I love being frugal. Saving money is a constant goal of mine. But there are a lot of challenges to this. Make sure you’re aware of these frugality traps as you try to live a more frugal lifestyle.
Most of these frugality traps relate to failing to think about the long term. It’s easy to say that this item costs less than that item. But does the difference really justify buying the cheaper item? Not always, and that is what you have to think about.
Trap 1: Cheap Or Better Quality?
There are times where being frugal means spending more rather than less. Think about how long you are going to be using the item. If you’re buying generic rather than name brand foods, in most cases that makes good sense, especially since sometimes the two are made by the same company. Just different labels.
But other times you are buying things that you want to last. Then paying a bit more now means you will not be paying more later.
A simple example would be the cheese slicer I bought a while ago. The wire on the old one had broken and we couldn’t find a replacement wire. So off to the store for a new slicer.
One model had replacement wires in the box with it, while another cost a dollar less but had no replacement wires or obvious way to replace the wire. The wires themselves felt about the same. So I bought the one with the extra wires so that we won’t have to buy another the next time the wire breaks. And in my experience, they do break.
Trap 2: Overbuying
This is the danger of the warehouse store and the really good sale. You buy more than your family can use because darn it, it’s just such a great deal! How could you possibly go wrong?
In a lot of cases stocking up isn’t all that bad. You just don’t want to stock up on things that will go bad on you or take up more storage space than you can spare for it. As you shop, pay attention to when the food will expire.
In the case of clothing, think about whether or not all the stuff you are buying will really be worn. It can be especially easy to overbuy for babies and toddlers, who just look so cute in everything. Just remember that overbuying is why resale shops have so many clothes available with the tags still on them or clothes that look like new.
I always balance how much I buy with how often I’ll have to drive a significant distance to get more. Regular groceries, I know I can get more easily, the store is less than a mile away. I don’t buy more than I need over a short time, usually about a week.
Great deals I may get some extras anyhow. When meat of one sort or another is on a good deal and I have space in the freezer, it makes sense to buy extra and freeze it. If there’s no room in the freezer, it doesn’t matter how good the deal is. I don’t buy extra because we can’t use it.
But if it’s something I can get a better deal by going to Target or Costco, I often buy more. They take 20-30 minutes to get to, and then the same back. That’s a lot of gas for the car and time for me. If I head out to those places, the goal will be to get enough that I can avoid another trip there as long as possible.
My storage for such things is planned accordingly.
I still pay attention to how much I buy on such trips. There’s only so much space in my pantry and other storage spaces.
Trap 3: “But It’s On Sale!”
Similar to overbuying, buying something just because it is on sale is a big mistake. Think instead about whether or not you really need it. All too often, you won’t really need it.
Buying things you don’t need at discount stores is the same trap as buying things just because they’re on sale. I go to my local 99 Only store regularly. The main thing I buy there most trips?
Their produce department is almost as good as the one at the regular grocery store, but the prices are significantly better for many things. I can get a bag of bell peppers for $2, usually with a mix of green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers.
I belong to a Facebook group where people share their finds from this store. Many of the members shop daily, some more than once. Some even say their husbands or significant others have had to limit how much they spend there because they buy so much.
I get it. The deals are often amazing. But how much do you really need?
Trap 4: Giving In To The Wrong Things
There are a few ways to give in. One is to go shopping while hungry. It’s said that you will buy a lot more food if you grocery shop while hungry. Your hunger just makes it easier to give in to temptation.
But if you’re shopping with the kids, it’s easy to give in to their ideas. “But Moooooommy!” If you’re a mom, you know the rest of that routine. Just remember that you are the example for your kids and that if you buy everything that they want, they’ll never understand why you talk so much about spending your money wisely.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t ever give in. There are better and worse times to do so.
For example, we love to take our kids shopping with us when we go to Costco, and we always try to go at lunchtime.
The pizza and hot dogs at Costco are extremely affordable, as are the sodas. The kids feel like they got a treat, but we’ve spent a fraction of what we would have at a fast food place.
And then there are the free samples to top things off.
When my kids start wanting to buy a lot of treats is when I start reminding them to bring their own money. Sometimes the treat isn’t worth it if they’d have to spend their own.
Don’t forget the occasional, reasonably priced treat for yourself as well. It’s much easier to maintain self control if you allow yourself reasonable treats. You won’t feel so deprived that you just have to splurge on the big one.
Trap 5: Repair Or Replace?
This is one that can be true torture. The washing machine breaks. Is it time to replace it?
The main reason this is difficult is because so many things are designed these days to be cheaper to replace than to repair. But I would always suggest looking at the repair costs, especially if they turn out to be minor. Not every breakdown means a huge repair. Just think of all the little stuff you have to take your car to the shop for.
Once you decide to repair, make sure that you get it done right. Having to get a repair done over again is guaranteed to increase the cost.
For your car, this means picking a really good mechanic. Ask around. You can generally find a friend or neighbor who knows a truly wonderful and affordable mechanic.
For other repairs, do your homework. Get quotes for really big repairs, and don’t ask for the shortcuts if it means the repair won’t hold up.
Trap 6: Focusing More On Saving Than On Earning
Saving money on the things you need or want makes sense. Know what makes even more sense?
Increasing your income.
In the long run, if you want to have more money saved up for the big things you want in life, a larger income may do more for you than being frugal. You still can’t overspend when you have a larger income, but it will give you more flexibility.
Earning a larger income also helps as the cost of things go up. Frugality won’t beat out inflation. Increasing your income might.
Let’s assume your family’s monthly expenses are $3,000. That may be low or high, depending on the size of your family and where you live. The average cost of living depends on a lot of factors. This includes mortgage or rent, groceries, insurance, car payment, phone, utilities and so forth. All the things you have to spend money on every month.
You spend some time bringing some of the individual costs down. You find a way to cut your monthly expenses by $400. It was tedious but feels really good. You now have a little more flexibility in your budget.
The problem is that once those expenses are cut, there’s nowhere to go.
If you want to have more money available to your family, you have to earn more money. You have a number of options to do this.
Improve Your Career
For parents who work, putting some effort into improving your career can pay off very well.
This doesn’t have to be at your current job, of course. If your current job is going nowhere, the improvement you need to make to your career is to get into a better one. It’s time to upgrade your skills.
But if you have good opportunities at your current job, find out how to make the most of them. Look into what it takes to get the best raises. Figure out which promotion opportunities interest you. Discover how to get from where you are in your career to where you want to be.
Sometimes you can stay in your industry, but change employers to improve your career. Current employers don’t always value employees as they should. If you should be earning more in your current job, or you aren’t getting the promotions you think you deserve, it’s probably time to move on.
Don’t quit your job to look for better opportunities, however. Most employers want to see that you’re currently working. It often improves your value in their eyes.
Have Both Parents Work
If your family has one parent working while the other stays at home, having the stay at home mom or dad start working can be a quick way to increase the family’s income.
This can be difficult when the kids are young enough that childcare is an issue. It’s not at all uncommon that childcare expenses will take up an excessive part of the family’s income, or even exceed the total of one parent’s paycheck.
Sometimes this means it’s not worthwhile to have both parents work outside the home. Other times it means you need to look at the long term.
If the income issue is short term, for example, it can be worthwhile to take the financial hit for a time, with the understanding that a future increase in income will take care of that problem.
Other times you may need to look at alternative arrangements. I know families where one parent works during the day and the other at night while the children are young. It’s hard on the marriage seeing each other so little, but it can be a worthwhile sacrifice to keep the family financially afloat.
You may also be able to find friends or family who are willing to help with childcare as needed at little to no cost. Don’t push someone if they aren’t willing – this works best when someone comes forward to offer and you discuss the arrangements in detail.
Or you could always…
Start A Side Gig Or Find A Way To Work At Home
Starting a side gig or finding a way to work at home is my favorite way to help out a family’s income. You may or may not need more childcare when you do this, but you can plan this out to deal with the fact that you have kids.
Some side gigs and work at home jobs really aren’t good if you must have the children with you. You don’t want to drive for Lyft if you don’t have enough time without the kids.
Customer service jobs and other jobs over the telephone can be problematic if you have children as well. Some of these jobs require absolutely no background noise, or you’re likely to get fired. You don’t want to lose your job just because the kids didn’t understand that they needed to let you work.
Fortunately, there are a number of side gigs and other ways to work at home that are flexible enough that you can do them even with the kids around. Fewer distractions are better for productivity, but not an absolute must for some of these positions:
It’s rarely easy to find ways to add to your investments when you’re on a tight budget. But do what you can.
If you have a job that offers a 401k, for example, make the most of it. This is especially important if your employer gives matching contributions to whatever level. If you can max that out, the money is out of your reach before it hits your bank account, and that’s often easier to deal with.
If you have the self control, consider contributing to a Roth IRA or Spousal IRA if you have a spouse who doesn’t work. This money will make a huge difference to you later in life.
I hope these tips help you to avoid the most common frugality traps. It’s sensible to be frugal, so long as you don’t take it to extremes. Be sure to balance it with progress toward a higher income so that you don’t run out of ways to save money when you need them most.
If you were paying attention to the news or social media at all around July 12, you probably heard about Build A Bear’s “Pay Your Age” day. Hordes of parents with children showed up for this amazing deal, waiting for hours for the bargain. Stores had to close their doors because the crowds were too big. Officials cited safety concerns in many places.
It was a huge case of viral marketing that worked too well.
Honestly, that they didn’t consider the crowd situation well enough surprised me. As soon as I heard about the deal, I knew the crowds would be unmanageable, which is why I didn’t tell my youngest about it. I knew she’d desperately want to go, and I am not the kind of mom who stands for hours in line for a toy.
All this was to promote their program that kids can get a pay your age birthday bear. The company also offered $15 vouchers to make up for the mess. Not the same as paying your age for most people, but not a terrible deal.
This kind of problem can hit you as an online business too. Going viral is a goal most bloggers and online business owners have. Not everyone is ready for what can happen.
My Experience With Too Much Website Traffic
I’ve been hit with an excess of traffic once myself. It was quite an experience. The timing was such that it was more difficult to deal with than it would have been at any other time.
You see, I had just moved. My site had been hit so hard that my host had shut it down for overusing the server.
And I didn’t know until the cable company connected my internet service.
In this case, it was a link to my site in an article that was shared on a few big sites. All at once, I had far more traffic hitting my site than my hosting plan allowed.
There were comments on the articles questioning my legitimacy because my site was down. Somehow I might be trying to scam people because my site was down. I’m not sure how that works, but some people were concerned.
Fortunately, my hosting company was very willing to work with me on a temporary upgrade to deal with the sudden increase of traffic. The increased income was worth the trouble.
Why wasn’t I prepared?
The interview I had done for the article had happened months before. I didn’t know where or when it would be posted. In fact, I had given up on anything happening with that interview. So naturally, things happened right when we had to move for my husband’s new job.
That’s how things work, isn’t it?
It was also my first huge surge in traffic. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I learned a lot about the kind of traffic that’s available in this niche that way.
Going viral is often hard to prepare for, no matter how hard you’ve worked at it.
What Is Viral Marketing?
People always talk about going viral. Most people can name things they’ve seen go viral.
It’s not just big companies that go viral. How many people remember “the dress?” Mentioning the dress can still make some people groan over the whole fuss about what color it was. I’ve seen a few other attempts at going viral over colors that people disagree on, but nothing like that.
The goal of viral marketing is to spread information by word of mouth. Many companies aim to get viral campaigns going over social media, as many people share freely on social media.
How the marketing campaign spreads doesn’t matter, so long as it spreads widely. You don’t see many campaigns aiming to go viral over email these days. This probably has to do with the frustration many people have over forwarded emails. They can get difficult to read as they get repeatedly forwarded, diminishing the effect over time.
Viral marketing campaigns can be entertaining. They can offer an exceptionally good deal.
Viral marketing does not have to spread out to everyone. You only need your marketing to spread to your target audience. People who will never be interested in what you have to offer are not your target for any kind of marketing.
Going viral will be different for every marketer. If your niche is small, you don’t want a viral campaign that appeals to the world.
Let’s say you’re selling a blogging course, as many bloggers do. You’ve had some success with your blogging, and you want to share your techniques with people interested in starting their own blogs.
While you may think of blogging as something anyone can try, the simple truth of the matter is that you need better targeting than that. Who do you think will be interested in learning to blog from you? Pick your niche.
Your target audience will probably relate to the kind of blogging you do. They’re the people you can give the best advice to. There are some differences, after all, in blogging about parenting versus running a blog for a charity.
If you’re trying to go viral, target the audience you know. A successful parenting blogger already has some ideas on how to attract people to that subject. You will probably have more luck attracting people in that niche who would also like to start a blog than in attracting people who aren’t in that niche. You already have a reputation and a following in your niche, which gives you a head start.
Target the people trying to start a blog for a charity, and they’ll see you as just some parenting blogger, not a real authority on their needs. An attempt to catch their attention and get them to buy your course will probably fall flat.
Going Viral Is Not Always Deliberate
Much as you might want control over when you go viral, it’s not something that happens on command, nor can you avoid it at times. Word of mouth marketing of any sort is impossible to control.
Just imagine having a business where you make something, and without advance notification, it gets featured on a huge site. You get slammed with business, plus criticism for not having enough of your product.
Yet all you did was run your business as usual. The discovery and word of mouth chatter wasn’t due to anything unusual you did, aside from offering an interesting product. Hopefully, you can make the most of it if that ever happens to you.
Is Viral Always Good For A Business?
Viral marketing attempts can go sour. Going viral in the wrong way can be damaging to your business. Too great a focus on going viral can be one of the biggest social media mistakes you can make. Viral marketing is only a part of your social media strategy. It shouldn’t be the whole thing.
Just think about how “switching” to IHOb went for IHOP. That attempt at going viral resulted in significant mockery for them. They also got attention to their new burgers, which may be a benefit, but overall most people weren’t impressed. But if getting people to talk about the switch was the goal, it worked. People now know IHOP has burgers, even if they didn’t like the marketing campaign at all.
On the other hand, it was a lot of fun for other restaurants to mock the switch:
Can't wait to try a burger from the place that decided pancakes were too hard.
Sometimes companies react well to negative viral videos. Starbucks closed their stores for a day of retraining after a video of two black men being arrested at one of their locations went viral. Starbucks has been very open about the changes they’ve made to hopefully avoid such racial profiling in their stores in the future. Hopefully it sticks.
How To Prepare For When Viral Marketing Works
If you’re trying to figure out viral marketing, you need to consider what happens when it works out. You don’t want to be caught unprepared if things work out.
For an online business, that means high quality hosting. I’m currently using A2 Hosting, which I like quite well. I haven’t had the chance to test them on high traffic levels yet, but they have upgrades available, so if the plan I have right now isn’t enough, I can move to something better.
If you’re serious about going viral, the time will come that you will need a virtual private server or dedicated hosting. If you’re earning money, these become a good investment and will be vital to your success.
Unless you’re completely comfortable with controlling the server on your own, you would want managed versions of these types of hosting.
Any host will shut you down on a shared server if you’re using more than your share of resources for a period of time. That’s so that your traffic surge doesn’t take down other sites. You would want them to do that to any other site on your shared hosting if it were your site being taken down by a surge on someone else’s site.
A good hosting company will help you move your site FAST if you get clobbered by traffic. But they may or may not contact you to let you know that you need the upgrade if you want your site up.
If your marketing is going well, it will be worthwhile to stay on higher level hosting, rather than bumping up when the rush comes.
Make Sure Your Product Is Ready
One of the big mistakes Build A Bear made was in not having their stores and products ready. They knew there would be a surge of traffic. They vastly underrated how huge the surge would be.
Whatever your product may be, if you’re trying to go viral, make sure you have enough for the potential demand.
This is relatively easy if your product is downloadable. All you need are servers powerful enough to take the traffic.
It’s much more difficult if you’re offering a physical product. You may have to explain to disappointed customers what your production times are, or even refuse orders if you don’t have a way to increase product production.
There’s no point to trying to go viral if you don’t have a product, even if that product is simply the content on your site. Make sure you have a solid way to monetize your traffic if that’s the case, of course. You don’t want to pay for more powerful servers if you can’t earn anything.
Being caught unprepared is how viral marketing can go too well for a small business or blog. If you’re trying to go viral, make plans for if you succeed. Even if you aren’t trying to go viral, consider what you would do if you suddenly had more traffic to your site than you can currently handle.
It won’t hurt to plan ahead so you can move quickly should the situation arise.
How’s Pinterest working for promoting your online blog or business? Are you having a lot of success with it? Even if you aren’t sure how much you’re going to like Pinterest for marketing purposes, I strongly suggest setting up a Pinterest business account. It has a lot of advantages that you’re missing out on if you don’t bother with it.
A Pinterest business account in many ways is not that different from a personal Pinterest account. Your pins look the same to others. Pinning works exactly the same. It’s free. It’s the little extras that business accounts get that make it worthwhile to either switch your account over to a Pinterest business account or start an entirely separate Pinterest account for your business.
What’s The Difference?
It can be difficult to understand why you should make the switch to a Pinterest business account when you can’t see an immediate difference. It won’t give your pins preferential treatment or anything like that. So why bother?
The difference comes in what only you can see in your account. The tools you can use with a business account can help you use Pinterest in a much more effective way.
Take the profile or board widget, for example. You can use it to share your recent pins on your website. This could be useful in drawing more attention to your pinboards, hopefully to encourage more shares of your material on Pinterest and eventually drive more traffic to your site. After all, building your traffic is what it’s about if you’re a business.
The big deal, however, comes from the analytics you get with a business account. There are aspects that make relatively little difference, but some of the features of Pinterest analytics are essential to understanding how well your pins are performing on Pinterest. We’ll cover that shortly.
How To Convert To A Pinterest Business Account
It’s fairly easy to convert a new or personal Pinterest account to a business account. It only takes a few moments, in fact.
If you’re starting a brand new Pinterest account to use for business, go to Pinterest for Business and click Join as a Business. Follow the instructions there to set up your new account. It won’t take long. Pinterest needs a few details about your business and the person managing the profile.
If you plan on using your current Pinterest account, you can use this link to convert your account to a business account. Once again, it’s quite simple to do, and you will want to verify your website, just as you would if you had made an entirely new account.
If you have the Yoast SEO plugin, the simplest way to verify your site with Pinterest is to go to the Pinterest tab of the Social menu of that plugin, and add the meta tag provided by Pinterest right there. This way you don’t have to mess with your blog’s HTML, which makes some people nervous. Pinterest provides instructions to verify your site other ways, but this is the easiest if you have Yoast SEO installed on your WordPress blog.
Should You Use Your Pinterest Business Account For Personal Pins?
If you’ve been using your personal Pinterest account for your business pins as well as your personal pins, you may want to consider whether you should continue to do the same when you move to a Pinterest business account.
Keeping your business account strictly business has the advantage of focus. Followers of your business account will know exactly what kinds of pins to expect you to share. This can be an advantage, as it also helps Pinterest to know what kinds of pins you’re sharing.
On the other hand, it can be easier to keep your Pinterest account super active if you do all of your personal and business pinning on one account. So long as you keep your boards well organized and optimized, this may not be the worst thing… so long as your personal pins don’t make your brand look bad.
Some of your personal pins may be interesting to your business followers, of course. This depends on your niche. If you blog about parenting and family life, for example, no one is likely to mind seeing your recipe pins as well.
If you’re truly concerned, but don’t want to have multiple Pinterest accounts to keep track of, you can pin your personal pins only into secret boards. This way you can still see the things you like while logged into your Pinterest business account, but your followers won’t see anything you don’t want them to see.
Enable Rich Pins
If you want Pinterest to show as much information as possible about pins from your site, you must activate Rich Pins. Once again, if you have Yoast SEO, this is simple.
Go to the Facebook tab of the Social menu of your Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure that ‘Add Open Graph meta data’ is enabled. Save the changes.
Now go to this page on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins. Give it a link to a single blog post. Click Validate, and see if it worked. That’s all it should take. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to follow the documentation and try to figure out what went wrong. Most blogs shouldn’t have any problems at all.
Making The Most Of Analytics
Pinterest analytics are the big reason most bloggers love their business accounts. It’s a huge help to know how your pins are performing. Just make sure you’re looking at the right statistics.
I consider the Monthly Viewers statistic that Pinterest puts right up there something of a ‘meh’ statistic. It helps you see if your pins are being viewed more, but views are nothing.
Most especially, views aren’t action. You want action.
The one good thing about seeing your monthly views go up is that most likely your other statistics are doing better as well. It’s not a lot of information, but it’s a little and can help alert you to changes that you need to look at.
Monthly Engaged is the other statistic Pinterest puts right up in front of you. It has a little more meaning than Monthly Viewers, but not a lot. It simply means that someone interacted in some way with your pin. You don’t know which way with this statistic, but it’s still good to see this number get bigger.
To learn more, you need to click on the Analytics dropdown menu you see on you business profile, and take a look at the different sections.
The Overview section of your analytics gives you a quick look at what’s going on with your account. When I look at mine, for example, I see a drop at the moment. This is likely related to the Fourth of July holiday that we just passed as of this writing.
Events like that will cause significant drops in your traffic that have little to do with the quality of your marketing. They’re something to be aware of, but so long as your traffic recovers in an appropriate time, nothing to worry about.
There may also be seasonal drops. Many people find that they get less traffic from Pinterest in summer as a general rule.
A drop in traffic may be cause for concern if you don’t know why it happened. Take some time and find out what has changed so you can figure out how to fix it. Maybe you’ve been doing a little less pinning, or maybe your site is getting less traffic overall, leading to fewer pins. It’s good to know that you have to look, so you can figure out the problem.
The Profile section of your Pinterest analytics allows you to examine how your pins are performing. You can see how your top pins and boards are performing.
It’s a huge help being able to see which pins are getting clicks or being saved by other pinners. These are the actions you want to see. Lots of impressions are nice but only mean so much if you don’t get clicks and saves to go with them.
You can also check out your all time best performing pins.
These stats will not be limited to pins from your site. This can be frustrating when that’s what you’re most interested in, but also helpful. You might get ideas for topics you need to cover. Clearly your followers like that content – now make it your own and make it better! No copying, and give credit where credit is due.
People You Reach
The People you reach section gives you a little information about the number of people. It’s in the process of being replaced by the Audience Insights report, which is far more useful.
The Website section allows you to see activity from your website on Pinterest. For example, you can see how often people have used the Pin It button on your website (you do have that, don’t you??).
This can be very similar to the information you get in the Profile section, but you will see data only for pins for your site. If there are a lot of other pins showing up in your Profile’s data, this will clear things up for you.
As of this writing, Audience Insights is not in full release but looks great.
You can see the categories and interests of your audience and their affinity for various interests. I can see a lot of potential for this in terms of deciding what to blog about, and from there what to pin.
You’ll also learn about the demographics of your audience, where they’re from, and the kinds of devices they use to visit Pinterest. This is a lot more information than was available previously, and you should make the most of it. You can even learn about what the Pinterest audience as a whole is interested in.
Make The Most Of Pinterest Scheduling Tools
If you’re serious about using Pinterest for business, you should at least consider using Pinterest scheduling tools. There are people who prefer manual pinning methods as well, but I prefer scheduling, and I can tell you why.
Simply put, scheduling means even when life throws a great big obstacle in your way, your pins keep getting posted.
I’ve been dealing with a horrifyingly huge problem in my life. My father died.
That’s awful for just about anyone, but this case was complicated. I won’t go into too many details, as we’re hoping for legal action on the scam he fell for that completely messed up his finances, but suffice to say the whole thing has been a mess, and I’ve learned things about my father I wouldn’t want to know about anyone. And the finances weren’t even the worst mess we had to deal with.
I’ve lost many days of work time dealing with this situation, as have my sisters. But because I’m using Hootsuite to schedule my pins, they’re still being posted. All I had to do was keep up with reciprocating on the group boards.
Hootsuite has a fairly adequate Pinterest scheduling tool. I think it could be better. But it’s there and I use Hootsuite anyhow, so that’s what I have right now.
What I like about scheduling with Hootsuite, however, is that it’s easy to vary both the images and what you say for each pin. Pinterest is developing a preference for a greater variety of images per blog post and unique descriptions for pins, rather than recycling the same thing over and over. The way the Hootsuite scheduler works, it’s not that hard to switch things up regularly.
My next plan is to start using Tailwind as well. Most pinners who schedule love Tailwind, so far as I can tell. I’ve been too busy to give it a proper chance, but once things get better, I’ll test it as well. I understand its scheduling tool is far more powerful, which sounds great.
When you’re serious about using Pinterest to market your blog, you need the consistency that a scheduling tool can offer. Handling the entire thing manually takes a lot of time out of your day that could be better used elsewhere.
If you want to learn to make the most of Pinterest, don’t forget to consider taking a Pinterest course. Learning how to make the most of Pinterest is much easier if you get advice from someone who has gotten great, consistent results.
Have you ever wished you could get paid to use skills such as social media marketing, writing, and customer service from home? Maybe you’ve had concerns about the work being flexible enough for your current lifestyle. You might wonder how to become a virtual assistant.
It might not be as hard as you think.
The first thing I will tell you to do is to consider taking a virtual assistant course. 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success is an excellent course to consider. The right course will give you a solid start and help you avoid the most common mistakes in your new business.
But even before you buy into a course, you need to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Let’s take a look at what it really takes to become a virtual assistant.
What Is A Virtual Assistant?
The job title “Virtual Assistant” or VA gets tossed around a lot right now as a great option for working at home. With computers and the Internet making it easier to work for someone else from a distance, this job has great possibilities for many a stay at home mom or dad.
But not everyone understands what it is. It may not help that a virtual assistant may have a wide range of duties, and not all virtual assistants offer the same services.
What Are Typical Virtual Assistant Job Duties?
Your job duties as a virtual assistant will vary. It depends on what you offer and what your clients need. You can simply state that a virtual assistant works remotely from home for other professionals. But that doesn’t really explain what a virtual assistant does.
Your virtual assistant work may include answering emails and other routine correspondence such as email and phone calls, managing social media accounts, creating content for blogs, graphic design, and much more.
The wide range of possibilities is why many virtual assistants specialize. You probably can’t do it all. But if you do a few things better than most, you can find someone willing to pay you to handle that job for them.
Who Hires Virtual Assistants?
Virtual assistants are popular with other people working from home, but they’re not the only ones who hire them. Any small business that needs help with something you can do from your home may consider hiring a virtual assistant. This way they don’t have to hire an employee or provide them with workspace or benefits.
Real estate agents
Companies needing temporary help that can be done from home
Life and business coaches
Teachers and professors
Small business owners
Beauty salon owners
and many more.
Can Anyone Be A Virtual Assistant?
Many people have the basic skills to become a virtual assistant. Not everyone, but many.
Some think of a virtual assistant as being something like a personal assistant. The skills can be similar. However, many virtual assistants specialize in just a few key skills, so that they’re more effective than someone who does more general work.
If you have experience as a personal assistant, that can be a huge plus when you decide to become a virtual assistant. You have much more of an idea as to what clients will ask of you. But it’s not an absolute need to have such experience. Many people start a virtual assistant business with no experience at all as an assistant.
What you absolutely must have are some skills that are good enough to catch a client’s attention, and the willingness to learn more over time. If you have demonstrated experience in these skills, you have something to show potential clients.
If you want to help people in the legal field, for example, experience in the legal or paralegal field will be a huge help. Similarly, if you want to help people who run online businesses, you will to need to understand the internet very well and probably need HTML and CSS skills.
What Training Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant should be well trained in whichever skills they intend to offer as a virtual assistant. If one of your offered skills is social media, you need to know how to manage various types of social media accounts, make them grow, and get a good response rate from posts.
Similarly, if you offer bookkeeping skills, you should know how to use common bookkeeping software, such as Quickbooks. If you offer email marketing services, you should be able to use common email management services and be able to figure the ROI on a mailing.
You can get training on any skills you feel you need to develop further. Sites such as Udemy offer courses on a huge range of topics. Consider these options:
But there’s one more kind of training you should consider to work as a virtual assistant. I mentioned it near the start of this post. A course such as 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success will be a huge help in getting your VA business off to a successful start.
What Equipment Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?
Odds are that you already own much of the equipment you need to do your work as a virtual assistant. You probably wouldn’t even consider becoming a virtual assistant if you didn’t already have access to a computer and the internet. Those two things are the minimum you need. You will probably want more things.
Get A Dedicated Phone Number
When you have any kind of a home business that people are likely to want to call, you will probably want a dedicated phone number for that business. You don’t want to answer your home phone like a business or vice versa.
These days, you don’t have to get a whole new phone line put in to get a new phone number. You also don’t have to pay a lot to get a cell phone to use for your business, although you can. But if you want to go the free route, get a VOIP number from a service such as Google Voice.
I like Google Voice, even though I use it very little. You can set it up to forward calls to another number, so that you receive them like any other call, or have calls go to voicemail.
You can make calls through Google Voice, although it’s not as simple as dialing your phone. It gives you the option of connecting through a phone number you’ve linked to your account, such as your home or cell phone, or it can place the call through Google Hangouts.
Google Voice has its faults, and many of them, but it allows you to share a phone number with clients that isn’t your personal number. You can even put it on do not disturb so that you don’t get calls outside of business hours – they go straight to voicemail.
If you’d rather just get a cell phone for your business, I suggest taking a look at Ting if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on another phone line. This is the service I use, and it saves me a lot of money. We have four cell phones on it right now, and the combined monthly bill is usually less than $40. We aren’t heavy users, obviously, but it’s still an amazing deal.
Start A Blog And/Or Website
If you want clients to find you, you must have an online presence. You can seek out clients on your own, but you’ll still need a website to show them what you’re capable of.
Starting a website is relatively easy and very affordable. You need good hosting. Make sure your hosting makes it easy to use SSL connections – which is what makes a secure connection to your website – as it’s pretty much mandatory these days. I’m currently using A2 Hosting and have been generally happy with them. I’ve also used HostGator but left them when I realized that switching to SSL with them wasn’t a simple process on the plan I had. I was happy with them otherwise, and some of their plans make SSL easy to get.
I strongly recommend using WordPress to manage your content. There’s a learning curve, but most people find it’s not that bad, and many clients will use it as well. If you’re hired to post blog updates and such, you’ll need this skill anyhow.
Use your blog as an online portfolio whenever possible. The exact things you should share on it will depend on your niche, but here are some ideas.
Details of services and packages you offer
Case studies on work you’ve done for clients
Samples of your work
Advice you want to share in general
That last one can be important. If you want to keep bringing in new clients, you have to get your name out there as a great resource. People who read and admire what you’ve written are more likely to trust your abilities.
It also helps keep your blog updated. It looks good to search engines if new information is added to your site regularly, and it gives you something to share on social media so you can build a solid following.
If social media marketing is one of the skills you want to offer, you must have your own social media accounts with followers and interactions that show you can do it. The combination of a blog and active social media will demonstrate these skills.
Having your own website with a domain name makes it easy to have a professional looking email address associated with it. This will look much more professional than your typical Gmail or other free email address.
Appropriate Software For Your Business
The software you need will depend on what you’re offering your clients. If you’re doing graphic design, for example, you will probably want to have Photoshop and/or Illustrator. If you will be coding websites or software, there are a number of options listed on this site for you to consider.
Bookkeeping software is good both for the needs of your own business and for any clients you might do bookkeeping work for. Quickbooks is good overall, and many people like Freshbooks for invoicing.
Design Your Own Business Cards
While much of your marketing will probably be done online, you still need business cards. There will be times when you meet someone who would make a great client. While you can simply exchange contact information on your phones, that doesn’t put a physical reminder into the potential client’s hand.
A business card does.
If you want to offer graphic design services, this is an opportunity to show those off in a small space. Make it professional and eye catching.
Don’t go too cheap on the printing. A poorly printed business card won’t reflect well on your business.
What Should You Do As A Virtual Assistant?
There are a lot of different services you can offer as a virtual assistant. You don’t have to do it all. Many virtual assistants choose to offer a variety of services, however, so that clients don’t have to work with multiple assistants. The more virtual assistants a client tries, after all, the more chances that they’ll go with someone else.
Stick with things you know you can handle well for your clients. If you really cannot make great looking images, you shouldn’t be offering graphic design services. If your grammar is terrible, you shouldn’t work as a writer.
You do not have to be equally strong in all of your skills, of course. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some services to consider:
Writing and editing
Social media management
Following up with clients
And much more!
Creating Your Virtual Assistant Niche
Creating a niche as a virtual assistant is important. Think about it from your client’s point of view. A real estate agent who wants a virtual assistant is far more likely to hire one who has worked with other real estate agents. That VA will understand their needs much better than one who has never worked for a real estate agent before.
Don’t think that narrowing down your niche means you are limiting your horizons. You aren’t. You’re making your business more appealing to potential clients. If you choose your niche well, you’re making your success more likely.
If you’ve worked in a particular industry in the past, think about virtual assistant services you could offer in that area. Your previous experience can mean a tremendous advantage.
Another idea is to take a look at what other virtual assistants are doing. How can you stand out from the crowd, given your skills and experience?
If you’ve been working as a virtual assistant, and want to try focusing your efforts more, take a look at what you’ve been doing. What do people ask you for the most? What do you most enjoy doing? You can even sometimes include outside interests if you find a way to relate them to being a virtual assistant.
Don’t forget to consider what just isn’t working for you. Sometimes it will mean you need to charge more for a particular activity, but other times it may be better for you to drop it from your list of virtual assistant services.
Finally, think about who your ideal client is? What industry? What services does your ideal client want?
Your niche should always be something you enjoy. If you pick something you really aren’t happy with, what do you think the odds are that you will stick with it?
How Do Virtual Assistants Set Their Rates?
How much you earn from your virtual assistant business will make a big difference in your life. What the best rate to charge your clients will vary, however, both as you grow your VA business and by how difficult the client is.
Don’t underestimate your overhead just because you’re working at home. Here are some of the factors you need to consider.
A lot of people new to home business do not value this highly enough. If you’ve done office work outside the home, what did you earn? Average it out per hour. Then remember that the job quite likely came with benefits, such as medical, dental, paid time off and so forth. The only way you’re getting those with a home business is if either your spouse’s job offers them or you provide them yourself.
Then there’s all the unbillable time to consider. There’s the work you do to find clients. Sick days. Vacations. Holidays. Your hourly rate needs to make your income viable even with all those things considered.
It all costs money, and you may have to spend some to get all the equipment you should have. You may not have to get a fax machine, eFax and similar services may do the job quite well enough, but other things you will need to buy. Reference materials for your specialties. Appropriate software. A business phone line.
You will probably at some point need to upgrade equipment or buy things you haven’t had before for your virtual assistant business. If you don’t have a good home office set up yet, you’ll want to improve it over time.
You may or may not know much about the Internet, but there is one simple rule: Build it and they will come just ain’t so.
You will have to market yourself and your business. You’ll want business cards. Flyers, possibly, or brochures. And most definitely a website and you’ll have to market that too, quite possibly using pay per click advertising. It costs money to do these things. Not to mention the time it takes to really get things going. Keep remembering that your time is valuable.
Yes, you’re going to have to think about taxes. If you’re losing money it can be a writeoff, but if you’re earning you have a lot to think about. Such as paying quarterly estimated taxes. But think positive. If you’re having to pay quarterly, it means you’re doing something right. But keep in mind that when you were employed by someone else, they paid a part of it.
Business insurance may be a good idea. It’s protection in case of serious problems. But you should also be thinking about how your business may impact your needs for your homeowners or renters insurance, car insurance and so forth.
You may be able to write off a part of these on your taxes, but that also means you can think of them as one of your business expenses. You’ll want to talk to a tax professional about how these are impacted on your taxes. You may qualify for a home office deduction.
Similarly, you can consider some of your utilities to be business-related expenses. Your home office uses electricity, after all. And that phone line? What about the Internet connection? Keep asking your tax professional questions.
Do you do any driving in the course of your virtual assistant work? Meet with clients? Even travel long distances on rare occasions? Then you may have some costs of business to calculate in there.
Your Target Market
Your target market matters when setting your rates. You can charge more for some areas than others. The more challenging the skill required, the more a client should be willing to pay to have the work done. If it’s something that just about anyone can handle without difficulty, clients will expect a lower rate.
While the necessary rates can vary quite a bit by where you live, in the United States you will probably want to charge at least $30 an hour. You can go higher, especially on more challenging tasks.
You may want to consider charging by the project for some things. This can be better than charging an hourly rate, but it can also be far worse. Set up your project rates with caution, and make sure your contracts carefully outline what’s included. You don’t want a picky..
Do the dishes distract you when you’re working at home? Housework that needs to be done takes away from your work hours if you let it. But is that a reasonable expectation of an at home parent? How do you balance housework and working at home?
There are a lot of challenges to working at home. You have a lot to get accomplished in the day and many distractions. It’s easy to have very high expectations of what you will accomplish on a particular day, and it’s not always realistic.
Worse, you probably feel guilty at times for focusing on work rather than on keeping a clean house. You’re home and you may feel like it’s a part of your job to keep that house clean. Traditional duty of the stay at home parent (especially moms) and all that.
But being at home should not mean that it all falls onto your shoulders. You need to look at what the appropriate divisions are.
What Are Your Work Hours?
How many hours you work at your home based job or business can play a role in how much housework is reasonable for you to do. Working a full time work at home job only differs from working a full time outside the home job by the length of the commute.
If you work part time from home, you may be able to spare more time for housework, of course. How that works, in reality, depends on what else you have to get done during the day. Don’t forget a little time to set yourself up for a productive work at home day.
Some of what you can take on around the house as a work at home parent may depend upon what time you work. If you have to work at the time dinner is normally made, you can’t be expected to make dinner every night. Someone else will need to handle it.
Does Your Income Matter?
Many a work at home mom or dad may feel as though they should take on more household work because they don’t earn that much yet.
Maybe your job doesn’t pay that well. Maybe your home business hasn’t taken off yet. But at this moment you earn significantly less than your partner.
Do you need to make it up by handling more of the household chores?
Personally, I would still count more by hours worked than by income. I’d rather have a partnership count these things by effort rather than dollars. In the end, you’re all contributing, right?
Another problem with taking on extra housework if your income is on the low side is that you put too much of your energy into that, and too little into improving your income. Taking on that extra housework can tire you out.
What Other Chores Are You Taking On?
Housework is often not the only chore that a work at home mom or dad takes on regularly. When you’re dividing things up, you need to consider everything that each person does.
I drive my kids to and from school each day, for example. We don’t live close to their schools, and while walking to and from would not be impossible, it would be difficult for the kids and very time consuming. Driving them makes more sense, even though it takes a chunk out of my day.
Chores like that have to be done by the person who is available since they must be done at certain times. Schedules are often planned around such things. It can more than make up for the lack of a commute for a work at home mom or dad.
How Do Want The Housework Divided?
How to divide the housework can be challenging for any family. People don’t always agree on how clean everything needs to be.
Get your spouse involved. Get the kids involved. Don’t let all the housework fall on one pair of shoulders. It’s important to talk about these things so that no one feels as though they’re carrying an unfair share of the load.
The division of chores with children depends on how old the kids are. The amount of housework I have to do has greatly decreased as the kids have grown. They can handle quite a bit.
But when the kids are young, they’re often more hindrance than help. When you can spare the time, it’s still a great idea to let them help, so that they learn how to do the job. It will pay off in the long run.
Some of the division may depend on what each person prefers to do, so long as everyone feels the division is fair. If one parent prefers yardwork to housework, and that takes an equal amount of work, there may be a good division right there.
Figure out what you will do at which times. Housework that needs to be done can be scheduled just like anything in your home business.
How well all of this works can tell you a lot about how supportive your spouse is of your working at home. If you both work a similar number of hours, yet you’re at home and expected to do a significantly larger chunk of the housework, you may need to have a talk to make sure that what you do is being taken seriously. Sometimes it’s not. Other times it will just be that your spouse hasn’t quite realized how much work you’re doing.
Pick The Right Time
Knowing when to do housework when working at home is key to keeping it from messing with your work schedule. There’s a right time and a wrong time to do things.
The wrong time, of course, is when you should be working. Laundry days are probably the worst for interfering with working at home – it has to be moved so often. Any chore you can save for when you aren’t working gives you more time to work on the things that earn money for you.
The right time to do housework is outside of your working hours. You can do little bits during your breaks, but isn’t it better to take an actual break for you sometimes? Save the housework for when you can get more done. Try these tips to help.
Clean the night before – If the dishes are done after dinner, and the clutter put away before anyone goes to bed, there’s much less temptation to clean during the day.
Make freezer meals – Plan out some meals that you can make ahead of time and put into the freezer. Seek out recipes that can be frozen and then put into the crockpot, pressure cooker or oven when you want to make them. This saves a ton of meal prep time if done right.
Get rid of stuff – The more stuff you have, the more mess you have. Declutter your home and you’ll have much less cleaning to do.
Know When To Let The Housework Go
There will be times when it makes sense to let some of the housework go. You won’t be able to handle it all, all of the time. Life gets in the way.
It’s common for things to be on the messy side when children are little, for example. Unless you’re very strict about toys being put away immediately, kids are super messy creatures. Odds are that you won’t be able to keep up with their abilities to make a mess.
A crisis, either within the family or your work, can also cut down on how much housework you can handle. If you suddenly add 10-20 hours a week to your work schedule, obviously you won’t be able to do as much housework.
Depending on your family, you may have to deal with the house being a mess for a time. The other possibility is that the other members of the family pick up the slack. That won’t work every time – a family crisis can make it harder for the entire family to keep up.
Is It Worth The Expense To Hire A Maid Service?
If your household income is high enough, sometimes it makes a lot of sense to hire a maid service. This won’t take care of the daily chores but can be a huge help with the bigger cleaning jobs.
The decision to hire a maid service can depend in part on how you value your time versus money. How does your hourly rate compare with what the maid service costs? If it gives you more time to work, a maid service can be good for your income.
Of course, if you can’t resist cleaning everything before the service comes, you may not want to hire a maid service. Make sure it will save you a good amount of time and effort in keeping your home as clean as you want it.
Talk About It If Things Aren’t Working Out
It’s common to find that whatever balance you agreed upon for housework won’t always work out. We’re all human.
Try not to let resentment build.
Instead, sit down and talk about what’s happening. Discuss solutions you can agree upon. Make job lists if they’ll help, or set up a calendar. Find something to make it easier for everyone to do their share.
If all else fails, hang a sign like this one:
and see if everyone gets the hint. It might be worth the smiles, especially if you have any Harry Potter fans in the house.
Is blogging working out for you? Some people find it comes easy, but many really have to think about what they’re doing to get anywhere. Writing great blog posts is hard work. You need to master your techniques.
My own process for writing is something of a combination of techniques. Sometimes I’m super organized – I know the topic, the headings and subheadings all in advance. It makes writing so much easier.
Other times, inspiration flows, and I have to scramble to catch ideas as they come. I can be mid-sentence and come up with an idea I need to note right then, or the idea will be gone before the sentence is complete. It’s so frustrating trying to remember that perfect addition to a post when the idea vanishes.
And of course, everything in between.
While this may look like a lot of steps to get ready to write a blog post, it really doesn’t take that much. Most things are a matter of routine, and won’t take any significant time at all. Some parts may take a while on some subjects, but that’s when they’re important to the quality of your post.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Where do you do your best writing work? Is that your best place today, for this article you’re going to write?
Most days, I write in my office, at my desk. It’s private enough that no one is looking over my shoulder, but I leave the door loose enough for the cats to come in, so they don’t pester me clawing at the door.
But there are days that my office is just not the right place to work. That’s okay, being able to work in many places is one of the perks of working at home, after all.
The right place to work is often a balance between comfort and distractions, along with your needs for the day. If you have young children, there may be days when you have to work in the same area that they’re playing, because they need supervision. Other days, you may need to work behind a closed door because you need them to let you work, and someone else can take care of them.
Make your home office a great place to work. The more you love your home office, the more you will use it.
Have a healthy snack and drink at hand too. I keep an insulated water bottle at my desk at all times, so that I don’t have to get up for a drink. The insulation ensures that it doesn’t leave water from condensation all over my desk.
Generate Brilliant Ideas
There’s no way to start writing great blog posts if you don’t have great ideas. There are a lot of ways you can generate blog post ideas, given some time.
Once you have the basics of an article idea down, it can be very helpful to sit and brainstorm for a little. There are few things as frustrating as staring at your computer, with the start of an idea, but no idea where to take it. Brainstorming can help you work past that.
Start out with your basic topic, and then figure out what you want to say about it. What are the major points you need to make?
Brainstorm in whichever way works best for you. Some people prefer pen and paper. Some like to use mind mapping apps. Do your brainstorming in whichever way works for you.
If you need to choose an app, consider your needs, and try a few out first. Many let you make three or so mind maps free. That’s enough to get a feel for if it’s the right solution for you without paying for the full version. Free mind mapping software tends to not have as many functions as the paid versions. There are free, web based tools such as WiseMapping you can consider as well.
You don’t have to use every idea you come up with in your brainstorming for your current post. Some will be much better suited to future articles. If you plan well, you can make these so that one post can be linked naturally to the other, encouraging readers to spend more time on your site.
Note which areas will require more research as you brainstorm. There will be things you know off the top of your head, and things you don’t.
You can also create a basic outline for your blog post if you like, using the points you brainstormed. I only occasionally make outlines, but there are times that they’re a huge help.
Brainstorming can be a great activity to do when you have distractions and can’t sit down to write for an extended time. You don’t have to brainstorm for something you’ll write immediately. It can be for the future. Some people brainstorm a full week’s worth of posts or even a month or more ahead.
Come Up With A Great Initial Blog Post Title
Once I know what I’m writing about, it’s time to give the post an initial title.
This doesn’t have to be much. Sometimes, it’s just the keywords for the post. Other times, I think I know what I want the title to be right from the start.
If you want to give your blog post a really interesting title that pulls readers in, you can use a blog post title generator. Sometimes these will even give you an angle for your post that you hadn’t previously considered. Here are some of the blog post title generators I use:
Coming up with a tentative title can be done before or after brainstorming ideas. It depends on where you are, idea-wise. Sometimes your blog post title will send you right back to brainstorming.
You want a title to start off. This is what gives you direction in your writing. You can change it later if you realized it’s not the best title after everything has been written.
Beware These Title Mistakes
If you do much reading online at all, you know there are a lot of awful article titles out there. People do strange things when crafting their blog post titles, all because they want to get attention. Here are some of the biggest blog title mistakes you can make.
Inaccurate Blog Post Titles
Readers hate inaccurate blog post titles. They want to know what to expect right from the start.
Clickbait titles do a lot of this. They make it sound like the story or article they link to is a big deal.
Something life-changing. Something you never thought of.
And then it’s something routine.
You know how annoying that kind of title is. Don’t do it for your own blog posts.
But it doesn’t take clickbait to create an inaccurate blog post title. All you have to do is write a title that sounds like your article covers information it doesn’t. Consider these examples.
How To Have A Great Work At Home Day
If you use this as a blog post title, you need to consider the entire work day, not just the start of the day. You’d probably want to include break times, distractions, and prepping for the next day in your post.
10 Great Affiliate Marketing Tactics
You share nine great affiliate marketing tactics, but you ask readers to supply the tenth tactic in comments.
If you say how many tips you’re providing in a post, you need to provide at least that many tips. It’s okay to provide extras and call them bonus tips, but don’t shortchange your readers.
Titles that don’t make it clear what the article is about are annoying. They don’t bring in traffic because they leave readers thinking “huh?” when they read them.
A good title makes it clear what the reader will get from spending their precious time reading your blog post.
Bad post title examples:
One Year Of Working At Home
This title could be so much more interesting. There needs to be more information about why that year mattered. A whole year is a difficult time to cover in a single blog post anyhow.
Are You Ready?
Ready for what? You might be trying to build anticipation with a title like this, but it won’t work in isolation, and you have to assume readers will come upon your blog posts on their own.
Sunsets are beautiful, but what’s so special about this post discussing them? The title could be improved by saying where they’re from or noting something else of significance.
Your blog post titles need to give enough information to attract readers. Unclear titles don’t do that. Add in a little more information to make your titles stronger.
Too Many Words
It’s easy to get wordy in your blog post titles. It’s how most people talk.
A great blog post title isn’t wordy. It may be long, but the length is necessary in that case.
Use power words as much as possible in your blog post titles. This list from Sumo may help.
A power word evokes emotion or triggers curiosity. Clickbait titles use a lot of power words, but you can use them effectively. Consider this title rewrite:
How To Get Your Teen To Listen To You When They’re Stubborn And Moody
Sure, that’s a problem lots of parents have, but it’s also a lot of words for a title. Your title needs powerful words to make it more effective. Something along these lines may be more effective:
Effective Ways To Talk To Your Headstrong Teen
Lists of power words probably won’t be enough to fix every title you write. If you’re concerned that the word you want to use isn’t strong enough, look up synonyms for it. You will often find a stronger word that has the meaning you need.
Keywords are necessary to a successful blog post, and putting them in your blog post title can help. What you don’t want to do is stuff them in.
Your blog post titles should read naturally. Titles such as The Best Work At Home Tips For Work At Home Moms don’t read that way. Changing it to The Best Tips For Work At Home Moms makes a much better title. You still have to live up to that title in your post, but it’s better.
Avoiding all of these doesn’t guarantee that you have written a great blog post title. It doesn’t guarantee that your post will get a lot of attention. But it should help.
I’ll readily admit my titles aren’t always great. They’re one of the things I’m trying to improve. It takes practice, but it’s worth the effort.
Research Your Great Blog Posts
The best blog posts often take a little research. Citing other resources can make your blog post look more authoritative to both readers and the search engines. There are a few ways to do research for a blog post.
Solid research for your posts should give you things to add to your posts that you hadn’t considered before. There will be times that researching your post takes more time than writing it. When done properly, that’s a good thing.
Choose your resources wisely. They should make you and your post look good. Inaccurate information will make you look bad. Take the time you need to gather accurate information.
The Article That Inspired Your Post
If an article elsewhere inspired your post, try to use it as a reference. This can be as simple as a brief mention that you had been reading it, or as detailed as crediting it with whichever information you took from it.
How much credit you give depends on how much you took from the article. Be clear about what in your article came from elsewhere.
If you need solid information on a subject, you can also search on Google or other search engines to find what you need. Make sure you appropriately credit the resources you find, of course.
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is great if you want to ask people a question and share their responses in an article. You can get anywhere from a lot of responses from questions posted there, to no responses at all. It depends on the kind of question for how many people consider it something worth answering.
Tell people upfront in your HARO request what they can expect from you in terms of a link back or other credit. Subscribe as a source to get a feel for how people phrase requests in your niche. I’ve seen requests that promise not only a link back, but a link to a social media account and request a headshot photo to use as well.
Consider Your Own Experience
Some of the information for your blog posts will relate to your own experience. It’s much easier to write clearly about things you understand well, even when you have to dig up more information on the topic.
In most cases, you should make it clear when discussing your own experience. Not everyone will have the same experience, after all. This is especially true when making financial or health claims. Your experience is an anecdote. It probably won’t hold true for everyone, even if they do exactly as you say you did.
Start Writing Your Great Blog Post
Once you feel you have everything you need pulled together, it’s time to start writing.
One tool I use sometimes is Google’s voice typing feature in their Docs software. If you know what you want to say in your article, it can be faster to say it than to type it. This can also give your article a more conversational tone.
It can also take a lot of editing. Voice recognition is pretty good, but it’s not perfect.
Otherwise, start writing.
You don’t have to start at the beginning of your post and work straight through to the end. There are times when it works better to start with a subtopic and write the introduction later. Do what makes sense to you for that blog post.
The most important thing to do is give yourself enough time to write. Writing great blog posts takes time. The more information you want to get across, the longer it will take.
Not every blog post you make as to be this huge deal. You can write simpler blog posts that are useful to your readers as well.
Write A Great Introduction
You don’t have to start with your introduction, but you probably will most times. It’s a logical place to start.
There are several ways to start a blog post out to draw readers in. You only have a short time in which to do that. If you bore readers from the start, they won’t reach the finish.
Introduction questions can make for an excellent beginning to a post when used correctly. They can get readers thinking about the topic you’re writing about. Consider these possible starter questions:
What if your kids kept their rooms clean?
How often have you tried making graphics for your blog posts, but ended up with a mess?
Have you ever wished your yard was easier to care for?
From there, you can take your readers from that question to the solution you’re providing.
You need to consider your readers’ needs right from the start. While starting with a question isn’t the only way to do that, it is an easy way to start.
Write With Empathy
If you’re writing about a subject you know well, you were probably in the same spot as your readers at some point before you gained the knowledge you’re now sharing.
Think back to when you were learning. What was hard to learn? What obstacles did you face?
If you write as though you’re far above the readers who are learning from you, they won’t enjoy reading what you write. Be down to earth. Share your challenges and mistakes.
When relevant, share a personal story. You don’t have to do this every time. It will make your writing more when you do.
I’ll admit I don’t always get personal. I suffer from a miserable level of social anxiety. Writing personal things can bring me close to panic on bad days. I’m working on it.
See what I did there? It’s only a brief mention of something personal (and it was hard to write and hard to leave in), but odds are you found it more interesting than the more informational parts of this post, which can get dry at times.
Give More Than Expected
Readers love it when you give them more than they expected to get from your blog posts, so long as that extra is high quality. This is how you stand out from the crowd of other bloggers in your niche.
Don’t give the exact same advice that you see on every other blog in your niche. Give contrary advice when it works. Sometimes it helps your readers to see that the most popular advice is not the right advice. Challenge your readers.
Write A Great Conclusion
Just as you want your blog posts to start strong, they need to finish strong. Don’t leave your readers disappointed in the end.
What makes a great conclusion depends on what you’re writing about. If you want readers to take action, make sure there’s a strong call to action at the end of your blog posts. If you want them to laugh, make the end of your post funny.
Where’s The Money?
A part of writing great blog posts should always be figuring out appropriate ways to monetize that post. In the long run, that’s often what people need most from their blogs. The readers and fans are nice if you get them, but money pays the bills.
Be picky about how you monetize your blog. Don’t add links to just any old product. The items you recommend must be high quality. Great product recommendations help you build trust with your readers.
Remember to use a link shortening tool such as Thirsty Affiliates to make it easier to manage your affiliate links. There are other ways to make it easier to manage your affiliate links in your blog, but a plugin is often the easiest solution.
If you can’t find an appropriate product to recommend, don’t recommend any. Lowering your standards just to monetize a post won’t do your reputation any favors. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Do not overdo the affiliate links in your posts. There’s a definite difference between recommending products and being a shill. It doesn’t matter if they’re all great products – stick to the most relevant ones to the post.
Links To Make You Think
A great blog post often has a lot of links.
You should always link to your resources, of course. They deserve credit, and it makes you look more like an authority. Search engines also like it when you link to high quality resources.
Make sure you also link to other posts on your blog. The helps keep people on your site, which is good both for added chances to make money and to make you look good to search engines.
Blog Post Writing Fails
We all make a lot of mistakes when writing. We stress over the wrong things. Consider these mistakes, which can take a blog post from great to merely adequate, or even terrible.
Stressing The Deadline Unnecessarily
If you work for someone else, you probably have hard..
Summer is a great time for children. School is out for most of them and it’s time to play. Running, climbing, building sand castles, swimming…
Sweating, sunburns, complaining.
It’s not easy keeping the kids busy all summer long, especially on those miserably hot days when no one wants to go outside. And while you can take advantage of summer nights to have a little more fun while it’s cool outside, that doesn’t entirely take care of those long, hot summer days. What can you do to keep them busy, short of turning the AC on full blast, driving up your electrical bill and letting them watch television or play video games all day? Plenty!
Make Cool Treats
First of all, have some cheap, cool treats on hand. Otter Pops or homemade popsicles don’t cost much. You may need to enforce a rule that they are eaten outside to limit the mess. If it’s really hot, these may only keep the kids out for a short time. Then again, they might find something fun to do outside. Sometimes getting the kids outside is half the battle.
I like to make homemade popsicles from fruit and vegetable smoothies. This way they’re a healthy snack, but the kids still adore them. They’ve even been known to have smoothie popsicles for breakfast, a fact which sometimes astonishes their friends. I wouldn’t hesitate to give a healthy smoothie for breakfast, so why not the same smoothie in popsicle form?
There are tons of smoothie recipes out there. Here’s my basic starter recipe. It varies depending on what I have available, and I really don’t measure quantities. Everything just gets thrown in.
Handful of spinach
Single serving container plain Greek yogurt
Assorted frozen fruits to top the whole thing off
Fruit juice or preferred milk to make enough liquid for blending
Honey if needed for sweetness (to taste)
Squeeze of lemon juice to bring out flavors (to taste)
Mix the whole thing together. You can add cacao nibs, chia seeds and so forth to boost the nutritional content if you want.
If cherry season has been good, this chocolate cherry smoothie is really good as well. I have my kids pit and freeze lots of cherries whenever the price gets low enough.
Get The Kids Outside Early Or Late
Try getting the kids outside to play in the earlier and later parts of the day, when it’s cooler outside. Then you won’t feel so bad if they’re watching television in the hottest part of the day. Try to keep television watching/video game playing under two hours a day total.
If you can get your kids playing outside until about 10 a.m., the day won’t be too hot for some fun, unless it’s going to be one of those miserably hot days. If it’s already hot out, there’s nothing wrong with some early water play.
Encourage your kids to do things like ride bikes, roller skate, play tag, and so forth before the day gets too hot or after it cools down a little. Physical activity is so important, but it can be hard to get enough of it when they weather is so hot. These are also good for encouraging independence in your children.
If you all want to get out, first thing in the morning or in the evening is the perfect time for a family hike. We have hills in our area that have some very nice hikes… so long as it isn’t too hot out. Some of those trails have very little shade. Pick the right time, and it’s a pleasant way to get some exercise as a family.
Have Lots Of Water Toys
If there’s one thing that gets kids outside even on hot days, it’s water. And while we can’t all have swimming pools, there are plenty of ways for kids to have fun with water on hot days. Be sure to remember the sunscreen!
For very young children, a water table is a lot of fun. Add in a few toys to move the water around, and they’ll be happy for a while. Some sandbox toys work great with water as well as sand.
If you have a big enough yard, a Slip n’ Slide is a lot of fun. Sprinklers are another great option, plus you get to water your lawn a little that way. You don’t have to buy the ones made for kids to play with – just about any sprinkler you own will do just fine.
Squirt guns and water balloons can be a lot of fun too. My kids have found Bunch O Balloons to be both fun and frustrating. They’re fun because they fill up so fast, but frustrating because the balloons don’t always seal up well, and tend to leak. And like most water balloons, they often bounce rather than break.
Squirt guns are a lot of fun so long as you get the right kind for your child’s age. Little kids find the larger ones too heavy, and the need to pump them up makes them too difficult. Big kids, on the other hand, rarely enjoy smaller squirt guns. They’d rather have a Super Soaker type, and the greater the range, the more fun.
Have fun things ready for them to do indoors that have nothing to do with electronics. Screen time has its place, but you don’t want it to be the only thing your kids do.
Board games work very well, depending on the ages of your kids. Choosing a board game can cause a lot of arguments, as do some games, but overall they’re a great choice. You may need to help your kids negotiate if there’s a big age or interest range, so they learn to balance these things out.
Subscription boxes for kids can be a great idea for the summer. My kids have had fun with Groovy Lab In A Box. You can do a subscription or choose single boxes to ensure you get something your kids will enjoy. Subscriptions are cheaper than single boxes, but you don’t know what you’re going to get. They’re pretty good, in my experience.
If you’re more creative, you can buy things locally or on Amazon to make your own versions of subscription boxes. Think of a theme and go for it!
I encourage my kids to pick up a new skill or improve an old one each summer. My artistically inclined kids draw or paint a lot. Using a computer drawing tablet doesn’t count as screen time since they’re working on a skill. Just about any skill will do, and it’s fun for kids to work on their own interests, rather than do whatever their school requires of them.
And of course, encourage your kids to just play with their toys. They don’t need to spend every minute doing something educational.
Sign The Kids Up For Activities
Many parents choose to enroll their kids in activities for the summer. This is good if not taken to extremes – kids need time to just be kids.
My kids do swimming lessons every summer until they hit the top level of the available classes. While they no longer have the regular pool access they had when they were younger, we never know when a friend will turn out to have a pool. It’s just safer to have all kids learn to swim, even if they won’t use that skill at home.
Check with your local community center for more activities you can sign your kids up for. Art, drama, martial arts, gymnastics, dance… the list goes on, most places. Make sure it’s something your kids want to do, so they enjoy the class.
Encourage your kids to spend some time each day reading for pleasure. You can take them to your local library for books, head to the bookstore, or get more books on Amazon, depending on what your kids want to read.
My youngest loves the Warrior Cats series, for example. She will run out of books in that series eventually, but for now, it has gotten my very reluctant reader to enjoy reading.
Your local library may have a summer reading challenge as well as summer activities your kids will enjoy. Earning a prize for reading is just one more incentive.
Don’t force your kids to read something they don’t want to read over the summer. Help them find something they will enjoy, whether it’s novels or comic books. They’ll have plenty of assigned reading from their schools as they grow. Of course, if your child’s school assigns summer reading, make sure they take care of that too.
Be Ready For Grumbles
Of course, just because the kids are complaining that it’s too hot outside doesn’t mean you have to give in and let them play inside. In many cases, it isn’t that it’s too hot to play outside, it’s that your kids are bored.
That’s why you need to have a lot of things for your kids to do. Don’t give your kids ideas for what to do every time… it’s better for them to learn to figure that out on their own as they get older. If they have options available, they will figure it out. Or you can always assign them chores. Whatever works.
How hard is it in your area for high school age teenagers to find a job? It’s pretty tough in my area – even the local pizza place only hires ages 18 and up. While there are a few places that hire teens younger than that, it’s hard for 16 year olds in my area to find work. With my oldest hitting that age, I’ve decided to take a look at teen online jobs and other ways for teenagers to earn money from home.
One challenge teens face with any kind of online work is their age. Sites may not allow anyone under a certain age to have an account. That’s not so difficult when the limit is 13, but it’s more of a problem if the company requires that they be 18.
This means that parents may need to help kids get accounts for some things. Paypal, for example, requires users to be at least 18 years old. A teen getting paid through Paypal will need to use an account created by a parent.
Once you’re 18 and have a high school diploma, you’ll have relatively few restrictions on where you can work if you meet the education and experience requirements. Most companies don’t care about your age once you’re legally an adult unless they have specific laws to deal with.
Make Sure You’re Paid Enough
One problem I have with a lot of suggested ways to earn money from home at any age is the very poor pay rate. Too many “opportunities” pay well under minimum wage. Many feel it’s okay to earn that little if you’re just doing them in your spare time, but I still find it problematic.
This is especially true when your teen is just starting out. Teach them to expect an appropriate pay rate, minimum wage at the least, and increasing as the difficulty of the work increases. Don’t fall for the notion that a gig doesn’t have to pay as well as a regular job.
This is why I rarely list surveys or Get Paid To (GPT) apps as work at home opportunities. Very few people make much at all with those, especially when you consider the time spent. It makes more sense to me to use that spare time to build something that makes more money, rather than chasing pennies or a dollar here and there on sites that don’t pay well at all.
Some things by their very nature won’t pay well at first, of course. If your teen wants to start a blog or YouTube channel, they won’t earn anything at first. But then it’s their choice. They’re starting a business, and that involves risk. What is acceptable when you work for yourself is different from when you work for someone else. If things go well with a business, the low income time will be well paid back when money comes in… or it’s time to try something else.
Which Companies Offer Teen Online Jobs?
While most remote companies only hire people over the age of 18, there are some that hire teens for online jobs. If your teen is looking for work, he or she may want to consider these options.
Enroll – Must be 13 to sign up and have parental permission if under 18.
Teens can sign up as a student on Enroll, and tutor other students in whatever subjects you’re strong in. Peer to peer tutors must be at least 15 years old and can only tutor other students who are under age 18.
Care.com – Teens ages 14-17 can register as providers so long as a parent has registered an account connected to yours, so that they will receive copies of all communications to and from the teen account.
Teens can offer tutoring services as well as childcare services on this site.
Freelance work can be ideal for teens. Pick up jobs when you have time for them, and build great experience you can use later. While some sites may require that you be 18 or older, others will not have an age requirement. Here are some to consider.
Rev – Rev has no age requirements, and offers freelance positions as a transcriptionist, captioner, subtitler, or translator.
Freelancer.com – Requires freelancers to be at least 16 years old. Possible jobs include website design, coding, writing, data entry, social media marketing, and more.
Userlytics – Test websites and apps and speak out loud during the experience. You must have a webcam and microphone, Windows 7 or newer, and MacOS 10.9 or newer. Users must be at least 16 years old. Pay starts at $5, with some tests going as high as $90. Pay is through PayPal. Tests should take 20-40 minutes to complete.
Freelance writing in general can be a good opportunity for teens. While freelance sites may care about their age, teens can also pitch individual publications with their ideas. If you don’t emphasize your age, they may not care that a teen is doing the writing, so long as the quality is there.
Home Business Ideas For Teens
Starting a home business can be a great idea for a teen. They can work their business around their school schedule with relative ease. While your teen may need you to sign up for some programs with them, they can still handle many of the details.
If your teen loves to make crafts, draw, or otherwise be creative, sites such as Etsy can be a great choice. Etsy requires that a parent directly supervise the account of any user between the ages of 13-18. Minors under the age of 13 are not allowed at all.
Your teen does not have to make physical products to sell on Etsy. Some people do very well selling digital products, such as printable invitations, wall art, educational pages, coloring pages, logos and more.
Zazzle, Teepublic, etc.
Custom t-shirts, mugs, posters, and other products are very popular right now. There are a number of places where artists can upload their designs to be printed on t-shirts, posters and more. Check each site’s terms of service to see how old an artist has to be before signing up. Here are a few sites to check out. Some may require parental permission.
Fiverr is an online marketplace where you can sell a service for as little as $5. As you build a reputation, you can offer addons and more difficult services for more than $5, sometimes quite a bit more. Fiverr requires that users be at least 13 years old. If your teen has a bank account, they can have their money direct deposited, but payment through Paypal is also an option. Remember Paypal’s age limits.
The tasks people do on Fiverr range from fairly standard writing, marketing, programming and so forth, to more unusual tasks that can be great attention getters. If your teen wants to try to make money through Fiverr, have them look at what other people are doing in their category first, and brainstorm ideas to help them stand out.
Blogging may come natural to some teens. It’s a great, flexible home business that doesn’t take a lot of money to get started. You can even start for free, although that’s not the option I recommend. Paying for hosting has real advantages over free hosting in the long run.
The first challenge with starting a blog is getting an idea. Take the time to brainstorm and get some great ideas for your blog first. Money generally doesn’t come flowing in right away, but you can make it happen.
You’ll have to learn to monetize to make money from a blog. Once again, many opportunities will require an adult to sign up for the account, but some companies may be willing to work directly with the teen.
Lots of teens dream of making big bucks on YouTube. You’ve probably heard of some of the people who make a lot of money making what look like pretty simple videos in some cases.
While it is possible to make money as a YouTuber, it can be very hard work. It takes time to learn how to get your videos found in search and build a following. But if your teen is doing something they enjoy, showing it off on YouTube is a pretty nice business to try.
If you want to earn money as a YouTuber, watch some videos in the nice you like first. Get a feeling for what people are already doing, and figure out how to stand out. A YouTube account that does exactly what others are doing probably won’t stand out, but add in your own touch, and you may do well.
Start A Webcomic
This is what my oldest wants to do. It’s not easy to make money from webcomics, but a few do well. You have to consider several monetization options to have your best chance at making money.
Monetization can be from ads on your site, running a membership program through Patreon, creating products to sell on Zazzle and similar sites, and so forth. This is a great discussion on Tapas.io on the subject. Tapas.io lets artists earn money through ad revenue and tips from fans.
Remember The Local Teen Jobs
While your teen may want to work online, there are usually a number of local possibilities they should consider as well. It starts with the traditional jobs such as babysitting or the local fast food place, but there are so many more possibilities out there.
Our local public pool, for example, hires teens as lifeguards and swimming instructors. Most of these kids have been on the swim team, but it’s not a requirement. I don’t doubt that it’s helpful in our area, though – the swim team coach also runs the swimming lessons program.
Teens can start local businesses doing yard work for neighbors, pet sitting, tutoring, being a DJ for local events, and much more. These can be excellent opportunities if your teen really goes for it. Don’t dismiss them just because your teen has to go somewhere to work.
Have you learned about any teen online jobs I’ve missed that earns enough to be worthwhile?
How good are you at managing your money? Are you good at it or do you wish you could be better? No matter how you answer those questions, you probably want your kids to be at least as good if not better with their money than you are. This is why you should make financial literacy for kids a priority in your family.
Good money management is a life skill. Not all parents teach it well. But as a mom or dad, you’ve probably learned a few lessons about managing your money, even if you wish your own financial knowledge were better.
Children start learning about money at a young age. They see you pay for things. They learn about coins, with even a penny being an exciting find when they’re young. There’s so much more to teach them, of course.
This is the age when kids are becoming aware of money. It’s time to take their first small steps in financial literacy. Help them become aware of the role money plays in the everyday life of your family.
Talk About Earning Money
Kids need to know that the family’s money comes from one or both parents working. It doesn’t just appear from nowhere.
You don’t need to tell small children what you earn – they have no concept of numbers that big and it would seem like unlimited money to them even if you struggle to pay all of your bills. But you can explain to young children that adults have to work to get the money they need for their home, food, and more.
Talk About How You Spend Money
Take your children grocery shopping so they can see how you decide to spend money. Explain why you make a decision in the store when it’s based on cost. This is something you can keep doing as they grow, giving more information as they get older and more able to understand why the difference matters.
Within reason, you can tell your kids when you decide to not spend money because you can’t afford it. You don’t want young children to worry about the family not having enough money, but they should understand that you have to make smart financial decisions. Sometimes that means eating at home rather than eating out, or skipping a treat they might have gotten otherwise.
Let Them Spend Money
If you’re getting your child a treat at the store, give them the cash to pay for it. If they have money someone else gave them as a gift, let them pay for whatever they choose to spend that money on.
Kids can have a hard time learning that they don’t just give the cashier the money and walk away. I had to remind my kids several times to get their change when they were little, even though they had been reminded to expect it. Their concept of money had little to do with the amount the cashier said or what they handed to the cashier. Accepting their own change back helped them begin to understand that there was more to it than “give the cashier your money.”
Don’t Give Them Everything They Want
Kids want so much. This toy, that treat, hey can we go there? When you can afford to do it, it’s tempting to let them have what they want. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Don’t give your kids everything they want, especially not right away. Teach them that some things must be earned, while other things need to wait for the right time.
If there’s a toy they really, really want, have them wait until they’ve saved enough money for it or have them put it on a wishlist for a birthday or holiday. Kids don’t need lots of new toys throughout the year. The lesson in patience will be far more valuable. An even better lesson is learned if they decide they really didn’t want the toy before they get it. You know how often kids change interests when they’re young, and there’s always the next desperately wanted toy coming up.
Help Your Kids Save Money
If your child doesn’t already have a piggy bank, get one. There are all kinds of fun options, from the traditional pig shaped ones to banks that count how much money is put into them.
I find simpler piggy banks better for young children. While it’s nice for a child to be able to look at their bank and know how much is in there, it’s a better lesson for them to have to count the money out to see what they have. This helps them learn the names and values of the different coins, and how to add them up.
In elementary school, kids should start learning more about money. They should hear about some basics at school, such as the names and values of the coins, but you may have started them on that already. Your kids should continue to increase their financial literacy in elementary school in several ways.
Decide How Your Kids Will Earn Money At Home
To give an allowance or make it money that your kids earn is something parents can argue extensively about. There are good points to both sides.
Some parents prefer to give an allowance regardless of what chores have been done to demonstrate that your chores are something you do because you’re a part of the family. They believe that’s the most important lesson.
Other parents prefer to pay kids based on the chores they do because you aren’t just given money when you’re an adult – you have to earn it. They believe that’s the most important lesson.
And of course, there are paths between. Some parents may give a base allowance, with extra for chores beyond the basics.
I’m not concerned with how any one family gives their kids money. The big recommendation I have is that you don’t give them too much.
Make sure that they have to save up when they want something special. If they never have to think about whether they can afford something or not, they aren’t learning the most important lessons of all about money management.
Help Them Plan Their Saving And Spending
Kids in this age range should be saving up for the bigger things they want to have. You can help them figure out how to do that, especially when they also want something they can afford right now. Kids are great impulse shoppers, so it’s the perfect time to teach them to get that under control.
Talk to them about the best way to get each of the things they want. It will take time for kids to learn that even little purchases such as a candy bar at the store add up over time and make it harder to reach their big goals.
Teach Your Kids About Giving To Charity
Elementary school age can be a great time to teach your kids about giving to charity. This doesn’t have to mean money, however! You can also teach them to give their time to a favorite cause.
My kids and I, for example, volunteer at a local animal shelter. We help with the laundry and help socialize the cats so they’re friendly and ready for a new home. This costs us time rather than money, but we love the cause.
In many ways, it’s easier for kids to give money to a cause, if only because the volunteer opportunity for young children are limited. Most animal shelters have strict age minimums, often somewhere in the teens. It is possible that they can find a retirement home that welcomes young visitors or that your kids can help with a park cleanup – while supervised by you, of course!
Giving money to charity is a good idea as well, of course. Children should learn that these causes need money to do the good things they do, not just volunteers.
While your middle school age child isn’t old enough to get a regular job yet, odds are that he or she is becoming more interested in having more money. You probably know by now whether your child saves money readily or spends it too quickly. It’s time to help them refine their financial literacy and responsibility.
Talk About Their Money Goals
What do your kids want to spend their money on? The older they get, the bigger their wants get.
Most kids in middle school, for example, really want a good smartphone. Depending on your beliefs about when a child should get a phone, they may have one already, they may have a very basic phone or no phone at all. My kids each start out with an iPhone 4, which was dated even when my oldest got it, and limits on their use. We go through Ting, which makes phones for the kids very affordable. Each line is about $6 plus usage, and if you have limits on the account, that won’t be much at all.
If a top of the line smartphone is your child’s goal, you need to consider what you’re willing to permit. Even if your child pays for it, you will still need to put appropriate limitations on it, after all. If your child doesn’t have a phone yet, you may also need to discuss how monthly billing will be handled.
If your child wants something you don’t want them to spend their money on, talk about why. Give your child a chance to change your mind. It’s much easier for them to respect your “no” if they understand why and feel that their side has been heard.
Talk About Their College And Career Goals
Career goals go hand in hand with money goals in many ways. It’s never too early to start saving for college if that’s what it will take for your child’s preferred career.
It’s also a good time to start looking at scholarships. Some can be earned quite a few years before your child gets into college. College is expensive, so every bit that can be earned for it will help.
Encourage your child to put aside some of their money for whatever career training or college they will need. Setting up a 529 account can be a big help, especially as other people can add to it for birthday or holiday gifts if they like.
Open A Savings Account
If you haven’t opened a savings account for your child already, now is a good time to do so. Most savings accounts won’t earn anything worth mentioning in interest, but it’s a better way for them to save money, especially as the amount increases beyond a reasonable amount to have in cash.
You can even consider opening a Roth IRA for your child. This is a great way to talk about compound interest, and how the small account you start now will grow into something significant by the time they retire.
High school is a great time to have your child practice spending the way they would as an adult. That time is getting close, after all.
Give Them A Clothing Budget
Some teens are obsessed with having just the right wardrobe. Others really don’t care. Either way, the teen years are a good time to give them a clothing budget and have them handle their own clothes shopping.
This needs to take into account, of course, the fact that kids can have sudden and significant growth spurts. At the same time, you don’t want to give your teen an excessive amount of money for clothes. You want to teach them to plan their purchases based on their needs.
Giving a teen a clothing budget is a great way to teach him or her to shop for bargains. If they realize that they can get more if they wait for sales or shop at thrift stores, they’re likely to do so. It’s a great lesson for all those times in life when a budget is necessary. Cash is better than a limit on a credit card since you cannot possibly go over with cash.
Make a plan for how you handle mistakes. You don’t want to make it so easy for your teen that they don’t care about their budget, but you also don’t want them humiliated by having too few clothes.
Make Them Do The Grocery Shopping
Give your teen a budget, and make them do the grocery shopping at least some of the time. Have him or her plan out the meals and make a shopping list. Be sure they consult the current grocery ads for the best deals.
Expect mistakes, especially the first few times. You know that you forget things at the grocery store too. When my teens help shop, they help cook too, so they’re very aware of mistakes.
Make Your Teen Get A Job
The teenage years are ideal for that first job, especially once your child hits 16. Younger teens can sometimes find babysitting, pet sitting, or lawn care jobs.
You can help your teen prepare for interviews, but don’t go along or interfere. You hear stories of parents sometimes wanting to be there when their child interviews for a job. With most employers, that’s a great way to ensure that your teen does not get the job. Encourage their independence and send them to handle interviewing and holding down a job on their own. They may fail occasionally, but failure is a great teacher.
Teach Them About Household Budgeting
As your kids reach their teens, they begin to understand what things really cost. Especially as they reach their later teens, have your kids go over the household budget, so they see how fast things add up. Help them see how the costs they can expect when they move out are different from what you pay for the entire family.
Discuss College Or Career Training Financing And Costs
As your teen approaches their later high school years, you need to start figuring out what comes next. College costs have gone up dramatically, and many families will struggle with the costs. Financial aid can be a huge help, especially if your teen can get grants or scholarships, rather than just loans. Use resources such as https://fafsa.ed.gov/ and https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/ to learn about what’s out there to help.
Don’t immediately dismiss career ideas that don’t require college. Some still pay very well, and if that’s what your teen wants to do, there is little point to paying for college.
Do discuss having more than one career option, especially for teens who have big dreams in hard to get into careers. I have one teen who wants to be an animator. It’s a lovely dream, but the reality is that it’s a hard industry to break into, and very hard to make a living from. She’s also considering civil engineering, so we’re discussing the merits of having a major and a minor versus a double major.
That dream career might take off, after all. There’s no point to giving it up entirely so long as other ways to make a living are considered.
Your kids won’t stop looking to you for help just because they go off to college. Be ready for them to have money problems that you need to help with. If you’ve been working with them for a while, they should have at least some level of financial literacy, but the reality of moving out and/or going to college can challenge what they thought they knew.
Have Your Young Adult Manage Their Money Online
Set your young adult up on a site such as Mint.com. Get them into the habit of tracking their income and expenses right away, so they always know where their money is going. It’s easy to lose track of spending when being on your own is so new.
Discuss Credit Card Risks
There are good reasons to have a credit card. It’s there for you in an emergency. It helps you build a credit history, which is a help when making big purchases such as a car or house later in life. Some jobs even check credit histories. You may need to cosign for your young adult’s first credit card.
A credit card can also result in disastrous mistakes.
It may be best to encourage your young adult to get a secured credit card first. It’s not fun having that money sit there as protection in case they have trouble paying on the card regularly, but it also keeps any financial problems from being too serious on the credit card side of things. It shouldn’t take too long to build up enough of a credit history to do away with the deposit if they’re good about making payments when they use the card.
Make sure your young adult knows when to use a credit card. Never use it if you can’t pay it back right away, short of an absolute emergency. Even an emergency use shouldn’t take long to pay off.
Think Before You Help Them Financially
Young adults often have money trouble. They don’t keep enough savings around for emergencies or possibly for their college textbooks.
It’s good to help your kids out when it’s reasonable, but don’t do it so much that they expect you to help every time they have a problem. They need to learn to face the consequences of poor financial decisions, and a lecture from mom or dad plus the cash to fix it is not always the right solution.
That said, my mother and my in-laws all still help us out sometimes if it’s needed. It’s not a bad thing so long as it isn’t overdone.
There are a lot of social media websites out there. You could spend hours each day on marketing on them, but which social media sites will give you the best results?
That depends on you and your target market.
Social media websites will rarely do you any good at all if you don’t put some effort into it. If you just sign up and drop your link in, you probably aren’t going to see much benefit from any of them. Occasionally, a business will have some success on a social media site they weren’t even trying for because visitors keep sharing them, but that’s an exception, not the rule.
Which Social Media Sites Have The Right Demographics?
Every social media site attracts a somewhat different demographic, and this is what you need to look at as you figure out which social media sites to use. I’ve pulled some demographic information from Pew Research Center to get you started, but you may decide to look deeper.
To make the most of this information, of course, you need to know what your target market is. How old are they? What gender? What are their interests?
YouTube is huge. You may think of it as a video sharing site, but it has its social media side too. 73% of American adults use YouTube. 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds use it, making it a great option if you’re seeking a younger audience.
In other words, video is huge. If you can add video to your marketing mix, you have the chance to reach a lot of people.
Facebook is the other big one. 68% of American adults use Facebook. It’s widely used by most demographics, although people are frustrated with Facebook’s privacy issues.
If you’re looking at a younger audience, 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat. That’s a lot. Snapchat offers ways for businesses to advertise on their platform. Snapchat can be extremely effective for advertisers, offering twice the visual attention of Facebook, beating out Instagram and YouTube as well.
You can use Snapchat to build your business free as well, of course. You have to understand the limitations of the platform and tell interesting stories to attract followers.
Twitter attracts only 24% of American adults but jumps up to 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds. They increased the maximum tweet length to 280 characters a while ago, which is a huge help to marketers.
Many bloggers love Pinterest. The visual style is highly appealing, and for the right business, the demographics are great. It only gets 29% of American adults overall, but 41% of women. Pinterest is particularly popular for crafting and recipe websites, but many other niches do well there.
LinkedIn is a great choice if you’re targeting college graduates in a professional capacity. 50% of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, but only 9% with a high school diploma or less. LinkedIn is very much focused on professional networking, so it’s probably not a good choice if your business doesn’t relate to that. B2B can do well on LinkedIn.
Instagram presents special challenges to marketers, as you cannot put live links in your updates. You can have one in your profile, but that’s it. Still, Instagram attracts 35% of American adults and 71% of 18- to 24-year-olds. Some marketers do very well with Instagram.
Demographic information is only helpful if you know enough about your target demographics. They aren’t always what you think they are.
If you know your competition, you can take a bit of a shortcut and see which social media sites they’re having success with. Take a look at their social media buttons. Many sites show how many shares they’ve received on individual posts and pages as a form of social proof. This can help you decide where you want to focus your efforts as well.
Visit their social media pages as well, especially for social media sites such as Instagram, where you can’t otherwise see how well they’re doing.
Using this data from your competition is not the only thing you should do, of course. It’s just a starting place. You can experiment with other social media. You might find a place to focus where your competition is not.
Seek out references to your best keywords on the different social media sites. Don’t do this by just typing your keywords into a search box. Learn how to use hashtags to search them and see how often your keywords are used that way. Take a look at the content you find this way and the accounts it’s attached to. This can give you both inspiration and people to follow on those sites.
How Do You Use Social Media?
How you use a particular social media site depends on which one you’re using. What works well for one may not be the best way to build a network on another.
How often you should post on which social media sites varies tremendously. Some do poorly if you post more than once or twice a day, while others need frequent posts if you’re to do well at all. I’ve pulled data from this Coschedule post on how often to share on social media. I also looked at when social media users are most active through SproutSocial. The best times may vary somewhat by niche as well as by social media site. Don’t forget to consider the time zones of your target market when posting.
On any social media site, being overly promotional is not a good idea. People aren’t there to have things sold to them. They’re networking because they enjoy it, to build their own business, to get good information, that kind of thing. If you do nothing but say “buy, buy, buy,” they’ll unfriend you as fast as they can.
Instead, give quality information to bring people to you. If you sound like an expert and they need what you have to offer, they’ll decide to do business with you.
One thing that is valued by most social media sites is consistency. Don’t keep changing your post frequency. Your fans and followers will come to expect a certain number of posts per day from you, even if it’s more than the usual for that platform.
Most social media platforms love hashtags. They help people find your content. Even Pinterest likes hashtags now.
While you can learn some things just by reading online about the social networks you prefer, you will probably get faster results if you take an in-depth course. Sign up for one only if you have the time to put what you learn into practice. There is absolutely no point in paying for something and then never using it. A good course will help you avoid making too many mistakes with your social media.
These are, of course, affiliate links to the courses, but they are ones I consider to be good choices and have good reviews.
The key to YouTube starts with making great videos, but that’s not where it ends. Your videos must be discovered by viewers, or it all means nothing. You need to learn how the YouTube search algorithm works and which techniques will bring your videos to the first page of YouTube so that they’re seen by potential viewers.
You have so many options to market your business on Facebook. Starting a Facebook Page for your business is a must, but many businesses find starting a Facebook Group is even more powerful.
Most people suggest posting on your Facebook business page no more than twice a day, with once a day being ideal. This is especially true for promotional posts. If you’re being social and fun, you can probably get away with more, but be extremely careful that you do not post excessively or your reach will decrease and your fans will view your posts as spammy.
Businesses on Facebook often complain about how algorithm changes make it hard to reach their fans without paying for ads. It’s a legitimate problem. Facebook changes their algorithm often, and that can be a real headache. Paying for ads can be well worth it, however, once you know what you’re doing.
In general, you want to post on Facebook on weekdays from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Wednesdays and Thursdays performing best. Saturdays, evenings and early mornings have the least engagement.
I have not used Snapchat myself, and know very little about it. Hubspot recommends posting a Story only once or twice per week on Snapchat. Then spread your Snaps out through the day. You should also consider that not everyone has the sound turned on when they use Snapchat, so including text in your Stories is very helpful.
Twitter is one of those places you can post a lot. 15 times a day is recommended, with several retweets of someone else’s content. Some recommend up to 50 or more tweets a day. Tweets disappear quickly as new tweets appear, giving each tweet a short lifespan if no one retweets it.
Don’t batch all your tweets into a short time frame, of course. Spread them out. Twitter does best on weekdays, with Fridays being the best around 9-10 a.m. Mornings are better than the afternoon in general, and weekends don’t do as well, with some exceptions.
Twitter has recently become more picky about the reuse of content. It used to be that you could use a scheduler to post the same tweet over and over again for as long as you liked. These days, Twitter views that as spam.
They prefer that you either rewrite the tweet in a new way each time you share a link to the same site or retweet your original tweet. Twitter is looking for more original content. This makes using schedulers such as HootSuite more difficult but not impossible. You just have to put a little more time into your individual tweets.
Pinterest marketing can be a lot of fun, so long as you don’t fall for the time sink. Give it half a chance and you’ll probably find an interesting recipe or something to catch your eye.
There are a few key things you must do on Pinterest. The first is to create some keyword rich boards for the content you’ll pin from your own site. Make sure you add them to an appropriate category and give them a good description. You will want to follow relevant pinners and build up your own following.
Make sure your create your account as a business account to make the most of Pinterest. This will give you access to analytics and the ability to make your pins into rich pins.
Joining group boards on Pinterest is an excellent way to get your pins out to a wider audience, but be picky. Niche boards are usually far more powerful than “pin anything” boards, even if the “pin anything” board has a larger following. Pinterest prefers to see your pins categorized properly.
Pin a lot. Recommendations run from about 15-30 a day according to the Coschedule post, but I’ve seen many pinners swear by a higher number.
Recently, Pinterest has stated a preference for a variety of descriptions on pins. This makes scheduling more difficult, as tools such as Tailwind allow you to quickly schedule a bunch of identical pins. You have to do extra work to vary things. Make sure you create multiple pinnable images for each post. You never know which will take off best until you test them. Vertical images with a 2:3 ratio do best.
If you want to know when your best time to pin is, use Tailwind. Tailwind’s SmartSchedule will post pins at the time that is best for your industry, and by when it sees that you get the most engagement.
LinkedIn is another of those sites that does not tolerate a lot of posting from businesses. Posting once a day is plenty.
If you want to do more, join LinkedIn groups and interact with people there. Be careful how promotional you get. You need to be seen as a quality resource. Be the trusted professional you want to be seen as, not the person who’s only interested in the next sale.
LinkedIn engagement is better Tuesday-Thursday, with Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m. being the best.
Even with its disadvantages, I know a lot of marketers love what they can do with Instagram. You should only post once or twice a day on Instagram, although a few people report doing well with more, even 10 times a day. Be careful about how often you post, and see what works for your audience.
Being heavily promotional is not likely to work on Instagram. As always, provide value. You can use Instagram to give a little behind the scenes look at your business as well as to promote.
Weekdays do better than weekends on Instagram, and you should post first thing in the morning. Later posts can do well going into the afternoon.
You can’t do a good job of using all social media websites, not even if you only stick to the big ones. There’s too much to do.
You’ll be better off if you can pick a couple to focus on. Get good at marketing on them.
Dividing your efforts dilutes them. There’s a balance between being available on a variety of networks and being unable to keep up.
As with any other sort of marketing you haven’t tried before, start by using just one social media site. Figure out what you’re doing. Get some fans, friends, followers, whatever they’re called. Get comfortable.
Even though each site takes a slightly different approach, you can take some of what you learn from each site and apply it to the next one while continuing with the sites you’re already on. You’re learning how to bring in business with a possibly more personal touch than other forms of marketing may have been for you.
Social media marketing isn’t something that comes naturally for everyone, but it’s a big help for bringing in traffic and business if you use it right. Give yourself some time and really pay attention to the learning process. You might find it a lot of fun as well as profitable.
Should You Automate?
Within reason, automation of your social media efforts is a great idea. It’s too hard to keep up otherwise.
I use HootSuite to automate many of my posts. It works with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Its Pinterest tools are not as powerful as what Tailwind has to offer, so you may want a subscription to that as well.
What you cannot automate is the social side of social media. You need to interact with people appropriately, retweeting interesting tweets, for example, or replying to comments. Spending a few minutes on social media is a great way to handle those parts of your day when you know you have limited time to get something done.
You also need to be aware of current events when you automate. If a big event happens, make sure you don’t have any inappropriate posts going out at that time. A reference that is perfectly innocent at other times may be taken as offensive if something has gone wrong.
Do not try to automate your following of other users. Take some time to find them.
I also do not recommend using software to follow and then unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you back. I know many bloggers worry about their following/followers ratio, but it’s really not that big of a deal in most ways. Follow people because you want to see what they post. Many social media sites now see a high rate of following and quick unfollowing as a sign of spam.
How Long Does It Take To Know Which Social Media Sites Work?
We all want fast results with social media. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But that’s often not the way things go.
Social media results take time, just like anything else. Don’t compare yourself to the people who have tens of thousands of followers. Most of those have been at it for years.
Work on improving what you’re doing instead. You can get ideas for what works by watching the people who are successful at social media, but in the end, it’s up to you to stand out. If you’re nothing but a copycat, you’ll never stand out.