Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/26/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Ali Luke shares six ways to make time to write when you’re a parent. I love her idea about writing in blocks. I also structure my day this way.

Josh Hoffman suggests a ‘Networking of Life’ method for getting new freelancing clients. It involves interacting in the community and staying relevant in people’s minds.

Johnathan Stark doubled his income by switching from hourly billing to value-based pricing. Seasoned workers are rewarded in a value-based system while inefficient workers are rewarded with an hourly structure. I currently have a mix of hourly and value based clients.

Marketing

The value of side projects cannot be underestimated. Lauren Holliday talks about 11 ways you can generate income for your business by providing solutions for your customers.

If your content isn’t working, check out this article by Mike Templeman to find out why. You may not be saying anything new or people may not be able to find your content. If you find the source of the problem, you can fix it.

Parenting

Miriam Mason Martineau shares a heartfelt post about why you have to let go of your ego to parent. Some suggestions include focusing on presence and self-awareness and trusting yourself.

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Daytime Potty Training Using the Oh Crap! Method

Because I’m an overachiever and my daughter is very verbal and showed interest, I started potty training her in April at 22 months old. It was actually common for parents of the previous generation to potty train around 18 months! For millennial moms, this may seem a bit early because the current trend is training around two years old. Each child is different and although you should wait to see signs of readiness, you should also give it a try when you are ready to put in the work.

I used the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki to daytime potty train my daughter.

The Oh Crap! method offers two options, you can tackle day and night time potty training in one swoop or you can separate the two. Since I don’t like my sleep messed with, I decided to start with daytime potty training. This decision was also influenced by my pregnancy. I thought that I would tackle nighttime training in December when I would be up with a newborn anyway. Although there won’t be a newborn in December, I will still be tackling night time training after Norah transitions to her toddler bed.

The Oh Crap! method starts with getting the child to recognize when they are going to the bathroom. There are six stages in the process:

  1. Peeing and pooping while naked, either with prompting or without
  2. Peeing and pooping with clothes on, commando, with prompting or without
  3. Peeing and pooping in different situations, with prompting or without
  4. Peeing and pooping with underpants, with prompting or without
  5. Consistent self-initiation
  6. Night and nap (unless you do it all at once)

On the first day, we kept Norah naked from the waist down (per the books recommendation). We bought three inexpensive Summer Infant potties for $9 each. We keep one in the bathroom upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the back of my car. As Norah went about her normal day, she would notice that she was peeing. The first time it happened she stopped what she was doing and stared off into the distance. We immediately grabbed her and said in an upbeat voice  “We go pee in the potty” while carrying her to the potty. By the time she reached the potty, she was done. By the second or third time that day, she was saying “Uh oh pee pee” or otherwise indicating that she knew she had started going.

The first day she also pooped on the carpet without much fanfare.

Note: I kept a Bissel spot cleaner in the living room to clean up messes as soon as they happened.

We started this process on a Saturday so we’d both be home during the first two days. Sunday proceeded much like Saturday, but Norah showed more awareness of what she was doing.

We did not go anywhere or do anything besides potty training for the entire weekend. We kept her contained to one room and one of us had our eyes on her the entire day. It was absolutely exhausting! Even though I take care of my daughter every day, I don’t have my eyes fixed on her nonstop.

After several days, she began going on the potty with more regularity. We took her to the potty as soon as she woke up in the morning and every two hours during the day. We had her sit on the potty before we got into the car and immediately when we arrived at our destination.

She was able to transition to the next stage – being fully dressed – by day five. She had many accidents during the first 5-7 days. Around the one week mark, something seemed to click and she was able to hold it while telling us she had to go. We also became aware of her “potty tells” which are stopping what she’s doing, standing completely still, and staring off into the distance. Whenever we saw those signs, we’d rush her to the potty.

We also had her go commando (no underwear) for three weeks per the book’s recommendation. Jamie’s hypothesis is that tight underwear feel too similar to diapers and the child will have more accidents if you introduce them too soon after taking away diapers. When we introduced underwear during the third week, there was an uptick in accidents for a few days.

Norah has been daytime potty trained for about six months now. She rarely has accidents, but does not like to poop in the potty. She will often hold it until her nap or bedtime. There is an entire section in the book that I need to revisit that discusses what to do in that situation. As of right now I’m not worried about it because I still need to tackle nighttime training. Most of the time when Norah has an accident, it’s our fault because we’re dragged her to several stores or went a few hours without bringing her to the potty. She is also much more likely to have an accident if she’s engrossed in something like a TV show or game.

A few tips for tackling potty training:

  1. Choose a method and be consistent

I chose the Oh Crap! method because I liked the humor of the book and that the method is a “no rewards” strategy. I did not want to use treats, toys, or stickers to motivate my child to go the bathroom for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t think I would always have those things handy
  • I didn’t want to associate food as ‘reward’
  • I didn’t want to reward biologically necessary behavior
  • I didn’t want to get into a heated negotiation about how many things she could have.

If rewards sound good to you or you think your child would do better with incentive then you should choose a method that includes them.

All in all, I doubt it matters which method you choose, but it does matter how consistent you are. Potty training will eat up an entire weekend so don’t try to do it when you have other plans, don’t feel well, or aren’t up for it. It’s an exhausting weekend and you only want to have to do it once. You don’t want to give up on day two, only to start from scratch a few months later.

2) Talk it up and make it fun

Norah loves books so we made sure to borrow as many potty books as we could in the weeks before we start training. We’d talk to her about how fun it was going to be and what a big girl she was. We let her pick out underwear and the color of her potties. We talked to her about how everyone and everything goes poop and pee. We tried to make the process as fun as possible because she initially showed some fear of the toilet.

3) Stay positive

Potty training can be very stressful and tiring. Keep in mind that it’s a slow process and there will be many accidents. Look for progress and not perfection. The first time Norah went on the floor there was no recognition that she was even going. By the second or third time, she was looking down at the mess and by later the same day she was saying “Uh oh.” No matter what timeline your child is on, it’s pretty incredible that they can grasp the concept within a few days. Stay positive and focus on the progression towards the goal instead of how much urine is soaking into your carpet.

Once the process is over, hopefully you’ll never have to do it again…until the next child.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/19/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

One of my favorite writers, Jeff Goins, shares eight steps you need to take to write a book. These suggestions were helpful for the ebook on virtual assistance I’m writing now. If you have any desire to write a book, check this out.

Jeff Hoffman thinks that freelancers shouldn’t create a niche. I agree! I have an article in the works for November about being a generalist.

Robert Williams says getting hired as a freelancer comes down to trust. He has some great suggestions on how to appear more trustworthy on your website. I love his idea about including more testimonials!

Marketing

It’s the season of trend pieces like this one on 10 social media marketing trends for 2017. Jeff Bullas talks about the rise of live streaming video, chatbots, and more. One of my favorite things about fall is reading the predictions for next year.

Lindsey at Six Leaf Design has five simple tips to keep in mind while designing a logo. Her suggestions are spot on and her logos are fantastic.

Influencer marketing continues to gain traction in the online space. John Bohan talks about how to ensure your campaign is successful.

Parenting

Nicole Miller from Buffer talks about being the first person who had a baby while working there. She’s very honest about the changes in her career since her baby arrived. It’s so great to see a piece from the perspective of a work-at-home mom because our voices are not heard often enough!

Getting dirty, exploring things and getting scraped up was part of my childhood. A playground in NYC tries to get back to a simpler time…before helicopter parents.

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10 Things You Can Do For Your Business During Naptime

There is no sweeter word in the freelancing mama’s vocabulary than ‘naptime’ except for bedtime. Naptime can be a chance to get between 30 minutes to 2 hours of concentrated work done (or not, it’s up to you). Most days I buckle down and work during my daughter’s naps, but other days I take some time to recharge.

Here are ten things you can do for your small business while your child naps.

1) Update your social media sites

Are you posting regularly on your social media sites? You should be! According to a 2014 study, 62% of people check Facebook to find out more about a small business. If your page is infrequently updated your business may appear unprofessional or closed down. Try to post at least twice a week with a mix of other people’s content and your own – a 60/40 split is a good rule of thumb.

2) Write a blog post

Blog writing keeps your site fresh and your Google ranking high. Make sure to use keywords to describe your services like copywriting, blogging, social media management, virtual assistance, or whatever it is you do. Blog posts don’t need to be long, around 500 words is good. Aim to post something new at least once per week on your site, more often if you can swing it.

3) Brainstorm ideas

How often do you sit in silence with a pen and paper or a blank Word document and brainstorm ideas for your business? Try to make some time to do this once per week. You never know what ideas will emerge when you let your brain have time to imagine.

4) Ask for recommendations or reviews

Take a minute to email a past or current client asking for a recommendation or review. Make sure you ask specific questions like:

  • “How has working with me benefited your business?”
  • “Can you describe a situation where my work had a positive impact on your day?”
  • “Would you recommend my services to a friend? Why?”

Questions like these give your client a framework to think about your services. Your client is more likely to respond to specific questions than a general request to ‘review you.’ Bonus points- set up your questions as a Google form that you can easily send to clients after work is complete and keep track of the responses in one place.

5) Read something inspirational

Reading positive news or inspirational business stories can have a lasting positive effect on your mind. Spending only five to ten minutes reading can reduce stress which increases compassion and unlocks creativity. Plus, you never know where your next great idea is going to come from so keep your eyes peeled for inspiration.

6) Google yourself

What’s showing up when you Google yourself? Make sure your internet presence reflects who you are and what you want people to know about you. Consider which accounts you should make private and which you want viewable to the public. Most clients are going to Google you before working with you so you want to know what they’re seeing.

7) Set up a LinkedIn page for your business

Your business should have a LinkedIn page that lists your industry, website, and contact information. Take ten minutes to set up your page so you’re searchable on the platform. How frequently you update the page will depend on your social media strategy. 

8) Set up a Google+ page for your business

Even though the fate of Google+ is constantly being discussed, it’s still helpful to have a page for your business. Google prioritizes Google+ on search results so as long as the platform is still kicking, you should take 10 minutes to create a page and build your online presence. Again, how often you update will depend on your social media strategy.

9) Join a Facebook group

Facebook groups in your area of expertise, or ones for freelancers in general, can be some of your greatest resources. They are full of other small business owners who are doing the same thing you are. You can ask for advice and even get some work. If you’re not a member, join the Freelance to Freedom group right now!

10) Reach out to a mentor or peer

How often do you communicate your goals with someone else? It can be hard to find a one-on-one mentor, so consider a peer mentorship or mastermind group. You could also find an accountability buddy to share your weekly goals with. Reach out and message someone about how you’re doing and ask them to share the same. Just like receiving snail mail, getting a heartfelt email can be a rare occurrence that can make someone’s day.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/12/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Leah at the Freelance to Freedom Project shared three quick and easy ways to get clients. She’s also hosting a free Get Clients Fast challenge starting on September 19. I’ll be participating!

Heather Baker offers two tips for combating creative burnout. I loved her ideas about Artist Dates and unplugged time. I’m planning an Artist Date for next week.

Lizzie at Wanderful World talks about her three biggest freelancing mistakes and how she corrected them. She has some great tips for putting yourself out there. This week, I put myself out there and landed a new client!

Marketing

Buffer created an easy-to-follow guide on setting up a content marketing plan. This is a must-read for all marketing newbies.

Jaclyn McCosker talks about what a copywriter does and how they can improve your content marketing quality. Copywriting is an artform and you want to make sure you hire someone who has the skills.

Why fellow CloudPeep Valerie Stimac is phasing out Twitter. I enjoy having a personal Twitter account, but it drives very little traffic to my business so I understand where Valerie is coming from.

Parenting

Doyin Richards talks about a new study linking parenting styles with personality types. I’m an ISTJ – “The Logistician” and my husband is an ENFP – “The Campaigner”. What’s great about this is we are on the opposite side of each category. Together, we’re a very balanced set of parents.

If you’ve ever wondered about what how different cultures raise their children, read this article from The Atlantic. They interview the authors of “Do Parents Matter?” who have been studying parents from around the whole for the last few decades.

Productivity

Living asynchronously might be the panacea to modern life. Quincy Larson talks about how turning off all notifications, turning down most meetings, and working remotely has exponentially increased his productivity.

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What To Do When a Client Disappears

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of having my a client disappear on me. I guess I was lucky because I’ve been freelancing for almost two years before this happened.

I found this client through a reputable Facebook group for freelancers. She asked for someone who could schedule social media posts and create graphics on Canva. I checked out her website and thought I’d be a great fit. Her online personality was quirky and fun and she seemed to have found some success writing a blog on her area of expertise. She was doing things I’d like to do in the future like creating workbooks and online courses. I was excited about helping her and having the opportunity to learn from her.

She chose me from about 10-15 applicants. She seemed very friendly and organized and quickly sent me a list of things she’d like done. She warned that she only wanted to work together for about four hours per month broken down into 90 minutes per week. I gave her my hourly rate, she agreed it was fair and I went to work. After working for 90 minutes, I checked in with her and asked her to look at the three Instagram promos I’d put together in Canva. She didn’t respond. A few days later, I emailed again, asking if she’d had a chance to look over my work and offer some feedback. Still no response. I ended up emailing her three times over the next three weeks as well as messaging her on Facebook. She never responded to any of my messages.

In my last email communication, I mentioned that I am also a woman running a small business and I can’t imagine that she’d appreciate being treated the way she chose to treat me. She still did not respond.

This experience was very frustrating and discouraging. If the client hadn’t liked my work, I would have scrapped it and started over. It was rude and unprofessional for her to simply ignore me. Since she is also making a living through her small internet business, I thought she’d have more respect for a person doing the same thing. Ultimately, I don’t know why she chose to conduct herself like this, but I did learn from the experience.

Here are some suggestions on what to do if a client disappears on you:

1) Make every attempt to communicate

There are genuine situations where someone’s email goes into the spam folder or a text message is not received, or a call is missed. Even though it’s rare with today’s technology, it still happens. In addition, some clients are slow to respond to email so you should give them enough time before checking in again. Always give the client the benefit of the doubt and try to contact them through different methods. I used all of my available methods (Facebook and email) to contact my client and I waited a month for an answer before making my next move. I could see that she’d read my messages, but was ignoring them.

2) Invoice anyway

It may seem silly, but I invoiced my client for the 90 minutes I spent working on her projects. I wanted to follow my normal procedure and show her that I took my business seriously even if she did not. I may or may not receive payment, but the amount is so small it’s not worth pursuing past invoicing. If a disappearing client owes you a significant amount of money, you can take them to small claims court. Ideally, you’ll have a contract for the client to sign when you begin working together that safeguards against this behavior. In addition, if you are doing a large job, you should set a retainer or ask for 50% of the payment in advance and 50% after the work is done.

She ignored my invoice and did not pay me for my services.

3) Realize it’s not you

Even if a client isn’t happy with your work, it’s ultimately their problem if they choose to cut you off without explanation. It’s completely unprofessional and you shouldn’t take it as a reflection of your work. A client who is worth their salt will give you constructive feedback and a chance to correct your work if they see something wrong with it. No one gets it right 100% of the time especially in the world of creative work – visions don’t always match up. A good client will go through the process with you to ensure that the end result is something both parties are happy with. A good freelancer will welcome the feedback and make changes.

Special note: Publicly outing the client

I’ve read several articles that have specifically called out clients who have disappeared on someone or didn’t pay for their services. A public outing is not something that I’m comfortable doing because it goes against my ethics. However, if you feel that this would bring needed attention to the situation, it may be appropriate. In one case, I read about a conference organizer who had not paid any of the speakers from several conferences. The speakers banded together and demanded payment through a public campaign against the organizer. It worked and they were paid.

Remember, how you conduct your business shows your true character. Be brave enough to have uncomfortable conversations. And always treat others how you’d want to be treated.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/5/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Before you get started freelancing, check out Kate Darby’s five things to know before you go solo. The article is geared towards designers but can apply to all freelancers.

Many freelancers are pricing their services too low. Justine Clay suggests going from an hourly rate to a project rate or retainer fee.

Contently has some mixed opinions on whether blogging is important for freelancers. We both agree that it gives you a place to express your creativity without any restraints.

Marketing

If you want to write one blog post every day, you should practice these habits from Neil Patel. One of my favorite suggestions is reading more than you write.

Never search for a free stock image again. Buffer pulled together a gigantic list of 53 resources that everyone should bookmark!

No matter the size of your business, you need a plan. Lindsey Evans will tell you why and make you laugh.

Parenting

Children are experiencing high levels of stress at a younger age than previous generations. Dr. Suzanne Farra explains why and tells parents what we can do to help.

Both working from home or going back to the office after having a baby are hard. Katy Widrick talks about her two experiences and the pros and cons of each.

 

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Should You Ever Work for Free?

Working for free is a hot topic among freelancers. Some feel that doing free work can increase exposure and open doors to future jobs while others adamantly believe that you should never work for free. Where do I stand?

You should never work for free

Don’t set a precedent that your work has no real-world value.

If you create something for a company, they will make money from your contribution. ‘Experience’ is not compensation. You cannot pay your bills with it.

No matter where you are in your freelancing journey, you know more about your subject matter than someone who has no experience with the job. You should be paid for what you know. If you don’t have real world experience, create some examples for your portfolio. Learn all you can about the work you’re doing.

For example, if you want to be a social media manager, but don’t have any experience doing so, you could do the following:

  • Read articles on social media management, posting tactics, and new platforms
  • Set up your own personal social media accounts and frequently update
  • Attend free or paid webinars
  • Take free or paid courses

Doing these things would build your knowledge base and give you some needed experience before you land your first paying client.

When you start out, you should expect to be paid the minimum salary/wage for your work. That may be $10-15 an hour if you are starting out in social media, copywriting, or virtual assistance. Your wage should increase as you get more clients and more experience doing the work. After a year or two, you should raise your fees to $15-20 per hour.

Ultimately, it depends on what you’re comfortable doing, but I have never and would never work for free. That said, there’s one person you should do free work for.

The only free work you should do is for yourself

You should always take the time to invest in yourself and work for free on your own projects. Prioritize your ‘free work’ because it eventually may become something that makes a profit or leads you to paying opportunities.

I do not earn anything writing this blog. Eventually, it could be a money-making venture, but right now it is not. I write here to keep my skills sharp, give clients an idea of my voice and writing style, and to invest in myself. I own this little corner of the internet and I can put whatever I want here. My work is not dictated by a client and I’m not creatively boxed-in by someone else’s vision.

Others ways to work for yourself include:

  • Organize your contacts, business ideas, templates, etc.
  • Advertise your business
  • Network to new clients
  • Do self-improvement activities like meditation and exercise
  • Take courses and webinars
  • Read books and articles
  • Practice your skills

Working for free for yourself is the only sure-fire way to know that the time you invested will provide future benefits.

Tell me, is there any reason you would work for free for someone else?

Work for free

 

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/29/16)

Mama's Favorites
This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Organizing your finances is extremely important when you’re a freelancer. This detailed article by Kristin Wong gives step-by-step instructions for what you need to do to get your freelancing financial house in order.

If you’re currently a freelancer, consider signing the petition for the Freelance Isn’t Free Act like I did. This act can help freelancers get payment for services rendered. Read the article and sign if you agree.

Josh Hoffman swears that these simple habits translate to a six-figure freelance business. One of the best suggestions is spending time on your business before spending time in your business.

Marketing

Mike Sturm talks about the importance of words and how we’re devaluing our creative work by calling it ‘content’. I’d never thought about this before, but I agree with his conclusion that content is a weasel word.

Social media can be soul-draining, but it’s essential as a marketer. This article by Leila de Bruyne talks about how to stay sane on social media.

Watch these eight Ted Talks for a marketing boost. Kelly Hoey shares a list of inspirational videos that will help improve your marketing efforts. I love Seth Godin’s take on making ideas spread.

Parenting

Parenting can be tough so it’s essential to keep your sense of humor. Amy Camber creates hilarious and sweet comics about parenting her two children ages 3 and 6.

Encouraging your child to try different activities is good for their development, but so is quitting things they don’t enjoy. This New York Times article talks about the benefits of letting your children stop doing activities they aren’t interested in.