Sunday, February 05, 2012

What College Graduates Don’t Know About America

Three years ago, I wrote the following article about whether or not college has a positive impact on good citizenship. It had the boring title, "The Civic Impact of College."  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Not surprisingly, it didn't get many views.

But I think it is an important topic, and my last article about college ("Does College Matter?") generated quite a bit of interest, so I thought it was time to revisit the question.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Skills you need for your Home Business

Many people have become discouraged by the continued high unemployment rate. Rather than  looking for work, what they are doing instead is starting a home business. For the work-at-homeschool mom, it may be the pressure of trying to live on one income in these challenging times that drives her to explore setting up a home business.

However, a home business is not just like setting up a lemonade stand on the front porch, which is now such a hassle anyway because of burdensome state regulations, newly enforced by officials with too much time on their hands. A regular home business takes work: hard work, and lots of it.

If you are serious on starting a business at home, there are certain skills you need to master for the successful operation of your business.


A core skill that is essential for successfully running a business is planning. Before doing anything or going into the business, you must have a concrete business plan. Think of it as building a house. The business plan is the blueprint of the future of your business. Include all your objectives, steps on how you'll accomplish them and your time frame.

If you are serious about having a business, it is also essential that you do market research. You may think your business is a great idea, but market research will tell you if anyone else thinks so, too.  This is even more important for the work-at-homeschool-mom.  You already have two full time jobs that you need to fit this home business into. How tragic it would be for you to start a business selling a product or providing a service no one wants.


Although not all businesses directly involve selling, almost all businesses have some form of selling, even if it is selling yourself as an expert, or a service provider, or a trustworthy individual who has a trustworthy product.  If you do not understand how to sell your product, you will have a great product that no one knows about..

Investigate your competitors and see what they are doing. You can tailor your own selling approach by studying their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your target market is vitally important. Know your customers needs' so that you can reach out to them.


The marketing plan is always vital to a business. Notice that this is distinct from "selling." Effective marketing is generally the key to your business success. Start with giving out business cards to your friends, family members and acquaintances. Make sure that people are aware that you have a business.

Fliers are also a good idea. Hand out fliers around your neighborhood. Post them on bulletin boards. Remember to include on the flier the essentials about your business.

Make time to learn some internet marketing techniques, and don't forget to take full advantage of social media platforms like Facebook.

If at all possible, "do what you do best, and hire out the rest."  Do not allow your business to take precedence over your responsibility to care for your children or your commitment to take responsibility for their education.

These three skills are the pillars of a good business. Remember to get support from your family members and friends. Get the necessary permits and licenses and procure the necessary equipment for your business.

Starting your home business will not be an easy task, but mastering these three skills will help you to maximize your business growth and profit.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Mommy Blogger?

Many stay at home moms are able to care for their families while making some money on the side with a home based business. But this can be especially challenging for a homeschooling mom, who already has two full time jobs: being a mom to your children, and assuming full responsibility for their education.

One way to make money that is often overlooked is blogging. I'm not talking about blogging for exposure - that is a good thing too, and can drive visitors to your own blog or site where you may be able to convert them to customers. I'll talk about that in a minute.

I'm talking about bloggers who are independent contractors who work for clients that need bloggers on a daily basis, or who design blogs for themselves that rely on Google AdSense and affiliate links to make money. Some people laugh when they hear how blogging moms make money, but the truth is that there is quite a bit of money to be made blogging for yourself. You do have to know how to drive traffic to your blog, develop a following for your topic, and how to present your affiliate links and Google ads to make money.

Blogging for someone else enables you to receive upfront pay. This is the preferred method of blogging for many moms. You can expect to be paid a minimum of $5 for a three hundred word post up to twenty dollars a post. I have been paid as much as $50 for a blog post. You can find many blogging jobs at sites such as ProBlogger and Craigslist. Companies use blog writers to keep their blogs updated every day or every other day. If they started a blog but never update it, it will not drive enough traffic to make any money, and they need you to generate enough advertiser or other income to keep the blog running.

Some moms that work at home write content for their own blogs. They start a blog in a niche that they enjoy writing about to attract traffic. An obvious example is this blog - I started this blog in 2006 as a way to talk about the challenges I was experiencing trying to homeschool and work at home. Some of the people that visit this blog will see Google ads and click on the links. Every click makes some amount of money. If you choose the right keywords, the Google ads can amount to quite a bit of money.  It is worth taking a little time to learn how to select the right keywords.

Bloggers also join affiliate sites to host banners for big companies such as Petco, Baby Bee and even Sears. Many people use Commission Junction, or one of the other affiliate link programs to find commission ads. Still others are members of individual affiliate programs for products they feel strongly enough about to recommend. Others are popular enough to attract advertisers who will pay to have banners or other display ads on their sites. These are just a few ways to make money blogging for yourself.

You can also run contests and free giveaways to bring traffic to your blogs, and over the past few years, special tools have been developed to help you manage contests and giveaways. One of my favorite giveaway bloggers is at - she specializes in giveaways of books, but she also gives away lots of other things. There are as many different kinds of giveaways as there are blogs.

Although writing is part of the blogger's job, if you don't have any marketing experience, you probably should join forums and message boards so you can participate in discussions with a link as your signature. Everyone on the discussion boards sees this link and they can click the link and check out your blog. This is just one way to generate more traffic that can lead to more Google ad clicks. It's more writing, but it is free, and that is usually a consideration for a work-at-homeschool mom.

Even though you should write about something that you enjoy, you also should do some research to see what types of blogs get traffic before you start. You can make as many blogs as you like free with Blogger. Therefore, you might have more than one blog that increases your chances of making money for yourself. The most successful of these blogs is going to be the one about a topic that you are passionate about, that also happens to be a topic that gets massive searches that people are dying to read about.  Generally speaking, a "mommy blogger" is someone who writes about topics of interest to mommies.  But there is another sense in which a "mommy blogger" has become one who writes about mommy issues and attracts boatloads of mommies. The goal of any blogger is to draw traffic to her blog so that she may get some clicks on affiliate sites or Google ads, and the mom who attracts enough traffic to begin to also attract sponsors achieves the level of a serious "mommy blogger."

Blogging for yourself is a slow process, but if you participate in discussions at forums and message boards with your link, you can increase your traffic and increase your chances of making money. If you need guaranteed pay, you can apply for blogging jobs that pay weekly or monthly. If you blog for a big client, you can actually make as much as one hundred dollars a day just writing five blog posts a day.

The only disadvantage of blogging in a particular niche, is that you may grow weary of your topic if you have not selected it carefully. If you are working for a client, the greater the chance that the topic is going to become tiresome. This is something that you have to consider before starting any blog or blogging job. 

Some bloggers also make money making their blogs available for advertisements.  One way is to allow the advertiser to show an ad on their blog. Advertisers are always looking for blogs with a large readership where they can promote their products. Miki's Hope has an Alexa ranking in the US of less than 15,000. That's a lot of eyeballs to attract advertisers.

Another type of ad you can have on your blog is called Paid to Post. Companies and individuals pay you  a certain amount of money to write up a post about their product or website and post it on your blog. Depending on the size of your blog audience, you can make as much as one hundred dollars for a three hundred word post.  Of course, it is important to disclose when you have been paid for a post, and the FTC has strict regulations about this. Ignore them at your own peril.

You can also blog for exposure - by that I mean, you can write a guest post on someone else's blog that has a resource box that links back to your blog, or you can write something that you are excited about just for the sheer joy of doing it, with a few links to sites who may send traffic your way once they get wind of your post. I'm thinking of the post I did about Topsy Turvy Garden Bags on this blog a couple of years ago.  I totally should have gotten paid for that. But I was more excited about my awesome tomatoes than I was about getting paid.  And that post has been widely seen by people searching on gardening topics in general,  and Topsy Turvy in particular - enough so that it is still listed in my "Most Popular Posts" sidebar widget even two years later.

Whether you want to work for someone else or blog for yourself will depend on the amount of money you want to make, and the amount of time you have. You can do both paid blogging and blogging for yourself and increase your income, as long as you remember that your primary responsibility is caring for your family and secondarily, teaching your children.