So what goes on your website?

Yes, yes, I realize this is basic. But while you’re juggling all the stress of starting your own business, it’s easy to forget the basics.

The great news is that there are numerous website builders that make your job easier.

Here’s what you should have on your website:

  1. Your company name
  2. The name of your product or service 
  3. Descriptions of your products or services along with pricing
  4. Information about how to contact you directly
  5. Any social media accounts you have 

Those are the crucial essential items to have on your website. 

In terms of how your website should look and feel, that’s up to you! Enjoy the process of creating an identity for you website.

A few best practices:

  • Have a clean design with minimal clutter. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with a busy design or anything that distracts from your main focus, which should be information on your products and services.
  • The design should match your company’s products and services. For instance, if you provide accounting or legal services via Ourglass.live, your website should look slightly more formal and serious. Whereas if you teach painting, music, or one of the arts, you might be able to get away with a more flamboyant and loud design. Again, have fun with it!
  • Minimize the amount of text on your website. Again, this goes to the previous point of a clean design. Communicate in less words and include more pictures if at all possible.
  • Symmetry – human eyes love symmetry. A symmetrical website design will do you more favors than one that isn’t. There are a few exceptions that an asymmetrical website can be done artfully and in those cases, would be unique and masterful enough to justify the asymmetry!
  • Have a logical flow and order to your website. Make it easy to follow for your audience!  

 

 

If you’re new to Ourglass, you’re probably wondering 1) what it is and 2) how do you get started?

Well, for the first question, you can find the overview video at Ourglass.live

For the second question, it’s quite simple. There are only a few basic things you need to get started:

  1. A cell phone with either Android or Apple iOS software
  2. Reliable internet connection
  3. The Ourglass App which can be downloaded here

If you’re reading this, we assume you already know what you want to teach, that you have the essential equipment (e.g. you have a guitar if you teach guitar lessons) and that you have at least one person who is willing to pay you for a session. Professionals can invite clients or students directly after having set up the app on their phones. 

There are bells and whistles that you can add to snazzy up your teaching such as:

We’ll be posting more details on the above so stay tuned! 

 

Fate and destiny. What are they and why are they important to your journey as an independent professional? Well frankly, for this article, it doesn’t matter. We take fate and destiny to mean the same thing, even though they are not . What is the most important is the end point you are striving towards. Since most of our readers tend to be independent professionals, we will assume that your end points are to have an incredibly successful independent business that frees you up to live life on your own terms. 

If you haven’t read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, it is a story with the main theme of openly pursuing our goals or making them known to the public. The world will do everything it can to conspire to help you achieve those goals. 

While this cosmic perspective may seem far-fetched to some, we are big believers in focus. By making your goals known to your friends and family, it creates both a carrot and a stick.  The stick can be the social pressure you’ve imposed on yourself to prevent embarrassment or preserve pride by reaching your publicized goals. The carrot can be the people who help you reach your goals because they’re aware of them and want you to succeed. 

While this cosmic perspective may seem far-fetched to some, we are big believers in focus. By making your goals known to your friends and family, it creates both a carrot and a stick.  The stick can be the social pressure you’ve imposed on yourself to prevent embarrassment or preserve pride by reaching your publicized goals. The carrot can the people who help you reach your goals because they’re aware of them and want you to succeed. 

Entrepreneurial in spirit ourselves, we realize there are often naysayers who will discourage you, or unintentional saboteurs who are quick to point out the obstacles you face achieving your goals.  That needs the intention of a separate, dedicated blog post!  The important thing is to stay focused on your goals — on OUR goals.  We believe our focus has manifested itself in the simple, elegant design of Ourglass.  We hope this can help many people out there reach their income and independence goals!

 

Hobbies

If you’re like most people, then you probably have at least one hobby that you enjoy doing! You may love your hobby so much that you’ve considered making money from it, either part-time or full-time. But how do you actually turn your hobby into a business?  We hope this article will give you insight on how to do so. 

Let’s say you are a part of maker culture and enjoy carpentry. There are many ways one can make money from a hobby:

  • You can teach what you know
  • You can offer advice or guidance for someone who is having trouble with a build
  • You can sell carpentry products that you’ve built and created
  • You can get a part-time paying job at a hardware store like WoodCraft
  • Enter and win money prizes and sponsorships at competitions such as the SkillsUSA Carpentry Competition

Since we at Ourglass offer a platform that helps professionals make money from their expertise, we’ll focus on the first two ways of making money – teaching or offering advice. 

Our first recommendation is to start simple with your first step by asking yourself what aspect of your hobby do you want to teach? If you’re a carpenter, there are probably many aspects you can start teaching including the types of wood, types of tools, and where to buy materials. As we suggested in our How to Teach Online article, simplify your curriculum.

The second step is to find students! This sounds like a very obvious thing to do but you’d be surprised to know that most people overestimate how many people would actually pay for a lesson. You can find students on Craigslist, word-of-mouth, online forum, friends of friends, retail stores that relate to your hobby, etc.

Third, find a place to teach. Naturally, we at Ourglass recommend starting online! The awesome benefit to starting online is that it doesn’t cost very much to start and it’s also safer from a health perspective. You could teach in-person but that means you would have to go through the hassles of finding a public space to teach in, invite possible strangers into your home or go to possible strangers’ homes! If you find a neutral public space to teach in, you often won’t have privacy or the tools you would want or need and it might cost you money to rent that space out. Starting online removes all of those hassles and doesn’t cost you anything other than equipment and a website!

Fourth, determine your pricing. We wrote an article about pricing here and will post more on pricing later.

 Finally, schedule and start a session with your first client or student! Once the session is finished, be sure to collect payment from your clients. 

 

 

 

As professionals migrate their services from in-person to online, and often move from a set salary to a time-based charge model, a common question is “What should I charge for my service?”

Obviously, the choice is ultimately for you to decide.  However, here are 3 tips to help you quickly, easily decide what to charge:

1. Search on what people pay, not what you’ve been paid

If you’re moving from working for a company to charging directly to your clients, you’ll likely earn more per hour than you’re used to.  For example, right now a simple Google search for “personal trainer salary per hour ” yields $18/hour:

(Pro Tip Warning!)  Charging $18/hour could be much less than you should charge b/c the better search is what clients are willing to pay for personal training.  Searching Google for “personal trainer charge per hour” is $40-$70/hour.

This is a good example of how “going indie” with your service online may be a great opportunity to increase your hourly wage.  

2. Is there a “digital handicap” to how much you can charge online?

The short answer here is, unfortunately, we don’t know yet.  What we’re seeing with professionals and clients on Ourglass (our app professionals use to host video calls with payments integrated for maximum payment success and prorated charges) is that there is a small handicap on charges because of perception that in-person is more of a premium, but this is quickly changing.  Given the state of 2020 where in-person is becoming a health risk, rates professionals are charging are increasing towards the in-person rates.  Anecdotally, we also believe there is an understanding between pros and clients that the pros don’t have travel time and cost, so digital is more efficient pros, therefore should cost less.  Our recommendation is currently to discount video calls by ~10-20% from what you’d charge (or others charge for in-person).  A nominal “discount” also is a great marketing technique on social media.  Using our personal trainer example above, there is a great case to be made to charge $35/hour via video and cite the google search results of $40-$70 range.  That’s still twice the $18 pay range when working for someone!

3. Market Research You were probably trying to avoid this daunting task by reading this post.  Well, we’ll make this painless — again, just a couple searches online can make sure you’re not overcharging (or that you are overcharging, if that is your intent).  A quick Google search on personal trainers in the Seattle area pulled up a marketplace site for personal trainers, https://fitnesstrainer.com/seattle/personal-trainer .  In the case of Seattle, rates appear to be $60-$80/hour!  (BTW, perhaps this is a good site to get some new customers and then get them and then lure them away with a lower rate when they use you directly..)

We hope this helps you both earn more money, and keep your clients happy with your service AND your price.   Ourglass has made charging for your services and securing payment both easier, faster, and more reliable.  Go indie, go big! 

 

4 hour workweek

In an age when startups have been popularized by digital’s low barrier to entry, many of us know someone who has worked on a startup, is working on a startup, or wants to work on a startup.  Many startups begin as ‘side hustles’ for people who are already working full time.  For these people, efficient time management is critical. Books on how to maximize spare time have arguably become a pulp genre, including the popular “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris.

So is there such a thing as a 4 hour work week?

From our perspective?  A resounding…no.  At least not for the vast majority of us. The people who can afford to work only 4hours a week either worked MANY hours a week (or lucky inheritance?) that led to enough wealth independence to afford a lower income, and therefore much less work.  

While Tim Ferris’ book provides a lot of tips to save time and maximize your efficiency, there’s really no substitute for hard work. We will assume that Tim worked hard to write and promote this book, and now he is practicing what he preaches by only working 4 hours a week…with a sizable nest egg grown from his successful book.

Assuming the average work week is 40 hours, here are some surprising factoids on time spent per activity per week: 

Total hours in one week: 24×7 = 168 hours

  • 2 ⅓ days are “wasted” while sleeping – 8 hrs/day x 7 days = 56 hrs
  • ~1 day spent eating – 1 hour making & eating food x 3 meals/day x 7 days/week = 21 hours eating)
  • Nearly 1 full workday on personal maintenance (showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed) –  30 mins in morning, 30 mins at night x 7 days a week = 7 hours 
  • 3 ½ days is spent on these basics —  That’s half the week! 56+21+7=84 hours, or 3 ½ days.

If you add the 40 hour work week to the 84 hours for the basic, the average person spends over 5 days a week spent before hobbies, spending quality time with family, or leisure.  Hopefully you find work fun and interesting, but most people want to do things that don’t require checking email, making your boss happy, etc. 

These calculations may also explain why Tim sold so many books on the hope of a 4 hour work week.  Perhaps Tim entertained the alternative title “36 hours freed from your week.”  

Because we see our jobs at Ourglass as enabling independent professionals (and because if we had 36 more free hours per week we’d use it to build Ourglass anyway) we encourage you to adopt advice and tips that help you optimize your efficiency.  At Ourglass, our business is helping you conduct your business in less time for more earnings.  We use the latest and greatest tools to automate and accelerate our business, such as  Asana (task management), Hubspot (customer management), and  Hootsuite (social media management).  The product of these tools and a little creativity is  Ourglass (video calls combined with payments) with the lofty goal of helping you get to the right hours per week for you.

Photo: Victor Freitas

10/11/2020 

The title of this post uses British ‘tonnes’ instead of the spelling we’re used to (‘tons’) because this post is about a well-paying skill nearly all Americans have: the English language.  (For the word nerds out there, the distinction between the tons and tonnes is more than just the spelling.)  With millions of newly unemployed — or underemployed — people this year, some bright news is that many of us are sitting on a highly marketable, untapped skill we are using every day: our fluency in English.  Particularly, our English with an American accent.  For the uninitiated, it is called ESL teaching (teaching English as a Second Language).  There are ESL certificates that will help you earn more if you’re going a more traditional route with existing companies out there, but there is also a growing, more lucrative option that requires no formal training, and just a little American ingenuity (that’s code for “self-marketing”).

Here are pros and cons of the 3 options for making some easy, legit money from the convenience of your own home:

1. Established Language Companies – There are existing companies that employ armies of English teachers like iTutorGroup, iTalki, and VarsityTutors for teaching English to aspiring English learners.

Pros: Get up and running fast — they’ll have you scheduled and earning money quickly.

Cons: They usually require some kind of teaching credential (for example, TEFL).  The pay range is generally low: from $8/hour to $17/hour depending on the company.

2. Online Tutoring Marketplaces – There are self-service directories such as verbling.com and englishninjas.com where you get to create a profile and name your price.  Of course, the more you charge, the less interest you’ll get because you are competing side-by-side with other teachers with competitive prices.  Many require teaching credentials.

Pros: It appears that you can earn up to $20-$25/hour according to Indeed reviews.

Cons: These require a teaching certificate, and you are listed in a directory with other tutors, so it may take some time to build a student base.

3. Independent – This option cuts out the middleman and has the highest potential for earnings because you (1) don’t necessarily require an ESL certificate or any teaching accreditation, and (2) by cutting out the middleman you can keep up to 50% more in the traditional “agency” fee.  How do you get students?  There are a bunch of groups on the internet such as English Learners (~150k members) and Speak and Learn English (351k followers) to join and participate in discussions where you can ultimately recruit students directly.  Many of them are taking English courses, and simply need practice listening and speaking to a native English speaker.  By charging students directly, you can charge up to $40 according to google search results.  

(Pro tip: English learners often put a premium on native English speakers *with American accents*.  So make sure you make the clear – use a handle that conveys that, e.g. @ChicagoDude, or @MadeInUSA — likely taken already.)  

You can schedule classes with students using Google Hangouts or Zoom, and then hope to get paid over Venmo or PayPal, but our shameless plug for Ourglass is to use our single app that combines the video call with the charging so that you never waste an unpaid minute (we give you a prorated charge option at the end of each call), we minimize delinquent payments (we validate the student’s pay method before each call), and you have no accounting when you’re done with each call (your students will be charged immediately after the end of each call).

In short, you can use traditional English teaching companies to earn less money sooner (usually requiring accreditation), or you can leverage the growing social groups on the web and with some self-marketing earn much more money with the English skill you have now.  The choice is yours!

Photo: Spenser Sembrat

10/2/2020

 

The deluge of bad news related to COVID can be overwhelming.  However, as a glass-half-full start-up, today we’d like to offer some hope. This hope is predicated on some sobering facts on the adverse effects COVID has had certain segments of the workforce, namely women. 

According to a report from the US Department of Labor, women left the workforce in September 2020 at four times the rate of men: 865,000 women 20 and older dropped out of the American workforce compared to 216,000 men in the same age group.  In addition to lower workforce demand, many of these work departures are to return home for childcare as childcare facilities are shuttered and older children are now home from school.  One survey found 63% of households were having difficulty finding childcare, and “13.3 percent of working parents had lost a job or reduced their hours because of a lack of child care.” (Washington Post)  With online schooling a new normal for the majority of households in the year of COVID, mothers have taken on more work to ensure their kids on time, fed, and logged into their virtual classrooms. And there is an inverse proportion between children’s ages and parenting efforts; the younger the kids, the more the work.  We haven’t even mentioned Zoom fatigue! 

Enter Ourglass. We’ve created an app designed for anyone who wants to earn money as an independent professional.  Ourglass simply combines video calls with billing so that pros get paid more money with less time and no hassle.  Time on paid video calls is tracked precisely, clients are required to have a valid payment method before the video call starts, and you are paid immediately at the end of the call. Ourglass lets you work at your own pace and earn income on your own terms. Terms that can be very attractive for the large number of women leaving the workforce and balancing the demands of households in 2020.  Ourglass supports any kind of fee-for-hire expertise you can offer: from certified professionals in business consulting, legal counsel, and healthcare, to experience-based expertise such as singing and dancing lessons, arts and crafts, yoga, etc…   

With Ourglass, you create as many services as you want — perhaps an hour long consulting session, a 30 minute lesson, or a free 15 minute consultation.  If your video call goes long, Ourglass give you the option to charge your client on a prorated basis. Or you can optionally charge less if the video call is short; Ourglass is perfect for clients who have a question that might take only 7 minutes to answer.  No more monkey math, awkward billing conversations, or chasing clients down for payment!

Ourglass is a perfect tool for anyone with expertise to offer, and provides the flexibility in schedule and location.  This may not be a silver bullet for all situations, but with the disproportionately large number of women leaving the workforce in 2020, Ourglass is a tool for women to still earn money for their expertise while juggling the demands of our new normal.  Perhaps the employment implosion of 2020 can become an expertise explosion with Ourglass. 

#zoomdoom #zoomfatigue

 

Source: NPR: Multiple Demands Causing Women to Abandon Workforce

Source: Bloomberg: Women drop out of workforce at fastest pace since pandemic peak

 

 

 

cryptocurrency, bitcoin

 

Can I pay my providers in Cryptocurrency? 

We’ve received several questions that can be summarized as, “Can I pay my Ourglass providers in cryptocurrency?”. Given COVID-19 upending the world’s economy, it’s a valid question to say the least. We’ve seen ups and downs of cryptocurrencies’ valuations over many years. Now with the uncertainty of the US economy and all other US dollar-dependent economies, bitcoin is on the rise yet again. The direct answer to this cryptocurrency-meets-Ourglass question is that Ourglass currently does not have any specific integrations to process cryptocurrency transactions.  

However, there are some creative ways to use Ourglass with cryptocurrency.  

First, some context: cryptocurrency was originally designed to make improvements in transaction dependability, availability, and speed through technology and decentralization. The single biggest challenge in the adoption of crypto in everyday transactions is the limited businesses who accept crypto directly. As a new business, we too face this challenge because our core competency is improving paid video calls for people; innovation within banking is not our core focus. Fortunately, for the crypto-curious, there are debit cards that allow cryptocurrency to be exchanged for fiat currency at point of sale.  Let’s take a look at some of the best ones we’ve found:

 

  • Wirex

Wirex is a U.K.-based company established in 2014. They offer a multi-currency Visa card that supports conversion from several major cryptos available for use by their 30+ million customers in 130+ different countries. One of the great perks of the card is it gives users a 0.5% BTC reward on all in-store purchases through its Cryptoback Program. In addition to that, the card also has its own built-in utility token (WXT).  For users who hold more than 500,000 WXT tokens, the Cryptoback rewards are increased to 1.5% BTC. So utilizing this card with Ourglass comes with benefits and is best suited for clients outside of the USA as the card is not yet available domestically.

 

  • Plutus

Our runner up is one of the longest running crypto card services, Plutus. This London startup began in 2015 and has its own loyalty token (PLU) which is awarded to users every time you use their debit card. Currently the only cryptocurrencies available are Etherium ETH and their own PLU token. The card can have funds added by way of GBP or EUR as it is only available in Europe. Usable outside in almost 200 countries, they also have a virtual bank account available in the European Economic Area for free.

 

  • Bitpay

Bitpayis arguably the best option for U.S. residents. In fact, it is exclusive to U.S. citizens. The card costs $9.95 and funds can be added using eight fiat currencies from the Bitpay wallet.  From there the card can conveniently be used anywhere that accepts Visa. Bitpay’s currency conversion fee is 3% of each transaction.  Other less frequently applicable fees & limitations include $3 every time you use an ATM outside the U.S, daily transaction limits of $10,000, and $1,500 per day & $5,000 per month withdrawal ceilings.

 

These cryptocurrency debit cards are bridges to using Ourglass with crypto that ensure Ourglass clients can operate in the fiat currency of their choice.  Given that the cryptocurrency usage continues to increase over time, we do foresee Ourglass working directly with cryptocurrencies, but for now we are focusing on helping people make more money in less time via paid video calls.  For an extended list of potential crypto debit cards that might suit your needs, please check out [ Cryptowisser: Cryptocurrency Debit Card List ].

 

 

How do we prepare for the shift to online teaching? 

As schools navigate how to teach during a pandemic and we become increasingly aware that there isn’t a clear break in sight, remote learning has moved from an exception to the rule. This change requires teachers to invent new ways to hold students’ attention online while parents similarly scramble to fill the social void children face with social distancing. Tutors and educators are adapting their position and accessibility to their students, while institutions are forced to mitigate financial cutbacks in the education sector.  The demand for digital education has outpaced educators’ expertise.

 

Although online education served a small percentage of American children prior to March 2020, ‘distance learning’ in higher education had gained legitimacy in major universities (Washington Post – ‘After gaining legitimacy, can online higher education replace traditional college?’). As online learning becomes not just possible but necessary for all levels of education, new streams of income and career advancement are surfacing. The ‘brick to the click’ shift in teaching means that our traditional “knowledge providers” — teachers, tutors, therapists, coaches, etc. — need to develop a new set of tools to maximize their effectiveness in the digital classroom.  Here are 5 power tips on how to prepare for teaching online:

 

  1. Simplify Your Curriculum. Online lesson plans are much more focused on self-directed assignments and learning, therefore, proper planning upfront is critical to the success of distance learning. Your student/clients will assess your course materials, deadlines, and online support flexibility against their schedule before committing to your course.  Be sure to have your syllabus prepared with very clear instructions and require a minimum of paid support resources, ideally one or two.

 

2. Prepare and Master Your Technology. Invest in the right hardware and software to give your clients a seamless digital experience. You will need a strong internet connection (check https://www.speedtest.net), a portable device like a phone or tablet, and the best platform to suit your needs. There are many available options. Ourglass, for example, is a mobile app that enables regular social interaction often lacking from many online lesson plans with the ability of pro-rated charging for 1:1 sessions that run overtime. Whichever one you choose, you will need a single digital platform that keeps things simple. 

 

3. Prioritize Stimulation In Your Assignments. Digital courses are run differently than classroom courses. Digital requires a higher level of detail with more time to plan, and failing to do so can leave your course feeling cold and mechanical. So prioritize engaging your students and clients in discussion and participation around your course material. Don’t be shy asking for perspective and opinions to actively pull your clients into engagement. 

 

4. Motivate Your Clients With Regular Communication. In the digital space communication is paramount, so it’s important to maintain a healthy and consistent online presence. Be sure to introduce yourself and give your students and clients the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other. Each student and client should know how best to contact you outside of online sessions. Your students and clients will miss the human connection the most when reflecting back on their standard educational experience. So in being proactive with this steady communication, you you are creating  personalized touchpoints with your clients. You can create these through social network groups, comments on shared documents, emails, video messages, etc. Once you have established your best channels of communication, follow through with a consistent frequency and your clients will greatly appreciate it. 

 

5.   Actively Request Client Feedback. The feedback given from your client base is some of the most valuable feedback you can receive. A student or client who has attended your course most likely has attended online courses before, and that experience can help inform the quality of your material forward. They can inform you of the positives and negatives of the overall experience. Also requesting their feedback also shows an additional level of respect in valuing their opinion. Education is a field of “sharing” so these connections can turn out to be priceless in your development as a knowledge provider. 

 

Are you ready to take the online teaching plunge? 

The reality is online education is quickly becoming the global standard in this realm in the digital age. Some people may choose to ride the wave surfs up, while others may be swallowed by it. In either case there is clear evidence that it is a growing market for knowledge providers on an international scale, thanks to the accessibility of modern technology. The potential is there to influence a volume of students that you would never have the opportunity to reach in a traditional class or business setting. While it may not be the simplest platform to digest, it is a fairly new platform  meaning there are multiple lanes to success. Do your due diligence with continued research and you just may find yourself ahead of the class and the curve. For more insights on navigating through these tough times, check out  [ Forbes: Why 2020 Will Be Online Educations Biggest Year ].