Doesn't it seem like the best ideas for our business often come at the craziest times? Sarah and I started the podcast in the midst of Chris coming home from deployment, us leaving for a trip to Spain, and Sarah and her husband Mike re-doing their kitchen…themselves. Before that, our Etsy shop, The Amateur Naturalist launched just months before Chris and I brought Holden home from India.
Rachel's business started in the midst of a crazy time as well. She had a newborn at home! And not long after Rowan was past the newborn stage, Rachel became pregnant with her second child. Learn how Rachel nurtures both a baby and a business – with incredible results on both fronts 🙂
On the Podcast
02:15 – Nurturing a Business and a Baby
04:49 – 4 Strategies for Exponential Growth
09:27 – 1 Year…Is it Enough?
12:58 – Fits & Spurts -a Realistic Strategy for Moms
20:51 – Making the Business More Passive
24:53 – The Rule Breaker
27:54 – How to Schedule Life Around Baby and Business
32:45 – Can a Solopreneur take Maternity Leave?
36:52 – The Question that Will Give your Business Clarity
43:19 – Rachel's Adorable Mom Moment
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Rachel's Story
Nurturing a Business and a Baby
As a pediatric occupational therapist, when Rachel's first baby, Rowan, was born, she immediately started putting her skills and knowledge to work. Rachel knows just how important those first few months and years can be for a child's development, and she didn't want to miss out on a second with Rowan.
Rachel began coming up with great activities she could do with Rowan to help him grow, learn, and develop. And she started doing these creative activities when Rowan was a newborn!
Rachel didn't expect to become a stay-at-home Mamapreneur but when she shared on her personal Facebook account what she and Rowan were up to, her friends were so impressed. Many other parents found her posts and activities really helpful, and they begged her to start a blog or write a book so they could learn more.
Even in the midst of a crazy season, Rachel took this positive feedback as a good sign and she jumped in!
She launched her blog, CandoKiddo.com in September 2014 and her Etsy shop, CanDoKiddo.Etsy.com in November of 2014.
4 Strategies for Exponential Growth
Less than a year into blogging, Rachel gets over 100,000 pageviews on her blog each month. She contributes her blog growth to several factors.
1. Building Online Relationships. Rachel says that the old school business model views other people in our niche as competition, but that's not how it works online. You have to have the mindset that everyone is on your team. Finding supportive online communities has been key to Rachel's growth.
In some of her online communities, Rachel feels intimidated by the bigger bloggers who belong there, but she's forced herself to push past that. Rachel makes a point of continually checking into her favorite online communities – asking questions, offering help, and connecting.
In this way, when something big is going on for Rachel, like a book launch, she's reaching out to ask for help from people who know her and her content.
2. Facebook Promotion. Rachel is part of the Kid Blogger Network , which has official share days for everyone's Facebook page. Rachel spends about 1.5 hours each week sharing her blog content on other blogger's facebook pages. The work has paid off – since Facebook is the highest referrer of traffic for CanDoKiddo.com.
3. Pinterest Group Boards. Rachel finds group boards within her niche of kids' blogs, parenting, and activities and pins her content in those places. Group boards often have quite a large number of followers, and if the right people see your post, it can get pinned and re-pinned over and over – generating a steady stream of traffic over the long-term.
4. Guest Posting. Rachel guest posts strategically and views it not just as a way to get more traffic, but as a way to establish a long-term relationship with another blogger. In this way, Rachel and another kids' blogger can mutually send each other traffic, ask questions of each other, and help each other out.
1 Year…Is it Enough?
Rachel's blog, CandoKiddo.com focuses just on developmental activities during infancy. Once a child is over a year old, Rachel really doesn't have much to say. Clearly, as a pediatric OT, Rachel could cover way more than the first year of life, but she's chosen a very narrow niche for two important reasons.
1. Be Known for Something Specific. There are millions of kids' activities bloggers or parenting bloggers, but Rachel is now known as the baby activities girl. That very clear identity makes it easier for other people to talk about Rachel and pass her site onto others. Think about it – when you're chatting with someone about their upcoming wedding or their new baby, do you send them to the most general sites on those topics, or do you have a light bulb moment in the middle of the conversation: “I know just the site for you! Check out this lady's blog – she features vintage weddings just like the one you're thinking of having!” Be known and remembered by defining what your brand is all about – and what it's not.
2. Create valuable content. Rachel's narrow niche helps guide her content. She knows she'll only focus on informative posts for a baby's first year of life. And when it comes to writing content, Rachel chooses quality over quantity. She writes really long blog posts so she can go in-depth and bring as much helpful information to the table as she can. Again, Rachel sets herself apart and has become the go-to girl for Developmental Content for Babies.
Fits & Spurts -a Realistic Strategy for Moms
With all the blog posts, podcasts, books, and other content on growing an online business, actually implementing the advice we hear can be overwhelming. We simply can't do it all. Especially when we're in the season that Rachel is in – a baby at home, one more on the way, and zero childcare help.
Rachel uses the fits and spurts strategy to ensure she makes progress without getting overwhelmed. Essentially, every month Rachel will pick a new item in her business to focus on. One month, she focused on her email list and created some great opt-ins along with an autoresponder series. Another month, it was her Etsy shop and optimizing it for SEO. Recently, Rachel took a month to write her new book, Simple Play: Easy Fun for Babies.
She said it was like pulling teeth to force herself to just write and not spend all her time Google Amazon marketing strategies. She told herself over and over, “Close the Google window. That's for next month! Keep writing!”
Rachel says that at least once a month she has to remind herself that she can't do it all. She'll hit a wall, feel burned out and exhausted, and remember to just focus on the task at hand and relax about everything else for the month. A lot of the Fits and Spurts Strategy relies on trusting that the hard work Rachel did last month, or several months ago, will carry her through.
Making the Business More Passive
Rachel doesn't sell her books on her own site, and she admits that decision is largely based on pregnancy. She doesn't want the hassle of an additional sales channel and additional orders coming in that she's responsible to fulfill.
With selling on Etsy, Rachel has to have boxes and gift wrap on hand, package her orders, and make trips to the post office. Now, Rachel is shifting her focus to selling on Amazon so that product fulfillment is taken out of her hands and home.
Rachel is excited to see how her Amazon sales will shake out. So far on Etsy, 35% of her book sales are for her paperback version, and 65% are for the e-book. On Amazon, Rachel has the added option of bundling her two paperback books together.
The best part? Rachel won't have to ship any of those orders herself! We can't wait to see how this makes the business more do-able with two babies at home.
Surprisingly enough, our sweet, southern guest could aptly be called Rachel the Rule Breaker. She doesn't believe in following every expert's advice to succeed in business.
Below are several online business rules Rachel has broken…and it hasn't hurt her one bit.
1. Post on social media constantly. Rachel knows many bloggers who have pins going out on Pinterest every hour of every day and others who post to their Facebook page 30 times per day. She's tried these strategies and hated it. She was on social media 24/7 and the joy of blogging was lost.
Rachel posts 2-3 times per day on Facebook, and she's very selective about what she shares. It has to be something very helpful within the baby niche, otherwise, she simply won't share it. Her engagement is great, and she doesn't feel like she's missing out by not posting 20 times or more per day.
2. Be controversial. Many parenting bloggers tell you that you should share topics on your Facebook page or blog that spark debate. This gets people talking and engaged. Rachel intentionally steers clear of hot button issues. Instead, she focuses on creating a positive, helpful, encouraging environment for parents, and her audience appreciates this. If they want a debate, there are plenty of places they can go online.
3. Write short blog posts, and write often. Rachel consistently blows through recommended word counts with her blog posts, and she writes less often to make sure each post is insanely helpful and informative.
4. Use an editorial calendar. Nope. Rachel doesn't do this either. Instead, she has a long list of blog posts she wants to write, and which ones she writes each week is determined by what she has time for. Some take quite a bit longer than others. (Isn't this the perfect strategy for a mom with little ones… we don't have guaranteed hours, so we have to be flexible.)
How to Schedule Life Around Baby and Business
Rachel says her work schedule has changed as her son's needs and her needs have changed. Early on, Rowan napped twice a day, and Rachel spent about 90% of nap time working on her business. Then, after Rowan goes to bed, Rachel works about 4 nights per week – clocking in about 3 hours on each of those nights.
In the beginning of motherhood, Rachel also suffered from postpartum insomnia. So she'd be up at 4 AM while Rowan slept til 7:00. She could easily complete several hours of work before he woke up.
Now that Rowan is older and naptime has decreased, Rachel's not able to work as much during the day. And during her first trimester of her second pregnancy, Rachel used that time to nap herself. It's what she needed! So she essentially cut her work time in half for a season.
While Rachel's schedule continues to change based on the season and her family's needs, overall she says she works about 20-25 hours per week. That's quite a lot for someone who's a full-time mom with zero help.
How does Rachel stay productive during those tight windows of work time?
She highlights naptimes on her planner and writes down what she'll work on during any given naptime. Then she writes a list of things she can accomplish while Rowan is awake – such as housework, exercise, or cooking. Rachel says Rowan is pretty good at playing by himself since he's been so accustomed to fun activities from a young age.
One caveat: Rachel doesn't review her list at the end of the day. Inevitably, she doesn't get everything done, so rather than dwell on what didn't get done, she lets that go and starts fresh with another day.
Can a Solopreneur take Maternity Leave?
Rachel plans to have a maternity leave from her online career when her second baby is born in November. How will she swing it?
The goal is for Rachel to not write any new blog posts for 6-8 weeks. She feels fine about m aintaining social media at some level, though.
Right now, during Rachel's second trimester she's working hard to build up extra blog posts and reach out to online connections to get other bloggers guest posting on her site. In this way, she'll have built up a library of posts to use when she's out on leave.
Another smart idea from Rachel: She's training her audience now to get accustomed to just one blog post from her so it won't be a huge shock when the baby is born. In addition, paring back her posts now allows her to use the time she would've spent each week writing post #2 and instead writing a post that will get scheduled several months from now.
The Question that Will Give your Business Clarity
A few months ago, Rachel starting finding some quiet time to sit down and reflect on what matters most to her in her business. Rather than spin her wheels indefinitely, she wants to strike a balance between work and family life, and that requires discerning the most important aspects of her business and leaving the rest behind.
Rachel asks herself this question to get clarity: If I walked completely away from my business, what would I miss?
Rachel quickly realized that she wouldn't miss making her play blankets or shipping Etsy orders. She's ok with letting those things go. However, she would really miss the personal connections she's made with parents who ask her questions and connect with her online. She loves helping parents and being accessible to them – so she wants to grow her business in ways that reflect this mission.
Rachel's advice for other Mamapreneurs: Take some time for self reflection. Think about what's working in your business and what's not working. What makes you feel great about your business and what doesn't? And most of all, what would you miss if you walked away today? Keep that in mind as you move forward.
Rachel's Adorable Mom Moment
Rachel's mom moment was both hilarious and adorable. You'll have to tune in to hear about the prank 13 month-old Rowan pulled on his Mama!
Stay in touch with Rachel!
Rachel's Books: Begin with a Blanket: Creative Play for Infants
Simple Play: Easy fun for Babies
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