jade reading_blog
Jade likes to sneak some reading time while she’s supposed to be bagging soap.
indigo scanning reciepts_blog
Indigo is scanning receipts and documents directly into Evernote to help us maintain a paperless office.

Indigo is scanning receipts and documents directly into Evernote to help us maintain a paperless office.

Seven Mistakes Review Bloggers Regularly Make

I love it when I hear about stay-at-home moms that are trying to supplement their family’s income.  I’ve always believed (obviously by what I’ve done) that you can be a stay-at-home mom and still exercise your talents and skills and create a growing business.

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Many moms are turning to Review Blogs as one possible method.  There is a low barrier to entry, few mandatory costs, and you can get some free stuff for your family.   Based on the number of requests I receive (20-40 each week), the number of these blogs are growing dramatically.  

If you have a very successful blog, companies will often come to you asking you to review their products.  But if you’re just starting out, you often need to seek out products to review.

Every time I receive a request, I check out the blog to see if it is one I want to work with.  Years ago, I said “Yes” to almost every request.  Now, I rarely say “Yes.”  

Why?  Because the quality of new Review Blogs are in decline.  

I see the same 7 mistakes over and over as demonstrated in this actual request that I recently received. (Name and website removed by me)

Sir or Ma’am,

Hello i’m [name] and I am a blogger for [website], a resources for parents to get honest opinions on all things from recipes, DIY, styles, and products. 

I emailing in hopes of partnering with you to do a product review for an upcoming blog.  Our site is a varied interest and we like to review products to bring to our audience with a first hand experience, and I’d love to write a review on your product and include it on our website.

The main audience for our website is moms and as well all know, mothers really do the vast majority of gift shopping.  We only want the best for everyone we gift to and know that our readers do too, making your company the perfect fit! We’d love to introduce our ever growing community of readers, as well as our large twitter following, (over 10k combined followers), to your new products. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so much for your time!

These are the seven mistakes that this blogger (and most other bloggers who contact me) make:

1. You do not address me by my name when you ask me to send you my products for free.  By addressing your email to Sir or Ma’am or anything other than my name, you are showing that you have not spent any time on my website learning about Goat Milk Stuff.  I understand that if you are reaching out to Starbucks or other large corporations you may not have a name to address.  But if you are reaching out to a small business owner, find out the name of the person you are addressing.  I no longer send out any free soap to somebody who does not say, “Dear PJ or Jim,” in their email.

2. You did not proofread your email or use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  You are reaching out to me in a professional manner asking me to trust you to do a quality product review.  Why would I believe that you will take care to proofread the post you write about my soap when you don’t even proofread the email that you send to me?  If you do not have good grammar or spelling, you need to find someone who does and have them edit for you.  Your initial email to me represents yourself and the quality of your work.  This email shows me you don’t care about the quality of what you do.  You just want free stuff.

3. Your blog is brand new and/or receives little traffic. I understand that everyone has to start somewhere.  But when you are starting out, don’t ask me to be the first one to send you free stuff.  Review stuff you already use or go out and buy your own stuff to review.  In fact, I’d be more than happy for you to buy my soap to review.  When you’ve been regularly blogging for more than 6 months and are getting real traffic, feel free to ask me again.  While I enjoying supporting other moms, I receive too many requests and I work too hard to send you free soap if there is no return in it for me.  This is just good business.

4. Your blog gets few comments and social shares.  I want to know that your readers care about what you have to say.  I want to see engagement and comments so that I know that the post about my soap will be seen and read by other people. What are you doing to engage your readers?  

5. Your blog caters to readers who only want things for free.  I have been doing this for years and know what kind of blog has a readership where people are only there to enter the latest free giveaway.  That is fine for your blog, but it does not meet my needs as a business owner looking to sell my product.  The burden is on you to show me that your readers are willing to actually spend money.  

6. You overestimate the impact of your traffic or neglect to discuss your traffic at all. It’s all a numbers game and you need to show me that your numbers will impact me.  In the above email, the fact that she has 10,000 twitter followers is a meaningless number to me.  She neglects to mention the engagement on twitter or how many tweets my review will get. 

I recently received an email that said, “I’d be honored to work with you on a review of a product from your website, at no cost to me. It will bring a HUGE amount of traffic to your website and probably a lot of good sales for you as well.”  When I checked out the pr page on her website, it says that she has 2409 unique monthly views.  That does not meet my definition of huge.  In fact, only a small percentage of the readers on your blog are going to click through to my website.  Do not assume that the traffic you get will be the traffic that I get or that we have the same definitions as to what constitutes a large amount of traffic. 

7. Do you even know what my product is?  Nowhere in your email to me do you mention anything about my soap.  It appears that this is a form letter that you are sending out to any small business you can find.  It appears that you are trolling the internet looking for free stuff. Do you know how many emails I get that say, “My readers would really love your stuff?”  That is meaningless to me.  Show me that you even know what my stuff is.  I know that it takes more time to learn about the companies you are reaching out to.  When I receive your email, I do you the courtesy of checking out your site.  Do me the courtesy of checking out my site before you ask me to invest in you.

In the last several months, I have only offered a review to one person. Here is how she began her email, “My name is ___. I am very interested in doing a review on your products because I was raised on goats milk and have allergies from several soap products.”  Showing that she knew what my product was made a huge difference.

 

Those are seven of the most common mistakes that I regularly see from people asking me to send them free soap to review.  I hope that if you are a Review Blogger, they help you to better reach out to businesses as you seek products to write about.

Please remember the fact that as a review blogger you are acting as a business person.  When you reach out to people and are requesting free product, you are reaching out to business people.  If you reach out to me and do not make the above mistakes, you have a much better chance to receive our goat milk soap to review.

What about you – do you have a review blog?  Or do you regularly read them?  If so, which ones?

Domain Hosting for Beginners

I previously mentioned that my children all need to have a successful website or blog before I allow them to graduate our homeschool.   The first step was to purchase their domain names.  Then we needed to choose a company to use for the domain hosting.

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When you build a website, you need to have all of that website information – all the words, video, photos, and code – stored somewhere.  You don’t want to keep it on your own computer, because your computer doesn’t run 24/7.  So we store all of that information on another company’s servers.  These servers are maintained and optimized and have backup systems.  But more importantly, they run 24/7 so your website is always available.  We call this service of storing your website information, “hosting”.  You may also see it referred to as “domain hosting” or “website hosting”, but they both refer to the same service.

It’s important to find a reliable company for your domain hosting because if they go down, your website goes down.

I use two companies for our hosting.  For the Goat Milk Stuff website, I use Hands-on-Hosting.  I use them because Goat Milk Stuff is an x-cart based site and Hands-On is an x-cart  partner and the hosting that my programmer recommended.  I have been very happy with them.  They have a live chat that is wonderful.  They answer all my questions and walk me through everything.  

As a recent example, I had a concern about how my website was being backed up.  It turns out that image backups were being done every 48 hours.  I was able to change it (for a small fee) to a cpanel backup 24 hours.  This backup is stored offsite.  So if a tornado wipes out the building where my server is kept, there is another building that has my backup.   Hands-on handled the change quickly and efficiently and they walked me through all the steps on my end.

For the children’s websites, we use Bluehost.  We’re fairly new to them, but I’ve been very pleased.  For one low fee, you can host as many domains as you want.  In other words, I don’t need a Bluehost account for booksquirt.com, another for thebirddude.com, and yet another for gardenspud.com.  And I don’t need to pay 3  separate fees.  I have one account under booksquirt.com and then the other two have been added to that account.  They are their own websites, even though they are technically set up under booksquirt.com.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I recommend that you start with Bluehost.   Just sign up for the basic hosting account.  You don’t need to upgrade to anything to start out.  I hope this has been helpful.  Next week I’ll discuss name servers and how to set them.

I’d love to hear if you’ve decided to start your own website or if you have another hosting service that you recommend!

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links”.  If you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe are valuable.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Domain Names

As part of our homeschooling curriculum, my children each need to start and maintain their own website before they graduate.  In order to have a website, the first thing you need is a domain name.  Do you own any domain names?  I’m a little bit of a domain name junkie.  Actually, I don’t own that many domains, I think it was around 30 at last count.

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Why so many?

Simple – domain names are relatively cheap (~$10 per year) and they’re a huge part of your branding.

So, what is a domain name?  In simple terms, it is the most basic words that you type into your browser to get to a website. 

So for us, we started with the domain name:

  • goatmilkstuff.com

Then we purchased a common mispelling:

  • goatsmilkstuff.com

Then the different endings such as:

  • goatmilkstuff.net
  • goatmilkstuff.info
  • goatmilkstuff.org

If you’re planning to start a small business, it is important to have a long-term view and purchase these other domains.  You don’t have to set up websites on all of these domains.  You can set it up so that when people click on the “support” domains, it redirects them to the main domain.  

Owning all of these extra domains may seem like a waste of money to you, but think of it as insurance.  It’s sad but true that there a lot of people out there who find successful businesses, copy them, and use a really similar domain name.  Protect yourself and your branding.

My lawyer also suggested that we purchase domains that are “anti” your business such as – ihateyourbusiness.com.

We haven’t purchased domains like that for Goat Milk Stuff.  Mostly because the thought that somebody would set up a website like that depresses me.

Some of the other domains that we own are all of our individual names:

Domain names are not case sensitive, so JadeJonas.com is the same as jadejonas.com.  I use capital letters to make things easier to read.

Personally, I think that a great birthday present for your children is to purchase their domain name for them.  You never know what they’re going to do some day, and if somebody else takes it and creates a website with that domain, it’s unavailable until they decide to give it up.

I use godaddy to purchase my domain names.  There are a lot of smaller companies out there, but I know several people who have purchased their domains through small companies and lived to regret it.  The most common thing that happens is the domain business fails and then the paperwork and headache of getting control of your domain can be a nightmare.  For that main reason, I choose to deal with a big company (yes, I know they can fail too, but it’s less likely).

I’ve been very pleased with godaddy and their customer service and happily recommend them.  And for that reason, I am one of their affiliates, which means that if you choose to purchase a domain through godaddy and click on the link here, then I will get credit for introducing you to them.

Once you’ve purchased a domain name.  Then you need to host your website.  Think of it like this – buying your domain name gives you the exclusive right to use that name.  But then you need to find someone to host (or store) all of the stuff that is on your website  - such as all the text and photos.  

You can host through godaddy as well (and I’ve heard good things about them), but I use a different company for hosting.

Interview with Karyn Ranzau of Little Pink Ladybug

Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast Episode 012.
If you’ve ever had an idea that you think you may be able to turn into a family business, you’ll want to listen to today’s podcast.  I discuss the benefits of attending craft fairs or festivals to do market research for your new or potential business.

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Then I play an interview that I recorded with Karyn Ranzau, the owner of Little Pink Ladybug.   In addition to pre-made hairbows, Little Pink Ladybug offers a patented template that teaches others how to create their own bows.  She also has several information products that show you how to sculpt particular hairbows.  As another entrepreneur who turned a hobby into a business and obtained patents, Karyn has some great insight to share.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.

Thanks for listening!  Please join me next week as I talk about how to strengthen your immune system.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast:

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I Love Small Businesses

Whenever possible, we shop at small, locally owned businesses.  Not only do we love to support the owners and the workers, but we’ve found small businesses to be much more responsive to our needs and desires.  We’ve often found the products to be of much higher quality and the customer service to be excellent.  

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I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who support Goat Milk Stuff.  We truly appreciate your encouragement!   I recently received a comment on my podcast that said,

“I prefer shopping with small businesses whenever possible. I’m learning that you get the best items (better for you and many times better prices) when shopping small business. Plus, it helps our local economies. I think the dedication and passion it takes to have your own small business is typically a good sign that people actually believe in what they are selling, and it’s not just mass production to become rich (like many big businesses).”

I think this sentiment is growing in popularity as American citizens seek to support American businesses and improve the American economy.  “Made in the USA” is a growing symbol of pride and something that many Americans are willing to pay a bit more to support.

As a small business, we have found that the Small Business Administration has been helpful in our development and growth.  They provide a lot of information for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to start a business.   I found this list that they compiled on their website and thought I’d share it.  I thought many of the statistics were very interesting.

Ten Reasons To Love Small Business

10. Small businesses make up 99.7 percent of all United States employers.

9. Small businesses create more than 50 percent of the American nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).

8. Small patenting firms produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

7. The more than 24 million small businesses in the United States are located in every community and neighborhood.

6. Small businesses employ 50.1 percent of the United States’s non-farm private sector workers.

5. Home-based businesses account for 53 percent of all small businesses.

4. Small businesses are 97 percent of America’s exporters and produce 26 percent of all export value.

3. United States saw an estimated 580,865 new small firms with employees start-up in the last year measured.

2. There are approximately 4,115,900 minority-owned businesses and 6,492,795 women-owned businesses in the United States, and almost all of them are small businesses.

1. The latest figures show that small business creates 65 percent or more of America’s net new jobs.

 

So keep on supporting your favorite small businesses!  I can tell you that it is something that Goat Milk Stuff and many other small business owners truly appreciate and need!

 

 

The Office of Advocacy, the “small business watchdog” of the government, examines the role and status of small business in the economy and independently represents the views of small business to federal agencies, Congress, and the President. It is the source for small business statistics presented in user-friendly formats and it funds research into small business issues.

For more information, visit the Office of Advocacy website at archive.sba.gov/advo.

Starting a Small Business

Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast Episode 011.
Many families today feel trapped by dead end jobs that barely make ends meet.   Even so, there is a perceived safety net in an expected paycheck, and with the struggling economy, any job is better than no job at all.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.  America is still the Land of Opportunity and with the right mindset and business plan, you can create a business that  not only meets your financial needs, but that can grow and provide a retirement and a future for your family.

Once you have the right mindset, begin to go about it in the right way.  If your dream is a small business, start laying the foundation today.  Use some of the many resources on the web to put together a business plan.  Read lots of business and marketing books.  And mostly, start to dream and dream big!

In this podcast episode, I share some of the things that I have learned from starting and building Goat Milk Stuff.  Plus Jade and Brett join me at the end for their opinion on the business.

Jade Podacsts

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you have a dream of starting a small business or if you’re happy with the career you have.  I’d love to hear about your dreams and goals.

Thanks for listening!  Please join me next week as Karyn Ranzau and I discuss her business, The Little Pink Ladybug.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast:

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Building a Business Takes Time

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from people who want to support their family with a small business. My typical response is, “That’s wonderful! You won’t regret it!” Then they tell me that they need to start supporting their large family from this endeavor alone within the next 6 months. To which I respond, “Unless God supernaturally intercedes, that isn’t going to happen.”

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I want to be clear that I fully believe that families can support themselves with a small business. And that God can intercede. But (almost always) building a business takes time and resources. And because we don’t recommend borrowing, if you don’t have many financial resources, it takes even more time.

I recently saw this quote posted online. It comes from the book “Rework” by Jason Fried. I haven’t read the book yet, but this quote is so spot on that I’m going to read it. Anyway, here’s the quote:

The myth of the overnight sensation

You will not be a big hit right away. You will not get rich quick. You are not so special that everyone else will instantly pay attention. No one cares about you. At least not yet. Get used to it.

You know those overnight-success stories you’ve heard about? It’s not the whole story. Dig deeper and you’ll usually find people who have busted their a**es for years to get into a position where things could take off. And on the rare occasion that instant success does come along, it usually doesn’t last – there’s no foundation there to support it.

Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. You have to grind it out. You have to do it for a long time before the right people notice.

I agree with him completely! If a small business is something you desire, start working toward that goal now. Teach your children how to work. Teach yourself how to stay organized. Start saving money. Start reading business books. And when the time is right, start slowly… but definitely start!

6/15/12 Update: I recently recorded a podcast with more information: Starting a Small Business.

 

 

Small Family Business

Long before I started Goat Milk Stuff, I began praying for a family business.  At the time, we had recently moved out to Indiana and Jim had left teaching to work for a friend’s garbage company. I had six young children (ages 8 and under) and an entire new lifestyle.

Five of those children were boys, and while Brett needed more of Jim too, it was very important to me that the boys have more of Jim’s influence than they were getting with him gone 40+ hours a week.  I did (and still do) not want to raise a bunch of Mama’s boys.

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So I started praying for a family business.  Something we could all do together.

It took several years (and 2 more children) before our small family business, Goat Milk Stuff, became a reality. And even longer before Jim was able to work at GMS full time.

Running Goat Milk Stuff has been wonderful, but not without a lot of challenges.  I’ll talk about those challenges next week, but I first wanted to share with you some of my reasons to start a small family business.

Do you have a family business?  Or dreams of starting one?  Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.

 

Being an Entrepreneur

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. To create something. To grow something. To be in charge of something. I never had any idea that the business I would start would be based on  soap (and certainly not goat milk soap). That was purely God’s idea and His timing. But during high school, I always said that I wanted to be a CEO some day. And now I am!

Goat Milk Stuff

And do you know what I’ve discovered?

Being an Entrepreneur and CEO is a lot harder than I thought it would be! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I actually like hard work. But I had no idea how hard ‘hard work’ could be til I started Goat Milk Stuff. For the past two years, Jim and I have worked 70 – 80+ hours a week getting Goat Milk Stuff running to the point that it could support our family.

And now…

Goat Milk Stuff is finally to the point that Jim and I can slow down a bit and start working a more normal schedule.  To that end, we’ve hired somebody to help us (me) out in the office. Her name is Gretchen and some of you may already have interacted with her.  She’s wonderful and is doing a great job. She actually does a bit of everything – printing postage, packaging orders, answering phone calls, answering emails, making bath bombs and fizzies, posting testimonials to the website.  Basically – whatever needs doing the most!

This is allowing me to tackle some of the items that I’ve wanted to tackle for months, but been unable to due to lack of time.  Jim is still making all the soap and the children are still doing all the cutting, bagging, and unmolding.

As we turn our attention to 2011, we’d like to ask for your input and feedback. What would you like to see us do differently in 2011? And what would you like us to keep the same? We truly value everyone’s input and feedback. You’ve helped us to make Goat Milk Stuff what it is today.

If any of you are considering starting your own business, I’d say go for it!  Be prepared to work hard – but I think the hard work is worth it. I LOVE being an entrepreneur!

PJ