Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Life Shift has a new home!

My Life Shift has moved to its very own website! Please point your browser to:

If you're a subscriber, you don't need to re-subscribe to keep getting updates from the new site. However, if you haven't subscribed yet, please do so in the above website.

Please bear with me while I transition the site. I realize some pages might look awful and some links may have been lost. I'll be fixing these in the next few days.

I must say that Caroline Middlebrook's Ebook, "How to develop money-making niche sites with WordPress" made the process of setting up the website really pain-free. It only took me a couple of hours. Thank you, Caroline! The only downside is that Caroline recommends an FTP software for PC, while I'm using a Mac. But no problem, I quickly found ClassicFTP, a free software for Macs and figured out myself how to use it. (That's how easy it is to use Macs!)

I hope you like my new "home on the Web". Do drop by and give me some feedback -- both positive and negative comments are most welcome!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Can I make $10 in 30 days?

Photo by peasap

I've joined the 30 Day Challenge! This is a FREE online training program on internet marketing. Ed Dale and his colleagues are teaching us the basics of internet marketing and the goal is to make at least $10 in 30 days! Ed is a casual and occasionally funny guy who seems to know what he's talking about. I don't know why the program is free -- so far, Ed hasn't tried selling anything to me yet (or maybe it's in one of the Emails I deleted without reading!).

I'm only on Day 4, but I have already learned so many things. I have made a list of seven possible topics for a niche and will soon be doing market research on each of those topics. It's very exciting!

One of the most important things I learned -- and I learned this during the lead-up to the challenge -- was how to use Bloglines, a free online tool for keeping track of and organizing your blog subscriptions. Now that's another tip for avoiding information overload. It's a great tool so you won't get overwhelmed, which led me to subscribing to a couple of new blogs....

I'm not sure I can even keep up with the challenge. I'm on a dial-up connection, which makes downloading all those videos a real pain! All the tutorials are either on audio podcast or video. Plus, I'm on an Internet fast every Friday during lent (in place of fasting from food since I'm still breastfeeding). Not to mention that we'll be moving halfway across the world in a couple of weeks and I don't know how long I will not have any Internet access at all. But even if it takes me more than 30 days to finish the challenge, I know it will be well worth it.

If you want to learn Internet marketing, I suggest you begin by joining the 30-day challenge. If you want a preview, you can see the tutorial videos on YouTube. You have nothing to lose and so much to learn.

I'll be giving periodic updates on my progress in the challenge. Meantime, check these out:

30 Day Challenge website. Of course.
Caroline Middlebrook's blog. She is one of the graduates of the 30 Day Challenge
Mike Mindel's blog. Now designated the official notes on the 30 Day Challenge

Coming next week: Part 2 of "How to avoid work at home scams"

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Monday, February 11, 2008

How to avoid a work at home scam, Part 1: Do your research

Photo by ToastyKen

Have you ever fallen for a work at home scam? I have. Or rather, my DH has. And I was right there over his shoulder. We didn't lose huge sums of money because we cut our losses early. But when you have three little mouths to feed, every cent counts.

So when I decided to become a work at home Mom, I promised myself that I would be more careful. I joined several work at home forums and discovered that there are ways to protect ourselves from work at home scams. This is a synthesis of the advice and information I received from the lovely women in

Ask yourself three questions:

Is the company asking you to pay first to make money later?

Be wary of a company that requires payment in order to give you a job. An example is a company recruiting data encoders to work at home that requires you to pay a joining fee before giving you the job. Raw materials for assembling products, promotional materials, and even your training should be paid by the company, not you.

On the other hand, if you are considering a home business, then expect to make a small investment. Direct selling companies, for instance, typically require a small fee for membership or a starter kit. The fee can range anywhere from under US$20 to under $500. This is true even for large direct selling companies such as Avon, Shaklee, and Pampered Chef.

Is the company making outrageous claims?

Think twice before believing claims that are too good to be true, such as earning a six-figure income on one hour of work a week. Don't expect to get something for nothing. Any successful business requires hard work, pure and simple. When you're just starting a business, it will often require more work hours than a typical office job.

Is this a legitimate company or business?

Doing research on a company or person before joining their business is the most basic way to protect yourself from scams. In DH's case, he jumped into an "internet business opportunity" because it was recommended by a trusted colleague. He went against his better judgment and dove in before finding out more. Don't make the same mistake: investigate everything, even if your mother herself recommended it to you.

The Internet is filled with tools for researching a company or person (which I'll refer to as "the company" for simplicity). Here are 10 websites you can use:

1. The company's website - Begin by looking at the company website. Scammers can have very professional-looking websites; don't let that fool you! Do use the information in the company's website to check out the company's claims and information. But don't stop there....

2. - A simple search could bring up feedback about a company, such as in blogs or forums. You may also find cases filed against the company.

3. - Enables you to do a reverse search on a company's address and telephone number. If these don't match what is in the company's website, then you should start getting suspicious.

4. - Gives information about a particular domain, such as who owns it, how long it has been in existence, and the owner's address. On the other hand, if the domain's owner signed up for domain privacy, then only the company's web host information will be displayed.

5. - The Better Business Bureau gives a detailed report about its members, including how long it has been a member of BBB, the number and types of complaints that have been lodged against it, and whether the company has a satisfactory record.

7. - Not quite as informative as the BBB website, but worth checking out if you're considering joining a direct selling company. Being a member of the Direct Selling Association means that a company has passed the DSA's rigorous screening process.

8. - Has a "Wayback Machine" that shows you what a website looked like in the past. Think hard about joining a new or start-up company that might be relying on your investment for its seed capital.

9. - Allows you to see if other websites contain exact text from the company's website. You might be surprised with what you see! You'll have to decide, though, who is plagiarizing whom!

10. - Alerts you of various types of scams, including those annoying email scams. Type the company's name in the search form to bring up reports about it, if any.

Coming soon: "How to avoid a work at home scam, Part 2: Use reliable work at home leads"

Meantime, check out these other resources:

Watch how Chris Durst of Rat Race Rebellion investigates a job lead and discovers massive "webnapping":

For a step-by-step guide on how to use some of the tools discussed above, including a worksheet, download this free Ebook entitled, "How to Investigate Home Business Opportunities: The Consumer's Guide to Avoiding Scams".

Also check out the Scambusters website for more information on specific scams.

If you liked this article, I hope you will subscribe by providing your Email address in the form on the right.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

How I overcame work at home information overload

Last week, I found myself unable to empty my email in-boxes (despite what I had learned from Getting Things Done). I couldn't focus on anything; I would flit from one blog or website to the next and then to an E-book. I wasn't making progress on my to-list. What was happening to me?

I found the answer after my mind had cleared and I sat down in a quiet corner with my copy of Yaro Starak's Blog Profits Blueprint. I had the plague also known as "information overload". I had gotten seduced by the idea of having passive income through a work at home internet business. I wanted to learn everything right now. But as Yaro said, information overload makes you lose direction, forget your purpose, and keep you from working towards your goals.

It's a good thing that last week, even as my eyes glazed over all those blog posts I tried in vain to digest, I found myself hitting the unsubscribe button instead. It was only the first of several things I did to help me regain my bearings.

Here's a list of what I did to overcome work at home information overload:

1. Cut the number of emails by unsubscribing from all but 3-5 blogs

It was those blog and newsletter subscriptions that had clogged my in-box, making it impossible for a busy Mom to keep up. So this was the first and obvious way to de-clutter my email -- and my brain. I realized that most of what I was receiving was not immediately useful to me anyway. And if I did need the information, I could easily find it on the Internet. I know bloggers are supposed to help each other out but I was subscribed to uber-popular blogs anyway and I don't think I'll be missed.

2. Stay on top of my email in-box by processing it the GTD way

With most of the blog subscriptions out of the way, I had much fewer and more manageable volume of emails. Ah, what a relief!

3. Went on an Internet diet by visiting only those sites that helped me complete my to-do list

I actually went off-line for two days, except to check my email. Then I only surfed when I needed to do research for my class materials, or to help with the kids' homework. Oh and I went shopping for breastfeeding clothes -- which was not overwhelming at all!

4. Got up and away from the computer and did something completely unrelated to Internet marketing

Doing the above made it possible for me to leave the computer for longer periods of time and get my mind completely off from Internet marketing ... such as do yoga. Ah, that felt good!

5. I reviewed my priorities and goals

I have these written down in a notebook but I had stopped reading them last week. So I went back and reviewed them and realized I was supposed to be preparing for my demonstration childbirth class! That was the most important thing at that moment, especially since I aim to finish my certification this month!

6. I listed those topics that I needed or wanted to learn about and prioritized them according to importance

Just to get this Internet marketing thing off my mind, I did make a list of all the topics that I'd like to explore and learn more about. I also noted which ones I wanted to tackle first.

7. I set a schedule for doing research on Internet marketing

When I finished preparing for the first day of my childbirth class, I rewarded myself with one hour of surfing about Internet marketing, stumbling a few websites, and reading a couple of my favorite blogs.

Today I completed the first day of my demonstration childbirth class. I am one step closer to becoming a certified childbirth educator. And when I am, I'm sure the opportunity to begin Internet marketing will still be there.

Newbies are susceptible to information overload. We're excited to learn, anxious to get going with the pros, and try to do too much, too soon. Have you ever experienced information overload? How did you overcome it?

Also check out these posts:

Skellie's "Productivity by Elimination"
Leo Babauta's "A Guide to Cutting Back When You Feel Overwhelmed"
Yaro Starak's "Blog Profits Blueprint" (free E-book)

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Monday, January 28, 2008

20 productivity tips for work-at-home Moms of young children

I've been looking for productivity tips for WAHMs who are taking care of young children. By young children I mean anywhere from newborns to about 4 years old, or children who are not yet in school.

I must say that I have been disappointed. I have not found any help at all for Moms like me who have to squeeze in some work while caring for one or several young children. General tips for home workers are simply not applicable to me: Set definite work hours? Close the door of your home office? Quite impossible!

One successful WAHM whose advice I sought basically told me to lay low on my home business while my youngest child, 16 months old, is still young. The woman who gave that advice is an empty nester.

Certainly, my family comes first before my home business. But what if I were a single mother who had to earn a decent income but also wanted to stay home with my young child? Would working at home be impossible? Would office employment be the only solution? I refuse to believe so!

So I sat down with DH and brainstormed ways in which I could somehow manage our household, care for myself, DH and our three kids -- including a toddler -- and still get some serious work done. Many of these tips contradict productivity advice for home workers. I think that's because such advice is usually given by either unmarried individuals or married men who are not primary caregivers of their children. DH and I came up with three general strategies:
* identify and create pockets of time when you can work with minimal disturbance
* double-task or piggy-back simple work tasks with household or child care tasks
* maximize your productivity during those times when you are working

Using these general guidelines, we came up with 20 productivity tips for work-at-home Moms of young children:

1. Work when your child is napping.
Nap times give Moms chunks of free time. Use these times to work. If your baby isn't on a regular routine yet, find his natural body rhythm and encourage a daily routine. Pretty soon, you can predict roughly the times when your child gets tired and ready for a nap. Encourage long, peaceful naps by keeping the room a bit dim (but not as dark as if it were nighttime) and minimizing noises or masking them with music or white noise. I use a sleep CD by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson and my toddler gets at least a one-hour nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. When my toddler doesn't nap peacefully, I let him sleep in my arms and nurse him while I work on the computer. A sling is very useful for this. If you have several young children at home, it can be a challenge to get everybody to nap at the same time. You may have to try the other tips instead.

2. Keep children happily busy when awake.
Even very young children can happily amuse themselves for a few minutes while Mommy works. Set up a play corner in your home office with fun, safe toys that he can play with even without your supervision. Rotate the toys every few days or so to keep them interesting. Young children love to imitate adults, so get him a small desk and chair, a toy computer, cellphone, and toy versions of other gadgets you use in your work.

3. Child-proof your home office.
Make sure all power outlets and table corners are covered. Keep breakable objects out of his reach. Anchor all big pieces of furniture. Basically just make sure the little tyke can't get in trouble, hurt himself or break anything when he's out of your sight. Some young children, like my toddler, are sometimes perfectly happy just walking back and forth in a room, toys in hand. If your home office is child-proof, you can work while your baby amuses himself.

4. Ask somebody else to look after your children.
Plan to work when DH is home and can look after the kids, or when older siblings are home from school. Even if they just bring the little one to the park for 30 minutes, you can already get a lot of work done. Or swap babysitting with your girlfriends. Or hire a mother's helper or a babysitter for a few hours every week. See if you work better if you allot an entire afternoon to work and get a babysitter for half a day a week. "But I left my office job to be home with my child!" you say? Well, it's only for a few hours a week and you'll still be home with your child. So it's not nearly as bad as leaving your child in day care every day while you're in the office.

5. Work when the children are asleep at night.
I enjoy working after everybody's asleep. The whole house is quiet and there are no interruptions. But I tend to overdo it and end up sleeping very, very late. Which means I'll sleep with the baby the next day instead of working during naps. Plus, sleep deprivation is bad for your health. Besides, this is usually my time for DH. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend doing this night after night. Maybe once or twice a week, or when you're truly behind on your work.

6. Make your work mobile.
Equip yourself for mobile work by going digital. Buy a laptop and cellphone and subscribe to a Wifi Internet connection. This way, you don't have to be in your home office to work. You can work in your kitchen, backyard, playroom, baby's room, even in the playground. You'll be surprised how much you can get done by sneaking in bits and pieces of work when you can get away with it. At the very least, always have a small notebook and pen so you can jot down your thoughts or add to your to-do list. I can often make outlines or mind maps for blog posts when I have as little as 5 minutes of free time.

7. Minimize distractions.
When you are able to work, make sure nothing short of an emergency distracts you. Turn on your answering machine. Put your cellphone on silent mode. Turn off your Email alerts. If necessary, put a sign on your front door that baby is napping and you can't be disturbed.

8. Manage interruptions.
But it's inevitable: the baby will awaken or need to be changed. Working continuously for hours at a time is quite impossible for a Mom of a young child. So expect interruptions but learn to manage them. I still find them so jarring and disconcerting, especially when I'm writing. When it happens, I take a few seconds to quickly jot down what my train of thought was. This helps me get back on track when I get the chance to return to my task.

9. Dress for productive success.
I know, I know, one of the perks of working at home is not having to get dressed to work. But let me tell you this: you still have to get dressed to work even at home. You don't have to put on a power suit and high-heeled pumps, but you do have to get out of your pajamas and bunny slippers, and into comfortable casual wear that you can wear outside the house. The Flylady insists that you wear lace-up shoes. I even put on my basic makeup. My rule of thumb is: be presentable enough for a surprise visitor. If you're physically ready for anything, your mind will be alert as well. Believe it or not, this will make you more productive. I'm going to write an article about dressing and productivity in a future post -- watch out for it!

10. Delegate business tasks.
Sometimes it just makes better business sense to hire somebody to do some of your tasks. If there's a work task that needs to be done and you don't have the skill, why insist on doing it? It could mean spending a little extra to hire somebody to, say, design your website, logo and calling cards. Or write your press releases. Consider outsourcing anything essential to your business that isn't your core competency. Even though it means paying extra, it will be worth it in the long run in terms of time saved and higher quality work. After all, you hire experts to fix your plumbing, install a new dishwasher, or exterminate termites from your house, don't you?

11. Have an organized home office.
Make sure your home office is uncluttered, organized, and efficient. Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Otherwise, you'll be wasting precious time looking for things. The book, "Getting Things Done" by David Allen has helped me significantly in this area. One of the most important things I learned was how to organize my reference materials into file folders arranged in alphabetical order. Before I learned this, I was creating piles of papers containing information I wanted to keep for future reference. GTD also helped me keep my physical and virtual (Email) inboxes empty! Leo Babauta's productivity Ebook, "Zen to Done," which builds on GTD is also very helpful. It proposes a more gradual approach to better organization and productivity, and recognizes the role of routines (which were not mentioned in GTD). (You can help support my site by ordering either book through the links on the right).

12. Multi-task.
One of the principles of GTD is to do only one thing at a time, but mothers know that multi-tasking is sometimes necessary. We're masters of multi-tasking and probably couldn't go through a day without doing it. I wouldn't recommend multi-tasking ALL the time, but there are instances when multi-tasking is plain common sense. Let's say your little one is playing in the playground. You could make phone calls while watching him with one eye. You could be reading Emails while waiting for the pasta to cook. Well, you get the idea. Combine tasks that require minimal attention and concentration and you'll get more things done.

13. Get and keep your home organized.
An organized home will demand less time for upkeep, while a cluttered home will require constant work, zap your energy, and bog down your mind. Don't even think of starting a home business until your house has been decluttered and organized and your household maintenance systems are in place. Set up daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and yearly routines for house cleaning, decorating, preparing for special events, etc. What I've found most helpful in this area are: "The Woman's Day Help Book: The Complete How-to for the Busy Housekeeper" by Geraldine Rhoads and Edna Paradis; the Flylady's website and book; "Hannah's Art of Home" and "Total Mom Makeover" by Hannah Keeley; and "A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul" by Holly Pierlot. The Internet is also filled with free resources about getting organized.

14. Share household chores.
When I first became a mother, I wanted to do everything myself. I took care of the baby 24/7, cooked meals, did the laundry, and ironed clothes and cloth diapers (yup, I ironed diapers!).... I couldn't even find time to take a shower! Now with my third child, I know better. The two older children have chores, and I give hubby plenty of bonding time with the baby, especially in the middle of the night! As a result, I am better rested, the older children learn life skills, and Daddy and baby have a close relationship. Don't feel that you have to do everything yourself. Nobody possibly could. Engage your husband and other children in running the household. Tell them it takes family team effort to keep the home a clean, warm and enjoyable place to live in, and to keep everybody well fed, clothed and happy.

15. Give your children your undivided attention.
Your young child will be more demanding and clingy if you're always busy and distracted. Make sure your shower him with lots of undivided attention. Meal times, for example, should be relaxed, fun affairs. Read to your child several times a day. Take a break from your work to get down on the floor and play with your child. If your child's basic need for attention is met, the more likely he'll be happy to play by himself.

16. Keep your children well-fed and well-rested.
When children do not get enough sleep, and when they do not get a well-balanced diet, they can behave like frenzied tops bouncing off the walls! They get whiny and short-tempered and throw tantrums at the drop of a hat. Make sure you respect your child's need for sleep and healthy food. Minimize refined sugar and carbohydrates. Give plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You'll be rewarded with a happier, calmer child, making your whole life -- including your work life -- easier.

17. Reward your children for good behavior.
When your young child does play happily while you work, make sure to shower him with lots of rewards. I'm not suggesting anything you need to buy. Rather, reward your child with your attention, hugs, and words of praise. Let him know that it's very important for Mommy to get some work done. Say something like, "Because you played so well by yourself, Mommy finished her work. Now let's cuddle up for a story!" Even young children who don't talk yet can understand the emotion in your words, facial expression and body language.

18. Have realistic expectations.
Let's face it, you probably won't be able to launch a million-dollar home business while you're nursing a newborn and recuperating from childbirth. But it is possible for you to augment your family income. Be realistic about what you expect you can do and achieve with your home business. Set small goals, take baby steps and slowly but surely, your business will grow. Another important lesson I learned from ZTD: focus on only three most important tasks (MITs) for the day. This will keep you focused and calm as you go about your day snatching little bits of time to work. If you find that you have finished the 3 MITs but still have time left over, then you can go ahead and do the other tasks in your to-do list. Even if you only accomplish those 3 tasks, you can sleep soundly knowing that you have accomplished the most essential tasks for the day. Also be realistic about what kind of a house you can maintain while you're juggling family and business. Perhaps your house won't make it on the cover of a decorating magazine (yet), but you can keep it clean, comfortable and safe. Learn to live with "good enough" rather than "perfect".

19. Simplify your life.
Be clear about your priorities in life and focus on them. Cut down on activities and obligations that don't help with your priorities. This includes cutting down on TV watching, magazine reading, social activities, mindless Internet surfing, etc. Make every moment of your life count. Do only what helps you achieve your goals. Writer Leo Babauta, who rose to blogger stardom in merely a year, doesn't even read newspapers. It takes discipline and willpower, but you can do it!

20. Reward yourself.
Do keep yourself motivated by recognizing your accomplishments, no matter how small, and celebrating them. It could be as simple as allowing yourself to take a 30-minute break to put your feet up, sip a cup of tea and read a good book. One of my favorite authors, Holly Pierlot, recommends a Mommy's Day Off or Mother's Sabbath every two weeks. I heartily recommend this, especially for former career women who are suddenly staying home for days at a time. It's an entire day of doing anything your enjoy. You go home when, and only when, you're good and ready! What a wonderful reward for two weeks of hard work.

If your children are all going to school, then you're in luck. You'll have long chunks of time to devote to your home business.

Moms who homeschool are some of the most organized people I know, and they still manage to make time for a home business.

Do you think these tips are helpful for you? Do you have other tips for staying productive while caring for a young child?

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

How to develop money-making niche sites with WordPress

Photo: And yet another jump shot by Bingbing

I'm so happy to have discovered a free Ebook entitled "How to develop money-making niche sites with WordPress". The Ebook is written by Caroline Middlebrook, a blogger whose months-old blog about Internet Marketing has already become very successful with over 1,000 subscribers. Caroline freely shares her knowledge of the technical side of putting up niche websites created to earn money. In other words, Caroline is a new favorite blogger of mine!

I have written in the past about how frustrating it has been to learn the technical aspects of blogging and managing a website. It takes up so much time -- time which I could spend actually writing and researching posts for my blogs and, most importantly, time I could spend with my family! So resources like Caroline's Ebook is truly a gift.

The Ebook is gives step-by-step instructions for setting up a WordPress website that is intended to make money through ads. WordPress is an open source (aka free) blogging software. Practically every successful blogger out there uses WordPress. Although it is free, one cannot use WordPress to monetize a blog or put ads in it. The only way to do so is to set up your own website and then use the WordPress software for building the website. This requires that you have a host for your site, such as Yahoo! or BlueHost (one of the most popular web hosts out there), usually for a monthly hosting fee.

This is a step that I plan to take when I'm more confident that the website will at least pay for the monthly hosting fee. When that time comes, I will definitely have Caroline's Ebook printed and open in front of me. In the meantime, both my blogs are in Blogger, a free blogging site that does allow one to put ads.

If you're at all interested in setting up your own monetized website or blog, you should get Caroline's Ebook. It's really useful and best of all, it's free!

You can download it here:

Read it and let me know what you think!

Thank you very much, Caroline!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

NEW: E-mail subscription to My Life Shift

Thanks to my friends, Viviane and Veronica, I just now learned how to enable you, my readers, to subscribe to my blog posts.

I've signed up with Feedblitz. Now, by entering your email address in the subscription form on the right, you can receive all news posts on My Life Shift through your email. My account is a free one, so the updates will have ads. I hope that will change in the future.

I hope you will subscribe!

Drawing: "kev1,kev1, come in" by Rubyran

There's a lot of technical stuff to learn when one blogs or runs a website. This is what's been taking me a lot of time to learn. And I thought I was a savvy Internet user! The Help section of blogger has been very helpful. So have a lot of blogs about bloggers.

It's all part of the "life shifting" adventure. I'm happy to learn something new every day.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

How to prepare financially for your home business

Photo: Piggy Bank by annia316 ?

I've been uneasy about my earlier post about preparing to leave my office job, because I think I glossed over the financial part of the preparations. I only mentioned that I was learning about frugal living because I didn't expect to replace my office income with a home business right away.

But that is only half of the story.

The other half is making sure that I have money set aside to tide my family over while I'm still building up my home businesses.

How much do you need?

I don't know how much money you should save before quitting your day job. In my case, I do not feel comfortable with anything less than one year's living expenses. But that's me and I'm no financial expert. It's what I think is reasonable and sensible for somebody like me who has children and contributes significantly to the family income.

Obviously, a couple who don't have any children, or a single person with no children, will require a smaller financial safety net.

It also depends on how much you contribute to the total family income. If your spouse is the main income earner and makes enough to support your family, then you'll probably only have to worry about the money you need to set up your home business. But if you're the breadwinner, then having one or even two years' worth of living expenses as a buffer is more prudent. You'll need even more if your current job provides health insurance and other benefits that are essential to your family.

Aside from replacing your office income, you'll need money to set up your new home business -- money for a new computer, perhaps, or faster Internet connection, office supplies, home office furniture, a printer, fax or modem, web hosting, web designing, etc. And if you plan to sell, you'll need money to buy inventory or raw materials.

I had the guts to plunge into self-employment because I was thrust into it: my position in the United Nations was abolished. Sure, I could have applied for a new position that opened, but I chose to pursue my dream of becoming my own boss instead. I felt it was the perfect opportunity to do so because my separation pay assures me that I won't bring my family to financial ruin. Otherwise, I would probably have gone slower (as if waiting 10 years wasn't slow enough) and more gradually into self-employment.

How do you get the money?

Preparing financially for a home business is pretty simple, at least on paper:
  1. Increase your income. The more money you earn, the more you can save. I say "can" and not "will" because it's not automatic. More often than not, our expenses grow as our incomes grow. DH and I are amazed at how we survived with so little in the first few years of our marriage. But as our incomes grew, so did our cost of living. And it wasn't just because we were having more children. We were buying more expensive things, going on more vacations, just generally buying more stuff that we previously could live without! Resist the urge to spend what you earn, and move on to step number 2.
  2. Increase your savings. I read a number of years ago that you should automatically save at least 10 per cent of your gross income every month. Pay yourself first. Put these savings into a separate account that you will not touch except for investments or real emergencies. I read elsewhere that if you saved 25 percent of your monthly income, you could retire in seven years. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that it adds up to some pretty serious savings. A financial guru in the Philippines advises newlyweds to live on one person's salary and save the other person's salary. I wish I had learned that before I had gotten married!
  3. Eliminate your debt. Fortunately, DH and I are both averse to debt. We strove to pay off our car as fast as we could. This meant doing a lot of belt tightening for a while, and we did dip into some savings. But it felt real good to be debt-free! That meant that every money we earned from that point on was entirely ours. This also made it easy for us to relocate to another country; we didn't have any financial obligations tying us down. Obviously, I do not advise borrowing money to go into a home business (but again, that's just me and I am NOT a financial expert!)
  4. Make your money grow through investments. DH and I are still quite ignorant about investing, but we do know that making wise investments is the only way to make your money work for you. We're still studying and learning.
Setting a financial goal and reaching it is an essential part of preparing for self-employment.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Seven ways to make money on the Internet - no scams!

Photo: U$D by Paul Keller

In the last 10 years while I was mulling quitting my job to become a stay-at-home Mom, the Internet became the BIG thing. Its use became widespread and has revolutionized many people’s lives – including thousands of women who discovered that they could make money at home. In their pajamas. When I learned about this, I became even more optimistic that I can make this WAHM thing work.

I’ve been researching about different ways to make money through the Internet. Most of the time, what I discovered were scams. Almost made me want to forget the whole thing. I am particularly averse to schemes that you have to pay to join and the only way to make money is by selling the same scheme to others! Some seemed legitimate enough, but I didn’t like the idea of making money without actually providing anything valuable.

However, I did find some legitimate money-making ideas. Below is a list of some of the ways that a Mom (or anyone else for that matter) could make money on the Internet, including a brief description and the pros and cons of each one:

1. Sell products online.

This is probably the most common way for a person to make money on the Internet. If you like to make things as a hobby, now is the time to cash in on it! Many of my sewing and knitting friends sell their handmade goods on Etsy. Selling online is now much easier than selling in a brick-and-mortar store. If you don’t want to make the products yourself, you can “buy and sell”. That is, source out the products you think there is a demand for and sell them online. You could either create our own website or use a collective website for vendors. The most popular selling sites are EBay and Etsy.

  • You get to do what you love and make money at the same time.
  • If you buy and sell, you no longer need an excuse to shop garage sales.
  • If you sell through a selling site instead of your own, you only need basic Internet skills.
  • You need to process orders and ship them, which takes time. Shipping items requires you to leave the house.
  • When the demand for your products get heavy and you're the only one producing them, you may have to either turn down orders or take time away from your family.
  • You may have to invest some money to market your products.
2. Create a monetized blog.
A blog is an online journal or a type of website wherein the contents are arranged in chronological order (newest post to oldest). A blog can be monetized or earn income through advertisers. My Life Shift is an example of this. By providing useful content, I hope to bring potential customers to advertisers who pay me when my blog readers click on their ads or buy products through links in my blog. Notice the Adsense ads on the side and bottom of the site? The other way a blog can make money is through affiliate programs. For example, I am an affiliate of, my all-time favorite online store. Whenever a reader purchases from Amazon through the link on my blog, I get a small commission.Very popular blogs can sell advertising space directly.

  • Low-cost setup. Some free blog hosts will allow you to monetize your blog.
  • You write about the topics that interest you and are useful to others.
  • This is a good way to make passive income. Your blog can keep earning even while you’re sleeping.
  • You need good writing skills. And you have to write new and useful content regularly.
  • You have to know something about the Internet, blogging, search engine optimization and other potentially geeky stuff.
  • From what I’ve heard, income may be slow to come and is not guaranteed. It all depends on how popular your blog becomes.
3. Showcase and offer your skills through a website or blog.
A website can be your online portfolio to “sell” your talents and advertise your services. An example is Skelliewag, an advertisement-free site. However, the site does get the author freelancing and consulting jobs. Other blogs have become so successful that their authors have moved on to publish bestselling books and become paid speakers. Good examples are Angry Chicken and The Yarn Harlot.

  • Easy to set up on the Internet. You can use text, photos, audio and video to display your skills.
  • Provides an online archive of your best work.
  • A good opportunity to create a community of like-minded people.
  • May not be applicable to some skills, such as cooking.
  • You have to know something about the Internet, blogging, search engine optimization and other potentially geeky stuff.
  • Your site needs to be seen by your target market, which means knowing how to drive a particular demographic to your site.
4. Write, publish and sell an E-book or E-mail newsletter.
An E-book is a digital book that is usually distributed in PDF. If you know how to do something unusual, or have a great collection of recipes, or have some really useful but not-so-common information, you might have good material for a best-selling E-book. A newsletter is a regular E-mail that you send to subscribers who pay you for them. Amy Karol of Angry Chicken did this on her blog as well. You can sell your E-book on your own website or blog, or you could use one of many self-publishing sites on the Internet, such as Newsletters are usually sold on their own websites, or through affiliates.

  • Allows you to share yourself and your talents to others.
  • An E-book or newsletter can be put together really quickly using computer software and digital photography.
  • Another great way to earn passive income.
  • You have to write well, or else hire a writer.
  • You’ll most likely also have to hire a graphic artist to do the book’s layout. Unless you don’t mind having an amateur-looking book.
  • If you don't have a publisher, you have to market the E-book yourself.
5. Ask for donations.
This is another way that bloggers and websites make money, aside from advertising and affiliate programs. Few people think of actually asking for money, but if you believe that your site provides something valuable, then you’ll be surprised at how many people would be willing to support the site and, in effect, you. This works better if your site is free of advertising. Good examples are Simple GTD and Steve Pavlina's blog, which claims to make significant amounts through donations.

  • Fairly easy. Just ask.
  • Another good way of earning passive income.
  • You may feel uncomfortable about asking for money.
  • Your primary goal must be to provide a valuable service, product or information for free. Donations are optional.
6. Teach a skill online.
If you’re really good at something, you can make good money teaching others how to do it, too, but without conducting classes in person. Just put together a step-by-step learning module online and charge a fee to enroll. Depending on the skill involved, you may have to include lots of photos and videos. Provide personal coaching through E-mail, Internet telephone or a Web cam. Students can support each other through an E-group or online forum.

  • Builds on what you are already an expert at.
  • Teaching is gratifying.
  • Allows you to interact with students.
  • You have to know the principles of teaching.
  • Giving immediate support to your students may take a lot of time.
  • You may have to invest some money to produce educational materials, such as hand-outs and videos.
7. Build a website for a specific community.
If you think many other people share a particular interest that you have, and information on that topic is not yet plentiful on the Web, consider creating a website on that topic. The website can earn money in the same ways as a blog does. A good community website provides plenty of useful information, including online discussion boards or forums, reviews, links and other resources. The BabyWearer and Craftster are good examples.

  • It costs very little to set up a good website nowadays.
  • Excellent opportunity to build a community and interact with like-minded people.

  • Building a community takes time as well as marketing and social networking skills.

I'm sure I missed something, so here are longer lists of money-making ideas through the Internet, from two sources I trust:

Top 10 Internet Home Business Ideas You Can Start and Run in Your Underwear

30 Ideas to Help You Start Working Through the Web

So what are you waiting for? Ready to try making money on the Internet yet?

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Having second thoughts: Is working at home right for me?

Photo: Snow Wall by Ezzz

In the six days since I began this blog, I've felt like quitting three times.

The first time was when I discovered that it took so much time to blog. I had a long list of topics for blog posts, but no time to finish even one. I could only write during my baby's naps and at night after all the kids were asleep. I was surprised at the amount of time I needed to properly research topics and then craft some high-quality posts.

The second time was when I was installing a Facebook application to try and increase the traffic to this blog and I couldn't get it to work. It was frustrating and, again, consumed a lot of time.

The third time I felt like quitting was today when I found out that one of my favorite bloggers, Skellie, had launched a new blog, Anywired, about working online. At first, I was really excited because I greatly admire Skellie and I'm always looking forward to reading her posts. I've learned so much from her already. And then it dawned on me that if Skellie was already blogging about making money on the Internet, well, then I had nothing else to blog about.

But as you can see, I didn't quit. Three things happened:

First, I tried installing the Facebook application again the next day and it worked! I thought of something that hadn't dawned on me previously but when I tried a second time, my mind was much clearer. (Whether it will actually bring more people here is another matter though -- I'll let you know).

The second thing that happened was I talked to my husband, who must be my biggest fan (or he'd better be). He reminded me why I got interested to blog in the first place. To make some money, sure. But also, because I love to write and blogging gives me the chance -- no the obligation -- to write every single day. And most specially, I started this blog because I wanted to encourage and help other Moms to stay at home and earn money from home. I believe that mommies and their children belong together and they should be given every opportunity and support they need to do so.

The third thing happened in church, so it's significant: I realized that while Anywired will undoubtedly be a phenomenal success, it focuses on working ONLINE. On the other hand, my blog includes non-Internet-related home business ideas. Besides, Skellie and most of the other super-successful bloggers are either single and/or males who do not have the lion's share of household chores and child care responsibilities, or empty nesters. I, on the other hand, am a wife and mother first. I have to juggle blogging with managing a household and caring for a teen-ager, a first-grader and a toddler. So my "voice" will certainly be different from other bloggers' and, hopefully, my experience and posts will resonate with my own audience.

I've learned a lot about staying motivated from my first week of pro-blogging:

1. Focus on your goals.

Write down your goals and objectives. Review it often, at least weekly. I try to read mine every day. This is also one of the productivity habits recommended by Leo Babauta in his E-book, Zen to Done.

2. Get support when you need it.

My husband has been my primary source of support. He's always so sensible and knows best how to keep me going. He also helps me clarify ideas and see things from a fresh angle. I've also gotten support from complete strangers, such as Suzanne Wells. I "met" Suzanne on Facebook. She is a power E-bay seller and shares her secrets in her blog. She posts everyday! Even though Suzanne is a complete stranger, I sent her a message and she helped me on technical issues that I couldn't figure out myself.

3. Take baby steps.

I had to remind myself that it's only been a week. Why was I already going crazy over my blog's stats? I'm starting from almost zero knowledge about blogging, social networking and the technical aspects of the Internet. I need to cut myself some slack. As my husband pointed out, blogging is taking me a lot of time now because I'm still learning. Looking back, I've done a lot in such a short time -- all while still having my full-time job.

4. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

I know it's a cliche but sometimes, persistence is all that sets the winners apart from the losers. As my experience shows, a good night's sleep and another attempt can make all the difference.

I've picked up more motivation tips from Leo Babauta's post, Top 20 Motivation Hacks - An Overview.

I know that I will feel discouraged many other times in my life. When those times come, I hope I will remember to keep my eye on the prize and keep going until I reach my destination.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Countdown to being a work-at-home Mom

Photo: Tunnels of Time by fdecomite

I’m down to my last few days in the office. On February 1, I will officially be unemployed, a stay-at-home Mom, and hopefully, still earning money. Am I ready?

I’m trying to get ready. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

I’m tying lose ends in the office.

My Supervisor has just left for an assignment in another country, but I do still have some important deliverables before I go. And just today our officer-in-charge gave me a new project! I am completing these assignments, clearing out my cubicle (thanks to "Getting Things Done"), and organizing all the electronic files that I need to turn over to my successor. I’ve also begun giving away some of my beloved books to my officemates: two books on color harmony to Med, our graphic designer, and a book on completing a research project to Vincent, who is planning to go to graduate school. I have also touched base with Human Resources to make sure I complete all clearance requirements.

I’m completing my certification as a childbirth educator.

One of my income streams will be my part-time work as a childbirth educator. To prepare for this, I’ve been studying with Childbirth International to become certified. Between juggling my full-time job and family, the certification program has taken me almost three years to complete, but now I’m on the homestretch. I only have a few more requirements to complete. Once certified, I can organize childbirth preparation classes with the proper credentials.

I’m cramming to learn how to earn money through blogging.

This blog (and others still in the pipeline) is my other income stream. I know that blogs don’t make significant amounts of money right away – and some never do – but I’m willing to wait. I enjoy writing and sharing ideas with others so much that I would do it even if I didn’t make any money. But since I will be investing time and energy into it, then I might as well earn something. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and websites about blogging, listing down topics for this blog, writing posts, and researching other WAH blogs.

I’m learning to become more productive.

Let’s face it; it isn’t easy to work at home, especially if one has a family and little children underfoot. One needs to be organized and productive. I just finished reading Getting Things Done (GTD) and have started applying it in the office. As a result, my Email Inbox and desk in-tray are empty and I have cleared half of my desk. I’m also trying out this free online tool for GTD. However, I still haven’t figured out how to apply GTD at home. When I’m at home, I am so preoccupied with the house chores, my kids and my husband that I forget to collect, record and review my Next Actions. Apparently, blogger Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has improved on GTD principles. Today, I broke my rule of not spending on this blog and bought Leo’s productivity book, Zen to Done: The Simple Productivity E-book (which you can purchase for $9.50 by clicking the button on the right sidebar). Watch out for my review of Leo’s book very soon. I also plan to join the Flylady’s online group. Many women swear by the Flylady’s approach to having an organized, clean and uncluttered household and a happy housewife. Who could resist?

I’m networking with other WAHMs.

The one thing that I will surely miss after I leave employment is the daily interaction with colleagues, many of whom have become my friends. I don’t like feeling alone, so I’ve started looking for and joining groups of WAHMs in Facebook and looking at WAHM’s blogs in Stumble Upon. I’ve left comments in a couple of blogs and signed up for membership in Aside from getting moral support from other WAHMs, I hope to discover more tips and tools that I can use and share with my blog readers.

I’m updating my resume.

I don’t expect to be applying for office jobs, but a resume is essential if I decide to apply for telecommuting jobs or offer my services as a consultant. Besides, I would like an accurate and updated record of my accomplishments while I did work in an office. After working full-time for 19 years, I deserve nothing less.

I’m learning about frugal living and personal finance.

I don’t have romantic notions about making easy money quickly while working at home or as a childbirth educator. I know it will probably take several months before I make any real money. In the meantime, it is a good exercise to live frugally, even if I still had a steady income. I’m tired of the pressures of consumerism and would like to live well below my means, invest, make money work for me, give more to charity, and have the resources for the things that really matter.

Am I doing everything I could to prepare myself for WAHM-hood? Am I forgetting something? What else would you do if you were preparing to work at home?

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

10 reasons to work at home

Photo: "Freedom" by [K]

Upon hearing that I’m about to leave my job, many people are incredulous. After all, I make a pretty good living, I work in a prestigious organization, I do noble work that helps improve people’s lives, our medical insurance plan is good, and my office is very tolerant when I have a sick child or school commitments.

But I believe that I’ve got pretty compelling reasons to work at home instead – 10 in fact:

1. I want to raise my own children, instead of relying on babysitters, nannies or day care workers.

When I first became a Mom and returned to work, I calculated the number of waking hours I spent with my baby and got very depressed. However, I was convinced that I needed to work – for my child’s sake – and so I buried the number in the deepest recesses of my mind to quiet my guilt. I’ve missed many of my children’s milestones so I simply didn’t record them. Sometimes I even felt that my children were better off in the care of others than with me. Thirteen years and three children after I first gave birth, I now realize that I am the best caregiver for them and that it’s time I take full responsibility for their care.

2. I don’t want to work 40 hours a week.

I work fast. But as an employee, I have to stay at my desk until a certain hour, even if my work was completed much earlier. I prefer to work only for as long as I have to. I don’t want to have to stay in my cubicle for 8 hours straight even after the work is done or my mind is no longer working efficiently. I’d like to use some of that time to pray, exercise, read, and pursue my hobbies. Deprived of all this, at the end of the day I am so spent that what comes home to my husband and children isn’t me but a mere shadow of my real self.

3. I want to set my own working hours.

I want to respect my body’s and mind’s rhythms and work when I am most productive. I don’t know about you, but I am not productive for 8 continuous hours. Sometimes the best time for me to work is in the middle of the night. It could be in the morning only. It could be in a coffee shop, on a park bench, or on my bed. Sometimes I need to take my mind completely off work and do something different, such as watch TV or browse a magazine. I’m not trying to make excuses to be indolent. I just know that my creative juices flow at different times and settings than what my job dictates.

4. I want to engage in more creative activities.

I’ve always considered myself the creative type, not the type who would do well in a traditional office environment. When I was younger, I used to draw and paint and sing. My office job did allow me to use my creativity through writing and problem solving. Once in a while my artistic abilities were put to good use when developing a publication or making a presentation. But it still wasn’t enough. Besides, I have since developed new creative outlets, such as cooking, sewing and knitting. I want be have more time and energy for these and my other budding interests.

5. I want to be able to choose projects and refuse those I don’t like.
As an employee, I have to do pretty much what the job description and my supervisors tell me to do. Even when I disagree with them, I need to comply with their wishes. Fortunately, they have never ever asked me to do anything immoral, much less illegal. But there are those tasks that are so tedious or boring or just plain unpleasant that they seem to suck the life out of me. I refuse to do them anymore.

6. I want to interact directly with my clients and see the fruits of my labor first-hand.

I’ve been doing noble, worthwhile work in the UN but, let’s face it, we’re pretty much insulated from the realities of the people we are trying to help, a.k.a. our “beneficiaries”. Occasionally, I go to the field and meet some of the children and women whose lives have been affected by our work. But that is few and far between. As a childbirth educator, I’ll be interacting directly with my clients and seeing the birth of their families. It’s more satisfying and fulfilling.

7. I want to stop the daily commute to and from work.

The first time I began thinking of leaving my job was when we moved halfway across town to save on rent. My 30-minute car ride to work became 1 hour in the morning and 1.5 sometimes 2 hours at night. Sometimes it would take even longer. That’s at least 2.5 hours every day wasted traveling when I could have been playing with my kids, exercising or taking a class. We have recently moved much closer to work, so the time isn’t a problem anymore. However, we still spend a lot on gas and parking. By working at home, I “earn” an extra 7.5 hours a week and more than enough money for my kids’ piano lessons.

8. I want to avoid meetings, especially long and boring ones.

Talk about a life-sucking activity! I’ve been to meetings that lasted more than four hours, meetings that didn’t have a clear agenda, meetings that ended without clear agreements, and meetings that did have an agenda but it were hijacked by somebody who had a very strong personality and authority. Please, no more!

9. I want to avoid office politics.

I’ve always believed that hard work and talent will get one ahead in life… until I met sycophants, bluffers and others who've advanced their careers through their “people skills”. I think I would have gone farther in my so-called career if I had flattered the bosses more and made the right connections. I don’t want to have to do that to get my skills and myself recognized. I just want to be true to myself.

10. I don’t want to wear office clothes anymore.

My office environment is quite casual about clothes, but I still can’t wear flip-flops and jeans to work every day. I would also save more money if I didn’t have to wear office clothes any more.

These are my own reasons. Ultra-successful blogger, Steve Pavlina, whose website encouraged me to begin blogging for a living, lists 10 reasons you should never get a job. They're worth checking out.

What are your reasons for wanting to leave your job?

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About Me

My Life Shift is for anyone who wants to work at home -- whether to take care of kids, escape the corporate rat race, pursue an art or craft, or any other reason. By documenting my own transition from office employee to work-at-home Mom, I hope to motivate other people to do the same and share whatever tools, tips and resources I discover along the way.

While researching my options for working at home, I discovered many scams for those looking for home businesses. I assure you that all the resources I share in this blog are those that I myself have tried. I will never promote a product or home business that I do not personally know to be a legitimate way to earn money at home. I believe in getting honest pay for honest work. You will not find any get-rich-quick schemes here.

I am a wife and mother of three ages 13, 7 and 1. After 19 years of employment, I now feel ready to stay home, become my own boss, and be a mother first and income earner second.
Besides my training and experience in advocacy, media relations and project management, I am also a Childbirth Educator. For two years, I wrote a monthly column in Good Housekeeping Philippines about work-life balance.