• Work
    Work At Home Mom Issues

    Combining Work and Pleasure

    One of the things that I love most about my job is that I often cannot tell if I am doing something for fun or as part of my job. There are definitely a lot of things about my job that I do not love (customer service issues, running reports, upgrading plugins, etc). But I’ve managed to combine enough of what I enjoy into it that my days feel a whole lot less like things I must do and more like things that I want to do.

    Here are some examples:

    Reading books is a huge passion for me. I try to read at least one each week. I don’t have a site set up specifically for reviewing books, but I can definitely work in a review every now and again on my mom site. It’s also helpful in engaging people on Facebook and Twitter to mention what I am reading every now and again. You could do the same with current music or movies.
    Attending conferences. Every Affiliate Summit is a mix of business and fun for me. I am always careful to make sure that I go into it with specific business goals and then measure them afterward. But at the same time I am getting to travel (which I love) and spend time with friends. For some people local networking events would fall in here as well if they truly enjoy meeting new people and can use those connections to further their business.
    If you are really passionate about something and feel like it has a lot of earning potential, start a niche site. That’s how I ended up with WineClubReviewsandRatings.com with Todd Farmer and Eric Nagel. There is very little that I do on that site that is work compared to a lot of pleasure!
    Involving your family can take a work chore and turn it into a family experience. This happens in our house quite a bit, especially when it comes to reviewing products and making videos. My kids love trying new things and love even more seeing themselves on Youtube.
    The one thing to keep in mind is to maintain a good work/life balance so that everything doesn’t turn into something about work. That’s especially easy to do when you own your own company.

    What parts of your job feel more like fun than work? What other things could you be doing that you enjoy that would help you grow your business?

  • Podcast
    Work At Home Mom Issues

    WAHM-WHAD Podcast With Work At Home Dad Joshua Belland

    WAHMoms/WAHDads hosts Deborah Carney and Karen Garcia are joined by work at home dad Joshua Belland.

    Tell us a little about yourself:
    I am a 26 year old stay at home father that works from home with a 2 year old son. I used to be a salesmen in a more corporate setting where my quotas were over 1 million dollars per year. This put a lot of strain on my family and I because I was always thinking about work. I believe it was a blessing in disguise when the let me go. That is when I decided to start my I own web design & company. My company is located in Houston and is fairly successful. Now, I enjoy what I do tremendously because it is something I am passionate about and I get to spend more time with my family.
    The most important things in my life are God and Family. Taking the time to spend with them is essential to my marriage and relationship with my son, Caden. I try to be an active member in my community by volunteering to help friend in need or coordinating fundraisers when I can.

    My hobbies include playing the guitar, working in the yard, and training for 5k’s with my wife. My wife and I try to keep our hobbies similar because it gives us more time together and I believe that is essential to maintain a connection when having such a busy life.

    As a work at home parent what is your biggest challenge?

    My biggest challenge is getting people to understand that working from home is just like having a real job. Working at home is not what people think it is. If you are successful, you are just as busy as would be at a an office. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. My wife is a teacher and has the summers off, which you think would be nice right?

    It is very difficult to get work done when your spouse is at home with you taking the day off or comes home early. It can be very distracting and they naturally want demand more of your time. My wife sees it as an opportunity to spend more time with me, while I have to remind her that she has to treat it just like I am away from home at the office.

    My clients work from 8-5 Monday through Friday so I have to as well. As a web designer things go wrong and fires have to be put out. When they need something fixed during working hours, I can’t tell my clients, “Hold on Ms. Smith; let me just finish shopping with my wife and I’ll get to that later when I have time for you.”

    Understandably, my clients want the same attention that large firm would give them. So, in order to compete with that, I have set very strict boundaries at the home while I am working.

    What is the biggest advantage to being a work at home parent?

    The biggest advantage is the flexibility. While boundaries must be set, I am still my own boss. I can change around my own schedule to take a day off. If my son has a doctors appointment, I can arrange to take him to the doctor. Not only can I work from home, but I can work from anywhere. Because I’m a web designer, I can simply take my work with me when I go out of town or on a trip.

    Having flexibility gives me peace of mind because I don’t have to worry about what my boss is going to say if I request a day off. I simply make my schedule and inform my clients.

    As a work at home parent what advice would you give other work at home parents?

    My advice is to set up your office in a bedroom or somewhere where you can shut the door. At first, I had my office in our formal dining room because it had a lot of space. Unfortunately, that room connected with our living space and every time I sat down with the family, my computer was staring me right in the face. You still need to separate your work from home; even when you work from home!

    Don’t lose sight of what is important and at the same time, set boundaries so you don’t get distracted from your work. It is definitely a balancing act, but once you get it down, it can work out pretty well.

  • Shannon
    WAHM Entrepreneur Success Stories

    WAHM-WHAD Podcast With Shannon Peebles

    WAHMoms/WAHDads host Deborah Carney is joined by guest Shannon Peebles.

    Tell us a little about yourself:
    I have been working from home for almost five years. My children are 6, 4, and 1.5. I do interview/teleseminar/webinar transcription and some virtual assistant work. I decided to start working from home because I wanted to be in control of when and what I did on a daily basis. After graduating from Pacific Lutheran University with a BA in business administration, I took a look at the job market and saw that jobs were getting more and more scarce, and this was before the economy tanked. I spent a few years trying to decide what I wanted to “do” with my life and eventually landed in transcription and virtual assisting as a dream career. As the saying goes about golfing or fishing, the worst day of transcribing beats the best day of working a traditional J-O-B.

    As a work at home parent what is your biggest challenge?

    Trying to get everything accomplished and still find time to sleep. With three young children at home with me all day, it can be difficult to find time to work while everyone is awake. It is even harder when no one wants to take naps. So, some days I am up working until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

    What is the biggest advantage to being a work at home parent?
    When someone is sick, or I just feel like taking some time off, I work my schedule around illness and/or vacation. It might mean I am up working very late, but I don’t have to worry about missing work or having my boss tell me I have to work overtime or that my vacation has been canceled. I get to choose to work when I am at my most productive.

    As a work at home parent what advice would you give other work at home parents?

    Find the time of day that you can be the most productive and honor that time. If you can be most productive at 5:15 in the morning, get up, stay off of Facebook, Twitter, and email, and work as much as you can during your designated time frame. Save the time-suck items, like going through email, for times when you are less productive or can only spend a few minutes at a time working on something.

    Try to handle paper or email only once. As much as possible, as you read it, make a decision right then and there about whatever the content is, take whatever action is necessary, and then file it. A lot of time can get wasted by having to re-read things you have already read and trying to remember what it was you had decided to do (if you had decided at all).

    If the kids are acting wild and need your attention, deadlines permitting, put whatever you are doing on hold and give the kids your attention. If you are distracted by, “Mom. Mom. MOM. MOOOOOMMMMM!” you probably aren’t doing your best work anyway and sometimes the most productive thing you can do is spend 20 or 30 minutes giving the kids your undivided attention. That said, teach your children that you do WORK just like any other mommies or daddies who work outside the home and just because you can wear your comfy pants to your “office,” doesn’t mean you don’t work. Put firm barriers around family time and work time and don’t let work time bleed into family time. Whatever you are doing at the moment, give it your full attention and you will be more effective at work and with your family.

    Delegate and share housework with the whole family. Just because you are “home all day” doesn’t mean you aren’t working. All members of the family can and should pitch in to help with keeping things clean and getting everyone fed. All of my children sort their own dirty laundry, and help fold and put away everyone’s clean laundry. My 4-year-old can put away the silverware and set the table, and the 1.5-year-old can help put away socks and kitchen towels.

    My last piece of advice? Don’t fold underwear. When balancing a home business and family, once in a while, something has to give. Figure out what that something is that can be left undone and give yourself permission to just leave it undone.

  • joined
    Work At Home Mom Issues

    WAHM-WHAD Podcast With Gina Baker

    WAHMoms/WAHDads host Deborah Carney is joined by guest Gina Baker.

    Tell us a little about yourself:
    I work during the day as a Nurse Informaticist with electronic health information exchange. I am able to work from home part time, attending meetings remotely and doing a lot of thinking on how to solve our quest of seamless electronic health information exchange.

    At night I am able to forget the technical things and proper way of the professional world and let me creative world fly on my 2 blogs, My Chocolate Peaces and The Chocolate Bike.
    Otherwise I enjoy photography, chocolate, the outdoors and spending time wtih my family.

    As a work at home parent what is your biggest challenge?
    Paying attention to my kiddo… since I am there after all. I also feel like when he is home with me that I should do more such as teaching etc.

    What is the biggest advantage to being a work at home parent?
    Being there, I know I just contradicted myself. But it is so nice to get up, eat breakfast with my kiddo and not be in a rush to get out the door. Then I am there as he plays and if he needs anything.

    As a work at home parent what advice would you give other work at home parents?
    Be patient with yourself and them. WFH is challenging, but very rewarding at the same time.

  • Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Using eVoice® to Make Your Small Business Appear More Professional

    As a Mompreneur, you need your company to appear professional and well run, but the typical solutions that larger businesses use are too cumbersome or costly for small businesses to support.

    eVoice® can provide you with the same phone system features and abilities that larger companies take for granted.

    Work from anywhere

    If all you need is the ability to work from anywhere, eVoice® has you covered with automatic call forwarding. You can forward calls to any number or even to multiple numbers. The smart forwarding ability in eVoice® can ring multiple alternate numbers at the same time or ring them sequentially in whatever order you choose.

    Receive voicemail any way you choose
    When you’re on the go, you may not have time to check voice mail, but eVoice® solves the problem by turning your voicemail into email that you can read on your PC or mobile device. It can even transcribe the voice message into text if you’re in a location where making a phone call or booting up a PC won’t work.

    A quick glance at a few lines of text can help set your mind at ease so you can respond if the message is urgent or set your mind at ease that you can return the call later if it’s not urgent.

    Click to call
    The subscription includes a “click to call” widget that’s easy to add to your website so prospects can get in touch right away. It’s easy to set hours when you’re unavailable so you don’t get calls in the middle of the night. With click to call, a prospect can reach you with a single click while your business is still top of mind.

    Local numbers
    One of the hardest things to compete with is a big business’ ability to be in multiple locations. Now you can be in multiple locations too — or at least give that impression. With eVoice® , you can select local numbers or toll free numbers so prospects have the reassuring feeling that you and your team are nearby.

    Advanced features
    It goes without saying that a professionally recorded attendant answers all your calls, and you can set up menu options that use the same voice too. With the included dial extension by name capabilities, call transfers, speed dialing, conference calls and even web conferencing, you’ve got a fully featured digital phone system that big companies pay big bucks to own. For an extra fee, you can add in call recording, which is helpful for journalists conducting phone interviews or for group meetings so attendees can review the discussion later.

    Mobile apps
    You can access eVoice® on iOS, Android or Blackberry devices, as well as a PC. You can manage and review calling history, and access other features right from your phone.
    eVoice 30 Day Free Trial

    Highly affordable
    The entry-level 2-extension pricing is $9.95 per month, and you get 300 monthly minutes. The 3-extension plan includes 500 minutes, and the 5-extension plan offers 1000 minutes. All plans include an overage fee for extra minutes, and the rate for overages varies by the plan you’re on. For more extensions or minutes, the company will work out a custom plan for you. All plans include a 30-day free trial, and if you’re not happy, it’s easy to cancel with just a phone call.

    Most small businesses and home-based businesses can benefit from the professional phone services available from eVoice® . Your business will not only appear larger and more professional, but you will benefit from the additional organization and mobility that the service provides.

  • Baseball
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    How Direct Sales Is Like Baseball

    As a sports mom, I often use sports analogies in “real life”. There is so much to be learned from these simple concepts that can be applied to our everyday lives. It helps me in building a strong business and I am excited to share some these ideas with you today!
    Know Your Batting Average
    In baseball, you can fail seven out of ten times and still be a winner. So many people begin a direct sales business and then quit because the first few people they talked to were not interested. In order to build a strong team and client base you have to have lots of at bats. If you strike out, keep stepping up to the plate. Even if you only close three out of ten leads, you are still an all-star caliber player.

    If you think you can start a new business in direct sales without practicing and learning new skills, you will soon learn that you are just plain wrong. There are so many skills that you will need to succeed in direct sales and they need to be sharpened every day. Baseball players practice for hours every day working on hitting, fielding, base running, etc. They have many different skills that they need to keep sharp to be a strong, well rounded player.

    This is the same with direct sales. It is so important that you identify the things that you can improve about yourself and start training. Ball players hire coaches all the time to help them fine tune certain skills. As a direct sales consultant you have access to many resources that you can tap into, from books to your sponsor. Create a daily schedule and work on improving your skills consistently.

    Have An Audience
    A baseball game without fans would be no fun. When you launch your direct sales business, do it in front of an audience. Let people watch what you are doing and they will be drawn to you and it will help you to be held accountable. Develop a strategy for how you will market your business and be consistent. You can do things like social media postings, weekly parties or meetings, ads in local papers.
    Any of these things will help people notice you. What you need to do next is stay consistent and positively represent yourself so people will be interested in what you are doing. In the beginning, we all have to fake it until we make it…but part of making it is not quitting. Stay focused. Build your audience and give them a good show.

    Keep Your Eye On The Ball
    Don’t get distracted with what you are doing. Have goals and stay focused on achieving them. Don’t lose sight of what you need to achieve and focus on your priorities. Some of your distractions might even be the people that you love most. Starting a direct sales company will often times make your family doubt you and this can be difficult to get past. You have to keep your eye on the ball, remember why you started and don’t quit. Even if you have to run thirty feet and dive every time until you succeed, stay focused and catch the ball.

    Build A Strong Team
    As you begin to learn how to recruit strong leaders, you will start to appreciate the different skill sets and how they can all positively affect your entire consultant community. Everyone can’t play the same position, but you will need all of them to field a strong team. Make sure that you are providing the right amount of direction and support for your team as they go through the various seasons of their business. Baseball is a team sport. You need all the players and they need you.

    Don’t Let Someone Steal On You
    If you snooze, you will lose. Make sure that you don’t let anyone steal your base. Stay in touch with your prospects so that when they are ready to join your team, they feel confident that you are the one to enroll under. Following up and keeping your eye on your base will help your prospects feel like they are important and joining a strong team. If you flounder or go too long without connecting with them, they will seek out someone else.

    It’s All In Your Head
    It’s been said that baseball is 80% mental and 20% skill. This is true of direct sales too. You have to dig deep to find the confidence it takes to succeed. You will be your own worst enemy if you don’t believe in yourself. Work on building your confidence level so that people begin to trust what you are saying. People will talk to you because they like you, but the more you believe in yourself and what you are doing the more people will trust you.

    Be A Good Sport
    Keep your chin up when you fail. Always hold your head up high and just move on to the next game. Even if you are so upset inside, hold it together. Remember that people are watching you. Identify what you need to do to improve and work with your coach on getting some direction.

    Congratulate The Competition
    Build relationships with those on your sidelines and congratulate them as they succeed. As you rise in ranks within your direct sales organization, it is much better to be friends with your peers than to bad mouth them or not learn from each other. You are all winners and have so much in common. Enjoy everyone in the organization.

    Know When To Swing
    Everyone is on a different schedule in life. Know how to identify the right time to talk to someone about your business. You have to have the finesse to know when to not say anything. If you come across too pushy at the wrong time in someone’s life you could strike out.

    Be A Role Model
    Credibility is so important in direct sales. Be the person that you are trying to find. People will look up to you. Even when you are brand new you will know more than the person that you are adding to your team. Always represent yourself in a positive way. This is even more important if you are using social media to market your business. The days of posting last night’s escapades on Facebook are over. Be professional and be in business mode every day.

    Be Willing To Ride The Pine
    Learn to pay your dues and don’t quit. Building a residual income is going to take time. You need to commit to your business for the long haul. Success will not happen overnight and you need to be prepared and ready for a long term commitment.

    Make It Into The Hall Of Fame
    Work hard and get yourself to the top of your company. Work hard, climb the ranks and fight to achieve your goals. Make sure you are known for what you gave to others and what you taught others as you work your way to the top it will pay off in the end.

    Listen To Your Coach
    Even if it is not the person that you enrolled under you will have a coach or mentor. This person may never actually speak one word to you. Know who it is and have your eyes and ears on what they are doing. Learn everything you can from them.

  • email
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Using Campaigner to Turn Your Email List into Revenue

    According to research published by MarketingSherpa, 64 percent of companies will see an increase in their email marketing budget in 2013, so there will be a lot of competition to attract readers and convince them to click through and convert.

    To earn your fair share of those clicks, your email marketing will have to stand out from the crowd. You will need an effective email marketing tool to manage the details so you can spend your time refining your message and tactics.

    Campaigner is a cloud-based email tool that works well for newbies to email marketing as well as for seasoned pros, so whichever group you fall into, take a closer look at Campaigner.

    List management

    Campaigner helps with that most dreaded of tasks – list management – by supporting easy imports of existing contacts and makes it easy to add sign up forms to your website or social media pages. It also Grow Your Business with Email Marketing

    manages bounces so your list stays cleaner. In the same research report, MarketingSherpa reports that many companies are discouraged about their ability to grow their lists, so the tools Campaigner brings may help keep you from becoming part of that unhappy statistic.

    Helpful features that improve email effectiveness

    Email marketing is most effective when sent to a targeted group, and Campaigner makes it easy to narrow your list with easy to use filters. You can set up static segments for groups you send to repeatedly, or you can create dynamic groups for specials, new products or events. Prospects are less likely to regard your email as spam if they receive targeted emails with content that is of interest to them, and filtering will improve your conversion rate and help keep your list healthy.

    Built in analytics provide immediate feedback on what’s working and what isn’t, so you can easily fine-tune your campaigns to maximize conversions and revenue.

    Campaigner includes a “Share Bar” that provides links to social media sites to enable users to forward your emails easily, amplifying your reach exponentially and helping you to grow your list. When the people already on your list share your emails with friends and acquaintances, you know you’ve done something right.

    Campaigner also includes over 600 themed email templates that you can customize, or you can create your own from the ground up so you control every aspect of your branding. There are holiday themed templates, newsletter templates, and even templates for mobile email, so you should be able to find something that works if you’re not up for building your own from scratch.

    Campaigner automates mundane tasks
    Campaigner also includes easy auto-responders so you can reply to frequently asked questions or requests for information without having to manage them individually. This is also a great way to manage recurring campaigns or campaigns triggered by a customer’s actions.

    Campaigner bases its pricing on the number of contacts.

    Number of Contacts

    Monthly Fee

    • Up to 1000
      $ 10
    • 1,001 to 2,500
      $ 25
    • 2,501 to 5,000
      $ 40
    • 5,001 to 10,000
      $ 55
    • 10,001 to 25.000
    • 25,001 to 50,000

    Pricing for companies with more than 50,000 contacts is by quote.

    It’s easy to sign up for campaigner with the 30-day free trial offer. You don’t need to provide a credit card number unless you choose to go beyond the trial, so there’s no risk in taking campaigner out for a trial spin.

    Campaigner is easy to use and provides all the tools most companies need for effective email marketing, if you’re looking for a way to increase revenue, Campaigner might be exactly what you need to kickstart your efforts.

  • Business
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Get More Publicity for Your Business, Service, or Event the Easy Way

    A Q&A Interview with Crissy Herron of IndieBizChicks.com
    The other day I mentioned Crissy’s newly released package to give your business a nice little boost with publicity tips, checklists, and fresh press release ideas. She really over-delivered with all the tools she packed into the program. Of course when it comes to publicity there are all sorts of questions in terms of how to get it, where to get it, and why you should go after it.

    Check out the Learn How To Get More Publicity Package Here
    Crissy kindly offered to do a quick Q&A with us today about publicity, so I gathered up five of the most frequently asked questions from a brainstorming group that I’m part of and put her on the hot seat.

    Let’s jump right in!

    Q1: Let’s start off with a fun question to get the ball rolling. What’s the most interesting or unusual result you’ve seen come from a press release submission?

    I can’t say that I’ve had anything unusual happen. One time, a writer called me a “Web Woman,” in a front page headline. I thought it made me sound like I was Spider Man’s girlfriend…

    Q2: You and I both consider a blog as a small business in most cases, but bloggers don’t often think about doing publicity and press releases. Can you give them a quick example of what could happen when they dig in and do this kind of work for their blog?

    I know there are some people who just have blogs to post pictures and stories for their families to read, but in most cases, if someone has a blog, one of their goals is to get web traffic. By sending out press releases, writing guest posts, interacting with the media, etc, their blogs will get a lot of exposure. They will get more traffic, and that can equal more sales, more ad revenue, etc.

    Q3: Sometimes sorting through the daily HARO and guest blogging lists can be tiresome, and sometimes the contacts aren’t always the best at communication. I think they’re probably equally tired from all the replies they get each day. Can you give us a quick tip for dealing with those publicity contacts?

    There are several things that a business owner can do to make this easier. First of all, they can outsource it to someone else, such as a VA or an Intern.

    If that’s not an option, or if they choose to do it themselves, set up a filter in your email for the HARO emails. These emails get delivered three times a day. Instead of checking them as they come in, look at them once a day. And, instead of looking at each section, just look at the section that is relevant to your business.

    For example, there is a “High Tech” section. If you blog about knitting, you can skip those requests. I know this may sound simple, but if you set a timer of 30 minutes, and don’t do anything else in that 30 minutes except going through that day’s requests, and responding to the requests that fit your business, you’ll get through all of them in that 30 minutes.

    Side note: Crissy’s package featured here includes a special report focused on how to use HARO the right way in your ongoing publicity efforts.
    Learn How To Get More Publicity

    Q4: Buzz, buzz, buzz. Everyone wants buzz, but sometimes I wonder if people actually know what that means for them. How do you view buzz for small businesses and bloggers?

    I think “buzz” happens when someone in the media is talking about your or featuring you. I don’t discriminate between “small” and “big” media. Any time someone wants to feature you, whether they are a blogger with a small readership, or if they are a national newspaper, go for it. Every little bit helps!

    Q5: One last question before we sign off for the day. You covered a lot about press releases in the package and even gave some handy pre-written formats to fill in the blanks and go.

    Give us a definite “don’t” when it comes to press releases. What’s one ultra mistake that you want people to avoid when they dive into the world of publicity and using press releases for their business?

    First of all, not following the right format is a no-no. Press Releases come in a specific format, with certain information going in certain places.

    A journalist wants to be able to find the information they need, quickly and easily. They’ll even write stories from that press release, without calling you for additional facts. (By the way, that’s why you need to make sure you answer the Who, What, Why, When, and Where in that press release!)

    If you send them a press release where the information is out of order, or missing, and they’re on a deadline, they’re not going to take the time to figure it out. They’ll move on to the next story.

    And you also want to send the press release in with enough lead time for the reporter to create that story. If you have an event on Saturday, don’t send a press release in on Friday and expect to have coverage.

    Thank you so much for talking tips with us today, Crissy. I really appreciate it, and I definitely appreciate everything that you do for small business, women of the web, and bloggers in general – you rock 🙂

    Ready to dig in and start getting more publicity and exposure for your business? Check out Crissy’s new publicity tools and learning package by clicking here.

    The full package includes 7 educational workbooks, 3 handy to have checklists, 5 pre-written press release templates, and 5 informational audios to help guide you through the process of earning publicity. Seriously, I told you she over-delivered on this one. It’s packed full of resources!

  • Promote
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Using Instagram to Promote Your Business

    I have fallen in love with Instagram. At first I thought it was just a photo sharing platform, however I’ve discovered it’s a fantastic way to share your view, your perspective and your business. There is no character limit. There are no lengthy conversations. There’s also no plastering of links and ads all over the place. The primary function of Instagram is sharing photos that you love, for whatever reason. Using this tool, you can share the inside view of your business and grow a new angle to represent your company.

    I Love Instagram I Love Instagram

    I recently attended a session all about using Instagram at the creative blogger conference, SNAP!. The presentation was offered by Rhonna Ferrer, Shelly from The House of Smiths and Susan from Freshly Picked. Each uses Instagram in their own way and if you follow each of them, they share entirely different views. However, they all agreed, you can use the platform to share the “behind the scenes” view of what’s going on with you, your business and your brand.

    Here’s a couple thoughts about using Instagram to promote your business and brand:

    Instagram is a form of microblogging. Instead of 140 characters, you get a single photo to convey a message.
    Make your photos personal, sharing perspectives, opinions and your own unique view.
    Inspire questions and interaction, spark an interest.
    Be consistant with the look and feel of your images.
    Be relatable, share things that other’s can relate to. Things like family, food, entertainment, travel… this is all a part of that “personal” touch.
    Make sure to connect with your followers and those you follow. Leave comments, reply, give feedback and say thank you.
    I’ve been using Instagram for a few months now and love the low pressure sharing. If I’m inspired to take a picture, it’s usually inspiration enough for me to share the photo on Instagram. For me, this simple requirement to share is enough. I don’t worry about what title or which link to post, none of that is included. I add text describing why I took the photo or why I’m sharing it and that’s it. My goal is to show creativity can come from anywhere, so anything I share could quality. If you are a family run business, showing what you do, the family involved and interacting with a family friendly approach would help build your brand through Instagram.

    If you’re on Instagram, follow me! I’m jgoodedesigns. Don’t forget to say hi!

  • Shameless
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    When Is a Shameless Plug Okay?

    Over the weekend I joined a Facebook group of people who are all going on the same Disney cruise that I am this summer. It’s intended as a way for us to get to know each other in advance, learn more about shore excursions and ship activities, etc. As it turns out, one of the members of the group has been a member of my site SunshineRewards.com since we opened.

    We had no idea that we would be on the same cruise! We started chatting on the page a bit about it and people started asking about Sunshine. I felt a little bit awkward because I am not much of a self-promoter. And yet I knew that these people were my EXACT target demographic–Disney fans with some disposable income who are comfortable online. I couldn’t pick a group of people better suited to promote Sunshine to! But I was held back by not wanting to appear promotional or as if my motive for joining the group wasn’t pure.

    When is it okay just to toss out a shameless plug for yourself and not feel guilty about it? Some people would say “always” while others would say “never.” I’m in the middle and think these are some times that are perfectly okay:

    At an event where the main purpose is to network about your business (easy one!).
    At an educational event where people around you are likely in the same business (still pretty easy).
    In a blog post such as this one where it’s part of the story (see how I worked that in?).
    When someone else brings up your business and asks you to explain it (sort of my Disney example but not really).
    When you are giving out something for free and people expect to hear some kind of pitch or advertising information (but not necessarily a “hard sell).
    In a social setting where everyone is talking about what they do for a living.
    What other examples can you think of where it’s acceptable to plug your business? When is it definitely NOT acceptable?

  • Activities
    Family And Kids

    5 Quiet Time Activities for Your Preschooler

    We all want our kids to be active, imaginative and outgoing. Sometimes though, we just need a little quiet. I work from home 4 days a week and I need quiet many hours a day. I don’t want to stifle my kids, especially my preschooler but I need to get my work done too! So what’s a mom to do? Well I’ve just had to come up with some go to activities that always settle my guy down and let Mama get some work done. Here are some of our favorite quiet time activities:

    • Coloring

    I know it seems so obvious and boring and like there is no way this will keep your child’s attention for very long but I’m telling you it works! There are a few things you can do to set this activity up for success. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You eat with your eyes first.” Well the same is basically true for everything you do with kids. Its all in the presentation. If you throw some paper and a few random pens on a desk your kid is likely to be bored pretty quick, or worse yet not even want to give it a try. However, if you have an art station set up things all of a sudden become more interesting. My preschooler is really into dressup right now so I start things off by putting a “smock” on him. Check out this great idea for an art smock out of an old t-shirt. I help to make coloring a bit of a sensory activity as well by setting out stickers, stamps and different types of writing utensils. If your child isn’t getting the creative juices flowing try reading a quick story first, then asking them to draw about the story. This normally works to get things started.

    • Cutting

    At first I was really hesitant to let my little guy go to town with scissors but as soon as we found some nice child safe scissors and we talked about the rules I felt better about it. Of course, he is never left alone with them and they are stored in a safe place. Cutting is such a great activity for so many reasons; it builds fine motor skills, it is a life skill they need, and it requires lots of concentration. At first I just gave my little man a piece of paper and let him cut it up however he chose. Now that he is more skilled at using scissors I will draw lines on the paper for him to trace. We also stumbled upon this really great book, The Super Scissors Book, that even comes with two pairs of fun scissors.

    • Dress Up

    Before becoming the mom of two boys I always thought dress up was all about princesses and fairies. OH boy do I know better now! My oldest son, almost 4, loves nothing more than to get into character. Superheroes, Pirates, Cowboys, and fireman are just some of the costumes we have around here. I love this as a quiet time activity because it forces my child to use his imagination. It also helps him build fine motor skills by doing the buttons on his own, pulling up pants, etc. Another reason why I find it to be a great activity is because it sparks ideas for other quiet time activities. If he plays dress up in the morning, in the afternoon when its coloring time I can use who he was dressing up as for a prompt. For example, this morning you were dressing up as Captain Hook, can you draw Mommy a picture of Captain Hook? I will admit this activity is sometimes not as quiet as I would like it, a rousing sword fight can become very loud, but usually it works out pretty well.

    • Puzzles/Memory Games

    This is one of the only quiet time activities that we sometimes use an electronic tool for. I try very hard to limit screen time and not let devices watch my kids. But I also know that we live in a technologically advanced world and that is not all bad. There are so many great puzzle and memory apps out there. We also have a TON of wooden puzzles and a few memory games. When it’s puzzle time I normally lay out 3-5 puzzles in varying difficulty. I tell my boys to come and find me once all the puzzles are completed. This is a great way to get siblings to work together. Let’s face it our kids pretty much want to be with us 24/7 so if we walk away and give them a task that the reward is coming to be with us they will work twice as hard and fast! Never is there an argument when I set this situation up with my boys.

    • Sorting

    Sorting is a favorite around here for everyone. I love it because I can set up a sorting game anywhere anytime. For example, when doing the laundry I can have the boys sort out different items of clothing (i.e. put the shirts in one pile, the pants in another, etc.) When cleaning the house I can ask the boys to sort all of their cars into piles of different colors. When at the grocery store I can ask the boys to sort all of the green items in our basket into one pile. The list seriously never ends and can be customized to whatever skill your child is working on at the time. My preschooler is beginning to read so we are currently sorting everything we can that involves letters.

    I hope these tips are helpful and fun for you and your preschoolers! What are some of your favorite quiet time activities to do with your wee ones? What are their favorites to do on their own?

  • Hardworking
    Family And Kids

    Get the Job Done with a Hardworking Playroom-Office

    Many work-at-home moms will say that time with their kids is one of the best perks of their employment arrangement. But they will also admit that time with their kids is one of the biggest obstacles in their employment arrangement.

    Fortunately, with some thoughtful preparations and clever design ideas, anyone can create a smart space that excels at two jobs: home office for the boss, playroom for her smallest staffers. Done well, a double-duty setup earns mom a chance to turn her attention to the task at hand without having to banish the children to a back room to watch TV. And putting the kids to work executing the plan gains them the opportunity to put their mark on the final product, making them even more excited to play when mom has to punch in.

    Here are a handful of tips for promoting a playroom-meets-workroom scheme in your house:

    Behind The Desk

    If your children are school-aged, consider setting up workstations for both you and the kids — they can tackle homework while you tackle your to-dos. And having you plugging away beside them will set a ‘taking-care-of-business’ tone. Consider installing a long work surface along one wall, and then break up the counter into individual workspaces using drawers underneath as dividers. Each person’s “cubicle” should contain the supplies he or she needs to complete their work — colored pencils, notebook paper, calculators, and graph paper for them; staples, envelopes, notepads, and pens for you. Allow each child to select desktop accessories to personalize their place.

    Those with younger children might consider orienting their desks away from the wall, instead facing the room so that they can keep an eye on petite players while working. You also should be sure to wrangle wires and lamp cords to reduce the risk of having your electronics and accessories yanked from the desktop. Opt for a surge protector that closes to keep little fingers out of dangerous outlets, and then mount it to the underside of the desk to hide it away. Cable cord organizers and slim PVC pipe can also be employed for containing cords.

    Functional Fun

    To accomplish its primary responsibility — keeping the children entertained and safe while you’re on the job — the playroom needs to both work hard and play hard. So set yourself up for success by including a number of zones that are both functional and fun. Outfit one corner with bookshelves or cubbies that can house baskets and bins for toys and books, then use the upper shelves for stowing those off-limits items that are necessary to an office but don’t need to be desk-side: the printer, a file sorter, and reference books.

    Turn another nook into a craft corner complete with a small table, old magazines, paper, glue sticks, safety scissors, crayons, markers, stickers, and more (depending on the child’s age). Nearby, have the kids help you tape off and paint a chalkboard wall, which will provide them a creative outlet and may also come in handy for jotting your own notes and messages.

    Lastly, give little ones a place to flex their imaginations, whether it’s a play kitchen, pretend train yard, or costume closet. Get the kids involved with collecting wacky clothes and accessories from thrift shops, party stores, and relatives to fill a DIY dress-up bin. For added appeal, spend time together decorating the outside of the trunk with paint or decals — in one afternoon, you can transform a simple wooden box into a treasure chest, a princess carriage, a pirate ship, a race car, or a jewel box that will play into your children’s fantasies for hours to come.

    Quiet Time

    While blinking gadgets and buzzing gizmos provide a temporary distraction for your kids, they’ll likely distract you, too — and in the long run, such toys won’t hold their attention in a healthy way. When filling up the aforementioned baskets and bins, consider quiet toys like books, dolls, board games, and puzzles, as well as plenty of soft surfaces such as pillows and stuffed animals.

    And unless you want to fight to focus over the songs and silliness of your children’s favorite cartoons, it’s best to skip including a television in this space. Instead, I recommend offering a kids’ hideaway for times when you need to make an important phone call or spend a few moments intensely concentrating: a reading tent, fabric fort, or pop-up playhouse, for example.

    Change of Scenery

    No matter how well you design your office-playroom combo space, eventually the kids will get bored. Be ready to offer them a change of scenery. If your kids are old enough to play outside on their own, situate your desk at a window that overlooks that backyard and be sure that your outdoor playset strictly meets safety standards.

    For example, swings and other hanging components should be attached to a beam rather than monkey bars; the ground cover should be a soft material such as wood chips, sand, or rubber mulch; and the swing set should have a clearance of six feet around its entire perimeter. For added assurance, regularly check wooden playsets to ensure the framework is in good condition. (This can also be turned into a game with your kids — have them play “inspector” and look for problems with the equipment.)

    Feel more comfortable being on site? Create a portable workspace for yourself with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and a wheeled file/supply box that can be rolled out onto the patio or deck whenever your kids want some fresh air.

    What big ideas do you have for accomplishing work tasks while in the company of little ones?

  • Soccer
    Family And Kids

    My Secret Mom Confession: I Don’t Like Soccer

    This is the first year that any of our kids have played soccer – both Lucas(14) and Noah(13) signed up and they were excited to try something new even though they’re on separate teams since the brackets break up right between age 13 and age 14. So here we are right in the middle of soccer season and I’m here to confess that I am not enjoying it very much…

    The kids are great. It’s the adults that are giving me a headache.

    Many of the other parents have expressed that they don’t like having “the new kid” on their kids’ team because their kid has been playing soccer hard core since they were 2 years old and these “new kids” are holding them back.

    They’ve even complained to the community team organizers about having newbies on the team. Keep in mind that this is just the local rec league, this isn’t playing for the school or for the bigger league, and there are no division playoffs to be had at the end of the season.

    The main purpose of rec league is to have fun, make friends, and learn a sport. There is a separate league (I believe it’s called Travel League) for the serious soccer players who want to play more often or don’t have a school team and who want to go into a playoffs division. Rec league is for fun and learning, not craziness.

    The other kids don’t care that my kids are newbies, they’re actually really helpful and they enjoy teaching each other all sorts of things. The experienced kids love showing off what they know and being able to teach it to someone else makes them feel accomplished at what they’re doing. And it’s easier for kids to learn from other kids. The coach can explain and demonstrate all afternoon without the kids “getting” something, then after one explanation and demo from a teammate suddenly everyone understands and they’re having fun instead of getting frustrated.

    Kids are awesome and adults are idiots sometimes – that’s just the way it goes.

    Soccer Saturday – Noah’s Game
    This photo was taken by me at one of Noah’s games on a Saturday morning.

    The soccer fields in our area are all set up to put a line of separation between parents and the playing field. There’s one set of bleachers back and away, some fields even have a fence between the bleachers and the playing field. The bleachers are divided into two sections, one for “home” and one for “away.” 95% of the parents do not sit back and away, they bring lawn chairs and park their butts right up against the field out of bounds line. (And of course they then whine and complain when a ball hits them or knocks over their fancy water bottle…)

    These parents sit or stand on the sidelines, literally right up against the line, and yell and complain during games and practices. I don’t think they realize they’re distracting their kid more than helping them. A few times our coach has told parents to be quiet, because she’s losing her voice trying to yell over them to communicate with the team.

    It’s supposed to storm all day tomorrow, and I hate to admit it but I’m kind of glad because games will all get canceled. Our last three soccer games have been played in light rain and we’re all starting to get sick at this point. I might not always like soccer and the other parents might think I’m strange, but I will be there to support my kid even if it means standing in the rain and wind for 90 minutes.

    So what’s the business lesson here? Well, there are a few things we can learn from kids playing soccer….

    First of all, there’s always someone further along in skill than you at what you’re doing, but you can always learn from each other. Ignore whatever is being yelled at you from the sidelines by crazy people trying to sell you on the idea that their way is the best way and just focus on the goal.

  • Holiday
    Family And Kids

    Holiday Ideas For Families

    Make sure that you take time to enjoy your family this holiday season. Instead of getting all bogged down in holiday shopping and the stress of finding the perfect gifts think of ways that you can spread joy. I know most work at home moms have a hard time finding the work/holiday balance. Take time off to enjoy every special moment with your children and loved ones. Whether you are a Christian or not this season is a season for giving and being thankful for all you have. Here are some fun holiday ideas to inspire you:

    Progressive Neighborhood Party – This is one of my favorites. Each home hosts a different part of the party. The 1st home everyone visits will host the drinks, the 2nd home – appetizers, 3rd home – salads/soups, 4th home – main entree, 5th home – desserts, 6th home – after dinner drinks/coffee/tea. Depending on the group of people and how many homes you have this can be altered. On your walk from home to home you can stop by the other homes you may not know and sing carols.
    Have your child start an ‘I Am Thankful’ list. Have him add one thing he is thankful for each day. You can turn this into a decoration by having him write it on a paper Christmas tree or snowflake that you then hang across the fireplace or some other area.
    As a family, write your holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the year to be recorded to share with friends and family.
    Giving back – there are many ways to give back. Some ideas include: Volunteering at the local food bank, Donating to a giving tree for those in need, start a canned food drive in your neighborhood or school, donate your used clothing, deliver fresh baked goods to the local fire department, police station and hospitals, visit the senior citizen homes, visit children hospitals.

    Invite friends who are alone over for dinner.

    Have a movie marathon.
    Craft day – there are many crafts that you can do but here are some ideas: Create a pine cone holiday tree, make reindeer food out of oatmeal, sugar, and colorful sprinkles, popcorn garland, personalized ornaments, fun shaped and decorate sugar cookies.
    Whatever you do make sure you remember to include those who are alone, put work aside and enjoy every moment you have with your family and loved ones. Happy Holidays.

  • Holiday-Gifts
    Family And Kids

    What If You Can’t Afford the Holiday Gifts This Year?

    Adults understand the larger meaning behind holidays that have become highly commercialized. While Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other wintertime holidays represent significant events and remembrances relating to faith, culture and family, these messages are often lost on children who instead think of the holidays in material terms.

    To put it bluntly, the centerpiece of each of these holidays is the exchange of gifts. Whether or not they believe in Santa, the anticipation of gifts creates expectations among children that are sometimes hard for parents to match. Unfortunately, many working moms are on tight budgets that don’t allow them to fulfill every last material desire of their children.

    But that doesn’t mean the holiday season has to be a letdown. Instead, moms just need to get a little more creative in finding ways to deliver a satisfying, joyous holiday that kids of all ages will be able to appreciate.

    That may seem impossible at first glance, but it’s not! Here’s a quick guide to planning a successful holiday season on a small-to-nonexistent budget.

    Emphasize giving rather than receiving

    Understanding the giving mentality of the holidays is valuable at any age, and it can instill children with a sense of fulfillment and service that may be as satisfying as any gift. This is tougher to sell to really young kids, but if your children are old enough to understand the challenges of the less fortunate, they might be more inclined to helping out. This service can come in a variety of ways: By gathering up unused toys and other items to donate to less fortunate kids, or by offering to volunteer at a local church or shelter in whatever capacity needed.

    Such acts of service will also demonstrate to your children the harsh realities many poor people face, and it will help them embrace their own situation and be thankful for all that they have.

    Free activities in the community

    A variety of holiday-themed events are available in most communities. Check your local newspaper and pick out some fun events to go to. Many communities put on parades at the holidays, and you can also take your kid to various church services putting on holiday specials, as well as schools and local community theaters performing plays or musical performances. And there’s always the option of going through town checking out the various holiday lights displays.

    Make hand-crafted decorations

    Crafts are an inexpensive way to keep kids busy and provide them with a finished product. According to WAHM.com, your local library or a quick Internet search should reveal a number of options of hand-made items, such as gingerbread houses, popcorn garlands and other items that will spruce up your home at a nominal cost — and keep your kids busy for a solid afternoon.

    Offer gifts of service to one another

    If you can’t afford gifts of any kind, encourage your family to provide gifts to one another in the form of acts of service. For example, children could offer to do certain chores for their parents, while older kids could offer babysitting or special one-on-one time with younger siblings that look up to them.

    Put on family celebration events

    The holidays will still feel special as long as you deviate from your normal schedule to have fun in new, festive ways. Think of family events that are inexpensive to put on and will be fun for the entire family. For example, watching a movie with popcorn and other snacks will gather the entire family and make for a pleasant experience. Other options include doing a jigsaw puzzle, going sledding or on other outdoors adventures, or having celebrations specific to the religious meaning behind your celebrated holidays.

    Ultimately, your kids will most remember the experience of the holidays more than the gifts they receive. Even if you don’t have any extra funds to provide gifts, you can always give more of your time and attention to indulging in the holiday experience with your kids.

    With a little extra planning and creativity, your kids will barely notice the bare spots underneath your Christmas tree.