• Mom
    Family And Kids

    Introducing My Mom, Cindy (@cingroomer)

    I was on the phone with my mom today when I was trying to come up with an idea for my post. We were chatting about a little bit of everything–from my daughter’s birthday to one of the merchants that she manages. That’s how all of our conversations go. The personal gets mixed in with the business. I thought to myself…what better topic to write about today on a mom site than my own work-at-home mom?

    When I was a kid, my mom always worked at least one job but most of the time more than that. She usually had one “real” job and then some kind of venture that she started herself. Some were kind of odd (like the home screen printing business) and some turned into full-time jobs (like the pet grooming business she started in our back room). I always saw her working and she always found ways to involve the rest of the family. Sometimes we helped in return for getting paid. Sometimes we helped just because she was the mom and she said so.

    I have no doubt that watching my mom in her businesses helped me when it came to starting my own. Seeing up close and personal the amount of work it takes to be your own boss prepared me for what I would face. And thankfully I can still call her when I have questions.

    Even though she doesn’t have kids at home anymore, my mom is still a work-at-home mom. Now she is an outsourced program manager (OPM) for Greg Hoffman Consulting. She doesn’t have her own kids underfoot, but she does have plenty of dogs and cats around plus occasionally some grandkids. She deals with a lot of the same work issues that I do like neighbors dropping in during the day and trying to balance work and personal time when they seem to bleed into each other all the time.

    If you don’t know my mom, Cindy Ballard, you should. If you are in affiliate marketing, she’s a good source of information. If you are a WAHM, she’s an inspiration for how to run your own business. Even if you are neither of those, you will find her to be a spirited, entertaining person worth getting to know.

    (Wait until she finds out that I was multi-tasking and writing this article while I was talking to her about Harley shirts and Medicare!)

    January seems like such a relaxing month after all the craziness of the holidays. You can just sit back, send your kids back to school, start working on your goals for 2013. All the sudden you look at the calendar and realize that your child’s birthday is right around the corner and you have done no planning at all. I know, because I have been helping plan children’s birthday parties for over 11 years with my party planning persona Partyelf.

    What’s a busy work at home Mom to do? Research and shop online of course. One of the reasons that I started Partyelf is because I know that parents do not have time to run from store to store trying to find everything they need to host a birthday party that their child will always remember.

    My top tip is to talk to your child about what kind of party theme that they want or if they are not quite verbal yet, take into account what their interests are. My daughter wants to be a ballerina, loves the Olivia books, and is a huge fan of ladybugs. And those are some of the birthday party themes that I have used when planning her parties.

    Need some inspiration? Here are 5 of the hottest birthday party themes right now:

    Little Man Mustache Basic Party Pack for 8Little Man Mustache Party – Everyone needs a little mustache in their life. This party theme is very cute with a mustache on everything, including a Stick the Mustache game. Despite the title, I think this can be a very gender neutral or large age range birthday party.
    Ballerina Tutu Deluxe Party Pack for 8Ballerina Tutu Party – Pink, tulle and ballet slippers. Need I say more? This classic party theme is sure to be loved by many little girls. It is such a hit in my house that my daughter wants to have another ballerina party.
    Sock Monkey Red Deluxe Party Pack for 8Sock Monkey Party – This simple toy has had a resurgence of popularity in the last couple of years. It appeals to both boys and girls and it is just darn cute! A fun activity for this party is having a create your own sock monkey station set up for your guests.
    Madeline Basic Party Pack for 8Madeline Party – I can just picture all the party guests in blue dresses and yellow hats. March them all in two straight lines right to the birthday cake! I absolutely adore the yellow hat piñata.
    Goldfish 1st Birthday Deluxe Party Pack for 8Goldfish 1st Birthday Party – A first birthday is a very special occasion and I think this party theme is perfect. You guests will just flip over it! (Hey I couldn’t resist making at least one lame joke.)
    I hope that helps inspire you and makes planning your child’s next birthday party a little bit easier. Trust me, when the big box of things arrives on your doorstep, you will be so happy with all the time that you save. Plus save money when you use this link to save 10% on your next Birthday Express order.

  • Gifts
    Family And Kids

    4 Ideas for Great Last Minute Holiday Gifts

    It always seems to happen in December, time just slips away and before you know it there’s barely any time at all left to shop and the stores are packed with last minute shoppers who have no idea what to buy. You might be a last minute shopper, but I can help you figure out what to buy before you get to the crazy chaos filled store with these five quick ideas for last minute holiday gifts that are easy and affordable…

    1: Gift Cards

    You probably saw that coming, right? But don’t grab just any old gift card off the rack and your local gas station. Choose a gift card that the recipient is going to actually be excited to receive.

    Maybe your sister has been stressed out lately and could use a trip to her favorite salon for some pampering – Stop into the shop to pick up a gift certificate and while you’re there ask them if they can help you pick something to go with it. A lot of salons keep a record of each client’s “favorite” list, including colors of nail polish, favorite shampoo/conditioner, and so on. Those little things make a big difference.

    Maybe your favorite Aunt is a foodie and would love to try the new restaurant in town but hasn’t been there yet because she’s worried about her budget – A gift certificate works nicely in this instance and she’ll be able to leave a nice tip. If you’re nice she might even invite you to dinner with her 😉

    Maybe you happen to know that your nephew is getting a video game console this holiday – With the online gaming connections for Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo you can purchase add-ons and even full games with their points systems or directly from the console with a credit card (though, after the Playstation Network hack earlier this year, points are probably safer.) You can usually find gift cards for the points at stores like Target and Best Buy, anyplace that sells video games.

    If you’re totally stumped and don’t know what the person would truly enjoy, or for the mysterious teenager in your life, you can always go with a plain old Visa gift card for any amount and let them choose their own adventure and splurge on anything anywhere Visa is accepted.

    2: Shop Your Local Mom & Pop Shops

    This is like two gifts in one. While the majority of shoppers are off at the big box stores a lot of small business owners are wondering where the crowd is.

    Take a trip off the beaten path and visit local small stores to pick up gifts. You’ll avoid the big box crowd, wait in line less, find some pretty amazing gifts that everyone will love, and you’ll support a local small business owner all at the same time. It’s win-win.

    3: Practical, but Creatively So

    A bottle of wine is a pretty standard gift, but if the person you’re shopping for is a wine lover then there’s nothing wrong with giving a bottle of wine. Get creative and pair that bottle of wine with a set of new wine glasses, an interesting corkscrew, aerator, or some other wine gadgetry.

    Or perhaps your gift recipient isn’t a wine drinker at all. Think about something they enjoy, whether it’s a daily breakfast smoothie or their favorite chocolates. Get that item and something that could go with it nicely, like an eco-friendly drink container or a unique candy jar for the kitchen. As an example, my youngest son has started a tradition of buying me a bag of Starbucks coffee and one of their holiday collector’s mugs for my birthday every year (that’s on Dec 27th in case you’re wondering wink wink)

    4: Go for the Ornament or Other Decoration

    It might be a bit cliché to give an ornament for the holidays, but if you know the recipient appreciates that sort of gift it can actually be a really great gift to give. And it doesn’t have to be an ornament, it can be any holiday decoration. Think about when you’re decorating for the holidays and how each piece you unpack and put in its place sparks a memory for you – receiving your gift could be that memory and it will be appreciated year after year.

    If you have a favorite photo of you and the recipient, there are some fun photo frame ornaments out there that display digital photos. Those are especially cool if you went on vacation together or attended an event together, you can load the photos into the ornament for a fun gift full of memories.

    Last Minute Gifts Can Be Awesome
    So just because there are only a few days left and you’re in a rush to finish your shopping this weekend doesn’t mean you can’t give great gifts that will be adored and appreciated. Just take a few minutes to think about the recipient and remember, it’s the thought that counts.

    Happy Holidays!
    One last tip before I go…. If you really don’t want to leave the house to do that last minute holiday shopping this weekend, today (Friday December 21) is the last day to get 2-day shipping on Amazon orders in time for delivery before December 25th as long as you order by 4:00 PM PST.

  • Business
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Have You Embraced Pinterest For Your Business Yet?

    By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Pinterest. It’s likely you have an account for your own personal use. But are you really using it for your business? Pinterest offers a great opportunity with some interesting tools to help you promote your promote your products, build awareness and inspire current customers to buy again. There’s now Pinterest business pages and most recently, analytics. You can always share pretty pictures and links to your products, but now you can alo see how users are interacting with those pins.

    Melissa Taylor, author of Pinterest Savvy, shares plenty of juicy details and how tos for making Pinterest work for your business. She’s gained more than 1 million followers on her own Pinterest boards. She’s written this book to help other’s follow the steps she took to find success. Learn how to attract more followers & increase brand awareness, read success stories of top Pinners and start using business specific strategies. Pinterest isn’t useful to businesses unless those pretty pins turn into sales. There are specific techniques and approaches a business needs and learning to use this tool appropriately can help grow your business.

    Here are some questions to ask yourself about your business and using Pinterest:

    How can I use Pinterest to grow my brand awareness?
    How can Pinterest help me reach my marketing and sales goals?
    How can Pinterest increase my traffic?
    How can Pinterest turn followers into buyers and traffic into sales?

  • Valentine’s Day
    Work At Home Mom Issues

    5 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Work at Home Mom

    February 14th is approaching fast and while most women love flowers and chocolates, a work at home mom will likely appreciate the more “productive” kind of gifts. If you’re searching for inspiration for a gift for the WAHM in your life, you might find some below.

    Spa Day


    Wait, I just said productive gifts, right? This IS all about being productive. Working from home usually means blurring the line between your work and home life. AKA, it’s easy to get burnt out.

    Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do for your business is to take a break – recharge and re-energize your mind and creativity with some downtime.

    A few hours of a massage, pedicure and manicure at a spa can often send a WAHM home with tons of new ideas, inspiration and motivation – in both her business and personal life.

    A Kick Ass Crock Pot


    Some women might find kitchen gadgets boring, but WAHMs are often pressed for time. Anything that helps them save time while still managing the household will be a welcome item. I’m actually a very good cook, but I until recently I wasn’t a big fan of crock pot cooking. Most of what I attempted to make in a slow cooker didn’t turn out that great. That was until Michael Gray taught me that not all crock pots are created equal.

    I’ve since purchased a really nice slow cooker and have found some pretty kick ass crockpot recipe sites. And just to avoid the possibility that it may SEEM like a “so you can cook me dinner gift”? Try including a short note about how much you appreciate all the roles she juggles and that you hope this will make the amazing job she already does a tad bit easier.

    “On the Go Office” Capabilities


    If you’re not on a tight budget, nothing makes a WAHM smile like gadgets that make their ability to productively work on the road, at the park or while sitting at their child’s football practice. Think Hot spot services, adding a tethering function to create a personal hotspot via your phone to your monthly plan (if it’s not already included) and gadgets that make going mobile easier.

    You can find tons of computer and tablet related Valentines day gift ideas (and deals) right now. And don’t forget accessories! Grabbing a WAHM a keyboard for her iPad can greatly increase what she can get done while mobile.

    “Uninterrupted Time” Coupons


    If you ARE on a tight budget, giving your time can go a long way. Have a friend who is a WAHM? Offer to take her kids on a play date once every two weeks at your local park to give her some uninterrupted time for her business tasks. Married to a WAHM? Giving her a morning every other Saturday where you’re on kid duty can help her schedule important tasks for times she knows she can get them done more effectively without interruption.

    A Killer Office Chair


    Office chairs are often overlooked, but as Missy wisely pointed out, an office chair is one of the top things you shouldn’t skimp on as a work at home mom. Sitting all day can cause a lot of issues – a chair might seem like a “boring” gift, but the WAHM in your life will likely think otherwise.

    Missy uses a Star Ergonomic Chair. I have tons of friends who swear by Herman Miller chairs (but, be prepared, they’re costly). I personally use a Boss chair (I discovered them via staying in so many Hilton properties).

  • Plans
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    How To Find And Compare Health Insurance Plans

    I became the primary breadwinner for my family in February 2009. My husband and I had agreed that he’d quit his job as an International Sales Rep to go to graduate school at night and be a stay-at-home dad by day. I’d continue working at a Minneapolis-based non-profit. Three weeks after we made that transition I got notice at my full-time job that I’d be laid off. It wasn’t immediate, thank God for that, but a few months later I did lose my job and with it, my family’s health insurance.

    In the months between receiving notice of the impending lay off and actually losing my job and its benefits my husband and I debated whether we could really launch an at-home business and whether I could really become a work-at-home mom. One question overshadowed much of the conversation. ”How will we pay for health insurance?” I was petrified of buying our own. I really knew nothing about how to do it or what it would cost, but I was convinced that it would be thousands of dollars per month and potentially out of financial reach.

    Because of my fear I actually buried my head in the sand for the first year after I was laid off. We opted for COBRA coverage through my previous employer and qualified for a federal subsidy to the premium. Eventually that COBRA coverage and federal subsidy came to an end and I had to figure out what to do next.

    How to Compare Plans


    I couldn’t procrastinate it any longer. I had to sit down at the computer and figure out what my health insurance options were as a self-employed, work-at-home mom. Like any Type A woman would do, I made an Excel worksheet to track all my options and crunch all the numbers related to each plan. Once I started loading information into my worksheet, my fear melted away. Knowledge really is power.

    The most valuable numbers I looked at while comparing health insurance plans were the minimum and maximum out-of-pocket expense annually.

    Minimum out-of-pocket expense. I looked back at our medical history over the last few years and decided what I’d expect us to need in terms of the number of doctor’s office visits and prescriptions in a year’s time. In addition to paying our monthly premiums I assumed that we’d have these other basic medical expenses. For some plans we would pay co-pays for office visits. Other plans had co-pays for prescriptions. Some plans required us to pay 100% of the expenses out of pocket. I considered the total amount of premiums we’d pay annually and the cost of our essential medical expenses to be our minimum out-of-pocket expense.
    Maximum out-of-pocket expense. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is the plan’s annual deductible amount. In most cases there is an individual deductible that applies to each individual family member, plus an out-of-pocket maximum per family. I listed both of these numbers in my Excel worksheet.
    With those two annual numbers clearly identified for each different policy we were considering, I could easily compare plans side-by-side. My husband and I decided on a plan that fit our monthly budget and was a comfortable amount of financial risk for us annually, should we ever have to max out the plan.

    Finding Plans


    The first place I looked for plans was an online health insurance rate quote site. I normally don’t like those sorts of online quote sites, but I found them to be surprisingly useful in getting me started. I reviewed every plan suggested by the websites I visited, then took my research a step further.

    I jotted down the names of the insurance companies that offer plans in my state (there were only 3 or 4). I went to each of those companies websites directly to look for any other insurance plans for individuals. I discovered a few plans that seemed like good fits for my family, but had not been mentioned in the quote sites I’d visited.

    Before making a final decision, I called the customer service line for the two companies whose plans we were seriously considering. I inquired about dental insurance (which is difficult to buy apart from a health insurance policy) and confirmed my understanding of how each plan worked.

    We ultimately decided on a hybrid plan – a high deductible, but no health savings account because it offers standard co-pays for office visits, prescriptions, two urgent care and one emergency room visit annually. Beyond those things, we are responsible to pay 100% of everything else up to our deductible. My biggest surprise – our premium, as a self-employed family, is only slightly more than what we were paying in subsidized COBRA premiums.

    How have you navigated the waters of finding and securing health and dental insurance for your family? What advice and what questions do you have?

  • Inspiration
    Productivity Tips For Work At Home Moms

    4 Tips for Writing a Blog Post When You’re Out of Inspiration

    Some days the words flow like a river. Other days they’re stuck behind a dam. But if you’re running a blog, you don’t have the luxury of waiting until inspiration strikes. A successful blog depends on consistent, original content that keeps its audience engaged. That means even rainy days need to be answered with some sort of blog post.

    But, bloggers are also keenly aware of the importance of quality in their content. Even one bad post can cause readers to reconsider whether they want to devote their time to your regular blog postings. A lack of inspiration isn’t an excuse to publish a post that provides nothing of value to readers. So how do you overcome this paradox?

    For beginning and amateur bloggers, this is a serious challenge. But seasoned bloggers and content managers all have their tricks for maintaining quality content even over stretches when the passion is reeling, whether from exhaustion, stress or a dry well of creativity. When you reach these obstacles, there are at least four things you can do to press on in a meaningful way.

    1.Compile Q&As

    If you have a steady stream of readers, you have a great blog post to fill gaps. Encourage readers to send you questions and let them build up until you’re ready to publish an entire post dedicated to responding to those questions. I take a similar approach on AskMissyWard.com, where questions related to affiliate marketing can be submitted for future blog posts.

    With the questions submitted by readers, your format and content are essentially chosen for you. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

    2.Offer commentary on recent industry news

    What’s the latest buzz in your industry? What about new innovations, companies, opportunities, etc.? Just by keeping up with the news that’s relevant to the blog you’re curating, you should be able to cobble together some quick paragraphs that brief your readers on industry news while offering a space to editorialize. Once again, the industry’s recent news creates the format and directs the conversation for you.

    3.Create a post covering tools and resources to solve a specific problem

    If you want to flex your expertise without draining your creative drive, focus on a single problem or challenge within your industry and provide readers with a game plan for overcoming that challenge. Identify tools and resources both online and offline, as well as any professional guidance you can offer. As people flock to search engines in search of answers to their current problems, you could earn a lot of traffic over the coming months and years.

    4.Curate a weekly roundup

    Whether you offer commentary on industry news or not, roundup blog posts are both easy to write and valuable to readers. By keeping a pulse on the industry, you can put together a weekly post that condenses the biggest news and articles from across the industry into a single post on your blog. This helps solidify your status as a viable news source while keeping your blog active and fresh.

    Running an effective, useful blog isn’t always the easiest job, but it’s rewarding when you can continue to deliver valuable content to your readers. Use these tips to keep things fresh, even when you’re short on ideas.

    Do you have any other tips for creating content when you’ve hit a brick wall?

  • team
    WAHM Entrepreneur Success Stories

    WAHM Success Story: Missy Ward of Affiliate Summit

    Missy Ward is the owner of Affiliate Summit which she co-founded in 2003.

    missy wardAffiliate Summit, Inc. is a media company which provides solopreneurs and large companies, opportunities to create prosperity in the affiliate marketing industry through its conferences and trade shows, magazine, podcast network, forum and blog.

    Missy is also the Co-Publisher of Revenews.com and Revenews.org, a Co-Founder of itsaWAHMthing.com, Founder of joinWOMU.com and AffiliateMarketersGiveBack.com and she also operates numerous affiliate websites.

    Missy is a work at home mother to two boys.

    Check out her take on being a WAHM entrepreneur below.

    What made you start your business?

    Just nine years ago, when people thought about affiliate marketing conferences, it was generally a negative connotation. At the time, the reigning conference was Affiliate Force, an annual cruise around the Caribbean.

    I helped coordinate those conferences, along with Shawn Collins, but we truly believed there were ways it could be done better. To make a long story short, Shawn and I offered our opinions to the owner of the company, who decided to ignore us.

    So, Shawn and I decided to create an alternative shortly after the April 2003 edition of Affiliate Force. Our first show had 200 attendees. Fast forward 9 years later and our last Vegas show, this past January had more than 5,000 attendees.

    How did you finance your business in the early days?

    Back in 2003, I was a single mom of an almost 3 year old going through an awful divorce. Shawn was the sole breadwinner in his growing family at the time. Together, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together.

    We invested what little we had (a couple of hundred bucks each) and worked outrageous hours doing everything ourselves so that we could make a go of it. We’ve been self-funded the entire time and today, we stand as a privately-held, multi-million-dollar business.

    What is your average workday like?

    I wake up in the morning, make breakfast and lunches for the kiddos and get them off to school. My husband usually walks my boys to the bus stop on our corner. Then I either go for a Jazzercise class, take a walk, or immediately head to my office which is located in the upstairs of my home.

    After putting in a few hours of work, running business errands or attending meetings, I start my other job (Mommy Taxi Driver) and run the kiddos to Soccer, Hockey, Drama,Cub Scouts, Religious Instruction or wherever their social calendar dictates. I pop in a few more hours of work before they get home, then make dinner (or make dinner reservations), help out with homework, wrangle them into their respectful showers, get them off to bed and head back to my office for a couple more hours of work.

    Hubby and I usually meet up around 11′ish to catch up on the day’s events, watch a TV show, read a book, or simply sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.

    What has been your biggest challenge as a WAHM Entrepreneur?

    My biggest challenge is balancing work, family and friends. You see, I absolutely love what I do, so I spend a lot of time doing it. Half the time, I don’t even think I’m working. But juggling long days and travel, with my family’s schedule and still trying to maintain friendships and have “unrelated to work” fun, it can get a little frustrating.

    It’s really hard to be as good of a mom, wife, friend, daughter and business owner as I want to be every day.

    What has been your biggest success as a WAHM Entrepreneur?


    I think my biggest success resides in those rare days where the stars align and somehow magically, I’m good in all my roles. Granted, those days are few and far between, but they inspire me to try to be just a little better every day.

    How do you stay motivated when working from home?

    Occasionally, I admit it… I can be a bit of a slacker. It usually happens if I’m burning the candle at both ends or have over-committed and feeling a little overwhelmed. When that happens, I will usually go out for a walk and think about why I started my business in the first place. Focusing on that usually gets me on track.

    But, if that doesn’t turn things around, and I just can’t get inspired, I don’t force it. I’ll usually just blow out of the office for a few hours, get a mani/pedi, have a long lunch with a friend, or simply just lay out in the sun with a book. It’s that little bit of rejuvenation time that brings me back to the work world with a smile.

    How do you balance your work and family?

    See above. 😉

    What has been your most successful marketing tactic for your business?

    My most successful marketing tactic will continue to be turning customers into raving brand ambassadors for my business. You see, I spend very little money advertising — maybe a couple of hundred bucks on Google each month. The growth of my business is directly related to our customers. We’ve listened to what they’d had to say through extensive surveying and try to provide them with the experience they’re looking for. That’s it in a nutshell.

    What is your favorite productivity tip or tool?

    I love ManyMoon (now Do.com). It’s a free productivity tool that integrates with Google Apps that lets me organize projects, tasks, and conversations with everyone that I work with. I don’t think I could live without it.

    Who do you admire most and why?

    I’m fortunate to be surrounded my a bunch of hard-working underdogs that have achieved the success that they were looking for.

    Rae Hoffman-Dolan of Sugarrae.com; Shawn Collins, my business partner in Affiliate Summit and more; Connie Berg of FlamingoWorld.com and Brian Littleton, CEO of ShareaSale.com are not only business influences that I respect and admire, but I also marvel at the kindness they show to the people around them.

    What is something most people would be surprised to know about you?

    I’m an open book. I used to surprise people with fact that AC/DC is still my favorite band in the world, or that I’m a shoe-aholic. But I think that most people know that by now. I guess the most surprising thing might be that I fired my first shotgun this year — a 12-gauge — and I liked it.

    Where do you see your business at two years from now?

    I see the Affiliate Summit Conference and Tradeshow series growing much larger. We have a number of initiatives going including new events in different locations, our new forum and monthly meetup groups and more driving that growth.

    What advice would you give to aspiring WAHM Entrepreneurs?

    Learn to let go of bad ideas. No matter how passionate you are about an idea, you’ve got to test it to see if it’s a good one. If there’s ever a point where you’re not making money from the idea, move on and don’t take it personal.

  • Work at Home
    Family And Kids,  Work At Home Mom Issues

    WAHM-WHAD Podcast With Work at Home Dad Mike Moyer

    WAHMoms/WAHDads host Deborah Carney is joined by guest Mike Moyer.

    Tell us a little about yourself:
    Mike Moyer is an entrepreneur who has started a number of companies including Bananagraphics, a product development and merchandising company, Moondog, an outdoor clothing manufacturing company; Vicarious Communication, Inc, a marketing technology company for the medical industry; Cappex.com, a site that helps students find the right college; College Peas, LLC which provides publications and consulting on college admissions; and Trade Show Samurai, LLC a company that teaches trade show exhibitors how to capture lots and lots of leads. In addition to his experience as an entrepreneur he has held a number of senior-level marketing positions with companies that sell everything from vacuum cleaners to financial data services to motor home chassis to luxury wine.He has taught entrepreneurship at both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Mike is the author of How to Make Colleges Want You, College Peas, Trade Show Samurai and Slicing Pie, a book about dividing up equity in early-stage companies. He has an MS in integrated marketing from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He lives in Lake Forest, Illinois with his wife, two kids and the Lizard of Oz.

    As a work at home parent what is your biggest challenge?
    Staying focused on work with a lot of distractions can be a lot of work. It’s important to create structure around time and space so that you can get done what you need done.

    What is the biggest advantage to being a work at home parent?
    Time with the family is great. I see my kids all the time and I can spend time with them during the day.

    As a work at home parent what advice would you give other work at home parents?
    Set expectations with your spouse and your family so they can help you find the time and space you need to get your work done.

    Website
    SlicingPie.com
    CollegePeas.com
    TradeShowSamurai.com

    Thanks to GeekCast.fm for hosting all of our podcasts. Visit them for more podcasts about marketing and working from home. Also join the forum that is for women to interact with other successful women, JoinWOMU

  • facebook
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Are You Using Facebook for Your Business?

    You may think of Facebook pages as being for large brands and businesses who sell products, but you could be missing out if you don’t have one.

    Remember, Facebook doesn’t want personal profile pages being used for business purposes – you need to use a page if you want to do business there. Using your regular personal profile page to promote your business can get your account locked and even deleted entirely without warning.

    Having a Facebook page for your business allows you to stay in contact with your customers, and every business needs to do that! Yes, you can certainly stay in contact with your customers and potential customers via your newsletter and blog, but having a presence on Facebook gives you another outlet.

    Your ultimate goal for your business is to get new customers and repeat business from your current customers. In order to do that, you have to be promoting yourself. Facebook allows you to do that in an informal way.

    You can promote your business on Facebook, just by being social. For example, you can post a question as your status update. You could also post a motivational quote or a helpful tip. When someone responds or likes your status update, the people on their friends list will see that in their news feeds, and your business will be introduced to new people.

    While you do want to be social, it is also important that you ask for the sale. If you don’t ask for one, you won’t get one. If all you do is post motivational quotes, people will accept that. They won’t ask you what you can do for them. You have to post about the services you provide, as well. Don’t be afraid of coming off as “pushy.” As long as you maintain a good balance between being social and promoting your business, you will be fine.

    Maintaining an active Facebook page for your business doesn’t have to be a big chore. You can write your status updates and set them to post at a later date within Facebook or by using HootSuite, a free social media tool that allows you to write status updates and tweets up to 6 months in advance.

    If you want to get really in-depth and learn how to use Facebook to grow your business and even to build a list, check out this four hour micro-workshop plus plenty of bonus material to help you along the way.

  • going
    Work At Home Mom Issues

    I’m Just Going to Do One More Thing…

    How many times have you said that while working on your business? I’m willing to bet all the money in my pocket that you’ve said it a lot. Probably more than you even realize you’re doing.

    When you’re at home it’s so easy to say “I’ll just do this one other thing and then we’ll go to the store…” or “and then we’ll go to the park,” maybe even, “and then I’ll go to bed.”

    Oh yeah, you’re busted now.

    I know how it easy because I do it myself all.the.time. Even after years of working at home and being aware that I can fall into the trap, I still get caught doing “just one more thing” until 2:30 and 3:00 AM.

    I actually caught myself doing this very thing last night as my husband was on his way to bed. We’ve both put in a lot of hours working this week and we’re both exhausted, probably a little cranky, and I actually started to say, “I’m going to finish formatting this file and I’ll be right there…” when I stopped and hit save on everything I had open, closed it all up, and hit the shutdown button instead.

    Sometimes one more thing isn’t worth it. I’m not saying there aren’t going to be late nights and lots of hard work and hours put in. What I’m saying is you need to know your limit and it’s okay to go to bed before 2:00 AM when you have to get up at 5:30 to get the kids ready for school.

    There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself to meet a goal, after all that’s the stuff dreams are made of, but sometimes you have to hit the off button and get some sleep so you can focus properly.

    I went to bed earlier than usual last night and I was so exhausted I actually fell asleep instead of staring at the wall like I normally would that early. But this morning I got up and I was ready to get back to work. I got the boys off to school, pulled up those files I was working on and got them done much quicker than I expected to when I was starting at them last night with toothpicks holding my eyelids up.

    So today – right now – I challenge you to step away. Don’t do ” just one more thing,” and instead go spend some time with your family, or take a walk in the park, or go play with the dog outside.

    Go do something that doesn’t require a computer monitor in front of your face and recharge your virtual batteries so that you can come back to your desk and knock that to-do list out faster than ever. Rinse and repeat again tomorrow…

  • business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Start a Financial Emergency Fund Today

    It never fails; the very moment when you think you’re on a roll and you might have a little extra cash left over for something crazy and fun, the unexpected happens. Your transmission went or you need new tires, your spouse or partner was laid off at their job, your son’s asthma medication is suddenly no longer covered by your insurance, your or your spouse become seriously ill and are rushed off to hospital and are unable to work, you need expensive dental work, your laptop suddenly dies and you can’t work until you’ve replaced it…. the list goes on.

    Yes, all of those examples have happened to me at some point over the past 10 years. I learned the hard way that I needed an emergency fund. For a long time we were just living paycheck-to-paycheck and having any kind of savings seemed completely impossible. Some days it still impossible, but I’ve managed to save small chunks here and there so that we have at least a little bit set aside in case the universe throws us a crazy curve ball.

    No matter what curve you end up with, there is a way to keep your sanity when the bills start to roll in – start an emergency fund.

    How Much Do You Want to Save?


    This is the first step in beginning any emergency fund. The standard requirements for an emergency fund are six months of your gross salary or income. This can be your starting goal.

    Figure Out Your Expenses First


    Take your entire household income for a month, don’t forget any additional incomes sources such as rentals or interest from investments you may have. This is what you have to work with. The popular rule of thumb is to take 10% of that total income number as what should be saved each month towards your emergency fund.

    Believe me, I know sometimes 10% is not possible. I suggest taking whatever amount you can each month and putting it into your emergency fund. Often times I’ll replace something I “want” like an extra latte at Starbucks and just transfer that money to my emergency fund instead. Sure, it’s probably less $10, but it’s something and it’s a good place to start.

    Calculate Your Expenses


    Create an expense log and track a full month of all expenses. This includes routine bills, such as groceries, electricity, gas, and phone, to your variable expenditures, such as credit cards, household items, and personal hygiene products. This creates a realistic view of what you will need saved in the event of an emergency. Remember, our goal is to grow the emergency fund to the point where it covers six months worth of our expenses.

    Pay yourself as if you were a utility bill. your calculations of your expenditures, you want to include 10 percent of your income as a payment to yourself. Make this a standing expenditure. You can set this up as an automatic deposit so that you don’t even see the money. This will force you to make that payment, instead of waiting until the end.

    Income Minus Expenses


    Take your income, minus your expenses, and that is what you have left over each month for additional savings. Take part of this money and deposit it into your emergency fund before you are tempted to spend it on something else.

    This is where careful attention to expenditures can be considered. In order to maintain an adequate emergency fund, non-essential expenditures can be re-evaluated for importance. If these expenditures can be cut, that is more money that can be placed into your emergency fund.

    Open a Special Savings Account


    Open a separate savings account that is just for your emergency fund. This fund is not to be touched, unless it is for an emergency. It is essential that this fund always remain at the minimum of six months gross salary and can cover six months of your expenditures. This account should be one that is easily accessible in an emergency.

    Having a separate account is what really helped me with this side of our finances. I never look at the account other than to add money to it. I keep the paperwork for it stashed away so I’m tempted to use it for anything that is a non-emergency. We’ve had a few things come up recently, so it’s not looking very plump, but it’s there if we need it and it grows little by little (sometimes just $5 at a time)

    Replenish the Fund if You Use It!


    Silly me, I really learned this the hard way after my husband was in the hospital a few years ago. I thought to myself, “We’re good for awhile, nothing crazy is likely to happen right now.” Right? WRONG.

    If you’ve used up a good portion of your emergency fund to cover an expense make sure you start replenishing that fund as soon as you can. Even if it’s just $5 here and $2 there, all those little bits add up faster than you might expect them to.

  • books
    Productivity Tips For Work At Home Moms

    Juggling the Holidays While Working From Home

    Yesterday I was scheduling appointments for November and was suddenly reminded of the nearly three weeks in November and December that there is no school.

    No school means my boys are home. All day. And although I cherish the moments we have together since I’m on the road a lot, it can really put a dent in my working schedule. (Not to mention the days when no work will get done because of holiday parties!)

    This year I am determined to not let it make me crazy. I’m going to do some preparation to make sure that I have a decent amount of time to do my work without going bonkerz or missing deadlines, and I also plan to keep my expectations reasonable.

    Here’s what’s on my Got-To-Do-First-List that helps me organize my Really-Have-To-Do-List:

    1. Plan playdates NOW.

    I know, all of the holiday breaks are still weeks away, but guess what? Everyone is busy. Book your playdates early! I know when my kids have a playdate I can work in my office while they have fun. Sure, it’s not a time where I can give full attention to highly detailed work, but it’s a great time to catch up on email or your RSS subscriptions while staying near the playing kids.

    2. Change Your Working Schedule.

    Some of us are early birds, and some of us work late into the night, and some of us prefer working typical business hours. The key to surviving the kids being home for long stretches is to be flexible with your schedule. You might have to get up before they do, or work after they’ve gone to bed. You might have to play with them for an hour or two, and then pop in a movie so you can work a bit. Whatever you do, flexibility is the key.

    3. Say No – or at least say LESS.

    It can be mighty tempting to accept every invitation, or agree to volunteer for each event, but think it through. How much work time are you willing to give to these events? Most of us that work from home lose income if we don’t work, so while you might want to bake your famous pies for the school bake sale, how much income are you willing to sacrifice?

    Trust me, that neighborhood potluck will survive if you bring bakery cookies instead of homemade. Promise.

    4. Delegate.

    If your partner is able to take some of the kid wrangling off your hands, go for it – particularly if that partner has paid vacation time (most of us work at home moms do not have paid time off, alas!). Otherwise, make other accommodations. Maybe let the kids do some of the holiday decorating.

    If you have a big project, it might be worth hiring a housecleaner for the holiday season so you can give that work over to someone else. Order groceries delivered instead of going to the store. There’s plenty of stuff that doesn’t have to be done by YOU.

    5. Have reasonable expectations, and let some stuff go.

    The thing about the holidays is they are FUN. It’s fun to shop, to see family, and to enjoy traditions. Postpone projects that don’t need to be finished right away if you can. Be sure to keep your workload reasonable for the time of year – you’ll likely find that your clients are doing the same.

    If your work is seasonal and you can’t postpone, be sure to schedule post-holiday time off. And when it comes to your schedule, make sure you include time for both yourself AND your family.

    After all, this is the most wonderful time of the year, right?

  • Success-Story
    WAHM Entrepreneur Success Stories

    WAHM Success Story: Sara Sutton Fell of FlexJobs.com

    Sara Sutton Fell is the owner of FlexJobs which she founded in 2007.

    sara sutton fellFlexJobs gives job-seekers a way to find legitimate, hand-screened jobs quickly, easily, and safely.

    A member of the Better Business Bureau, FlexJobs screens out online scams and anonymous employers in order to deliver users the best of the best flexible schedule and telecommuting job opportunities in an easy to search, ad-free website.

    FlexJobs is also a free resource for employers to source, screen, and recruit top-notch candidates for telecommuting and flexible jobs.

    Sara is a work at home mom with two children.

    Check out her take on being a WAHM entrepreneur below.

    What made you start your business?


    When I was pregnant with my first child, I was looking into flexible work positions and quickly became frustrated with all the scams out there! I had previously started and sold a job seeking site, JobsDirect. Using that experience combined with my passion to find flexible work, I decided to start FlexJobs, listing only hand-screened legitimate work from home, part time and flexible positions.

    How did you finance your business in the early days?


    I had two angel investors, and I contributed some funding as well.

    What is your average workday like?


    Preferably, I start the day by dropping my sons off at preschool. I then head to a designated office space above my garage. Managing a staff of 20+ employees, I am often in meetings.

    What has been your biggest challenge as a WAHM Entrepreneur?


    Definitely starting a family and a business at the same time presented some difficult mental challenges. Am I doing all I can as a new mom? Am I doing all I can to effectively run a business? Questioning myself coupled with no sleep… I definitely had some emotionally difficult days. Now that I have two children, I do find the balance of business owner, wife and mother tricky at times. All three areas can intersect and that has definitely presented some challenges along the way.

    What has been your biggest success as a WAHM Entrepreneur?


    Honestly, there are so many! We receive a fun success story nearly every day and that is definitely a highlight of my job. Knowing that by starting this business I played a part in allowing someone to work flexibly is a great feeling. Oh! I could go on, but you can read many of the successes here.

    How do you stay motivated when working from home?


    Set a schedule. Keeping the balance between work and home life is better achieved if I follow through with a set schedule.
    Being present. It can be easy to get distracted but I stay focused on what I’m working on in the moment.
    Communication is key. Working with a staff virtually is fantastic and to maintain our productivity as a team, we use IM, a group discussion board, phone in company meetings and email.


    How do you balance your work and family?


    For me, it’s important to be proactive in actually adding “family time” to my schedule! There will always be “just one more email” or phone call, but I stick to the time blocks I have scheduled to stay focused on family time. I definitely don’t want to raise my sons to be checking their iPhones when we spend time together when they are adults!

    What has been your most successful marketing tactic for your business?


    Staying adaptable! Times are always changing, especially online. If people are searching for jobs on Pinterest — and believe it or not, they do! — I want to make sure they know FlexJobs is there to help! That’s just one example in many I can give where it’s an important marketing tactic to stay current with the times and up to date on trends.

    What is your favorite productivity tip or tool?


    I depend on Pivotal Tracker! It’s great for “wish list” projects, tracking current projects and communicating with staff on where we are within goals and projects.

    Who do you admire most and why?


    My mother! It’s hard to say why without rambling for hours, but to state it as simply as possible: she has taught me more than anyone else about the kind of person I want to be. She is generous in spirit, nurturing, supportive, incredibly strong, and has a truly amazing degree of empathy. My mother both knows how to relax and enjoy life, but also is the person you want with you when there’s a tough time or emergency.

    What is something most people would be surprised to know about you?


    That I’ve been to Siberia. Seriously! I took the Transiberian train from Moscow to Irkutsk to volunteer in a national forest near Lake Baikal for a month when I was 18. It was quite an adventure!

    Where do you see your business at two years from now?


    Helping even more people find telecommuting, part-time and flexible schedule, and freelance jobs, and letting people know that this type of work does exist!

    What advice do you have for aspiring WHAM entrepreneurs?


    The key for entrepreneurs is to be passionate about their business. If you really and truly believe in your services or product, it makes it easy to be motivated to overcome any challenges that come along the way.

  • Birthday-Party
    Family And Kids

    Birthday Party Planning and the Work at Home Mom

    January seems like such a relaxing month after all the craziness of the holidays. You can just sit back, send your kids back to school, start working on your goals for 2013. All the sudden you look at the calendar and realize that your child’s birthday is right around the corner and you have done no planning at all. I know, because I have been helping plan children’s birthday parties for over 11 years with my party planning persona Partyelf.

    What’s a busy work at home Mom to do? Research and shop online of course. One of the reasons that I started Partyelf is because I know that parents do not have time to run from store to store trying to find everything they need to host a birthday party that their child will always remember.

    My top tip is to talk to your child about what kind of party theme that they want or if they are not quite verbal yet, take into account what their interests are. My daughter wants to be a ballerina, loves the Olivia books, and is a huge fan of ladybugs. And those are some of the birthday party themes that I have used when planning her parties.

    Need some inspiration? Here are 5 of the hottest birthday party themes right now:

    Little Man Mustache Basic Party Pack for 8Little Man Mustache Party – Everyone needs a little mustache in their life. This party theme is very cute with a mustache on everything, including a Stick the Mustache game. Despite the title, I think this can be a very gender neutral or large age range birthday party.
    Ballerina Tutu Deluxe Party Pack for 8Ballerina Tutu Party – Pink, tulle and ballet slippers. Need I say more? This classic party theme is sure to be loved by many little girls. It is such a hit in my house that my daughter wants to have another ballerina party.
    Sock Monkey Red Deluxe Party Pack for 8Sock Monkey Party – This simple toy has had a resurgence of popularity in the last couple of years. It appeals to both boys and girls and it is just darn cute! A fun activity for this party is having a create your own sock monkey station set up for your guests.
    Madeline Basic Party Pack for 8Madeline Party – I can just picture all the party guests in blue dresses and yellow hats. March them all in two straight lines right to the birthday cake! I absolutely adore the yellow hat piñata.
    Goldfish 1st Birthday Deluxe Party Pack for 8Goldfish 1st Birthday Party – A first birthday is a very special occasion and I think this party theme is perfect. You guests will just flip over it! (Hey I couldn’t resist making at least one lame joke.)
    I hope that helps inspire you and makes planning your child’s next birthday party a little bit easier. Trust me, when the big box of things arrives on your doorstep, you will be so happy with all the time that you save. Plus save money when you use this link to save 10% on your next Birthday Express order.

  • digital-marketing
    Marketing Your Work At Home Business

    Who To Trust in Internet Marketing

    Having been an online marketer for 8 years now, I’ve fallen for my fair share of “this product is the new greatest thing” emails. When I am introduced at local meetups as an “expert” in my field, people always start asking me if I know X, Y, and Z marketers because they are supposedly the “gurus” of Internet marketing. 9 times out of 10, I have no idea who the people are. And yet I know the people I really trust to teach me about affiliate marketing. People like Shawn Collins and Missy Ward from Affiliate Summit. Scott Jangro from Shareist. And hundreds of others to numerous to even name.

    Why do I trust those people more than I trust all of these others that I keep hearing about and that I see selling products? How can you tell who to trust?

    In working on the Affiliate Marketing Plan launch with Todd Farmer the last few weeks I had to do a lot of soul searching about how to reach the people that want to be reached about affiliate marketing education but not come off like one of those “gurus” that I don’t trust. Here are some of the realizations that I came to:

    It’s okay to sell a product or service and make money from it. That’s why we are all here. Just because someone is selling something doesn’t take away the trust factor.
    But along with that, it’s not all about selling. The people I trust give just as much for free (if not more) than what they sell. It may be in speaking at conferences, writing blog posts, or even just retweeting important information. But they are giving and not always just selling.
    When someone is trustworthy, they don’t have to pay everyone to spread the word about what they are doing. Referrals and affiliate programs are nice, but people talk about true experts just because they believe in what they are doing.
    Trust is built fastest when a personal connection is involved. We all use mass mailings. But how many people take the time to respond to personal emails and tweets or leave comments when you write a blog post? I can’t tell you how many times Shawn has left a comment on one of my blog posts just to continue the conversation. He wasn’t selling or dropping links. He was genuinely responding.
    I will admit that I have become pretty skeptical about people always trying to sell me the next big thing in online marketing. That has caused me to pull back from responding to a lot of offers. At the same time, I want to expand my network and exchange information with people. Because of that, I have to trust others. It’s just a matter of trusting the right people.