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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Setback - Failure - Or...

It's been a difficult month for me, business-wise, as you may have noticed. Someone asked me how do I tell people around me that I failed at something I planned.  Fail?  I didn't fail!  I was positive, right? I didn't cry and whine [too much], right?  And... I tried. Since when is trying, and I do mean trying HARD a failure?

When you come to something that doesn't work, try, try again. And then try something else. You keep trying until you get it right or find a much better solution.

I won't go into what I most failed doing this month, but I can safely say it will be short-lived, and next month, I'll share what successes my failure brought me. 
Which, of course, makes it NOT a failure. What's a failure anyway?

Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 YearsFor me, not writing is always a failure, my solution is to clean, and it works because everyone at home is happy and I love it because when the inspiration does or does not start and I write, I don't have a pile of dishes, a streak of dirt, or stinky laundry distracting me. 

But that is not a success story, not really.  

What if... I didn't write and things got in the way, and one day, while procrastinating and pretending like going on a cleaning binge is a positive alternative, a piece of glass cut deep into my foot?  What if I had to go to Urgent Care? What if the doctor there was a jerk and I asked to sit in the waiting room, waste more time, until there's a more competent doctor? What if the doctor came out, apologized, and I reluctantly agreed to go back?  What if... he said he was very sorry and normally there's no excuse, but this one time, he learned his brother's wife went out last night and didn't come home and what if the same doctor continued - gasp! (yes, even doctors give out strange and personal information at the oddest times) - and said "I just want to know where he hid the body. My own brother!"

Taken From Home: A Father, a Dark Secret, and a Brutal Murder (St. Martin's True Crime Library)I'm a true crime writer, as my kids say.  Yes, things like that happen all the time.  I'm not saying this is great to exploit him, I write for FREE!  I want to HELP. Yet, I admit, if the brother is guilty and his own brother had a feeling, and I learn about it first hand and before the police hear about, you betcha I'll be excited.  Don't judge me, it's natural, the stuff pumping through our vein!

Colonel Sanders White Beard Halloween Costume AccessoryThat's one of those accidental success stories. They happen all the time.  For instance, why do you think Colonel Sander's picture is him of an OLD man?  Not only did he receive a thousand rejections for his chicken recipe before striking gold, but he also failed at pretty much everything he ever tried, including his short-lived attempt at kidnapping.  Through much more than I write here, he managed to succeed and indeed, his success outlived him.

Next time you fail at a goal you set for yourself, remember, it's only a moment and it will pass.

Check out these other famous business failures.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Random Organization Tips

Organization is about knowing where everything you need is at the moment you need it.  What are the five most important tools you use in your business? Can you, without showing physically nor while you are physically seeing everything, explain to a ten year old where to find each of those items?  If not,  reconsider your organization practices. 

 ~Keep a garbage can near the place you most open mail; throw unsolicited mail away immediately.

~If you set up any type of filing system and you find yourself buried in an unorganized paper mess, cut your losses and try a different method.  For instance, someone drowning in un-filed papers might simply relabel their file folders by months rather than by product, bills, receipts, etc.

~Consider using a file wallet for receipts until you know which file system works best for you.

~If you don't feel like doing something now, decide if you'll want to do it later. If not, either do it now and forget about it, or rethink what you're doing.

~Before you put off today what you can do tomorrow, figure out if late fees are involved if something comes up and you can't get to it.

~Don't put that there!  Not taking a moment to put things all the way away will add up to hours searching for that one thing you really need but can't find.

~It's worth your time and effort to set up a space, no matter how small, to designate for your work.  When you need something, it will always be there. 
~Invest in SPAM software if you do not use a big company email (such as Google's gmail), as SPAM is a time thief.

~Use a timer when "checking your email" or browsing the web "for work."  Give yourself five minutes to do what you need to do, then move on.  

Rolodex Petite Open Tray Card File Holds 125 Cards of 2.25 x 4 Inches, Black (67060)~Use your Rolodex for all it's worth - store your passwords with the name and other important information for easy access; when you meet a potential client, use the front of your Rolodex card for name and contact information, use the back for notes that will mentally remind you who the person is and how you can be of help to each other

~Do you currently use gmail?  Google's gmail comes with a calendar that emails reminders when you want and sync's with most smart phones.  Better yet, if you are a Mac user, iCal will keep your days completely organized with a little help from you.

~Look at your calendar at the end of the evening (an hour before bed is great) and add to it if necessary; check out your calendar first thing in the morning - you will save valuable time by incorporating these two small things into your daily life (EXCELLENT for work and personal life)

~Clean up your desk top at the end of the day, this way you won't be tempted to avoid it the next day.

~Need more room?  Use a tall bookcase, a baker's rack, or even stacked crates to give you extra space (if you like the baker's rack in the picture, ask ME how to earn it free by hosting an online At Home America party). 

~Do you use your bedroom for your office space?  Without going into the ramifications of the office on your sleep, utilize all the space you can - use underbed boxes to store things you need, but do not use often.

~Use dry erase boards and/or cork boards near your workspace to keep important papers and information in constant view and easy access.  When you walk by, or sit down to work, you'll automatically be able to see what's urgent and deal with it.

~Unless you are expecting a specific text, resist the urge to "glance" at each text that comes in while working, if you have a hard time ignoring it and refuse to turn the phone off, schedule one minute each half hour to check your phone.

~Never be afraid to answer those who ask for favors "because you don't "really" work," or because you are home "all day long," with a strong and hardy "NO, thank you; I'm busy."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Successful Home Business Tips

Regardless your business, there are many ways to successfully market your business, yourself, or both.  We've all created and used signatures in our emails and electronic groups by now (now is a great time to change it up a bit), but there is more you can do. 

Writers!  Tithe your writing once in a while. Write for a magazine, newspaper, or website FREE.  It gets your name, bio, and website out there and gives you experience and writing clips.

Home party specialists can offer a product, wrapped nicely with a catalog and information card, to local charities raising money.  For instance, if your local high school is hosting a quarter auction, give away a gift you'd like to win.  You'll have advertising in the program, during the auction, and again by word of mouth from the winner (a bonus is those collecting the prizes and putting the event on will ALSO be checking you out and are potential future buyers and/or hostesses).

As a victims' rights advocate, I speak at local schools (free of charge) and offer information. Rarely is there not at least one person who contacts me outside of the event for themselves or another or to offer assistance.

I've tried to give examples of things that have worked for me personally in the past, but that's not close to the end of the list. I've taught classes, performed public speaking, sent out monthly and weekly newspapers to specific audiences, advertised on and offline, donated services to different events and charities, as a new At Home America homestyle specialist, I'm constantly looking for ways to share the opportunity without being aggressive.

For those of you who have physical products to share, get yourself a booth at the local craft fairs, or other such crowd gatherers.  The people are there specifically to see your stuff!  You can not only earn sales, but you can plant seeds for home parties.  Throw in a cool drawing, a great prize in return for giving you information (name, email, number, address, do they want to host a party, are they interested in earning full time money working part time, etc.).

Opportunities are endless.  They're all around you. I encourage you to take five minutes and list as many ideas for marketing your business as you can, no matter how crazy or silly. Don't stop for anything, just write.  Then come back here and share the best of the best!

 Be a Party Plan Superstar: Build a $100,000-a-Year Direct Selling Business from Home 

The Skinny on Direct Sales: Your first 100 days 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update on Recent Five Minute Postings

The five minutes did help out, especially considering after I wrote, all three of our kids, at different times, got pretty sick. The kind you have to clean up. YUCK!  That was the end of the five minute sessions.

What came of the five minutes spent getting a signature and a few emails together?  I made another small sale and now need only $683 in sales.  That's my high for the day. My low is something else.  An At Home America prior consultant* who recently rejoined... resigned today.  Less than 49 hours of signing. It's a big blow, but something we'll deal with when the kids are no longer ill.

It's never easy, is it?

And what of the creative juices? They flow.  Five minutes, right?  Once the last of them has lain down and closed their eyes, I just might get those juices to spill. I need it now, more than any other time, and that's just for sanity!

*At Home America uses the term HomeStyle Specialist, however, I'm going to use "consultant" this time because not everyone reading is necessarily rich on AHA lingo. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Five MORE Minutes - and Then Some

As you know, I'm a fan of five minutes.  I'm NOT a fan of looming deadlines, and that's what I'm facing now.  

Let me add, thanks to the military, I have no contact whatsoever (for the first time ever, not even when he was in Iraq did I have a day without some sort of communication) with my husband and spent the first lonely day feeling sorry for myself.  That's depressing enough, but when I looked at my calendar, I realized the month spent trying to get our kids on airplanes back to school (and losing precious work, including At Home America parties and meetings) was destroying all I worked for (that's another story in itself, just trust me).

Suddenly, I'm paralyzed. I'm doing nearly nothing.  And then it comes to me... five minutes.  Get back into life.  So I meditated and prayed for five minutes.  Ah. Smart move.

Five minutes of freeing my mind put me on the path to success. First of all, the no contact thing does stink, but I can use it to our advantage.  I imagined four less interruptions each day, then, handing him a check for the money I earned because I used my time wisely.  Also, for us, there's one more thing, he's been waiting for me to send the children's book to the publisher and to type 43:10 (screenplay) into the computer so we can get a new agent...  I CAN do this.  Even if only five minutes at a time.

The next five minutes, about an hour later, I rationally listed my most important deadlines and what I needed to do to meet them.

For instance, as a homestyle specialist, I worked hard the past two months to get to the second of two levels, in order to earn an important all expense paid trip to Chicago to learn more about my company and how to succeed.  When the flight fiasco with the boys happened (and the lovely holidays), I set it all aside. Now, in order to gain the last level and the trip (not to mention a decent check and some free homewares for myself), I have seven days to get $800 in sales. YIKES! I typically only earn about $1000 in sales in an entire month!

Goal - Earn $800 in sales before 4PM Hawaii time on January 24
How - Advertise, beg, motivate three people to host a quick online party

With this information in hand:
In five minutes I rewrote my iPhone email signature and my email signature. Since I need sales right now more than a recruit, I focused on whatever might encourage someone to order ASAP - the fact the Sale-a-bration sale is only through January and only until each item runs out, creates urgency; the fact the items are as low as $2.99 creates a more urgent desire.

In five more minutes, I wrote from my iPhone five letters to friends or family who I truly care about and would normally write.  Hours later, I'd take five minutes and do the same on the computer.  Each day, I'll do it again, but with other friends.  

Results:  I ended up with two online orders.  Both were small, but they are orders I normally would not have. Besides, all orders add up and the magic number is $1000.  I'm now short only $712.

And you can see how the five minutes add up, too. And they're painless!  I'm going to post on Facebook each day a new item under $3 for sale. They have to go through the higher priced items to get to the sale items. Works for me.  I'll take five minutes to go through my address book and call a potential hostess. Five minutes will allow me to check an online party. Five minutes does so much.

With writing... five minutes will give me a minute of screenplay action (I can type a page in five minutes).  I can query three publishers, a literary agent, and print out a proposal. Five more minutes gives me another page. My deadline for the screenplay is a bit longer, I have until February 2. Still, I can take five minutes to figure out how many five minute spurts a day I need to meet the deadline.  Easy.

The most difficult of my home "business" is being a victim's advocate. The reason it's difficult is that it earns nothing and depends on the earnings from the other jobs.  Constantly, I have to stop working on what I truly feel called to do, to do the others.  It's a catch-22, isn't it?

The biggest way I help is through a website.  I've been struggling for the last several years (after years of success) because I don't understand how to create the website in my mind now that I use Mac and Dreamweaver, and therefore, rarely do I get to actually write, research, or help. It's another bit of disappointment.

Yet, again, this is how five minutes works.  Five minutes can allow me to choose a subject in Dreamweaver that I really do not understand, and read.  It's ONLY five minutes, I can deal with the dry and often confusing information in such a small amount.  I can use five minutes more to create a pretty web page as best I can. Another five minutes will be spent sharing information author Sue Russell has shared in her Missing Mondays.  And if I have another five minutes to spare, I can write. I can write about cold cases, real cases, domestic violence, a plea for help.

Yes, in five minutes, I can do it.

Incidentally, it took longer than five minutes to write this and I do wish I had an extra five to decide if it makes sense, but since I really write it for me, to keep me on track, I'd rather take my five minutes and earn another $5.

God bless you and pray for our soldiers.

At Home America

"[You're] in business for yourself, but not in business by yourself."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Seasons Change

I've never had a period of time, since I became a mother, where I didn't have one child at home with me 24 hours a day.  At least one child was homeschooled at all times.  Wednesday, this all changes.  Our middle daughter starts college and the rest are either adults or in school (or both).  For the first time, I will have time to focus and concentrate on anything at all.

I'm nervous for the change, yet excited. We raised our kids to be self-sufficient and responsible, so there's absolutely no fear. Well, none, that is, except for me. Do I know how to be an adult?  One who is not somehow mothering (or smothering, as the kids might like to call it)?  

In my mind, I see a few things.  First of all, I know I do want to be home when the kids get home from school and my husband appreciates me and a hot meal when he comes home, too, and I like to spend as much time as possible with him before he deploys.  So, what I really see, is five hours a day that are mine to organize and manage. I can choose to relax or I can choose to be productive.

I'm a doer; I choose production.  

From the previous posts, you know I'll be spending five minutes a day on paperwork. I like to clean alone, with loud music, and deeply. There goes a half hour.  I think of it as exercise, but that's not quite enough, is it?  Another half hour to exercising at the gym or home, at least a few of the days.  A half hour to get there and and back and to lose on stupid stuff that always seems to come up.

Wow.  Where does time go when you aren't being productive?

But the truth of the matter is, when you feel good about your surroundings (a clean and well organized home), your relationship life is in order (being consistent at the end of the kids' and hubby's day), and you FEEL good (and exercising not only helps you look great, have energy, and helps maintain your health, it's actually a GREAT "anti-depressant")-you'll end up with better work in two or three hours than you would in eight without all the feel good stuff.

Yep, season's change, but I can change right along with it, and somehow, come out better than ever.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Change Bad to Good

Twice now, I've received packages from UPS that are so badly out of shape, the items are ruined, or a few are missing.  One box was from World Market, the other from At Home America.  The first time, we didn't even know we had a delivery because it was - ready for this? - delivered through our backyard gate and inside the detached garage side door.  Why would we check there for a package?  That one is still giving me problems and is costing me money. It was from before Christmas and it's the new year and we still aren't happy with the solution from UPS. World Market was great for the most part (they did forget to send the replacement and that's a whole 'nother story), and tomorrow, I'll let  you know how I fare with At Home America.

What do you do when this happens?  First, before you touch it, if it's obvious, of course, take pictures!  Today there's no excuse to document it.  Then open the package and check the items to the packing list.  AFTER you check the list, find out which items are good and which are not. Then call the company and let them know what happened. Offer the pictures, because they need to know if their shipping partner is doing their job.  More then likely, they will NOT want your photos and they will NOT rethink their shipping and handling methods, but you can feel good knowing you did your part.

However, you are not finished. You MUST call the shipping company.  If it only happened/happens once, it's an accident, and they'll thank you. If it happens twice or more, you need to write a letter (documentation) and include the photos.  Poor shipping and handling is NOT acceptable. 
Where I live, on the most isolated land in the world, Hawaii (it's true), I understand all the excuses. BUT if this is the best they can do, why do I pay 25% (AHA) when people on the mainland pay only 10%?  I pay the 25% for shipping and HANDLING.  Handle with care. If you don't, I WILL do something about it.

Here's the thing: if they are sending your shipments in a careless manner (and sneaking away), what makes you believe they aren't doing the same thing to YOUR customers?  Do you really work from home to spend extra hours babysitting and coddling a delivery service? 

Take care of it now to avoid problems later.

(Thanks. As you can tell, I"m venting. I do feel better, so thank you!).

UPDATE:  We got a THIRD poorly shipped box, but this time the USPS (not the UPS) acknowledged it with a sticker.  At least I'm not missing anything. And I cannot update that yet, because we were stuck at the airport all day (and will be again tomorrow).  You know I'll be making phone calls and writing letters.

30 Days to Make a Habit

Dear Home Based Business Friends:

It takes 30 days to make a habit. We also learned what five minutes a day can do for you. Therefore, if your downfall is paperwork, you can guess what to do: five minutes a day to organize it, then every day, for 30 days, take those five minutes to maintain your files.  Do not leave it for later, because it starts piling up until you are overwhelmed, and that leads to loss of sales. 

30 days.  Make your five minutes a daily habit.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taxes: Home Business

Home business owners, freelance writers and photographers, and direct sellers (in no particular order):

Please click on our TAX "label" for any information we may have published about taxes in general.  We are NOT a tax service, but we do have to file taxes like the rest of you. We're simply sharing what we wished someone shared with us (or... sharing what some lovely person HAS shared).  Always, always, ALWAYS, keep in mind that tax tips are only as good as the day they are written, but usually, they are great guides, regardless.

"...legislation that creates the tax laws we are bound to has been active where authors (and artists and film makers as well) are concerned. It isn’t difficult to get tax advice regarding simple items such as what form to use and what records to keep. What is a lot harder to find is information about the particular legislation aimed directly at this industry. The law is easier to understand if you trace back the prior rules first.",,id=175146,00.html,,id=204169,00.html,,id=167363,00.html

"...The artistic temperament simply does not interface well with the exacting rule-filled world of federal and state taxation. Writers tend to avoid the whole matter and consequently leave themselves vulnerable to bad advice and to overpaying taxes. The secret to overcoming this phobia is to develop an understanding of the mechanisms of the tax code and some simple, effective ways of complying with this onerous task. I often use the analogy that you may not need to know how to fix your car but it is helpful to know how it basically works. In so doing you will pay less in taxes and you will be less likely to fall prey to erroneous tax information and disreputable [advisers]." 

"... Freelance writers who have made any income the previous year will need to fill out a long 1040 as well as a Schedule C and a Schedule SE (self-employment tax) to report profit and loss. Keep in mind that if planning to deduct a lot of expenses, additional forms will need to be filled out as well. Consult a tax professional for extensive returns."

IRS: List of Guilds, etc.,,id=100602,00.html

Nolo (Law for All):
" can still deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses that you incur at home -- for instance, long-distance phone calls, a separate business telephone line, and the cost of office supplies and equipment. The above IRS rules apply only to the expenses of actually running and maintaining your home, such as utilities, rent, depreciation, home insurance, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and repairs."

We'll add as we gain new insights and information and always, we'll label it as TAX so it's easy to find.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Basic Marketing and Promotion Tip

This year, whatever you do, you MUST promote YOURSELF and your business.  Marketing 101 (and basic business sense) tells you that the biggest part of the sale is the marketing. You can build the best product ever, but if you do not promote it wisely, it's value goes way down.

Some of us are in business for ourselves out of basic necessity; others are working from home because that's where their life's passion lies.  Still, some of us are in it to win it (whatever "it" is!).  None of that matters if you sell nothing (and no, I am not talking only about products; many of us sell skills, integrity, loyalty, whatever).  Zero percent of zero is zero.

In this age of electronics, it's nearly impossible to NOT market, but people often overlook the most obvious and extremely affordable marketing strategies - use your signature!  If you have an email (or two or three or four), add a short blip about you/your business and simple contact information. Do this for your computer AND your smart phone.  Use a different signature for each account and change it up.  Most importantly, be direct and keep it simple.

Do you belong to Google groups?  Yahoo groups? Any online bulletin boards?  Check your account, they often allow a simple two or three line signature, as well.  Think about it - even if your odds of selling yourself/product are one time for every million signatures you share: it's one more you sold without much work.

When I'm emailing via True Crime Fanatic, my goal is to get people to read our website.  I can lead with an interesting case, but more often than not, the words "true crime" often trigger intrigue and I've been able to get away with this:

Teraisa Goldman

I do try to stay away from extremely high profile cases because they're the cases people literally go online to read, so I'll pick a quote from a book, a favorite author, or a tag from an online article.  When I'm using a short blurb, it may look like this:

"... Negroes on the plantation were to rise up and begin killing their masters with axes, hoes, and clubs while they were drinking and celebrating Independence Day."  Harry N. MacLean, The Past Is Never Dead

FYI: When emailing from your smart phone, include a single word at the beginning of your signature letting others know. Why? Because although we are professional, using a smart phone often causes a few unplanned typos. When your target market receives an email from you (we can all pretend we'll never do this, but I venture to say 90% of us will send at least one in the course of our business life), and we mean to say "Harry," but it comes out "hairy," we'll be grateful they can see we let our smart phone get the best of us, just as they have, and we'll quickly be forgiven.  Example of how it could turn out:

"... Negroes on the plantation were to rise up and begin killing their matters with axes, hose, and clubs while they were drinking and celebrating Independence Day."  Hairy Macintosh, The Past Is Never Dead

I leave you with this reminder: market and promote, but promote wisely.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a New Day

Each day you wake, you have a golden opportunity: You can make the day better than the day before. Meet and exceed goals you have yet to meet,  relax and enjoy your family, you can make a meal that you've been wanting to try for years... it's all up to you.  We don't need "New Years' resolutions;" we need day to day resolutions. 

For those of us working from home, it can be difficult to separate home and work.  Those are the best days, because they remind you of how flexible you and life can be.  Don't take it as a frustration, take it and make it work for them and YOU.  Take that time, rest your thoughts about work and lists and goals, and hold your angel.  Listen to them. Give them undivided attention.  Hear them. Respond to them. Love them.

When all is said and done, aren't they why you choose to work from home?  And honestly, when all is said and done, aren't you in a better frame of mind when you come out of that moment and get back to work?  Aren't they?

By the way, if you can't get back into your work, take the time to sit down and read a good book. For direct sales, it's always good to study tried, true, and proven methods.  For writing, there are thousands of books and it's hard to select only a hundred, so I'll give you a couple of my past favorites. Anything from the late great Gary Provost is a good read and informative.  Screenplay writing... you can't go wrong with Syd Field, he'll show you how to get into your screenplay and propose it so you have a fighting chance.  I'm saving my favorite for last.  I LOVE, love, love William Goldman.  There's no better screenplay to read than one of his. I've read quite a few, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but my all time favorite to read (for my learning purposes) is Absolute Power. I could understand the acts, the direction, the characters, and the words quite easily.

The Skinny on Direct Sales: Your first 100 days
Be a Party Plan Superstar: Build a $100,000-a-Year Direct Selling Business from Home 

 Absolute Power: The Screenplay (Applause Books) 

Making Money from Home: How to Run a Successful Home-Based Business