Ideas for How to Spend Those Longer Winter Evenings

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This weekend really marks the end of summer for many people, when the clocks go back and those dark evenings begin to make their appearance. It won’t be long before dusk falls really early and we all scuttle home as quickly as possible.

In the summer, you often find that you stay out with the kids until way past bedtime as the weather’s so nice and everyone’s having a great time. However, during the cooler months, staying in becomes much more appealing, but those long winter evenings can drag if you’re not careful; you have to have ideas for how to fill that time without getting bored.

For moms who want to do something other than watch TV when the little ones are tucked up, there is always something to do online for entertainment. Of course, you can catch up with your friends on social media, do some work or emailing. Or there’s a large choice of different games you can play. If you like to chat to others while playing, online bingo is a great option as the game is so simple to play. In fact, the only effort you have to make is decide which game to play and how many cards to buy. On many sites you don’t even need to pay to play once you’ve made an initial deposit – you can find out more on how to play free bingo online here. Once you’re playing a game, you can join in the banter that’ll be going on in the bingo site chat room. There, you can talk to other people who are playing the same game as you and there’s always a chat moderator who makes sure everyone feels included in the conversation.

If the children are older and stay up that bit longer, you can always choose to put on a movie night. Don’t just flick through the channels and see what’s on. Pick a movie in advance, make sure it’s something that appeals to everyone, and then serve up all the snacks that you’d usually get at the movies – nachos and dips, popcorn and sweets. OK, it may not be the healthiest night in, but it’s not a big deal if you only do it now and again.

Another great choice for a family night is to get out those board games – instead of everyone being on their own tablet or phone. The kids may take some persuading to play the more traditional games, but see if you can persuade them – they’ll end up having more fun than they imagine. If you don’t feel like a long game like Monopoly, you can always choose a game that’s quicker to play, such as Banagrams or Connect4.

And if your family is getting a bit cabin-feverish from spending too much time indoors as it’s dark outside, do something to work some of that excess energy off; put something like JustDance on the games console and have a good old dance-around with the kids. It’s fun to mess around and for everyone to let their hair down – and it’ll wear everyone out before bedtime too!

To get through the long winter evenings, the best idea is to mix it up a little and do something different every night. It won’t be long before the clocks spring forward again and the days get longer.

Kids Back in School? Get to Work!

This time of year, those work at home moms who have kids in school are given a whole new piece of time to work on their business. This is the perfect time to reassess your business goals and plan for the upcoming holidays. Here are a few things to consider:

Do you do specials for holidays? Get started on the promos now and have everything ready to go.

Are you planning on attending any craft shows this year? Plan what you’ll be taking, sign up for an early bird spot if you can and get your display worked out.

Are you going to release new products? Time to start working on those and the publicity that will surround them!

It’s barely fall, but for WAHMs everywhere, the end of August means it’s time to get ready for some exciting times.

How are you enjoying your back-to-school time?

The Death of Squidoo

Squidoo recently announced that the site had sold out to HubPages. This is a big blow to everyone who has been struggling to meet the ever crazier requirements to keep their lenses live on Squidoo. Unfortunately, it looks like that was all in an attempt to make the lenses more suitable for HubPage integration.

Not many people are impressed with the way the demise of Squidoo was handled. With less than two weeks until the transfer, everyone is scrambling to back up their content and trying to get their own sites up or content moved to another site. Not many seem interested in going to HubPages, where earning potential is considered to be much lower.

While I recently removed most of my lenses from Squidoo, there were still some big earners there. I’m frustrated and annoyed with the way all of this was handled, but at the same time, it’s a good push to get my own sites going. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to make that happen before my income from Squidoo runs out. The issue here is that passive income makes up about 3/4 of my overall earnings and now that is all going away.

I’ll be working feverishly to get my own sites running better, so I may not be around as much these days, but At Home Mom is on my list of sites to improve, so it will be getting more content in the next while.

How to Avoid Scams on Elance

I’ve been testing out Elance lately for writing jobs. While there is plenty of work there, the majority of the jobs are low paying. Unfortunately, there are a number of scam jobs, as well. A recent scam left many writers reeling from the deception, most were owed hundreds of dollars.

Over my 9+ years of writing, I’ve been scammed a few times. I’ve learned from those experiences, though and this one took me by surprise because the scam artists didn’t follow usual protocol. So, what should you watch for? Here are a few ways to avoid scams on Elance.

1. Check the client’s history. I don’t work for anyone that is not payment verified, but some people prefer to work only with someone who has already paid at least one freelancer.

2. Don’t do free samples. This seems obvious, but people still fall for it. I did in the early days of my freelance writing career, too. Basically, if someone asks you to create a sample to see if you are right for the job, let them know that you would be happy to, but at your usual rate. They should be able to tell from the samples you have provided whether or not you are a good fit for the job.

3. Work for a set fee and use Escrow. Sadly, hourly jobs have no real protection on Elance. They do have a WorkView program that is supposed to guarantee you get paid, but in this recent scam, that did not work. I only work on set rates because of this and also due to the fact that I am up and down all day while I’m working.

4. Check how many jobs the client has posted. You can look at the client’s profile and see if they have posted other jobs, as well as their award rate, or how many jobs they have chosen a writer for. This recent scam had over 50 jobs posted with only a couple awarded. Avoid those who never award or who have more than a handful of jobs posted recently.

5. Do a quick search. If you know the company’s name, do a fast search on Google. In the case of this recent scam, I Googled “Star Outsourcing scam” and came up with several reports.

6. Always send files through Elance. Even if you send files through email or Skype, they should always be sent via Elance’s workroom message feature, too. This will give you a record on Elance that can be checked. It’s also best to make sure that the terms and conditions of the deal are all laid out on Elance.

7. Listen to your gut. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to it. It’s not worth losing days of real work and having the emotional and financial strain of being scammed. Many people said they didn’t feel right about this recent scam, but they were enticed by the money to go with it anyway.

While sites like Elance are great for finding lots of work in one place, they are also replete with scammers. Though Elance tries to get rid of these “clients,” that isn’t always possible, so it’s up to the freelancers to do their due diligence.

Do you have any tips for avoiding scams?

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Has Squidoo Gone Too Far?

Squidoo recently announced yet another round of changes to the site. For those of us who have been there for years, it was another nail in the coffin and many more lensmasters have decided to move on from the site. While I plan to leave my best earning lenses up for now, I’m definitely working on my own sites to begin to eliminate some of the uncertainty that surrounds the site.

Just what are these changes that have people running for the hills? There were two big announcements.

1. Squidoo’s minimum payout is now $25. While this wouldn’t affect me since I earn far more than this each month, it means that many people won’t be able to see income from the site for a long time. This is particularly true for beginners, because they won’t get paid for many months. Most people don’t make enough money each month to receive payout and for some it could take a good year to collect that much. The downside? After a year of not cashing out, your account is assumed inactive and all funds are given to charity.

2. Squidoo reduced the number of featured lenses. Now only the top 145,000 lenses can be featured on the entire site. This is meant to keep lenses updated and fresh, which makes sense . . . but it also means that there is a lot of competition to get your lenses into the featured slots. Everything else goes into work-in-progress mode and cannot be found by search engines or anything, so it’s pointless to have lower ranking lenses. While republishing edited lenses can give them a boost, you have to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of lenses on Squidoo, if not more. Even if a fraction of lensmasters update their lenses, they can’t all hit the top 145,000.

In my opinion, it isn’t really worth it for new lensmasters to join Squidoo anymore. It’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out the competition. Despite the new limitations, the quests are still going strong, so lensmasters are pumping out more and more content every day, which can only go on for so long. With payouts slashed from last year, it just isn’t the same site.

What are your thoughts on the new norms at Squidoo?

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