How We’re Supporting Our Family with a Handmade Business on Etsy {And a Weekend Giveaway!}

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Guest post by Melissa Kaiserman

In the spring of 2013, my husband was in his seventh year of a position that had gone from dream job to highly toxic work environment. The stress was getting worse by the week and affecting both him and our family. Despite his best attempts to just focus on doing his job well and not let it get to him, it reached a point where he really believed he was supposed to quit.

While my husband is (thankfully!) not a big spender, he is definitely the Free Spirit while I am the Nerd. I’m the one who knows the budget inside and out, divvies up the cash into spending categories, and pays the bills. So I was trying my best to be supportive and not panic as I analyzed how the finances for our family would be impacted since I was a SAHM with just a little side business that I was doing mostly for fun.

At this point in our marriage, we had been completely out of debt (except for our mortgage) for about five years, which was a major factor that allowed us to even entertain such a drastic change. So for the next few months, we saved the profit from my handmade business as well as our tax return and anything extra from paychecks. After we had accumulated about 3-4 months worth of living expenses, Dave resigned from his job.

He immediately started looking for another position in his field. While he was going through the process of applying and interviewing, he mentioned that I may as well teach him some ways he could help with my business since he was home and had time. So I did, though neither of us had any idea how vital this would turn out to be!

A few weeks after my husband left his job, I received an Etsy convo from a credit union many states away that resulted in an $1800 order! There is no way I could have fulfilled that request without my husband home.

From that point forward, we clearly saw God blessing my business and my shop continuing to grow. But while Dave had made it to the final interview round for three different jobs for which he was highly qualified, he wasn’t offered any of them.

After some initial discouragement, it hit us: Maybe God is closing doors because He wants us to do this together! We had assumed my husband would continue in his field and I would continue to be a SAHM who operated a side business that simply provided extra for Christmas gifts and vacations. Having a family business and working from home seemed like too big and lofty a dream.

For the past 2 1/2 years, we have supported our family of six with a handmade business which, despite the warnings of the pundits, has sold products exclusively on the Etsy platform. My husband gets to work in his field from time to time and keep his skills sharp, and while that only accounts for a small percentage of our yearly income, the opportunities always come at just the right time.

People often express amazement at our story and wonder how we are able to make it work. While there’s no magic formula–and while as Christians we believe the main reason for our success is that we’re doing what God has called us to do–I believe there are three very practical areas that contribute:

1. We are out of debt.

My husband quitting his job was a step of faith, and we couldn’t have taken it with confidence if we had been under the burden of debt. If you have a dream of one day quitting your day job to work from home doing something you love, I strongly encourage you to get “gazelle intense” about eliminating debt!

We have also stayed completely out of debt with our business. In the very beginning, I used cash to pay for a limited amount of supplies until I created some profit and could purchase more, increasing inventory as I went. We’ve never used and don’t even own a business credit card–only debit.

2. We work as a team.

While I am the one who manages pretty much every aspect of the business, my husband does not view any job I need him to do as beneath him. He doesn’t perform any of the sewing, but he completes so many of the intermediary and finishing tasks that I find tedious, freeing me to focus on the areas where I thrive.

The same teamwork principle applies to our home. In addition to being an excellent handyman, Dave washes all of the laundry (and passes it along to our four who fold!), does virtually all of the transporting of children as well as many errands, and is quick to jump on anything he sees that needs to be done around the house.

3. We live frugally and on a budget.

If we didn’t tell our money where to go, our money could easily tell us this won’t work and that my husband needs to return to a traditional job. The truth is, we love our life and want to do this for as long as possible. So for us, it is worth it to make sacrifices and forgo doing and having some things in order for that to happen. It wouldn’t be possible without choosing to be content and having a spending plan.

When I made my first cash envelope system wallet for myself over four years ago, I discovered that ditching the paper envelopes and having a pretty and durable way to organize our cash made living on a budget seem a lot more enjoyable.

MSM collage May15

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Certificate to Our Store!

I would love for you to experience that same feeling I experienced, so I’m giving away five $50 gift certificates to be used on any of our envelope system products and accessories.

Also, through May 9, MoneySavingMom.com readers can receive free shipping on any purchase. Just click “Apply shop coupon code” at checkout and enter MSMMAY15. (Free shipping applies to domestic orders only, but international customers may leave a note at checkout requesting a refund equal to the shipping amount a U.S. customer would save on that order.)

Giveaway ends Saturday, May 9, at 11:59 pm, CST.

Enter the Giveaway

Melissa Kaiserman is a wife, mom, and handmade business owner who designs cash envelope system wallets & accessories that put the beauty in budgeting. She also blogs at A Time for Everything and uses her experience and passion to support and mentor fellow makers at Makery Space.

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MySurvey.com: Earn money taking online surveys

MySurvey

MySurvey is a survey company I’ve used and earned money from. You can redeem your points earned for cash or prizes and every 1000 points equals $10. Go here to sign up.

Did you know you can make a nice little side stream of income by taking online surveys? I’ve used some of the sites listed here and it really worked!

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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5 Questions to Ask When You Feel Like Quitting Your Blog (or anything in life)

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Megan emailed in the following:

I read your post about the three most important things to do after you start a blog, and I enjoyed it. I do have a question though that I’ve had for a long time, and was excited to see you were accepting questions! It’s a question I have asked myself every day for the past 6 months: What do you do when you’ve tried everything the experts have said to do, it’s still not working and you don’t have any extra money to invest in any more courses, consultations, or books?

I’ve been blogging for over a year now. I have read your posts on blogging, have read Ruth’s book (How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul), have read other books, have watched the Author’s Summit videos, have read article after article, changed ad placements, guest posted, added better pictures to posts, wrote personal posts, have done TV interviews, have reached out to other bloggers, constantly retweet other bloggers, share content from other bloggers, and have recently re-done my site.

I still struggle to get traffic and “conversions”. I may have 98 views on a coupon deal post, and only 1 coupon print. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I feel like I wasn’t “cut out” to be a blogger…only thing is, I love writing and always have. I’m at my wit’s end. I’ve tried everything I have ever read to do and it just doesn’t work…what am I supposed to do now?

I’m not sure if this is something everyone at some point has struggled with, or not. I just didn’t think I would still be struggling after a year. -Megan

Can I just encourage you, Megan? I think all of us have felt this way at one time or another. Personally, I know that I’ve felt this way multiple times. In fact, I probably feel like quitting every few months.

I well remember my first few years of trying to start a business from home. I would put in hours and hours and hours of work and see very, very little fruit from that effort. Every time it felt like I was starting to gain a little momentum, I’d experience another setback.

It was probably at least two solid years of really pouring, pouring, and pouring myself into this online business and blogging thing before I really started to see true fruit and return on my investment. And then it was another few years before I got to the place where I was earning enough to convince myself it was time to bring on more help so that I could actually have breathing room in my life.

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But I didn’t just feel like quitting in the beginning; I still struggle with feeling like quitting now. Just in the past few months, I had some hard, hard things happen business-wise that were so discouraging there was a two-week stretch where I really, really wanted to quit.

I had invested a lot of money and time into multiple things that felt like they fell flat on their face, I was getting a boatload of critical comments and emails, I was discouraged and tired… and I wondered what I was even thinking doing this blogging thing. Should I just quit altogether? Was it even worth it?

I’m not trying to discourage you, I just want to be honest that sometimes, this owning your own business thing isn’t all its cracked up to be. It’s draining. It requires long hours. It involves a lot of setbacks. And it’s easy to get discouraged.

In those moments when I want to throw in the towel, here are 5 questions I ask myself:

1) What is my “why”?

It’s incredibly important to have a why for doing what you’re doing. It can’t be to make money — though it’s totally wonderful if that’s one of the results. It’s got to be deeper than that, though.

What is the reason you started? What is your heartbeat behind what you’re doing? What’s your motivating force and passion?

Is it to help people save money? To inspire people to get their lives in better order? To bring hope? Is it to brighten someone’s day or help someone have more purpose in their life?

Whatever it is, write that why down and refer to it often. Tell it to your closest friends and have them remind you of it when you are feeling like nothing you are doing is working.

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2) Am I doing what I love?

So often, we think we know what we love. But until we actually dig in and do it for awhile, it’s hard to really know.

I know many bloggers, including myself, thought we were really passionate about a subject or idea. But after months of writing about it over and over again, we lost that passion and spark.

You might love writing, but make sure that the subject you’re writing on and the way you’re writing about it is fueling you instead of completely draining you.

For me, I like to write different kinds of posts on a wide variety of topics. If I always wrote the same kinds of posts and they were all on a very small, niche topic, I’d burn out quickly.

Giving myself permission in recent years to use this blog to write about whatever I’m inspired to write on has breathed new life into my writing. It’s allowed me to exercise new writing muscles, try new writing styles, and refine my writing voice better.

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3) Am I trying to chase someone else’s dream?

This is a hard one, but it’s important. I’ve tried chasing someone else’s dream before and it crashed and burned.

You see, when I had my first blog and was experimenting with monetizing that blog, I met a family who was making good money (something like $1400 per month) just by having ads on their sidebar.

The topic of their site was something I thought I could write on and, since we really needed the money, I spent a lot of time setting up that site and preparing it to launch. I remember calculating in my head all the money I’d be making from it and how it was going to be such a financial blessing to our family.

There was just one problem: the site never gained any momentum at all. Instead, it fell flat on its face. Why? Because I was chasing someone else’s dream.

Make sure that what you’re pursuing is actually your dream, your ideas, and your passions. Don’t run after the latest ideas and suggestions just because they are working well for someone else.

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4) Am I seeing any upward momentum?

This is an important question to ask because it’s easy to overlook the good that’s happening and focus solely on the discouraging things… the lack of traffic, the drop in Facebook Likes, the fact that no one is retweeting our posts.

Are there good things happening, too, though? Maybe you’re seeing a slight increase in click-throughs from Pinterest, or some growth in your Facebook Page followers, or you’ve gotten a comment or two this past month.

Look for those positive things, those increases, those upward trends and make sure that you remind yourself of those when you want to be discouraged about other areas that are standing still or decreasing.

It’s also important to remember that there are ebbs and flows in blogging — and in any business.

Even now, we have months when we bring nothing home because all of the income is invested back into the business or into paying business expenses. When those low income months come or when traffic tanks, it’s easy to start getting nervous or stressed.

I have to remind myself that peaks and valleys are all part of running a business. And this is also why it’s important to have a good emergency fund in place for the business and to set aside the bulk of the extra income during those peak months to help offset the valley months.

In addition, it’s important to remember that traffic and income aren’t the only ways to gauge progress. If I’ve learned and grown individually, if my marriage has been strengthened, if I’ve had the opportunity to encourage and bless someone through my blog, if I’ve chosen to be offline in order to invest in people… if my stats are down because life is in a healthier place, that’s more important.

5) Am I forgetting that success requires sacrifice?

In the last few years, person after person after person has made comments to me like, “Man, it must be so nice to be you!” “It must be so nice to make a full-time income blogging, get invited to speaking gigs, get to travel, have a great team, have a successful blog…”

You fill in the blank, people have probably said it.

And here’s the truth: I’m incredibly grateful and humbled to be where I’m at today. I don’t take it for granted and I know that it is the result of God’s blessing, hard work, and all of you readers who show up here every week and read, comment, buy my books, and tell your friends.

But I want to be frank with you and tell you that this life of running my own successful business, speaking, traveling, having book deals, getting media opportunities, etc. is not always fun and glamorous.

For instance…

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The week I recorded my audiobook, I was stuck in this tiny, drafty room in the basement of a house that had been turned into a recording studio. I was having voice problems and we had to break the recording into three days just to be able to get a good enough recording.

It was grueling work and I would go home beat every single night.

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People often gush to me about how amazing it must be to get to travel all over the country and how cool it is that I get to see all these historic landmarks and interesting places.

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The truth is: I spend most of my time on trips holed up in hotel rooms practicing my talks, getting slides ready, calming my nerves, keeping up with blogging, and missing my family.

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I think people often get the impression that I spend my days with full-on makeup doing cool things like filming in front of bright lights and cameras.

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The truth is: Most of my days look more like this.

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And there are multiple nights per month that are like this where I’m up late after my family goes to bed, no makeup on, hair a mess, yoga pants donned, wearing my neck wrap because my neck aches, pressing through to finish a project for a looming deadline.

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And while it’s fun to get to do gigs where you have a makeup artist on set to help you look your best, you never really get to enjoy it because you’re so nervous about whatever is coming next once the makeup artist is done. :)Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 9.16.58 PM

I share these pictures and this reality because I think it’s good to remember that “success” of whatever kind doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice.

It’s good to become experienced at doing hard things. At pushing forward even when you’re tired. At focusing on the positive even when it feels like there are so many negatives.

This resolve and perseverance is imperative if you want to blog or run your own business or do anything for the long haul.

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So those are 5 questions I encourage you to ask yourself, Megan (and anyone else who feels like they are in a similar boat to Megan.) I also encourage you to ask those closest to you to answer these questions about you. I find that honest assessment from those who know me best is highly information and helpful.

In addition to asking yourself those 5 questions, I’d suggest possibly considering doing one or all of these four things:

  • Take a break — Sometimes, stepping away from the thing that’s draining us can be the best thing to help us clear our heads and have better perspective. Consider taking a few days off from blogging to see if you have any clarity and direction by doing so.
  • Try something different — Try vlogging or blogging less or only posting on topics as you’re inspired or posting fewer deals and more content pieces. Change things up and see if that gives you fresh inspiration — or maybe even increased engagement on your blog.
  • Stop paying attention to the noise and stats — I really encourage you to set boundaries on how often you check your stats. In fact, if they are discouraging you, it might be wise to just completely stop checking them for a period of time. That sounds drastic, but I’ve found it to be a good thing if I’m becoming too focused on stats.
  • Remember what really matters — What’s going to matter most in 25 years from now? Make sure that you are intentionally investing time and energy each day into those things.

What advice, suggestions, and encouragement do the rest of you have for Megan?

P.S. Want some step-by-step help to get started making money blogging? Check out this post where I walk you through how do just that. Have a question on blogging or business that you’d love for me to answer in a post? Leave a comment with your question here.

5 Questions



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Work-At-Home Position Available: WordPress Tech

Work-at-Home Positions Available

Our friends at Blogelina contacted me tonight to let me know what they have some paid work-at-home internship positions available. Here’s what they say about this opportunity:

Here at Blogelina, we’re excited to be adding to our team again!  We’re looking for a couple of motivated, organized, savvy people to work with us in providing top WordPress support and services to our readers and clients.

Our WordPress Tech positions will start on a trial basis at 10 hours/wk. – for 1 month.  At the end of the month, there could be potential to increase your hours if you would like to!  Our internship compensation is $10/hr.

The Tasks We’re Looking For Help With Are:

  • Basic WordPress Setups
  • Blogger To WordPress Transfers
  • Basic WordPress Design Tweaks
  • Offering Amazing Customer Service To Our Clients

Requirements:

  • Some Experience with WordPress.org
  • Familiar with Domains/Hosting
  • Preference Given To Those With Some Experience with html and css coding
  • Preference Given to Those Familiar with Studiopress themes

Think You’d Be A Good Fit?

While we definitely plan on offering some on-the-job training, please be sure to review our requirements above before applying.  Complete the following form and we’ll be in touch with you if you’re a candidate!

The Process

We’ll select the top candidates from the entries we receive.  We’ll let you know you’ve been selected – and we might ask you a few more questions.  Then we have a small challenge for each of the chosen candidates to narrow the results down to our final hires.

Fill out the form here to apply for this job.

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What My Blog Looked Like in 2007 (trust me, it wasn’t pretty!)

In 2004, when I found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I began searching high and low for something — anything! — I could do from home to earn enough money so I could be a stay-at-home mom. That had long been my dream and I was so determined to do so.

After many different tries and mistakes, I finally landed upon this thing called blogging. I started a few blogs in the next two years — learning a lot as I went! Because there was so much interest in me writing about saving money on groceries, I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007.

I didn’t have money to invest in blog design, so I started with what I could afford and set up myself: a free blog on Blogger.com with a white background. I didn’t know how to design a header, so I just had plain text at the top that said “Money Saving Mom”.

After a few months, I had been making some money off of affiliate advertising and sidebar ads — enough to invest a little money in sprucing up the blog. So I hired someone to design a header for the blog for $25.

And here’s what it looked like…

What My Blog Looked Like in 2007

Yes, it wasn’t pretty. At all.

But that “ugly” blog that cost me almost nothing to start grew and grew until I finally had to move to Typepad and then to WordPress.

I had no idea that that little blog would be such a catalyst for so many things — meeting so many amazing bloggers and readers, making a full-time income from blogging, having speaking opportunities, getting book deals, the opportunity to give generously, the ability to move to Nashville and work with my husband in business, the opportunity to provide jobs for people on my team…

I don’t share this with you to gloat; I share this with you to encourage you.

Don’t let the lack of money to pay for a very professional website or expensive office hold you back. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you from beginning somewhere. Don’t wait until you have everything figured out to jump in and start working on your dreams and ideas.

Just start… even if it’s not as nice and professional as you’d like it to be.

Experiment… even when you fail and make mistakes.

Jump out of your comfort zone… even if not everyone thinks your idea will work.

Some day, you might look back and shake your head at how little you knew, how much you’ve learned, and how far you’ve come… but you never would get to witness all that progress if you don’t take the first step.

P.S. If you’re thinking of starting a blog, be sure to read my comprehensive post on How to Start a Blog & Make Money Blogging.

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