No Manager, No Problem: Promoting Your Music Alone

If you love music and have a talent for singing or playing an instrument, then it already gives you immense joy. For millions of amateurs, those emotional rewards are more than enough to keep them happy.

For others, though, turning the hobby into a career would be a dream come true. But for that to happen, you will need to make money. Many wrongly believe that the tried and tested method of getting a manager is the only solution. However, this simply isn’t true.

In today’s market, it’s possible to generate those sales without a manager. It won’t be easy, but it should be enjoyable as this is your passion in life. And if you achieve success, it could be the key to unlocking the life you’ve always wanted.

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Step 1: Produce CDs & Videos

You could be the most talented artist or band in the world. However, that will count for nothing if nobody ever hears it. As such, it’s imperative that your music is made available for public consumption.

The process of producing a CD isn’t overly difficult. After the recording session, services like Nationwide Disc can create a professional CD and packaging. Whether you intend to sell these or hand them out as freebies isn’t overly important. Either way, it will get your name out there.

Music videos are another fantastic option. Not only can you put these on YouTube and your website, but it could help you gain airtime on smaller video channels. Ed Sheeran’s A Team was produced independently for around $50. So there’s no excuse to miss out.

Step 2: Gig

CDs and videos are a great way to promote your band. Even if they are free services to build your audience, this will eventually become the main product that you sell. In the meantime, gigging is the perfect way to hone your skills while generating some income.

You aren’t going to make millions from gigging, but this is your education for becoming a future superstar(s). Meanwhile, it can be a great way to link up with other artists for collaborative pieces. Again, this can be a great way to build a bigger audience. Besides, fans will often upload the pics and videos they’ve taken to create an even greater buzz.

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One top trick, however, is to do a couple of covers in those early days. This will make it easier for fans to relate.

Step 3: Sell Merchandise

It seems strange, but you can be a big band without selling CDs. You’ll probably gain a few online sales through iTunes anyway. However, making your act marketable with additional goods can be a great way to earn money in those early days.

If you are giving music away for free, people are far more likely to buy a promotional t-shirt or key ring. Once again, this can work wonders for building a larger audience. Eventually, you should get to the point where the music becomes a genuine career rather than a hobby on the side.

Your art is the main attraction, but you cannot ignore the business side. Find the right balance between the two, and you will be just fine – even without a manager.

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A Virtual Reality: Hiring A “Virtual” Assistant For Your Home Business

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It is difficult if you’re running a business from the comfort of your own home. It may sound like an ideal situation, but in many cases, it is not. When you start out in the Big Wide World of business, it can be a testing time for you. Having a small amount of staff, or even if you’re just running it by yourself can cause undue stress and tension. And it’s not necessarily the best starting point for your startup. A popular method getting tasks done efficiently and quickly without straining your business finances too much is to hire a freelance contractor or what is known as a virtual assistant. Essentially a virtual assistant is someone you can delegate duties to via your computer. There are certain advantages to this, but there are also disadvantages.  For both, they are as follows:

The Minor Tasks Are Delegated

Having a virtual assistant to complete the smaller admin duties saves you many hours so you can carry on with the more important and pressing tasks. Instead of you banging your head against the wall trying to remember the Excel shortcuts. As well as the basic tasks, having a virtual assistant gives you the opportunity to assign research tasks. So this can give you an upper hand regarding the competition and the market research. Another benefit to tasks like this is that you can assign them a deadline to complete it by so you don’t have to spend weeks waiting for the outcome.

You Have Many Choices In Who You Want To Hire

A lot more people are switching from permanent employment to freelancing as it is more lucrative. So when it comes to hiring your ideal staff member, using websites like Guru or People Per Hour it is never easier to do.

Ending Contracts Are Easier

When you hire a virtual assistant, it is a lot easier to end a contract in comparison to the standard employer route. In doing this, there is a lot less investment in the working relationship as you are just providing a task for them to do. If they do not do it your standards, then it is less likely they will take it personally when you end the contract. In the virtual assistant arena, even if you had a disgruntled employee, you are able to go through a company that provides virtual office addresses. This makes it more discreet for you if you are operating out of your home.  If you are interested in an alternate Mail address, click here for more information.

Distance Is Easier

Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may want to keep your distance when it comes to hiring freelance contractors. If you are a one man band and you needs a virtual assistant that asks no questions and get on with the tasks, this will be an ideal setup for you. The downside to this is that if you are looking to run a personal and interactive organisation this might not be the best approach for you to take.

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Staying Safe While Gambling Online

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It wasn’t so long ago that gambling was seen as a somewhat sleazy activity. I remember the betting shops of old being a place of mystery, where you could never see inside. The change in public perception of gambling has been remarkable. You see and hear advertising on almost every sports event. Betting experts are regular guests on radio sports shows. And, heading to a casino is now something that is normalized.

Online gambling has also enjoyed a remarkable period of growth. There are thousands of online casinos where you can gamble on slot machines or at the poker table, against computers and real people.

But let’s not beat around the bush – gambling can still be problematic. And when you are gambling online, there are many opportunities to lose money. With this in mind, I thought I would scour the web for some of the best tips to ensure you keep gambling as a fun activity and avoid any issues of addiction. Let’s get started with some of the basics.

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Only bet what you can afford

While gambling can be a fun experience, there is nothing to laugh about when you lose a lot of money. It is essential, then, that you only bet what you can afford to lose. Only use the excess money, never start dipping into your day-to-day cash or savings. And if you fail, never try to regain your losses – the chances are you will lose even more.

Use reputable casinos and services

Gambling can be a lot of fun. But, let’s face it, it can also lead to a lot of heartache and financial issues. It is vital that you use an online casino that takes your safety seriously. As Maria casino points out in its responsible gaming policy, there are a few things to watch out for. They recommend using a service that allows you to set up deposit limits and self-exclusion settings on your account. And, if you feel that temptation is getting the better of you, always seek out help.

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Check your frequency

The more you gamble online, the easier it will be to fall into addiction. In an ideal world, you won’t use online gambling sites more than 2-3 times a week – preferably less. If you find yourself visiting sites a few times a day, it’s time to check yourself, as there is a chance you could be forming a habit.

Honesty is the best policy

If you are hiding your online gambling activity from others, the chances are that you have a problem. Addicts tend to hide their activity from those they know will disapprove. It rings true for smokers, drinkers, and gamblers alike. If gambling is fun, why hide it?

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Mix up your hobbies

Finally, you should also be concerned if your online gambling is the only hobby you partake in. It just isn’t healthy to focus on one particular thing, especially if it costs you a fortune. Online gaming can also be a lonely experience, so ensure you are getting out and seeing friends and family as often as possible. And if you feel like you have a problem, don’t be afraid to share the details with loved ones.

Sure gambling online can be a fun activity. But it doesn’t take long for your hobby to turn into a habit. Stay safe out there, folks!

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Turning Your Dream Hobby Into Your Career

We all have that special dream don’t we? The one where we love doing something and we wished we did it as a career? And yet there’s no way of achieving that is there? Think again. This is 2016 people. The world is ours for the taking. All you need to do is reach out and grab it. Here’s how the impossible can become the possible.

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O.k. Let’s see if you get this. Let’s say your Dad works in an office. It’s 9-7. Long hours. Long commute. He absolutely hates it and yet all he does when he comes home is make his way into the large stretch of garden you have at the back and work on his pride of joy; making delicate animal wood carvings. This is what he lives for. He’s out for l day on weekends, going down to the beach or the local forest collecting all different shapes and sizes of wood to cater to his personal needs. He wishes he had more time to do this. He would jump at the chance to take this further. Well now he can. Why not look on the web and hunt down freelance work? Everybody wants something on the internet don’t they? Alternatively why not ask around friends and family or be social, go to some wood carving classes and ask around there for any potential work. Money may be tight at first but it was when you started your first job wasn’t it? Just remember that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Once you start getting some orders in, you won’t be able to look back. Hand in your notice at work, say a fond farewell to the chaps and those monotonous repetitive office days will be long gone behind you. How about treating yourself for all the hard work you’ve done and go get yourself some brand spanking new tools? A chisel perhaps, a gouge or what about purchasing one of these saws that you get through companies like Straight Kerfs.

This is why reality TV programmes are so popular nowadays. Take a singing competition. The concept being that you think you have a hidden talent, be it singing in clubs and pubs or to the yellow plastic duck in the bath, so you get yourself off to an audition to sing in front of a group of music moguls. From then on, your dreams are hanging in the balance. They could be immediately shattered or start to be turned into reality. Succeed and you won’t believe in your wildest dreams what has happened. It will be a whole new life. A whole new career for you. It’s what you’ve always prayed to God for. The impossible becoming the possible.

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It could be the same for everyone. Why not take that giant leap out into the unknown? The benefits could be enormous and the possibilities are now starting to be opened up to you. This is your time. Don’t miss the boat. Do what you’ve always dreamed of.

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Technology In Business: How To Avoid Common Entrepreneurial Errors

Even the biggest technophobe can appreciate the array of benefits that modern tech can bring to their company. The business world is now more reliant on digital communications and facilities than ever before. Consequently, failure to embrace that connection will see your venture left behind.

The vast majority of modern businesses now utilize computers and modern tech in some shape or form. However, very few unlock the full capabilities of those systems. In many cases, it’s the simple mistakes that come back to haunt a venture.

Avoiding those should be top of your to-do list. Here’s what you need to look out for.

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Getting Lost In The Crowd

With over one billion active websites in existence, it’s no surprise that so many companies struggle to make their mark. In many cases, it’s not through shortcomings of the business website. Instead, it’s through a lack of presence on other platforms.

For example, there’s more to Google than Gmail. Learning to make the most of this platform through Apps, advertising, and SEO can only boost your levels of success. Similarly, YouTube and social media can become fantastic resources for boosting your presence.

Both brand awareness and sales figures will struggle if you don’t maximize those capabilities. In fact, these elements should also influence offline ventures. If that isn’t an incentive to work harder in this area, what will?

Downtime

Computers and modern tech aren’t only used for selling and customer relationships. They also play an integral role in the workflow and productivity of the entire venture. If your systems are down, you’re essentially shutting vast sections of the business down until a solution is found.

For most SMEs, outsourced IT support is the best way to avoid those problems. Professional services like SKYE Technologies will give your systems the best chance of remaining active on a 24/7 basis. Perhaps more importantly, those experts can find quick solutions for when problems do occur.

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Those systems won’t serve any purpose if they aren’t working. Quite frankly, this would be one of the biggest sins that you’ll ever make in business. Go the extra mile to ensure that they’re continuously up and running in style. You will not regret it.

Poor Security

The growing importance of computer facilities does arguably make them more vulnerable than ever.  Hackers and fraudsters are a common threat, and you must not ignore them. After all, just one breach of data protection could cause major damage to the reputation of your business.

It’s imperative that your systems are protected by firewalls, antivirus software, and other features. Likewise, choosing the right host and e-commerce systems for your company website is vital. If the customers cannot trust your services, they will not use them. It really is that simple.

Apart from anything else, repairing the damage will consume more time and money than getting it right in the first place. Running a business brings responsibilities, and this is one of the most important. Given that this will put your mind at greater ease too, perfecting those security elements should be top of the agenda.

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Fun Winter D.I.Y. Projects For The Home And Garden

It may not be winter quite yet, but cold weather and short days are already on the rise. It’s the perfect time to stay inside and try out some D.I.Y. projects. You might want to create some home decorations for Christmas. Or perhaps you’re looking to add something unique to your home.

There are all kinds of D.I.Y. projects that are great fun for the colder seasons. Some can take less than a day. Others can be a long-lasting and rewarding project. Either way, it’s an excellent way to spend your time when the weather’s cold. Here are some fun home and garden D.I.Y. projects you may want to try.

Make Your Own Christmas Decorations

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Christmas day is only two months away, and lots of people like to prepare early. You might want to start getting your home in the Christmas spirit now. But as well as a tree and some tinsel, there are many homemade decorations you can add.

Crafting your own decorations is something anyone can do with barely any investment. It’s a great way to style up your house in a fun and creative way. The web can give you plenty of ideas for D.I.Y Christmas decorations!

Things like a homemade wraith and handcrafted ornaments for the tree can get you in the holiday mood. It’s a fun project as well as a simple one!

Create A Firewood Shed

As the weather gets colder, you’ll want to stay warm. Those with a wood-burning fireplace will need plenty of firewood. The problem is, it can be hard to store outdoors during winter when rain is so prominent. One of the best solutions is to build a shed for your wood.

A firewood shed can keep wood dry and ready for burning. It might take a few days, but all you need is some timber and tools. You can find timber merchants online to get all the materials you need.

When you have what you need, it’s time to start building. There are online tutorials which can help you with this. You might need a little help, but the results will be rewarding! You don’t just have to use your shed for wood either. You can store anything in here you don’t want to get wet during winter.

Craft Some Homemade Blankets

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If you’re interested in trying out some knitting or sewing, try crafting some homemade blankets! You can make some warm, comfy sofa blankets to snuggle up in during the cold winter.

There are various kinds of D.I.Y. blankets you can try making. You may want to buy some yarn and start knitting. Alternatively, you can patch some old sweaters together to make a patchwork quilt. It’s a fun idea that also lets you recycle unused clothes.

If you have fun doing it, you can even take it a step further. Making some blankets for friends and relatives can be a unique and personal Christmas gift. It’s one of the best projects you can take on during the winter!

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Think You’re Too Broke To Go On Holiday? Think Again

Holidays are amazing opportunities to have new experiences, try new food and meet new people. But for many Brits, holidays just aren’t affordable. According to recent data, around 1.46 million families across the UK don’t take a summer vacation because of poor finances. That’s millions of people missing out when they could be enjoying themselves.

What’s more, a staggering 40 percent of people said that they couldn’t afford a holiday abroad according to the AA. But is it entirely true that people can’t afford to take holidays? Let’s find out.

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Credit Card Holiday Benefits

Most holiday companies recommend that people use a credit card to pay for holiday expenses. The first reason for this is that paying by credit card protects you if things go wrong. Thanks to the Consumer Credit Act, you can get a refund on any purchases you make between £100 and £30,000.

 

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The second reason for using a credit card is the fact that it can pay for the holiday itself.

Take the Amex British Airways Credit Card, This card allows you to earn one air mile for each pound that you spend.

There’s also a premium version of the card that nets you even more lucrative deals. Sure, you’ll have to pay a fee up front. But you’ll get 1.5 miles for each pound you spend. Plus, customers also get 3 miles for each pound they spend on BA flights. If you spend over £20,000 in a year, you’ll also be allowed to bring a friend with you. So start using your credit card and build up rewards.

Secured Housing Loans

Paying for a holiday of a lifetime can be expensive. And often, holidaymakers have to take out loans to make it happen. Many, however, run into problems if they have a poor credit score.

There is, however, a solution for people who own their own home. Homeowner secured loans help to reduce the risk faced by lenders. With a homeowner secured loan, lenders hand out money and use the house as collateral. In other words, you sell part of the equity in your home to the lender in return for a cash lump sum.

In almost all circumstances, it’s a win-win. The lender gets the security he or she needs. And the family gets the money that they need for a much-needed break.

Mix Business With Pleasure

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If you’ve got a job that requires you to travel, why not try to mix business with pleasure? Maureen Mack runs a business consulting firm. When she travels, she always looks for ways to crank up the fun. On a recent trip to the Deep South, she decided that she was going to book a reservation at a fancy restaurant and enjoy her evening in style.

Join A Club

If new experiences are what you’re after, you don’t necessarily have to travel abroad. Many people make do by tapping into local social networks. Meetup, for instance, is a great online tool you can use to find people with similar interests. Seek out these people and try new things, like rock climbing or sushi. You’ll be amazed by the sort of people just around the block.

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Data: The Key To Effective Communication Online

 

Communication is the internet’s gift to the world. We’re all able to get in touch with a lot more people than ever before. Whether you’re running a business or hosting a blog, that visibility is something you want to strive to keep. But the digital world has taken the human art of communication and added a calculated twist to it. Now, the data you collect behind the conversations can help you communicate more effectively than ever.

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The person behind the data

The idea of using data to improve your online communication seems cold. Data is inhuman and it’s objective. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it in an inhuman way. Rather, you can use data to better understand the human side of communication than ever before. A lot of businesses and writers do this nowadays by creating a buyer persona. This means taking in all the data they collect on their readers and customers. Then taking that data to create a mental image of their average or ideal customers. By better understanding this ideal customer, you can hone your marketing and your writing voice to better suit them. It helps you create a brand that’s less generic and make content that really hits with that ideal customer.

Impact is measurable

Before the advent of data, advertising was a hard thing to really get a grasp on. You couldn’t be entirely sure whether a campaign actually worked or not. You just had to put it out there and hope for the best. Nowadays, however, the data captured from one message helps inform the next. Nothing goes out without being measurable, its lessons ready to be implemented. Businesses like CandidSky and other professionals don’t take chances. If they launch a pay-per-click ad, they’re using analytics to measure its impact as soon as it’s live. What parts work, which elements don’t? These measurements are the kind of steps you need to be taking on your message as well. Don’t leave anything to chance anymore.

Getting your presence just right

The same can be said of your website. Design is subjective to a degree, so you often need to keep switching it up to see what works best for your online presence. That’s why a lot of businesses use methods like A/B-testing. Switching between various elements of design and testing them to see which are best at keeping the visitor’s attention. In particular, paying attention to which designs convert more visitors into customers. Little changes like text size, button color and the location of a call-to-action can have a big impact on the overall cohesion of a page. Making these subtle changes over a long period of time can help you slowly but surely nail down the best version of your site.

Data helps you do more than just gauging the reaction to what you say and how you say it. It helps you better understand the people you’re talking to, as well. Take the impersonal and make it personal. You’ll be surprised how effective it can actually be.

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Is It Really Possible To Bottle Up Your Concerns?

We talk an awful lot about stress, often without really looking into its causes or fully understanding its effects. We might say “I’m just dealing with a lot of stress at work”. We may snap at someone, apologize and assure them that we’re just under stress. But for a lot of us, “stress” is something of a catch-all, foggy term that more or less means “I’m dealing with a lot, and it’s hard”.


The thing is, dealing with a lot is liable to cause stress. It’s one of the most common causes of chronic stress, but far from the only one. What a lot of us don’t realize is that stress is a reaction to a situation. While it can be chronic – that is, built up over time – it can also be acute. In many cases, stress is caused by a single incident that we then don’t fully process.

Sudden Bereavement

If you’ve recently lost someone, it’s common to decide to go back to work early on. You don’t want to be seen as exploiting the grief, and feel that keeping busy will be your best way of returning to some normality.

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What all such situations have in common is that people would entirely understand if the bereaved took longer to return. While too much time to think can be a problem, some counselling is the best approach here. Before you can return to work, it’s important to process what you have lost.

Witnessing A Traumatic Event

Although levels of violent crime are falling by any credible measure, humanity as a whole is more on alert for such crime. Part of this is down to the importance placed on knowing what you should do if it happens to you. But a lot is also down to the way things are reported in the news. A more high-adrenaline way of reporting news means that we’re more aware of violence.

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Someone witnessing a violent incident can be placed very much on edge by what happens. It could be something as minor as a fight between two strangers, or as major as a terrorist attack. Until this is processed fully, they keep reliving the incident. This is where critical incident stress management, or CISM solutions, come in. By talking about how the incident affected them and why, a person can put it to rest.

Arguing With A Loved One

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A situation that can affect us all too easily is if we go to work having just argued with someone we love. Although you want nothing more than to apologize and fix it, you’re at work and they’re somewhere else. You spend the whole day wishing you weren’t there, it affects every decision you make and the situation festers. A common reaction these days is to text the person to tell them you’re sorry.

Although this seems like the logical and right step, it is not necessarily so. An argument may have arisen for a number of reasons. These will need deeper discussion than your situation allows. Although an apology may be in order, it should be accompanied by a promise that you’ll talk properly later.

Simply texting “I’m sorry, you were right” just puts your loved one in an awkward situation. Either they have to accept an apology they’re not ready for, or reject it and seem like the baddie. Neither of these situations is fair on them, so take responsibility.

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10 Essentials For Your Employee Handbook

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It’s one of those things that businesses put off as long as they can. A good handbook is not only time-consuming to put together but must contain all the necessary information it requires. If you forget to include certain details, you could find yourself in a tricky position later on. It’s all about covering your back, as well as settling in your new employees as best you can. You can tinker around with what you include in your handbook to a certain extent, but there are a few necessities. Let’s take a look.

 

General Company Information

 

Most handbooks begin with a general blurb about the company and what it aims to achieve. This is a good way to get your new employee accustomed to the business and how it operates. You can get as extensive as you want in terms of what you include here. Normally, a bit about the company’s history is a good way to get started. Goals and the ethos of the business might come next, followed by a personal message from you directly. You can get quite creative with this.

 

Safety Policies
There are a whole bunch of safety policies that you should have in place when it comes to your business. These need to be documented in the handbook. Possibly the most important of all is your health and safety policy. You must get across your stance on health and safety in the workplace, including any relevant tailored information. This is especially important for businesses that regularly work in dangerous environments. Other policies can surround workplace bullying and data protection, both of which should be included.

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Disciplinary Procedures

 

It’s a requirement of your handbook that you outline the disciplinary procedures properly. If you fail to do this, a disgruntled employee could later point to the handbook as an inaccurate source of information. This could then assist them when claiming in an unfair dismissal case, for example. So, every detail about disciplinary should be outlined in full. You can’t just make it up as you go along – disciplinary actions must follow strict law guidelines. An employment law specialist can help with this if you’re in any doubt.

 

Technology Use Policies

 

There was a time when technology use policies would have been laughed at. These days, they’re an essential part of your handbook’s contents. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, you need to protect the business by strictly prohibiting personal internet usage on company time. You might also have rules in place surrounding company phones and laptops. Also, as mentioned earlier, data protection is yet another very important consideration. Without implementing the right policies, you could just find your data getting into the wrong hands.

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Holiday Entitlements

 

This one is fairly self-explanatory, and it relates to the holiday entitlements that your employees have. Every handbook should make these allowances clear in order to prevent any confusion going forward. Obviously, you’ll need to include the set amount of holiday that employees are allowed. Then, account for any extra entitlements they might get, and who they should contact when requesting holiday. You might have to add a few tailored rules in there about holiday request timings, too.

 

Dress Code & Behavioural Standards

 

This is another necessity that you’ll find in any good handbook out there. Start with the dress code, which you’ll need to be very detailed with. You’re not running a school, but you’d be amazed at how many people dress like a teenager when given the chance! So, be clear with exactly what is expected of your employees, or you’ll have no leg to stand on when they turn up in a hoodie. Of course, behavioural standards relate to how employees should act around the business. To prevent bullying, this should be documented and incorporated into your disciplinary procedure.

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Additional Benefits

 

This is where we get a bit more tailored, and there’s no set structure for what you need to include. However, many companies operate an overtime structure, and this might be a good time to include it. So, make it clear how much employees should be expected to make when doing overtime to avoid any grievances later. Other benefits can include discounts, memberships and bonuses, and they should all be documented. If they’re not in the book, problems can arise.

 

Sickness & Grievance Procedures

 

Every company is required to have both sickness and grievance procedures, and you’ll need to document them as well. Like disciplinary procedures, both these areas can be tricky to get your ahead around from a legal perspective. So, brush up on your knowledge before you go drafting this area of the book. If you don’t follow the law to the letter, this is yet another area where you can get bitten in the backside.

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Payment Information

 

You can’t forget about this! You better believe that a new employee will skip to this section the first time they read the employee handbook. Sorry…all that effort you put into the company description will probably go unnoticed! Handbooks are rarely generated on an individual basis, so you’ll need to be generic with this. Don’t go into specific payment information, but note when employees should expect to be paid. All they want to know is when they’ll get their money, and how many deductions might be taken off it. Get all the relevant information in there.

 

Nondisclosure Policies

 

When you’re working with confidential data, you can’t afford for your employees to go blabbering about it. This is why you need nondisclosure policies. This policy also needs to account for those that leave the company. Sometimes, a business might prevent that person from encouraging others to leave as well. Or, it might have rules about working for an opposing company and sharing secrets.

 

If you have any concerns when drafting your employee handbook, be sure to consult the law. As long as you’re adhering from a legal standpoint, the rest will fall into place. Now, it’s time to get down to work and put that book together!

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