Friday, April 25, 2008

Keeping Kids Busy ... While I Work

While my older son and daughter were playing in the playroom, K, 1 year, decided he'd help me type. After futile attempts to distract him, I brought K to the play room and set him up with a few toys.

I returned to my desk and enjoyed a couple minutes of quiet as I worked on a new article.

"Mama." I looked up and saw my oldest in the doorway. His voice was shaky but determined.

"Mama. I am not a daycare."

Now that my son is almost five, he's becoming more interested in intricate toys. And my one-year-old just isn't up to speed on the ways of legos and Playmobil, wreaking havoc on J's setups. Sigh.

I've never tried KNEX, but since Mommy Know How is holding a contest to give a set away, I had to enter. Who knows, maybe we'll win it, and I can bribe J to play with K. You know, that's easier than daycare.

Pro Blogging, Here I Come!

I'm now a blog manager for the new Blog-Island Blog Channel. My flagship blog is I'm in training to become a Blog Editor and oversee more blogs as time goes on. For now, handling this blog as well as my Demand Studios work is keeping me quite busy.

Niche blogs often do quite well, attracting large, diverse readerships and making some money at the same time. I'll let you know how this goes. I hope my blog will be a help to families struggling with finances during this economy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How to E-File a Federal Tax Extension for Free

Did you know you can file for a federal tax extension online, for free? Lucky for me, you can. Check out Tax Act Online.

It's tax time, with federal taxes due today, and since the accountant isn't finished with my husband's business taxes, and my youngest son hasn't received his social security card as yet, we need an extension.

I was glad to find a site where I can do it quickly, online, for free. In fact, think I'll file my taxes (also free) through the same site when I get everything I need together.

Don't forget that an extension doesn't mean you can put off paying the IRS -- you need to pay now to avoid late fees.

Need help with federal taxes? Get Free Tax Help from a variety of sources online and in person.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

WRG Hiring Freelance Business Writers

Writers' Research Group is hiring freelance business writers. If you're just breaking in to the writing world, this could be a great start. If you're a WAHM (work at home mom) with business/ career experience, this might be a good niche.

Writers Research Group: Great for New Freelance Writers

I no longer write for Writers' Research Group, and yet I recommend them to newbies trying to land their first online writing gigs. In general, I think the drawbacks of writing for any content company outweigh the benefits for established freelance writers. However, writing for a content company can be a godsend for a new freelancer and a great way to learn the ropes of online writing.

Writers' Research Group is essentially a middle man, contracting with new and established websites for writing and editing services, which they then outsource to freelance writers. The writers are not employees, but independent contractors. Writer's Research Group has its own small staff, including the company founders, and hires freelance editors as well as the writers.

Because of the overhead involved, writers make less per article writing through the contracting company than if they wrote directly for the websites. For example, if Writer's Research Group is paid $25 per article, they may pay their contracted writers $10 apiece. And yet, there are no employee benefits, such as health care or 401ks, because writers are essentially sub-contractors.

Another aspect to consider is the non-compete clause in Writers' Research Group's contract. If you write for them, you can't write for any of their clients within a one-year period after you end your contract.

Since there is an initial difficulty in establishing a good client base, new freelance writers might consider working for WRG. It's a great way to gain experience and learn the ropes of online writing. And you're virtually guaranteed steady work (even more than you can handle) when they are writing for a large contract.

However, if you have experience as a writer, I'd recommend looking elsewhere or consider writing directly for the websites. Case in point: I make $30 per article that I write for a new health-related site; Writers' Research Group writers are paid $10 each article. An article I would have sold to Writers' Research Group for $11 has earned over $150 on eHow. I've flown the coop, and I'm not looking back.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"How to Budget Money" Is a Hit

High schoolers should learn how to make a budget, and personal finance classes should be mandatory in college. In a perfect world. But the reality is, many adults come out of school financially illiterate.

So what do people turn to when their finances are a mess and they don't know how to get them cleared up? Internet searches, of course. Oh, I'm sure some check out books from the library--I fell into that category--but many start with Google.

It's interesting to see what people are searching for on Google, and how those trends change with the times. On eHow of late, personal finance topics are big. A simple how-to on budgeting, How to Make a Budget, has already received hundreds of hits, even though it hasn't been ranked by Google for its main keywords.

In fact, my other recent articles on money topics, such as How to Avoid Paying Private Mortgage Insurance, How to Get Out of Debt Fast and How to Make Money in a Recession are also popular. As you see, they're timely topics.

If you're concerned about your writing career surviving tough financial times and a possible recession, look for a niche that will explode, and get writing now. The finance and money topics will be done to death, so be creative. What aspects of life will change in an economic downturn? What specific areas will people try to save money in? Niche and grow rich.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Freelance Writing Jobs: Persistence, Patience Pay Off

I landed two new freelance writing jobs during the past week, in addition to the blogging opportunity I wrote about. One is for a soon-to-be launched health-oriented website, and the company pays $30 per 450-word article. Since I am passionate about nutrition and fitness, I am thrilled with this gig. I got my first assignment of 10 articles last week and have completed eight. Since I already know these general topics, the material comes easily to me.

But if I hadn't been patient and persistent, I would probably be writing these same articles at $10 each. Here's the story.

A few months ago, I decided not to continue writing for a client (I'll call them Group W) because of a non-compete clause in the renewal contract. Just as I was tapering off my work on one website with Group W, they announced a new, large contract for another website, the one on health-related topics (I'll call it Oooh, I wanted in on that gig! But I realized that if Group W was paying us writers $10 per article, they were receiving more than that for the articles from Why not get the full amount by writing directly for Also, I couldn't get past Group W's contract, which would not allow me to write for any of their contracted clients (such as eHow,, etc.) within a year of ceasing my work with them.

I decided to apply directly to the company behind the new website instead of writing for my Group A, much in the same way that I decided to write directly for eHow instead of the content company. Over a month went by before I heard from's parent company, but last week I received an email. the editor told me they received my application, were satisfied with my credentials and offered me ongoing work: when I finish my first set, I'll be assigned 10 more titles.

So you see, persistence and patience pay off. That's why I put the little turtle in this post, as a reminder. Set your goals, and work toward them. One of my goals is to write for myself and increase my passive income. While there is no passive, long-term income potential with this gig, I did cut out the middle man and increased my profits more than 100% in doing so.

The kicker? Some of the contracted writers at Group W still haven't received their approval for the health-related article gig at While I had to be patient to get this gig on my own, I may not have gotten it yet if I'd stuck with Group W.

What are your writing goals? What keeps you motivated to achieve them?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rising Grocery Prices Mean Budget Adjustments

After years of relative flatness, rising grocery prices are affecting families everywhere, and many people are finding ways to cut back in the supermarket. Gas prices are on the rise as well, despite the Feral Reserve's insistence that inflation is under control. Since it's easier to cut food costs than fuel expenses, rising grocery prices mean budget adjustments for many.

I was at Trader Joe's the other day, and noticed several fairly recent price increases, from frozen fish to children's multivitamins ($2.99 compare to $1.99 in the fall). I skipped the multivitamins this time, as we still have two bottles. The 100% cranberry juice I used to buy for $3.99 was $4.49; it stayed on the shelf. However, their natural creamy peanut butter is still $1.69, an excellent buy compared to the lowest price I can find elsewhere. I also stocked up on several spice blends holding steady at $1.99 a jar.

Rising grocery prices are most noticeable on grains (flour, bread, cereal) and dairy products (milk is at an all-time high and yogurt at TJ's had increased quite a bit.) As diesel prices rise, expect to see rising grocery prices across the board, in every aisle and on every shelf.

My Trader Joe's shopping trip hit home to me. Even as prices rise, our wages are flat. There is less money to spend on necessities and luxuries alike. More and more Americans are sitting up and taking notice, and becoming more careful with their spending.

How do you cope with rising grocery prices? Have you increased your grocery budget and cut back in other areas? Or are you becoming a more frugal shopper?