Friday, March 31, 2006

That's much better!

Wow, it really feels good to finally be organized. Earlier this week I got all my file folders changed out and added new ones for the work I've taken on in the last couple of weeks. After I got all that set up, I realized I needed the hanging folder file I'd seen at the store, so I went back after it.

What a difference that made! Now all of my folders plus most of my spiral notebooks that I use during interviews are all filed away in the box. No more piles of folders and notebooks on my desk and other working areas and most certainly not in the floor. I feel so much more efficient and hopefully I actually will be.

Now if I could just get the rest of my desk clean!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More work calls for more organization

My work has picked up recently and my organization is going to have to as well! In addition to the several weekly freelance assignments I have with two newspapers, another newspaper that I write for as needed has some work for me, and I have picked up a brand new job as the editor of a quarterly newsletter produced by a nonprofit group.

This additional work is very exciting for me and calls for me to get things in my office better situated. I keep up with everything through a system of spiral notebooks and manila folders. This system works for me quite well.

Interview notes for each newspaper go in a particular color notebook. For instance, I write one weekly human interest feature for a newspaper near where I live each week. Those notes go in a purple spiral notebook. Another newspaper gives me several assignments each week. The human interest pieces for that newspaper go in the blue notebook. Other assignments for that paper go in red and green notebooks. Since everything is color coded it's easy for me to grab a notebook.

I buy these notebooks by the box when the school supplies go on sale for ten cents each. I bought $10 worth (that's 100 70-sheet notebooks, plenty even for me) when they went on sale last year and still have three boxes left.

Loose papers and other notes are kept in Manila folders, one each for all the different types of assignments I have. My folders were getting really ratty, plus I needed some more for my additional work, so I bought a box of 100 last night at my local discount store. I like the open manila folders so I can easily flip through my notes as one would look through a book.

After coming home and getting everything put away in folders, I realize that I also need a small file box with hanging folders to keep everything neat. Later today I'll go back to the store and buy a file box and a case of hanging folders, set it up, and just put my manila folders down in those. That should keep my things in better order and make it easier for me to quickly locate a file.

As I go along I'll probably think of other ways to keep things in order. That's good because I just love buying office supplies!

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Keeping kids busy while you work

This week has been spring break and my, has it been a challenge to get any work done with the kids being home from school plus all the company we've had. Here is an article about some good ways to keep your kids occupied while you attempt to get some work done:

Keeping Your Children Busy When You Work From Home
By: Aurelia Williams

Juggling children and work can be a challenge, whether you work outside the home or you are a work from home mom, but, in some ways, work from home moms face more challenges than moms who work outside the home. After all, when you’re in a traditional office, you don’t need to worry that a coworker will burst into the room and scream "Mommy, he took my doll," just as you are beginning an important conference call.

So how does a work from home mom manage to keep her children happy and busy while she is trying to get her job done?

First, you need to let your children know when you are not to be disturbed. Set up a schedule that includes playtime and work time and remind them that if they don’t disturb you while you are working, you will be able to give them your complete attention during playtime. As a reminder, use a do not disturb sign on your office door when you absolutely cannot be interrupted.

Of course, it is easy for your children to behave while you are working if they have something to do. Fill a box with games and toys that can only be used while mom is working. Make sure you add a new puzzle, coloring book, or small toy on a frequent basis, to keep your children interested.

If you don’t work on the phone, it is a bit easier to keep your children content when you are working. Set up an office space just for them, complete with a small table and chairs. Fill a lunch box with some of their favorite snacks and a few juice boxes each morning, so you aren’t inundated with requests for food and drinks. Add a children’s magazine, simple puzzles, coloring books, and art supplies. When your children are able to work along side you, the number of interruptions should decrease drastically.

For moms who really need peace and quiet, but have small children, a mother’s helper can be a great solution. Since you will still be in the house, you do not need a fully trained baby sitter to help out. Instead, look for a teen who has little babysitting experience, but likes kids. She will probably be happy to watch your children while you work for the cost of a few good after school snacks and a few dollars.

Finally, sometimes it’s just not possible to keep your children quiet and content while you are working. If your child is ill, you may just need to decide to take the day off. After all, the reason you are working from home is to have the flexibility to be there for your children when they need you!

Article by:
Aurelia Williams, certified Personal Life Coach and owner of Real Life Coaching and Real Life Solutions, a Family Resource site that help you lead an emotionally & physically healthier, more productive and less stressful life.

I can definitely identify with the whining and requests for food and other things as soon as I begin an important phone call! The food and activity box sounds like a good idea. I might just have to try it!

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

So many distractions!

It has been so very difficult to work this week, though I have been trying! It's spring break and so of course my children are home, getting quite needy and demanding every time I start getting into my grove!

It's also my sister's spring break, and she and her husband have been here most of the week. We've had a grand time eating, shopping, napping, and movie watching in what we have dubbed their Grand Spring Break Eating and Sleeping Tour. (It started out as a vacation close to home where they were going to visit several museums and I dubbed it the Grand Spring Break Heritage Tour. Their plans changed so a name change was also in order.) Needless to say, between all this eating and shopping, I haven't gotten much work done.

It's also spring break for my nieces and they have been here pretty much all day. They painted, watched movies, played like sharks, and in general kept up a whole lot of racket, and all that was after an eating and shopping trip!

I guess it's time to stop worrying about getting work done and start really enjoying the fun. It's spring break, after all!

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Good resources for WAHM writers

There are a ton of good Internet resources for work at home writer moms like myself. I have links to a good many of them on my writing website.

To access them, scroll down the right hand column until you get to the bottom. The links to the writing websites are separated from the work at home mom (WAHM) websites, but many of the WAHM sites have great hints for making freelance writing work.

My favorite part of all these websites is the message boards. I don't go to all of them regularly, but I am a registered user at all of them and really enjoy networking with fellow WAHM writers.

Check out my WAHM writer resource list and let me know if there are any sites I should add.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cool jobs

One of the neatest things about my job as a work at home writer mom is that I get to write about people with cool jobs! This is a new endeavor and right now I'm having a blast making a list of interesting occupations. Here are some I've come up with!

Library researcher
Museum director
Museum curator
Ball park manager
Tree farmer
Nursing home activity director
Cheerleader coach
Dog catcher
Thrift store manager/owner
Gently used book store owner
Tour guide
Humane society director
Animal shelter person
ESL teacher
Craft maker/vendor at festival
Antiques dealer
Guitar/musical instrument crafter
Art gallery director
Horse breeder
Wedding cake maker
Flower farm owner
Bed and breakfast owner
Resort owner
Wedding planner
Life coach
Person who tests toys/video games
Yoga teacher
Golf caddy
English-Spanish translator
Professional organizer
Landscape company owner
Coffee shop owner
Sign painter
Pawn shop owner
Person who has a sales business from home
Person who boards pets
Professional fisherman
Candle maker
Soap maker
Massage therapist
Personal chef
Pool cleaner
Petting farm owner
Scrapbooking teacher

Got any more ideas? Be sure to leave them here for me! If you're in Arkansas and would like me to consider you for a feature on one of these cool jobs or any other neat vocation, email me at smbwallace at sbcglobal dot net and we'll talk!

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A new opportunity

A new opportunity in my freelance writing career has presented itself to me. A nonprofit organization with whom I have had a relationship throughout my years in the newspaper business has asked me to produce its newsletter.

I would write, take the photographs and do the layout for the entire 12-page quarterly production. The company would take care of the printing, which is good since they are getting ready to add some desktop publishing to their wide array of offerings.

I'm excited about this new opportunity and honored that this organization that I so highly esteem would ask me to take over the production of this important publication. I haven't officially accepted yet but it's now just down to a budget discussion, which I expect will go fairly smoothly. I've got plenty of ideas for stories and a few slight adjustments in layout, and I'm ready to get to work on it!

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Disappointed again

Every time I look into doing some web content writing I am sorely disappointed. The first time was a few months ago, when I decided I'd like to try getting into some other types of media. I didn't know how good I had it in the print arena. The pay for web content writing is absolutely ridiculous, as in a few dollars for a few hundred words! I was horrified, to say the least, and I dropped the issue.

A few days ago, propelled by a need for a little extra money — it wouldn't be "extra" money, it'd be bill money — I decided I'd investigate further. This time I knew the pay was bad, but I have a few things already written and some things that would take very little time to put together. I had the names of a few web content sites that my Internet writer friends submit to, so what could go wrong this time?

This time I was quite dismayed at all the rules and instructions I was expected to wade through. I just figured I'd register and then slap a few things up there, but it does not work that way at all. There are lists of do's and don'ts probably longer than the articles I would submit, and I get pretty wordy when I start writing.

Disgusted again, I got up from the computer to go do something without all the long list of instructions and with a guarantee in pay — my print media work! Maybe I'll go back and read all the rules, and maybe I won't. I don't know how many disappointments I would have to go through to actually get the good news that someone had bought my work.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Branching out

Since the tax return money I was going to use for normal expenses this month is going toward something else, I'm looking into avenues for work that I haven't until now explored.

A writing friend of mine private messaged me about a writing assignment she thought would interest me on Rent-a-Coder, a site where writers bid for the projects. Indeed I am interested. There is a possibility that the writer who's bid is accepted will be used for other related articles. I have several up my sleeve but seriously doubt that the bid I'm going to make will be accepted.

There are a few other things I have up my sleeve. I'd like to turn a post in my blog Living the Mom Life into an article for one of those sites that pays for web content, perhaps Associated Content or Constant Content.

I have my eye on applying at a few other web content sites as well. The pay for web content writing is terribly low, especially compared to the newspaper writing I'm used to doing, but these pieces won't take long to prepare.

In addition, I have a couple of queries to submit to an online magazine that pays reasonably well. Submitting those is also on my list of things to do for work this weekend. Maybe a few of these things will work out. I'd love to get my foot in the door in this avenue of writing.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Speedy service

We completed the filing process for our tax return this past Tuesday and got a check from the state revenue department in the mail today. Talk about speedy service.

We filed at H&R Block with their local office right next door to our house, so there was some convenience involved, too. We also got our fee adjusted, which made it about half of what is normally charged. I am very pleased with our tax filing experience this year.

Now I was going to use this check that arrived today to pay the utilities and buy groceries this month, but I believe we're going to use it to make a few improvements around the house. That means I better get to scrambling for some more work this month!

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Getting rid of distractions

This came to me by way of email this weekend and I thought it was not only funny but useful. Check it out:

Andy Rooney's Tips for Handling Telemarketers
Three Little Words That Work!

(1) The three little words are: "Hold On, Please..." Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt. Then when you eventually hear the phone company's "beep-beep-beep" tone, you know it's time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task. These three little words will help eliminate telephone soliciting.

(2) Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end?This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone. This technique is used to determine the best time of day for a "real" sales person to call back and get someone at home.

What you can do after answering, if you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialed the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer!

(3) Junk Mail Help:
When you get "ads" enclosed with your phone or utility bill, return these "ads" with your payment. Let the sending companies throw their own junk mail away. When you get those "pre-approved" letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope.

Most of these come with postage-paid return envelopes, right? It costs them more than the regular 39 cents postage "IF" and when they receive them back. It costs them nothing if you throw them away! The postage was around 50 cents before the last increase and it is according to the weight. In that case, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little, postage-paid return envelopes.

One of Andy Rooney's (60 minutes) ideas —
Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send a pizza coupon to Citibank. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their blank application back! If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! It still costs them 39 cents.

The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the mail, but folks, we need to OVERWHELM them. Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all they're paying for it ... twice!

Let's help keep our postal service busy since they are saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, and that's why they need to increase postage costs again. You get the idea! If enough people follow these tips, it will work. I have been doing this for years, and I get very little junk mail anymore.

I don't know if these things accomplish anything but they do sound fun! We don't get many of the telemarketer calls anymore since I put our number in the National Do Not Call Registry but we get tons of credit card offers. My sister told me she sends scrap papers and other stuff back in the postage paid envelopes. I found some coupons for a fast food restaurant to put in the postage paid envelope back to a credit card company tomorrow. Maybe now I'll actually look forward to getting junk mail since I now have something fun to do with it!

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