An Evening with Alison!

Alison from BeingMeSo today is the first day in a series of interviews with fellow bloggers. Why? Because I’m a new mommy, first and foremost, and asking other mommies questions is PART OF WHAT I DO TO SURVIVE. And because this blog is my outlet and my way of sharing lessons with the world, I post them here so others can learn from them, too. And because I’m a new mommy-blogger, too, and can use all of the bloggy-friends I can get!

So Alison over at Being Me (a great freebies site) agreed to do an interview with me. She is a blogger, a mom to two little boys, a breastfeeder, a momma who tries her best to be crunchy, a cloth diapering momma, and a very neat person. And I got the chance to ask her some questions about her life, her loves, her challenges, and what she would tell a person like me – a new momma – to help me get through it all.

In a later email, she did mention something about getting sleep now – but the all night kicks from fluffy had be so sleep deprived, I forgot what it was.

So, without further adieu, here is my interview with Alison!

So Alison, how did you get started in blogging?

Well I myself was getting freebies and samples and all of that good stuff from other blogs. And I thought hey why not share all of these with other people. So that is how I got started blogging. Plus it made me feel good, that I was helping other people, like it gave me an identity other than just being a mom, since that’s pretty much all I did all day long.

You’re a mom to 2 boys – that must be crazy sometimes! Tell us one of your favorite adventures with your boys.

Oh boy is it crazy! It was amazing when we went up to the Lake George area right before Christmas and stayed at the Great Escape Lodge (I think that is what it was.) It was just so nice, mainly because they have an indoor water park. Landon would just sleep on me in his sling, I would read a book in the nice 76 degree weather (I live in NY so it was COLD) and Hunter and Daddy had a great time playing in the water. It was just nice and calming time.

I can also tell you a crazy time! We lost power for 3 days at the end of February. It is not fun trying to keep everyone warm, especially a baby that was only 5 months. He couldn’t do anything to even keep himself warm. I hope we never live through that again horrible! I did a short little blog post about it which you can find here. http://beingme-alison.blogspot.com/2010/03/storm-that-knocked-out-our-power.html

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a work at home mommy?

Really just finding the time to be able to blog, and really write things. If I’m rushing to post up a freebie or some other great deal, I don’t get to write a lot of what I want to do. But I want to share it with my readers so they can get in on the deal. Plus getting housework done as well. I feel like I’m being pulled into a million different directions most days.

How did you overcome those challenges? Are there any you still struggle with?

I struggle with housework the most I think. But I’m slowly getting into being more consistent with it, I hope. Some days I slack but those are the days that the kids are grumpy and they need extra mommy time. Other times I’m just on the computer too much, so I just need to turn off the monitor sometimes and read some books with the kids or become Hunter’s jungle gym while Landon laughs at us. It’s just putting things in perspective and doing the more important things first. Other things can wait.

You told me that you’ve been breastfeeding for 3 years now. Is there anything you wish you had known before you started? Share some of your breastfeeding tips!

That they wouldn’t take my son away. Haha when I first brought Hunter home almost 3 years ago (His birthday is May 2nd) I was struggling with nursing. Chaotic time. So I started pumping and giving him my milk in a bottle. I was so afraid they were going to take him away from me because he wasn’t gaining weight. (I was only 21 at the time.. so let’s chalk it up to that haha.) But than finally the day before his 1 or 2 month appt, I forget which, I said to heck with it and he was getting it straight from tap. And he took right to it, I’ve since learned I was lucky. The next day the pedi told me to supplement him so we knew how much he was getting because he wasn’t gaining alot. But yet he was getting alot from me pumping, so I knew that was just crazy talk. I didn’t listen to her. Turns out he’s a very slow slow slow gainer. He’s always been around 5% for weight. It’s just him.

The La Leche League forums (http://www.llli.org/) helped me a ton the first year of nursing as a new mom. Just being able to talk with other nursing moms, and get hints and tips helped a whole lot. Probably why I got to over 2 years with Hunter.

Landon nursed like a champ right from his first few minutes of being more. And gained like a horse. He’s already almost 20 lbs at 7 months. You have to remember that all babies are different, and they all gain differently.

Nursing can sometimes be a whole lot of hardwork. But it is so rewarding. I love being able to nurse my sons, and Hunter has really never been sick. I attribute it to nursing. (And now I lost my train of thought since I had to stop for 30 mins and deal with a baby that woke up. )

Did you do tandem breastfeeding with your boys? Do you have any tips to share?

I wasn’t opposed to it. But I got really bothered when I was pregnant with Landon while nursing Hunter. It just… felt weird and it hurt. So I had to stop because of that. Hunter did want to try nursing after Landon was born. So I let him try. It was like he was kissing my nipple. He forgot in 4-5 months that he was doing for 2 years. It’s amazing how quickly they lose the talent of nursing.

You also mentioned that you’ve been cloth diapering your boys for almost 3 years. Is it more or less challenging to diaper two babies at once? Any tips to share?

I must confess, I don’t use CD with my oldest anymore. His diapers after being 2 years old were not working anymore. The velcro on the BGs were just not sticking and it wasn’t worth it anymore. I’m hoping to potty train him this summer so I couldn’t convince my husband to buy some more CDs for him. (Now these were version 2.0 for the BG’s they have since came out with 3.0’s which Landon is using and the velcro seems so much better.)

But it was challenging when they were both in CD’s, I had to do 2 seperate loads for their CDs since Hunter’s were in horrible condition. And having a newborn and a toddler it’s hard to do all of that laundry all of the time, I was having laundry overload.

What is your favorite cloth diaper so far?

I do love BumGenius diapers. They are the closest for me that compare to a regular disposable diaper. Which was also nice for my husband.

Would you ever use one-size cloth diapers? What about cloth wipes?

I do use one-size! They are just wonderful. Use it through infancy all the way up till there potty trained I love it. And cloth wipes! Totally use them. More with Hunter so far, not with Landon. I’m using Hunter’s old burp clothes for the wipes, and they just don’t seem to wipe off baby poop. So I’ve been using regular wipes until Landon starts eating some solids and his poop changes.

What was your biggest cloth diapering challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Not going crazy with buying cloth diapers. You become addicted to them! I’ve really only used a few Fuzzi Buns, BG’s and prefolds. Though I would have loved to have tried out some wool covers and a whole bunch of other things. But with how much they are, and I don’t know if I would like them/ they would work with my children, I just haven’t strayed too much. I’m sure my husband is thankful for that.

If you could give any advice to a mommy who wants to work from home, or run her own business, what would it be?

Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. If you can put something aside and do it later, do that. Don’t forget to cuddle with your children and spend a ton of time with them. Use time when they are sleeping effectively!

And just for fun, 3 fun facts about yourself. Name the first things that pop into your head!

Your favorite ice cream : Strawberry
The best product you’ve gotten to review : Well I had this already and than gotten a new version of it to review and do a giveaway with.. it was my Couponizer. LOVE IT!
Your favorite blog post : My favorite post would have to be from my other blog. Adventures of Being Me. Which is more of my mommy blog. It’s called My Dyson, My Love.

————-

Thanks so much for your fabulous answers, Alison. I actually learned a fair bit from them… Especially about cloth diapering and breastfeeding. I love hearing about other mommies experiences, because it will help me shape my own!

If you’d like to visit Alison on her own turf, check out her freebies blog Being Me – or her personal blog (which is just the cutest design, by the way!) Alison Adventure.

I know I’ll be following your blogs now, hunnie – you’ve been an awesome interviewee! Thanks again for answering all my crazy new momma questions!

Review – No Cry Sleep Solution

So, I did get finished reading this book over the last week (yay!) so as promised, I’ve reviewed it for everyone to see.

Now, I could have waited to read this book until I actually *need* to – you know, when baby is crying constantly, wakingup every half hour to be nursed, and hubbster and I are 5 minutes from divorce. I could have read it then – but I thought it would be best to read it now, even if I forget most of it, because it will be faster to read when that moment does come.

At least, that is what I thought *before* I picked up the book. Now I realize, I’m very glad I picked up the book ahead of time. Because Elizabeth Pantley (the author) included some valuable tips that are good to know NOW – not later.

Like the suckling to sleep reflex, for example. Did you know that whatever baby is doing when they fall asleep, they’ll start thinking that they can ONLY fall asleep if they’re doing that particular thing? Like nursing, using a pacifier, drinking a bottle, being rocked in mommy’s arms, etc.

Which means that when they wake up in the middle of the night, they may end up crying out to be nursed/rocked/whatever – not because they need it, not because they’re hungry, but because they don’t think they can fall asleep otherwise?

So lesson #1 I got from this book – don’t let those habits START. Don’t nurse baby to sleep. Nurse baby to sleep-y, then put her down and let her fall asleep on her own. Then, when she wakes up in the night, she’ll only get my attention if she actually is lonely or needs to eat, not just because she doesn’t know what else to do.

There were lots of other things in there for newborns, like keeping the daytime sleep environment and the nighttime sleep environment different, so baby doesn’t think they’re just having a nap, etc.

Apparently, there are lots of things you can do BEFORE you start “sleep training” that will help baby fall asleep on her own faster and easier, well past the 4 month mark.

And of course, the book is absolutely full of tips for what to do when the under-4-month techniques didn’t work. What to do when your 6 month old wakes up every hour for nursing/rocking/crying/whatever, and how to get them back to sleep without EITHER of you crying.

There are even tips on how to break the “suckling-to-sleep” cycle (where baby needs a paci, boob or bottle to fall back asleep) if it does end up happening.

One of my favorite things… Is that she understands parents can’t be perfect. She KNOWS that sometimes baby is going to fall asleep in your arms, and that is OK. Enjoy the moment, she says. Just remember that next time it is time for baby to sleep or nap, it is back to the usual routine. Basically, just don’t do it all the time.

So, my overall advice? BUY THIS BOOK. Newly pregnant, new mommy, mom of a baby – buy this book. Read it cover to cover, try it out, and then read it again.

She also has put out “The No Cry Nap Solution” and “The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers” – for mommas who might be interested. I haven’t read those yet, since I’m nowhere near toddler stage – but I will some day.

Does anyone here have a great book they found about sleep for babies? Share with us!

Pregnancy, and friends…

There is something on my chest, dear people, that I need to let go. I need to blog about it, because this blog is – first and foremost – my outlet. Second, it is a way to help others by sharing things I’ve learned – but primarily, it is my outlet. And today, I need to let it out.

Hubbster and I – since we got together, we’ve never really had a big circle of friends. He had a bunch of friends in his previous relationship that his ex stole, I had a  bunch of friends in my previous relationship that my ex stole – we both ended up together, but alone, with a whole bunch of people we used to hang out with hating us for no reason. It sucked.

And since we got together, we’ve had a few friends, but very few that stuck around. Hey, we hardly even talk to our maid of honor and best man anymore, and we haven’t even hit our one year anniversary yet.

We do have a couple of friends, but something one of them said the other day hit me kind of hard – and hubby is tired of hearing about it, so I’m going to cry about it to you.

What happened…

We were all going to go camping for May long weekend. It’s tradition, we ALWAYS go camping for May long weekend, even in the rain or snow or hurricane-earthquake-forestfire-monster-outbreak. WE GO. It usually isn’t our first camping trip (although this year it will be…) but it is a nice beginning to the summer season.

And this year, we were going to go with our friends – J (the guy who I think really should have been in our wedding party, I *heart* his fuzzy butt) and K (my preggo buddy, who found out she was knocked up 7 weeks behind me with her 2nd babe!). J&K just so happen to be dating and expecting their first little one together.

Now, hubbster and I don’t go to camp grounds. We HATE campgrounds. The throngs of people, the huge stupid price tag on a slab of gravel, the “quiet time” enforced by stupid park rangers, the fire bans, the fact that even tenters have to pay for running water when really, what am I going to freaking hook it up to?

Yeah, we hate campgrounds.

We honestly believe that if you’re going to go to a campground, you might as well just put up a tent in your backyard – it will be quieter and cheaper, but you’ll still have the amenities.

ANYway – hubbster’s cousin also happens to do surveying for logging and things, and happens to know all of the beauty spots to go camping. And he was going to give us access to a gated spot with porta potties (YAY!) which I thought would be perfect for my slightly less bush-man-like friends who prefer NOT to poop in a hole you dug in the ground. They like their poop holes man made.

So I bring it up to K – and she starts talking about booking 4 camp sites. I was like “huh? I thought we were just going to go up Bench or something, like we always do”

And what do I get told?

They’re going with “4 other families” – so they want facilities and parks and things.

AKA since we’re not a family, we don’t understand.

AKA we’re not a family *sob*

Now, I know my fetus is still contained internally – but that just isn’t fair! To hold it over our heads that we waited until we were married and in a stable relationship, and planned our children, so we’re a little behind you in the number of kids we have. Your babies were surprises – we never even had the chance for a surprise. We needed fertility drugs, thanks.

So because my ovaries are junkie POS wrecks instead of fertile ground, we “aren’t a family” – and we can’t go camping with them. We budget for our camping every year, and to be honest, there isn’t $100 extra in that budget for 3 nights at the outdoor equivalent to a roach motel.

And who is to say when fetus is born, that we’ll magically change our minds about campgrounds anyway? What is wrong with kids being out in the wilderness, AWAY from things like playgrounds and stuff? You just come equipped – it isn’t hard. Hubbster did it with his ex-step kids for YEARS, and the kids loved it. So what does our not being a family have to do with us hating campgrounds, anyway?

I’m just upset about the whole thing, because I can’t see where we fit in anymore… We have some friends that we don’t see that often. Some of them already have kids in gradeschool, and never leave the house with the kiddos.

Some have babies and leave the house all the time – but we’re not equal to them. We don’t “understand” what its like to have a family to watch out for, and all that responsibility. (Did I mention we’re the only ones married with a savings account and a planned pregnancy? Oh yeah… We’re so irresponsible.)

Some don’t have babies and are still living the single life, so of course they want nothing to do with us old boring married people, because they know that soon, our lives will be too consumed by baby to go bar hopping.

So where do we fit in?

Do I just randomly go running around the mall, asking every pregnant woman I see if this is her first baby? If she’s married but renting, with a planned pregnancy?

Do I put terms and conditions on my friendship, with qualifiers to make sure that I’m “good enough” to be that person’s friend?

I don’t want to. I like my friends, but all they can seem to tell me is how life is going to suck after this baby is born, and how different we’re going to see things because “we’re not a family yet”.

Well I’m sorry, but I don’t see it that way. Life is NOT going to suck once Fluffy is born. How do I know that? Because we tried so long and so hard for this baby, our hearts ached so bad with every appearance of “the witch”, that even during the worst moment – my low point, exhausted beyond all belief, unable to console a crying baby, breaking down into tears – I’ll still be grateful that I’m crying with my little girl, instead of crying over another negative pregnancy test.

Maybe that’s the difference. Maybe it isn’t that we don’t understand *them* – that’s not the problem. Maybe they don’t understand *us* – because we chose a different path than they did.

They went through surprise pregnancies. Some of them, before they knew we were trying, complained to us all the time about their kids and told us to wait YEARS before having babies, because it sucked. Maybe they just can’t understand that we are a family, because this little girl is already our baby – internal or external. We’ve gone through so much to make her a part of our lives, and we couldn’t imagine living without her now. This is our family, the three of us plus cat & dog.

And it’s never going to suck.

And I’m still never, ever setting foot in a campground… Because that, I don’t think I’ll ever understand. No matter how big or how small our family gets.

What's Coming Up…

So, partially to keep you all informed, and partially to write everything down and keep my sanity, I’m going to write down some of the events coming up in the next month that myself and CrunchyBusiness is involved in!

So here it goes :

  • First, the ComfyRumps launch sale started yesterday, and ends at midnight Pacific on April 28th. Use the coupon code TWITTER2010 for 10% off!
  • The CrunchyBusiness Interview Series will be kicking off this Friday, and running for at least a week. If you’d like to be interviewed, let me know!
  • Early May, I’ll be doing a giveaway for Lovable Labels!
  • I’ve become a sponsor of The Month of Fluff, giving diapers away to @mrstrophywife1 ‘s readers!
  • I’ll be reviewing Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No Cry Sleep Solution” on Thursday, since I did actually finish reading it on time!
  • I’m seeking to trade guest posts on the blog for mid-May on your experiences with cloth diapering. I’ll return the favor with a guest-blog post for your blog on any topic your readers might like (I can give ideas.) Contact me if you’re up for doing a guest post swap!

That’s all for now! If you have a product you’d like me to review or give away, you’d like to be interviewed, or you’d like to trade blog posts, get in touch with me either via Twitter @crunchybusiness or by clicking here!

Do you run a business? Have a blog? Let's talk!

I’m going to be doing something very special over the next month or so, that could really help a lot of WAHMies – so listen up close!

If you run your own business, and you have a blog, I have a very special proposition for you. It DOESN’T involve giving your product away, or allowing guest posts, or giving away advertising space. It DOES involve getting you more sales of your product, more blog readers, more subscribers, and doing less work than even a regular blog post requires!

You see, I’m a mommy blogger – yes. But I’m actually a mommy to be. I’m pregnant with my first child, and really in a lot of regards, I have NO idea what I’m doing. I have a lot of questions about the different products that many WAHM’s have to offer, like slings/wraps, cloth diapers, nursing covers – pretty much anything a WAHM could sell that relates to babies.

In my writing and internet marketing career, and on my writing blog, I’ve done this several times. So I thought to myself, this would be a FANTASTIC way to help some awesome work at home mommies get more sales, more subscribers, more followers, and build their businesses – while helping to launch my blog!

Here is the deal. Send an email to momma AT crunchybusiness.com (or message me on Twitter!) and tell me a little bit about your product, and your blog. Make sure to include a link to both your blog AND your products, so I can see!

Then, I’ll pick one or two (or even three, if I get lots of responses!) of each type of product, and I’ll send you some of my questions. Some of them will be basic, like “Where can I buy this?” and “Does it come in pink?” – other questions will be a little bit more detailed things about running your home business, so that even my readers that don’t buy your product can get something out of the interview.

Here is the best part though.

Once you answer all of my questions, I’ll write up a blog post dedicated to YOUR product and YOUR blog. I’ll post it right here, on my blog. And all you have to do is mention that I interviewed you on your blog, and link to the interview.

Now you may be wondering, “How does this benefit me? Your blog is pretty new, it doesn’t have that many followers…”

While I am seeing an increase in traffic each day, you’re right – the blog is pretty new. However – if we can get 5, 10, even 15 different people’s interviews posted here – every one of THOSE blogs will be sending traffic here as well. And THEY will be seeing YOUR interview! There is the very real potential for thousands of blog readers – people who normally wouldn’t see you or your products – to see the interview with you, and be introduced to you and your blog!

Some may buy your products, some may subscribe to your blog, and some – well some people may not pay any attention at all. But the more people we can get participating and giving interviews, the more people will see YOUR interview!

Which is why I’m offering a little bonus. If you give me an interview about your product and your home business, and you send me a friend – either a work at home mom, or a fellow blogger – who ALSO agrees to do an interview, I’ll give you a 125×125 ad FREE for one month. All you have to do is get them to email me, and mention your name in the email!

There is limited ad space available, so make sure to get your friends referred ASAP!

** Just to clarify, you can only get one month of free advertising space – not one month per friend you refer. Sorry for the confusion!

Who is your mommy, and what does she do…

So, since this blog is intended to be about raising a family while running a business (I had thought of an alternate name, “The Pregnant Entrepreneur”, but changed my mind… I’m not going to be pregnant forever, after all!) I figured it was about time to talk a little bit about what I do, and why I LOVE being a WAHMie.

About 5 years ago, I was working as a sales rep at a cell phone store. I loved my job… The people, the work (I’m a bit of a geek), the 5 minute commute, the awesome pay – it was great. And the free company cell phone didn’t hurt, either. Then, one day I went out to visit the sister, and got in a car accident. A BAD car accident. Some guy hit the front driver’s side of my car (brand new 2007 Ford Fusion, I’d owned for 2 months…) at about 90 KM/hr (highway speed for my American friends – and no, I wasn’t on the highway…)

I was about 2 feet from getting completely t-boned in that accident. That car saved my life, but sadly, couldn’t save its own. It was a complete write off. And so was my pelvis.

After months of rehab, it was becoming obvious that a) my company disability benefits weren’t going to ever pay me a dime and b) I wasn’t going to be able to spend 8 hours on my feet at work any time soon. So I started looking at options.

I’d been dabbling in internet marketing for a couple of years, and had made a few dollars, but never really a living at it. I decided if I was ever going to do anything with all of the knowledge I’d gained, that was the time. It was do or die at that point.

Now, ever since I was a kid, I had dreamed of being a writer. I had even been published once (a poem) when I was in the 4th grade. Sure it wasn’t a great poem, but I was a 4th grader, it was half-decent writing for my age, and it had the cute factor. It was my dream, even while taking English courses in University I wanted to be a writer. And this was my one big chance.

So I sat down on the computer, and put up a post on my favorite internet marketing forum (The Warrior Forum) offering my writing services on the cheap. I needed to build up a portfolio, and I figured a few jobs at a discount price would help me do that while breaking into the market.

That first month, I made $300 from my writing in 10 days – and I never looked back.

Sure, it wasn’t much… Not enough to live on, thats for sure. But it proved to me that I COULD do it – that I could sell my writing talents and make a living from home, and that was enough for me.

Fast forward to today.

I’m sitting here, writing this blog while looking at my to-do list of other writing tasks for the day… Fitness Challenge post on JustMommies PCOS board (where I volunteer as a co-host)? Next on my list. Update my work blog? After that. 2-3 posts on other internet marketing forums to keep my name out there and bring in more new clients? After the work blog.

And maybe an article or two on copywriting (sales letters, catalogs, brochures, websites, etc.) for some healthy link-juice for my work blog, too.

And in between all of this, I get to sit here in my most comfortable chair, in my office (which is actually just our basement with a couple of computers and a sweet-azz corner desk), and take breaks whenever I feel like it.

Don’t get me wrong – working from home takes a LOT of discipline. And not having any real maternity leave to speak of? That sucks. But I want to work on that.

And then it hit me. I know a LOT about running a home business. And I’m about to learn a LOT more about running one with babies in tow. And of course, I know a lot of mommas who would love to stay at home with their kids, but can’t afford to quit their jobs.

I love babies. I love kids. And I love mommas. I want to help other mommies do what I do – stay at home, and enjoy more time with their families. After all, what good is more money when you’re sacrificing time with the ones that you love?

So here is my question to you… After spending 5 years running a successful home based business, I’ve learned a lot. A lot about how to drive traffic, how to choose your products wisely, and how to turn it into a real income without sacrificing ALL of your time.

So – what do YOU want to know? What can I do to help you work at home, spend more time with your family, and build up an income? Whether that is just enough to buy extra groceries and cloth diapers, or enough to replace your old income AND your husband’s so you can all stay at home.

What parts of my knowledge will be helpful to you? What parts of my experience can help you build that lifestyle?

Tell me, readers – how can I help you?

Camping With Babies??

Camping is something that the hubbster and I LOVE to do. We’ve gone camping since we first got together. We got engaged while we were camping. We even planned on having our wedding at OUR camp site (until they shut that site down.) We love it.

And it is absolutely beautiful where we go camping. Tall evergreens, the river just literally a stone’s throw away, sun shining – it doesn’t get better.

And this weekend, we may be going camping. Yay!

Now, camping while pregnant? No big deal. I mean, when it gets closer to my due date, we won’t be camping out of cell phone reception that is for sure – but the morning sickness is gone, and getting away from it all would be a GOOD thing, not a bad thing.

But the problem is, it has me thinking about next years camping trips. And camping with Fluffy on the OUTSIDE of my uterus.

Now if you have an RV, you may be thinking “What’s the problem?” Well, in a nut-shell, we sleep in a two man tent, our kitchen is a screen house with a folding table and Coleman stove, and we do our “business” somewhere behind a tree. And that has me thinking that maybe, our style of camping…

… IS NOT EXTERNAL FETUS-FRIENDLY

Just sayin’.

Sure, the back seat of the truck makes a perfect change table. And the Graco pack n’ play would make an awesome change table/sleeper/baby jail. But it won’t fit in our tent. And it gets COLD outside at night, especially when you’re in a tent.

The only solution I can think of is to give in, and buy a tent trailer with next year’s tax refund (we always get a big one, so we have fun figuring out what to spend it on each year… Guess what we spent it on this year? LOL)

Nothing too fancy, just something with indoor space big enough to put baby to sleep OFF the ground.

What do you think? What would you do if you wanted to go camping with your baby, but didn’t have an RV? Buy one? Or just get a bigger tent?

9 Steps to Starting an Online Business – for WAHMs

Like the title says – so, you want to be a work at home mom? Want to spend more time with the fetus(es) and less time commuting to and from that boring office? Or maybe you’re already a stay at home mom, but need more cash to make it work?

It IS possible to be a work at home mom. Despite what your family might say, what your friends might tell you, despite EVERYONE – it is possible.

The chances of it happening with a home party business… Well, unless you treat it like a real business and invest serious money, the chances aren’t good.

But there ARE other options that moms like you and I can pursue.

Take my profession, for example. I’m a freelance writer. I write business marketing materials all day long, and I enjoy it. I get paid darn well when there is work coming in, too. Unfortunately, the down side to the freelance life is that it is largely feast or famine – you either have a lot of money coming in, or none at all.

You could try your hand at making something crafty, and selling it on Etsy. Or surf garage sales and sell your finds on eBay. Train dogs. Plan events. Make jewelry, tutor people/kids, be a virtual assistant, or even just get a work at home job (although those are harder to come  by these days than a good business idea.)

The best part about most of these business ideas, especially the online ones?

You can start them for oh, I don’t know – about $20. That’s less than most home party kits, and it gets you all set up. Sure, there will be a *bit* more work involved than just opening a box – but your friends and family will be a LOT less annoyed than if you opened up your home party business, and started phoning them all asking to host parties at their houses and sell stuff to all of their friends.

But because I’m all about honesty, I’m going to give you the 100% truth here. These are the steps that you NEED to follow to start up a successful online business – whether that is selling crafts, being a virtual assistant, being a writer like me, or even just starting your own blog and watching it grow.

Step 1 : Find your passion. Not just something you’re interested in, find your PASSION. The thing that gets you so fired up during conversations, it is hard to get you to stop talking. The one subject no one will bring up around you anymore for THAT EXACT REASON. Passionate about cloth diapering? Find someone who drop-ships them (I’ll talk about drop-shippers another time), and start selling them online. Passionate about breastfeeding? Learn everything you can, and become a lactation consultant. Find your true passion, something that you can be 100% absorbed in for 24 hours each day and STILL enjoy, and you’ll find your business.

Step 2 : Figure out how to make that profitable. This isn’t always easy… When you’ve been doing a job for a living for so many years, thinking of selling something to someone – anyone – is kind of scary. You don’t want to seem pushy and rude, and you’ll probably under-price all of your stuff to begin with because you’re afraid that what you’re selling isn’t worth the price. Give up all of those notions right this minute. You need to if you’re going to survive your first year in business.

Step 3 : Setup your office. This can be a laptop on the kitchen table, like many WAHMies I know, or a full room as a dedicated office, like mine. No, it doesn’t have to be a kid-free zone (like any of us have THOSE anymore…) but it should be neat and clean, and a good place to store stuff that you might need to access later – WITHOUT sticky fingers running off with it.

Step 4 : Find a web host. What kind of web host? Well, probably not the cheapest one (I hate to tell you.) And DON’T go with one that offers a free domain name (that is your URL – “www.YourSite.com”) – because if you ever change to another web host in the future, you’re going to lose your domain name. They’ll keep it, even though it is yours. Trust me on this one, I learned it the hard way back when I was first getting started… I’ll write another whole article on this soon, though. So watch for it.

Step 5 : Setup a PayPal account. This is a MUST! Why? Because it lets you take payments from all of your customers, and lets you pay for your hosting account! People don’t send checks in the mail anymore to order things. You HAVE to be able to take credit cards, at the very least. And PayPal is the absolute cheapest way to do that (well, it is the cheapest up front – their ongoing fees are higher, but I’m assuming you don’t have $1000 for a real merchant account right now. Or that if you do, you’d rather spend it on your fetus(es) like me.)

Step 6 : Order your web hosting. Pick the package that will let you host at least two websites (because you’ll probably need at least one more eventually, and switching can be a pain sometimes…) but NOT the biggest package. Those are for people with super-huge amounts of visitors – something you have none of yet. Pick the middle of the road package, and subscribe to it.

Step 7 : This is where it gets tricky… You can start up a WordPress blog (which is easy to install, just check out the instructions…) or you can learn some HTML and design it yourself. Either way, *hopefully* you’ll have a web host that is willing to help you – even if it is for a few bucks. WordPress is probably the easiest option if you’ve got no web experience (and I mean making websites, not surfing them…) plus it is easier to edit later. I know how to build websites from scratch, and I still use wordpress for everything. Because it is just easier. Plus the search engines like WordPress sites more, they’re easier to customize, there are tutorials and plugins EVERYWHERE to make it do what you want… It’s crazy how much you can do with WordPress. (I’ll do another post later about the best plugins to have!)

Step 8 : Add all of your products or services to your website, or start blogging (if that is what you’re doing.) This part should be easy, since you figured out earlier what you’re going to sell. Then add PayPal to your website so people can pay you, and your site is done!

Step 9 : Now you work on getting traffic. Which, unfortunately, I’m going to make a completely separate blog post. There is just WAY too much about getting traffic to your website to share here at the end of this post. Some basic tips for getting traffic? Figure out where your customers are – whether that is on mommy blogs (giveaways aren’t just fun because you win stuff, the people giving things away make lots of cash off of those!), reading online magazines or newsletters, or on certain websites. Find where your customers hang out, and get a link to your website in front of them!

Now obviously, that is wildly simplified. There is more to it in some places than I had room to tell you about here. But why don’t you tell me what your most burning questions about running a home business are, and I’ll answer them in another blog post next week! I promise!

Doing what you love makes a difference…

There is a common thread among internet marketers today. Trying to balance doing what you love with doing what will make you the most cash.

Sure, if you really wanted to, you could write a product in a niche that you have no interest in. For example, even if you’re allergic to dogs and you’ve never owned one – you might even hate dogs – you could take notice of the fact that the dog training niche is a growing market, and create a product for that niche.

But you run into a problem.

First, procrastination hits… You write out all your wonderful plans about what you’re going to do, how you’re going to market your product, what it will be about. And then you stall. And you wait. And nothing ever gets done, because you move on to the next big thing that will make you a million dollars.

But what if you were to sit down one day, and just figure out what you’re really passionate about?

Is it really dog training? Or internet marketing? Or whatever niche you’re into right now?

Or are you passionate about gardening. Or golf. Or cooking. When you’re talking to a friend, what topic gets your heart racing? What really fires you up? What can you talk for literally hours on end about?

You’d be amazed what would happen if you decided to start working in that niche. Let’s say for a minute that you’re passionate about cooking.

Start a cooking blog. Just a simple one, nothing fancy. You can probably get the whole thing done in a day.

Then just start writing posts. Save some as drafts, and publish others right away. Add recipes. Add questions to engage your future readers. Take pictures of your dinner tonight. And start commenting on other cooking blogs.

Soon, you’ll start getting comments. And you’ll start getting traffic. And within a few months, maybe you can create your own recipe book – containing the best recipes submitted by users, or even your own recipes. Sell it as an ebook, and watch the sales start pouring in.

Why does that work?

Because people like passion. They like content. They eat it up when someone clearly loves to write or talk about a subject that THEY are interested in, too. And they’re willing to pay their hard earned money to hear what you have to say.

So try that today. Instead of thinking of niches that can make you a boatload of cash, even if you’re not that interested… Think of a niche that you LOVE. Even if it isn’t that big, or doesn’t look that lucrative. And start a blog. Build a following.

You’ll be amazed what will happen next.

Tell me, readers – what is YOUR passion?

– Cherilyn Woodhouse

Ignore your competition.

This is an interesting topic for inspiration today… What would it be like if, for one day, you completely ignored your competition and just focused on your own marketing?

What would you do?

Would you change your advertising methods? Change where you advertise? Completely rewrite your sales copy? Change your target market?

Or would you leave everything exactly as it is?

Personally, for my own copywriting services, I largely ignore my competition. Because no one IS my direct competition. I am not a commodity that can be farmed out and sold at discount, wholesale rates. I consider other copywriters to be my colleagues, not my competitors. Sure, I can learn things from them, but I don’t try to compete with them because we offer two different things – them, and me.

But what do you do when all you offer is a commodity? When widget X is sold by you, and 50,000 other retailers worldwide? What do you risk by ignoring your competition?

Well, nothing really. The real question you SHOULD be asking is what are you risking by paying too much attention to your competition?

When you watch what your competitors are doing every single day, you run the serious risk of running a reactive business instead of an instinctual one. You run the risk of losing your identity as a business, losing your edge, and losing what made you unique in the first place – and replacing it with “but we really are better than business X!”

What if, the next time your widget goes on sale at store X, you completely ignore it? What is the worst thing that could happen? If you’re already so far gone that you have completely lost your identity beyond “lowest price” type shoppers, then yes – you may see sales drop for a little while until the sale is over. But they won’t disappear. And you can get back to focusing on what makes YOUR business unique, what would make people want to buy from YOU – no matter what the price is.

Besides, if you really think about it, I doubt your customers are watching your competition as closely as you are, anyway…

Just some food for thought.