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Tag Archive: Becoming a Work-at-home Mom

Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: Working 60 to 70 hours per week is not something I’d recommend

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

While I was trying my hand at blogging and building up our online bookstore, I was also forging relationships with some other family businesses and Christian homeschool companies. One of those relationships happened to be with a family who published a nationwide homeschooling magazine.

They mentioned they were looking for someone to join their team on a very part-time basis helping with some marketing responsibilities. I inquired further and discovered it was something I thought I might be able to do as it just involved researching companies to contact about promotions and cross-promotional opportunities and the contacting them and trying to work out cross-promotions.

I’d had a little bit of experience working with online companies because of my wedding business, online bookstore and blog, so they were willing to bring me on to work about two hours per day for them. It was tedious work, which often resulted in dead ends, but I was learning so much about creating pitches and marketing a product and — best of all! — I was getting paid for my time!

After a few months of working in this very part-time capacity for this homeschooling magazine, I guess they decided I had some potential, because they asked me to stay on in a more permanent position and gave me more responsibilities for heading up some of their larger promotions and brainstorming creative marketing ideas.

Before I knew it, I was officially their Marketing Manager and was also managing an ad sales team. Much of what I was doing, I had little experience in, but I found that I could learn so much just by reading great books on marketing, observing other companies and analyzing what was working for them and then being willing to experiment.

It was so rewarding to see hard work pay off, magazine sales increase, ad sales generated and new ideas blossoming. I was loving just about every minute of what I was doing. There was only one problem: between my responsibilities for the magazine and my own blog and business, I was often working 60 to 70 hours per week, in addition to being a wife, mom and homemaker.

I remember working well into the night — or even all night some nights — just to get everything done. And working so many hours definitely took its toll on me and I look at pictures of myself from that time period and realize how utterly sleep-deprived and exhausted I looked. I certainly wouldn’t recommend those long work hours to anyone else!

The good news was that between the various things I was doing from home and my husband’s part-time income, we were able to stay out of debt, I was able to stay home with our daughter and we actually had a little breathing room in our budget for the very first time since being married.

In addition, my blog and our online business had continued to grow. So when my husband finished his last week of law school, we felt it was time for me to quit working for the homeschool magazine and just focus on our home, family and my own business.

It was a big leap of faith to give up the regular monthly income from the homeschool magazine — especially since Jesse still had to study for the bar and pass the bar before he’d be able to get a full-time job — but we had made it through law school debt-free (by the grace of God!) and we were ready for me to work less and spend more time being a wife and mom.

…to be continued next Saturday

Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: My first feeble attempts at this thing called “blogging”

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

After we shut down the wedding business, I threw my energies into being a mommy to my brand-new baby and continuing to try to find a way to earn enough from home so we could stay out of debt and I could stay home.

I wrote more ebooks, I expanded our online bookstore, I started an eBay store and I worked on building up our customer base and email list. Every day, I tried to come up with a new idea to implement. I wrote as many articles as I could for various online websites in order to get our name our there and garner free advertising (because I couldn’t afford to pay for advertising!). I joined a Yahoo group where WAHMs could connect and exchange small fliers to put in each other’s packages.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I was starting to see a little fruit for my labors. We were having repeat sales and the website was receiving around 150 to 200 visitors per day. Even though I didn’t know what a blog really was, I had heard it was a great way to help build up a website. So I decided to add one to my online bookstore website.

Let me tell you, folks, that first year of posting was pathetic. I still make plenty of mistakes these days, but way back then, it was awful.

Have you ever been to a blog which had paragraphs the size of chapters? Long, run-on, meandering sentences? Was very, very boring? Had poor grammar? My blog had all those and much more. In fact, a few years ago, I deleted almost a year’s worth of posts from that blog just because I couldn’t stand to so much as look at them — let alone read them.

But you know what is so crazy? People started coming to this atrociously-written blog of mine… and they kept coming back! I don’t know if it was out of pity or if it was because they just were bored out of their mind, but — for some odd reason — I started building up a blog readership.

It began with a dozen people (probably all related to me!) and then there were 50 daily readers. And then 100. Within two years, I was averaging 500-1000 visitors per day.

We had some lively discussion on all sorts of hot topics, I stuck my foot in my mouth a lot and I learned that, in the blogging world, you better be prepared to back up every statement you make. I also learned that you can never please everyone and, if you’re going to make bold statements, you need very thick skin.

I look back on those first few years of blogging and regret a lot of things I said: I was too bold, too opinionated and too ostracizing of those who didn’t believe exactly like I believed. At the same time, though, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have my beliefs and writings challenged and picked apart by those who didn’t agree with me. It forced me to really examine why I believe what I believe and whether it was in line with God’s Word. It also helped me to become less critical and judgmental of those who believe or live differently than me.

While I think it is wonderful to have strong convictions and beliefs, I also now think these are only good when they are tempered with a lot of grace and love for others. I can’t possibly criticize someone else for the decisions they are making when I’ve not walked in their shoes or carried their burdens.

In addition to building up the online bookstore and starting a blog, I also landed a job working virtually as the marketing manager for a large homeschooling magazine. How that came to be was a rather interesting set of circumstances, but I’ll have to save that story for next time.

…To be continued next Saturday

Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: More experimentation and failure

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

It’s quite often that I get emails from people who say, “I really want to build up a blog and business like you have.” While I’m honored they would want to be like me, I sincerely don’t wish all my failures and struggles upon them.

Many of you have only found MoneySavingMom.com in the last year or two. And you might see a successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, the fact that I have a team of people working for me or that we paid cash for our house thanks in great part to this blog and the income it provides.

What you don’t see is the thousands of hours of effort, the miserable failures, the huge disappointments and the nights when I only got a few hours of sleep because I was working 60 to 70 hours per week from home to make ends meet, plus being a wife, homemaker and stay-at-home mom.

I’m very grateful to the Lord for how He has blessed the labors of my hands. And I’m humbled beyond belief to think that someone like me — who has no college degree and struggled with math in high school — is helping hundreds of thousands of families around the nation with their finances. That’s God, not me. He can take the weak things of this world and do mighty things through them (1 Cor. 1:27). I know, because I’ve experienced it in powerful ways in my own life.

But before He could do great and mighty things in and through my life, God first had to take me through some very humbling and difficult failures. Last time, I left you when we were groping to come up with any way to make ends meet without going into debt while my husband was in law school.

I remember wracking my brain to come up with anything — anything — I could do to earn money from home. We really felt like my place was to be home with our soon-to-be born child and yet how we were going to pull that off without debt or government assistance* was mind-baffling.

It seemed there was just no way the ends could meet. I felt helpless and incompetent. I’m one of those people who is not skilled in many different areas: I can’t sew or decorate or make beautiful crafts; I’m quite domestically-challenged despite many efforts to reverse those inadequacies!

I’ve always been very interested in marketing, writing and anything related to computers, but I didn’t really know that it would be possible to earn any more than a small amount from any of those things. My attempts to teach creative writing classes fell pretty nearly on their face. I scoured the internet looking for writing opportunities and only came up with a few very small-paying opportunities that someone with my inexperience could qualify for.

In my heart of hearts, I really wanted to start a website of some kind. And after weeks of prayer and research, I hatched an idea to start a website called Covenant Wedding Source which would provide custom-made, modest wedding gowns and accessories. I found a few young women who were exceptional seamstresses and contracted with them to provide the sewing services.

My job was going to be the go-between. I’d market the website, work with the customers and my contractors would provide the custom-made products. I knew that there were very few websites providing modest gowns and I knew, from talking with many brides, that there was a market for gowns which showed less skin but didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

My husband — always the cheerleader — willingly invested $2,000 of our law school savings to start the business (that money paid to have a website designed, buy a computer, a few other needed supplies and a business license). I look back and wonder what got into him to willingly risk what was a huge chunk of money for my wild and crazy idea.

I’d read a bunch of books from the library on starting a business and I was pumped about my great idea. But I quickly learned I was in way over my head. I hadn’t a clue about online marketing and I learned very fast that you can set up a great website, but you need a whole lot more than a great website to get more than you and your mom visiting everyday.

After a few weeks of very little traffic and no sales, I decided I had to become terribly pro-active if you wanted people to notice your site. So I came up with every free advertising idea I could concoct. I joined Yahoo Groups which I thought might have a relevant market and would interact with people and include a link at the bottom of my emails to my website. I wrote articles for any website which would publish my articles and include a link to my website in my bio.

After about six months, we actually had had six different brides who were brave enough to send in their measurements and what they wanted for a gown and have their gowns made by a seamstress across the country. But I learned another lesson: creating custom-made gowns according to a bride’s specifications and measurements requires a massive amount of time and work to pull off — and it’s really hard to do if you are trying to do it inexpensively!

I also was very discouraged to look over the books after six months and realize I’d put in countless hours, but I had not turned a profit at all. This was a problem because we severely needed to see at least a small profit in order to survive. It was a business, not a charity and something had to change.

In the past six months, I had been researching everything I could about online marketing and I’d stumbled upon this Yahoo Group which was all about entrepreneurialism. They had some very interesting ideas — many of which were brand-new to me. The more I read, the more I realized the wisdom in what was shared in this group.

I realized I needed to build an email list, look for multiple streams of income to develop on my site and learn more about affiliate marketing. Little did I know that these very things would someday be some of the backbone pieces for the success of MoneySavingMom.com.

After analyzing what my current market might be interested in and how to leverage that, I started experimenting with my small email list to see what worked. Those first attempts were so pathetic that I look back with great embarrassment. But you know what? I learned so much through those failed experiments. And somehow, my email list readers stuck with me!

While I was excited to be learning new things, I still desperately needed to be making more of an income for all my efforts. However, instead of a windfall of profit, I was about to experience one of the most difficult business lessons ever.

…to be continued next Friday

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*I know that different people have different circumstances and beliefs, but my husband and I have never felt like it was right for us to accept government assistance. We wanted to trust the Lord to be our Provider and also to be forced to be as creative and resourceful as we could. I’m in no way judging those of you who have chosen differently than us, just sharing how God led our family.