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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.

Client Disappears

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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 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.

What We’re Into: Summer 2016

Summer 2016

The summer of 2016 was a mixed bag. In the spring I suffered a miscarriage and assumed I’d be pregnant again by summer’s end, but I’m not. My childhood friend, and maid of honor in my wedding, was killed in a boating accident in June. I struggled with my grief compounded by the fact that I hadn’t spoken with her in years. Her death opened my eyes to our time not being guaranteed. Since then, I’ve tried to be more present in my life, make amends with people from my past, and be more appreciative of what I have.

While there were some supremely negative events this summer, we also had a lot of joy. Norah turned two! We spent the summer taking her to swim lessons and play dates. This was our first summer in our new house and we thoroughly enjoyed our big backyard. We had lots of ice cream (Norah had her first cone!) and s’mores. We took a day trip to Madison, Wisconsin that included a visit to Henry Villas Zoo. We attended a few picnics, farmer’s markets, fairs and outdoor events in Rockford including a kid’s concert.

Family at Henry Villas Zoo
Our family at Henry Villas Zoo in Madison, WI. Taken with a selfie stick!

The summer is typically a slower time for business and I enjoy that, but I look forward to things ramping back up and working with new clients! If you know anyone who needs copywriting, content, or social media work done – let me know.

Here are some things we loved this summer:

Erin (32 years old)

Stranger Things

This show hit all the right notes for me. I love horror and coming of age stories and I have the biggest soft spot for nostalgia. Stranger Things perfectly encapsulated the 80s, had a great storyline, and was sweet and scary at the same time. I absolutely loved this series and cannot wait for season two. You can catch this series on Netflix.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

This was my favorite book of the summer. I love Joe Hill almost as much as I love his father, Stephen King. This was an epic pandemic story about a virus that causes people to burst into flames. If you want to see what else I read this summer, follow me on Goodreads.


After all of the negative things that happened this summer, I wanted to refocus and get some inner peace. I read several self-help books including Mastering Your Mean Girl and The Charge that helped me get my head in the right place. Every self-help book I’ve ever read talks about the importance of a meditation routine. I finally started using Stop, Breathe, & Think app for near-daily meditation. I have noticed a calmer mind and less anxiety. It also helped with my grieving process.

Daily Journaling

I’ve taken to writing in a journal daily about how I’m feeling and what I’m grateful for. It’s been helping me process my feelings and start the day with a clear mind.

Norah (2 years old)


Easily one of Norah’s most requested items. After almost every dinner she asks for a bomb pop. The traditional red, white, and blue popsicles were a staple in my house growing up, but with four kids the box didn’t last for more than a few days. We don’t let her have one everyday, but she gets them for dessert fairly often. The struggle is convincing her to wait until after dinner instead of giving her one when she first requests it which is usually five minutes after waking up in the morning.

Playing outside

Norah loves to push her ride-on car up and down the driveway and run down the large hill we have in our backyard. She received two bikes for her birthday and has been practicing using the pedals. She doesn’t quite have it, but probably will by next year.


This summer we did some bucket gardening and Norah loved it. Every day she helped water the plants and pick the ripe vegetables. In the process, she ate about 100 cherry tomatoes. We had good luck with romaine lettuce, green peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Our strawberries produced about 10 berries and then stopped growing and our cucumbers never became ripe and rotted on the vine. We’ll try bucket gardening again next year and think about dedicating a plot in the yard in the future.

Bucket garden
Norah in front of her bucket garden

Fall is my favorite time of year and I can’t wait for all of the good things coming our way including trips to Edward’s Apple Orchard, having our first bonfire in our firepit, and taking our daughter Trick or Treating for the second time. Until next season!

Making the Leap from Side Hustler to Full-Time Freelancer

Side Hustler

Many people start off freelancing as a side hustle while they work in a traditional full or part time job. Starting a side hustle is a great way to get experience in a new area or use creative muscles that you don’t get to stretch in your day job. In my previous life, I was an information specialist who searched market research reports and purchased scientific papers. I also handled all of the internal communications for our department including a newsletter, brochure, and website.

I used my knowledge from those job duties to find my first client, a computer software company that needed a blogger. From there, I was able to take on their Twitter account based on my experience maintaining my own Twitter account. I supplemented what I already knew with constant learning. I read articles about blogging and social media until I felt that I had a grasp on what my objectives were.

Keeping my skills sharp is important to me so I stay up-to-date with new posts on social media and marketing. I do this by adding websites that are good resources like Social Media Marketing World, Buffer, Moz, and Copyblogger to my Feedly. I spend 20-30 minute each morning reading the day’s articles.

When I started out, I was only earning about $200-300 per month for 10 hours of side-hustle work. That was not enough to support our household or match what I made in my full-time job. Eventually, I was able to make the leap from side hustler to full-time freelancer. Here are the steps you can take to do the same.

Find Your First Client

I’ve written about where you can find clients and how to find the best client for you. However, the first thing you want to do is find any client at all. This may not be a client you keep forever. The objective is not to find the perfect person right out of the gate, it’s to find someone who will pay you for the work you want to do. It’s a lot like dating, you need to put yourself out there to find out who is interested. What services can you offer right now? If those services are blog posts then check out ProBlogger Job Board and Upwork.

Expand Your Services

Once you have a few clients, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how you can expand your services. Although I initially started by offering blog writing, I quickly learned that blog writing is one of the most time-consuming tasks for me. Some people, like my husband, are quick writers who get their ideas on the page and only read through once or twice for edits. I’m a methodical writer who takes around one hour to produce a 500 word blog post including several rounds of edits. Although I enjoy writing, it is not my best option for making money.

I am much faster at finding content and creating short, snappy social media updates. One update typically takes me about five minutes to compose, less time if it’s for a client whose business I’m already interested in. Whereas I might get $25 for an hour of blog writing work, I can get around $75 for an hour of social media work.

Market Yourself

The only way you’re going to increase your side hustle is to let people know what you’re doing. That’s true for online businesses as well as brick and mortar shops. No one can buy your product or services if they don’t know where to find you. Make sure you have a website with clear directives and engaging copy (if you need help, this is a service I offer). Using search engine optimization (SEO) will get your website to show up in the results for keywords pertaining to what you do.

Set a Date and Do It

Once you’ve gathered a few clients, you may find that you can work for a quarter of the time and make as much as you did in a traditional job. This is especially the case if you live in a low cost-of-living area like I do. The median household income where I live in Rockford, IL is $38,157. If you work remotely you have the potential to earn big city wages while living in a small town. One of the full-time positions I applied for, but did not get, was working at Buffer where pay started at $80,000 per year!

At the end of the day, you have to make a decision to leap into freelancing. It can be scary. There are no guarantees of success. Your income may vary greatly month to month. It can be feast or famine which means you need a financial plan in place that will help distribute your earnings throughout the year. You may need to save some percentage of your earnings and request retainer fees from long-time or recurrent clients.

Many people make the leap to full-time freelancer only when their hand is forced. They lose their job and scramble for something in the meantime. In my case, I desperately wanted to stay home with my daughter and was willing to take a risk to do so. Thankfully, my husband believed in me enough to support my dream.

Once you are able to produce 75% of your full-time income doing your side hustle, you should quit your full-time job.

After you do, you will have much more time to work on your side hustle and you can make up the other 25% of your previous income in a variety of ways. You could budget and reduce expenses or you could put in more hours. There are freelancers doing things like dog walking, nannying, and Ubering to make ends meet while they build up their client base.

The life of a freelancer can be unpredictable and sometimes nerve-wracking, but it is also freeing and empowering. You ultimately have much more control of what you can make in a year than you would at job with set parameters on raises and bonuses. Your success is directly related to how hard you work, how much you put yourself out there, how well you market your services or product, and how much you network. Finally, the best reason to make your side hustle into your full-time job is because you are passionate about it. It feels very different to work on something you care deeply about than to punch the clock and count down the days to retirement.

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/22/16)

Mama's Favorites Aug 26

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.


CloudPeeps shares seven tips for avoiding bad freelance hires. As a freelancer, read this article with an eye towards how you can improve your chances of getting a good gig.

Need to set up your online writing portfolio? Meryl Williams at The Write Life created a simple checklist to get your site in tip-top shape.

Even if you don’t work in an office, you can use these seven creative tips to get ahead in your career. As a freelancer, it’s especially important to network in your network and express gratitude for any help that you receive.


Before you set up a pay-per-click (PPC) advertisement, read Neil Patel’s detailed data-driven post. He’s spent big money on advertising and knows what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re ready to go from a one-person shop to an agency model, read this Hubspot post on how to make the leap. I’ll keep these tips in mind as I plan to expand and hopefully employ people in the future.

If you’re wondering why no one’s reading your blog, check out Apurva Chiranewala’s list of five reasons. Even if people are reading your blog, these tips could help improve your conversion rate.


One second grade teacher’s decision to not assign any homework for the year is going viral. Research is showing too much homework too early can create negative attitudes about school. This teacher recommends having dinner together, playing outside and going to sleep early – all things that have proven positive effects in children’s lives. Hopefully, this no homework trend will continue.

This Science of Us article explains how people attach morality to danger when it comes to judging parenting. People don’t completely rely on facts when making judgments, they also infuse the situation with whether they think something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to do.

Wildcard: Lifestyle

This long read from Benjamin Hardy lists 50 ways happier, healthier, and more successful people live on their own terms. If you focus on a few of these tips, you could find yourself in a better place tomorrow than you are today. I’ve been concentrating on making meditation a regular part of my daily routine for the past week and I’m already feeling the benefits.