One of the hardest parts of starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur is finding the time. This gets even harder when you have a job, family and all of the demands that come with both of these.
Today’s guest is different than every other guest I have had on the show, so far. She is an entrepreneur, but only during her Fringe Hours.
She has a full-time job working in social media and content at a Children’s hospital, she is a mom to 3 beautiful children — the youngest being only a few weeks old at the time of this conversation.
Yet, despite all of this, she has built an incredible business around a blog called The Mom Creative. She makes what many would consider a full time income off of the business, but she has no plans to quit her day job.
As if this isn’t all enough, her very first book was officially released on February 17, 2015 and it is aptly titled, The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You.
Now, let’s hack…
What you will learn in this episode:
- How and why Jessica uses an editorial calendar to stay consistent with the content she produces
- Understanding your capacity and working within those parameters
- Managing expectations of sponsors
- Why using affiliate links is good for your audience
Resources and links mentioned:
- The Mom Creative
- The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You
- WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin
- Jessica on Facebook
- Jessica on Twitter
- Show Sponsor: FreshBooks (30-day Free Trial)
Making Time for Your Online Business in the Fringe Hours
Voiceover: Welcome to Hack the Entrepreneur, the show that reveals the fears, habits, and inner battles behind big-name entrepreneurs and those on their way to joining them. Now, here is your host, Jon Nastor.
Jonny Nastor: Hey, welcome back to Hack the Entrepreneur. I'm so glad you decided to join me today. My name is Jon Nastor, but you can call me Jonny.
Today's guest is different than every other guest that I’ve had on the show up until today. She is an entrepreneur, but only in her spare time, or what she likes to call her ‘fringe hours.’ She has a full-time job working in social media and content at a children's hospital.
She's a mom to three beautiful children, the youngest being only a few weeks old at the time of this conversation. Yet despite all of this, she has built an incredible business around a blog called The Mom Creative.
She makes what many would consider a full-time income off this business, but she has no plans at all to quit her day job. As if this isn't all enough, her very first book was officially released on February 17, 2015 — that's yesterday for me – and it is aptly titled The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. Now, let’s hack Jessica Turner.
Before we get going, I want to take a minute to thank the awesome sponsor of Hack the Entrepreneur, FreshBooks, for making my life easier and for sponsoring the show. What is the one thing that I am not good at? I am absolutely horrible at staying on top of my bookkeeping and accounting for my business. I'm just terrible at this.
FreshBooks is designed for small business owners like you and like me. FreshBooks integrates directly with three things that I use every day in my business: PayPal, Stripe, and MailChimp. It goes beyond that now. I can fully integrate it with my credit card and my bank accounts so I don't even have to worry about keeping track of my expenses. It does it all for me.
Really, I think the only thing that it doesn't do for my business is actually make the money, but it keeps track of it all on the other side, which is amazing to me. To start your 30-day free trial today, go to Freshbooks.com/hack, and don't forget to enter ‘Hack the Entrepreneur’ in the ‘How did you hear about us?’ section.
We are back with another episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. Jessica, thank you for joining me.
Jessica Turner: My pleasure. Thanks for having me today.
Jonny Nastor: Okay Jessica, let's jump into this. You have a few different roles that you play in your life right now — several.
Jessica Turner: Just a couple.
Jonny Nastor: Let's go after ‘entrepreneur Jessica.’
Jessica Turner: Okay, that sounds good.
How and Why Jessica Uses an Editorial Calendar to Stay Consistent with the Content She Produces
Jonny Nastor: As an entrepreneur, Jessica, can you tell me what is the one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes so far?
Jessica Turner: Can I give you two that go kind of hand-in-hand? How about that?
Jonny Nastor: Yes.
Jessica Turner: I work full-time, but then I have this business on the side, a lifestyle blog called The Mom Creative.
I am really diligent about planning my content and keeping an editorial calendar and staying on track and working ahead. I also get up early every single morning. I'm up by 5 every morning, and I use that time from 5 to about [6:30] before my family gets up to just focus on my business and spend that 90 minutes writing, creating, maybe even just taking some quiet time for myself. But really focusing on me and my business during that 90 minutes really has set me up for success because I've been able to keep on top of my content, produce really great content, and not get bogged down and stressed about it.
In the evenings when I'm home with my family, or at the end of the day once the kids have gone to bed and I'm exhausted, the last thing I want to do is more work. By starting my day focusing on my business, that has really been successful, as well as keeping that editorial calendar and being a diligent planner.
Jonny Nastor: I love it. Two very important things there — let's go for the first one, the content calendar, and probably the consistency of putting out good content. Is this something that you did since the beginning of The Mom Creative, or is this something you realized was necessary along the process?
Jessica Turner: No, it isn't something that I did at first because at first, I was literally blogging for three people, my in-laws and my parents.
Jonny Nastor: That's how we all start.
Jessica Turner: Right, when I started in '06. As the blog grew in '07 and '08, and I rebranded as The Mom Creative and started working with brands and doing sponsored posts and doing more monetization and that sort of thing, I realized that to keep up with the content that I was needing to produce, to keep up with the contracts that I was doing for sponsored posts, I needed to be more organized and plan my content as I was getting ideas for content and that sort of thing. It just was a natural process for me.
I use a great plug-in on WordPress called WordPress Editorial Calendar. That makes it really easy for me to see what content I've done, what content's coming up, move things around, and it really became a way of life. I can't imagine blogging now any other way, but it definitely was not what I was doing at the very beginning.
Jonny Nastor: Excellent. That takes you to the first 90 minutes of focus. You have a full-time job. You have three children, one just three weeks old now.
Jessica Turner: That's right.
Jonny Nastor: You have this business on the side, which could probably almost be full-time at this point, plus you have a book coming out next month. I just want to know: you say the first 90 minutes is for you. You wake up at 5 a.m. every day. Could you, say, walk us through the first 30 minutes of that, setting yourself up to get what you need done before you even start the rest of your day?
Jessica Turner: Sure. I should say that this routine of getting up at 5 a.m. is pre-having-a-newborn. Right now, my schedule's a little different with being on maternity leave and a newborn eating every two to three hours. We'll do prior to the newborn, kind of what that looks like.
I'm a morning person, and I'm not someone who needs coffee or really needs anything to get going. I wake up, and I’m immediately ready to go. I know from the day before what I need to accomplish.
Usually, I'm working at least a week out in terms of writing content. I might be working on a post and just wanting to do some writing, or I might have something that has gone out that day. I schedule all of my content to publish at 5 a.m. Maybe I've published, and I want to go ahead and get the tweets scheduled, or get the Facebook post scheduled. Because I'm working full-time, I'm not able to do that throughout the day. Rather, I schedule that, and it kind of takes care of itself during the day. I might do some of that scheduling.
I try to stay out of e-mail, because I find that if I get into my e-mail, that will bog me down and I'll get distracted from what I really need to focus on.
I'll start with taking a look at the blog and what needs to happen that day and what's coming down the pike. What do I need to get accomplished? Then, we'll go into e-mail and see if anything has come in overnight that I need to take care of.
Jonny Nastor: Nice. So, one week ahead for writing — do you have a team working with you at all now, or anybody else?
Jessica Turner: I have a VA that probably does about five to six hours a month for me, just helping me, scheduling some tweets, doing Linky round-ups and occasional affiliate posts and that sort of thing. Really, most of it is just me. It's just me doing it. I'm thankful that I have a degree in journalism. I'm a pretty fast writer, so it doesn't take me an arduous amount of time to write any one post. I've gotten pretty good at knowing, ”Okay, since this content's coming next week, what do I need to do photography-wise?“ and trying to do as much of that in bulk at one time.
Ideally, when I'm not working on book as well as a blog, I like to work on the weekends to make sure that everything for the following week is all scheduled and ready to go. This past year, with writing the book, and editing the book, and getting pregnant in the middle of it, that wasn't what was necessarily always happening, but that's definitely the goal, and what I have found works best for me.
Understanding Your Capacity and Working within Those Parameters
Jonny Nastor: Jessica, that's not only shocking, but it's also very impressive. You can do all that? Just even, you run Pinterest. You run and manage your sponsors. It's not just writing. That's a full site. To me, when I look at it, there's got to be at least one full-time person behind this, and maybe two VAs. Amazing.
Jessica Turner: Oh, you're kind. It is just me. I have learned what my capacity is. Generally speaking, I can't do more than one to two sponsored posts a week, because that gets to be too much for me — sponsored posts, even sponsored/affiliate or deal posts — something that is more monetized than just my daily content.
I've learned what my bandwidth is and what my readers' appetite is as well, because I still want it to be enjoyable, right? I am doing this in my fringe hours of the day, right? It isn't a full-time job for me. I need to be practical. I need to be a good steward with the time that I have, and I want to enjoy it. I don't want it to become burdensome, because when it becomes a burden, then I don't think I would be able to sustain it as well as I have.
Jonny Nastor: True, and smart. The Fringe Hours is the book, and this is where you work outside of being a mom, being a wife, and having a full-time job. Do you see The Mom Creative ever going to full-time status for you?
Jessica Turner: You know, I don't. I love my day job. I love going to an office and having a bunch of colleagues. I love the work that I do. I work in healthcare at a children's hospital doing content and social media strategy, so very similar to The Mom Creative, in that it's in the social space. I’m still able to do that thing that I love, but I don't think I have the appetite to take that leap into making the blog or writing a full-time thing, just because I love the work that I do. I love spreading a message that's helping families and helping kids.
Right now, I just don't think that is for me. I also can't deny that I love the healthcare benefits, and with the things that come with having a family, having some of those safety nets to us is really important. I like that The Mom Creative and writing is something that's fun to me, but it doesn't have the stress of being a full-time gig.
Jonny Nastor: Fair enough. With your content, you're scheduled with just the amount of work you're doing, I can tell that you do have a schedule and are very structured to what you need to do at all times, which is great. That's what you're good at.
Can you tell us something that you're not good at in your business?
Jessica Turner: I am not always great at tracking the analytics and the data. This is something that I know is important and would be even more important, I think, if it was a full-time gig. Going in and looking at, “Okay, how did that post perform? How did those tweets at those particular times perform? What could I have done to optimize it further?” — really, that's more a bandwidth issue than anything else. I just don't have the bandwidth to go in and do that, but I think that is something that would help me optimize the site further and take things to another level. That is just something that I am not great at doing.
Jonny Nastor: Nice. Is that something you probably do in your job?
Jessica Turner: It is, yeah, in my day job.
Jonny Nastor: You know about it.
Jessica Turner: Yeah, I know a lot about it. We do it a lot in my day job. It's something that's very important. Working in healthcare, numbers are important. We do a lot of that, and a lot of that analysis. I know the value of it, and I think I'm so attuned to that value that it makes me want to do it. At the end of the day, I spend my time doing other things. It's not something that I'm great at doing.
If I need to do it, I certainly can pull that data and will do it for specific things. For instance, November is a very lucrative time for me because of the holidays and the type of content that I'm producing. I'm very diligent about tracking, “Okay, what brands are really performing well on my site? What posts are people responding to? What are they not responding to? What worked well last year? What do I want to do this year?” — that sort of thing.
There are certain seasons and certain types of topics that I am more diligent about that with than, generally speaking, over the course of the year, but it isn't something that I'm looking at day in and day out.
Jonny Nastor: Fair enough. You do it when it really is necessary.
Jessica Turner: Absolutely. It makes a huge difference. Frankly, I think it's something that more bloggers should do in some capacity, because what you can learn from the data and what you can learn from how your sites are performing is so crucial, I think, to growing your site and seeing what kind of content resonates and where you should and shouldn't be spending your time.
Jonny Nastor: You briefly mentioned seeing what time tweets go out to get the most response, those kind of things. Could there be one metric that, if a blogger was going to be like, “Okay, maybe I should at least focus a little bit on that.” Should it be social media, which resonates most, or blog posts — where would you say?
Jessica Turner: You know, I think that it's really important to know where your traffic is coming from and how you can optimize that.
For instance, for me, most of my traffic does not come from Twitter, so I don't put as much time into Twitter as I do Pinterest, where I get a great deal of traffic, or Facebook, where I get a great deal of traffic. It’s looking at what posts are performing really well from an SEO perspective, from Google, and seeing how I can better monetize those posts. Maybe it's adding some banner ads at the bottom, or it's adding some additional affiliate links. Those types of things, I think, can really make a difference, but knowing where your traffic is coming from so that you can better optimize that further is really wise to do.
Jonny Nastor: Excellent. I appreciate the advice, since you're full-time at this.
Let's move to struggles and failures. As entrepreneurs and as human beings, one of our greatest struggles is the fear of being wrong, making mistakes, and failing. Can you tell us, Jessica, how to be wrong in your business?
Managing the Expectations of Sponsors
Jessica Turner: You know, I think not managing expectations, from a sponsored post perspective, is one area where you can really get yourself in trouble. When I'm working with a brand and I have a contract, it clearly lays out what I need to do in that post, how many social shares they want to have, that sort of thing.
If there's anything that I'm concerned about or that doesn't fit with my voice as a writer, or something that I'm not comfortable with, if I don't speak up, that can really get me in a lot of trouble.
I think being really careful about the contracts that you're signing and making sure that you're going to be comfortable with and willing and able to do everything that that contract says, or that you're going to be comfortable being up front about, “Hey, this is not something that is right for me. It's not something that fits with The Mom Creative. Can we tweak it and do it this way?” — that’s going to make your relationship with that brand or that PR firm a lot stronger, because they're going to know that you're going to be candid with them. They're also going to know that you're going to deliver a great product, a great blog post, great photography, whatever that is, because you're agreeing to that.
I think it can be a huge fail if you are not reading your contracts carefully or not standing up for what you think it needs to say if it doesn't say something that you're comfortable with.
Why Using Affiliate Links Is Good for Your Audience
Jonny Nastor: Smart. That's something that really resonates with me, because I'm just now only a few months into taking sponsorships for the show. I get approached by some companies that I feel aren't maybe even a right fit for the audience. I keep struggling with it: “Is it right? Should I just put them in?” They want to advertise on the show. They think the audience is right. I don't think that it'll work for them; I don't think that they'll get their value out of it, so I just turn them down.
Jessica Turner: I think that's really wise. I turn down hundreds of pitches a week for that very same reason.
Sometimes, I'll say yes to a brand and I'll receive a product to review, and then I won't like the product. I'll go back to them and say, “This is not something that I'm comfortable with sharing with my audience. I didn't care for it for this reason,” and apologize. I have never received a negative response when I've done that. The brand is always very appreciative. They certainly don't want the negative publicity.
Frankly, because I don't have a lot of time to write, I really don't want to waste my time writing a review of something that I didn't care for in the first place. I'd much rather use my space for sharing things that I love and inspiring my readers than sharing something that I don't think is useful to them.
Jonny Nastor: Exactly.
You're taking sponsors now, and you are going out yourself and finding affiliate relationships you can have. How do you decide what it is you want to share, not from being approached by somebody, but by yourself? Is it just, “I think that this product fits,” or “I think that this will benefit?” Is that how you look at it?
Jessica Turner: When it comes to affiliates, I generally don't link to a product if I can't use an affiliate link for it. I see no reason to not monetize whenever possible in that capacity. In terms of my affiliate relationships, it's just the brands and products that I really love — I sign up for their affiliate program. There are a few that do really well that are my top affiliates that convert really well, and their conversion rate is high, and their percentage is high as well.
I generally don't work with affiliates that have a commission rate of less than 10 percent, because I find that it isn't worth my time to do a post with those types of links in them, with the exception of Amazon. Amazon has a lower percentage, but because everyone shops on Amazon, it still can be lucrative.
I then pay attention to affiliate programs that are performing well and what ones aren't and modify accordingly. Like I said, I'm only doing one to two of those types of posts a week. It makes it pretty easy to pick and choose and quickly see what is converting well.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I love that you don't put a link if there's no affiliate link for it. It just makes so much sense. Some people are really the opposite, especially when they're starting out; they almost feel bad putting an affiliate link, when that's how the whole exchange happens for you, right?
Jessica Turner: Right. That's part of what makes the time that I'm investing in the blog worthwhile, is that it's contributing to our family's bottom line. It's costly to run a site. Even just being able to pay for those expenses, you've got to be able to do that in some way.
I really try, if I'm going to be linking to a product, to have an affiliate link whenever possible, just because I think it's silly not to. Why wouldn't you? If there's an affiliate link available, why wouldn't you put it in there?
Jonny Nastor: Exactly, well said.
Let's move to projects. You undertook a big project last year, which was the new book. You are very busy. You had two children at that time, three and six, I believe, and a full-time job, and a life outside of The Mom Creative and all of this other stuff, I'm sure, right?
Jessica Turner: That's right.
Jonny Nastor: How did you decide that it was right for you to take on another massive project like the book?
Jessica Turner: My husband is actually a full-time author. I have always said that I was never going to write a book. That is his deal. It was not something that I wanted to get into. I've been asked multiple times if it was ever something that I was going to do, and I always said, “No.” I was at a blogging conference called Alt Summit and was in a session. It just struck me that the question that I'm asked so often is, “How do you do it all? How do you blog, and work, and Pinterest projects, and kids? How do you do it all?”
The answer for that is the ‘fringe hours,’ that I'm finding time throughout my day, these pockets of time that often go underused or wasted altogether. I'm using that time for myself and for things that I love. Sometimes, that means prioritizing, making time to do crafting instead of doing dishes, and saying no to things.
I bought the domain fringehours.com in that session. It was just, “This is what I have to do.” I felt so strongly that it was a book that was really needed, that I couldn't not write it. I definitely had to make some modifications, definitely was blogging less during that season when I was working on the book, and made some modifications there. I certainly had less time, less fringe hours while writing The Fringe Hours, because writing The Fringe Hours was done in my fringe hours. I was getting up at 5 a.m., and instead of working on the blog, I was actually heading straight to my office and writing from [5:30] to [8:30], and then working all day, and going home and getting the kids, and being Mom and all of that.
My husband was just a trouper through it all, really picked up a lot of the stuff that I had to leave behind to get the book done.
I'm just so proud of it because I really think that so often today, women are not making time for themselves. They're taking care of everyone and everything but themselves. I really feel like it meets a need. I surveyed more than 2000 women in researching the book and learned about the struggles that women face across America and what their passions are, if they're making time for them, and got some really great foundational insight and research for the book as well.
It was a hard year. It was a busy year. I worked more than I've ever worked. With being pregnant in that mix as well, definitely, 2014 was an exhausting year. I'm so happy that we're now in 2015, because I think that was definitely worth all of the hard work and the time away from my family to do it.
Jonny Nastor: Excellent.
We're at 2015. I'm going to move us into the future. I said already that it comes out in a month, the book. Really, it's going to come out today, because it's February 18th, and the episode comes out today. Now, it’s February 18th, and you have 10 more months. Can you tell me what it is you want to accomplish with yourself and the business and the book that would make you very happy at the end of this year?
Jessica Turner: I think a big thing that will make me happy is just seeing the book in hands and receiving feedback from women who are reading the book, and who are making significant life changes, who are saying “no” more often so that they can say “yes” to themselves. I think that will make the project worthwhile.
I think getting back into a groove of blogging and more consistently than I was last year, because I won't be working on the book, will be very satisfying. Just seeing what happens — it's a dream to have a book published, particularly one that I think is going to resonate so well. It's fun to dream about what things could be as more and more people read the book and embrace the message. I'm really looking forward to the coming year.
Jonny Nastor: Excellent. I look forward to watching you take on the coming year, and I look forward to reading this book tonight, actually.
Jessica Turner: Thank you.
Jonny Nastor: We've briefly, or in passing, talked about your business, and now your book. Just specifically, tell people where to find those two things.
Jessica Turner: Sure. You can find my blog, themomcreative.com. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @jessicanturner — that's ‘N’ for Nicole. Fringe Hours is fringehours.com. You can find it wherever books are sold. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, pretty much anywhere. You can also follow the hashtag #fringehours on Instagram and Twitter to see what people are doing in their fringe hours and how they're using that time well for themselves.
Jonny Nastor: Excellent. I love the hashtag.
Jessica Turner: Thanks.
Jonny Nastor: I will link to the book. I will link to your website, and your Twitter and your Facebook on the show notes for everyone, so it's very easy for them to find. I might even use an affiliate link for Amazon.
Jessica Turner: Yes, you definitely should. I'm an advocate of that.
Jonny Nastor: Jessica, thank you so much for your time. I wish you the best of luck with your beautiful new son and the book coming out.
Jessica Turner: Thank you so much, Jon. Thanks for having me.
Jonny Nastor: My pleasure.
Jessica, thank you so very much. With the newborn and the new book coming out, I just thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me because I know you have a lot to share, and you could really help my audience. With the amount of stuff you have to do — three kids, a husband to probably take care of, and a full-time job that you have no plans of quitting — you just wrote a full book, and now you're doing a complete book tour. You're actually coming to Canada to do a promotion for it. It's amazing, and all in your fringe hours. That is amazing.
Jessica said a lot of smart things, a lot of really cool things. She has a really great perspective on tackling so much work. She said one thing: did you get it? Did you hear it?
Let's do it. Let's find the hack.
Jessica Turner: Yeah, when it comes to affiliates, I generally don't link to a product if I can't use an affiliate link for it. I see no reason to not monetize whenever possible in that capacity.
Jonny Nastor: That's the hack.
Yes, Jessica, exactly. You won't even link to a product if there isn't an affiliate link. This is the exact opposite of so many people get stuck, especially with blogging, podcasting, creating this content that's of enormous value. You're building up your audience. Not only does it help you to get paid, but it helps the company or the product that you're promoting because you believe in it, which you should. Otherwise, you shouldn't be promoting it.
It also helps your audience, because you should be promoting products. I promote FreshBooks. I tell you to go to freshbooks.com/hack and join their trial, the 30-day free trial, because I know for a fact that if you are running a business, or you're going to start your own small business or podcast or whatever it may be, you need to take care of the paperwork.
You need to promote products that absolutely you believe in, and that you know will help your customer, or your audience. When you do that, when you know that the product is going to help your audience, you will do it in a way that you are comfortable with. As Jessica said, she promotes things that she uses, that she believes in. You absolutely should.
I love the fact that she doesn't even promote things that don't have an affiliate link. Everything, pretty much, nowadays has an affiliate program. I just think that this is a really smart way to go into it. If you are starting a blog now, or starting a podcast, or starting a business, or building a platform in any way, you need to get your head around the fact that you do have to use affiliate links to show your support for products and services that can help your audience, and in turn, you will get paid for.
You need to make money to have a business. You don't have a business if you're not making revenue. Everything online — from hosting, to e-mails, companies, designers — everything you're going to use to put up your websites and to make all of your artwork, it all costs money. That money is something that has to come from revenue. Revenue comes from affiliate links and from selling and making your own products.
Jessica, I really appreciate you saying that, and saying it with such confidence. I like the fact that you tell me that I should indeed sell her book, which is a book that you should read; if you are trying to build a business around having a full-time job like Jessica, then you should absolutely pick up The Fringe Hours. It's making time for you and making time for the things that you want to do, that you feel inside you need to be made. That, obviously, you can pick up at hacktheentrepreneur.com/fringe, or go to the website and check out the show notes, because I will link to it there, and I will absolutely use an Amazon affiliate link because Jessica supports it, and I support it.
It's just a brilliantly-said hack, Jessica, and I thank you for it.
Hacktheentrepreneur.com, please stop by. Get on the e-mail list. My best work is going out every Sunday to you guys on that list, and I would love to have you on there. I would love to have a conversation with you. Hit ‘reply’ to even the welcome e-mail; it comes right to my phone. I would love to hear what you're up to, what you're doing out there. If there's anything that I can help you with, by all means, do not be afraid to ask.
This has been a lot of fun, guys. Thank you so very much. I truly, truly appreciate your taking the time, as always. Until next time, please, keep hacking the entrepreneur.