Last Updated July 18th, 2018

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

I love being frugal. Saving money is a constant goal of mine. But there are a lot of challenges to this. Make sure you’re aware of these frugality traps as you try to live a more frugal lifestyle.

Most of these frugality traps relate to failing to think about the long term. It’s easy to say that this item costs less than that item. But does the difference really justify buying the cheaper item? Not always, and that is what you have to think about.

Trap 1: Cheap Or Better Quality?

There are times where being frugal means spending more rather than less. Think about how long you are going to be using the item. If you’re buying generic rather than name brand foods, in most cases that makes good sense, especially since sometimes the two are made by the same company. Just different labels.

But other times you are buying things that you want to last. Then paying a bit more now means you will not be paying more later.

A simple example would be the cheese slicer I bought a while ago. The wire on the old one had broken and we couldn’t find a replacement wire. So off to the store for a new slicer.

One model had replacement wires in the box with it, while another cost a dollar less but had no replacement wires or obvious way to replace the wire. The wires themselves felt about the same. So I bought the one with the extra wires so that we won’t have to buy another the next time the wire breaks. And in my experience, they do break.

pennies

Trap 2: Overbuying

This is the danger of the warehouse store and the really good sale. You buy more than your family can use because darn it, it’s just such a great deal! How could you possibly go wrong?

In a lot of cases stocking up isn’t all that bad. You just don’t want to stock up on things that will go bad on you or take up more storage space than you can spare for it. As you shop, pay attention to when the food will expire.

In the case of clothing, think about whether or not all the stuff you are buying will really be worn. It can be especially easy to overbuy for babies and toddlers, who just look so cute in everything. Just remember that overbuying is why resale shops have so many clothes available with the tags still on them or clothes that look like new.

I always balance how much I buy with how often I’ll have to drive a significant distance to get more. Regular groceries, I know I can get more easily, the store is less than a mile away. I don’t buy more than I need over a short time, usually about a week.

Great deals I may get some extras anyhow. When meat of one sort or another is on a good deal and I have space in the freezer, it makes sense to buy extra and freeze it. If there’s no room in the freezer, it doesn’t matter how good the deal is. I don’t buy extra because we can’t use it.

But if it’s something I can get a better deal by going to Target or Costco, I often buy more. They take 20-30 minutes to get to, and then the same back. That’s a lot of gas for the car and time for me. If I head out to those places, the goal will be to get enough that I can avoid another trip there as long as possible.

My storage for such things is planned accordingly.

I still pay attention to how much I buy on such trips. There’s only so much space in my pantry and other storage spaces.

Trap 3: “But It’s On Sale!”

Similar to overbuying, buying something just because it is on sale is a big mistake. Think instead about whether or not you really need it. All too often, you won’t really need it.

Buying things you don’t need at discount stores is the same trap as buying things just because they’re on sale. I go to my local 99 Only store regularly. The main thing I buy there most trips?

Produce.

Their produce department is almost as good as the one at the regular grocery store, but the prices are significantly better for many things. I can get a bag of bell peppers for $2, usually with a mix of green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers.

I belong to a Facebook group where people share their finds from this store. Many of the members shop daily, some more than once. Some even say their husbands or significant others have had to limit how much they spend there because they buy so much.

I get it. The deals are often amazing. But how much do you really need?

money peanuts

Trap 4: Giving In To The Wrong Things

There are a few ways to give in. One is to go shopping while hungry. It’s said that you will buy a lot more food if you grocery shop while hungry. Your hunger just makes it easier to give in to temptation.

But if you’re shopping with the kids, it’s easy to give in to their ideas. “But Moooooommy!” If you’re a mom, you know the rest of that routine. Just remember that you are the example for your kids and that if you buy everything that they want, they’ll never understand why you talk so much about spending your money wisely.

I don’t mean that you shouldn’t ever give in. There are better and worse times to do so.

For example, we love to take our kids shopping with us when we go to Costco, and we always try to go at lunchtime.

The pizza and hot dogs at Costco are extremely affordable, as are the sodas. The kids feel like they got a treat, but we’ve spent a fraction of what we would have at a fast food place.

And then there are the free samples to top things off.

When my kids start wanting to buy a lot of treats is when I start reminding them to bring their own money. Sometimes the treat isn’t worth it if they’d have to spend their own.

Don’t forget the occasional, reasonably priced treat for yourself as well. It’s much easier to maintain self control if you allow yourself reasonable treats. You won’t feel so deprived that you just have to splurge on the big one.

Trap 5: Repair Or Replace?

This is one that can be true torture. The washing machine breaks. Is it time to replace it?

The main reason this is difficult is because so many things are designed these days to be cheaper to replace than to repair. But I would always suggest looking at the repair costs, especially if they turn out to be minor. Not every breakdown means a huge repair. Just think of all the little stuff you have to take your car to the shop for.

Once you decide to repair, make sure that you get it done right. Having to get a repair done over again is guaranteed to increase the cost.

For your car, this means picking a really good mechanic. Ask around. You can generally find a friend or neighbor who knows a truly wonderful and affordable mechanic.

For other repairs, do your homework. Get quotes for really big repairs, and don’t ask for the shortcuts if it means the repair won’t hold up.

money umbrella

Trap 6: Focusing More On Saving Than On Earning

Saving money on the things you need or want makes sense. Know what makes even more sense?

Increasing your income.

In the long run, if you want to have more money saved up for the big things you want in life, a larger income may do more for you than being frugal. You still can’t overspend when you have a larger income, but it will give you more flexibility.

Earning a larger income also helps as the cost of things go up. Frugality won’t beat out inflation. Increasing your income might.

Let’s assume your family’s monthly expenses are $3,000. That may be low or high, depending on the size of your family and where you live. The average cost of living depends on a lot of factors. This includes mortgage or rent, groceries, insurance, car payment, phone, utilities and so forth. All the things you have to spend money on every month.

You spend some time bringing some of the individual costs down. You find a way to cut your monthly expenses by $400. It was tedious but feels really good. You now have a little more flexibility in your budget.

The problem is that once those expenses are cut, there’s nowhere to go.

If you want to have more money available to your family, you have to earn more money. You have a number of options to do this.

Improve Your Career

For parents who work, putting some effort into improving your career can pay off very well.

This doesn’t have to be at your current job, of course. If your current job is going nowhere, the improvement you need to make to your career is to get into a better one. It’s time to upgrade your skills.

But if you have good opportunities at your current job, find out how to make the most of them. Look into what it takes to get the best raises. Figure out which promotion opportunities interest you. Discover how to get from where you are in your career to where you want to be.

Sometimes you can stay in your industry, but change employers to improve your career. Current employers don’t always value employees as they should. If you should be earning more in your current job, or you aren’t getting the promotions you think you deserve, it’s probably time to move on.

Don’t quit your job to look for better opportunities, however. Most employers want to see that you’re currently working. It often improves your value in their eyes.

Have Both Parents Work

If your family has one parent working while the other stays at home, having the stay at home mom or dad start working can be a quick way to increase the family’s income.

This can be difficult when the kids are young enough that childcare is an issue. It’s not at all uncommon that childcare expenses will take up an excessive part of the family’s income, or even exceed the total of one parent’s paycheck.

Sometimes this means it’s not worthwhile to have both parents work outside the home. Other times it means you need to look at the long term.

If the income issue is short term, for example, it can be worthwhile to take the financial hit for a time, with the understanding that a future increase in income will take care of that problem.

Other times you may need to look at alternative arrangements. I know families where one parent works during the day and the other at night while the children are young. It’s hard on the marriage seeing each other so little, but it can be a worthwhile sacrifice to keep the family financially afloat.

You may also be able to find friends or family who are willing to help with childcare as needed at little to no cost. Don’t push someone if they aren’t willing – this works best when someone comes forward to offer and you discuss the arrangements in detail.

Or you could always…

Start A Side Gig Or Find A Way To Work At Home

Starting a side gig or finding a way to work at home is my favorite way to help out a family’s income. You may or may not need more childcare when you do this, but you can plan this out to deal with the fact that you have kids.

Some side gigs and work at home jobs really aren’t good if you must have the children with you. You don’t want to drive for Lyft if you don’t have enough time without the kids.

Customer service jobs and other jobs over the telephone can be problematic if you have children as well. Some of these jobs require absolutely no background noise, or you’re likely to get fired. You don’t want to lose your job just because the kids didn’t understand that they needed to let you work.

Fortunately, there are a number of side gigs and other ways to work at home that are flexible enough that you can do them even with the kids around. Fewer distractions are better for productivity, but not an absolute must for some of these positions:

  • blogging
  • transcription
  • social media management
  • website testing
  • software development
  • website design
  • babysitting
  • selling crafts on Etsy or similar
  • writing
  • mystery shopping

While having kids underfoot can make these jobs more difficult, they don’t make it impossible. That’s a huge help when you need to earn money from home and can’t pay a sitter.

Invest

The younger you start investing in things such as your retirement, the better off you will be in the long run. Even stay at home moms and dads should plan for retirement whenever possible.

It’s rarely easy to find ways to add to your investments when you’re on a tight budget. But do what you can.

If you have a job that offers a 401k, for example, make the most of it. This is especially important if your employer gives matching contributions to whatever level. If you can max that out, the money is out of your reach before it hits your bank account, and that’s often easier to deal with.

If you have the self control, consider contributing to a Roth IRA or Spousal IRA if you have a spouse who doesn’t work. This money will make a huge difference to you later in life.

I hope these tips help you to avoid the most common frugality traps. It’s sensible to be frugal, so long as you don’t take it to extremes. Be sure to balance it with progress toward a higher income so that you don’t run out of ways to save money when you need them most.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 16th, 2018

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

When Viral Marketing Works Too Well

If you were paying attention to the news or social media at all around July 12, you probably heard about Build A Bear’s “Pay Your Age” day. Hordes of parents with children showed up for this amazing deal, waiting for hours for the bargain. Stores had to close their doors because the crowds were too big. Officials cited safety concerns in many places.

It was a huge case of viral marketing that worked too well.

Honestly, that they didn’t consider the crowd situation well enough surprised me. As soon as I heard about the deal, I knew the crowds would be unmanageable, which is why I didn’t tell my youngest about it. I knew she’d desperately want to go, and I am not the kind of mom who stands for hours in line for a toy.

All this was to promote their program that kids can get a pay your age birthday bear. The company also offered $15 vouchers to make up for the mess. Not the same as paying your age for most people, but not a terrible deal.

This kind of problem can hit you as an online business too. Going viral is a goal most bloggers and online business owners have. Not everyone is ready for what can happen.

My Experience With Too Much Website Traffic

I’ve been hit with an excess of traffic once myself. It was quite an experience. The timing was such that it was more difficult to deal with than it would have been at any other time.

You see, I had just moved. My site had been hit so hard that my host had shut it down for overusing the server.

And I didn’t know until the cable company connected my internet service.

In this case, it was a link to my site in an article that was shared on a few big sites. All at once, I had far more traffic hitting my site than my hosting plan allowed.

There were comments on the articles questioning my legitimacy because my site was down. Somehow I might be trying to scam people because my site was down. I’m not sure how that works, but some people were concerned.

Fortunately, my hosting company was very willing to work with me on a temporary upgrade to deal with the sudden increase of traffic. The increased income was worth the trouble.

Why wasn’t I prepared?

The interview I had done for the article had happened months before. I didn’t know where or when it would be posted. In fact, I had given up on anything happening with that interview. So naturally, things happened right when we had to move for my husband’s new job.

That’s how things work, isn’t it?

It was also my first huge surge in traffic. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I learned a lot about the kind of traffic that’s available in this niche that way.

Going viral is often hard to prepare for, no matter how hard you’ve worked at it.

thumbs up

What Is Viral Marketing?

People always talk about going viral. Most people can name things they’ve seen go viral.

It’s not just big companies that go viral. How many people remember “the dress?” Mentioning the dress can still make some people groan over the whole fuss about what color it was. I’ve seen a few other attempts at going viral over colors that people disagree on, but nothing like that.

The goal of viral marketing is to spread information by word of mouth. Many companies aim to get viral campaigns going over social media, as many people share freely on social media.

How the marketing campaign spreads doesn’t matter, so long as it spreads widely. You don’t see many campaigns aiming to go viral over email these days. This probably has to do with the frustration many people have over forwarded emails. They can get difficult to read as they get repeatedly forwarded, diminishing the effect over time.

Viral marketing campaigns can be entertaining. They can offer an exceptionally good deal.

Viral marketing does not have to spread out to everyone. You only need your marketing to spread to your target audience. People who will never be interested in what you have to offer are not your target for any kind of marketing.

Going viral will be different for every marketer. If your niche is small, you don’t want a viral campaign that appeals to the world.

Example:

Let’s say you’re selling a blogging course, as many bloggers do. You’ve had some success with your blogging, and you want to share your techniques with people interested in starting their own blogs.

While you may think of blogging as something anyone can try, the simple truth of the matter is that you need better targeting than that. Who do you think will be interested in learning to blog from you? Pick your niche.

Your target audience will probably relate to the kind of blogging you do. They’re the people you can give the best advice to. There are some differences, after all, in blogging about parenting versus running a blog for a charity.

If you’re trying to go viral, target the audience you know. A successful parenting blogger already has some ideas on how to attract people to that subject. You will probably have more luck attracting people in that niche who would also like to start a blog than in attracting people who aren’t in that niche. You already have a reputation and a following in your niche, which gives you a head start.

Target the people trying to start a blog for a charity, and they’ll see you as just some parenting blogger, not a real authority on their needs. An attempt to catch their attention and get them to buy your course will probably fall flat.

Going Viral Is Not Always Deliberate

Much as you might want control over when you go viral, it’s not something that happens on command, nor can you avoid it at times. Word of mouth marketing of any sort is impossible to control.

Just imagine having a business where you make something, and without advance notification, it gets featured on a huge site. You get slammed with business, plus criticism for not having enough of your product.

Yet all you did was run your business as usual. The discovery and word of mouth chatter wasn’t due to anything unusual you did, aside from offering an interesting product. Hopefully, you can make the most of it if that ever happens to you.

Is Viral Always Good For A Business?

Viral marketing attempts can go sour. Going viral in the wrong way can be damaging to your business. Too great a focus on going viral can be one of the biggest social media mistakes you can make. Viral marketing is only a part of your social media strategy. It shouldn’t be the whole thing.

Just think about how “switching” to IHOb went for IHOP. That attempt at going viral resulted in significant mockery for them. They also got attention to their new burgers, which may be a benefit, but overall most people weren’t impressed. But if getting people to talk about the switch was the goal, it worked. People now know IHOP has burgers, even if they didn’t like the marketing campaign at all.

On the other hand, it was a lot of fun for other restaurants to mock the switch:

Sometimes a company will go viral for something they did wrong. Think about some of the recent videos you may have seen of people being kicked off their plane flights.

Viral videos can also impact individuals. The video of the woman calling police on the little black girl who was selling water in front of her apartment ended with the woman resigning from her job.

Sometimes companies react well to negative viral videos. Starbucks closed their stores for a day of retraining after a video of two black men being arrested at one of their locations went viral. Starbucks has been very open about the changes they’ve made to hopefully avoid such racial profiling in their stores in the future. Hopefully it sticks.

fireworks

How To Prepare For When Viral Marketing Works

If you’re trying to figure out viral marketing, you need to consider what happens when it works out. You don’t want to be caught unprepared if things work out.

For an online business, that means high quality hosting. I’m currently using A2 Hosting, which I like quite well. I haven’t had the chance to test them on high traffic levels yet, but they have upgrades available, so if the plan I have right now isn’t enough, I can move to something better.

If you’re serious about going viral, the time will come that you will need a virtual private server or dedicated hosting. If you’re earning money, these become a good investment and will be vital to your success.

Unless you’re completely comfortable with controlling the server on your own, you would want managed versions of these types of hosting.

Any host will shut you down on a shared server if you’re using more than your share of resources for a period of time. That’s so that your traffic surge doesn’t take down other sites. You would want them to do that to any other site on your shared hosting if it were your site being taken down by a surge on someone else’s site.

A good hosting company will help you move your site FAST if you get clobbered by traffic. But they may or may not contact you to let you know that you need the upgrade if you want your site up.

If your marketing is going well, it will be worthwhile to stay on higher level hosting, rather than bumping up when the rush comes.

Make Sure Your Product Is Ready

One of the big mistakes Build A Bear made was in not having their stores and products ready. They knew there would be a surge of traffic. They vastly underrated how huge the surge would be.

Whatever your product may be, if you’re trying to go viral, make sure you have enough for the potential demand.

This is relatively easy if your product is downloadable. All you need are servers powerful enough to take the traffic.

It’s much more difficult if you’re offering a physical product. You may have to explain to disappointed customers what your production times are, or even refuse orders if you don’t have a way to increase product production.

There’s no point to trying to go viral if you don’t have a product, even if that product is simply the content on your site. Make sure you have a solid way to monetize your traffic if that’s the case, of course. You don’t want to pay for more powerful servers if you can’t earn anything.

Being caught unprepared is how viral marketing can go too well for a small business or blog. If you’re trying to go viral, make plans for if you succeed. Even if you aren’t trying to go viral, consider what you would do if you suddenly had more traffic to your site than you can currently handle.

It won’t hurt to plan ahead so you can move quickly should the situation arise.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 10th, 2018

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

Do You Have Your Pinterest Business Account?

How’s Pinterest working for promoting your online blog or business? Are you having a lot of success with it? Even if you aren’t sure how much you’re going to like Pinterest for marketing purposes, I strongly suggest setting up a Pinterest business account. It has a lot of advantages that you’re missing out on if you don’t bother with it.

A Pinterest business account in many ways is not that different from a personal Pinterest account. Your pins look the same to others. Pinning works exactly the same. It’s free. It’s the little extras that business accounts get that make it worthwhile to either switch your account over to a Pinterest business account or start an entirely separate Pinterest account for your business.

What’s The Difference?

It can be difficult to understand why you should make the switch to a Pinterest business account when you can’t see an immediate difference. It won’t give your pins preferential treatment or anything like that. So why bother?

The difference comes in what only you can see in your account. The tools you can use with a business account can help you use Pinterest in a much more effective way.

Take the profile or board widget, for example. You can use it to share your recent pins on your website. This could be useful in drawing more attention to your pinboards, hopefully to encourage more shares of your material on Pinterest and eventually drive more traffic to your site. After all, building your traffic is what it’s about if you’re a business.

The big deal, however, comes from the analytics you get with a business account. There are aspects that make relatively little difference, but some of the features of Pinterest analytics are essential to understanding how well your pins are performing on Pinterest. We’ll cover that shortly.

How To Convert To A Pinterest Business Account

It’s fairly easy to convert a new or personal Pinterest account to a business account. It only takes a few moments, in fact.

If you’re starting a brand new Pinterest account to use for business, go to Pinterest for Business and click Join as a Business. Follow the instructions there to set up your new account. It won’t take long. Pinterest needs a few details about your business and the person managing the profile.

You will also want to provide a link to your website and verify your ownership of it. Pinterest provides simple steps to do this.

If you plan on using your current Pinterest account, you can use this link to convert your account to a business account. Once again, it’s quite simple to do, and you will want to verify your website, just as you would if you had made an entirely new account.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin, the simplest way to verify your site with Pinterest is to go to the Pinterest tab of the Social menu of that plugin, and add the meta tag provided by Pinterest right there. This way you don’t have to mess with your blog’s HTML, which makes some people nervous. Pinterest provides instructions to verify your site other ways, but this is the easiest if you have Yoast SEO installed on your WordPress blog.

yoast verify pinterest

Should You Use Your Pinterest Business Account For Personal Pins?

If you’ve been using your personal Pinterest account for your business pins as well as your personal pins, you may want to consider whether you should continue to do the same when you move to a Pinterest business account.

Keeping your business account strictly business has the advantage of focus. Followers of your business account will know exactly what kinds of pins to expect you to share. This can be an advantage, as it also helps Pinterest to know what kinds of pins you’re sharing.

On the other hand, it can be easier to keep your Pinterest account super active if you do all of your personal and business pinning on one account. So long as you keep your boards well organized and optimized, this may not be the worst thing… so long as your personal pins don’t make your brand look bad.

Some of your personal pins may be interesting to your business followers, of course. This depends on your niche. If you blog about parenting and family life, for example, no one is likely to mind seeing your recipe pins as well.

If you’re truly concerned, but don’t want to have multiple Pinterest accounts to keep track of, you can pin your personal pins only into secret boards. This way you can still see the things you like while logged into your Pinterest business account, but your followers won’t see anything you don’t want them to see.

Enable Rich Pins

If you want Pinterest to show as much information as possible about pins from your site, you must activate Rich Pins. Once again, if you have Yoast SEO, this is simple.

Go to the Facebook tab of the Social menu of your Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure that ‘Add Open Graph meta data’ is enabled. Save the changes.

yoast rich pins

Now go to this page on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins. Give it a link to a single blog post. Click Validate, and see if it worked. That’s all it should take. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to follow the documentation and try to figure out what went wrong. Most blogs shouldn’t have any problems at all.

Making The Most Of Analytics

Pinterest analytics are the big reason most bloggers love their business accounts. It’s a huge help to know how your pins are performing. Just make sure you’re looking at the right statistics.

Monthly Viewers

I consider the Monthly Viewers statistic that Pinterest puts right up there something of a ‘meh’ statistic. It helps you see if your pins are being viewed more, but views are nothing.

Most especially, views aren’t action. You want action.

The one good thing about seeing your monthly views go up is that most likely your other statistics are doing better as well. It’s not a lot of information, but it’s a little and can help alert you to changes that you need to look at.

Monthly Engaged

Monthly Engaged is the other statistic Pinterest puts right up in front of you. It has a little more meaning than Monthly Viewers, but not a lot. It simply means that someone interacted in some way with your pin. You don’t know which way with this statistic, but it’s still good to see this number get bigger.

To learn more, you need to click on the Analytics dropdown menu you see on you business profile, and take a look at the different sections.

pinterest analytics dropdown

Overview

The Overview section of your analytics gives you a quick look at what’s going on with your account. When I look at mine, for example, I see a drop at the moment. This is likely related to the Fourth of July holiday that we just passed as of this writing.

Events like that will cause significant drops in your traffic that have little to do with the quality of your marketing. They’re something to be aware of, but so long as your traffic recovers in an appropriate time, nothing to worry about.

There may also be seasonal drops. Many people find that they get less traffic from Pinterest in summer as a general rule.

A drop in traffic may be cause for concern if you don’t know why it happened. Take some time and find out what has changed so you can figure out how to fix it. Maybe you’ve been doing a little less pinning, or maybe your site is getting less traffic overall, leading to fewer pins. It’s good to know that you have to look, so you can figure out the problem.

Profile

The Profile section of your Pinterest analytics allows you to examine how your pins are performing. You can see how your top pins and boards are performing.

It’s a huge help being able to see which pins are getting clicks or being saved by other pinners. These are the actions you want to see. Lots of impressions are nice but only mean so much if you don’t get clicks and saves to go with them.

You can also check out your all time best performing pins.

These stats will not be limited to pins from your site. This can be frustrating when that’s what you’re most interested in, but also helpful. You might get ideas for topics you need to cover. Clearly your followers like that content – now make it your own and make it better! No copying, and give credit where credit is due.

People You Reach

The People you reach section gives you a little information about the number of people. It’s in the process of being replaced by the Audience Insights report, which is far more useful.

Website

The Website section allows you to see activity from your website on Pinterest. For example, you can see how often people have used the Pin It button on your website (you do have that, don’t you??).

This can be very similar to the information you get in the Profile section, but you will see data only for pins for your site. If there are a lot of other pins showing up in your Profile’s data, this will clear things up for you.

Audience Insights

As of this writing, Audience Insights is not in full release but looks great.

You can see the categories and interests of your audience and their affinity for various interests. I can see a lot of potential for this in terms of deciding what to blog about, and from there what to pin.

You’ll also learn about the demographics of your audience, where they’re from, and the kinds of devices they use to visit Pinterest. This is a lot more information than was available previously, and you should make the most of it. You can even learn about what the Pinterest audience as a whole is interested in.

Make The Most Of Pinterest Scheduling Tools

If you’re serious about using Pinterest for business, you should at least consider using Pinterest scheduling tools. There are people who prefer manual pinning methods as well, but I prefer scheduling, and I can tell you why.

Simply put, scheduling means even when life throws a great big obstacle in your way, your pins keep getting posted.

I’ve been dealing with a horrifyingly huge problem in my life. My father died.

That’s awful for just about anyone, but this case was complicated. I won’t go into too many details, as we’re hoping for legal action on the scam he fell for that completely messed up his finances, but suffice to say the whole thing has been a mess, and I’ve learned things about my father I wouldn’t want to know about anyone. And the finances weren’t even the worst mess we had to deal with.

I’ve lost many days of work time dealing with this situation, as have my sisters. But because I’m using Hootsuite to schedule my pins, they’re still being posted. All I had to do was keep up with reciprocating on the group boards.

Hootsuite has a fairly adequate Pinterest scheduling tool. I think it could be better. But it’s there and I use Hootsuite anyhow, so that’s what I have right now.

What I like about scheduling with Hootsuite, however, is that it’s easy to vary both the images and what you say for each pin. Pinterest is developing a preference for a greater variety of images per blog post and unique descriptions for pins, rather than recycling the same thing over and over. The way the Hootsuite scheduler works, it’s not that hard to switch things up regularly.

My next plan is to start using Tailwind as well. Most pinners who schedule love Tailwind, so far as I can tell. I’ve been too busy to give it a proper chance, but once things get better, I’ll test it as well. I understand its scheduling tool is far more powerful, which sounds great.

When you’re serious about using Pinterest to market your blog, you need the consistency that a scheduling tool can offer. Handling the entire thing manually takes a lot of time out of your day that could be better used elsewhere.

If you want to learn to make the most of Pinterest, don’t forget to consider taking a Pinterest course. Learning how to make the most of Pinterest is much easier if you get advice from someone who has gotten great, consistent results.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 2nd, 2018

How To Become A Virtual Assistant

How To Become A Virtual Assistant

Have you ever wished you could get paid to use skills such as social media marketing, writing, and customer service from home? Maybe you’ve had concerns about the work being flexible enough for your current lifestyle. You might wonder how to become a virtual assistant.

It might not be as hard as you think.

The first thing I will tell you to do is to consider taking a virtual assistant course. 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success is an excellent course to consider. The right course will give you a solid start and help you avoid the most common mistakes in your new business.

But even before you buy into a course, you need to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Let’s take a look at what it really takes to become a virtual assistant.

What Is A Virtual Assistant?

The job title “Virtual Assistant” or VA gets tossed around a lot right now as a great option for working at home. With computers and the Internet making it easier to work for someone else from a distance, this job has great possibilities for many a stay at home mom or dad.

But not everyone understands what it is. It may not help that a virtual assistant may have a wide range of duties, and not all virtual assistants offer the same services.

What Are Typical Virtual Assistant Job Duties?

Your job duties as a virtual assistant will vary. It depends on what you offer and what your clients need. You can simply state that a virtual assistant works remotely from home for other professionals. But that doesn’t really explain what a virtual assistant does.

Your virtual assistant work may include answering emails and other routine correspondence such as email and phone calls, managing social media accounts, creating content for blogs, graphic design, and much more.

The wide range of possibilities is why many virtual assistants specialize. You probably can’t do it all. But if you do a few things better than most, you can find someone willing to pay you to handle that job for them.

Who Hires Virtual Assistants?

Virtual assistants are popular with other people working from home, but they’re not the only ones who hire them. Any small business that needs help with something you can do from your home may consider hiring a virtual assistant. This way they don’t have to hire an employee or provide them with workspace or benefits.

  • Real estate agents
  • Companies needing temporary help that can be done from home
  • Legal professionals.authors
  • Journalists
  • Life and business coaches
  • Teachers and professors
  • Small business owners
  • Consultants
  • Beauty salon owners
  • Therapists
  • CPAs
  • Photographers
  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • and many more.

schedule laptop

Can Anyone Be A Virtual Assistant?

Many people have the basic skills to become a virtual assistant. Not everyone, but many.

Some think of a virtual assistant as being something like a personal assistant. The skills can be similar. However, many virtual assistants specialize in just a few key skills, so that they’re more effective than someone who does more general work.

If you have experience as a personal assistant, that can be a huge plus when you decide to become a virtual assistant. You have much more of an idea as to what clients will ask of you. But it’s not an absolute need to have such experience. Many people start a virtual assistant business with no experience at all as an assistant.

What you absolutely must have are some skills that are good enough to catch a client’s attention, and the willingness to learn more over time. If you have demonstrated experience in these skills, you have something to show potential clients.

If you want to help people in the legal field, for example, experience in the legal or paralegal field will be a huge help. Similarly, if you want to help people who run online businesses, you will to need to understand the internet very well and probably need HTML and CSS skills.

What Training Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant should be well trained in whichever skills they intend to offer as a virtual assistant. If one of your offered skills is social media, you need to know how to manage various types of social media accounts, make them grow, and get a good response rate from posts.

Similarly, if you offer bookkeeping skills, you should know how to use common bookkeeping software, such as Quickbooks. If you offer email marketing services, you should be able to use common email management services and be able to figure the ROI on a mailing.

You can get training on any skills you feel you need to develop further. Sites such as Udemy offer courses on a huge range of topics. Consider these options:

But there’s one more kind of training you should consider to work as a virtual assistant. I mentioned it near the start of this post. A course such as 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success will be a huge help in getting your VA business off to a successful start.

office

What Equipment Do You Need To Work As A Virtual Assistant?

Odds are that you already own much of the equipment you need to do your work as a virtual assistant. You probably wouldn’t even consider becoming a virtual assistant if you didn’t already have access to a computer and the internet. Those two things are the minimum you need. You will probably want more things.

Get A Dedicated Phone Number

When you have any kind of a home business that people are likely to want to call, you will probably want a dedicated phone number for that business. You don’t want to answer your home phone like a business or vice versa.

These days, you don’t have to get a whole new phone line put in to get a new phone number. You also don’t have to pay a lot to get a cell phone to use for your business, although you can. But if you want to go the free route, get a VOIP number from a service such as Google Voice.

I like Google Voice, even though I use it very little. You can set it up to forward calls to another number, so that you receive them like any other call, or have calls go to voicemail.

You can make calls through Google Voice, although it’s not as simple as dialing your phone. It gives you the option of connecting through a phone number you’ve linked to your account, such as your home or cell phone, or it can place the call through Google Hangouts.

Google Voice has its faults, and many of them, but it allows you to share a phone number with clients that isn’t your personal number. You can even put it on do not disturb so that you don’t get calls outside of business hours – they go straight to voicemail.

If you’d rather just get a cell phone for your business, I suggest taking a look at Ting if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on another phone line. This is the service I use, and it saves me a lot of money. We have four cell phones on it right now, and the combined monthly bill is usually less than $40. We aren’t heavy users, obviously, but it’s still an amazing deal.

Start A Blog And/Or Website

If you want clients to find you, you must have an online presence. You can seek out clients on your own, but you’ll still need a website to show them what you’re capable of.

Starting a website is relatively easy and very affordable. You need good hosting. Make sure your hosting makes it easy to use SSL connections – which is what makes a secure connection to your website – as it’s pretty much mandatory these days. I’m currently using A2 Hosting and have been generally happy with them. I’ve also used HostGator but left them when I realized that switching to SSL with them wasn’t a simple process on the plan I had. I was happy with them otherwise, and some of their plans make SSL easy to get.

I strongly recommend using WordPress to manage your content. There’s a learning curve, but most people find it’s not that bad, and many clients will use it as well. If you’re hired to post blog updates and such, you’ll need this skill anyhow.

Use your blog as an online portfolio whenever possible. The exact things you should share on it will depend on your niche, but here are some ideas.

  • Details of services and packages you offer
  • Client testimonials
  • Case studies on work you’ve done for clients
  • Contact information
  • Samples of your work
  • Advice you want to share in general

That last one can be important. If you want to keep bringing in new clients, you have to get your name out there as a great resource. People who read and admire what you’ve written are more likely to trust your abilities.

It also helps keep your blog updated. It looks good to search engines if new information is added to your site regularly, and it gives you something to share on social media so you can build a solid following.

If social media marketing is one of the skills you want to offer, you must have your own social media accounts with followers and interactions that show you can do it. The combination of a blog and active social media will demonstrate these skills.

Having your own website with a domain name makes it easy to have a professional looking email address associated with it. This will look much more professional than your typical Gmail or other free email address.

Appropriate Software For Your Business

The software you need will depend on what you’re offering your clients. If you’re doing graphic design, for example, you will probably want to have Photoshop and/or Illustrator. If you will be coding websites or software, there are a number of options listed on this site for you to consider.

Bookkeeping software is good both for the needs of your own business and for any clients you might do bookkeeping work for. Quickbooks is good overall, and many people like Freshbooks for invoicing.

Design Your Own Business Cards

While much of your marketing will probably be done online, you still need business cards. There will be times when you meet someone who would make a great client. While you can simply exchange contact information on your phones, that doesn’t put a physical reminder into the potential client’s hand.

A business card does.

If you want to offer graphic design services, this is an opportunity to show those off in a small space. Make it professional and eye catching.

Don’t go too cheap on the printing. A poorly printed business card won’t reflect well on your business.

code editor

What Should You Do As A Virtual Assistant?

There are a lot of different services you can offer as a virtual assistant. You don’t have to do it all. Many virtual assistants choose to offer a variety of services, however, so that clients don’t have to work with multiple assistants. The more virtual assistants a client tries, after all, the more chances that they’ll go with someone else.

Stick with things you know you can handle well for your clients. If you really cannot make great looking images, you shouldn’t be offering graphic design services. If your grammar is terrible, you shouldn’t work as a writer.

You do not have to be equally strong in all of your skills, of course. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some services to consider:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Online research
  • Graphic design
  • Updating databases
  • Creating presentations
  • Writing and editing
  • Email management
  • Social media management
  • Travel planning
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Website design
  • Following up with clients
  • Transcription
  • Customer support
  • And much more!

Creating Your Virtual Assistant Niche

Creating a niche as a virtual assistant is important. Think about it from your client’s point of view. A real estate agent who wants a virtual assistant is far more likely to hire one who has worked with other real estate agents. That VA will understand their needs much better than one who has never worked for a real estate agent before.

Don’t think that narrowing down your niche means you are limiting your horizons. You aren’t. You’re making your business more appealing to potential clients. If you choose your niche well, you’re making your success more likely.

If you’ve worked in a particular industry in the past, think about virtual assistant services you could offer in that area. Your previous experience can mean a tremendous advantage.

Another idea is to take a look at what other virtual assistants are doing. How can you stand out from the crowd, given your skills and experience?

If you’ve been working as a virtual assistant, and want to try focusing your efforts more, take a look at what you’ve been doing. What do people ask you for the most? What do you most enjoy doing? You can even sometimes include outside interests if you find a way to relate them to being a virtual assistant.

Don’t forget to consider what just isn’t working for you. Sometimes it will mean you need to charge more for a particular activity, but other times it may be better for you to drop it from your list of virtual assistant services.

Finally, think about who your ideal client is? What industry? What services does your ideal client want?

Your niche should always be something you enjoy. If you pick something you really aren’t happy with, what do you think the odds are that you will stick with it?

How Do Virtual Assistants Set Their Rates?

How much you earn from your virtual assistant business will make a big difference in your life. What the best rate to charge your clients will vary, however, both as you grow your VA business and by how difficult the client is.

Don’t underestimate your overhead just because you’re working at home. Here are some of the factors you need to consider.

Your Time

A lot of people new to home business do not value this highly enough. If you’ve done office work outside the home, what did you earn? Average it out per hour. Then remember that the job quite likely came with benefits, such as medical, dental, paid time off and so forth. The only way you’re getting those with a home business is if either your spouse’s job offers them or you provide them yourself.

Then there’s all the unbillable time to consider. There’s the work you do to find clients. Sick days. Vacations. Holidays. Your hourly rate needs to make your income viable even with all those things considered.

Your Equipment

It all costs money, and you may have to spend some to get all the equipment you should have. You may not have to get a fax machine, eFax and similar services may do the job quite well enough, but other things you will need to buy. Reference materials for your specialties. Appropriate software. A business phone line.

You will probably at some point need to upgrade equipment or buy things you haven’t had before for your virtual assistant business. If you don’t have a good home office set up yet, you’ll want to improve it over time.

Marketing

You may or may not know much about the Internet, but there is one simple rule: Build it and they will come just ain’t so.

You will have to market yourself and your business. You’ll want business cards. Flyers, possibly, or brochures. And most definitely a website and you’ll have to market that too, quite possibly using pay per click advertising. It costs money to do these things. Not to mention the time it takes to really get things going. Keep remembering that your time is valuable.

marketing stats

Taxes

Yes, you’re going to have to think about taxes. If you’re losing money it can be a writeoff, but if you’re earning you have a lot to think about. Such as paying quarterly estimated taxes. But think positive. If you’re having to pay quarterly, it means you’re doing something right. But keep in mind that when you were employed by someone else, they paid a part of it.

Insurance

Business insurance may be a good idea. It’s protection in case of serious problems. But you should also be thinking about how your business may impact your needs for your homeowners or renters insurance, car insurance and so forth.

Mortgage/Rent

You may be able to write off a part of these on your taxes, but that also means you can think of them as one of your business expenses. You’ll want to talk to a tax professional about how these are impacted on your taxes. You may qualify for a home office deduction.

Utilities

Similarly, you can consider some of your utilities to be business-related expenses. Your home office uses electricity, after all. And that phone line? What about the Internet connection? Keep asking your tax professional questions.

Travel/Transportation

Do you do any driving in the course of your virtual assistant work? Meet with clients? Even travel long distances on rare occasions? Then you may have some costs of business to calculate in there.

Your Target Market

Your target market matters when setting your rates. You can charge more for some areas than others. The more challenging the skill required, the more a client should be willing to pay to have the work done. If it’s something that just about anyone can handle without difficulty, clients will expect a lower rate.

While the necessary rates can vary quite a bit by where you live, in the United States you will probably want to charge at least $30 an hour. You can go higher, especially on more challenging tasks.

You may want to consider charging by the project for some things. This can be better than charging an hourly rate, but it can also be far worse. Set up your project rates with caution, and make sure your contracts carefully outline what’s included. You don’t want a picky client taking up twice the time you had allotted to the project if you can’t charge them for the extra time.

Charging a project rate limits how much information you have to give clients on how long the project took you. They don’t always understand how much work something takes.

Don’t be afraid to raise your rates as necessary. Sometimes a higher rate helps weed out the bargain hunters, who can be more difficult clients than the ones willing to pay a fair rate to get the job done.

Even with set rates, be willing to talk to clients who want something special set up. If it sounds good, go for it. But don’t let the bargain hunters get you down. Bargain hunters are notoriously difficult clients and can eat up more of your time while paying you less. If someone wants you to drop your rates too far, they probably are not worth your time. There’s no point in joining a race to the bottom in the hopes of getting more clients.

After all, your time is valuable.

How Do You Find Clients?

Clients are the obvious lifeblood of a virtual assistant home business. You quite simply cannot get anywhere without them. But finding them can be a challenge, especially at first.

Look Locally

There are a lot of small businesses in most areas that could use the services of a virtual assistant. You can send out a mailing to a list of small businesses in your area and see about the responses you get.

But be warned, mailings add up fast. And you need to target them to the kind of businesses you want to work for. There’s no point in mailing to lawyers if you specialize in helping realtors.

But mailings aren’t the only way to contact local small businesses. You can be visible in your local business community. Join the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The SBA. Any other business groups in your area, especially if they are targeted towards the kinds of businesses you’re looking to work for.

Similarly, you should be on the lookout for small business events in your area. Charity events can also be good. Have plenty of business cards and talk your services up… politely, of course. You don’t want to look as though that’s the only reason you’re out there.

There are advantages to working with local clients. The big one may be that you aren’t competing directly with every other virtual assistant online. Meeting in person can be nice for some projects as well.

Network With Other Virtual Assistants

Sometimes other, more experienced virtual assistants will be looking to subcontract to someone else. While this generally won’t give you an “in” with their client, it’s work! Use it as a chance to really get things started.

Alternatively, if your skill sets complement each other, have services that you work together on. Maybe one does well on website design, the other on logo design or marketing. It can be very helpful to be able to offer more complete services.

This is not too hard to do. Network within virtual assistant communities. It’s one of the easiest ways to get to know some of your fellow virtual assistants. You’ll probably have to pay a membership fee, but since it’s a cost of your business it should be tax deductible.

Look On Freelance Websites

You can also find work on freelance websites. Places such as Upwork and Guru are popular choices. Don’t underprice yourself even on these sites by too much. Getting the experience matters, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed by low paying work when something better comes along.

When you’re just getting started as a virtual assistant, you can offer small tasks on Fiverr. If you’re good, you can build up to larger tasks on that site. Early on, however, you will want to offer tasks you can do for a small amount of pay. This can help build up your portfolio to get better jobs later.

Join Facebook Groups

There are quite a few virtual assistant groups on Facebook. Take a look at them and join the ones that look good to you. These can help you with job leads.

LinkedIn is another good choice, especially as it has a more professional target audience than Facebook. Seek out appropriate groups on LinkedIn and you may find clients there.

Companies That Hire Virtual Assistants

There are a few companies that hire virtual assistants, and then give the VAs work from their clients. The disadvantage to this is that your pay rate will be lower than you should be asking on your own. The advantage is that someone else is finding all the clients for you. Consider these companies:

Belay Solutions
Time Etc
Worldwide 101
Red Butler
Contemporary Virtual Assistance
Vicky Virtual
Team Delegate
VA Sumo
Virtual Gal Friday

This can be a great way to test out being a virtual assistant if you aren’t certain about what’s involved. You can get your feet wet before having to learn how to market your own business. Pay can start as low as $10 an hour, but some companies will pay $20+ per hour.

I know all this is a lot of information. But if you want to start your own virtual assistant business, you will need more. This is why is still suggest that you consider the 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course to help you learn how to become a virtual assistant. There’s a lot more to learn, and the author, Gina Horkey, has had a lot of success as a virtual assistant. She knows far more than I do about this.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 29th, 2018

How Do You Balance Housework And Working At Home?

How Do You Balance Housework And Working At Home?

Do the dishes distract you when you’re working at home? Housework that needs to be done takes away from your work hours if you let it. But is that a reasonable expectation of an at home parent? How do you balance housework and working at home?

There are a lot of challenges to working at home. You have a lot to get accomplished in the day and many distractions. It’s easy to have very high expectations of what you will accomplish on a particular day, and it’s not always realistic.

This is where the flexibility of some work at home opportunities becomes a disadvantage. You can set up your own schedule, and that means people start expecting more of you in the home and at work.

Worse, you probably feel guilty at times for focusing on work rather than on keeping a clean house. You’re home and you may feel like it’s a part of your job to keep that house clean. Traditional duty of the stay at home parent (especially moms) and all that.

But being at home should not mean that it all falls onto your shoulders. You need to look at what the appropriate divisions are.

What Are Your Work Hours?

How many hours you work at your home based job or business can play a role in how much housework is reasonable for you to do. Working a full time work at home job only differs from working a full time outside the home job by the length of the commute.

If you work part time from home, you may be able to spare more time for housework, of course. How that works, in reality, depends on what else you have to get done during the day. Don’t forget a little time to set yourself up for a productive work at home day.

Some of what you can take on around the house as a work at home parent may depend upon what time you work. If you have to work at the time dinner is normally made, you can’t be expected to make dinner every night. Someone else will need to handle it.

work vs cleaning

Does Your Income Matter?

Many a work at home mom or dad may feel as though they should take on more household work because they don’t earn that much yet.

Maybe your job doesn’t pay that well. Maybe your home business hasn’t taken off yet. But at this moment you earn significantly less than your partner.

Do you need to make it up by handling more of the household chores?

Personally, I would still count more by hours worked than by income. I’d rather have a partnership count these things by effort rather than dollars. In the end, you’re all contributing, right?

Another problem with taking on extra housework if your income is on the low side is that you put too much of your energy into that, and too little into improving your income. Taking on that extra housework can tire you out.

What Other Chores Are You Taking On?

Housework is often not the only chore that a work at home mom or dad takes on regularly. When you’re dividing things up, you need to consider everything that each person does.

I drive my kids to and from school each day, for example. We don’t live close to their schools, and while walking to and from would not be impossible, it would be difficult for the kids and very time consuming. Driving them makes more sense, even though it takes a chunk out of my day.

Chores like that have to be done by the person who is available since they must be done at certain times. Schedules are often planned around such things. It can more than make up for the lack of a commute for a work at home mom or dad.

kid cleaning

How Do Want The Housework Divided?

How to divide the housework can be challenging for any family. People don’t always agree on how clean everything needs to be.

Get your spouse involved. Get the kids involved. Don’t let all the housework fall on one pair of shoulders. It’s important to talk about these things so that no one feels as though they’re carrying an unfair share of the load.

The division of chores with children depends on how old the kids are. The amount of housework I have to do has greatly decreased as the kids have grown. They can handle quite a bit.

But when the kids are young, they’re often more hindrance than help. When you can spare the time, it’s still a great idea to let them help, so that they learn how to do the job. It will pay off in the long run.

Some of the division may depend on what each person prefers to do, so long as everyone feels the division is fair. If one parent prefers yardwork to housework, and that takes an equal amount of work, there may be a good division right there.

Figure out what you will do at which times. Housework that needs to be done can be scheduled just like anything in your home business.

How well all of this works can tell you a lot about how supportive your spouse is of your working at home. If you both work a similar number of hours, yet you’re at home and expected to do a significantly larger chunk of the housework, you may need to have a talk to make sure that what you do is being taken seriously. Sometimes it’s not. Other times it will just be that your spouse hasn’t quite realized how much work you’re doing.

Pick The Right Time

Knowing when to do housework when working at home is key to keeping it from messing with your work schedule. There’s a right time and a wrong time to do things.

The wrong time, of course, is when you should be working. Laundry days are probably the worst for interfering with working at home – it has to be moved so often. Any chore you can save for when you aren’t working gives you more time to work on the things that earn money for you.

The right time to do housework is outside of your working hours. You can do little bits during your breaks, but isn’t it better to take an actual break for you sometimes? Save the housework for when you can get more done. Try these tips to help.

  1. Clean the night before – If the dishes are done after dinner, and the clutter put away before anyone goes to bed, there’s much less temptation to clean during the day.
  2. Make freezer meals – Plan out some meals that you can make ahead of time and put into the freezer. Seek out recipes that can be frozen and then put into the crockpot, pressure cooker or oven when you want to make them. This saves a ton of meal prep time if done right.
  3. Get rid of stuff – The more stuff you have, the more mess you have. Declutter your home and you’ll have much less cleaning to do.

computer vs laundry

Know When To Let The Housework Go

There will be times when it makes sense to let some of the housework go. You won’t be able to handle it all, all of the time. Life gets in the way.

It’s common for things to be on the messy side when children are little, for example. Unless you’re very strict about toys being put away immediately, kids are super messy creatures. Odds are that you won’t be able to keep up with their abilities to make a mess.

A crisis, either within the family or your work, can also cut down on how much housework you can handle. If you suddenly add 10-20 hours a week to your work schedule, obviously you won’t be able to do as much housework.

Depending on your family, you may have to deal with the house being a mess for a time. The other possibility is that the other members of the family pick up the slack. That won’t work every time – a family crisis can make it harder for the entire family to keep up.

Is It Worth The Expense To Hire A Maid Service?

If your household income is high enough, sometimes it makes a lot of sense to hire a maid service. This won’t take care of the daily chores but can be a huge help with the bigger cleaning jobs.

The decision to hire a maid service can depend in part on how you value your time versus money. How does your hourly rate compare with what the maid service costs? If it gives you more time to work, a maid service can be good for your income.

Of course, if you can’t resist cleaning everything before the service comes, you may not want to hire a maid service. Make sure it will save you a good amount of time and effort in keeping your home as clean as you want it.

Talk About It If Things Aren’t Working Out

It’s common to find that whatever balance you agreed upon for housework won’t always work out. We’re all human.

Try not to let resentment build.

Instead, sit down and talk about what’s happening. Discuss solutions you can agree upon. Make job lists if they’ll help, or set up a calendar. Find something to make it easier for everyone to do their share.

If all else fails, hang a sign like this one:

and see if everyone gets the hint. It might be worth the smiles, especially if you have any Harry Potter fans in the house.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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