Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

Track business mileage and keep more money!  Free Printable!

Are you taking full advantage of business mileage that you can deduct on your taxes?

When you use your personal vehicle for a business purpose, those miles can add up to a deduction on your tax return.  Tax deductions equal money in your pocket!  Many small business owners don't realize that they can deduct an expense for business miles driven with their personal car.  The IRS lays out all the details in Publication 463 (which is rather lengthy and boring!) so let me fill you in on the most pertinent details!  As always, if you have a complicated tax situation, it's always wise to consult with a Tax Accountant.

What counts as business mileage?

Here are some examples of business miles you may include:

  • Driving to the store to pick up supplies for a blog project
  • Driving to the post office to mail the handcrafted item you sold
  • Going to the office supply store to print copies of a business flyer
  • Driving to a business planning meeting
  • Driving to a craft fair where you sell your handmade items
  • Attending a business conference

Any miles you drive in your personal car for a business purpose count.

The IRS understands that when you drive your personal vehicle for a business purpose, it is costing you money in wear and tear and gasoline used.  That cost to you is considered a business expense on your tax return.  In order to calculate what this amount should be, the IRS has set up a standard mileage rate.  It represents what you had to spend to drive each mile.  The standard mileage rate is changed each year based on the price of gas and other inflation.

In 2014 the standard mileage rate was .56 and in 2015 the rate is .575.  For example, if you drove 100 business miles with your personal car in 2014, 100 x .56 = $56.  This represents a business expense you incurred and can be included on your tax return along with all your other business expenses.

And of course, since this is the IRS, they want you to keep careful records of the business miles you drove.

How should you track and record your business miles?

The IRS wants you to keep timely records.  They prefer that you keep a log that documents any miles driven in your personal car for a business purposes.  Your log should include:

  • Date
  • Calculation of miles driven with beginning and ending odometer readings
  • Destination name and location
  • Business purpose of your trip
  • Other expenses incurred such as parking or tolls

Lucky for you, we've taken the guesswork out of things by creating a mileage tracker that you can stow in your glove compartment to stay on top of things.

Grab a free, printable mileage log by subscribing here!

At the end of the year, add up all of your business miles driven and multiply that by the IRS standard mileage rate.

All of your other expenses such as parking, tolls, and meters can also be added up and included as an expense on your tax return.  In most cases the IRS wants you to have a receipt of every business expense.  However the IRS recognizes that sometimes a receipt is unavailable.  They have made an exception and still allow a deduction when receipts are not available and the transaction is less than $75.  The IRS recognizes that you may not have a receipt for certain transactions such as meters or tolls, and this is why recording these expenses on your mileage log is so important.  The log serves as your documentation of these expenses.

What if you didn't keep a log in 2014?

Even though the IRS prefers that you keep track of business miles in a log, the most important thing is that you can support your claim of business miles driven.  In years where I failed to track miles in a log, I went back through my business bank statement and business credit cards to look for places I drove for a business purpose.  If you have been keeping your business money separate from your personal accounts as is recommended, quickly looking through the records to see where you drove for a business purpose won't be hard.  For example, if I used my business credit card to purchase supplies from the local craft store, I know I drove business miles to get there.  If I used my business debit card at the Post Office, I know that driving to the Post Office was business miles.  I can then use MapQuest or GoogleMaps to determine the round-trip miles it took for me to get to the craft store or Post Office.  Although the IRS prefers a log, I feel that at least with this method I can substantiate my claim of business miles driven with the financial record to back it up.  If my personal money and business money were intermixed, this would not be so easy to do.

Once you calculate your mileage expense, where should you include it on your tax return?

If you are a Sole Proprietorship (just you) and file a Schedule C, include your calculated mileage expense plus parking and tolls on line 9 of Schedule C.

Tracking your business mileage is an easy thing to do that will help you keep more money in your pocket!

Let's chat in the comments if you have any questions.  Were you able to save some money on taxes this year?



Direct download: Episode206920Business20Mileage_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:23pm EDT

Crystal Paine of shares how she strikes a balance between motherhood, marriage, blogging, and self-care.  She shares great tips for accomplishing your biggest goals, not getting overwhelmed, and enjoying life.  Grab some new strategies to Say Goodbye to Survival Mode today.  Podcast interview at

Do you often feel overwhelmed, as though each day you're simply trying to keep from drowning? We've definitely had days like that before! Maybe you've just started a blog or business, and you're struggling to grow it while also finding time for everything else.

If you're anything like me, you're thinking, "I'm already overwhelmed. What am I going to do when this thing actually takes off and really keeps me busy?!"

Today on the podcast, we'll hear from a seasoned blogging veteran on how she manages to walk the tightrope of blogging, writing books, mothering, her marriage, and bettering herself too. Does this feat seem impossible? Crystal Paine is here to tell you that it's not.

Press play on the podcast player below to hear her best advice on getting rid of survival mode, setting and accomplishing goals, and what balance looks like for her.

On the Podcast

01:36 - Slay Survival Mode with Goal-Setting
02:37 - Prioritizing your Passions
05:07 - Turning Off + Breaking Down (+ why these are good things!)
09:15 - Short-Term Sacrifice for Long-term Gain
13:51 - A Makeover for Crystal?
15:26 - What Busy Moms can Learn from Tightrope Walkers
20:40 - Guilt and Grace (+ how owning your own business makes both easier!)
21:49 - Making Memories + Fun for the Paine Family

Slay Survival Mode with Goal-Setting

Crystal talks a lot about goal-setting in her book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  Here's why Crystal thinks goal-setting can eliminate the survival-mode mentality that's so common for busy moms:

If you don't have anything you're aiming for, it's very easy to go around in circles without truly getting anything done. You'll spend all your time putting out fires instead of spending your hours and minutes with intention. Crystal often used to feel like she was very busy each day but would look back and realize she didn't actually accomplish anything. She certainly didn't get done the things that were most important.

Now, Crystal has written goals for the year, the month, the week, and even the day. She knows what her target is, and every day she can take small steps in the right direction. For busy moms, those steps may feel like tiny little baby steps, but they equal progress and a life of intention versus survival mode.

Prioritizing your Passions

Crystal encourages everyone to take the long view when it comes to their lives. At the start of each year at a minimum, ask yourself where you want to be a year from now. For some, a year away feels too overwhelming, so start with where you'd like to be 6 months or 3 months from now.

Crystal asks herself which key areas of her life, when she places effort into them, will make the biggest impact. In 2014, Crystal set four key areas for herself: marriage, mothering, herself (exercise + continual learning), and MoneySavingMom (the business).

Knowing that she was passionate about these key areas of her life, she made them the priority for the year. Crystal knows that there are many good or even great things to be involved in, but she can't do everything. She chose to put her energy and efforts into those four key areas, while saying no to other things.

After discerning her top priorities for the year, Crystal broke those down into 12 goals. Crystal admits that she didn't finish all of those goals, and in all honesty, only completed a few of them. Still, when she looks back at the past year, she knows that she invested a lot of time into her marriage, mothering, herself, and her business. She saw a lot of fruit from that effort. So rather than be discouraged that she didn't accomplish all of her goals, she's encouraged that she made progress and focused on what was most important to her.  She has seen growth as a result, and that keeps her motivated and inspired to continue working on these goals.

Turning Off + Breaking Down

As a work-at-home mom with many years of experience, we asked Crystal to share some wisdom about how moms new to business or blogging might be able to get things done without entering into dreaded survival mode or getting burned out.

Crystal shared two killer points when it comes to accomplishing your goals:

  1. Turn off the noise. Crystal says, "we can get all distracted by all these shiny things... we have to focus on the best things, especially when we're moms and we're busy with so many responsibilities as it is. We can't do it all." This might mean only listening to a few podcasts that make the biggest difference for our business or only reading those few websites that are most helpful. It's so easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information out there, and you simply can't implement every tip you learn online at that given moment.
  2. Break down each goal into bite-size pieces. Pick your two or three biggest priorities for the next 6 months - the ones that will have the biggest impact. Once you define those things, break them down into tiny, manageable pieces. For example, if you've decided that growing your Facebook Fan page to 500 fans in 6 months will make the biggest impact, then break that goal down into all the little steps you'll have to take to get there. Such as 1. Set up the page 2. Post to that page often. 3. Watch other successful Facebook pages, and so on.

Crystal gave the example of a course that she's creating and launching this year. The idea of such a huge project can feel overwhelming. However, instead of only looking at the big picture, Crystal breaks that project down into all of the steps necessary to get there.

She opens her Google Calendar and schedules in the bite-sized steps she'll take each day. Every task has its own assigned date and time. For example, on certain days she may be writing about a given topic for the course. On some days, she may already be packed full with other commitments, so she'll skip that day and move onto the next.

A huge project is completely do-able when it's broken down into its parts. Breaking things down keeps Crystal motivated and inspired that she can actually accomplish the end goal.

Short-Term Sacrifice for Long-term Gain

Crystal employed a very unusual method for writing her most recent book. We asked her to share more on the reasoning behind this decision and whether it worked well.

Crystal starts by saying that she wouldn't necessarily recommend her unique method, but it worked for her for a season. Crystal often hears from other women that they'd love to start a blog or write a book, but they simply don't have the time.

Maybe we're under the wrong assumption that because Crystal has a successful blog and business, that she's somehow miraculously gifted with more time or more ability to get things done each day. Crystal shares that that simply isn't the case.

"We all have the same 24 hours in our day. We all get the same amount of time. It's a matter of what we're choosing to do with that time."

Are you struggling with time management and letting your days run you?  Get encouragement from mom blogger Crystal Paine.  "We all have the same 24 hours in our day."  Learn more about how Crystal balances her family, her blog, her business, and more on the brilliant business moms podcast.  |

Instead of giving the excuse that we don't have time, we each need to own our time and accept that we're choosing to spend our time in a different way. Certainly, some of us may have more obligations than others, such as a newborn or ailing grandparents to care for. But regardless, Crystal strongly encourages others to realize that they're in control of their time.

With that being said, Crystal quickly realized that she would have to get creative with her time for her third book. She successfully wrote her first two books by waking up and writing early in the morning. However, after encouraging her readers to wake up early, all of a sudden she faced many new emails and blog comments early in the morning.

Crystal often has to be online while she's writing for research. So when she would search her inbox for a certain email or her blog for a certain post, she'd be distracted by all of the new messages and comments from her readers.

Crystal sat down with her family to discuss a solution to this problem. She was really passionate about the book, but she couldn't figure out when to write it.
She ultimately tried something completely out of the box. For two months, Crystal went to bed early, then woke up at midnight, wrote from midnight to 4 AM, then went back to bed for a few more hours.  She feels grateful that she could try out this unique strategy since her husband is self-employed and her kids are home-schooled.

Ultimately, Crystal and her family chose a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. Looking back, she's so glad she tried this method and wrote her book because she's very passionate about the topic and felt called to write about it.

A Makeover for Crystal?

We couldn't help but ask Crystal about her new course for 2015. While it's still in its early stages, Crystal shared that it will involve a makeover.


It's not what you think!  Crystal's course doesn't involve make-up, but instead, making over your mornings.

Crystal is spending several months living out the principles of the course in her own life to make sure they truly work, then she'll work on content to encourage other women with practical ways to make the most of their mornings.

Crystal knows from experience that the first hour or two of your day can set the tone for the other 22 hours. She admittedly wrecked her mornings a bit in order to write her third book, so she's excited to get back on track, and ultimately, help her readers to do the same.

What Busy Moms can learn from Tightrope Walkers

We asked Crystal about that elusive concept of balance. Does it exist? What does it look like for her?

Crystal shared two principles that help her to maintain a sense of balance.

  1. She surrounds herself with truth tellers - those wise mentors who will not only celebrate the good, but call you out when you need to get back on track. For Crystal, those truth tellers are her husband Jesse, and her two managers. They each know her goals, her struggles, and what her long-term goals are, and by holding her accountable, they help Crystal to get there.  They remind her to practice what she preaches and keep her from veering off course by focusing too much on one area of her life to the detriment of others.
  2. She remembers that balance means making constant tweaks. Crystal has learned about tightrope walkers, and, surprisingly enough, they don't stay balanced on the tightrope by being perfectly still. Instead, tiny muscles all over their body are constantly moving. They make continuous tweaks to their position to stay on the rope. This is true of motherhood too. In order to be balanced when it comes to our marriages, mothering, our businesses, and so many other things, we won't ever find that perfect routine and be able to just stay still. We're constantly making little tweaks to stay balanced.

In Crystal's own life, this meant that for two months, her sleep was off-balance as she wrote her book. In December, however, she's making a tweak in the other direction and spending lots of time with her husband and kids.

Balance doesn't mean doing the same thing every single day. There are season where you may have to step back and focus on just one thing. However, over the course of a year, balance means that youu've spent a lot of intentional quality time investing in the things that are most important to you.

There is no such thing as perfect balance... but what balance is... is making little tweaks to stay in a healthy place.  Quote from Crystal Paine

Guilt and Grace

When it comes to balance, we moms, whether working at home or outside the home, can often feel guilty for the choices we make. Crystal believes in giving yourself grace.

Of course, there will be emergencies or a stressful time that comes up, in which case your kids may get a little less attention and perhaps an extra movie or two! However, there's no need to beat yourself up over these small choices as long as they're the exception to the rule and not a lifestyle.

Conversely, one of the wonderful things about owning your own business is that you can choose to shut things off and fully focus on your family.

Guilt comes easier as a work-at-home mom, but hopefully grace comes easier too!

Making Memories + Fun

We interviewed Crystal at the beginning of December, and it was so fun to hear about their family's plans for the month. Crystal shared that since the beginning of her marriage, she and Jesse have been intentional about keeping December simple.  They like to have a December bucket list, where each family member gets to pick one or two things they want to do that month. Beyond that, they don't commit to other obligations.

This December, the Paines are watching classic Christmas movies, driving around to look at Christmas lights, watching Frozen on Ice, and going to Ann Voskamp's Christmas tour.

They're doing the things they love to do together rather than feeling overwhelmed. Crystal encourages others to decide for themselves what's most important to them. If you don't want to put up a Christmas tree or send out Christmas cards, then don't worry about it. "You're not being a bad mom if you're focusing on what's most important to your family."

(Amen to that!)

Stay in Touch with Crystal!
Plus you can find tons of great posts each day on her Facebook page

P.S. Learn the Facebook and Pinterest strategies Crystal is using to grow her traffic.

Direct download: Episode206820Crystal20Productivity_02_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:04am EDT

Resource Page, What and How.

Does your blog have a Resource Page?  If not you may be missing out on some great opportunities to help your readers and generate some income!

Most of you probably already have a good idea about what a Resource Page is.  Basically it's a place for your readers to come and learn about your tricks of the trade, favorite service providers, and favorite products.  A Resource Page can also point people to your most helpful posts, or answer commonly asked questions.

Things to include on your Resource Page:

  • Links to all of your blogging tools of the trade: hosting, web design, plug-ins, themes, shopping carts, etc.
  • Links to all of your niche tools of the trade including: camera, craft tools, podcasting equipment, etc.
  • Links to your favorite online tools: apps or websites you use frequently, software, photo editing, email service provider, social media apps, etc.
  • Links to your favorite outsourcing resources.
  • Links to some of your most helpful posts: how to start a blog, how to start a podcast, how to get organized, top 25 recipes, etc.
  • Links to books you highly recommend or e-courses you have found helpful.
  • Link to the book you wrote.

After each link, include a little blurb about what the product or service is all about.  No need to write a book on each link.  Short and sweet works great!

Organize everything by type so that your page is easy to navigate.

Be as helpful as possible.  A comprehensive resource is always beneficial to your audience, but it also gives you a place to refer people when they have a frequently asked question.

Don't forget to make any links affiliate links where you can, and try to sign up for the affiliate program of any of the tools you are recommending.   I think one benefit of the Resource Page is that it can be a revenue stream without a hard sell.  Here at Brilliant Business Moms, we really try not to be in the game of selling all the time.  You are already bombarded with enough ads and sales pitches everywhere you go, and we don't want you to feel as if we only love you for your pocket book.  The Resource Page allows us to earn small bits of revenue in a helpful and non-salesy way.  After all, hosting fees don't pay for themselves :)

If you include affiliate links on your Resource Page, don't forget to include your affiliate disclosure statement at the top.

Be as all inclusive on your Resource Page as possible.  Don't forget to update this page as you find more helpful tools to add, or as you join additional affiliate programs.  This page should be an ever-growing resource for your readers and a page you refer to in your posts or podcasts.


Here are a few examples of great Resource Pages to get you started:

The Brilliant Business Moms Resource Page

Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income Resource Page

Our sister-in-law Abby's Resource Page at Just A Girl and Her Blog

What tools did you include on your Resource Page?



Direct download: Episdoe206720Resource20Page_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EDT

Jesenia managed to monetize her blog just 5 months in!  Loved this interview - full of great advice on growing your blog.  |

Have you ever thought that blogging for profit means you'll have to just slog away for years, work countless thousands of hours with no pay, and finally, finally, your work may pay off? I know I've been guilty of that mindset before! Jesenia Montanez is here to prove that you can do so much more than just slog along for years.  In less than 6 months' time, Jesenia grew her new blog to 100,000 pageviews per month, and she's monetized it as well.

At the time of the interview and just 10 months into blogging at, Jesenia is making a full-time income from her blog.

Press play on the Podcast Player below to hear her excellent advice and strategies for blog growth and monetization. Whether you have a product to sell, a service-based business, or a stand-alone blog, there are tips here that can help you to increase your traffic and income and help you to diversify your revenue streams.

On the Podcast

01:16 - The Path to Full-Time Blogger Income
03:49 - 3 Strategies for Fast Growth
04:53 - Harnessing Pinterest for Pageviews
06:14 - Jesenia's Pinterest Strategy Explained
08:16 - Hot Times for Pinning
09:30 - 3 Ways to Re-pin
13:02 - Why You Need a Blog Board
13:59 - How to Become a VA
18:11 - Jesenia's Blogging Income Breakdown
19:51 - 6 Ways to Rock Sponsored Posts
22:16 - How to Balance Blogging and a Baby
24:27 - 2 Tools for Success
25:57 - 3 Resources for Growing Your Blog
28:18 - Encouragement for Beginning Bloggers
30:50 - Jesenia's Adorable Mom Moment

The Path to Full-Time Blogger Income

Jesenia started her first blog around 2006, but it was very short-lived. In 2012, she started another blog that was more of a personal journal. At that point, blogging was a hobby that she did sporadically.

Surprisingly, Jesenia was able to monetize that small hobby blog in a unique way. She added a "Hire Me" button to the site. She was able to build a VA business through that blog.

Finally, in 2014, Jesenia decided to start a blog with full focus on monetizing it. was born.

Jesenia set a goal to reach 100,000 monthly pageviews by the end of her blog's first year, but instead, she hit that number by her 5th month!

While she says that you can definitely monetize a blog with much lower numbers than this. For herself, she simply set this goal, wrote it down, stayed motivated every day, and made it happen in record time.

3 Strategies for Fast Growth

So how did Jesenia grow The Latina Homemaker so quickly? She shares 3 key strategies:

  1. Evergreen Content - Jesenia focused on writing great content with every post, and writing content that would be popular year-round. Her content will remain helpful and popular for many years without becoming out-dated.
  2. Write for Your Audience - Jesenia knew she wanted to attract busy moms to her website. This was her target audience. With that in mind, every post she writes is catered to this audience. Whether it's easy recipes, budgeting, or working from home, Jesenia targets and attracts busy moms to her site.
  3. Pinterest - As a new blog, Jesenia knew she wouldn't get the search engine or organic traffic that established blogs get, so instead, she tapped into the power of Pinterest.

Are you curious about how other work-at-home moms are making money online?  Learn from Jesenia!  She blogs at and makes a full-time living from her couch!  Jesenia harnesses the power of Pinterest and sponsored posts.

Harnessing Pinterest for Pageviews

As we've heard from several other bloggers, the bulk of Jesenia's Pinterest traffic comes from Group Boards. Her own follower number isn't huge, with just 6,000 or so at the time of our interview, but that's not stopping her from getting tremendous traffic numbers from Pinterest.

Jesenia began searching for group boards early on. She looks for boards that are most relevant to her content, not just the ones that are the biggest in terms of content or followers.  Tapping into the followers of these group boards - followers who clearly had an interest in the topics Jesenia was writing about, really helped her traffic.

Here's one of Jesenia's posts that has gone viral on Pinterest.  The first photo has had over 16,500 re-pins so far!

Jesenia's Pinterest Strategy Explained

Jesenia doesn't use Viral Tag or any other pin scheduler. How does she use Pinterest to get so many pageviews?

Jesenia pins live throughout the day. She schedules a few minutes each morning, mid-day/afternoon, and evening to pin.

She uses secret group boards to organize her content by day of the week. So, for example, every Monday Jesenia pins a selection of her posts to the group boards she parts of. On Tuesday, she pins from her Tuesday secret board.

This allows her to consistently spread out her content to various group boards without fear of repeating that same content too soon.

Hot Times for Pinning

Despite Pinterest's new Smart Feed, Jesenia still notices a correlation between the time she pins and when she gets the most clickthroughs and re-pins on her content.

For her, the best tims to pin are between 8-9 PM Eastern, and again at midnight. She believes this is the difference between busy times for East Coasters versus West Coasters on Pinterest.

Finally, Jesenia notices traction really early in the morning, and she believes that people may be more likely to see that content in their feed first.

(At the very least, we think it's fair to say that early in the morning, your pins may be competing with less other pins for slots in that coveted Pinterest Feed... the same way Facebook's algorithm has been known to work.)

Jesenia strongly encourages others to check out their Pinterest Analytics or Google Analytics for the best data on what times their pins gain traction. It could be different depending on your particular following. For example, she has a blogging friend who gets more site traffic from overseas, so pinning at 2 AM is a great fit for her.

Jesenia Montanez is hard at work on her mom blog.  Hear how this work-at-home mom turned blogging into a full-time gig!

3 Ways to Repin

  1. Create a Secret Board of your content and re-pin from there. (Yes, it will still show up!)
  2. Use ViralTag to schedule out your re-pins from your secret board or from your blog board.
  3. Use Google Analytics to re-pin from your most popular pins.

(Secret tip - re-pinning from a pin that's become really popular or has gone viral gives that pin more clout in the feed. It doesn't matter if it's been pinned to a board that's not yours, piggy-backing on that specific pin's popularity will help you!)

Learn more insider advice on Pinterest from Melissa Will and Crystal Paine.

Why You Need a Blog Board

Every serious pinner should have a "Best of" their blog or website board. This is where you can showcase your most popular, evergreen content. This board should be your very first board on Pinterest.

Jesenia says you should promote yourself first, then share any seasonal boards, then finally, the boards with content that's most relevant to your own site. You're trying to attract people that are interested in that content, so

(We've followed Jesenia's advice to the "t" on this one, with our Brilliant Business Moms Podcast Board, a Valentine's Day Board, then several boards on blogging, business advice, and marketing. Thanks, Jesenia!)

How to Become a VA

Jesenia says that VA work can be acquired largely by word of mouth. Once you do a great job for someone, they'll refer you to the next person and the next one. Your VA business can grow really quickly once you get your first client under your belt.

For a long time, Jesenia didn't realize that the work she was doing was considered VA work. She often thought of a VA as a virtual secretary, but there are so many things a VA can do: translating, web design, you name it! If you have a specialized skill, there's a good chance you can turn that into a free-lance or VA gig.

Jesenia has made a full-time income from her VA jobs in the past. She's currently phasing that out because her own blog has grown, and she enjoys freelance writing and blogging more than her VA work.

Jesenia's Blogging Income Breakdown

We were curious to hear how Jesenia makes money from her blog. She shared this info with us:

In her 5th month of, Jesenia hit $1,000 of income from the site.

  • 75% of that income was from sponsored posts
  • 20% from ad revenue
  • 5% affiliate income

In November, her income is larger, and the breakdown looks like this:

  • 50% ad revenue. This number continues to grow as her traffic increases
  • 48% sponsored post income
  • 2% affiliate income

She's also done some freelance writing gigs, but that's not considered part of her blogging income.

6 Ways to Rock Sponsored Posts

  1. Apply with Blog Networks: Pollinate Media, Mom it Forward, and Social Fabric are a few examples.
  2. Once you're accepted for your first opportunity, do an amazing job! Take awesome photos, follow all the instructions, and wow your sponsor!
  3. Once you have a few examples of sponsored posts, you can reach out to brands on your own.
  4. Cushion all sponsored posts with non-sponsored content so your blog isn't overwhelmed with sponsored posts.
  5. Make your sponsored content just as good as your evergreen content. (Jesenia has had a sponsored post go viral before!)
  6. Tell a story with your sponsored post. Make it personal, and show how you use the product in every day life. Keep your blog readership in mind.
Jesenia's beautiful family.
Jesenia's beautiful family.

How to Balance Blogging and a Baby

Jesenia's little girl is just over 1 year old. How does she balance the rapid growth of her blog with her little one (plus her 2 other kids at home!)

  • She wakes up early before the rest of the household. This is the only time when there are no interruptions.
  • She homeschools her kids, so once they're up, she's juggling those responsibilities with chores around the house.
  • Jesenia picks back up with blogging in the evening once her husband is home. He'll often take care of the baby and the kids so she can have more uninterrupted work time.
  • Sometimes, she gets out of the house and goes to a coffee shop to work for 4-5 hours. She can get so much done during that time.

We love Jesenia's perspective on her blog:  "Blogging is something I enjoy doing, but at the end of the day I'm a mom first... I don't want them to ever feel like my blog comes before them."

2 Tools for Success

  • Picmonkey - Jesenia uses this affordable program to create great images with text for Pinterest, and to edit all of her photos. (We love too!)
  • Plan your Posts - Jesenia is old school and writes everything down. She swears by having a plan for the month. Know what you're going to write about, what's in season, and start planning out those posts, projects, and recipes early. Don't just wake up and wonder what you're going to write about that day. Have a plan and write it down.

3 Resources for Growing Your Blog

(We agree with all of Jesenia's recommendations for growing your blog!  For more advice, hear our interviews with RuthKelli, and Amy.)

Encouragement for Beginning Bloggers

"Take your time; don't overwhelm yourself." Jesenia remembers a time when her husband gently told her that maybe she should take a step back from blogging. She was spending too much time on it - to the detriment of herself and her family. So she did slow down a bit.

Jesenia also recommends that you get creative when it comes to monetizing your website. If you have a product, sell it. If you have an Etsy shop, promote it. The process of turning a site into an income is different for everyone.  "For some it happens quicker than others, but that doesn't mean it won't happen for you."

Jesenia's beautiful daughters
Jesenia's beautiful daughters

Jesenia's Adorable Mom Moment

Jesenia's 1 year-old goes crazy dancing to a Microsoft commercial with a Korean pop group on it. Jesenia says, "I'm an Apple girl - you need to stop!"

Keep in Touch with Jesenia!

Jesenia was also so kind to mention that you can feel free to ask her anything! She's an open book and always willing to help.

Direct download: Episode206620Jessenia20final_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT

connecting with sneezers at Brilliant Business Moms

Whether you are brand new to business or are a giant corporation, building an ongoing relationship with current customers is key.  In the noisy online space it can be difficult to be found by new audiences.  When someone does find your business and talks about you, you want to cultivate a goodwill relationship.

If a blogger has taken the time to mention your website or product, that opens up the perfect opportunity for you to say thank you and to build a long-lasting relationship.  It gives you a chance to connect with that sneezer.  When you work on strengthening those connections, it increases the chance of developing a long term customer of your product or blog.  (By customer I mean not only someone who will buy your product, but also a reader or consumer of your blog, and someone who will continue to talk about you again and again.)  These individuals have found you and are talking about you - they are your sneezers!  Now it's time to show your sneezers how much you appreciate them and to build on that initial connection.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a sneezer, take a look at this short podcast episode on the book The Purple Cow by Seth Godin (affiliate link, but only because it's such a great book!).  It will explain everything!  The basic gist is that sneezers spread the word about you because they are big fans.

When you find people who are already talking about you, this gives you an opportunity to tell them thank you, join in the conversation on their blog, or offer a coupon code to their readers.  They have already found you and are saying good things about you. They are sneezing about you to all their friends and readers.  You can leverage that positive feedback by continuing to build a relationship with them.

Conversely, if you find that someone is saying something negative about you or your company, this gives you an opportunity to address their complaint.  If you handle an unhappy customer in a calm, helpful manner, that former unhappy customer could potentially turn into your biggest cheerleader.  At the very least they will hopefully stop spreading bad information about your company, and it gives you an opportunity to learn and grow.

How do you find out who is talking about you?  The first way is through alerts.  There are a couple different alert systems you can use to find out who is already talking about you.

  1. Talkwalker Alerts  Setting up an alert for your business takes only about 10 seconds.  I set it up to receive an email once a week with alerts about who is talking about Brilliant Business Moms.
  2. Google Alerts is another great option to try.

In addition to alert services, look at your traffic sources for any new sites you don't recognize.  This works for blog traffic as well as Etsy traffic.  We learn more about our traffic and referrals in two places.

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Clicky  - It lets us quickly take a look at our numbers and traffic.

If you're an Etsy Seller, simply look at your shop stats then traffic sources.

So what have I done with this information?

Through alerts and blog traffic data, I have found several bloggers who have mentioned the Brilliant Business Moms podcast in a post.  This gives me the opportunity to stop by their blog and leave a comment to say thank you.  I know as a blogger that I would appreciate this.  The blogger now knows that I am grateful that they are talking about my business, and hopefully this encourages them to continue being a loyal listener or reader.

This works for Etsy shop too.  Last year we noticed some traffic coming in from a blog we didn't recognize.  When we checked it out, she had purchased some items from our shop and wrote an awesome and unsolicited review of our products on her blog.  We didn't even know about it.  We took that opportunity to get in touch with her and gave her a special coupon code that she could share with her readers.  This resulted in additional sales for us.  She was already a happy customer and willing to talk to her blog readers about us.  By sending her the coupon code we opened the door for a continued relationship and additional sales.

Checking in to see who is mentioning you and sneezing about you is such an easy thing to do, but it really creates an opportunity for you to show appreciation and build long-lasting relationships.


Direct download: Episode206520Connecting20with20Sneezers20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

In the midst of growing your business, do you forget who really matters?  It's your customers and the people you interact with each day!  Learn how to connect on social media and be a leader in an authentic way, with this excellent interview from author and mompreneur Allison Fine.

Do you ever feel like you're just a speck of dust amidst the giant machinery of corporate America, or even amidst all the bloggers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners vying for your attention? I know I do! Allison Fine is here to remind us, as individuals, and as entrepreneurs, that people matter. We all matter. Our audience, on an individual, person-by-person basis, matters.

When we work together, solve problems, and humbly admit that we don't have all the answers, we're capable of enacting so much good in the world. Listen to hear Allison's own experiences of Matterness along with the ways that you can make other people matter more too.

On the Podcast

01:47 - From Momentum to Matterness
2:58 - The Path to Becoming a Writer
3:45 - How Conversation Changes Lives
6:05 - 4 Rules for Communication that Matters
9:53 - Harnessing the Potential of a Crowd
14:46 - 4 Tips for Moms who want to Make a Difference
21:05 - How Matterness affects Marketing
22:54 - Writing with Littles
25:59 - Puncturing Myths in the Workplace
28:16 - The Churn
35:24 - A Proud Mom Moment

From Momentum to Matterness

Allison used to run a non-profit in D.C., then she and her family moved back to New York. It was 2005, and she ran across an article sharing the news that Kuwait's all-male legislature had just voted for full women's suffrage. How did this happen?

Thousands of women bought Blackberries that spring, and they were emailing the legislature under their burkas. With technology and social media, there has been a movement of power from institutions back to individuals.

Allison began writing about the power of social media to enact positive social change through her first book, Momentum, and she hasn't stopped writing since.

The Path to Becoming a Writer

Unlike many authors we've met, Allison didn't dream of being a writer from a young age. Instead, she found a topic she was passionate about, a career that allowed her to work at home as a mom with young children, and as Allison says, "Hoorah! I think I'm pretty good at it!"

How Conversation Changes Lives

Allison gives great advice for entrepreneurs, writers, and anyone hoping to build a platform. "We need to move from last century's broadcast model to this century's conversational models," she says.

The common advice for businesses used to be to simply get their message out there - to plug away and send their message AT people.

Yet social media is inherently conversational. One person says something, another person responds.

We have to stop declaring how wonderful we are and start asking questions and engaging in conversations instead.

Conversation can change lives when we plug into the good energy that's available to us - all the people out there who have great ideas and want to help.

Author and Speaker Allison Fine shares on Matterness - how companies can communicate effectively via social media and be excellent leaders.

4 Rules for Communication that Matters

In Allison's 3rd book, Matterness, she talks about the fact that 10 years after society's transition into the world of social media, people still need to matter more than they do right now.

Organizations are still trying to keep their distance from people. True leaders are emerging, though, who believe that people matter to their ecosystem, and here are 3 ways they communicate that matterness.

  1. Listen more than you speak.
  2. Embrace your critics. It's difficult, and we're tempted to dismiss every critic as a "wackadoodle or a wingnut" but mainly, they're people who want you to do better. They wouldn't take the time to criticize if they didn't. By dismissing your critics, you're missing an opportunity.
  3. Engage your critics in public. The response to, "I think you stink" isn't "I think YOU stink!" It's, "Tell me more, and tell me how I can do better." You can engage in a civil way and show others that you're not afraid of critics.
  4. Leadership means working with crowds of people, not static databases. Connect with crowds to generate ideas, solve problems and connect to the networks of others.

"In a world that revolves around reputation-building, showing you embrace criticism is a huge advantage."

Harnessing the Potential of a Crowd

Allison shares her own incredible example of harnessing the power of a crowd. During the 2008 presidential election, she and journalist Nancy Scola reached out the Nancy's blog readership at asking what they thought about the idea of using Twitter to protect voters from voter suppression in the upcoming presidential election.

They put the question out there and were amazed at the response. A crowd of people who read the blog chimed in and said, "let's build this thing." Over the next 30 days, dozens of programmers, graphic designers, and many other stepped up to create a system that showed in real time where people were having problems voting.

Traditionally in an election, a voter's only recourse for something that obstructed voting such as a long line, confusing ballot, or machines that don't work, would be to call a voter protection agency who would file a law suit after the fact. However, the election results wouldn't be changed. It would be too late.

In this case, the system, TwitterVoteReport, allowed the entire nation to know where there were voting problems, and those areas were held more accountable with all eyes on them.

The most incredible thing about this movement was that the software created is open-source, so many other countries around the world have been able to use it to report on their own elections, as well as report on difficulties during natural disasters.

Allison points to two factors that contributed to this massive success: generosity and abundance. There are plenty of people in the world who are ready and willing to help.

4 Tips for Moms who want to Make a Difference

You may not be ready to change an entire election, but I'm sure there are ways that you'd like to make a difference too. Allison shares how any mom from any walk of life can make a difference, and she points to the example of Jennifer James.

Jennifer was a mom blogger who quickly discovered that blogging wasn't her primary skill set, but connecting other bloggers to each other was.

She created the Mom Bloggers Club, and had over 19,000 members after two years. She believed the group could have a greater purpose than just connecting with and helping one another.

She created Mom Bloggers for Social Good, and 200 mom bloggers said Yes to learning more about important causes like child hunger, health care, and taking trips around the world to learn more about these issues.

There are several things we can learn from Jennifer's example.

  1. You're not alone. It can feel lonely as a blogger or mompreneur, but there are others out there who want to help. Your job is to connect with them in an authentic way.  Ex. A real way to connect is: "I have this idea. What do you think about it?"  A fake way to connect is: "I have the best idea in the world, send me money."
  2. Be open and vulnerable. We all need a place where we can connect with likeminded folks. It could be facebook, twitter, a blog, it doesn't matter, but you can be in conversation with others, for example other etsy sellers, and hear about what they're trying to do. Ask them what they need help with, and how they can help you. Share what you know; help them make things better. Be vulnerable and humble enough to admit that you don't have all the answers. Give help, and accept others' help.
  3. Be very grateful for the help you receive. Thank those helpers over and over again, and thank them in public. Making sure people are heard is a huge part of Matterness.
  4. Don't over-plan. A perfect plan will never happen and trying to attain that will paralyze you. Just create a good-enough plan and get started! Take action!

How Matterness affects Marketing

Allison has changed her book marketing in 2 ways with Matterness.

  1. She decided against a traditional publisher because they move in analog time, as she puts it. She created her own publishing company, Legacy Books, and made herself Queen.  (ok, fine, she's really the CEO but she prefers Queen!)
  2. She markets primarily by connecting with people on an individual basis. She learns from others. She asks for help. When someone tells her they like her book, she thanks them, and also asks them who else they might know that she can connect with.

(Allison truly follows her own advice. Listen to the very end of the podcast to learn how she made a new connection by talking with us!)

Writing with Littles

Allison wrote her first book when her boys were little. We were curious as to what that process was like.

Allison shared that her first son remembered that there was a lot of yelling. (Allison doesn't remember it quite this way!) She was fortunate to have a lot of help from parents who live nearby. She wrote early in the morning before the boys were up and edited at night. Her work fit around their schedule.

Allison also shared a great secret that helps her to balance both motherhood and a career: she's an imperfectionist! She's never felt the need to be a perfect mom. She's aiming for "somewhat good"

There are so many women who are caught up in whether or not they are good enough as moms. As Allison says, that question is unanswerable, and it breaks her heart that so many women feel inadequate.

Learn from author and mompreneur Allison Fine as she talks about the power of social media to engage crowds and make change happen.
Allison with her family of boys!

Puncturing Myths in the Workplace

Allison's new favorite book is Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte. In the book, Schulte explores the notion of leisure time, all the benefits it's supposed to confer on us, and what to do in a world and culture that increasingly eliminates that leisure. She talks to sociologists, neuroscientists, and hundreds of working parents to seek insight and answers.

Allison loves the way Schulte has punctured the myths around the workplace. She studies progressive work environments such as Manilow Software in Minnesota, where employees can come and go as they please, vacation when they want, and the company is extremely productive and successful.

No longer do organizations need huge hierarchies and employees who work from 7 AM to 10 PM. This is out of step with our humanity and what we need to do things well, and Schulte shows us how and why.

The Churn

What is the Churn that Allison discusses in her book, Matterness? It's the way organizations have become tone deaf to people on the outside, because they're so concerned with internal struggles.

The Churn is that unnoticed guest at every staff meeting, where the majority of time is spent on internal processes and discussing what could go wrong out there. People quickly lose sight of what it feels like for their customers to engage with them. The Churn takes over.

Allison shared a recent example from her own life. Her internet was out, and the Verizon customer service rep gave her an 11 hour window! Allison tweeted @Verizon - "seriously, you can't give me a smaller window than that?"

Within minutes Verizon wrote back and said someone would be there at 3 PM. So what gives? Why could someone higher up handle the problem, but no one at the level of customer interaction could? This is the Churn. Companies are so worried about control and self-preservation that they don't even give their own workers to ability to solve problems and care about the customer.

The Churn can happen to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs too. We can become so fixated on our to-do list and on process and forget about the people behind what we're doing. We eliminate the Churn when we focus on principle instead of plans - the principle that people matter - that our customers matter. This should trump all of our best-laid plans or intentions.

A Proud Mom Moment

Allison shared an incredible moment when her son, spending a semester of high school in Israel, had the opportunity to support the Women of the Wall. This group is working to get equal rights for women to be allowed to pray at the wall in the same way that men are allowed to. On the day her son visited, the women were hosting the very first Bat Mitzvah at the wall, and, as an opera singer, he used his voice to support them.

Allison's son is certainly living out the example his mom has set - using his voice for good. We think Allison's doing a whole lot better than "somewhat good" as a mom!

Stay in Touch with Allison!

Twitter: @AFine

Direct download: Episode206420Allison20Fine_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:52am EDT

Think it's impossible to live comfortably in 300 square feet of space?  Not for Debra Jordan.  Learn all about her Tiny House and Big Dreams as an Etsy Seller.  Watch a video home tour too! |

Do you have a crazy dream?  (If you're visiting our website, chances are, you do!)  Would you go to any lengths to make that dream a reality?  Learn one Etsy seller's true story of crafting a one-of-a-kind house so she and her family could make their entrepreneurial dreams come true.  Debra Jordan has been on this journey for a long time, and I'm sure you'll learn a ton from her unique and exciting story!

On The Podcast

01:36 - Debra's Unique Story begins
03:23 - The Search for the Right Business
04:50 - A Wholesale Business
05:25 - Having Sales Reps Sounds Glamorous!
06:22 - The Lowest Point in Her Business
07:48 - Debra Discovers Etsy
09:06 - A Big (or should we say little!) Move
11:07 - 300 Sq ft. of Bliss
11:45 - Steps Toward Their Big Goal
13:10 - Running a Business From Panama
15:10 - Debra's Favorite Tools
16:40 - Print From Anywhere in the World
17:42 - Growing Her Shop
17:57 - Naming Her Shop
19:28 - Branching Out
19:58 - Selling on Facebook or Instagram
21:19 - Getting Facebook Likes
22:00 - Growing Pains
22:42 - Eloquent Beth Anne
23:41 - Debra's Proudest Accomplishment
24:50 - What They Did in Panama
25:50 - Favorite Business Quote
26:20 - Favorite Business Books
27:05 - Doing What It Takes
27:46 - Defining Success
29:32 - Adorable Mom Moments

Etsy Seller Debra Jordan moved into a 300 square foot home with her family to make her entrepreneurial dreams come true.  Hear her interview on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast!
Debra Jordan with her husband and son outside their tiny house and studio.


Debra Jordan with her husband and son - showing off their kitchen and dining room. Their tiny house is 300 square feet.

Stay in Touch with Debra!

Minky Baby Gifts on Etsy

Read Debra's Story on the Etsy Blog!

See Debra's Tiny House for yourself in this video of the Jordan family's recent remodel.




Direct download: Episode206320Debra20Jordan20final_mixdown202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:24pm EDT