then the whole thing risks collapse. So as CFO of your small office/home office business, you need to decide not only how the money is spent, but where it is spent, what it should be spent on, and ultimately, you should set the whole spectrum of spending priorities for your company.

   
How do I get office supplies, when I don´t have time to go out for the

Even secretaries can get some help

Keeping the office supplied with office supplies is a detail this high-minded home office CEO often overlooks. But a phone call to my local Office Depot brings a supply truck to my front door, and for orders over $50, there's free delivery!

   
What is a "Working Buddy," and what are the advantages?

The "Working Buddy"

Ever since I started working from home, I've had a "working buddy." Usually it's the child who's out of the toddler stage, but not old enough for Kindergarten. My working buddy often joins me on errand trips. They get a chance to "work with dad," and I get a chance to have private time with my kids.

   
Do I need a business plan?

A Free, Easy Business Plan

There are a number of reasons why you should have a business plan. First, it is necessary if you are going to look for investors, or if you are going to try to raise any money. Second, it helps you to keep your eyes on important goals you have set for yourself. Startup.wsj.com offers a free "miniplan" that prompts you, step by step, to think through the essential elements of a business plan. You won't be able to save it, but you can print your work, and use it as a foundation for a more thorough plan.

   
Who gets you coffee in the morning?

Coffee in the morning

I often get up very early to start working before the kids get up. Even though I'm the CEO, I have to make sure I have my own coffee in the morning. I'm too cheap to buy one of those coffee makers with a timer. So I've tried several strategies to make sure I have hot coffee very shortly after I wake up, but there's nothing like the ol' 14-year-old microwave to heat up some of yesterday's (extra-strong) brew.

   
How can I avoid losing or forgetting my passwords?

A place for passwords

How many different passwords do you have? Can you remember them all? Probably not. In order to avoid the kind of emergency that can occur (in the home office) due to a lost password, and considering that you probably don't have a help desk to call, it would be good to write all of them down, and keep them in a safe place, like the back of a file drawer.

   
How do know where you are going?

Set the Direction

Every organization, from your organization to the largest Fortune 500 company needs a CEO to set the direction for a company. In your case, as the small office/home office worker, you get to be CEO. Whether you've been in business for a year or 20 years, it takes constant assessment to know what the direction of your company should be.

   
Should I group my errands to save time?

Group your errands together

Keep a list of "things to do" posted somewhere handy, and the next time you have to go out, try to group several errands into a single trip. You can go to the bank, go to the Post Office, and get your photos developed all in the same trip.

   
How should I respond in a growing (or shrinking) economy?

Set the Mood

Is the economy up or down? How do you feel about it? I can tell you, that whether the economy is up or down, it is still roughly a $10 TRILLION economy. So whether the true number is $10.5 trillion (i.e., growing at 5% annually), or $9.5 trillion (i.e. shrinking in a recession), there's still plenty of business going on, and hence, plenty of opportunity for someone who merely wants to earn $50,000 or $100,000. And you as CEO of your small office/home office have the ability to decide what to do about it.

   
How much technology do I need?

Consider the Business Plan

As CIO, it's your job to consider the business plan. In choosing your technology, then, it's important to get enough "firepower" to do what you need, but not to overdo it from a budgetary perspective. That means you may have to forego that ultra-cool $5,000 system in favor of a more mundane system that simply gets the job done.

   
Who sets the pace?

Set the Pace

When Jack Welch recently retired as CEO of GE, some stock analysts questioned whether GE stock would be able to do as well under the new CEO. That's because Jack Welch was a fiery, hard charging, leader who demanded the best from his people. What kind of CEO are you? How do you push yourself? The answer to that question may determine how well your home business performs.

   

You Really Do Need a Box of Tricks

When you decide to start working at home, you will need to think about what skills you need to be successful. Yes, you are very good at what you do, but you are going to either learn how to do everything yourself or have a contact list filled with the people who can do things for you. Here's what you will need to know before you start:

- You are going to need to know about marketing. Not just telling people you run into about what you do, but the real, hardcore marketing it will take to grow your business.

-You are going to need to know about doing minor repair to your computer. When you are working on the computer all day at work and a virus or something else gets into your system you can call tech support. In your home office, you will be tech support. You will need to get at least a basic understanding of how to fix problems that come up with your computer or you will find yourself spending a lot of money on tech guys.

-You are going to need to know how to negotiate with vendors. If you've never worked with vendors, or worked with very few, you will want to talk to some people who work with them to learn how to negotiate. Your business operating costs can be cut significantly if you can negotiate down prices with vendors.

   

Be realistic about your capabilities

You've researched how to add a room to your house. You have all the details, but do you really want to do it yourself? Do you have the time, the manpower, the equipment, and the needed skills? Be realistic about what you really can tackle yourself. If necessary, don't feel bad about scaling back your involvement and becoming your own contractor. Knowlege is power and now that you know how to do something even if you hire someone else to do it you will be much more in control, knowing what and how it needs to be done.

   

Using keywords to refine an Internet search

You may not know much about the topic you're searching; that's why you're searching it, right? Start with a couple of high level words and then look through the results for words that describe more closely what you want. For example, suppose you would like to install a Pergo-like floor in your house, you might start by entering "Pergo floor" in your search engine. The results will show you that Pergo is one brand among many laminate floors. A refined search on "laminate floor" and "how to install" will provide you with the needed information. Other searches on "laminate floor" and "price" and "cost" will tell you how much you can expect to pay. Putting two words for essentially the same thing (i.e. price and cost) in your search will increase your chances of results that provide the information you're looking for.

   

Almost anything short of brain surgery can be a do-it-yourself project

Thanks to the internet and powerful search engines like Google and Yahoo, there's not much you can't do yourself these days, but you have to be prepared to do the background work and research. If your project is a simple one you are likely to find several helpful webpages with your first query. For more complex projects using keywords to refine your search and organizing your findings are essential factors to success.

   
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Sheri Ann Richerson