COVID-19 has forced many of us into our homes, and remote work has been the new normal for companies all over the globe. And although a lot of us can use the time to set up productive work schedules that make room for our other priorities, there are yet some of us who are still struggling to adjust.
Maybe you're suddenly the primary educator of your young kids. Maybe you suddenly have to care for a sick relative. Or maybe neither apply but you just need time to realign and adjust to heal from your coronavirus-related anxieties.
Taking time off might seem like a difficult thing to ask for, especially when so many employers can reason that working from home means their employees are enjoying better work-life balance. But it's far from the case – and certainly a dangerous generalization.
So if you're currently itching for some much-needed time away from work, even when you're already working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some tips to help you get started.
How to Ask For Time Off in the Age of COVID-19
Re-evaluate your company's leave policies
Your company's leave policies might have changed since shifting to remote work. Aside from setting new remote work policies, your company might have adjusted their rules for asking for paid or unpaid leave.
If you aren't sure what these new policies might be, you may want to check with your boss or your HR team. As everyone navigates this new normal, it might not be surprising if this information isn't widely available yet. Should that be the case, by asking the people in charge, you're also able to help your company streamline any ongoing COVID-19 employee support efforts – including ironing out leave policies when working from home.
Justify your reason for needing time off
Once you know what leaves you're entitled to, you might need to think about how you'll justify some time off from work to your manager and HR department. By now, you might already know how much time you need, so be sure to justify the length of your leave as well.
If you're able, try to negotiate clocking in this leave time under any vacation days or sick leaves you might not have used up yet. If you're taking a break for your mental health, reason with your employer that it will be good for your productivity and job satisfactionin the long-term.
Decide on start and end dates
Before speaking with anybody about your leave, pick the exact dates you want to take time off. Needless to say, if your company is in the middle of big projects this season, then you can ask yourself if you're willing to wait until things calm down before taking time off or if filing for leave can't wait.
You may also want to be prepared for any negotiations from your manager. Have any backup dates in mind, or be prepared to reason why you need to take time off on the exact dates you specify.
Give your boss a heads-up via their preferred communication method
Because you're no longer in the same office working with your boss, it might be difficult for you to muster the courage to send a text or email about your plans to take time off. But acknowledge that, as the world and workplace has changed, so must our work habits.
One way to ease some of this anxiety is to choose a communication method you and your boss frequent. If you've been communicating mainly through Slack or text, use that. Or shoot an email if that's what you know they prefer.
This quick message should just be requesting – not demanding – that you take these specific dates off and for what purpose. This most likely won't be your official notice letter in case you end up adjusting your start or end date.
Offer to get on a call with them to explain your situation in more detail
In some cases, your reason for asking for time off won't need extra explanation. But in the chance that it might – say, you work in a company that currently has no mental health programs or policies – you'd do best to offer to get on a call to explain your situation.
This is where you can tell your manager exactly why you're needing a break, be it to focus on family matters or just adjusting emotionally and mentally to the new normal.
Put it in writing
Once you and your boss have both agreed on the details of your time off, it's time to put it in writing. Clearly state your start and end dates, your reason for filing a leave, and the action steps you'll take before taking the time away (more on this in the next few sections). Be sure to copy in your HR department too.
Over-communicate before taking time off
When you're preparing to go on leave, especially when working from home, over-communicating is the name of the game. This means being very verbal about new project updates leading up to your first day off, as well as copying in people who might be covering for you.
To keep the entire passing-the-baton process easier for you and your co-workers, organize your projects, reports, and other resources and be hyper-detailed about where each ongoing task stands. (Here's our checklist for what to do on your last day before going on vacation!)
Inform everyone who needs to know your schedule
Shoot a mass email to your other co-workers informing them about your scheduled time off. In this email, you can explain if you'll be accessing any email or texts during your break or if you'll be staying off work communication as much as possible.
Offer ways to get in touch with you in the event of urgent needs
Decide if and how often you'll be checking in. Ensure people know how they can contact you if urgent concerns arise, or who they should contact in your absence.
After all, everyone in your company is adjusting to this new mode of work – and things may come up.
Set up your vacation responders and statuses
The day before you take your break, set up autoresponders on your work emails and switch any statuses you might have on messaging applications. While your co-workers might know you're away, your accounts or clients might not.
Include information about who's covering for you and how to get in touch with them, and put in a short note about when you'll be going back to work so people know when to expect hearing back from you.
Ask for time off the right way
Asking for time off when you work remotely in the age of COVID-19 can seem intimidating – but if you need the break, you should take it. What's good for your mental health in the short-term will be better for you and the company in the long-term. Remember that as an employee you're still entitled to leaves and breaks; you just have to approach your managers and HR team the right way.
Who doesn't love a good side hustle? If you're serious about turning that side hustle into a real money-maker, either as an additional income stream or as an initial step in starting a full-time business, you're going to need an email list and an effective email marketing strategy.
If you're ready to take your side hustle to the next level, read on to learn about why an email marketing strategy for your side hustle might be your best investment yet, plus see our top tips on how to get started with building your list.
Why should you create an email marketing strategy?
Any side hustle has the potential for becoming a real sustainable means of income, but it's not without its challenges.
Difficulty reaching the right prospects and establishing your credibility and unique offer are all things that even side-hustlers have to think about if they wish to be successful at their craft.
So how does email marketing help you with all these things?
For one thing, if you're relying on social media to reach new customers, consider this: you don't always reach your audience even if they're following you. Plus, if Facebook or Instagram were to suddenly shut down your account, you'd have no way of reaching out to your followers or finding them again.
An email list, on the other hand, is your own asset. You own the emails you collected in your list. And when you send emails, you land in a valuable spot to reach your audience: right in their inbox.
Secondly, email marketing is easily automatable – after setting up the right sequences, your email list becomes your 24/7 salesperson, giving value and offers to your audience all on autopilot.
Also, because email marketing is a consistent way to get in front of your audience, you're always delivering value and establishing your credibility and expertise.
With these factors in mind, it's no wonder that email continues to be the preferred way businesses communicate with their audiences. For your own side hustle, it should be no different.
How to create an email marketing strategy for your side hustle
Convinced that you should build an email list for your side hustle? Here are the steps you can take to get started.
Know your target audience
Your side hustle is a small business, and businesses of every size have an ideal customer.
Create a detailed avatar of whom you believe is your target client or customer, and be sure to include these things as you're doing it:
- Their goals
- The pain points keeping them from their goals
- Where to find them online
You can even compile all your ideas and findings in a buyer persona (see below) that you keep on referring to.
Identify your email marketing strategy goals
Your ultimate goal for your email marketing strategy is to make sales, so there are supporting goals you ought to set to hit that goal.
Think about how many subscribers you want to be getting each day or week. Also, consider how many times you want to send an email to your list in a month.
You'll also want to think about goals like:
- Increasing open rates
- Increasing click-through rates
- Increasing return on investment (ROI)
Get your email marketing tools in order
You can't start an email list without the right tools. You can refer to this list of the best email marketing tools out there and see which best fits your needs, goals, and budget.
A few important things you'll want to look for in your side hustle's email marketing provider are:
- how easy it is to build automations;
- how well you can track behaviors and engagements on your email campaigns, and;
- the provider's documentation and knowledge base
Create an opt-in offer
Once you've already decided on your marketing tool, now you can start to think about how to build your list and get subscribers.
The best way to do this is with what's called an opt-in offer – or a free resource or tool you give out to your audience in exchange for their email address.
To create an irresistible opt-in offer, you'll want to refer to your buyer persona or the pain points that your ideal customer has.
Think about what kind of quick win you can offer them that will get them closer to meeting their goal. If this opt-in is also related to your main side hustle offer, all the better.
As an example, let's imagine your side hustle is being a content manager.
You've determined that one of the main pain points of your ideal client is that they don't know what kind of content they should be putting out for their blog and social media.
One opt-in offer you can offer is a free list of, say, 100 blog and social media post prompts.
This resource is a quick win for them, and at some point, they might even consider outsourcing this task altogether.
And luckily for you, because they're now on your email list, you can keep sending them valuable emails about content management so that you become top of mind for when they're looking to hire.
Set up your opt-in
Create your opt-in using a tool like Google Docs, Adobe Indesign, or Canva.
You can link it up as an opt-in on your preferred email marketing provider, where if somebody signs up on a form to receive your free offer, they immediately receive it in their inbox once they give you their email address.
It's also good practice to constantly test and come out with new opt-in ideas. Also experiment with different ways of offering the opt-in – be it across your website, through social media, or others.
Example of an opt-in form. (Source: Converkit)
Write your email sequences
Getting people on your list is only step one of your email marketing strategy – step two and beyond is constantly nurturing them, so that they see you're an expert in what you do so that they can eventually hire you/contract your services.
When writing your own email sequence, test out a few of these general goals:
- Educate email. This can be a how-to or a case study you can share with your audience.
- Nurture email. You can tell a relevant and engaging story, or some behind-the-scenes of your latest projects and offers.
- Offer email. Every once in a while, you can pitch your offer to your list. Not everyone might know you have certain offers, so make it known through an email sequence.
Promote your opt-in
One of the best ways to promote your opt-in is through content marketing, such as through a blog, podcast, or video.
Because you're already giving away free content on your website, audiences will automatically assume you know a lot about the topic you're talking about. So if you offer a free resource that will level up what you explained in a blog post, for example, they'll be more inclined to opt-in to your list. (This strategy takes a bit of work. If you're busy as is with a full-time job and delivering on your actual side hustle offer, you can consider outsourcing the content writing portion for your side hustle to experienced blog writing providers.)
Whether you're starting a side hustle to make extra income or to transition out of a job, one of the best ways to grow it is through an email list. Implement the steps above to start your own email marketing strategy, build your list, and start making side hustle sales all on autopilot! And check out these tips for making a general marketing plan!