Jumping Into Summer

Our neighborhood pool opens tomorrow, and boy, are my kids excited! No matter that the water will be freezing, they can go swimming.

Summer might officially start June 21, but for many of us, Memorial Day heralds the beginning of summer. Summer is a wonderful time to take time to relax and let ourselves play hooky from work more often.

One of my summer goals is to plan some adventures with my children on a regular basis, remembering the adage that no one ever said they wished they had worked more. With careful planning, you can have a delightful summer and still accomplish all that you need to with your at-home business.

Until next time,

Sarah

Spring (Mind) Cleaning

Ah, spring is finally coming to Virginia. The birds have returned, the flowers are blooming, the trees are regaining their foilage. And my thoughts naturally turn to attacking those dust bunnies under my bed and other furniture.

When you think about spring cleaning, do not neglect to clear your mind. It might sound silly, but we all store junk in the far corners of our minds that need to get cleaned out every once in a while. Thoughts that need to be realigned, old habits that need to be rewired, those types of things.

By thinking of what’s going on in our mind, we can kind of restart ourselves on a new path, a path that can lead to better relationships, better business practices and a better us.

So as you’re cleaning your house and closets this spring, take a few minutes each day to think about cleaning out your mind, too.

Until next time,

Sarah

Ah, Spring!

The birds are returning to Northern Virginia, as the weather vacillates between warm and cold temperatures. With last Friday the first day of Spring, my four-year-old daughter informed me that she could go “bare toeses” now that it was officially Spring. Of course, Friday’s weather was nice and chilly, nixing the idea of going outside without socks or shoes. Perhaps next week if the weather cooperates.

With the start of Spring, my mind turns to spring cleaning, but working from home—and four young children—doesn’t leave a lot of time for more extensive tidying up. But I don’t want to completely forgo the yearly ritual, so I’m devising a schedule whereby each week, I’ll tackle one spring cleaning project. I’m hopeful that by breaking down the spring cleaning into manageable tasks, I’ll actually get everything sparkling before Memorial Day.

Use this time of blossoms and warmer temperatures to tackle those annual or semi-annual tasks that you put off over the winter. But don’t forget to take time to relax and enjoy watching spring unfold.

Until next time,

Sarah

PS: Check out my articles on eHow. You can search under my user name, seshva, to read my articles.

Tough Economy Good for Creating Home-Based Businesses

A recent USA Today article reported that recessions are gold when it comes to home-based businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) found that when in a recession, more people create home-based businesses.

During the previous recession of 2001-02, the U.S. economy dumped nearly 2.7 million jobs overall, according to the SBA. However, during that same period, new and existing businesses with less than 20 employees added 853,074 jobs.

Lean economic times also can be good for one-person businesses. The SBA estimates that 1 million more people launched businesses in 2003 than in 2002, a 5.7 percent increase. “The bulk of those are home-based businesses, such as consultants, people selling on eBay, independent contractors,” said Brian Headd, economist for the SBA’s Office of Advocacy.

“Hard times also seem to spawn many one-person businesses, more so than good times,” the article said. “Such businesses can be born out of necessity by men and women who lose their jobs or just need to boost their household income.”

So don’t use the economy as an excuse not to start an at-home business—now may be the best time to do so.

Until next time,

Sarah

Oh, Woe is Me?

With the economy in a recession, more families are scaling back on outsourcing jobs, such as canceling cleaning services, and are eating more at home. A recent Washington Times article relates that this spells out more housework for mom.

The article’s tone is “woe is mom,” with one source quoted as saying: “The list of things that people were outsourcing we’re finding are coming back home. And when they do, they tend to fall on the woman.”

Apparently, women still do most of the housework, even those who are married. For me, this wasn’t a big surprise, but to read the article, some scholars think it is big news. That, with more families tightening their financial belts, the first things to go are the things that you can do yourself—and those tend to be jobs that now fall to the woman of the home.

As a stay-at-home wife and mother, I believe it is one of my jobs to run the household. Not that my husband should be a slug-a-bed (he’s not) when it comes to chores, but since I’m in the home a lot more than he is, it makes more sense that I would do more of the daily chores to keep the home functioning.

Now, I don’t particularly like housework. Vacuuming, dusting, laundry, dishes, cooking, and other cleaning isn’t high on my list of things I enjoy. But I do try to take pride in my housework, and to train my children to be cheerful in doing it. Having a clean house, clean clothes and food on the table helps us to be a happier family.

A large part of that equation is my attitude towards housework. If I’m always cranky about the work, what does that teach my children? I might not like washing dishes, but I don’t need to complain about the job.

Also, I don’t think that my doing the majority of the housework in any way negates the importance of my work-from-home job as a freelance writer and editor. But the fact is, I sometimes have to turn down or modify freelance writing assignments if they might get in the way of taking care of my family, which includes taking care of the house.

Every family needs to look at how to make the household jobs work for each member, whether it’s children learning how to do chores, or a husband pitching in because his wife needs time to prepare a presentation for her at-home business.

Until next time,

Sarah

A Virtual Workforce

I came across an interesting article today (“How the Virtual Workforce Is Changing Everything”) about how telecommuting and crowd-sourcing are reinventing the traditional notion of jobs. The story explains what I’ve found in my talks with women who work from home: that freelancers can do just as good—and sometimes better—work than in-house employees.

Nearly any job can be done to some extent out of the traditional office setting. As the article points out, “workers with unique talents ply their trade from home offices and send the products of their work efforts to city-based offices. Often, these work-reception centers are located far beyond acceptable commuting distances. Today’s developing virtual workforce routinely telecommutes to work across the country.”

The story quotes Jack Hughes, founder of TopCoder: “Why go to an office when you can do same thing at home? Moving information around can be done on the Internet. Maintaining stores and spending time, energy and building costs all are part of the paradigm from the Industrial Age. Even management styles are based on that model.”

As you’ve probably guessed, “this shift in work location from physical office to virtual shop is driven by the Internet.” One source in the article points to three factors driving corporations and businesses to have telecommuter workers or freelancers: the need for an expanded pool of employees, the cost factors, and the better work quality.

Read the article in its entirety to find out more about this shift in employment locations. Like I’ve found in my own research, many jobs done in an office can be done in an at-home office.

Until next time,
Sarah

Economic Woes Bring Out the Scams

At-home job-seeker, beware. There are many people out there who seek to separate you from your cash while promising to fill your pockets with money.

The Washington Times ran an article on Dec. 28 entitled “FBI notes ‘uptick’ in employment scams,” which details schemes currently making the rounds to e-mail inboxes. The article says that “the FBI is tracking an increase in Web-related schemes that promise large paychecks for a few hours of work per week from home. In some cases, the victims are unwittingly laundering ill-gotten money for unnamed ‘overseas investors.’”

With the downturn in the economy, there will be many more such “opportunities” sent to you by unscrupulous people. Guard against such promises of easy money by thoroughly investigating the company before parting with personal information or money. (The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.)

Remember that working from home still takes work—there’s no such thing as “easy money.” As Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of a prudent man is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving” (ESV).

Until next time,
Sarah

50,000 Words

Well, I did it! I wrote 50,070 words in less than 30 days—with four young children, including a five month old. Whew! I took the National Write a Novel in a Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/) challenge and, on Nov. 28, I officially finished the cozy mystery!

Now, I’m not claiming this is a masterpiece, or even worth reading at this point. But darn it, I did it. And I have to say I’m a bit proud of myself.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, some days, when I sat down at my keyboard, I would look at the screen and think, “Have I got anything to say? Anything? Hello, brain, get cracking! I only have a few minutes before I have to go to the bus stop or the baby wakes up or dinner needs to be started.”

Some days, I frantically wrote in 10-minute increments. Some days, I had an hour or so before my eyes refused to stay open to crank it out.

But I learned something important about myself and my creativity in the process. Namely, that I can finish a novel-length book. That creative writing can be done in short spurts. That the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write and the better I became at picking up the thread of my novel and getting back into the thick of things. Which is a good thing, if you’re anything like me and time to write, well, anything—even e-mail—is a precious commodity.

Some day soon, I hope to begin editing and refining the mystery, but that probably won’t happen this year. I have several freelance assignments on the near horizon and then there’s this little holiday called Christmas looming up. There will be baking and decorating and fun things with the kids. But come January, I’ll have new New Year’s Resolutions about my writing to contemplate. And having written 50,000 words in a month, I know what I’m capable of doing—and will be able to plan my year accordingly.

Until next time,

Sarah

Little People Stories

The other day, I picked up four boxes of my childhood in the form of Fisher Price Little People items: the house; airport with two airplanes and helicopters; the little town with its post office, barber shop, police station, fire station, theatre, restaurant, garage and dentist office; the castle with knights, coach, horses, dragons, king, queen, princes and princess; the schoolhouse and the garage. Plus all of the cars, trucks, boats, chairs, tables and Little People themselves. Talk about a walk down memory lane!

I played with these toys for hours as a child, making up countless stories about the people and places. With these Little People, I traveled all over the world and had numerous adventures, laying the groundwork for my adult life as a writer. Now, my children are playing with the Little People and all of their accompanying stuff. I hear them making up their own stories about the lives of these toys and it warms my heart. Perhaps one of them will grow up to tell stories, too.

Having spent my childhood developing my imagination has served me well in my chosen vocation as a writer. Even though my life as a professional freelance writer is writing stories about real people, products and events, my still-active imagination allows me to dabble in fiction stories, too.

Right now, I’m attempting to write a novel in a month as part of National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/), which challenges you to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. My work, a cozy mystery, is entitled “Cinderella’s Slipper”: Can a gal with two left feet find the dancing partner of her dreams and solve a murder-mystery?

Thus far, I’m at 26,255 words (hey, I have four children, including a 5-month-old baby, so I think I’m doing pretty good). My husband reminds me that the month is more than half over, which is not very encouraging, but hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time at the computer over the Thanksgiving holiday and meet the deadline of November 30. I might just barely squeak by, but whatever I end up with, it’s been a great experience, one that has rejuvenated my fiction writing life.

Until next time,

Sarah