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Review: Undress for Success

Review: Undress for Success

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    Kate Lister and Tom Harnish have been working at home for years. For sixteen years, they operated a home business. They’ve codified the advice they’ve generated in a ll those years of working at home in a new book, Undress for Success. The book covers an introduction to moving towards a home office, with a heavy emphasis on teleworking.

    Telecommuting And You

    Section titles like ‘Expose Yourself — Are Your Right for E-work?’ or ‘Dirty Underwear — Uncovering the Scams’ do add an element of fun to what is essentially a book on changing your career. It is easy to read — the writing style reminds me of a blog. Each section is broken down into chapters, which are then subdivided into bite-sized pieces of information on specific topics. Even though the book is 262 pages, I was able to breeze through it, bookmarking sections I wanted to come back to later.

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    The five primary sections of Undress for Success cover the basics of e-work (meaning work you can do from home over your computer), telecommuting, freelancing, running your own home business, and the appropriate technology. Far and away, the emphasis of the book is on telecommuting: that section racks up 114 pages. In comparison, freelancing gets just 38 pages. I wouldn’t really recommend the book as the introduction to all things freelance or entrepreneurial — but its coverage of telecommuting and teleworking is solid.

    The Bare Bones of Working At Home

    Lister and Harnish are careful to point out that working from home is not for everyone. They interviewed scores of folks who work at home, talking about the challenges they face and how they cope with them. My favorite was easily the approach one programmer named Madison takes to make sure her family knows when she’s on the job and has to focus on her work: “To make sure everyone knows when she isn’t available, she wears a tiara when she’s ‘at work.'”

    It’s hard to guess the coping mechanisms you’ll come up with when you’re working at home yourself, but the fact that Undress for Success actually gets its hands dirty with the various problems someone working at home faces certainly makes it a better resource.

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    The book also includes several chapters on convincing an employer to let you make the switch to working at home — up to and including helping you outline the benefits that making the switch to telecommuting will bring to your employer. While we’ve discussed talking to your boss about telecommuting here recently, Lister and Harnish have the room to go into depth in covering that topic thoroughly.

    Another useful portion of the telecommuting section is the focused look at a number of careers that Undress for Success offers. Those include:

    • Call Center Agent
    • Virtual Assistant
    • Medical Transcriptionist
    • Teacher or Tutor
    • Remote Tech
    • Writer
    • Telemedicine

    For each of those careers, there is a chapter covering what you can expect, training, scheduling, compensation and even stories from workers in the trenches. There’s even information on the scams in each career, equipping you to avoid them.

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    The Drawbacks to ‘Undress for Success’

    While Lister and Harnish provide a solid reference on telecommuting, along information on handling issues like convincing your family that you’re actually at work even if you are still in your pajamas, I think that Undress for Success is missing something. That something is a discussion of other work-at-home options beyond telecommuting. The sections on freelancing and starting a home business are fairly bare bones — and since moving into freelancing is essentially creating a business, I don’t think that dividing the two into separate sections really helped.

    At best, Undress for Success offers just enough information on creating your own business to get you thinking, “Hm, I could do that.” If you were to decide to go that route based on this particular book, though, you’ll still find yourself looking for a lot of introductory level material. It is important to do plenty of research before embarking on any entrepreneurial venture, but I can’t help feeling that the book could have included a little more information on getting started. I know that Lister and Harnish have written about small business topics before — their first book was Finding Money: The Small Business Guide to Financing — perhaps they were able to go more in-depth on business topics there.

    Readability and Moving Forward

    Overall, I found Undress for Success very readable — and very interesting. It does overreach a bit, but if you’re looking for information on moving into telecommuting, this book is an ideal starting point. Furthermore, if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to sitting down and plowing through a book, the format works well: each section is just short enough that you can read one whenever you actually have a minute. In Undress for Success, Kate Lister and Tom Harnish have brought together an introductory guide to working at home that provides a starting point for readers to explore telecommuting and teleworking. You can find more information at their website, also named Undress for Success.

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    If you’ve been considering making the switch to working at home, I’m interested in hearing what books, websites and other resources have helped you in the decision making process — no matter what option you wound up going with. I know that books like Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week have inspired more than a few people to explore telecommuting, but what else is out there. Please share your resources in the comments.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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