.:The Internet Home Business Magazine for Moms & Dads:.


Does Making Good Money Outweigh Quality?


Our company has a pretty set list of the kinds of assignments we absolutely refuse to take. I won’t go into exhaustive detail here; however, for the most part, these are assignments that we feel fall into a morally black area (for example, writing research papers for college students or some of the issues Lorna addressed in her Unethical Employers post). We understand that everybody needs to pay the bills, but producing quality content that makes us proud is a pretty important component of our company’s vision. 

At the same time, not every client and assignment we get is a dream job. Sometimes, we find ourselves writing SEO articles on topics that hold no personal interest for us. I was once asked to write descriptions on what I may safely call the ugliest products I have ever come across. As far as I’m concerned, these kinds of jobs are both fine. They simply address issues of personal taste and preference, which are easily surpassed in pursuit of the almighty dollar. They also still allow us to put forth our best efforts. Even if a 400-word SEO article may not be ground-breaking journalism, I can still present a well-researched, well-written final product. That, in and of itself, is a moment of pride. 

My problem is work that falls into a morally gray area—work that is wedged somewhere between great pay and just plain poor content. Let me give you a little background. The majority of my own work right now is copyediting—which is great, because I’m good at it and I enjoy it. However, my work for one particular client has recently raised some issues. On the one hand, the pay is pretty good, the client and I have a foundation of trust, and the work is steady. On the other hand, no amount of copyediting on my part will make the products good. Yes, I am putting forth my best effort; the content is fantastic as far as grammar, punctuation, syntax, and clarity go. Unfortunately, this fine layer of polish doesn’t do much to change the fact that the writing isn’t done well and the overall content is lacking in value. These are products I would not use myself and would not recommend to family or friends, should any of us find ourselves in need of them. 

So, where should a freelancer draw the line? Is it okay to work on a project that you don’t support 100 percent? Our company is not yet in a place where we can pick and choose our clients at will. At this point, we rely on every bit of income we can get, and the client is always happy with my work. Do any of those factors make a difference in the grand scheme of things?      

Popularity: 16% [?]

add to sk*rt


Just Clarifying a Little


So, about twelve hours after the previous post was made, I realized that it had my name as the author instead of Tamara’s.  Those who are familiar with the blog may have wondered how my as-yet-to-be-born child stacks pots and pans or plays on the slide.  Be assured, I didn’t suddenly steal a toddler . . . Sorry for any confusion.

Popularity: 12% [?]

add to sk*rt


WAHM Has Cabin Fever


It’s Winter, and My Kid is Driving Me Crazy

I love winter. I love the cozy feeling of looking out my living room window to see fresh snow falling on the ground. I love pulling my daughter through our neighborhood on her little purple sled. I love building snowmen and drinking mass quantities of hot chocolate.

However, this is the first winter I have been a WAHM. While this puts me in the wonderful position to bake lots of fattening goodies and spend some quality time with those I love the best, I’m not feeling a whole lot of holiday cheer these days.

I blame my house. It is a) not new, and b) not large. Problem a) is only a real problem in the winter, when heating is a big joke. In order to keep my house even remotely warm, I have to put those plug-in oil space heaters everywhere. I mean everywhere—we have one in just about every room. While they are great at keeping heating bills low, they are rather ugly and, because they can’t sit right next to walls or other things that could possibly combust, they take up quite a bit of space.

This brings us to the next issue. Problem b) has only very recently arisen. In the summer, when the house started to feel confining, I tossed my daughter outside, pulled up a plastic lawn chair, and settled in with my laptop. Although outside fun is still possible in the winter, it occurs in much shorter bursts and requires my full attention (mostly because I have to keep moving in order to stay thawed). Inside fun is rapidly becoming impossible. What with the Christmas tree, the decorations, and the space heaters, we barely have room to walk, let alone play.

The end result is an active toddler with not enough to do and an irritated mother with too much to do. I get crabby, which makes her crabby, which makes me crabby…you get the idea. It’s mid-December, and I’m about ready to wrap my daughter and give her to my parents for Christmas.

Since I doubt my parents would appreciate that particular gift, I’ve developed some coping strategies to get us from day to day.

Clearly Separate Work and Play Time
This is a new hat I’m trying on. I’m getting up earlier and putting in a few hours before anyone else in the house gets up. I’m finding relatives with time to spare to take my daughter for a few blissful hours. I’m also leaving the house the second my husband gets home from work. If it has an outlet and free wi-fi, I’m there; Starbucks and the library have become my best friends. In exchange, I restrict my hours on the computer and try to give one-on-one time to my daughter when we’re both at home. (Though even this isn’t always true; I often take her places where she can play with other kids and I can read. The mall and bookstores are great for that.)

Bring New Life to Old Toys
Although I haven’t yet resorted to wrapping old toys that she hasn’t noticed in awhile and letting her open them like they’re Christmas presents, I’m getting close. Until I get to that point, I’m trying to make her neglected toys new and interesting the old fashioned way. For example, we have a little plastic slide that used to grace our front yard. To make it fun for winter, I brought it inside and put it some pretty odd places. Sometimes it’s on the couch. Other times, it’s precariously balanced off the edge of a papasan chair. Still other times, it acts as a bridge between the two aforementioned pieces of furniture. You may be thinking to yourself that these sound like major accidents waiting to happen. You’re probably right. But at this point, I figure even a trip to the emergency room would be a diversion.

Split Screen
This very recently came to me. My daughter is an avid follower of the Little Einsteins series on the Disney Channel. Disney has very cleverly developed a website that has interactive games and videos based on this show (actually, on all of their shows). I can split my computer screen so that she can play her games while I peruse blogs or even do a little writing at the same time. This is not a really efficient system—especially since I don’t have one of those newfangled wide screen monitors—but it’s gotten me through a few rough patches.

Santa’s Little Helper
Although my daughter is too young to threaten with Santa’s Naughty List, she does enjoy being helpful. I will have her run “errands” for me while I type away on the computer. Sometimes she moves socks or stacks pots and pans at my request. At this exact moment, for example, she is moving the presents from under the tree to the couch, helpfully reciting to whom she thinks each present should be presented. (I’m not on her list, by the way. But the dog is.) Once she’s done, I’m going to ask her to put them somewhere else, eventually leading back to the tree.

I’ll let you know how long this game lasts.

Popularity: 16% [?]

add to sk*rt


Thanks to Everyone!!


It’s official.

We ranked in the Top 10 Blogs for Writers - 2007/2008 contest on Writing White Papers.

Top 10 Badge

We can’t tell you what this means to us (and coming from writers, that’s saying a lot). The other 9 blogs up there are fantastic reads from a fantastic community, and it’s an honor to place among them. We are incredibly proud to think that because we take an honest and open approach to this blog, sharing what we know as well as what we don’t, we are making a little bit of a difference in the lives of freelancing parents.

We send equal congratulations to the entire list of winners.

1. Copyblogger, by Brian Clark

2. Freelance Writing Jobs, by Deborah Ng

3. The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Dianna Burell

4. Web Content Writer Tips, by James Chartrand and Harrison McLeod

5. Web Writing Info, by Courtney Ramirez

6. The Golden Pencil, by Anne Wayman

7. Catalystblogger, by Jennifer Williamson

8. Freelance Parent, by Lorna Doone Brewer and Tamara Berry

9. Write from Home, by Amy Derby

10. Copywriter Underground, by Tom Chandler

We expect an exciting couple of months ahead of us. We’re excited to see what we can do to maintain this great momentum.

Thanks to everyone who supports and reads us. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Popularity: 19% [?]

add to sk*rt


Shane and Peter’s Interview


Tamara and I just love the Shane and Peter blog, so when they posted some introspective interview questions, we totally wanted to get involved. Basically, they’re asking entrepreneurs to answer the following questions, and they’re offering some recognition and maybe even a free book to some of the respondents. That’s cool and all, but Tamara and I just really enjoyed taking the time to answer these questions together at our bi-weekly meeting. It was neat to see how many answers we had in common. Ah, I love my business partner!

What’s your personal mission statement?
L – To leave the world a better place than it was when I got here.
T – To behave honorably to everyone I meet, both professionally and personally.

What’s the biggest mess you’ve dealt with this year?
L & T – (We’re still dealing with it.) The working relationship with our previous employer was difficult even before it ended. We’re still trying to pick up the pieces (and a few paychecks) and move on.

What current entrepreneurial efforts consume your time?
L & T – Learning what we need to do to be successful. In fact, sometimes we impede our own progress by wanting to learn everything first, rather than just jumping in and doing what needs to be done.

Why do you do what you do? What inspires you? When do you get the most excited?
a) We are huge fans of balance, and working for ourselves seems like the most logical way to have control over the balance in our own lives.
b) After a quick consultation, we both came up with the same answer: We’re inspired by the success of others.
c) While it’s not the most noble answer, we’re going to be honest and say that we get the most excited when our work or ideas are validated by others.

Boxers, Briefs, Bikini, or Thong?
L – On the opposite sex, I prefer boxer-briefs. For myself, it has to be bikini or “boy shorts.” No thongs for this lady, pregnant or not!
T – Depends on what I’m wearing or the state of my laundry.

What do you do when you’re not designing/programming/managing/writing/toiling for the wo/man?
L – Reading blogs, watching t.v., reading childbirth books, hanging out with my husband and my mom.
T – Reading books and playing with my daughter.

What one thing made the biggest difference when getting started?
L & T – Having a partner was the biggest motivator for us both. Being unemployed didn’t hurt, either.

What’s your exit strategy?
L & T – In our business plan we determined that our exit strategy was for the business to become self-sustainable so that we could either walk away or sell it and have it continue to support those working for the company.

What’s the last thing that made you belly laugh?
L & T – Our answer to question #2. Seriously, we laugh a lot when we’re together.

Have you ever been in business before?
L – Oh, yeah. I’m the daughter of entrepreneurs. Mom had the first video store in a small town in the late ‘80s, and Dad had the first take-and-bake pizza place. In college I got talked into doing an MLM thing with my boyfriend, and it was a fiasco. We also started a second-hand clothing store for a while. Later on, I sold Tupperware and eventually tried freelance writing on my own. This is, by far, the best entrepreneurial experience I’ve had.
T – Unless you count selling my textbooks on Half.com, no.

At what point do you consider yourself successful?
T & L – We will be successful when we can work the amount of time that we want to work.

What was your first experience with a computer?
L – Game-wise, it was playing “Pong” on Coleco. Otherwise, it was taking a basic computer class in high school on the Apple IIe.
T – Playing the original “Hugo’s House of Horrors” on my dad’s enormous green-screen laptop.

Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates in a Jello wresting match – where’s your money?
L – I’ve heard that Bill Gates has a giant indoor trampoline to help him deal with his autistic tendencies, so he’s probably got the moves to take Steve down. (I said I’d “heard” it, not that I “believed” it.)
T – The Jello.

Where do you do your best thinking?
L – I do most of my best thinking in front of the computer. That might be cheating, though, as I’m pretty much always in front of the computer.
T – The car.

What does your average daily work/life balance look like? How much time do you you work/play/sleep?
L – I sleep a lot. I probably go to bed around midnight and get up around 9:30. My work and play time is sort of intermingled throughout the day, so it’s hard to separate. If I’m reading blogs about writing, for example, that is both work and entertainment. The same applies for researching projects.
T – Each day is different depending on my mood, my daughter’s mood, my husband’s mood, what needs to be done, and how tired I am. I am working on setting up a schedule, though.

If I could introduce you to anyone, who would it be?
L & T – We want you to introduce us to someone who will consistently add $2,000 worth of income to our business each month. (You asked!)

What stops you from giving up when you’re frustrated?
L – An intense dislike of failure.
T – Lorna.

If Chuck Norris and Steven Hawking had a baby (hey, it’s my damn interview), would you vote for her for president?
L & T – With Steven’s soothing voice and the fact that Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water and make it drink, there’s no doubting that their daughter would be presidential material.

Our additional question (everyone’s supposed to add one question that they’d like to ask other entrepreneurs):
How scared are you . . . Really.

Popularity: 28% [?]

add to sk*rt


Have a Business Meeting (Even if It’s with Yourself)


Lorna and I have recently implemented a company-wide policy to have business meetings every other Friday. To date, we’ve had two (our next one is coming up tomorrow). It’s been one of our best moves as a company so far.

Not only do these meetings give us a chance to talk face-to-face, but they provide us with professional and personal steam to keep things going at an efficient pace. And while you may be sitting at home reading this, thinking to yourself, “well, there’s only one of me, so this is kind of a silly post,” I ask you to hear me out. I think having a dedicated time just for catching up on the whens, wheres, and hows of your business is a great way to stay on top of things and keep your motivation strong.

Location, Location, Location

We make it a point to meet somewhere low-key but business-friendly. Most of the time, we end up at one of our city’s local bakeries or cafés. Not only does this give us a chance to stake a claim for several hours without antagonizing anyone and hook up our laptops to free wi-fi, but there’s coffee and big pink cookies, to boot.

Getting away from the house is important for this. Because so much of our time is spent in the same stale computer chairs with household activities buzzing about in the background, a change of venue is a great way to clear our minds and really focus on the task at hand. Plus, my daughter stays at home. There’s a ten-fold increase in productivity right there.

Review the Past Two Weeks

Because we decided on bi-monthly meetings, we have given ourselves just the right amount of time to implement new changes and revisit old ones. Meetings every week seemed a bit much, and meetings once a month were not enough. Goldilocks suggested every other week, and it was just right.

The first thing we do is look at our progress over the last two weeks. This holds us accountable for our actions (to each other and to ourselves), and ensures that nothing is left hanging and neglected. Lorna always takes good notes and then emails them to me, so we both have a record of the meeting. The following list of topics we cover is just as relevant for a one-person business as it is for a two-person one:

  • What were last meeting’s goals?
  • Did we meet all of them? Why or why not?
  • What new clients did we get?
  • What was completed and turned in?
  • Did all payments go through?
  • Are there any follow-up emails that need to be sent out?
  • What successes did we have? Failures?

Get Ready for the Next Two Weeks

Most of the time, we already know in advance what jobs and/or tasks we have coming up. We both compile makeshift lists that let the other person know how we will be spending our time. This is important in a partnership because we both want to pull our fair share of the workload. It’s also important for an individual freelancer because you will be better able to stick to a schedule and keep track of your time. Consider the following questions:

  • What projects are we working on right now?
  • Do we have enough to keep us busy? Too much?
  • How much of our time will be spent writing? Marketing? Querying? Developing a website? Leaving comments in the blogosphere?
  • What long-term projects really need our attention right now?

Set New Goals

As a (fairly) new business, we are still in the developmental stages of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work for us. What was a great idea a few months ago when we were getting started (finding our jobs through Guru.com) is no longer practical or in our long-term vision (finding our jobs through effective marketing). And while transitioning from Guru to intensive marketing is obviously a job to be spread out over several months, it’s good for us to sit down, say it, commit it to paper, and come up with a plan to make it happen.

There are a number of things you can do to make sure your goals are still relevant and feasible. Giving them a check-up every two weeks is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do so. Here’s what you can do:

  • Put all your original goals in a business plan. (Make sure your goals have specific timelines. Saying you want to have 20 clients is great, but saying you want to have 20 clients by February is even better.)
  • Whenever you are nearing one of the end dates of your goals, make sure you are still on track to get there. Make adjustments, as needed.
  • Check the relevance of old goals. Don’t be afraid to toss out a goal if you find that your hopes and dreams or financial situation no longer warrant it.
  • Make new goals with strict timelines to fit with your overall vision.
  • Come up with a plan of action to actually make that goal a reality.

Catch up with a Friend

Obviously, this will be hard for individual freelancers (unless, of course, you’re really good company). But Lorna and I were friends before we were business partners, and we really do just enjoy hanging out from time to time. Although we try to keep the meetings under two hours, it’s not unheard of for us to spend at least half that time talking about Lorna’s pregnancy, my daughter, the current blog gossip, interesting reads, or the fact that we forgot to feed the meter and now I have a parking ticket. (Is that tax deductible? Does anyone know?)

Even if you don’t have a business partner to make the “meeting” end on a high note, you should still try to make it a positive experience. Congratulate yourself on staying on top of things and celebrate. Have another pink cookie.

Popularity: 22% [?]

add to sk*rt