Decisions, decisions…

So, while I’m revamping the blog (and I have major ideas in my head that I want to get out here and share!) I would like to redesign the entire look and feel. Make it a bit more bright and cheery around here!

But alas, I suck at finding good WordPress designs for personal blogs. Need a corporate design for your Fortune 500 company? I’ve got a theme that’ll knock your socks off. Building an online store with WP-ecommerce? 1000+ solutions up my sleeve.

My own personal blog? Pfft… Yeah, I can find great themes for this site! NOT

So you, dear readers, need to give me a helping hand here.

I’m going to be doing a review over the next couple of days on some really awesome diaper covers, and as part of that, I’m doing a giveaway.

Instead of making you jump through Twitter hoops and doing a random giveaway, I’m going to make this FUN.

Retweet the post, and link to a neat wordpress theme in the comments. Whichever design I end up using is the winner!

(If I don’t use a design, I’ll draw someone at random!)

Spread the word – I want as many neat themes as I can!

Review and giveaway to follow tomorrow… Oh, and weigh in Wednesday – well, first that got depressing, and I want to do it again this week, but now my sister is moving on the 1st. ALL DAY. And I mean 8:30am to 6PM or later. And with an almost-4-month-old baby girl, it will be darn near impossible to check email let alone weigh myself and write a blog post.

I do, however, have my runners magazine calendar coming, my subscription started, and a whole bunch of other stuff to inspire me – so I guess I had better get going on those post baby weight goals! I’ve started shedding a few more pounds, but… Well, the skin is getting kind of flabby because I’m not strengthening the muscles while I’m losing weight – so that’s gotta change!

Anyway, as I said – review and giveaway tomorrow, so watch this space!

An important lesson was learned today…

… by screwing something up. Royally.

You see, in all of my infinite wisdom as a freelance writer, I had done a lot of things for my husband in his business – all trying to help, of course. But it started to cross a line where I was doing communications on his behalf, and it bit me in the butt big time – and screwed him over a bit.

I suddenly realized, in that moment, that in doing all of this work *for* him, I was violating the number 1 purpose of being a mom – to slowly phase yourself out of “doing for”, by teaching them to “do for themselves”.

So I started teaching instead of doing, and as a result, I’ve witnessed a major breakthrough right in front of my eyes. My hubby is a new person. Instead of turning to me the minute he doesn’t know something, he tries to figure it out himself – and 99% of the time, he succeeds. As a result, he is more confident in his abilities, and is more excited about everything he does. It is like night and day.

I also realized how much I had set aside to make sure that my work got done… Everything from housework, to – yes, this blog. But I think I’ve also discovered another reason I don’t blog as much as I did before. And I think it’s the content…

I originally wanted to blog all about being a work at home mom. I wanted to blog about bouncing baby on my knee while writing proposals, nursing baby on conference calls, and all-in-all, attempting to be the elusive supermom. But then I looked at what I was trying to do, and it just isn’t conducive to who I want to be.

I don’t want to be bouncing baby on my knee to keep her occupied while I work, I want to do it so I can watch her smile. I don’t want to nurse baby and ignore her on the phone, I want to enjoy every minute of this precious time – because it really doesn’t last forever.

I don’t know where my business is headed next. For now, I’m only taking on a limited number of projects – those that really speak to me. And I’m spacing them far apart enough that I still get my baby time, and can fit my projects into nap time. No more sacrificing her childhood for my career – I don’t get that much joy out of it anymore anyway.

What I am doing, though, is overhauling this blog. It needs to be reinvented. Reformatted. Redesigned. I need to make this blog about being a mommy, and share my mommy talents, trials, and tribulations with the world. I need to write about what I’m passionate about – whether that is spit up, diapers, and what Grover did on Sesame Street this week, or crucial issues facing mommies like me every day. I need to write about what I enjoy, what I believe in, and what inspires me – and writing about managing an office space with a playpen in it is not my idea of “inspiring”.

So over the next little while, you’re going to see this blog change. It is going to become that inspired, exciting place all over again. I may even launch a few ebooks for my readers – some free, maybe even some for sale – sharing some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years. That could be anything from a children’s story through to a book on how to launch your own Etsy store – who knows.

The point is, until now this blog has suffered from a lack of inspiration because I wasn’t inspired by the subject matter anymore. But I’m going to change that by being myself, and being a mom.

This isn’t going to be just any mom-blog, this is MY mom blog. And I hope you’ll stick along for the ride!

– Cheryl

My blog is going to be featured!

I’m so excited right now, I just found out that my blog is going to be one of the newest featured blogs at JustMommies.com!

I’ve been a member of the JustMommies forum community since I was first trying to convince hubbster to start trying for our little baby girl, so to be asked to blog for them is a huge honor – after all, I honestly believe that without everything I learned on their site from other TTC gals, PCOS gals, and mommies, I wouldn’t be sitting here almost 33 weeks pregnant with our little bundle!

I know many of my fellow bloggers started out as Bumpies, so to give you some perspective, this is basically like being asked to blog for TheBump.com – except it is a different website! I know how excited many of you would be if TheBump asked to feature your blog on their site!

You should check out some of the other mommy bloggers over at JustMommies, they’re a fantastic bunch to follow!

WordPress 3.0 is Released!

Well, it is time to update your blogs… The much-anticipated WordPress 3.0 has just been released!

I love WordPress with all my heart. I use it to run almost all of my websites, from client sites to my portfolio to of course, this site right here. It is so versatile, customizable, and easy to use – it would be almost impossible for me to run my business so easily without WordPress.

What are some of my favorite new features of WordPress 3.0?

– The new default theme. TwentyTen is pretty! And pretty functional, too. As far as I can tell, it has a customizable header graphic (it comes with 8 of its own, and you can upload more or use their “header” panel to create a new one!) along with being widget ready (those neat things in your sidebar) and other cool features. Not anything to get too excited about, since it is just the default theme – BUT having a new default theme has been a long time coming!

– Post Tags and Updates are easily accessible. Up until now, post tags were added and changed from within a new post. Now? Post tags have their own menu, just like categories. Updates is also available on your dashboard, so if you have multiple plugins that need updates all at once, you can do them AT THE SAME TIME. Talk about time-saving!

– Built-in shortlink generator. You know all of those URLs that you see that contain tinyurl.com, cli.gs, bit.ly, etc. that redirect a short URL to a longer one? Well now WordPress will let you do that yourself, from within a new post!

– Custom menu! Finally, you can add whatever you want to your top menu bar, from an individual category, to post tags, pages, posts, and even (HELLO!) custom links! I love this feature…

– WordPress MU merged with WordPress. This might not mean a lot to you, but it is something I am considering switching to. Essentially, it means you can run an entire network of blogs – from 2 to 2000 – from ONE WordPress installation. Yes, you install it once, login once, and you can manage everything from one single control panel. Sweet, no?

There are plenty more features in WordPress 3.0… You should take a look, and upgrade now! Even the new Dashboard is pretty!

Just make sure to back up your existing installation before you upgrade! If you don’t know how to do this, ask your host or use Google – you can find lots of resources on how to properly back things up. You probably won’t need the backup files, but if something goes wrong, you don’t want to lose ALL of your content when you switch over!

I'm going to be totally MIA this weekend…

… but I have a good reason, I promise.

You see, my computer – as much as I love it – is slow. Not because it’s old (although it is approaching the 4 year mark, which makes it kind of old by computer standards…) but because I’ve had the same Windows XP installation running on it for the WHOLE FOUR YEARS.

If you’re not too geeky like me and you’re wondering what that means, it’s kind of like driving your car for 4 years without changing the oil. Yeah, not good.

I have one of the most complex home office setups of anyone that I know.

It drives some people crazy, because they don’t even know how I manage to use it – but it is for productivity. When you write for a living, and charge by the word, the faster you can write the more you can make. So I spend a lot of time working to improve efficiency in my office.

Right now, for example, I have two monitors (one widescreen and one regular screen) hooked up to my desktop computer, hubbster’s desktop computer an arm’s length away (just in case I need to look up something while this computer is busy), and my laptop. Oh how I love having a laptop, because I can do some of my work on the laptop anywhere I want – AND I can use a handy dandy feature called remote desktop to work out on the patio, but basically be “viewing” my desktop computer THROUGH the laptop. Which means all of my files and programs are accessible.

Totally essential to be able to access your files from your laptop when you have 12 email accounts. Totally.

Last night, I went out and purchased a new wireless-N router because our internet was getting slow. Tomorrow, I’ll be wiping out this Windows XP installation and putting Windows Vista on this computer. Which is why I’ll be MIA. Because the computer will be getting a fresh start!

The next steps after this?

Well, I’d really like another monitor, but I don’t think my desk would fit one as it is now… So I suppose a new desk, THEN a new monitor. 3 total. That isn’t *too* crazy, right?

5 Ways to Get Motivated as a Freelancer

I’m going to admit, sometimes it is very hard to get motivated to work. Especially when you’re pregnant or have kids, and working from home – it only gets tougher.

Take today, for example. I’m writing this blog post from my bed. Why?

Because my back hurts, my head hurts, and I ache all over – and getting out of bed this morning just wasn’t something I felt like doing. Thank heaven for laptops.

So as part of my lack of motivation to get off my butt (although I am technically still working, albeit in relative comfort for my back compared to my old office chair), I thought I would post some ways that I use to get motivated, when work is the last thing I want to do.

1. Remove distractions from the equation. Sure, it would be easy to sit down in front of the TV and do nothing all day. Don’t think I’ve never considered it on a slow work day. But if you remove yourself from the living room, and work at the kitchen table or in a dedicated office, you’ll find that the temptation to sit in front of the TV all day instead of working is almost gone. Because it isn’t directly in front of you anymore!

2. Reward yourself for working, with more work. Hey, it is completely true that as part of any career, there are going to be things you have to do that you don’t enjoy. But there are also things that you have to do that you’ll REALLY enjoy.

For me, for example, that is working on a new whitepaper I’ll be offering to clients when it is done. It is on a topic that I’m really passionate about, and it will help spruce up my marketing a little bit.So today, when I’m done my baby shower guest list, all of my blogging, and a few lessons in a course I’m taking, I’m rewarding myself by working on the free report.

Rewards don’t have to come from outside of work, sometimes just rewarding yourself with a fun work task can do the trick!

3. Don’t forget your health and happiness. I know of thousands of freelancers and business owners (I’d venture to say that all of them do this, in fact) who have, at some point, completely neglected themselves for their business. Whether that means pulling an all nighter instead of spending time with hubby and the kids, forgetting to eat/drink/sleep/relax, or not getting in any “you” time, we all do it. And we need to stop!

If your body hurts, your mind is frozen, your stomach is empty and your work calendar is full – take a 10 minute break. Stretch, grab a bite to eat, and clear your mind for a few. 10 minutes will NOT make or break your deadline, I assure you – but the consequences of NOT taking that 10 minute break could include a missed deadline, shoddy workmanship, complete and total lack of motivation, depression, insomnia, and worse. Take care of yourself!

4. Do something you love, to begin with. I know, like I said above – every career has its [email protected] parts. It does. You can’t love everything about your work, and still call it work. There is a reason we don’t call it “super happy fun-time” anyway.

But if you make what you love the central idea of your career – in my case, it is writing – you won’t lack motivation nearly as often. Sure, it will still happen. It happens to the best of us. But you won’t wake up every morning dreading what you have to do for the day.

Figure out what it is you love to do, and then see if you can make money incorporating that into a career or a business. If you can, you’ve struck gold.

5. Ignore all the advice you read on the internet about getting motivated. Really! Even this post. Because motivation is a completely unique and individual thing. The things I’ve posted here worked great for me, yes. Does that mean they’ll work great for you? Nope – it just means you can give them a try, and find out.

You may need more organization in your day to stay motivated – so keep to a schedule. Or you might need bigger rewards for your work – so start planning a vacation that you have to save up for with the earnings of your business. You may even need a business partner to hold you accountable. Get your spouse involved in your work, and let them make sure you follow through on deadlines.

The bottom line is, motivation is always going to be a problem. Everyone wants to lay around doing nothing sometimes, and that is OK. What you need to remember is that instead of fighting that urge, you should take a 10 minute break and figure out WHY you’re lacking motivation.

Do you not enjoy the task you’re trying to complete? Are there better things to do, and you’re getting distracted? Do you need a nap, a meal, or a drink? There is always a reason why you’re lacking motivation. And once you figure it out, you can solve it – instead of just spinning your wheels, procrastinating, and getting yourself into more trouble.

Tomorrow is #WritersWorthDay!

To all of my fellow writers, moms who wish to write from home, clients and potential clients who hire writers, and the blog reading public – tomorrow is a very important day for this industry.

In the writing and content creation industry, a funny thing has happened. Wages have been frozen for the last 50 years, at about $1/word at the very top end. The bottom end of those wages, however, used to be closer to 10-20 cents/word. Now? It is a penny. ONE PENNY. Sometimes even half a penny, or at worst, 1/10th of a cent. To put that into perspective, that is about $1 per thousand words.

For my non-writing readers, an average well rounded writer, conducting proper research, with good typing skills, can create 750-1000 words/hour, depending on the subject. Sometimes much more, sometimes much less – but usually no more than 2000 words/hour, even if you know the material inside out and type 100 words/minute.

What does that amount to? $2/hour as the minimum wage in the writing industry. TWO DOLLARS. PER HOUR. As in, you work a 10 hour day, you earn $20.

Now, that was fine when these people were hiring some writer named “Dave” from Uzbekistan, and not expecting perfect English. Or original content. Or anything that resembled an article. Because lets face it – in third world countries, $20/day can sometimes make you RICH.

The problem is, that isn’t just expected of “Dave” anymore. Many of these people offering $1 for 500-1000 words are asking for 100% original content, in perfect English, written by native English speaking writers. Meaning first world countries like the US, Canada, Australia, UK, etc. – they won’t even accept writers from Uzbekistan anymore. They want someone from North America or Europe with a Masters in English – for $20/day or less.

That is $7300/year if you work 10 hours/day for the full 365 days.

How many people do you know that make $7300/year with a Master’s degree? Or a highschool diploma? Or a 2nd grade education, for that matter?

Writers, we need to stand up and stop taking this. I know, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that this work is easier to get, you’ll only do it once, you need the cash, etc. etc.

But this work ISN’T easier. Spend 10 hours writing 20 articles, and make $20. GREAT! Now, if you’d spent that entire 10 hours marketing yourself, you’d probably have a project worth at least $100 by now.

Isn’t that a kick in the pants?

Stop taking those lousy $1/article jobs. They aren’t WRITING jobs. Just look at the people they hire – they aren’t writers. When these companies get to hire someone like you, a writer with experience, credentials, and proper, Native English – they feel like they’ve hit the jackpot.

And writers, remember your worth! Figure out the bare minimum per word you’ll accept, and don’t drop below that for anyone. You may feel tempted to accept lower paying gigs when things are slow, but use that as an opportunity to market yourself and get those higher paying gigs instead!

My experience with Demand Studios…

In one of my posts awhile back, I talked about Demand Studios. It is a website that you can apply to join (for free of course) and if you get approved, you can write articles for them for around $10 each.

Terrible pay by most standards for a professional writer, but it looked like a half decent way to fill gaps in my schedule and make some extra cash – instead of just twittering them away, or spending those gaps in Farmville.

And I promised I’d let you all know how it went after I got approved.

Well, lets just say I don’t know how my experience would have gone if I had kept going – but the first 10 minutes were ridiculous, so I gave up.

See, an average freelance writer can write a 500 word article with little research in about 30 minutes. Sometimes you can go faster, but that is a good estimate to use once you get good at writing articles. Newer writers, that same article is already taking you an hour or two, which could bring your hourly wage below the poverty line if you use Demand Studios as it is. ANYway…

I assumed, going in, that I could find articles that are somewhat related to topics I know, write about them for an hour or two during my spare time, and make some quick cash during what would have otherwise been a wasted afternoon.

But one quick look at their article assignments told me I was sorely, sorely mistaken.

They could have been asking for articles on nuclear physics, with the amount of research needed to write on most of these topics. How to change a fan belt on a 1999 volkswagon jetta? Really? (And I’m not exaggerating, there really were article titles like that…)

And not only did most of the article titles in there require research, but they had a list of specific sites you could go to and do the research. If you used an “unapproved” site, you would be banned. And they wanted properly cited, MLA style references (many of you will remember MLA style referencing from highschool and college) with links to verify every. single. fact. in your articles.

So my 30 minute, easy peasy $10 article just turned into at least an hour with research.

Then, reading more reviews of Demand Studios, I learned that “Demand” was a good name for them. Apparently (although I never experienced this myself, since I never submitted any articles…) the editors are unreasonable, at best. On a bad day, they’ll ban you for a typo.

My advice to mommies who want to write from home and make a living? If you like doing research, and don’t mind making less than minimum wage, give Demand Studios a try.

If you really want to make a living at it, you’re probably better off joining a site like eLance.com, where you can bid on writing jobs in your area of expertise (yes, being a mom IS an area of expertise!) and get paid the same day, most times.

At least with those particular projects, you can sometimes find good paying people who will have an ongoing need for writers. If you do a good job for them the first time, chances are they will hire you again and again – and now you have a client who brings you work all the time, for a decent rate of pay.

Writer Momma Out!

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?