If you are a recent retiree, you may be wondering what to do with the
second act of your life. Early retirees can expect to spend three or even four
decades in their post-work years, and even those who retire at the
traditional age of 65 could spend more than 20 years in retirement.
No matter what age you were when you retired, you may find that you miss
certain aspects of your pre-retirement lifestyle. You may miss the connection
you felt with your coworkers, of the challenges of solving complex problems.
And then there is the money – even if you do not miss anything else about
working, you probably miss the extra income.
Luckily, the gig economy can help recent (and not so recent) retirees get
back into the swing of things. Those lucky retirees do not have to give up
their chosen lifestyle or take on the responsibility of a full-time job – if they
have the skills and the drive, retirees can enjoy a host of benefits from the
so-called gig economy, including:
• Delaying taking Social Security – Every year you put off taking Social
Security will boost your benefits. Participating in the gig economy, even
for a few years, could boost your Social Security income for life.
• Reduced withdrawals from your retirement account – When you are
retired, you must create your own paycheck, and that often means
dipping into your nest egg. Taking on a few gigs a year can reduce your
withdrawal rate, so the remaining money can last longer.
• Increased engagement – Many retirees find themselves bored and
disengaged, but meaningful work can fight the malaise. Gig work can
keep you engaged and allow you to meet new people as you make
• Develop new skills – You are never too old to learn something new,
and gig work is a great way to continue your growth. Learning should be
a lifelong pursuit, and with gig work you can get paid to acquire new
The great thing about gig work is that just about everyone can do it. If you
are retired and have some extra time to spend, chances are you can parlay
those additional hours into extra cash. Whether you worked as a
professional all your life or toiled in a blue-collar occupation, you can find gig
work that utilizes your skills.
Gig work is not all about ride sharing and consulting. If you have a teaching
background or worked as a trainer for your former company, you could transfer
those skills to work as a tutor or private coach. If you love to travel,
you could pursue work as a tour guide, either leading tours through your
hometown or signing on with a tour company to guide bus trips or extended
You could even use your retirement years to pursue your craftier side,
creating fun products and selling them online or at local craft shows. No
matter what you like to do, chances are there is a place for it in the gig
economy. Whether you are recently retired or just looking for a new
challenge, you can use gig work to boost your bottom line and keep yourself
engaged as you enjoy your second act.
From the earliest days of industrialization, business owners have faced
enormous challenges in keeping their employees honest and making sure
their working hours were reported accurately. Whether those employees
worked on the assembly line at the local factory or the telephone bank at a
nearby office park, their bosses looked for ways to improve the accuracy of
their time reporting.
In the early days of the factory, those timekeeping mechanisms consisted
largely of mechanical time clocks, and workers were expected to clock in and
out at the beginning and end of their shifts. Even then, however, factory
owners faced the threat of fraud, as workers routinely clocked in and out for
one another. While employers looked for better ways to police their time
clocks, employee time fraud continued unabated, costing bosses millions of
dollars in lost productivity and excess wages.
Once the internet age arrived, it ushered in a new wave of electronic
timekeeping, one that used websites, log-ons and passwords to report time
accurately. Unfortunately, that new wave of electronic timekeeping faced the
same old challenges and the same time of employee time fraud. Just as
workers could punch one another in and out on a time clock, employees
could share log-on IDs and passwords, creating the same costly situation for
their bosses in the process.
Employee time fraud has not gone away, and in many ways, the problem
has gotten even worse. As growing numbers of workers abandon the office
in favor of telecommuting and work and home opportunities, the danger of
time fraud has grown even bigger. This kind of electronic time fraud is bad
enough at the office, where supervisors can look over the shoulders of their
workers. When those same employees are working from home, the danger
of time fraud is magnified that much more.
Employee time fraud can take many forms, and it is a problem in both the
public and private sector. The government has been fighting this kind of
fraud for years, as have their counterparts in private business. And while
punching in and out for one another may be the most obvious way
employees commit time card fraud, it is far from the only one. Here are
some other ways employee time fraud impacts those in the business
• Surfing the web or using personal email while on the employer’s clock
• Engaging in freelance work during office hours
• Having a personal conflict of interest
• Arriving late while reporting in on time
• Asking someone to alter reported time
• Taking an extended lunch hour or a longer than normal break
• Claiming work that was never performed
No matter what form employee time theft takes, it is a serious threat to
business owners and corporations. Without vigilance and follow-up, this kind
of wage theft and false time reporting can easily get out of control.
Once employees realize that this kind of time fraud goes undetected and
unpunished, they may be more likely to cut corners, claiming credit for work
that was never done, clocking in and out for one another and stretching that
one-hour lunch break to 90 minutes or more. That is why it is important for
employers of all sizes to recognize this unique threat and take steps to
Employers can begin the policing process by auditing and monitoring their
online timekeeping websites. A consistent pattern of clocking in late,
claiming it was a mistake and asking a supervisor to override the time
reported should raise a red flag, as should time reporting that is too
consistent. The employee who consistently clocks in at 8:30 instead of 8:29
or 8:28 may not be as conscientious as they look – they may be committing
Employers may need to take additional steps to police their remote
workforces, as these workers can have additional incentives, and greater
opportunity, to cheat. Many employers have chosen to install special
monitoring software, programs that can detect which websites are in use,
what employees are doing on company time and when they log in and out of
the company intranet.
All of these steps can help reduce the incidence of employee time fraud
among remote workers, but there is no substitute for eternal vigilance. Even
if you trust your telecommuting staff completely, it never hurts to verify the
accuracy of the time they report. The more you know, the easier it will be to
manage your workforce, no matter where they are located.
Full-time workers are an irreplaceable part of your small business. They’ll form your core team
and thus will play a big role in how the company grows and scales. However, there’s often no
reason to commit to a full-time employee right off the bat. There are plenty of reasons you
should start with contractors first.
1. You Get More Done
Full-time workers at a small business are expected to take on many responsibilities, most of
which are beyond their job description. While that’s certainly useful, it can often leave your team
stretched thin. With independent contractors, that’s not an option. They’ll do their job, and only
their job, because that’s their expertise and their sole purpose in the company.
This specialization creates razor focus in your contractors. They’ll get more done, and since they
don’t need to be trained as much, they’ll get started sooner.
2. They’re Cheaper
Hiring full-time employees is expensive. Hiring costs, for example, can seem daunting to a small
business’s limited budget. Then there’s associated costs, such as compensation insurance,
worker’s compensation, as well as various taxes.
For contractors, it’s much simpler and cheaper. You find them, you hire them, and you pay their
3. You Stay Flexible
Flexibility is an important part of running a small business. The faster you can react to the
marketing and its whims, the better off you’ll be. This advantage also applies to your hiring
practices. Hiring independent workers allows you to get people as you need them, without being
obligated to hold onto them afterwards. This allows your company to stay on its toes and only
spend as needed, which is great for businesses whose workloads fluctuate from season to season.
4. They Come With Less Legalities
Full-time employees are protected in numerous ways. Plenty of small businesses have been laid
low by an ill-timed lawsuit. It doesn’t even have to be malicious. If a family member becomes
sick or if they have a new child, they have the right to take time off, regardless of what it does to
your company. You may try to terminate them in an effort to make room for new employees, but
that can result in a wrongful termination suit. Contractors come with none of these issues.
It seems cold to think of it this way, but you must protect yourself and your small business at all
times. While contractors still have their own caveats, they’re often limited, and you can always
read the fine print.
5. They Require Little Management
You hire contractors for their expertise to fill a role that your company needs. That means you
don’t have to manage them as much as you would a full-time employees. Office workers need to
be trained in office systems and practices. Independent contractors are given a task, and left to do
their work. While you still have to coordinate with them to make sure things are going in the
right direction, for the most part it’s a hands-off relationship.
Full-time employees have immense benefits associated with them, but you don’t always have to
run to them first. Consider first whether a contractor can offer the same benefits to your small
Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or have just barely broken into the online
marketing sector, there is a certain set of guiding principles to which you must adhere if
you wish to market your new product successfully. Among the many facets of online
business, your email marketing strategy is of particular importance. Here are some tips
for how to market a new product through an email marketing campaign:
Your first order of business in marketing a new product through email is to make sure
your subject line does what it is supposed to do, which is to catch your consumers’
attention quickly enough to stand out against all the other emails in their inbox. Google
offers a free Yesware trial that tells you who has opened your email, when, and how
many times. In the months before releasing a new product, experiment with different
subject lines in your weekly bulletin, like “Re:”, and see which ones work best. Use the
subject line resulting in the most opens on the big day.
Set the Hook ( Catchy Introduction)
The next facet of email marketing with which you should concern yourself is delivering
an introduction that will keep your consumers engaged once they have opened the
email. Consider including a rhetorical question in your introduction. If you do use a
rhetorical question to hook your readers into next paragraph, ensure that the question
relates specifically to how the product or service you are providing will solve a problem
with which the consumer is contending.
Explain the Reason for the Notice
Give your viewers a general explanation for why you have released this notification.
Feel free to employ the use of exclamation points here. The level of excitement in your
delivery could dictate their level of interest in the product or service you are providing,
even though they don’t know what it is yet. They will know that you, as an individual and
not as a CEO, are excited to bring this new and amazing solution to their problem to
their attention. If your recipients have gotten more than one communication in the past,
make reference to them. Anything you can do here to personalize their viewer
experience will go a long way toward helping your email stand apart from all the
communications that are a click away from their trash bin.
What’s the Deal?
Increase your font here, and use the bold and italics functions in your email interface.
Skip a line. Explain the promotion as you might in a textbook. Present it factually.
Include all the most important information about the promotion and leave nothing to be
questioned. Project medium excitement, but avoid using exclamation points, as they
should be reserved for the next section of your email. Your viewers have remained loyal
enough to make their way through two paragraphs regarding a promotion without
having the faintest clue what it is all about. Reward their fidelity by presenting a fair,
reasonable offer that stands out from the rest of the email.
An Explanation of Benefits
The second-to-last section of your email affords you the opportunity to dig deep. This is
your opportunity to explain to your viewers exactly how your product will solve their a
problem. Allude to the rhetorical question in your introductory paragraph and
underscore the severity of the problem to which it refers. Many consumers are not
aware they have a problem until a great marketer brings that problem to their attention
with a product that can solve it!
Include a Call-to-Action
Finally, you will want to include a call-to-action (CTA) in your email. Avoid excessive
excitement in the CTA. Rather, give your viewers two options from which to choose, and
provide a means for them to do so as quickly and as simply as possible. Giving them
two options, either of which should move them up a tier in the conversion funnel, is a
particularly psychological strategy which suggests that your viewers have already made
a decision to move forward in the sales cycle. This psychological edge is not available
to those who receive a single excited CTA, and all they need to decide is whether to
take the bait or not.
Give your campaign a few days, maybe a week, to reach all or most of your intended
recipients. Even if they don’t respond to the call-to-action right away, they will have the
opportunity to do so when the need arises, as long as they don’t delete your email.
Ultimately, adhering to these six guiding principles should improve your conversion, and
as long as your product or service can speak for itself, you should start to see business
within a relatively short period of time.
Blogging is one of the best ways to hone in on target consumers and to generate perpetual leads
on an exponential scale. Here are three ways to build the buzz on your company blog:
"Share" buttons are critical to your business initiatives because they give your viewers a quick
and easy way to share your material with people on the social media platform of their choosing.
Top platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram give business owners the opportunity to
make their case long-term because shares automatically get posted to the top of users' feeds.
Since only the consumers who are loyal to your business will share your material with others,
share buttons enable you to carve backlinks into the heart of your consumer base.
Pictures and videos are far more enticing than text because they are much quicker for the brain to
process. When users share content, they do so because they believe others will appreciate it. To
generate immediate leads, post content that your consumers will deem worth sharing with others,
something they can easily transmit–with the share buttons mentioned above–and something they
do not need to take the time to work through on their own. A quick, vibrant presentation in the
form of a picture or video often works best.
Finally, use links. One of the advantages of blogging on your business website is that you can
hyperlink to other pages on your site, such as landing pages with calls-to-action or
comprehensive product information appendices. Avoid hard links whenever possible. Use anchor
text that matches the keywords in your HTML coding. That ensures continuity regarding search
engine optimization (SEO) so that when consumers go looking for information, they stay on your
website instead of looking elsewhere.
In conclusion, 'share' buttons, pictures, videos, and links can help you promote your product to
potential online consumers without coming off as pushy or ostentatious. The more continuity you
have is your SEO structure, the more money you will make.
If your firm offers customer service, inside sales, or help desk assistance you
undoubtedly staff a call center. Should you, for financial, recruitment, safety, insurance or real
estate reasons, want to seriously consider going virtual (remote call center staffing) you have two
You can go it alone, sending some of your call center staff home, overseeing the
transition and the supervision in-house. Or, to expand your current staff, you can look to virtual
call center firms. These agencies are fast becoming an attractive alternative to your spending
time finding, training, supervising and paying your newly-virtual staff.
How do you decide which alternative is the most attractive – affordable, efficient,
Jack Heacock, virtual call center/telework consultant with the Heacock Group and Vice
President of the Telework Coalition, is an expert on this issue. He is past president of the
International Telework Association and Council and board member of Call Center Magazine.
His background includes many years as a call center administrator.
“There are a number of factors involved in setting up your own virtual call center,” Heacock
advised: “ IT, Human Resources, pay, replacement of broken parts, termination of a virtual
employee, employee relocation and so forth.” Heacock noted several points your management
team should discuss:
- How much money are you going to invest up front?
- How do you take HR people used to face-to-face interviews and training and make them
want to do virtual?
- Where’s the money coming from?
- What are executive expectations?
- How much change are you capable of absorbing in a short period of time?
Heacock believes you have to answer the question, “Where’s your pain?” to know if virtual
is right for you. “Determining why you’re even considering a virtual call center is paramount to
your decision whether to move forward – write it down,” he said. Answer these questions: “Is
continuity of operations a concern? What about insurance risk? Where do you see your business
being three to five years from now?”
McKesson Health Solutions is a client of Heacock Group. “Jack has been a great help with
our going virtual, “ said Michael Modiz, vice president of operations and strategic projects. “We
keep him on retainer to help us with problems that arise – issues his other clients have
successfully resolved.” McKesson’s virtual staff is evenly divided between inbound and
outbound tasks. Primarily RNs, they take calls about medical concerns, advising folks in distress
whether the medical problem requires a trip to the emergency room, a call for an ambulance, or a
doctor visit in the near future. Outbound they watch over patients with chronic ailments who
need education on caring for themselves and their illnesses.
Begun in September 2003 to reduce expenses and improve their labor pool, McKesson’s
virtual program will expand to fifty percent of their 550-600 nursing staff by the end of 2005.
“We won’t ever go completely virtual,” says Modiz. “While we have many folks who love
working at home we also have a significant number of skilled, loyal employees who never want
to do it.”
Modiz is thrilled about their virtual project’s success, as are the employees. In a recent
employee satisfaction survey, McKesson earned high marks for their work-at-home call center
McKesson Health Solutions has five different office locations – in Sacramento, Denver,
Chicago, Jackson Mississippi, Westlake Texas and San Juan Puerto Rico. While McKesson is in
the process of introducing their own connectivity into the home office locations they still allow
home workers to use their own PCs for work. The firm is now successfully recruiting directly
into the home.
Paul Heacock (no relation to Jack) is President of Human Dynamics, a management
consulting firm that specializes in virtualizing a company’s training and work processes.
“We help firms democratize the knowledge to do the job,” explained Heacock. Their products
are designed to help those who can’t raise their hand or tap the person in the next pod – the home
worker. “The biggest impediment to folks finding the help they need,” said Heacock, “is that
they don’t always know what questions to ask.’ “Human Dynamics’ program anticipates the
user’s needs. It knows, for instance, that s/he is on the customer service screen and that there are
about ten actions the worker would typically need to perform from here. Its software prompts the
user to choose from the list of alternatives. Its one or two click resolution is much faster than the
fastest search engine.
Should you, however, want to forego the headaches of trying to create your own virtual
call center, you can let the experts do it for you. Two highly successful virtual call center firms –
one whose agents are employees, the other who works with independent contractors – earn high
marks with their clients and staff.
The first, Fort Lauderdale-based Willow CSN, contracted with the Washington Post early
this year to assist the paper’s classified advertising staff during peak times. Willow’s
‘cyberagents’ began taking overflow calls in June.
Goli Sheikholeslami, consumer-to-consumer sales manager at the Post, said that they are
very happy with Willow and its virtual agents. “We monitor the calls, and those [Willow agents]
who’ve been here from the start – the first of June – are becoming very proficient.”
Sheikholeslami says that Willow reps are given the same talk time and conversion goals as the
in-house staff and those cyberagents who came on board at the onset are now beginning to meet
those goals. “We didn’t want to decrease our current staff,” explained Sheikholeslami, ”but we
had humps where we were providing bad service. Willow resolved that.” She was attracted to
Willow because they were able to offer flexibility, with half hour scheduling. Willow CSN takes
Washington Post calls Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons between 3 and 6:30pm –
when things are starting to heat up for the Sunday classified deadline.
“We’re perfect for companies who can’t always predict their call volume, “ said Willow
CEO Basil Bennett. “We’re very flexible.” Since its inception in 1997 Willow CSN has grown
steadily, and now has over 2000 agents, contracted as individual corporations, working from
home in eight states – Florida, Arizona, Maryland, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Michigan
Where the agents live has nothing to do with where the clients are, however. Willow
serves 30 clients all over the country – companies as diverse as Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sears,
Staples, AAA, GE and AIG. Each client prepares training to submit to Willow for its
cyberagents, although Willow’s twenty-person curriculum development team is highly
competent in helping a client take its training virtual. With a Florida home office, Willow easily
attracts bilingual agents. Forty-two percent of Willows cyberagents are Spanish fluent.
Colorado-based Alpine Access, the largest provider of virtual call center agents, employs
3800. That employment is the biggest difference between Willow and Alpine – in fact, as far as
we could determine, the biggest difference between Alpine and all others. Alpine’s agents are
employees – not contractors. While both Alpine and Willow managers are adamant that their
way is better, the primary difference seems to be in the way the agents themselves get paid.
Willow compensates its agents for each minute they are on a call, while Alpine pays each
employee an hourly rate, whether on a call or not.
At this time Alpine only hires in Colorado, Arizona and Utah, although they will be
adding to other locations in the next year. Just like Willow CSN there are no location restrictions
on Alpine clients.
Both Alpine and Willow have strict auditioning processes. All agents must show
technical/computer proficiency and general customer service skills, and must pass voice and live
auditioning interviews. Of course, they then must successfully complete the clients’ training
Alpine’s COO Jim Farnsworth explained the process for resolving a client’s unexpected
call volume crisis. “Each account has an account manager responsible for day to day contact with
the client,” he said. “We can respond very quickly.” Farnsworth said that agents dictate their own
schedules (and can change them every thirty days.) Each agent lists three levels of availability:
Optimal being the hours she really wants to work; Less Optimal but available indicating those
hours he’s willing to work if needed; and Emergency (I really don’t want to but if it’s crucial I
will.) These schedules tell the account manager which folks are available to respond to their
client’s immediate need.
Alpine and Willow share two clients – 1-800-FLOWERS and Office Depot. “That’s
pretty typical of clients,” said Farnsworth. “If all calls are contracted out they usually use three or
more firms; if they want outsourcers to take only overflow (peak) calls they choose one or two.
It’s common practice.” Alpine’s many clients include American Marketing Services, and Park
If you’d like to investigate further, the web sites for the firms mentioned above are
www.willowcsn.com , www.alpineaccess.com and www.hdynamics.com . Jack Heacock can be
reached by e-mail at email@example.com
Employers in the US, Europe, Japan and numerous other countries are finding that one of most
valuable tools for recruitment and retention is offering work options – compressed workweeks,
flextime and telecommuting. More and more employees are working 9 day 80 hour 2 week
schedules, changing their start or finish times from the usual rush-hour 7-9 am and 4-6 pm
commute times, and working from home or satellite office locations.
Telecommuting is increasing exponentially, with an estimated 32 million US employees now
teleworking, at least on a part time basis.
Why the popularity of telework? Employers consistently list retention as their number one reason,
with recruitment a close second. There are a number of reasons why telework is a benefit for
employer, employee and society as a whole. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- Ecological advantages such as reduction of air pollution and gas consumption
- Reduction in governmental expenses for infrastructure and road maintenance
- Competitive advantage in attraction of employees, especially high-tech
- Increases in employee satisfaction, resulting in increased employee retention
- Reduction in facility costs for expansion and new real estate
- Reduced parking requirements
- Expansion of the labor pool
- Reduction of non-productive (water cooler) office time
- Expansion of service hours
- Improved productivity
- Improved work quality through faster processing, fewer errors, and shorter response time
- Reduction of absenteeism and tardiness
- Enhanced peak performance due to telecommuters working during their most productive
- Maximizing potential by broadening responsibilities
- Work accomplished with fewer interruptions
- Assistance in compliance with clean air, ADA and other statutes
- Reduction in traffic congestion
- Increased electronic communication with decrease of paper consumption
- Reduced business disruptions due to natural disaster, bad weather, power outages,
transit strikes and other unforeseen events
- Reduction in traffic accidents
- Reduction in health insurance costs due to reduction in traffic and stress
- Safer communities due to more people at home during the day
- Enhanced rural development
- Better balance of economic activity between rural and urban areas, bringing economic
revival, employment and population stability to remote and rural communities, including to
- Economically struggling former manufacturing areas such as the Mid-Atlantic United
States or seasonal/resort areas might be able to retain or attract numerous year round
residents and some of their tax base formerly lost to high-tech or service industry areas
- Reduction of juvenile crime
While telework is not for everyone – many employers affirming that those who are
continually tardy, not sufficiently self-motivated, or needing the constant interaction of
their peers are not well suited for this option – job seekers and employees continually
mention that a firm offering this and other work/family options goes to the ‘head of the
line’ when they are job searching. Telework can also be a great tool for widening your
pool of candidates, not only geographically, but also by being able to include the
As one employer put it, “This is the way the world is going. If you’re not offering telework,
you are losing candidates to me.”
Vision is a clear concept of a better and brighter tomorrow. An effective vision inspires passion
and excites people. Steve Jobs of Apple Computer lured John Scully from Pepsi by asking, “Do
you want to spend the rest of your life making sugared water, or do you want a chance to change
the world?” (Abcnews.go.com/Technology/steve-jobs-death-20-best-
quotes/story?id=14681795#18). Jobs was referring to the home computer revolution that was
transforming the everyday lives of so many people. He definitely had an exciting vision.
Having an exhilarating vision can be a big advantage for an employer who is trying to motivate
employees. Methods for motivating workers are potentially more effective if connected to a
vision. Here are three ways that can be done.
1. Cheerleading. A church pastor once said that people can easily lose a vision in 30 days. The
leader must constantly reaffirm the vision. Therefore, cheerleading and rallying the troops are
absolutely necessary. The employer is a far more effective cheerleader if he or she has a clear
and compelling vision. If the vision is exciting the employer and the employees should be
2. Implement employee ideas. Often an effective idea is one that a worker suggested and the boss
promoted. A good idea that contributes toward fulfilling the vision is extremely helpful. The
employer should implement employee ideas that make a positive impact. When that happens
workers will tend to feel like they are part of the vision and are helping to make it a reality.
3. Affirm employees. Let them know when they have done a good job, or made a good
suggestion, and explain the value of their work in light of the vision. A stimulating vision gives
the basis for affirmation and shows why the employees’ contributions are important. Encouraging
also helps create ownership. The workers are more inclined to buy into the vision and claim it as
their own when their efforts are affirmed.
An employer with a thrilling view of the future is more likely to motivate employees. Workers
tend to be excited if an exciting tomorrow awaits them. Cheerleading, implementing employee
ideas, and affirming employees are more effective if related to a powerful vision.