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Lunches are packed and the kids are off to school.  The house is comfortably tidy and the errands are done.  If you’re a stay-at-home mom you’ve probably got a system down that frees up a good bit of time in your day.  So what will you do with that time?  Many stay-at-home moms are discovering ways that they can remain at home to manage the affairs of the house and family without compromising the ability to also make a contribution to the household financial situation.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports a significant decrease in stay-at-home mother numbers from 2008-2012.  A strained economy forced many stay-at-home mothers to make a tough decision, pitting financial security against full time-mothering and household management.  But some women refuse to make that choice and instead opt for another option that entails a careful balance between family, house and finances.  How did they do this?  Simple.  Work from home.

There are many jobs that can be done from home while the kids are in school.

Computer Programming

In a technology driven world, it’s no secret that computer programmers are in high demand. While one would need to invest in some computer classes to be able to program computers, it is a time and money investment that is sure to offer great returns financially while offering flexibility to match.  How great is that?  US News Money reports that the average computer programmer in the U.S. is paid an annual salary of $78,260.00.  What a great contribution to the family budget—sans the daycare bill!

Photography

If you’re more of an artistic person photography could be an avenue of extra income while your little ones are in school.   You may have an eye for photographing things and with some basic equipment these days a person can produce a pretty impressive result.  Remember that photography doesn’t stop at taking photos of weddings and portraits.  There is also landscape photography, food photography and other small jobs working for real estate, appraisal and insurance companies taking photos of properties for listings, valuation and insurance inspections or claims.   If being a photographer isn’t necessarily up your ally, you could also consider other jobs related to photography, such as editing digital images for busy photographers.  These jobs do not require a degree, and little experience, much of which can be gained through on-the-job training.

Web Design

Web Design is a great choice for those who are interested in getting into the technology field, but still want an element of artistic creativity.  Most businesses these days have or need a website.  Even small operations should really have one—it’s almost an expectation in today’s technology dependent society.  There are a couple of ways a person can do web design as a job.  The first is to go to school and learn web design.  Another more simple way may be to offer design using hosting sites that have pre-made websites that are customizable.  As long as you can familiarize yourself with how each hosts site setup works, you can then use this knowledge to create a website for someone else’s business.

Daycare

The idea of having kids in the house after you’ve sent yours to school may not appeal to everyone, but if having little tikes around is something that you love, doing daycare for just a couple of children might be a great solution for you.  Most states require licensing only after a certain number of children are being cared for, and aside of the pay that comes from the parents, many states also have nutritional programs that offer supplement income to providers for tracking and feeding healthy meals to children.  This can be a very rewarding job, with some in home daycare providers being the first step toward learning, much the same as pre-school.

Direct Sales

Yes, I said it!  Direct sales.  These kinds of opportunities aren’t for everyone.  They require a high level of motivation and discipline.  There are a myriad of reputable direct sales companies that nurture and mentor women to success—most of them focusing on empowering women to be successful in career without compromising family and home.   With everything from candles to weight loss programs, it’s easy to find a company that offers a product that is in line with your values to help you make a few extra bucks each month.

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The holidays are coming soon, full of good food, family and presents. For many of us the holidays are the happiest time of year and something we look forward to for months. However, with all of the lovely distractions, it can be easy to forget other commitments—such as our desire to help the environment. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard to go green and still enjoy all of your favorite holiday traditions. Here are five ways how you can do just that.

1. Reuse Wrapping Paper

All of those beautiful wrappings are one of the biggest sources of waste during the holiday season. Instead of going out and buying new paper every year and then immediately throwing it away Christmas morning, save the paper that is salvageable and use it again the next year. The same goes for boxes, gift bags and ribbons. You can also make your own pretty wrappings out of paper bags from the grocery store by using a Christmas stamp or some pretty ribbon to dress it up. Functional wrappings, such as a scarf or towel, provide a quick option if you aren’t crafty or have a last minute gift to prepare.

2. Buy Used Decorations

There’s really no reason to spend our hard-earned cash on brand new decorations year after year. Instead, go to thrift shops to look for used bargain pieces that can get a second life, be used year after year and save your money for other things
(such as more presents or a killer Christmas dinner). Carefully wrap and store your decorations away after the holidays are over, and pull them out again next year. After 12 months, they will feel like brand new.

3. Cut Back on Energy Consumption

We tend to consume much more energy in the winter, as we are heating our homes through the cold winter months, and tend drive cars instead of walk in order to stay out of the cold. There’s no need to freeze out your holiday guests or yourself this holiday season in the name of saving the planet, but there are some easy ways to cut back on energy consumption. Many digital home automation systems come with a smart thermostat that will automatically turn the heat down while you are away and then turn it back up, so your house is nice and toasty when you arrive back home. Turning the thermostat down at night, or during a party, when the room temperature tends to rise naturally, are also good options.

4. Go Paperless

Receipts, family letters and Christmas cards all use up a lot of paper and are all thrown away in a matter of weeks. Instead, save paper and money by going paperless. Ask stores to email you a gift receipt instead of printing one, and send cards and letters via email or other e-card services. Most of these services will now let you customize your card complete with the traditional family photo and all for free, so no need to make sacrifices.

5. Watch Water Use

Water use tends to go up during the holidays as we are feeding big crowds and washing lots of dishes. Be conscious of how much water you use while you are preparing and cleaning up meals, and look for ways to conserve. Filling the sink up with suds to wash instead of leaving the faucet running, for example, can save gallons of water. Scraping plates into the trash instead of rinsing them will also save water.

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In order to build a successful business, you would automatically assume that the most important factor is your product. The thing that, when it all boils down, you are left with at the end. The thing that people go to you for. But while that may be true, there is something else that is equally, if not more, important: your brand.

Don’t believe me? How else do you think that Instagram has emerged as a major social network, without most of its users realizing that it offers a service that is essentially no different from (and perhaps more limited than) that which is offered by Facebook or Twitter. Instagram built its brand around exclusivity, and created something that made people think that they needed it. The service now has more than 50 million users, despite having only been launched at the end of 2010.

Here are some examples of other companies who have mastered the art of telling their story through good branding:

Google

Google’s logo is simple and fun, representing perfectly the exact image that Google wants to convey. Although it appears to be nothing more than the company’s name, much more is conveyed from underneath the surface. The colors, while seemingly random, were chosen with a specific purpose. Designer Ruth Kedar said, “we ended up with the primary colors, but instead of having the pattern go in order, we put a secondary color on the L, which brought back the idea that Google doesn’t follow the rules.” (source)

Apple

If there was ever a title for “king of branding,” the winner would certainly be Apple inc. The Apple logo has become more desired than any other logo, and the Apple brand is one of the most popular and fashionable brands in the world. No company garners brand loyalty like Apple does. And the logo has an interesting story behind it. The original Apple logo was a picture of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the famous apple tree. This evokes Apple’s central mission to come up with something groundbreaking and different. It also evokes another essential part of the brand, that Apple is quick to integrate into their stores — the Apple “genius.”

Nike

The famous Nike swoosh tells us much about the company’s story. The shape of the mark evokes speed and efficiency, and a tidy design. It also represents the wing in the renowned statue of the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike. Even the name “swoosh” is derived from a material used to make Nike shoes. The Nike logo is so iconic that the company can create an entire ad campaign without inserting any part of their brand — shirts, shoes, signs, mugs, banners, you name it — save for that famous swoosh.

FedEx

FedEx has won multiple awards for its logo, which was designed to tell the story of its company in the simplest way possible. The logo is simple and pleasing to the eye. It creates the image of a company with whom you can trust your important packages. The subtle arrow in between the “E” and the “x” give the impression of speed and efficiency, as well as forward motion, which is what you want in a shipping company.

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Many people dream of starting their own business. After years of hard work and forced laughs in response to their manager’s bad jokes, aspiring entrepreneurs are ready to “take this job and shove it,” as singer Jonny Paycheck sang. Most people dream of more free time, being their own boss and enjoying the pride of watching their business grow.

However, it can take a lot of preparation and planning to get a new business off the ground and keep it going. According to the Small Business Administration, a lack of proper planning causes more than half of new businesses to fail within the first 5 years. Before you quit your day job consider these five suggestions.

The Importance of Foreknowledge
The business you start should match the strengths and skills you already possess. The more intimately you know your niche the better. By having a clear understanding of the ins and outs of the goods you sell or the services you offer, you will start your business two steps ahead. This knowledge will allow you to better understand potential customers and the market you are entering into.

Do Your Research
Researching your potential market will help you decide whether your idea is viable. It is important that you take the time to answer these questions.

•    Is there a need for my product or service?
•    Is the current market already too saturated?
•    Who would my competitors be?
•    What are their strengths and weaknesses?
•    How will my business differ from competitors?
•    How will I protect my idea from copycats?

Potential to Make Money
While it is impossible to see how well your business will fare financially in the future, you must make an educated and conservative guess at how much money it will bring in. At the very least, you need to break-even between your sales revenue and overhead charges. When setting your prices, be sure you aren’t leaving out any hidden fees such as taxes, administration or the use of technology. Consult with a business planner or friends who are business owners and ask for their honest opinion on what you may not have factored into your business equation.

Should You Quit Your Day Job?
Before cutting all ties and taking the plunge, it may be wise to slowly start-up your business and do it part-time if possible. Most likely, your new business will not be able to help you keep up on personal bills or pay the benefits your current job offers. If possible, avoid the stress that comes from not knowing when your next check is coming.

Have a Game Plan
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. While you may be tempted to jump in and figure it out as you go along, taking the time to prepare a detailed road map will give you direction, keep you on track and give your business a better chance at success. A well-developed business plan walks you through the steps necessary to see your business through because it makes you think about these essential building blocks:

•    Executive Summary – A snapshot of your business plan as a whole including company profile and goals
•    Company Description – What you offer and what makes you different from the rest
•    Market Analysis – Who are your customers and your competition?
•    Organization & Management – The way your business & management will be structured
•    Service or Product Line – How your service or product benefits customers
•    Marketing & Sales – Your sales strategy and how you will market yourself
•    Funding Request – Will you need to seek additional funding and where will you get the funds?
•    Financial Projections – Be able to provide financial projections to back up any requests for funding
•    Appendix – What licenses, permits, resumes and leases will your company require?

It is impossible to look into the future to know the true potential of any business idea. However, upon forming a solid business plan that has been scrutinized many times over by those you trust, you will have a better understanding of the potential risks and success of your business endeavors.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer for Income.com and expert in business who specializes in giving entrepreneur advice. With over 20 years of business experience, Robert is now retired and hopes others can benefit from his writing.