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Negotiate Your Credit Line Increase Like a Boss

A credit line increase is a terrific tool to improve your financial standing and experience life in HD. 
But there are rules. 
Not the kind of rules that will force you to walk across burning coals or recite the constitution. 
Rules that will allow you to apply for limit increases at the best possible time for the best possible rewards. These are NOT the typical “don’t do this” annoying checklist rules that feel unattainable and nonsensical. 
These are the types of rules that will allow you to make your move at your convenience, for your gain. 

Rules that rule. Too much?
Rule 1: Timing that doesn’t suck 
Remember watching survival shows back in the early 2000s? What was the cardinal rule for a warm, toasty shelter? Don’t start building when it’s already raining. 
The same principle can be applied to finance. You might be able to negotiate an increase, but it’s not going to be on your terms. 
There are a few things you want in place before you make that call to your credit card company: 
Your credit utilization is under 30% 
That your credit rating is hot (check your credit report!)
Your bank account is healthy and there is no derogatory information on it 
Income payments take place regularly 
The most important thing is that your credit line is maintained, but used. This means that you make regular purchases with your card. You make your payments on time and your payment history is clear. And, you settle your credit card balance every month. 
Rule 2: The increase works for you 
Sure it’s great to have a $100,000 credit line. It’s also great to manage your payments without breaking into a hot sweat every time the bill payment pings on your phone. 
Your credit line should enable you to have access to the best in life. At the same time, it should add value, automate your finances (learn more in Ramit’s book, I will teach you to be rich), and afford you access to some epic rewards. 
Rule 3: You’re in control
Now, this rule is the one that is often ignored and tends to make us feel vulnerable to the core. If you’re still living a trapped (Ramit refers to this as the ordinary work-yourself-to-a-standstill to barely afford a cup of coffee) or in treadmill life (where maybe one day you’ll get to travel), it’s time to gear up a notch and realize that banks exist because we let them. 
They provide a convenience, and once that convenience no longer exists, we will quite literally take our money elsewhere. 
Thinking of calling BS on this? Just consider this.  
They need our capital in savings to create a buffer for lending. They need to provide loans in order to make money on the interest charged. Get it? They need your savings and your credit. Yes, even Bank of America has advertising campaigns targeted at new clients. 
Now that you understand your buying power, to request a credit limit increase should articulate your request confidently. Our negotiation techniques are hardwired for a positive outcome and can be applied from credit limit increase requests to asking for a raise. Without sounding cheap. 
Now for the “how” 
While it’s simple enough to do an online limit increase through your online profile with the chosen card company, some companies prefer to do the final verification telephonically. 
When the call comes through (and expect that call to come through), it’s important to remember Ramit’s cardinal rules of negotiation. 
A special tip from Ramit: Always take notes of the call and get as much information as possible. This includes names, dates, numbers. 
Step 1: Ask for what you want 
Simply ask. Something as simple as “I’d like a limit increase on my credit card” is a good place to start. But if you want to take it a step further, add in “and I’d like to see about a reduction in that APR.” 
Step 2: Possible pushback 
If there is a slight pushback on either, remind the consultant that you’ve been a customer for X years. In Ramit’s negotiation techniques, he explains that it’s far more cost-effective for a bank to retain a customer than to onboard a new one. In fact, the cost to onboard new customers is between $350 and $2,500. 
Step 3: Another nudge if needed 
If there is still pushback or the limit is not what you desire, you need to gear up. Ask the consultant to view your history. Ask again how the consultant can help you. Repeat this process with a supervisor if you’re referred to them. Remember to end strong and use phrases like, “I understand,” “I want,” and “I’d like.” 
If you’ve remained firm, you should have what you want by the end of the call. 
Why you should absolutely ask for a credit line increase
As Ramit says, “Credit has a far greater impact on your finances than saving a few dollars a day on a cup of coffee.” But it might not be entirely what you think (if what you were thinking was going on a shopping spree and using your limit more like a target). 
Well managed credit boosts your credit score 
If you find that you’re pushing beyond that 30% usage of your credit card, it might be a good idea to increase your credit card limit. This means that you remain within that 30% margin, which helps push up your credit score. Request a credit line that will allow you to comfortably remain within a safe margin. Failing to do so might cause you to use a higher percentage of your credit card, which can lead to a drop in your credit score. And it’s a downward spiral from here, my friend. If you want to know more, check out our article on how to check your credit score. 
Higher scores translate to better deals 
If you have a perfect, can’t-touch-this credit score as the goal of your credit card line increase, then you’re in for a treat. Better credit scores mean better access to exclusive credit card offers. Think platinum, invite-only, reserve, elite. Need we say more? Plus, if your credit card issuers work on a variable APR, your credit score will count in your favor for a lower APR. Not just for your credit card, but other credit products too. 
Your cash flow is in your hands 
A credit card is a very short-term bridge between the purchase of an item and when your income comes in. Higher credit limits will provide you with that extra cash flow, as long as you remember not to use it like a safety net (that’s what emergency savings are for). 
When you should say NO
A credit limit needs to serve you. The moment a higher limit causes nervous night sweats and clammy palms, it’s time to pull the plug. 
You’re investing. Don’t use loans to fund investments
The credit line increase is unaffordable
You are at the peak of credit score heaven
Another credit company is about to get your business
You’ve recently applied for credit
A credit line increase is about more than pushing the boundaries of credit limits. It’s about implementing a strategy that will allow you to tap into the full potential of having a credit card. A credit card should: 
Be a tool to improve your credit score
Help you reach your personal finance goals 
Create opportunities through buying power 
Once a credit card line increase ticks all these boxes, you know you’re well on your way to forging a financial plan that suits your lifestyle.

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15 Ways to Maximize Your Productivity and Earnings

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This story originally appeared on DollarSprout.Although you might use an eight-hour workday to benchmark your productivity, research suggests workers are only productive for about three hours during that time frame.
Whether you’re working remotely or in an office, distractions pop up, and tasks that earn you money or a promotion take a back seat.
While some distractions are inevitable, they shouldn’t steal your focus from doing things that create value and help you earn money, says Grace Marshall, author of the award-winning book “How to Be Really Productive” and productivity expert at Think Productive.

According to Marshall, productivity is about managing your time, energy, and focus — so you can get work done, get money, and still have time to, well, get a life.
With that in mind, here are several ways to boost your productivity and earning potential.
1. Find your most productive hours.
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There’s usually a time of day when you’re ready to do your best work, but that time of day differs for everyone. “For me, my creativity comes alive late at night, so I reserve the evenings for working on big campaign ideas and new client proposals,” says Aimee Joseph, founder of marketing boutique Brand Love Solutions. “My advice would be to determine when you’re most creative and work with it.”
To find your golden hours, listen to your body to get a sense of when you feel focused and motivated to tackle big projects. Plan your day so you’re doing the highest-priority work during your most productive hours, while routine tasks can be done when you don’t need as much concentration.
2. Figure out which office lifestyle is best for you.
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Some people work best independently, while others thrive in an office setting. “In my experience, introverts really tend to enjoy working from home because they are energized by alone time,” says Alexis Haselberger, a productivity, time management and leadership coach. “Extroverts tend to have a harder time working from home for the opposite reason; they are energized through time with others.”
Have you noticed that where you work impacts your output and focus? Consider finding a job or shaping your career path based on where you can work: remotely, in an office, or a combination of the two.
3. Track and limit time spent on each task.
After a few months in the same role, you probably know how long it takes to complete your normal, routine tasks. When you need to schedule a task, allot a reasonable amount of time and aim to get it done within that time frame.
If you need help figuring out where your time goes, tools like RescueTime can help. This app automatically tracks how you spend your time, lets you set daily goals, and provides regular reports. Based on your customizations, it also limits the time spent on any task and blocks temptations like social media, notifications, and news alerts.
4. Schedule your week. /
Racheal Cook, business strategist and productivity expert, says she creates a weekly Google Calendar and first blocks out time for family, friends and fun. She then blocks out major work tasks during defined hours to help create boundaries between work and her personal life. If you don’t make time for both, “then work can quickly take up every available moment in your week,” Cook says.
Blocking out time also keeps you on track and helps you to be realistic about deadlines, Haselberger says. She also decides (in advance) what time she’ll stop working each day.

5. Give yourself periodic breaks.
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Working at 100% capacity at all hours just isn’t sustainable. “If you don’t take regular breaks, you risk burnout,” Haselberger says.
Some productivity methods suggest working in short bursts followed by a short break. For example, productivity-software company DeskTime says the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. Remove yourself completely from work during this time. “A quick walk or reading an article can really reset your brain to get back into productive mode,” Haselberger says.
6. Make time for personal and career development.
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“When we’re busy delivering the work that gets us the next paycheck, we react to what’s very immediate,” Marshall says. But it’s important to also think about your long-term personal and career goals and what steps it will take to get there.
Career development could include attending a training course for the next step in your career, watching a self-development seminar, or reading a book. Investing time in yourself might mean skipping billable client work now, but it boosts your earning potential over time. And focusing on personal goals can help you round out your work-life balance.
7. Avoid meetings if possible.
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You’ve probably heard this workplace one-liner: “This meeting could have been an email.” While meetings can be an efficient way to collectively brainstorm ideas and create solutions, more than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings, according to one estimate. But if you must have one, Haselberger offers these tips:
Ensure every meeting has an owner. This person schedules the meeting, sets the agenda, and facilitates the discussion.
Only include necessary attendees. Information can be disseminated to others on a need-to-know basis via other means.
Always have an agenda. The owner sends the agenda to all attendees. It should state the objective, items for discussion, and any relevant materials to prepare attendees.
Define the goal for the meeting. If you don’t know what you hope to accomplish, don’t schedule a meeting.
Decision vs. discussion. Decide whether the purpose of the meeting is for decision-making or brainstorming and discussion.
Employing a strategy will make meetings more organized and productive, and a better use of time.
8. Outsource or delegate work if you can.
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Whether you’re running a business or part of a large project with co-workers, everyone has a strength and a role. Delegating or outsourcing work means “letting others do what they can do, so you can do what only you can do,” Marshall says.
For best practices, Marshall suggests communicating the results you want and defining ground rules. Although someone else will do the task differently than you would, “sometimes they’ll do it better or in a different way that still achieves the results you want,” Marshall says.
9. Avoid time wasters.
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Distractions can torpedo your workday. These come in the form of household chores, co-workers or kids, and emails and notifications. “Most people check email on average 37 times a day,” Haselberger says. “Every time we are interrupted or distracted, it takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus.”
Don’t let these derail your schedule. Instead of pausing work to tackle small tasks, you can:
Block off time to check and answer your emails.
Turn off notifications on all devices during work hours.
Set communication boundaries with co-workers or household members.
Dedicate time for chores.
Incorporating these necessary tasks into your schedule ensures that they are done while still allowing you sufficient, undistracted time to complete your larger tasks.
10. Create your own work processes.
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If you’ve figured out a good way of getting things done, “let’s not reinvent the wheel,” Marshall says. Creating resources like processes, checklists, and pricing structures allows you to do the thinking and the work just once. Having the documentation will also help if you plan to grow your business in the future, Marshall says.
11. Automate tasks when possible.
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In any business, repeat tasks need to get done but take up precious time. Some of these can be automated, which means using technology to speed things up. For example, instead of emailing back and forth about setting up a chat, you can use an app like TimeTrade.
Collaborating with project management tools, using accounting software, and scheduling social media posts are some other ways to automate tasks.
12. Exercise regularly.
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Exercise does so much more than lower your blood pressure and help you fit into your jeans. In one study, employees who visited the gym said they were more productive, managed their time more effectively, and had smoother interactions with their colleagues. Exercise can also:
Boost your concentration, memory, and creativity.
Help you learn faster.
Lower your stress levels.
Joseph says that exercising gives her a surge of creativity. When that happens, she captures ideas on her smartphone to check later. “Writing down everything is key for me, as my brain gets overloaded with ideas. Reviewing my ‘ideas dump’ later on is a great way to weed out the weak (ideas) and identify the ones with real opportunity.”
You can use voice memos or another app to record your ideas if it’s easier than stopping what you’re doing to write them down.
13. Take time to rest and recharge.
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Plenty of folks work nights and weekends, take few vacations, and retire late in life. “People often think about free time as a luxury or an afterthought,” Marshall says. “But rest is fuel for productivity.” It can also improve your immune system, increase creativity, and reduce stress.
Rest will look different for everyone, but here are a few ways to make it happen:
Block off at least one day a week where no work is allowed.
Practice self-care, which generally means sleeping enough, eating well, and exercising.
Take a “mental health day” if you need it.
Make time to visit friends and family. But don’t be afraid to say “no” to social visits if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Spending time away from work and projects is important not only because it gives you a chance to rest and recharge, but also because you might find yourself inspired or with a fresh perspective when you get back to your desk.
14. Get enough sleep.
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“If we’re not feeling refreshed, it can hamper our ability to do our best work,” Marshall says. “Research suggests that if you’re sleep-deprived, the long-term cognitive impairment is equivalent to being drunk.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. What’s considered “enough” varies by age and person. But generally, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, the CDC says. Here are some ways to help that happen:
Save caffeine for the morning, and cut it from your afternoon and evening.
Get into a consistent sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
Don’t use smartphones and other devices right before bedtime. They emit light that can mess with your circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep.
Avoid exercising and eating close to bedtime.
Establishing a bedtime routine and better sleep habits ensures that you’re well-rested and able to perform at your best the following day.
15. Make good food choices.
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It may come as no surprise that food is directly tied to your energy level. You’ve probably grabbed a 2 p.m. snack or coffee to boost your brainpower for the afternoon. But while any food generally fuels your body, some types of food are better at promoting productivity. Here are some general guidelines:
Have healthy food choices available. In particular, fruits and vegetables have been shown to promote curiosity, motivation, and engagement. Nuts are also a healthy option.
Don’t skip breakfast. A meal full of protein and complex carbohydrates gives your body the energy it needs to get through the day.
Graze. Hunger can lead to lower levels of productivity, so have a steady stream of healthy snacks on hand to eat throughout the day.
If finding ways to incorporate healthy food choices into your day is difficult, consider setting one day aside for meal prepping. It’ll not only save time and decision fatigue, but it can save you money as well.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

12 Steps Freelancers Should Take During the Coronavirus Crisis

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This story originally appeared on DollarSprout.As the COVID-19 pandemic sends shockwaves through the economy and forces big businesses to cut budgets, freelancers and other independent workers are feeling the squeeze.
Freelancers make up 35% of the U.S. workforce and contribute $1 trillion to the national economy. But some are dealing with less work right now while others are working overtime to keep up with new demand. And on top of an uncertain financial future, some freelancers might be struggling with isolation and anxiety.
There are still ways to build a community, find sources of income, and stay productive during the pandemic. Here are several steps you can take to manage the emotional impact and keep earning a living.

1. Communicate with your clients.
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Reaching out to current and prospective clients with a professional, empathetic tone can put them at ease in the face of uncertainty. When you contact those clients, ask about scheduling a phone call to discuss their concerns or needs. These small gestures can go a long way now and after the crisis passes.
“Many experts predict that post-COVID-19 freelance work is going to be even more in demand,” says Andi Smiles, a small business financial consultant. “Connecting with people now means that they could refer to you later.”
To prepare, consider creating some of these resources:
A page on your website explaining your pay rates and services.
Another page detailing how you’re handling change during the pandemic and any new services you’re offering.
Social media posts that help clients understand how you’re handling the crisis — and why you’re the best go-to freelancer to contact.
Email templates to send to new and existing clients.
Hang on to these resources, and document how you handled issues throughout the pandemic so you’ll be better prepared for future crises when they arise.
2. Pivot to meet demand.
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Freelancers are natural adapters, but COVID-19 may be pushing you to work even harder. If some clients have stopped sending you work altogether, you may need to find different sources of income or adjust your services.
Jackie Lam, a freelance writer and financial coach for artists and creatives, offers these tips:
Look for “cross-sections.” That’s the intersection between your skills and what’s in demand. For example, a pet sitter with relationship-building skills can pivot to delivering groceries and other items to her clients.
Focus on what’s in demand. What do your clients and their end users need right now? This will be specific to your industry, so you can reach out to your network for ideas or do your own research.
Repackage your services. Go over your full suite of services and think about how you can adjust them to remain competitive.
Reach out to new clients. Send them an email, reach out via social media, or ask a colleague to make an introduction. Explain how you think your services can help their business.
Logan Allec, a CPA and founder of personal finance blog Money Done Right, noticed a shift in demand for his services during the pandemic.
“I’m a financial expert,” Allec says, “but during COVID-19, people aren’t worried about their taxes. They were worried about unemployment and stimulus checks and things like that.”
He began creating YouTube videos to help people understand how COVID-19 affects their money and how to get financial help. “I ended up making over $30,000 in YouTube ad revenue in April alone, excluding affiliates,” he says.
3. Find support in your freelance community.
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Even if you thrive working from home without co-workers, it’s important to build a network with others in your industry.
“Colleagues are there to help you maintain your sanity, provide guidance if you’re struggling with some aspect of your business, and point toward promising work leads,” Lam says. And if you’re lucky enough to have a mentor, “they can help you define your values and drum up a game plan to achieve your business goals.”
Your community is especially important during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. “People remember the people who helped them and made them feel better during a scary time,” Allec says. “Be there for people right now even if there’s no immediate return, and you could forge relationships that could become extremely mutually beneficial when things pick up again.”
You can establish these business relationships through social media groups, virtual meetups with local business owners, and freelance friends. Conferences also offer a great way to meet colleagues — although in-person events may be on hold.
4. Review your contracts.
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Long-term contracts between freelancers and clients typically protect the client rather than the freelancer. Clients might cut budgets during tough times, but they shouldn’t ghost you when it comes to paying invoices and honoring retainer contracts.
It’s critical to have a contract that protects you and clearly defines the scope of work, rates, and payment terms. This can help you pursue legal action if a client doesn’t pay up.
Go through your contracts or create a new template, if you don’t have one already. An attorney who specializes in freelance work can help, or you can check out the Freelancers Union’s free contract creator.
5. Evaluate your finances.
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Now is a good time to review your budget and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Go through your business transactions from the last three to six months and consider ditching services and products you don’t use or that won’t help you earn money.
You also might want to check on your personal finances, too. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to a nonprofit credit counselor. For example, GreenPath Financial Wellness and the Association of Independent Workers, two national nonprofits, have teamed up to offer free services for independent workers during the pandemic.

6. Apply for grants.
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A grant is money that you apply for but don’t have to repay — which can be a lifesaver if your income has taken a hit.
To start, look for grants within your city or state or ones that are specific to your industry. Some grants align with your demographics, too. For example, some are geared toward women or people of color.
Smiles recommends getting specific: “Freelancer grants are very competitive, and the general funds are exhausted quickly. The more nuanced you get, the better chance you have of receiving a grant.”
7. Leverage federal programs.
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In the past, independent workers couldn’t apply for unemployment insurance benefits. But “pandemic unemployment assistance,” or PUP, expands these benefits to self-employed folks.
“It can be a game changer for people’s financial security,” Smiles says. “The con is that you have to stay on top of the compliance requirements.” Look for details at your state’s unemployment website, and check whether you need to apply through PUP.
Your freelance business might also qualify for a federal loan or grant. Check out the Paycheck Protection Program or other resources through the Small Business Administration. An SBA office near your city may be able to give you more specific advice.
8. Take care of items on your to-do list.
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In the months leading up to the pandemic, you may have pushed certain tasks to the bottom of your to-do list. But now’s a great time to tackle them.
“If you’re facing a lull, think about how you can make the most of the downtime,” Lam says. “You might’ve been so busy with client work that you haven’t had a chance to revamp your website, or be consistent in posting to your social media channels.”
Some items to tackle on your to-do list might include:
Responding to emails.
Catching up on invoices.
Updating your contacts.
Networking with colleagues.
Creating your website or developing new content for it.
Making a list of people you’d like to work with or projects you’d like to do.
9. Set short- and long-term goals
Although it’s satisfying to check off your to-do list items, it’s also important to revamp and revisit your business goals. Smiles advises also using this time to create a roadmap for setting or achieving long-term goals.
Those long-term goals may include:
Growing your business and hiring people.
Brainstorming long-term projects, like hosting workshops or events.
Developing a social media strategy.
Don’t forget to set short-term goals as well. These might include increasing your rates, renegotiating a contract with a high-paying client, or offering a new service.
Check out 6 Genius Goal-Setting Activities That Make You 88% More Likely to Succeed.
10. Work on a passion project.
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A passion project is typically a creative side project that excites and inspires you. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book, create a podcast, or start a charity. And if you lacked the time or energy to put toward your project in the past, you might have all the time in the world now.
Even if the passion project isn’t related to your work, it may still help advance your freelance career. These projects can demonstrate your full capabilities, expand your skill set, and provide a new platform for different work. “You’re also telling clients, ‘Hey, this is what I’m about,’ or ‘This is my dream project. Look at what I can do,’” Lam says.
Get the ball rolling by defining your result or goal. Then, plan out the steps, figure out if you need to get others involved, and set up a timeline. But remember: While the project might benefit your work, it should also make you happy.
11. Enroll in training programs.
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If you aren’t earning income right now, Lam suggests carving out some time for self-improvement. You can invest in your business by improving your craft, learning new skills, or simply chatting with seasoned freelancers.
You can do it on the cheap, too, as dozens of online courses are free right now. Earning a professional certification is another option. For example, a personal finance writer might check out Certified Financial Planner courses. Although you may have to spend money on the education program, the new designation can help you charge more for your services.
12. Take a mental break.
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The coronavirus pandemic is causing a historic rise in mental health issues — and they’re only compounded if your income is taking a hit, too.
If you’re struggling, The Centers for Disease Control offers a few ways to manage stress:
Take breaks from the news if it’s making you feel anxious.
Exercise regularly. Go for a walk or run, stretch, and meditate.
Eat healthy meals and avoid alcohol.
Get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Make time for activities you enjoy.
Connect with others through video chats and phone calls.
You should also take regular breaks, set regular office or working hours, and stick to a routine. Work-life balance is important, even if your finances feel uncertain.
Taking care of yourself also means taking care of your mental health. If you need to speak with a professional, some therapists are offering virtual therapy sessions.
Take time to consider your next steps
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If you’re feeling the mental and emotional effects of the pandemic, it’s OK to hit the pause button. These tips are a starting point for taking care of yourself and your business. During this time, you may choose to work on your business, get some rest, or do a combination of both.
But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process, Smiles says.
“You don’t have to make huge, sweeping changes to your business model,” she advises. “Even the act of questioning how you could improve your business will help you expand your offerings and income.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.