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Stella & Dot Entrepreneurship for women [Read more...]

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How Busy Moms Use Skype to be More Productive

“All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join the economy.” – Don Tapscott… My life has changed so dramatically in the past couple of years. The switch from a fast-paced job in retail management, to the even faster-paced life of a work-at-home mom has brought a lot of unique challenges. While the unpredictable nature of the work I do makes it tough to create a daily schedule, I do my best to keep up with consistent routines. I build in time for snacks, naps, housekeeping, and of course – working. And, with all of the awesome technology that exists, I’m able to work almost anywhere that my busy day takes me…

work from home mom

“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” - Jane Sellman

I usually get up with the sun – I start my day around 6am, grab a BIG cup of coffee, and head out to the patio with my laptop to start working. I check emails for anything urgent, then get out my planner to see what I have scheduled for the day. I try to do as much of my serious working as I can in the morning before the kids are up – things like phone calls, articles to write, or Skype chats with potential partners. Abby’s afternoon naps are kind of sporadic, so I can’t count on nap time to be a quiet time. And it can get awkward trying to have a phone call with a brand rep while you have a toddler screaming for another cookie in the background. {I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, right? Ah, the joys of motherhood.} Once the kiddos get up, I take a break to get them all dressed, fed, and set up with an activity – like a cartoon, puzzles, or coloring. I love that I finally splurged on a new laptop – so that as we move into summer afternoons, I can work on the patio while I keep an eye on the kids in the pool, or pack it up to take with me when we head to the park. Between blogging, freelance writing, campaign projects, and my social media addiction – I’m connected pretty much 24/7 by either computer or my iPhone. Crazy, I know.

Productivity Tools for Busy Moms

Since I’m online so much, most of the tools that I use each day to help me stay on track are techy-type solutions – I love, love, LOVE using Google Calendar to manage my family’s schedules. I use Mint.com to help me track my spending and keep good records. I couldn’t live without all of the amazing apps on my iPhone. And, when it comes to keeping in touch with business contacts – Skype is a lifesaver for me! We use Skype to connect with our extended family that live far away – {Abby loves to chat with her Papa} – and I just love the ability to get time face-to-face with people, instead of just speaking over the phone. I’m definitely a people person, so using Skype is a perfect solution for me. And when you’ve got a group of people who need to run a project together, there is just nothing better than getting them all together on a Skype group chat to bounce ideas off of each other. Crazy how productive those can get. So – if you’re ready to give Skype a try, here are a few tips for a successful chat:

  • Connection: Obviously you need access to the internet to use Skype – but you also need to make sure you’ve got a connection that’s high speed enough that you’re chat can be smooth and seamless. A slow connection can make your call really choppy and frustrating.
  • Location: You want to set up your computer in a quiet location, without a lot of background noise. If possible, find a room with good natural light – maybe near a window. Try to have a “clean” background without a ton of clutter, so that it’s not distracting the attention away from what you have to say.
  • Appearance: Ok – I Skype in my pajamas with no make-up all the time when talking to my family or friends. But if it’s business time – even with my blogging buddies – I bump it up a notch. The camera can kind of wash you out, so make sure to add a little blush and lip gloss. Some eyeliner and mascara will help your eyes stand out better on the screen too. Find a top in a solid color or small print, and a couple of great accessories. Not only will you look better on the Skype screen – but you’ll feel more confident too.

Once you think you’ve got these all down – practice! If you’re planning your first Skype chat as an interview or business connection, I totally recommend trying it out a couple of times with friends first, to make sure your volume settings are good, the lighting looks great, and your equipment all works fine. Don’t worry – a couple of times using Skype, and you’ll be a pro!

how to use skype

It’s time to say more and stay human.  It’s time for Skype.

{Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Skype via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Skype. Photo credit by Anastassia.}

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Blogging What You Love: Finding Your Niche

“All blogs have one faithful reader at least – Google bot.” – Funny Side of Life ~ Why do you blog? The motivations behind the blogs you read are just as diverse as the bloggers who write them; some blog as a way to build a reputation as an expert in their field, some as a creative outlet, some to earn an income, and most are a combination of many reasons. There is no right or wrong, but it’s important to figure out WHY you blog, so that you can have a purpose, goals, and plans for growth.

women bloggers

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” – Brian Clark {Photo credit}

If you’re a blogger who’s only motivation is to write for fun, and you’re not at all concerned with making money, building an online reputation, or growing your audience, then this post isn’t relevant to you. But if you DO blog as more than a part-time hobby, these tips might be helpful in guiding you towards a more productive plan for blogging successfully. I mean, we all spend waaaaay too many hours blogging, right? So if we’re going to put so much of our time into this – time that could be spent with our kids, our spouses, or drinking margaritas with our girlfriends – then we better make sure that that time is getting us closer to our goals.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself 

Whether you’re still in the planning stages, have a new blog, or have been blogging for a long time – it never hurts to take a little time and evaluate yourself. Ask yourself these questions to help determine where you might fit into this big ol’ blogosphere…

  1. Is your primary goal to earn an income? If so, do you plan on earning money directly, or indirectly? Direct income would be using an ad network, or selling ads to sponsors individually. Indirect would be using your blog as a platform to brand yourself as an expert on a topic, to get into public speaking, or sell an ebook or online course.
  2. What are you excited about? You need to choose a topic that’s wide enough that you can keep finding new things to talk about – week after week, year after year. Not sure yet? Ask yourself – what do you spend most of your money on? What do you find yourself always talking to your friends about? What do people come to you for advice about? These answers can help you figure out what you’d do well with – something where your passion for the topic will shine through when you write about it!
  3. Do some online research. Search Google Trends - pick a couple of keywords or phrases from the niche you’re considering writing about and see if they’re growing, or trending downward. Search out other blogs writing on your topics – what are they missing? Can you add a different point of view, layer of expertise, sense of humor, or something else unique….?

Even if you’re already blogging, these steps can really help you focus your writing more effectively. I know that there’s a lot of discussion on whether having a niche matters – and it’s true, there are successful bloggers who don’t really fit into one category. But even those big blogs with a ton of variety usually have an overlying theme – The Pioneer Woman shares favorite recipes, homeschooling tips, remodeling and DIY ideas, photography tips – and so much more. But – they all come from a perspective of a “City Girl” turned “Country Gal”. When you read her recipes, you know you’re getting Cowboy Cooking, not a review of the latest frozen pizza brand.

Why Having a Niche Can Lead to a More Successful Blog

It’s important to build a brand for yourself, so people know what you represent, what they’ll find on your site – or they’ll easily forget all about you. Here are a few more reasons why having a niche – whether very targeted or more broadly focused, can help you.

  1. Credibility: People will begin to see you as an expert on your topic. Think about it – who do you trust more when it comes to beauty products; Walmart, or Sephora? Easy answer, right? That’s because Sephora focuses really well on one category, does it well, and is amazingly knowledgeable about all things pretty. You want to be that go-to voice online in your niche too!
  2. Loyalty: Let’s use the above example again – who do you think has more loyal customers, Walmart or Sephora? A blog that has no real focus, or a super-duper broad theme like “Life as a mom, with reviews and giveaways!” is ok – but if you blog about, “Finding humor in parenting catastrophes!” then people know they can get a laugh each time they visit your site. If you blog about, “Life as a eco-momma – sharing our tips to living a greener lifestyle” – again, people will identify closer with you, and you’ll attract more loyal readers who are looking for those lifestyle tips too.
  3. Brand Ambassadorships: It’s not just readers that will appreciate your focus, brands will too. If you’re a cloth diaper company, you want to have your products featured by a blogger who is known as an expert in cloth diapers, right? If Wilton has a new cake decorating line, they’d most likely want it reviewed on a site that regularly shares beautiful desserts. So – having a more focused niche can lead to some great brand partnerships.
  4. It’s not just about the topic: Maybe you do want to blog about anything, and everything. That can work too sometimes – but what CAN you do to set yourself apart? Can you be known for your stunning photography and design skills like Dear Crissy? I mean, that girl could do a post on Hot Pockets and you just KNOW she’d find a way to make them look like beautiful artwork. Or maybe you can build a reputation due to your inappropriate & super funny take on life like The Bloggess? If SHE wrote about Hot Pockets, she’d find a way to have me laughing out loud like crazy at my desk, spitting out coffee on my computer screen and scaring the dog.

Your niche can be about more than just the topic you write about – it’s about who you are, and what your blog is known for. There are so, so, SO many blogs out there. I never consider other bloggers competition – I think that there is room for everyone. When a new book is released, you don’t consider that competition for every other book in the bookstore, right? But if your goal is to grow your site, earn an income, build partnerships, and increase your traffic – you do need to make sure that you have something that makes your blog different, and able to be noticed in a giant sea of other blogs out there.

What do YOU think?

Do you think having a niche is important? Do you have one? – My blog started out as more of a frugal-type blog. Then I realized that really wasn’t what I wanted to be about… There were a million people out there who knew WAY more about coupons and strategic shopping than I did. So what WAS my blog about? After a lot of thought and research, I realized that what’s important to me is finding “Smart Solutions” – those clever tips, products, and services that make you say, “Whey didn’t I think of that??!!” And I knew that I wanted to write to moms – especially moms like me, who are trying to balance their job earning an income as an entrepreneur with their job of being a mother and homemaker. So, I decided that my site is about Smart Solutions for Busy Moms. That guides everything I do – I review products with a focus on how they can solve challenges in a busy mom’s life. I share awesome apps that can help you save time. And I do my best to offer content that will educate and entertain other busy moms like myself. It has made a dramatic difference in the quality of my blog, the partnerships that I’ve made, and makes me more excited to write each day.

So tell me – what are your thoughts on having a niche?

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$500 in Free Gifts to Power-Up Your Business: Today Only!!

She Takes on the World

A Guide to Being Your Own Boss, Working Happy, and Living on Purpose

Ok – this isn’t a book review. This awesome book just launched today – and I ordered it on Amazon first thing this morning. I was going to wait to share it with you guys until I’d read it, but there is a freakin’ SWEET bonus offer for today only – So I wanted to give you the chance to get in on this too. It is ROCKIN’!

$500 in Free Bonus Business-Building Gifts TODAY only:

Here are the gifts you’ll receive when you buy the book today, March 27th, all of which complement a chapter in the book:

  • Onward! Life Coaching Audios with Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart.com
  • The Ultimate Toolkit for the Evolutionary Entrepreneur ebook by Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur
  • Access to Allison Maslan’s Interactive Life Coach software to create gorgeous vision boards and complements the Master Action Plan (MAP)™ you’ll create throughout the book
  • “Next Actions” Meditation with Julia Aspinwall
  • How to Be Happy: No Fairy Dust or Moonbeams Required ebook by Cara Stein of 17,000 Days
  • The Girl’s Guide to Web Design Mini Course by Amanda Aitken
  • “Move it, $hake it, Make it” is an incredible course you’ll get with Stephanie Pollock which is all about money, pricing + declaring your VALUE
  • The Confidence Manifesto by Ishita Gupta of Fear.less Magazine
  • “Don’t Budget, Bucket” Money Talk audio with Kiva Leatherman of Wise Women Network
  • Coupon for Craving Success by Melody Biringer, the Founder of The CRAVE Company, one of the largest networks for women entrepreneurs
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  • The Complete Guide to Vision Boards by Christine Kane, President of Uplevel You™
  • “151 Ways to Attract Clients” checklist from Fabienne Fredrickson of ClientAttraction.com, listed on the 2011 Inc. 5000 for the fastest growing companies in America

This collection of resources, materials, and tools is worth over $500 bucks, so it’s ONLY available to people who purchase today. It’s her way of celebrating the launch of her new book. Very cool, right?

Are You ready to take on the world?

To get your package of free bonus gifts to power-up your business and your life, simply buy a copy of the book on March 27th and email your purchase receipt to ronketi@shetakesontheworld.com so they can send them to you!

Buy it Now!! She Takes on the World - Available on Amazon.com

To get this amazing bunch of freebies, you have to buy the hardcover copy – but when you get to Amazon, it will tell you that it’s temporarily out of stock – but that’s ok! It’s just because there was such crazy demand for it today. Order it anyway, and it’ll ship to you asap when it’s in stock. AND, then just send that order confirmation to the email above, and you’ll still be able to lock in your access to the huge bunch of free business-building materials! Rockin! And don’t forget to head over to her Facebook page too – Lots of great info there.

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