Category Archives: Ways to Make Money

Of Unions, Benefits and Steamfitters: #Pittsburgh Event

This post is in collaboration with Steamfitters Local 449.

Welder dressed in orange working on a huge, green pipe. Text reads, "Benefits of Unions: Pension, Healthcare, Truly Equal Pay, Opportunity for career and salary growth. Steamfitters449 on"

I’m a huge proponent of education. Sometimes that means college.

Sometimes that means trade school.

We need to remember that one is not superior to the other. In fact, if you’re measuring ROI over the course of your career, there’s a decent argument for trade school being the smarter decision.


Career Training Without the Student Loans via Steamfitters Local 449

Steamfitters Local 449 is a union here in the Pittsburgh region representing those who make, install and service piping systems. This includes occupations such as welders and your HVAC-R service person.

How do you learn these skills?

Through free career training.

Steamfitters Local 449 works with the United Association and the Mechanical Contractors Association to provide this free education at its training center in Harmony, PA.

After that union members pay a marginal amount into the apprenticeship fund for each hour they work, which continues the cycle of free education.

This frees you to use the money you’re bringing in while you’re training to do things like live in safe housing, afford groceries and plan for your financial future–things that are much harder to do if you’re spending your younger working years burdened by student loans.

Getting Paid to Learn

The first step in the training process will be uncompensated. But if you can make it through that initial training, the rewards are worth it.

The initial training for those interested in building trades is an 18-week course that runs in the daytime teaching you how to weld. If you’re more interested in the HVAC-R side of things, your initial training will only be 8 weeks.

If you complete this step successfully, you’ll be taken on as an apprentice. Apprentices currently start at $18.25/hour plus health benefits. If you make it through that first, probationary year, you’ll be eligible for a pay bump of  10% and gain access to Steamfitters’ retirement vehicles.

Keep doing well and you’ll continue to earn those 10% pay bumps each year throughout your five-year apprenticeship.

Live a Middle-Class Life

When you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’ll start earning journeyman’s pay. That’s currently $41/hour or $82,000/year if you work fifty 40-hour work weeks. Nick Kappas, Director of Marketing at Steamfitters Local 449, notes that after you add in benefits like health insurance and access to retirement vehicles, the effective hourly pay jumps to about $65/hour.

Either way, that’s enough to live a solidly middle-class lifestyle in the Pittsburgh region. And you won’t have to worry about your first ten years of pay going to service student loan debt.

If you’d like to make even more money, journeyman status isn’t the end of the line. Steamfitters Local 449 offers further training, enabling you to become a working foreman, general foreman, area foreman, superintendent, diagnostician, estimator, scheduler and more.

Each of these positions include a pay bump up from the journeyman status, allow you to bring in an even higher income.

How the heck does a pension work?

A major benefit to union positions is access to a pension. Pensions are defined benefit plans, which means you’ll easily be able to figure out how much money you’ll be pulling in once you’re retired.

For example, Kappas says that a journeyman currently working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year will pull in $160/month in retirement for each service year they complete.

If you decided to stay at the journeyman position over a 35-year career, you’d be collecting $5,600/month–or $67,200/year–in retirement.

If you extend your career five more  years remaining at journeyman status, your retirement benefits would jump up to $76,800/year.

Closing the Pay Gap

Want to know who doesn’t face a gender pay gap?

Union members.

When everyone’s salary is public knowledge, it’s kind of hard to screw people over based on their gender.

Not only does joining a union eliminate your chance of facing a gender pay gap, but women are considered valuable assets at Steamfitters Local 449. Our cultural conditioning finally finds a place where it’s an asset as Kappas notes a phenomenon that Sam Paxson has previously put forth as a reason for hiring and retaining women:

“When we’re looking at trouble shooting, women tend to be a very valuable asset to us. They’re more patient and creative in finding solutions.”

He also says that these are assets that serve these union members at all levels, including welding and higher-paying administrative positions.

We as women also tend to be more concerned about long-term financial security, so we see the value that union benefits such as healthcare and defined benefit plans provide to us and our families–whether we’re working on a job site or doing the equally important work of managing the home front.

Learn More Live

If you’re curious and want to learn more about this career path, you’re in luck! Steamfitters Local 449 is holding its annual Expo up at its training center in Harmony.

It looks a long way from the city mileage wise, but as someone who has made every possible Pittsburgh commute over my adult life, I promise you that 279/79 is way easy to deal with as it has the least congestion, an HOV lane and is a legitimate highway where you can drive fast.

Yes, I’m looking at you, 51. You’re the reason I will never again willingly commute to the South Hills.

The Expo will be happening on May 23, 2019 from 12p to 8p, and will allow you to explore the field, ask questions of union reps and those currently working in the job position you’d eventually like to secure, and even learn through three continuing education courses.

If you, your child or your partner are interested in a career path that won’t end in dramatic debt you can never shake off, I’d highly encourage you to check it out. There is more than one way to secure upward economic mobility.

Announcing New Remote Working Series

This post is brought to you by Nakturnal.

Black and white image of a girl pullingi a grey pajama tee over her face. Beneath, text reads, "remote work series."

I wanted to take some time today to introduce a new series you’ll be seeing on the blog. It centers around remote work, which more and more employers are allowing on the regular. If you’re building a business via the internet, you might be on the other side employing people remotely.

In either situation there are a lot of questions in need of answers. Here are just some of the ones we’ll be covering in coming weeks as we chat with small business owners about how they handle their remote teams.

How do you handle communication?

When you’re not all in the same office, it’s important to have great systems in place. With all the options on the market today, we’ll look into both software and analog systems that other growing business owners have found useful.

How do you handle employee timeclocks and payroll?

Do you have an actual accountant or do you use one of those online services? What’s the market rate for these services so I can make sure I’m not getting ripped off?

Payroll is not something you want to mess up. But there are solutions out there whether you’re paying freelancers or W-2 employees. For example, Buddy Punch offers a remote employee time clock that tracks and geolocates your employees’ hours. The system can also be used to request PTO or setup auto reminders to nudge your employees to take a break.

How do you handle everything else HR remotely?

It’s interesting to look at the conflict resolution that has to happen in remote workplaces versus physical workplaces. In some ways there are less problems, but in other ways there are just different HR tasks that need to be completed. Can a software program really handle all this for you? At what point do have you grown enough to make an HR pro one of those employees?

Who benefits from remote work?

Pretty much everyone. Less time commuting. Less time spent fraternizing. But it’s not for every employee or every workplace.

We’ll explore some of the workplaces that do benefit from having remote teams, as well as learning about specific benefits to specific demographics–like military spouses or disabled individuals.

What do employers look for in a remote employee?

Are there any specific keywords you should include on your resume when you’re applying to a remote job? What are the overall soft skills that are especially important for remote applicants to highlight while they’re trying to secure an interview?

Should you even be an employee, or is freelancing better?

We’ll explore all this and more with our interviewees.

Call for questions!

I’m not done with all the interviews yet! So I wanted to ask you, dear readers, what questions you have on this topic. Whether you’re building your own business or wanting to pick up a remote job, leave your questions in the comments and I’ll add them to my list for interviewees!


Self-Empowerment through Self-Employment

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Bright yellow background. Hands filling green shoes with purple laces, looking like legs. Arms are tatooed with cartoon characters and basketball players and the phrase "Don't Give Up." Underneath printed words say, "Self empowerment through self employment."

One of the most freeing feelings in the world is creating a successful business from scratch. You call the shots, you make the decisions, and you reap the profits.

Choosing to become self-employed can be scary. In fact, when I made the decision years ago, I rarely got a good night’s sleep, and I always felt surprised when I earned enough to pay my bills. I was even more surprised when I, eventually, could buy a few of the nicer things in life, like throw pillows and wool-blend socks.

Self-employment can be an answer to making extra money, earning some cash as a stay-at-home parent, or if you’re done fighting traffic just to make it into work on time in order to grind out your forty hours per week. Most freelancers and business owners are happier and healthier than those that punch the time clock. Why not get in on that joy by being your own boss?

If you’ve wondered how most self-employed women get started, we’ve put together a guide to help you put the ball in motion if you’ve considered going at it on your own.

Narrow-In on Your Passion and Find Your Niche

Some of us are Jills-of-all trades that can paint the most stunning compositions that stop viewers in their tracks and also write songs that listeners replay on loop for hours. This is great; you can incorporate your talents in various ways into your business. But you need to focus in on what skill you want to sell and rely on.

You may be able to offer it all, but when it comes to your business, you shouldn’t. Find a niche or a category in your market to focus on to help more customers find your services and to set you apart from your competition.

Some niche ideas to get you thinking, include:

  • Painting dog portraits
  • Designing custom tv stands
  • Creating eco-friendly home decor
  • Freelance writing for any given industry

Decide if Self-Employment is Right for You

You’re going to be broke–or at least somewhat broke when you first begin unless you find financing. You’re also going to be stressed out. I can tell you that most people find it worth it, but your situation may not allow for these circumstances right now. Take an honest look at your finances and situation and decide if you can manage financially and emotionally before taking the plunge.

Self-employment also requires that you approach your skill with a different mindset: that of profitability. This is difficult for some people since they’re always used their skills differently. Prepare yourself by playing over rejection and criticism in your mind before experiencing it in real life. If it’s too difficult for you, you may not want to be a business owner.

Research the Competition and Create a Business Plan

Before you register your DBA with your state, take the time to look into the competition to see how they run their businesses and what you think you could do better. This will help you create a business plan.

When creating a business plan, you want to look at the macro picture and the details of how your business will function. You also want to set goals and establish a mission and company culture. This will help you stick to your brand as your business develops.

No matter how small or large your business is, you will want to be prepared with a plan that will scale. Make sure you think about the cost of your time and other details that go into your pricing like if you need extra space while working from home.

Choose a Memorable Name

If you thought finding the perfect Instagram handle was hard, try naming a business. Take your time and try to be as creative as possible without losing sight of what service or goods you offer. Make sure your business’s name is easy to pronounce and memorable.

Test your name by asking friends, family, and strangers what they think. Don’t rush into committing to a name until you’re ready.

Create a Website

Most businesses exist on the web these days. This helps you reach a national and international audience if you wish to. A successful website also makes pitching or selling to customers a lot simpler. Selling becomes more of a one-and-done process rather than repeating your selling points over and over again.

To create a website, register a domain name (probably your business’s name), design an attractive layout, write your “About Us” page to share your journey, and write compelling descriptions of your services or products. Most website services also keep track of your sales for you to help make accounting easier.

Market Yourself

A lot of new business owners struggle with the idea of tooting their own horns. Don’t be. You’re awesome, you make the best products and provide the best service. Review some marketing basics to get started. Be proud of your skills and market them the right way.

Some marketing strategies that won’t break the bank and help establish your brand include:

  • Social media promotions
  • Blogging
  • Word-of-mouth
  • First-time customer discounts
  • Partnering with other local businesses
  • Starting with friends and family
  • Partnering with a charitable cause

Keep Your Clients Happy

One of the simplest ways to stay in business is to keep your customers happy. Invite customers to use your services again and create a loyalty program. Ask if you can post about them on social media. Request and value their feedback.

In a world where people trust Google more than any other source for information, customer reviews will help keep you afloat. So, make sure your customers have a great experience and have wonderful things to say about you.

Venturing out on your own can be one of the most frightening endeavors you pursue, but it can also be the most rewarding. If you’ve always wondered what it’d be like to follow your dream and share your love for your craft with others, save up a big emergency fund and do it. Don’t look back. Be bold and be brave.

Useful Offline Marketing Strategies to Boost Business Sales

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

orange banners sitting in an alley that read "Yum Yum" in white writing.

Marketing a business comes next to developing useful products and services for the consumers. Without a clear and well-defined strategy, competitors can swiftly come in and capture the target audience. The Google Consumer Barometer says that 22% of target audience purchase products and services online, while the rest still depend on offline channels. This makes offline marketing strategies an important aspect.

Marketing strategies should be a well-balanced effort for lead generation, because people who do not engage with products on the web constitute a significant portion of the consumer demographics, says an expert at Print Banners, a leading provider of high-quality and affordable business banners.

It is for this reason that marketing experts advise printing custom banners and creative vinyl banners for businesses to gain a wider exposure. This has to be done in tandem with content marketing and SEO strategies.

Make your Employees as Brand Ambassadors

Physical branding is important to place the brand in the customer’s mind; opportunities for that is all around us. Customized apparel is huge these days, and they help create a sense of belonging or affiliation for employees. Products with brand logos can be distributed as gifts among employees; many companies have resorted to special web stores, where employees can choose from different products for friends and family. This is a good way to advertise the company to outsiders and create a unique brand image. You will be able to project your company as one which cares about its employees. It is important that these promotional items be of good quality and something useful on a day-to-day basis.

Trade Shows

Trade shows puts businesses under the same roof as the competitors. They also bring businesses face-to-face with customers; both existing and potential ones. Printing custom or vinyl business banners shouldn’t be excluded, along with digital marketing tools like explainer videos and social media tags. One of the oldest forms of advertising, banners are great for industry events like these. Nowadays, vinyl banners can be printed and delivered on the same day. They are highly customizable and rip-resistant.

Community Event Sponsoring

Take the lead and sponsor an industry event to gain wide-spread traction in print media and news channels. Of course this is expensive, and should be done after careful research and consideration. This is a great way to get involved with social issues. For example, sponsoring a fundraiser for the benefit of cancer patients or people affected by a natural disaster in any part of the world will make consumers associate with the brand more. You can distribute business cards, branded items, discount coupons, gift certificates and pamphlets to event participants. This will enable increased word-of-mouth referrals and visibility.

Over the last five years, there has been a paradigm shift in marketing, with the rise of social media channels. Also, the growing use of high-end smartphones have causes changes in the search behavior of the target audience. Despite these advancements, experts believe that the marketing efforts of companies should be a mix of online and offline channels. The consistency in these campaigns boosts brand recall and promotes sales.

Tips on Choosing the Best Step and Repeat Banners

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

white tesselation of hand-drawn faces painted onto black background

Step and repeat banners and stands can be used as effective backdrops for your company’s booth at trade shows and other events. Such backdrops enable businesses to showcase their brand and increase awareness regarding their products and services. The key is to design the banner with your company’s logo, name and contact information clearly visible, says New York Banners, a reputed step and repeat banner printing service in NYC.

There are several things that you need to consider while choosing a step and repeat banner, not the least of which is your budget. Here’s a look at some key considerations.

1.   Size

Step and repeat backdrops have a standard height of 8 feet, although the width can be customized as per your needs. Whether you want a wide backdrop or a narrow one will depend on the space available and your budget. And, while designing, keep in mind that if the backdrop is a wide one, people are less likely to look the information or images in the corners. On the other hand, an entire group of people can get their picture clicked at once in front of a wide backdrop.

However, smaller backdrops also have advantages. You can fit them in small spaces, such as behind a trade show booth. And, they’re obviously more portable and cost-effective. Also, you’ll have greater flexibility with small backdrops. If you’re at a big event, you can choose a panel design by joining two or more smaller backdrops to form a wide display. But, if the space is less, you can set up them one as single panels.

2.   Logo

Your logo should be clearly visible, even from a distance. Make sure that the print is high quality, such that there is no blurring of any logo element. For this, only use pictures and graphics with high resolution to avoid pixilation on resizing. Logos in a step and repeat banner and stand should ideally be 5-7 inches tall and 9-11 inches wide and should be displayed in a repeating pattern.

3.   Color Scheme

Ink causes much more reflection than the white or grey vinyl on which it is printed. Therefore, the glare will be much less if you don’t have a colored background. However, if you want your background to be colorful, so that your backdrop looks brighter, then you should choose fabric instead of vinyl for your backdrop material to avoid any glare.

4.   Ease of Assembly

Ease of assembly is very important, since you wouldn’t want to struggle with setting up your backdrop at the last moment. A poorly set up backdrop could even fall on the people and cause you great embarrassment at the event. Therefore, when you choose a custom step and repeat backdrop banner printing company, such as those in NYC, check if they offer banners that can be quickly assembled without any hassle.

Custom banners are a very powerful marketing tool to engage your target audience. A few photographs at the right event can take your brand’s visibility to the next level. And, they can also be a great way to give a hip look to your trade show booth.