Crafty Ways To Boost Your Income

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘disposable income.’ It typically refers to the money families has left over once rent/mortgage payments, bills and household essentials such as food have all been accounted for. But how many of us actually get to enjoy this ourselves? It is typically assumed that everyone has some form of disposable income that they are free to spend on whatever they like. But once rent, bills, and debts have been paid, a lot of families are actually left with next to nothing. This can mean that a lot of children are going without vacations, days out and all the usual treats we associate with childhood. If you are currently in this position with your own kids, it can be pretty disheartening seeing all your money drained away by your responsibilities. It can also mean that you have to sacrifice your own things, such as nice clothes and going out with your friends so that your children can be treated every now and again. All this can make for a pretty mundane existence, though. Want to get out of it and start spending money on the things you really want to do? Here are a few easy ways in which you can make more money and save the money you already have, so you and your children can enjoy the finer things in life.

Get a side hustle

Whether you work part time in an office or are a full-time mom, you probably roll your eyes initially at the thought of getting another job.  After all, it already feels as though you barely have a spare moment to sit down during an average day. Why would you want to make that even worse for yourself by taking on yet more responsibility? But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a side hustle is called that for a reason; they are time efficient ways to make money on the side, while still going about your normal daily business. For example, if you normally leave the house for a walk every afternoon at 2 pm, why not combine that with doing a paid dog walk for one of your neighbors? You can also get paid for doing online surveys and even for blogging, and both of those are things you can do from the comfort of your couch (perfect for when the kids are in bed). Other easy side hustles include being a Skype English teacher and making clothing alterations if you’re a dab hand with a sewing machine. Use your imagination and see what would work best for you.

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Cut your household and grocery bills

One of the reasons why you may feel like you never have any money is because your monthly bills burn such a large hole in your pocket. So many people don’t know about the economical ways to shop, partially because we are all so brainwashed by big brand marketing campaigns and scaremongering health reports. Go back to basics and find tips for saving money on your weekly groceries. It could be something as simple as opting for store-branded products rather than the higher end option, or it could be reducing your intake of meat and fish. Household bills are no different – take a good look at your current provider compared to some others and ask yourself whether you are really getting the best deal. You can also save money by switching to alternative energy types such as solar power and by keeping your home well-insulated during the winter months.

Making your own clothes

When you have a long-awaited girls night out approaching (let’s be honest, how many of them do us moms get?), you may start feeling the pressure to don a nice outfit for the occasion. Or maybe your children are approaching their teens, and they are becoming self-conscious about their self-image. Unfortunately, clothing can be expensive, especially when it preys on whatever is on trend that season. The issue with buying items that are in fashion is that in a few week’s time, a new trend may have muscled in, leaving your old item redundant. Try your hand at breathing new life back into old clothes by accessorizing them to make them relevant again. If you have an old sewing machine you haven’t used in awhile, bring it down from the attic and see what you could create.

Sell what you don’t need

When we sit back and look at the amount of ‘stuff’ we hoard in our homes, it can be quite astonishing. Whether you would class yourself as a hoarder or not, most people would admit that it can be very easy to develop an emotional attachment to inanimate items in the home. This is where you could be missing a trick, however. You could have hundreds of dollars sat right under your very nose at home – if only you are willing to part with some of your things, that is. Of course, certain items with true sentimental value (such as a gift from a grandparent) need not be sold. But working out what you can make money from is down to two things: whether you’ll miss it, and whether it is junk or not. You can by all means try to sell some of the junk you’re hoarding in your home, perhaps in a yard sale or something. But if you want to make a healthy sum, focus on some of the more high quality items you don’t have a use for anymore. The good news is it’s never been easier to make money from your unwanted goods, and this is all down to the internet. Amazon, eBay, even Etsy – all are great online marketplaces where you can get rid of your old things and make a profit while you’re at it. More room in your house and more money in your pocket – where do we sign up?!

The basics of building a business online

Let’s face it; thousands of business ideas can make money. These days, many entrepreneurs are turning to the Internet to make their fortunes. Online stores offer so many advantages over traditional retail ones. For example, overheads are lower than their bricks and mortar counterparts.

It’s also easier to target an international audience when you sell over the Internet. And let’s not forget that websites are ready to serve customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

Are you setting up an online business soon? If so, it’s crucial that you know the basics before you begin. Otherwise, your efforts to build the business could prove fruitless. Here is what you need to know:

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Identify your target audience

The first thing you need to do is think about who you want to buy your products and services. All businesses have a target market, regardless of what they sell. If you target the wrong audience, you could end up wasting money and become broke in the process!

Let’s say that you want to sell smartphones, tablets and accessories online. Your target audience may be younger generations and professionals.

One easy way to identify your target audience is to look at what your competitors are doing. Who do they target and how do they do it?

Set up a decent website

If you’re starting an online business, you need a website. Anyone can set one up, it’s not a difficult task. But, what can sometimes prove challenging is doing so the right way. It’s important you don’t cut corners or make mistakes when setting up a website.

Your online home needs to look professional and be attractive to your target market. I recommend hiring a web designer to come up with a responsive, well-structured site. It needs to be one that is accessible to all audiences and easy to use.

A copywriter can produce some marketing and sales content for your pages that packs a punch. You may also wish to consider providing downloadable product datasheets for your items too.

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Meanwhile, you should consider using an SEO expert to make the site visible in search engines. There are also some optimization tips you can do yourself; here are some free SEO resources for you to try out. Be sure to find out what SEO companies can offer before you hire them, so that you know what to expect for your money.

Work with a mentor

If you’re new to online selling, you should seek guidance from a seasoned pro. Mistakes cost time and money, and they are worth avoiding – especially as a new startup.

A mentor can help you to achieve your long-term goals by helping to steer you in the right direction. Business coaches get used by some of the world’s leading brands, including online ones.

Engage with your audience

Last, but not least, it’s important that you listen to the feedback your customers give you. They are the people that help you to grow your business. You can use their feedback to tailor your products and services.

Feedback is also useful for identifying common problems so that you can resolve them. Good luck!

 

Ever thought of becoming a children’s entertainer?

woman_clownIf you’re good with children and have an outgoing personality, you could become a children’s entertainer.

What is it?

You could charge a fee for entertaining children at parties, events or even keeping the kids happy at weddings. This could include music, magic, mime, face painting or crafts.

Some entertainers also run workshops or children’s classes.

The benefits

  • If you’ve always fancied being a performer this could be a great job!
  • Start up costs are usually low compared to many businesses. You can try a few events to see if you enjoy it and to test the market without investing too much time or money.

[Read more…]

Top Tips for First Time Landlords

landlordEver thought of being a landlord? You may decide to buy a house to rent out, or maybe you simply need to move house but can’t sell the one you’re currently living in. Having tenants could create and income stream for you or simply cover the mortgage on your house for a while.

There are a variety of aspects of rentals that you need to take into account and action. Many of these are legal requirements and should therefore be completed as soon as possible. Others are tips that may help you get a higher price per calendar month, and also help your property to be snapped up off the market. [Read more…]

Five minutes with…The Story Mouse

Today I’ve got something a little different for you. Usually I feature mums who start their own businesses, but in this post I’ve interviewed Alan Smith of The Story Mouse.

Alan’s business works with creative mums who work from home, which is my first reason for the interview! Alan also gives us some tips on running a business that involves both writing/illustrating children’s books and developing iPhone apps, which are ideas that I know some Business Plus Baby readers are thinking of exploring.

Over to Alan..

  • Please could you tell us a little about your business?

At The Story Mouse we love telling stories! So all our efforts go into creating interactive read-along storybook apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. In the main, the titles we publish are those we all grew up with from Jack & the Beanstalk to Goldilocks & the Three Bears; from The Gingerbread Man to The Three Little Pigs. These stories have stood the test of time for a reason – simply because they’re great tales which children love!

All our books operate in a choice of modes: “Read it to me” (where the pages turn automatically and the voice reads the story), or “Read it myself’ (where the voice is turned off and the child advances the pages at their own pace, effectively turning the app into a normal book). The feedback we’ve had from parents suggests this choice of modes is very popular – the former familiarises the child with the story and the latter enables them to read it for themselves, giving tremendous confidence to a young reader.

Our main Talking Books app comes with a free story too, so you can try what we have to offer without spending a single penny!

Additionally, we licence our stories to 3rd parties – if you fly long-haul on most British Airways routes you’ll find The Story Mouse in the in-flight entertainment menu (mice can fly too!).

  • What did you do before starting The Story Mouse?

The two people who run the business are from media and technology backgrounds. Alan has spent 20 years in broadcasting – he deals with all the content and co-ordination of authors’ and illustrators’ work; Philippe has a background in data management and computer programming – he deals with all the technical stuff!

  • What particularly interested me about your business is the the way your writers and illustrators are mums working from home. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

The people without whom The Story Mouse wouldn’t exist are our authors and illustrators. They are based in all corners of the UK and work from home, sending their work via the internet to be compiled into the finished apps.

It works like this: We contact our illustrators to tell them about the next 2 or 3 titles we’re looking to publish. They then decide which story they’re most drawn to (this really brings out the fun in the illustrations because we find our illustrators come to love the characters they create!). For a 10 minute story we’d normally ask for around 20 illustrations and when these are done they’re sent to Philippe who does a bit of technical wizzardry to put them into the format Apple likes. They’re then sent to Alan who compiles the app, matching the audio with the pictures. The finished app is then submitted to Apple for their approval and a few days later it appears around the world on the App Store!

The illustrators and authors receive a monthly share of the sales based on a percentage of the revenue earned from each story. All the contributors have access to the sales figures on a daily basis so they can see how many of their stories have been sold and in which countries.

The advantages of working this way are numerous! First it means the illustrators can work at their own pace. Working from home fits in with their lifestyles too – several of our illustrators are busy mums and being creative when it suits them gives maximum flexibility. Also, it’s great that through The Story Mouse talents which might otherwise go unnoticed are finding an audience.

One of our authors, Helen Aitken has a 4 year old daughter. Helen came to us with an idea for a completely new character, Bertie the Guinea Pig. It would be an extremely tall order for an established paper-and-ink publisher to take a risk on a set of stories which are completely untested, but we saw the potential in Helen’s work so we commissioned an illustrator to work with her and now there are 4 Bertie stories available in just about every country in the world!

  • I come across quite a few mums who are aspiring writers and phone app developers (although not usually both at the same time!) what would your advice to them be?

I’d say if you have a good idea, give it a go! Make sure you test the idea thoroughly on friends and family who will give you an honest answer. Although the barriers to entry in online publishing are low compared with traditional paper-and-ink publishing, there are still costs involved. We are lucky at The Story Mouse in that the 2 people who run the business possess the skills necessary to get the idea off the ground – technical development and content are the biggest cost areas.

  • Which marketing methods have been most successful for you?

We have an active Facebook page and Twitter feed. This allows us to communicate to several hundred of our customers, but the biggest influence is the App Store itself. We have been delighted to be featured in their “New and Noteworthy” section several times – this gives us Apple’s “stamp of approval” which customers like!

  • What’s been your biggest challenge?

The sheer amount of hard work that’s gone into creating the stories! When we look back nearly 2 years to the day we decided to make our first books, an enormous amount of work has taken place. Since then we’ve expanded the catalogue, introduced animation into some titles and launched a character unique to us, Bertie the Guinea Pig.

Looking forward we’ll be adding many new stories and we are at the early stages of developing a series of educational apps which will make spelling and maths fun!

There’s more info at www.thestorymouse.com

You can see us on the App Store here: http://itunes.apple.com/app/story-mouse/id390726873?mt=8It