How I Started Making Money Online

So, I’ve followed the realm of “online” work for quite some time now. I just could never find anything to invest in, the right schedule, or the timing to make working from home a possibility. That sounds silly, I know. How could you not make time to work from home? Well, when you’re trying to provide for a family, while going to school, options seem limited. Now that I’ve graduated, and right before our big move, I knew it was a do or die moment for me.

I was either going to work toward the dream I really wanted or I wasn’t. As simple (and complicated) as that. And every tutorial on how to make money online and/or from home will tell you — it takes some hustlin’ on your part.

So, at the beginning of May…I really started hustlin. But what did hustlin’ even look like?

  • I revamped my LinkedIn profile — updating it with info that I thought would help for the jobs I really wanted. Before, I rarely even touched my LinkedIn profile except to add a new job or update my school information. I never shared it with prospective employers/clients unless they specifically requested it because I knew it was neglected. Now, I’m in a few groups, I check out job leads through the search, and can easily share the link with any new clients. It doesn’t take much to get it up and running, and once you do, it’s super easy to upkeep!

    How I Started Making Money Online

  • I found VA/Blogging Facebook Groups and started engaging — I’m an introvert. Even in the interwebs, it’s hard for me to be social. I’m that blog lurker that loves my fav bloggers, but rarely adds a comment. And don’t even get me started on self-promotion. I strive for authenticity, so it’s hard to find a way to promote my work without feeling like a spammy salesman. So, VA/Blogging FB groups are a goldmine for introverts (and extroverts!) because they’re communities that are trying to support each other, share their work, and engage in discussion over anything and everything. **A little side note about these groups: Make sure you know the groups rules. Some groups have a specific thread to share your work, others don’t allow self-promotion, only questions and such. I found my first VA job through a FB group, so they are definitely valuable in my book.
  • I worked (and continue to work) on my design — Design is a HUGE deal in the realm of online entrepreneurship and blogging. There are way too many blogs out there that function well and look great, so your blog design game needs to be strong. And if it’s not strong — you need to research how to make it better or hire someone. This is an active work in progress (literally, I’m searching for tutorials on blog design) for me. My blog still isn’t quite where I want it to be as far as look and functionality, but I continue to work on it. There is a huge, wide array of tutorials across Pinterest and YouTube that you can utilize! Financially, I just can’t swing having somebody else do my design for me right now, and yes, that means more leg work for me. But I also love searching for tutorials and figuring stuff out for myself. So, it’s not bad if you like the work, right?

Working from home has been a goal of mine for several years, and now it’s finally becoming a reality. Soon, I’ll start sharing my income reports so we can watch the growth together!

If you work from home, how did you get started?

My Blog Diagnosis: 3 Reasons Why I Haven’t Gained More Followers…

As my school year wraps up, and I anxiously await my graduation, I now have an opportunity to sit down with my blog(s) and get serious about improving them. I’ll be honest, this last semester, I struggled immensely with focus. After being the busiest I’ve ever been last semester, I found myself completely burnt out. It was a struggle making it through my final few classes (and I even had to drop a few, taking them in the summer to lessen my load) , and so all motivation was thrown out the window.

Now that I’ve (for the most part) closed the degree chapter of my life (yeah, grad school’s gonna wait for a bit…) I’m so excited about my adventure in blogging, virtual assisting, and Etsy selling. In the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on the mantra, “Find the joy.” Because that’s the core ingredient to what I want in life — to find joy in every season, joy in the ups and downs, failures and successes. To live a life with gratitude is my ultimate goal.

When I read the crazy amount of blogging how-tos and income reports from successful bloggers, I’m completely overwhelmed. When people mention have 100,000 pageviews, that seems like such a far-fetched number for me. I barely have 50/month.

So, what has been holding me back?

My Blog Diagnosis: 3 Reasons I Haven't Gained More Followers

Consistency of posts

I’ve had a post every month of two. That’s certainly not consistent enough to gain any sort of dedicated readership. I don’t even need to read another “How to blog” post to come to that conclusion. 😉 Remedy: Since, I’m still in a transition time with school, Z’s school, starting some VA gigs..etc, I’m going to make it a goal to have 3 posts/week with C2CM. My other blog is going to take the backseat for a bit.

Trying to Do Too Much at Once

There’s a reason I reached threat level: burn out. I wrote earlier this year about my addiction to busy. And what I found the last 4-5 months was the fallout of that addiction. I went from a go-go-go rhythm to a I can barely convince myself to do the laundry attitude. I would sit in front of my computer to blog or do homework or even write a simple email and I would simply stare at the screen for minutes on end. Remedy: I’m learning the art of hustling, but I have to remember to stick with my mantra (and a huge inspiration for this blog): Take it one step at a time. So, instead of stressing myself out by trying to attempt every idea/thought that pops into my head, I have a continuous list going on in Evernote of my random ramblings, thoughts, ideas, goals…etc. Once I get a second, I’ll find the ones that really speak to me in that moment and start writing out more detailed goals. I’m also creating my goals with a sense of sustainability, based on my own rhythm and temperament.

Take Myself Seriously

As popular as blogging is, it’s hard for people to take it seriously. So, they ask you what you do and you say, “I’m a virtual assistant, but I’m also trying to grow my Etsy shop and blog.” It’s easy for that awkward tension to permeate the conversation as you feel them questioning and slightly judging your response. I’ve always been one that attempts to explain myself way too much, and so it’s been a daily reminder for me to take myself seriously. As crazy and unpredictable as that life might sound to some, it’s one that I very much believe in and fighting to own. Remedy: Stay clear on my goals. Reminding me of why I want this life, what writing does for me, how I want this blog to grow, and be excited for my successes when they come around.

Blogging is something I’ve been working on for years now. Mostly as a hobby, but now I can really see potential in investing in it. What are some stumbling blocks you’ve had to fight against in pursuing blogging or one of your passions?

When You’re Contemplating Homeschool…

This is a really difficult blog for me to write. Mostly because I never thought, for a second, that I would ever legitimately consider homeschooling for Z.

Here’s the thing, we will soon be relocating (halfway across the country). And the relocation is inspiring some extra thoughts in me regarding her education. I am finishing my degree in a few months (YAY!!!) and have always looked toward working from home (virtual assisting, proofreading, my Etsy shop..etc). This thought is really exciting and really scary. It takes a lot of motivation and endurance to do something like that, but I very much believe in creating the life you want, not allowing life to create itself. And so, over the past few months, I’ve been slowly building up my knowledge, my items, my ideas to do just that. I can be a dreamer and an idealist sometimes, and I’ve had to be painstakingly honest with myself about what will really be required of me to pull this off–and it’s a lot, but it’s certainly not impossible.

To Homeschool of Not - Questions, Concerns, and Solutions for a Non-Homeschooling Mom

But back to homeschooling, and why I’m considering it. Z hasn’t had a bad school experience at all. She’s had 2 wonderful teachers (and 2 great pre-k teachers before that) that have been inspiring, supportive, and all-around amazing. She’s active, has friends, and has taken to school really well. So, why would I want to change that? Especially since I’ve always been an avid supporter of public schooling (for a long time, I was going to be a teacher…) Well, I think our education system is a really broken one. This is a soapbox issue for me, so I’ll try not to sound too preachy, but bit by bit over the last 10-15 years, America’s education system has whittled away inspired teaching.

And let me  say this — I have no problem with teachers. In fact, I wholeheartedly support and value them. But I think they have been put in a near-impossible position. Their value as educators is now tied to (and almost completely built upon) testing. Mandatory state testing. Every time I read those damn words, it infuriates me. I was so fortunate in my schooling (public education) to have teachers that were able to creatively reach their students. Who could uphold standards without being suffocated by arbitrary testing. Who didn’t have to tailor every piece of their lesson plans toward some testing goal.

And while Z hasn’t reached the age that demands testing yet, I have already seen the ways they start to prepare the students for those tests (beginning in 3rd grade, where we live currently, and where we will be moving). And I don’t like it. I don’t like the amount of homework that a 6 year old has in a week. It’s absurd to me that a 6 year old even has homework (yep, I’m one of those). And when ranking America against other countries, we continue to fail. So, we think…more tests, get to them younger…and it has done nothing but suck every bit of inspired creativity out of education, in my opinion. In fact, I would say my educational standards are closely aligned with Finland. And I need to point out one of my favorite pieces from this article, when a Finnish principal responds to many of America’s leaders and businessman pushing for competition in testing between schools to gain money for their program, he says,” ‘I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,’ said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. ‘If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.'”

And that is really the core of my desire to homeschool. Sure, there are plenty of other things I like or find appealing, but when it comes down to it, that’s the heart of it. I want to teach Zoey how to learn to be a student of life, not a student for a test. I want practical application to be at the heart of her education, not scantrons. I want her life to be inspired by play, wonder, and creativity. And that is something that is just not available to her in America’s current education system.

Alright, there’s my soapbox. 🙂

Now, for my concerns with homeschooling.

CONCERN #1 – Socialization

Z is an only child (and may or may not stay that way, who knows), so socialization is a BIG concern. Z is a kid that thrives off of people. She quietly observes, but she is energized by people and interaction. So, I’m an outgoing introvert…she is a quiet extrovert. Funny, how that happens.

I know that Z would make new friends, experience new environments, and adapt well to a new school. She has an enormous amount of resiliency with new situations, and I’m confident she’d adjust to a new school just fine. In fact, when I asked her, “Would you ever want to be homeschooled?” She thought about it really hard and asked, “Well how would I make new friends?”

SOLUTION

Homeschool co-ops, outside activities (sports, enrichment classes…etc), and parent groups could all help with that. I’ve already found a couple that are in the area we will be moving to. I’ve also started researching activities, costs, and such. Luckily, I’m pretty good at this research thing, and where we’re moving has great weather nearly year round, which helps even more. Z has already played a few seasons of soccer, is currently in gymnastics, taking piano, and has plenty more interests. So, I think, if I budget well, socialization will not be a concern.

CONCERN #2 – FINANCES

Like I said in the beginning, I’m all about creating a life you want, not waiting for life to happen. I’m an English major (Creative Writing emphasis), and have always wanted to be a writer in one way or another. I have also have extensive knowledge and experience in office work & research, which I plan to use to my advantage.

I also have two Etsy stores that I’ve been working on nearly non-stop the last 2 months to get up and running.

So, why am I thinking about all this now? Well, for one, I’m a planner. But more importantly, I am also well aware that if I want to make money and be able to live the life I want, I have to work tirelessly for it. And the chance to be able to do that not only gives me a better quality of life, but it gives me the opportunity to build a life for Z that I want (and think is necessary).

How am I going to balance homeschooling with working from home? I don’t quite have those nuts and bolts figured out, however this post was incredibly helpful and inspiring to me. Also, this one. It’s not impossible. It just takes some planning.

CONCERN #3 – STANDARDS or AM I ENOUGH?

I’m walking into this idea of homeschooling with the knowledge that it may not work out. It may not be the cup of tea that I’m expecting (and Z is, for that matter). It may not fit Z the way I think it will. And in that case, she may be put back into “normal” schooling.

And this gives me the most anxiety. It’s the question that I’m sure burns inside many moms, parents, homeschooling or not. Am I enough? Will I be able to provide her with everything she needs to know (standards-wise) so that if she does go back into regular schooling, she won’t be behind or overwhelmed? And this can even go down the line. Say, we stick with homeschooling and it really works for us, what about college? Will she be prepared for it? Can I take that sort of pressure on? Will I be able to provide what she needs.

SOLUTION

The answer, I know, is simply yes to all the above questions. I am enough for her. But I am not the only person that will be available to her. We will have a community of people that can teach and guide and invest in her (ya know which also helps with concern #1).

And let’s be honest, one of my strengths is research. I can research til I am blue in the face and still be inspired to research more. I enjoy it. I’m good at it. If I don’t know the answer to something, I know how to find it. Whether it be through a group, a search engine, or a person. I know that I do not have to do this on my own. And frankly, Z is a pretty well-adjusted kid. If I continue to support the things that make her unique and interesting and valuable, I do believe that she can adapt to anything that comes her way. And isn’t that the main reason I wanted to begin this homeschooling journey to begin with?

So, there you have it. My thoughts, concerns, and ideas for homeschooling with Z. We still don’t know if this is the route we will take, but I want to be as educated and aware of all sides of the coin, before landing anywhere.

What would you all suggest? For those that homeschool, did you come from traditional schooling or did you always know that’s how it would be? Any other helpful hints, articles, tips you’d like to leave are greatly appreciated as well!

A Year of Mindfulness

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I am goal-oriented. I’m a dreamer, which means my goals can get wrapped up in grandiose visions of waking up peacefully, in my perfectly (naturally) lit home, grabbing some green tea and overnight oats for breakfast, and sitting down at my computer to write–and words flowing from brain through my fingers.

My life is more a crash course of waking up at 3am, falling back asleep by 6am, only to wake up to an alarm at 7am, fumbling to get coffee with vanilla creamer, and talking at myself about all the things I want to write, but never actually do.

Yeah, I forgot breakfast.

2015 was an insane year. From January on, I was in constant “go” mode. For those new to the blog, I’m a full-time student, and during the spring semester I took 15 credit hours. Not too shabby, pretty average. And then, for the fall semester, I took 18 credit hours. Only one In fact, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about it. Every person in a 5 mile radius has probably heard it.

I talked about it a lot.

I meet someone new? Talk about 18 credit hours.

Getting coffee? Tell the barista about being a mom to a 6 year old while taking 18 credit hours (Yes, I know I could’ve written “whilst taking 18 credit hours,” but no one actually says whilst. So, stop writing it. I hate the word whilst. Hate. It).

And I loved the, “I don’t know how you do it,” comments. I loved being busy. Or people believing I was busy. I mean, if you’re busy, you’re productive.

If you’re busy, you’re successful.

If you’re busy, you’ve got your shit together.

I was addicted to busy. I still am. And I think it’s an area that needs some tending to.

BusyAddict

For the last 2 years or so, this whole idea of mindfulness has started to work it’s way into my brain. About 2 years ago, I was going weekly to a fantastic therapist who quickly saw how overwhelmed and high strung I was. What’s interesting  is most people wouldn’t classify me as high strung. Ever. In a million years. I’m low key. Laid-back. Slower energy. And I stumbled on why that is. The hamster inside my head is going so astronomically fast that my outward energy has to be slow to compensate for how overwhelmed the poor guy is. Does that make sense? Eh, I don’t know. It’s 6am and I’ve been up for 2 hours, make sense of it yourself.

Anyway, I’m seeing this therapist. And after our first session she mentions the word, “mindfulness.” And she starts giving me these exercises. Some of them I’d learned in theatre (ie. Focusing on your breath to bring you to the present moment).

And then I start researching mindfulness. And I find stuff about meditating and yoga. Oooh, I love yoga. And meditating sounds great in theory, but lord knows, I will never get my mind quiet enough to meditate. Right?

But I try it anyway. I find Headspace and not only is the dude British with a great accent, but I actually like meditating. Let me just say, on a side note, that I still can’t really meditate for longer than 10 minutes. My to-do list starts overtaking my thoughts and I have to quit. But hey, I’m trying.

So, I see this therapist for a little over a year, and I really start to take control of my anxiety. I’m able to settle myself down much quicker. Less panic. Less worry.

And the exercises I did with her way back when are still useful and working today.

But now I’m in conflict.

Because I love being busy, remember? And being busy often takes you out of the present moment. Even just now, I went away from working on this post, to looking for a graphic for this post so I could pin it and share it, and then decided I’d design my own on PicMonkey because I’m working on that whole “find your blog aesthetic,” only to come back to this post and realize that I’m really failing at this mindfulness thing.

What I learned from 2015? Busy didn’t make me productive. Sure, I got schoolwork done (which is good, and I’m proud of), but I didn’t grow the things I really wanted to grow. My blog, my business. Those all took a backseat to school. Even Z and E took a backseat at times. And while I’m sure school needed to be the front runner at points, it didn’t need to be the only runner, and sometimes it was.

So, 2016 will be the year I tackle this wonderful idea of staying present. Where I’ll talk less about being busy. I don’t know what I’ll replace that with yet, but I know that it’s necessary.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m not big on resolutions, but I am big on goals. And this is certainly my goal.

Building my Blog – August Ups & Downs

 

AugustBlog

So, last month, I decided to start keeping track of my process from novice, hobby blogger to full-time income blogger. It’s a way to keep myself accountable and hopefully inspire someone else to reach out for the type of life they want to live.

So, here’s my first completed month on this journey (at least in writing about it!)

August Goals:

Buy my domain & host  Yahoo! It’s been a long time coming, but I have now bought my domain (and dearzoeyblog.com as well!) I have been waiting to do this forever, so I have a huge sense of accomplishment. I’m also now hosted through Bluehost.

Figure out and setup Google Analytics. – DONE. Well, the set-up part, anyway. I’m still figuring out the terms and lingo, but this tutorial has helped GREATLY:

Find/create a custom theme. – This one is super overwhelming. I like to be a DIYer, especially with design. I’m just trying to determine if it’s worth my time. I think it will be once I have a totally custom design that really reflects me. I found these two great posts that will hopefully help a lot: Somewhat Simple & Creative Kristi.

Start planning out mine and Zoey’s big project. Funny story! Zo and I recorded a great intro and announcement for our upcoming YouTube channel. It’ll be a channel called Baking with Zo (and me). Well, we recorded this great video, then I plug my (new) phone into my laptop to edit the videos, and it asked me if I wanted to restore my phone to the last backup. Without looking at the date, I say, “Yes.” Well, the backup was from JULY 2ND! So, then I thought, “Oh, well it will surely be on iCloud.” Yep…not there..even though I say to automatically upload to iCloud, but still not there. Ugh. But anyway, we re-recorded the intro and even did our first baking video! I’m learning iMovie, but it’s pretty easy so far. I’m still editing the videos, but I think the more I do it, the better I’ll become (thanks, captain obvious). I’m a total novice at YouTube (Damn you, channel art and never coming out right!!) and baking, and I’m entering my busiest school year, so this should be interesting, but we’re both super excited about it!

Start tracking my hours (when blogging, researching, planning, etc)– To take any guesswork (otherwise known as math..) out of logging my hours, I went with this free time clock. I started logging my hours on Aug 17th and ended on August 31. Total Hours: 14.5 hrs.  Given that E school started for Z, E, and me, with E going leaving to go back to his school, I think that’s pretty impressive.

Work on connecting with other bloggers. – KINDA – This step is a big deal for me. I’m an introvert through and through. I don’t like the aspect of selling myself, and I’ve always thought that it’s a bit disingenuous to “connect with other bloggers.” Because I didn’t want to feel like I was reaching out to other bloggers purely to benefit myself. But I follow a lot of blogs (without actually “following”) and thoroughly enjoy the content, so I made a pact with myself that I would legitimately sign up for any newsletters, actually hit the follow button, and find these blogs on social media. I started commenting, but I would only comment if I felt really compelled to. I’ve started this process and have connected to a few Facebook groups of bloggers (two are in my city!)

Other stuff I did:
-Separated all of my personal social media from my blog social media. – Not sure how I feel about this one yet. I’m trying to find the best way to be able to post to my personal stuff as well as my professional stuff without constantly having to sign out and such. Pinterest and Instagram have me most frustrated at this point. I’m checking out Buffer and Hootsuite and I’ve also heard of TailWind for Pinterest. I’ll keep you updated on that one!

-Signed up for Adsense, Shareasale, Amazon Associates…doing more research and trying to figure out this whole affiliate thing. Another overwhelming aspect of trying to blog for a living. I JUST WANT TO WRITE DAMMIT!

-Started working on an editorial calendar.

Goals for September:

Really get the whole affiliate marketing thing up and running. Which will inevitably mean going back through old posts and adding affiliate links. Such is life.

-Update some graphics from older posts (particularly the ones that don’t have my new domain name on them).

-Get 50 new followers

-Really focus on my content. None of this will work if my content is shit.

-Have a new blog post up at least 3 times/week.

-Find at least 3-5 new blogs to follow and comment on their work.

-Get a custom theme up.

-Fit ads on my page so that they’re not intrusive or ugly.

 

Overall, this has been a really rewarding month. While I’m nowhere near close to being able to support myself and family with blogging, I see it in my future, and I’m excited for the opportunities that can come from working for myself.

Just keep on keepin’ on.

Building a Blog from the Bottom Up!

If you all haven’t noticed, I’m really focused on building my blog. I have gained so much knowledge from blogs that share their income reports every month such as: Retired By 40!Pinch of YumYour Modern Family, and byRegina. And while all of these blog numbers seem so far away from me, I am determined to build this blog over this next year (well, and after that…of course). I wanted to start sharing my journey and goals for a few different reasons.

BuildingBlog

First off, I think it’s incredibly important to be able to reflect on your goals and which ones you’ve reached, what you’ve struggled with..etc. I’m an INFJ, so self-reflection is a big deal for me. I also think tracking progress from day one allows you to be proud of the baby steps you take. I’m an extremely ambitious dreamer of a person. I also struggle with anxiety. So the meeting of the two worlds can lead to a big, overwhelming mess in which I’m crying and screaming to myself, “What the hell are you thinking?! This will never work out for you.” Because of this, I’ve learned over the last couple of years how to itemize my goals. About two years ago, I became really sick of standing in my own way. I talked myself out of dozens of opportunities or chances that could’ve led to something great. So, after working with a therapist for a few months, I started to really work on making tiny goals that could build up to my bigger goals. And suddenly my tiny goals weren’t so overwhelming and huge.

Another reason I want to share this on the blog is for accountability. Making my goals public, regardless of how many (or few..) people see it, there’s certain pressure I put on myself to uphold what I write about. Follow through has become a big deal to me because talk doesn’t mean anything, if actions aren’t backing it up.

And lastly, I hope that my blog can eventually help someone else who wants to build a blog without any idea of where to start. I like the idea of someone reading this and saying, “She had no clue what she was doing, but she made something out of her goals.” And if I fail miserably, I hope I can at least give a few laughs or a few pieces of inspiration.

So, I am truly starting at ground zero. I have had 627 views TOTAL. That means, not 627 views in the month of August, but 627 views for the life of my blog. So, when I say I’m starting at the bottom, I mean it. All that being said, here are my goals for August:

– Buy my domain & host (I still haven’t figured out if I need to buy my domain thru wordpress and then be hosted by BlueHost — which is praised by every single blogger when they first start out or if I can do all of it through BlueHost…advice anyone?)

– Figure out and setup Google Analytics.

– Find/create a custom theme.

– Start planning out mine and Zoey’s big project (coming in September…could very well have something to do with YouTube…yeah, Zo is chomping at the bit to get started)

– Start tracking my hours (when blogging, researching, planning, etc).

– Work on connecting with other bloggers.

Each month, I’ll cross off the goals I’ve met (or exceeded). I’ll also mention anything else I add to the list, and dish on the good, bad, and ugly. Since I only have about 3 weeks left in the month (yeesh!) and school will be starting for both Z and me, these few goals are going to be a feat in and of itself, so I’m excited to tackle them and share the ups and downs with you all.