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After a completely random landing on a sustainable lifestyle blog, Hole in the Fence (a really good read, btw), I ended up following a link to The Nature Conservancy’s website. And, since the space time continuum apparently stopped while I was surfing the web, I decided that I had a burning need  (and unlimited amounts of time) to use their Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Our family, it appears, puts out about 39 tons of carbon per year. Considering the national average is over 50 tons, we’re doing pretty good. I guess we can do better but that’s another post.

What the Carbon Footprint Calculator did, though, was get me thinking about all the things that we can do to be green, business wise. As a matter of fact, now would be a good time to start up a small green business. Not only would you be doing a service for others but you’d be helping the planet and making a living at it, too. Not a bad set of circumstances.

So, without further ado, here are five green small business ideas that you can get started with:

1. Worm Farming – otherwise known as vermicomposting. Okay, it’s not glamorous since we are, after all, talking about worm poop. And you have to really like wiggly slimy things but worms are Nature’s recyclers and, according to my husband, vericompost fertilizer is the tops for any garden (notice how I avoided writing “its the s**t).  Here’s more information about vermicomposting to get you started:

2. Small Space Gardening – This is a very cool idea for those of you who have a knack for gardening. Here are a couple ideas: put together seed packets and instruction booklet for people in your climate zone, go to peoples’ homes and take care of their gardens, set up patio gardens for apartment dwellers for a fee, set up and run a community garden (if you have the room on your property), etc. You may want to start with The Edible Garden (book by Sunset) or the National Gardening Association.

3. Solar Panel Rentals – Sounds weird but it actually does exist. The upfront costs of solar panels is a little steep, to say the least, but if you can rent them from someone, the rental price is typically lower than the energy bill from the big power company. To start up a solar panel rental business, you’ll need to know your solar technology. Take some classes, install your own, install some for others, read about it, etc.  Additionally, you’ll need to be located in a sunny spot with decent solar subsidies to really make a go of it. Of the green businesses discussed in this post, this is the most expensive upfront but one with the longest lasting impact.

4. Green Clothing – Renewable sourced clothing is very hot right now plus it’s good for the environment. And, if you focus on pet clothing, you may have a niche market. Or, you could source the fibers for others to use in their projects (think organic cotton, bamboo, soy, and hemp). If you want to go the route of making clothing, you’ll need to know how to sew really well. So, this particular business is not for me but it might be for you!

5. Going Green Consultant – Why not help other businesses become greener and environmentally responsible? Any business can go green, from the office supplies to investments to business practices. All you need to do is take your passion for helping the environment and apply it in a new direction.

It goes without saying that you’ll need some business sense and elbow grease to get any small business going. However, if you have a passion for sustainability and for helping others, then I say go for it! Do your research and touch base with your local Small Business Administration or SCORE office for help (if you need it).

Do you have some other small business ideas that are sustainable and/or green? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

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Have you ever sat down to begin your blog post and then stop because you had no idea what to blog about? I have.

A lot.

It’s a struggle sometimes to find something to talk about because, let’s face it, we want our blog posts to matter.

Whether you are a mom blogger or own a business and using it as a marketing tool, our blog posts are seen by (potentially) thousands of people. We want those people to at least walk away with a sense of respect (hey! she really knows what she’s talking about!).

There is nothing worse than what I imagine a conversation that my potential reader may have after he or she reads my post, “Gosh. That was awful. Why did I waste my time with that?” Whether they do that or not, I have no idea. I’m hoping they don’t.

But how do I keep a steady supply of blog posts that are interesting?

As I thought about it, I came up with three ideas, that when put together, will give you a full monthly/yearly blogging schedule:

  • blogging calendar with a twist
  • alliteration
  • SEO

There are a few blogging calendar’s floating around the ‘net (type in “blogging calendar” with the quotes on Google). However, I don’t like them. Not that I don’t appreciate the time and energy that go into creating them but because they aren’t in depth enough for me.

For those not in the know, most of the blogging calendar’s are just lists of what months celebrate what events and holidays. For example, March is Women’s History Month.

I can see the quizzical look on your face from all the way over here and I know what you’re thinking: what has that got to do with my blog or my readers?

Depends. How many of your readers are female? You have a 50/50 chance. Well, that isn’t the point of my blog. Okie dokie then. Is there anything in common between the “general idea” of your blog and “Women’s History Month”? Anything at all? Oh, well as a matter of fact, I think that….

Ah. Now we start getting somewhere. You don’t actually have to celebrate Women’s History Month (although it would be pretty cool if you did) but if you can come up with 3 to 4 ideas that are related to women’s history and your blog, you have at least 3 to 4 blog posts. You can even take that a step further and give link love, product reviews, or memory posts (I remember when…) based on those 4 ideas that you just brainstormed. All with that general spark of “Women’s History Month.” And, by the way, you don’t have to use those topics in just the month of March!

Onto alliteration. According to Webster’s Dictionary, alliteration is “the commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter.”

Now, I’m not trying to toss out some fancy schmancy English terms at you. I bet you alliterate every day or see it every time you read a blog. Stop blushing. You have a seriously warped mind, did you know that?

Follow Friday? Thankful Thursday? Wordless Wednesday? Meatless Monday? Any of these a-ringin’ a bell? (Thank you, Sid the Sloth, for that line!)

If you can come up with an alliterative theme for each day of the week and then brainstorm 3 to 4 sub ideas for each theme, you have LOTS of blog posts ready to go. Let’s look at an example, shall we? Meatless Monday.

Well, the first Monday we can give out a vegetarian menu for the week/month. The second Monday, we can review a vegetarian book (with a recipe thrown in for good measure). Third Monday might be a guest blogger who talks about vegetarianism or something related to it. Fourth Monday might be the health benefits of meatless meals with the accomanying recipes. You can keep doing this til the cows…oops…flowers…nah, cows come home.

The last idea I had for blog post topics came to me from Twitter’s trending topics (although you can use Google Trends or Google AdWords just as easily). It’s pretty simple actually: see what people are talking about and then talk about it too.

It’s an easy way to find something to blog about that generates traffic to your blog. I know, it seems kind of underhanded, doesn’t it? And it smacks a bit of  “keeping up with the Joneses.” Well, if you feel that way try staying within the parameters of your blog’s main topic or idea(s).

For example, my blog is about working from home. I do talk about lots of other stuff, mostly because it’s my personal blog and not a professional one. If I was desperate for a topic, I could type in “WAHM” into the Google Trends and voila! Literally hundreds of articles from the past 5 years pop up about WAHMs that can give me some ideas on what to write about.

If I use the trending topics on Twitter, I can find related items about working from home and, say, Star Trek. Maybe. If not, I could probably use it as a segue and then brainstorm. Either way, I end up with a blog post!

Or I could run over to AdWords and do the same thing to see what people are searching for. You can use this as a SEO tool but I like it as an idea generator.

I know what you’re asking. “So what?” Actually, that’s a fabulous question. Use it every time you get a trending topic or search term. Then answer it. Then keep asking “So what?” over and over, answering it every time. Do it enough times, and you end up with a viable list of topics for your blog.

So how does this create a monthly or yearly plan of blogging topics? Well, if you do the above three things, calendar with a twist, alliteration, and SEO, you should have at least one thing every day to talk about for a month.

And then you can do it again and again. Mix it up and keep it fresh. I like doing My Opinion Monday and WAHM Tip Wednesday (alliteration). I also add in some SEO and trending topics in there (check out my post from Tuesday). And, there is the events calendar (Mother’s Day, anyone?). In between I manage to squeeze in some posts that don’t have a defined theme other than they are mine and related to me as a woman, mother, and WAHM.

By the way, some people like to use Google Docs spreadsheets as a way to track what they will discuss on what day. *ahem* It’s a useful tool but don’t be married to it. If you find something that is outside of the “blogging calendar” then by all means blog away about it.

It is, after all, your blog!

Do you have any tips or tricks about generating blog topics? I want to know! And more importantly, so do my readers!

Why in the world would I write a WAHM Tip on isolation? We are, by definition, moms working from home and, therefore, have one or more children running around underfoot at most times. We’re not really isolated. Are we?

Well, that’s the point. We are at home. With the kids.

All. The. Time.

I know you’ve felt isolated because I have too. Just getting out to the doctor’s office is like mana from heaven. But it shouldn’t be. Humans (typically) are social creatures and we give some of that up to work from home. Not that snuggles and sticky kisses aren’t worth every moment away from the main office but, still, we crave contact with adults.

And, no, husbands don’t count as isolation busters. Usually. At least, mine isn’t an isolation buster since he’s home as well, going to school online. He feels like the house closes in on him too. I know because he’s told me so several times.

Anyway, my point is that we need to make time in our busy schedules for some “me time.” It isn’t selfish and it isn’t bad for business. Quite the contrary, in fact. How much more productive would you be if you had a break from the routine and got out to do something else for a half hour? How much calmer would you feel? I know I do.

Even getting out once a week is a great way to relieve some of the isolation felt when working from home. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • grab a cup of coffee with a friend
  • go walking in the park with your kids
  • attend a women’s (or men’s) bible study group (sometimes they have child care)
  • go to the gym and work out
  • take a trip to the local library and peruse the bookshelves

Now, if you absolutely cannot get out of the house without the kids or there is no time in your schedule, you can:

  • hang out at your favorite social networking site (Twittermoms.com, Facebook, etc.)
  • Twitter for about ten minutes (small break and it gets you involved with something not work related)
  • Skype with friends or family
  • work on that personal project you’ve been meaning to finish (unfinished quilts, paintings, writing a book, etc. Oh wait, those are mine.)

That last one isn’t really meant to break you out of isolation but it will certainly get you into the calm zone. I hope, anyway.

So, what are your WAHM Tips for breaking out of isolation*? I want to know!

*After editing this post I realized that it sounds like I’m advocating for prison breaks. I’m not. Just trying to get WAHMs out of the house before the walls close in on them.

8 to 6, 7 to 12, 11 to 2…what do these numbers all have in common?

They’re your work hours! Or are they? One of the challenges of working from home is separating home life from work and defining those hours that you are actually working.

I know because I have the same problem.

So, what’s a WAHM to do? The obvious answer is to sit down with the family and let them know that you are setting your work hours from X to X and they are not to disturb you during those hours. After all, you help to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table which you cannot provide if they are constantly interrupting you while you work.

When they stop laughing at you, you’ll need to figure out a more realistic solution. Don’t get me wrong, if your kids are older the above solution is good and may even work. But if you’re like me and have kids under the age of 5, then you have to find another solution.

I’m not talking about daycare. Daycare, to me, is a nice thought but it’s too expensive and since I’m home anyway why would I send them out (even if I could afford it in the first place)?

Which brings me full circle to my original question: how do I set my work hours so I can actually get some work done?

Answer: establish a schedule and stick to it.

Observe when your kids are occupied by themselves, i.e. snack time, play time, nap time, and work while they are doing those activities. Personally, I schedule phone calls and online meetings during nap time which works out well for me. If my son does wake up, then I mute the phone and give him a snack and/or activity to keep him occupied until I’m finished.

If your kids bother you while you’re trying to work anyway, get up off of your chair and play for 10 minutes. You should be taking 10 minute breaks for every hour you’re at the computer anyway, and playing with the kids is a good way to relieve stress and give them the attention that they crave at the same time.

Now, I’m not saying you should give into their demands. You set the time when you will take the break. “Mommy is almost done and when I am, you and I are going to play! But you need to practice your patience.” Can you tell that I say this quit a bit?

If all else fails, wait until they go to bed and work. Personally, I hate working at night because after 5 pm is “me time” and I am unhappy to give it up to work. However, some days are complete disasters and nothing gets done. So, I suck it up and work in the evening instead.

Same goes for the weekends. If I can’t get it done during the week, I’ll work on it during the weekend. You’d be surprised at how fast it goes when you have the incentive of beautiful weather and fun to drive you on.

Nobody’s schedule is going to be the same and it won’t be easy, at least not at first. You have to figure out what works for your family and your job. Admittedly, older kids are easier to work around than younger ones but it can be done with perseverance, flexibility, and a good sense of humor.

Do you have WAHM tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment!

I love my job. Period. I dig in and really get involved. Unfortunately, I also lose track of time. And with amount of work I need to do on a daily basis, this is not a good thing. It fouls up the flow of not only myself but all the other people in my department that count on me. Something needed to change (mostly me).

So, I resolved to find a solution. And what a simply elegant solution it is too: an eggtimer for my iGoogle.

Without going into the various merits of the plethora of personal homepages (i.e. mashup) available, let’s just go with iGoogle for the moment. If you don’t have a personal homepage, feel free to check out iGoogle. If you already have a gmail account, try logging on with that to see if you already have access to it. You can then go under Tools>Options>Main and set it as your homepage (FireFox).

iGoogle has a variety of gadgets that can be added to the homepage. The one that has worked so well for me is called Timer by Poturi.

Timer by Poturi for iGoogle

Timer by Poturi for iGoogle

You input the amount of time you want to use and it counts down for you. When it gets to zero, not only will it flip back to your home page from whatever webpage you were on, the browser will flash, a small pop up will appear, and it plays a sweet little “tingaling”.

Let’s just say that it gets your attention.

Why not use an real honest to goodness egg timer? Mostly because I don’t have one. And since I’m on the computer quite a bit, this works really well for me. I stop what I’m doing and move onto the next item on my ever growing “To Do” list (for which I use “Remember the Milk” but that’s another Tip!).

Do you have any WAHM tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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