So You Want to Work From Home….

kittens at workYou’ve heard the ads, perhaps dreamed of working from home. You envision yourself positioned in your own little office in the spare bedroom or a cozy corner of the kitchen, working away while the children play quietly nearby, the dog sleeps by your feet and the money just keeps dropping into your bank account as you faithfully apply your skills.
As a seasoned medical transcriptionist with nearly 11 years’ experience, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the ups and down of working from home.  There are many reasons people choose to work from home and certainly there are a lot of benefits from doing so.  For me, my venture into this lifestyle started when my marriage fell apart and I was suddenly the sole provider for myself and the 3 of my 7 children still at home. I had been a stay-at-home mom for over 22 years and the thought of diving headfirst into the regular workforce was terrifying. I think it was a real saving grace for me and for my kids that during this time of great upheaval in our family I was able to still be the at-home-all-the-time mom while being able to work and provide for us. Being able to avoid the need for before and after school care and the predicament of knowing you really need to be in the office when your 6-year-old is running a fever significantly lessened the load for all of us. Snow days weren’t a problem, because I was home. Teacher conference days, Christmas break, summers….all were handled with so much more ease because I didn’t have to feel quite so pulled in both directions. I know a lot of women seem able to juggle working outside the home and family and do it really well…but I will always be grateful I had this opportunity to remain in my home full time.

So, for me having the chance to work from home really was a lifesaver and a blessing and I do encourage mothers (especially mothers with young children) who need to work to consider working from home. But, there are also special challenges and drawbacks and I’d like to present some of those here, because I think knowing what you’re up against can strengthen you to face the challenges and still achieve your goal of working from home.

obed at workThat picture of the kids playing quietly and the dog by your feet? Yes, it happens sometimes…maybe once or twice a year?! Seriously, one of the biggest challenges to working from home is that because you are home everyone assumes that means you’re available…the kids, the neighbors, the dog, the cat. There have been so many times I’ve been on a roll typing away when one of the animals would get sick, or the dog would bark to go out. Then there were the times I would spot something outside my window…yep, the goats had broken out of their fence again and were running down the road or worse yet, heading for the neighbor’s garden! So keyboard tossed aside and a dash out the door to do a little mid-morning goat wrangling, or clean up after the dog, or answer the phone and talk for a few minutes with a lonely grown daughter in another state. I found the best way for me to handle distractions like these was to work either early in the morning (really early, i.e. 4 a.m.) or late at night, after kids were in bed and life had quieted down. Some companies will allow you to choose your own schedule and are pretty flexible while others are very rigid. If you can choose to work when there are fewer distractions that’s great. If not I think establishing firm boundaries right from the beginning is a key. Set up your answering machine stating that you are working and will return phone calls when you are finished. We have a code in our family that if we are calling home and really need someone to pick up the phone we call 3 times in a row. That is the signal that somebody needs to answer the phone right away! So you can either use caller ID or a code or another idea of your own so you are accessible in emergencies, but really try to guard yourself from phone interruptions.

Teach the kids right from the beginning that you are not to be interrupted while working unless it is urgent…and be clear on what is urgent. The younger your children the harder this will be. Of course when the goats escape…there’s nothing to do but catch them!

goats4Working from home can be pretty lonely. I’ve spent decades at home…first as a full time stay-at-home mother and then as a working-from-home mother. While there is no workplace drama, there is also no workplace conversation or adult companionship. So, you have to find that on your own. Scheduling in coffee with friends or other activities that feed your soul can help to revitalize you and keep you sane, sometimes literally!
Some of the other positives include being able to keep handle on running the home with a little more ease than a mom who has to be gone from her home all day…you really can get 4 loads of laundry done and be there to turn off the oven when the brownies are done baking. And I believe scheduling a break so you can be there to greet the kids when they arrive home from school is a priceless gift you can give them, and yourself. I also scheduled a break when my kids were getting ready for school in the morning. One of my fondest memories is that every morning one of my teenage daughters would come into the kitchen while I was packing up lunches and say “Hey mom, listen to this song” and she would play me a new-found favorite song on her iPod. Just a little thing, but I was there for it and now that her high school days are over I’m glad I didn’t miss it. So, those are what I’ve found to be some of the basic ups and downs, positives and negatives of working from home. If it’s something you have been thinking about I’d definitely encourage you to do it!

Please feel free to post questions regarding working from home in the comments section below; help me determine what other topics I should cover in this series!

In my next post I will discuss working from home specifically as it relates to being a medical transcriptionist…the good, the bad, and the ugly…stay tuned!

If you are interested in becoming a medical transcriptionist I highly recommend CareerStep.  It’s the school I graduated from and it’s graduates are highly sought after by transcription companies.  They also offer the following programs:  Medical coding and billing, medical office management, medical administrative assistant with EHR, pharmacy technician, health information technician, computer technician, executive assistant, medical billing, and veterinary assistant.  Visit them today at http://www.referral.careerstep.com/ref12112.

Learn To Play The Violin! A Review of Violin Tutor Pro (.com)

Photo of Woman Playing Violin
This photo of a young woman playing violin was provided by the generosity of skeeze on pixabay.

I mentioned in my previous post If You’re Hankerin’ To Start Fiddlin’…Or Playin’ Any Stringed Instrument that I stumbled upon a gold mine when searching the internet one day…that gold mine is Michael Sanchez and his websites violintutorpro.com and superiorviolins.com.  Superior Violins is the store component of these sister sites and was reviewed in my previous post.  Today I would like to introduce you to the educational website, Violin Tutor Pro.   Michael Sanchez and Loren Alldrin are co-owners of the Violin Tutor Pro.  Together with a talented team of musicians they have constructed a site which makes it possible for anyone with internet access to be able to learn to play the violin at little to no cost.

Their slogan is “your playing is our passion.”  When someone is passionate about something the natural inclination is to share your passion with others.  These guys are so passionate about playing the violin they work tirelessly coming up with new and innovative ways to teach anyone with a desire to learn.  There are many video lessons available on YouTube, from the very beginner lessons starting with how to hold the violin and the bow to advanced lessons involving double stops, single finger scales and lots of advice on developing a beautiful vibrato.  The videos are of excellent quality.

There is  a forum section on the website where members (free) can post questions about different topics and receive answers from fellow violinists and/or the staff.  Some current topics in the forum are Accessories (discussions about things like rosin, shoulder rests, etc), Adult Learners, Beginner Violin Playing, Advanced Violin Playing, Fiddle Playing, and one of my favorites, Video Feedback.  In the Video Feedback section anyone can post a video of themselves playing the violin.   It’s really fun to hear other people play.  The staff and other students (some with years of experience playing) will give feedback and tips for improvement.

Just between the YouTube videos and the forum there is a ton of free information that can help you with the violin and fiddle, whether you are just beginning or have been playing for years.

As most of us know private lessons can be very expensive.   For the nominal cost of $9 a month Michael is now offering access to structured lessons.  Check out the lessons membership page here.   You receive organized lessons to help you along each step of the way, guiding you just as a real-life teacher would in what to practice next.  You have access to music that can be downloaded for free – this is a huge savings!  If you want to take it a step further there are Skype lessons available with teachers from around the world.  I took a Skype lesson with Michael a few years back.  I’m not very comfortable using Skype, even when talking with my own children when they are out of state or out of the country…I’m just a bit older and have found it takes some getting used to.  But it really is a remarkable tool.  Michael was able to immediately notice things about my bow hold that needed to be improved.  He gave me his full attention for the 30 minutes of my lesson and his feedback was very helpful.

So, just as I highly recommend superiorviolins.com if you are in need of a stringed instrument or accessories, I also highly recommend violintutorpro.com if you or your child are looking to begin or continue to master the violin.

 

If You’re Hankerin’ to Start Fiddlin’… or Playin’ Any Stringed Instrument…

Photo of an Arkansas Fiddler

…Then I’d like to tell you about an online site where you can find quality stringed instruments at great prices!

I came across Michael Sanchez of superiorviolins.com several years ago, quite by accident.   I played violin decades ago and was considering trying to pick it up again.  For some reason I decided to google the difference between a fiddle and a violin.  I had been trained as a classical violinist, but had been wondering what it would be like to play the fiddle.  Quite honestly,  I thought a  fiddle was an entirely different instrument than a violin.  So, I turned to the ever-faithful search engine and plugged in “what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin?”  Up popped a young man with a somewhat impish grin who explained the difference – same instrument,  the difference is in how you play it.  I then looked up his website and in the years since have become a faithful follower and customer.  I thought I would do a review for Dave Enjoys, because it’s always good to exercise caution when making purchases online, especially major ones, and I can assure people they can shop with confidence at superiorviolins.com.

Superiorviolins.com is actually one of two sites run by Sanchez.  A sister site is violintutorpro.com which is an amazing site offering tremendous resources to violinists and fiddle players alike.  I will be reviewing that site in a later article here on Dave Enjoys.  But for now, I’d like to tell you about superiorviolins.com, which is the store part of the sister sites.  Here you can purchase violins (including electric violins), cellos, violas, bows, cases and a variety of accessories.  The instruments range from very basic, beginner type instruments for around $250 all the way up to master level instruments for $15,000.  Michael carefully selects the instruments he sells to ensure that they are of the highest quality, no matter the price.  I love that you can try any instrument in the comfort of your own home before you buy it.  The higher-priced instruments require a down payment, and if you decide not to purchase you simply return it, paying only the return shipping price.

I have tried out several violins from superiorviolins.com.   My absolute favorite was the Elda Marina, which retails for $3500.  I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to play than the inexpensive old violin I had picked up at a yard sale!  It sounded as though I had gained instantaneously ten years of practice, just because of the beautiful tone this instrument so effortlessly produced.  I took the Elda Marina to my local music store and tried it out against some of their high-end models.  None could compare with the Elda Marina with its rich tone.  Unfortunately, right at the time I was planning to purchase the violin of my dreams I got hit with some unexpected financial obligations and wasn’t able to …even with the great sale price and payment plan.  It just wasn’t the right time for me.   I cried like I was saying goodbye to a friend I might never see again when I closed the lid on it for the last time before packaging it to return!

Tia Bruna as found on SuperiorViolin.com
Tia Bruna as found on SuperiorViolin.com

Several months later things were looking better again financially and I decided at this time to try out another model; a less expensive but highly recommended one, the Tia Bruna.  This is a beautiful violin with rich, deep tones.  I made the purchase and I am so glad!  The decades I had turned my back on the violin are being reclaimed as I faithfully practice.  A good instrument can make such a difference, including providing increased motivation to practice.  It is difficult to struggle along on an inferior quality instrument…a quality instrument makes practicing a joy.  I highly recommend that parents provide their children with the highest quality instrument they can afford…and Michael makes sure he does everything he can to make his instruments affordable and available to people, including frequent and generous sales, contests, trade-ins and easy payment plans.   By the time I applied my trade-in and the $100 I won in a contest to a really great sale price I was able to purchase a truly wonderful violin almost for a song.

So, all that to say, if you are looking for a violin, viola or cello, be sure to check out superiorviolins.com….Michael Sanchez is as honest and trustworthy as they come and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!