When, Where, and How I Fit Work Into My Life

posted by Andrea | 04/15/2019

A few weeks ago, I shared a fairly detailed look at a “normal” weekday for our family.

As I wrote that post, it really never occurred to me that I didn’t mention all that much about my own work — or exactly WHEN, WHERE, and HOW I fit my work-from-home job into my daily life with 4 kids, 3 different school schedules, a laundry list of house projects, and all the mundane household tasks and chores I complete each and every day. 

I suppose the main reason I didn’t mention much about my work in that post was because I’ve cut WAY back on the amount of work I actually do. Not because I don’t enjoy my work, but rather, because I have so many other pressing requests for my time at this point in my life. I guess work has just naturally taken a back seat to everything else. 

I’m far from the budding entrepreneur I once aspired to be… but I still have my ‘foot in the door’, I still thoroughly enjoy sharing my thoughts in a tiny corner of the internet, and I’m still thrilled to be able to earn an income sharing something I’m so passionate about while enjoying home life with my family. 

I do NOT have a perfect work-life balance…

In fact, if you are actively trying to grow a business, launch a new product line, or start something from scratch, I would caution you against modeling my “business plan” as I’m almost positive it will not work for you! 

My current approach to my business is to do the best work I can in the least number of hours without taking on anything extra. 

How’s that for honesty!?!

Anyway, since so many of you have asked, I decided that if my imperfect business model is good enough for me, then it’s good enough to share with you too! 

WHAT I DO: 

Have you ever wondered what exactly I do these days? If so, you’re not alone! 

Working on the internet is definitely not a main-stream way to earn an income, but it’s perfect for someone like myself who enjoys working from home, who is very self-motivated, and who is not easily stressed by multiple to-dos or lots of different tasks to complete each day.

I currently work as a Virtual Assistant (VA) for 3 different companies.

  1. A local business who I used to work for after college that I help by formatting and editing blog posts, scheduling things to run on social media, and sending out scheduled emails to their database. 
  2. A money-saving blog where I format, edit, and schedule all guest posts (and answer lots of emails related to guest posts)
  3. Another money-saving blog where I manage their coupon database — installing, activating, troubleshooting, etc. etc. 

I’ve had many other VA jobs over the years as well — some for short-term projects, others for longer periods of time, but I’ve been doing the 3 jobs listed above for 8+ years! They have all provided very steady work for me, and they all allow me to work within my own schedule (something invaluable to me right now).

I have turned down several much higher-paying VA jobs because they aren’t flexible… and that’s not worth it for me at this point in my life. 

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I also run my own blog — sharing 5 posts each week and updating social media Monday through Saturday.

Some of the many tasks involved in running my business are: 

  • brainstorming, writing, and scheduling post content
  • formatting and editing post content
  • writing and photographing recipes
  • taking and editing pictures of basically everything I do
  • working with various companies and brands for sponsored content and advertising.
  • working with an ad agency
  • trouble-shooting minor issues, or working with my tech support to fix larger issues
  • scheduling content for social media
  • answering a huge number of emails, comments, social media questions, etc. 
  • sending, tracking, and/or paying various invoices, expenses, and taxes every month (or every quarter)

I think working online is one of those jobs that can easily sound VERY overwhelming and intimidating — but once you start doing it, you realize it’s not all that bad.

I’ve been doing all these things for so many years that they are natural habits for me now. It’s very low-stress and low-energy for me (which is perfect for my sanity right now!)

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WHEN I WORK: 

I only spend a few hours each week working on tasks for each of my VA jobs — and they are all VERY flexible jobs, so I work after the kids are in bed, before they wake up in the morning, or on weekends when Dave is home.

Of course, there are always little things that come up during the day (or at 9 pm on Sunday night) that I need to tend to more quickly, but nothing is super time-sensitive that I MUST be home at 4:32pm every day to complete. 

I do have to check my email several times a day, just to make sure nothing super urgent comes up, and to answer quick questions or troubleshoot little problems… but for the most part, I can do my VA work whenever it works for me! 

As for my own blog, I write all my posts (except the Peek Into Our Week posts) at least 1 full week ahead of time (often 2 weeks) and my goal is to write the majority of one blog post every weekday morning. 

Since Dave and I wake up very early, I usually spend 1 hour writing each morning, along with scheduling social media posts for that day. Then I try to finish up whatever post I was working on during nap time (when the boys are playing together) or after the kids are in bed. 

This way, I’m able to write the majority of 1 full weeks worth of posts before the weekend. Then I use Saturday morning to finish everything up, take/edit any additional pictures, schedule some social media stuff, brainstorm future post ideas, and have Dave read through my posts for the upcoming week. 

It’s a very cyclical routine (which I thrive on) and seems to fit so well with my current schedule. 

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WHERE I WORK: 

I literally do almost 100% of my work sitting at the desk in our home office — right off the living room. This arrangement works SO well for me because I’m never more than a few steps away from anything going on within the main floor of our house. I can be working from my computer while roasting veggies in the oven, changing laundry in the laundry room, and overseeing the kids playing in the living room.

It’s absolutely perfect. I have no need to GO anywhere to work… except maybe outside when the weather is nice! And considering we have no childcare set up, it just makes sense for me to work IN our home… even if that means sacrificing productivity. 

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HOW I WORK: 

I’m one of those people whose brain never really shuts off — I’m ALWAYS thinking about “what’s next”, especially when it comes to work related to-dos. 

This is extremely beneficial for me as I no longer have hours and hours to devote to my business and VA work every single day. I might only have a 20 or 30 minute chunk of time and in order to maximize that time, I need to be mentally prepared to work before I sit down at my computer. 

Thankfully, due to my inability to shut off my brain, I usually think through exactly what I want to say for the blog posts I’m writing that day, and can simply sit down and write.

It’s amazing how quickly the words flow from my fingers when I’m excited about what I’m sharing!

Since I write my posts well in advance, I have plenty of time to incorporate various meals and recipes into our weekly meal plan in order to take photos for future posts. I also have time to get any pictures I need throughout the week, which means I can edit them in batches as I have time so they are ready to go when it’s time to sit down and write.

Without the ability to think and plan ahead, I would not be able to do what I do successfully or efficiently.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve really cut back on how much I work these past 7 years, and I’m OK with that. 

I have lots of ideas for future projects or things I’d love to do “once the kids are all in school” but for now, I’m thrilled to be able to earn an income doing something I love, something I’m passionate about, and something I really truly enjoy doing — all FROM HOME, with my kids around!

It’s far from a perfect system but it works for me for now! 

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23 comments

  1. JJ

    04/17/2019

    So fun!!!

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  2. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    04/16/2019

    I so agree with you, Andrea! I love working from home, and even if my blog hasn’t grown as quickly as some, I’m okay with that – because my kids and family come first. Always. I love blogging and remind myself there will be time for those other projects and big dreams later. Or maybe our dreams will change? For now, I just know that like you, I am so thankful to be doing something I love from home that can supplement our family income.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kristen!
    I was actually just thinking about you the other day because someone asked me about Christian School Teacher’s salaries 🙂
    I thought about you because I feel we are both thrifty and fairly “content” to be where we are in life… and that’s probably why the lower private school salaries really don’t bother us that much. Even adding more children to the mix!

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  3. Jen Ewing

    04/15/2019

    Hi Andrea. Love your posts! I am so curious to know what “Work with Ad Agency” looks like.

    I would also like to say that I think ALL teachers should have an enviable income. I don’t know any teacher (religious or secular) who makes a lot of money. My son attends a very prestigious college prep school and, although tuition is quite high, the teachers don’t make a large salary. In fact, they might make less than public school teachers. They do have the chance for perks like low cost new homes and meals on campus and VERY discounted tuition for their children. But in no way do I think these perks make up for a low salary.

    I feel blessed that my children have had great teachers/mentors that they can’t wait to visit when they come home on college breaks. What they give of themselves, I think is worth a million dollars! You GO DAVE!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jen 🙂
    My Ad Agency is MediaVine — they fill all the ad slots on my site and take a cut of the profit — but I don’t have to DO anything!

    And yes, Dave and I joke that he should at least teach at the college level where he could get other benefits like you mentioned — unfortunately, we don’t even get $1 off our own kids tuition or any other discounts on housing, etc.

    Such is life. I’m happy he’s happy and loves his job — that’s a lot more than some people can say!

    [Reply]

    Alicia Reply:

    That is SO strange to me that you guys don’t even get a discount on tuition! Makes no sense ! At the very least, they could offer that.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes and no — if they gave all the teachers’ kids a discount on tuition, then the tuition would have to be that much higher for the other students — OR the teachers would have to make less, so it sort of all evens out in the end.
    Like I mentioned before, it’s not really a career you get into for the money or the financial benefits 🙂
    But we love our schools, Dave loves his job, our kids love their teachers, and it feels “right” for our family at this point in our lives.
    A tuition discount would be awesome, but it’s realistically not all that feasible for the over-all financial health of the school.

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  4. Sheila Montgomery

    04/15/2019

    I would love to know the other two blogs that you work for/with. I get so many good ideas from you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shelia,
    The other blogs I work for are nothing like my own blog — they are both coupon blogs.
    MoneySavingMom.com
    DealSeekingMom.com

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  5. JJ

    04/15/2019

    Yes, one show at a time! Moderation makes a difference!!! I went to public and private school. I grew up in church, but when I went to Christian school in high school the Lord used that to pursue and save me. I am forever grateful for the way He uses Christian schools. I taught in Christian schools after feeling called to do so and earning my degree in Elementary Education from a Christian college. Yes, sadly many Christian teachers are underpaid. When I taught on Long Island I met a public school home ec teacher who made 155,000 DOLLARS a year. I was speechless. Haha!!! And whether you teach in public or private schools, the pay is so low compared to the output you give. But I am so so thankful that in my situation, I can teach from home and homeschool. It has been awesome!!! I have taught so many other kids, and I’m glad to finally have my own little Christian school right at home while still earning an income by teaching online before my husband leaves for work. For myself, I couldn’t imagine all of the work I’d have to teach in a regular classroom plus homework with my kids and everything else I’d have to do just to get the same pay I am by working the few hours I am. I have also learned so much from this company as they provide training and certifications as well, so it had been a win-win to help my own kids!!! It is also opening possible opportunities for me to share the Gospel. One of my student’s mom is a Christian, which is why she chose me for his teacher. The name of my college is displayed, so parents know that I attended a Christian college. I love all of the possibilities that are out there and how each family can do what they are suppose to do. Online work is such a blessing!!! And that’s awesome that your mom and Dave’s mom also worked in Christian schools!!!!

    [Reply]

    Lisa Reply:

    JJ,
    What company do you work for? What are the best companies for on line teaching positions? Thanks for your help!

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    I had seen this post on MoneySavingMom.com after I had just started but think I had seen another one, too( https://moneysavingmom.com/unexpected-income-source-thanks-money-saving-mom-post/) and also had watched friends on Facebook post their journeys. When I saw it was legit, I started looking into it. I Googled pros and cons before filling out the basic info online to make sure it was a good fit(some people have had a bad experience, so I considered everything said and tried to see for myself). And prayed a lot! I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to devote, so this has been perfect–especially for the pay!!! I have 3 young children and am enjoying what I do. It has been a great outlet for me in the comfort of my own home!!! I started using TV trays and an old kitchen chair for my “classroom”. Haha! VIPKID is the company. I liked them better than others for these reasons: I teach one-on-one, whereas some of the other online companies have you teach 4 kids at the same time getting the same pay. I also make my own schedule. One company I looked into required you only get one or two vacation days a month and you had to commit to a certain schedule. I open my schedule two weeks out for parents to book open time slots. If I don’t want to teach, I don’t open slots. I have one friend whose husband is a music pastor. So sometimes he has last minute requests. She does a lot of what our company calls short notice classes. She might wake up and open slots for that day after she knows her husband’s schedule. I think I like the flexibility the most compared to the other companies, since I can’t compare other aspects honestly without knowing details. Those were just the deciding factors for me, plus I had a lot of friends from the Christian college I graduated from teaching with them. One has a business degree but does this on the side and loves it!

    If you look up YouTube videos of Nancy Taylor and Angela Silva, that will be a great start!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks for sharing this!
    Funny enough, I actually formatted and edited that post for MoneySavingMom.com!! and right after I edited it, I shared it with Dave as something he might be interested in. At the time, he felt too busy with everything else on his plate, but thanks to this conversation, I brought it up to him again and he said he might look into it over the summer!

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    Well, thank you for editing and formatting that!!! Haha!!! I kept nodding when I read it, because it has been so so good!!! They would go nuts over Dave!!! The parents seem to prefer Christians and men teachers are fewer, so they are in higher demand. I very quickly fell in love with teaching for VIPKID!!! You can do your own thing within the boundaries of the company and have your own style. I Googled different teachers on YouTube to see different perspectives, and that really helped me. I have three students that I’ve had almost the entire time I’ve taught with them. I always do this cheer, “(Student’s name) is a super star!” Well one of my students showed up to class with a rubber chicken and was flinging it around cheering for me when he thought I did a good job. I almost died laughing. Haha!!! It has been such a neat experience!!!

    I will also say to anyone hesitant, I’m not a tech-savvy person. So if I can do it, anyone can. Haha! Just one word of caution: set your laptop to manually update. I had to reschedule my interview, because my laptop went into an over hour-long update. I was so embarrassed. I was still hired. And I haven’t had it update during class, so that is good! Live and learn, right? Andrea, I so appreciate all of the time you take for all of your posts and for MoneySavingMom.com(I visit her blog frequently, too!). And please forgive me if I came off wrongly when speaking of the Christian school pay. Sometimes I read what I wrote and realize it may have not come across how I meant and then I’ve already chewed on half of my foot. But I know Dave is of a huge value(and your paycheck never defines you, your value, or ministry) at a Christian school, especially since many men don’t teach in them. I had wonderful Christian men teachers in high school who forever impacted my life. And I know Dave is doing the same! And all that you do to live frugally enables him to have this ministry. That is so awesome!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks again for all this information. Sounds like Dave should definitely look into this for summer income!!

    Oh, and for the record, I never felt like any of your comments came across in a negative way 🙂

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    Yes, you would all have fun with it. Haha! My daughter pretends to be a VIPKID teacher. Haha! My dad bought her the Melissa and Doug School Time set, and she has a blast with it.

    I’m glad you never felt that way! Sometimes after I read what I write after reading other comments I rethink things and am concerned it came across in a whole different way. I was trying to chime in that working at home online was a blessing for me, too! I’m so glad you received my words that way. Thank you!!!

    Andrea Reply:

    we have the Melissa and Dough School Time set — our kids LOOOOOVE it!

  6. JJ

    04/15/2019

    Prioritizing family will be something you never regret!!! We can always work. But we can’t ever get time back. I work from home as an online teacher making $21/hour. I teach until my husband leaves for work and type feedback while my kids play/watch TV(your posts about that really helped relieve mom guilt–thank you!!!). I taught in Christian schools for years before having kids. Now I make about as much as I did working about 3 hours a day(that time includes prep/feedback to parents), and I used to honestly work about 50-60 hours including all of the time I stayed after and got there early to prep. I had taught at a higher-paying Christian school on Long Island where I was given a 45 minute lunch and a 45 minute prep break. I never really brought work home. The last school I taught in was in a rural farming community. The pay was so low that it was less than when I had worked at Taco Bell one summer while in college, and I used to joke that my husband supported my hobby of teaching at a Christian school(not all Christian schools are this low-paying!). But the ministry side of that was awesome and was what I was suppose to do at that time. Now, I absolutely love teaching online and the flexibility it gives me. I make my own schedule(parents book my open appointments, and I can take off as much time when I want and for how long I want), and I have built relationships with regular students. I also get to focus more on what I love–actually teaching!!! I don’t have lesson plans(they provide all lessons on Power Point slides with objectives), and I have loved teaching one-on-one. I love that you know what is good for you and your family and you do it!!! And of course, I love your blog!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    A little TV can’t hurt anyone! In fact, my kids know to turn it off after one show — so they are learning moderation every time I let them watch TV!!

    Your online teaching job sounds ideal for you and your current stage of life… and yes, Christian school teachers are ridiculously underpaid for what they do, but it’s a choice they/we make and Dave LOVES his job (he’s SO good at it too).

    We recently learned what some of our public school teacher friends make (same qualifications and experience as Dave, teaching in the SAME TOWN) and we were blown away. We try not to think about the income difference as Dave obviously did not choose his profession based on income potential, but it is crazy to think about what we could do with that HUGE amount of extra income!

    Oh well, we are fine, we have plenty, we enjoy life, and are happy.

    [Reply]

    Liane Reply:

    Over the years I’ve met dozens of Christian school teachers, from kindergarten up to high school and now some of my daughter’s former classmates are teachers, and even some of my granddaughter’s friends who’ve recently graduated from college are teachers, both in private and public schools. I’m very aware of the huge pay gap, and it’s sad, but there are really good reasons why it exists.

    In the first place, public school teachers are in very powerful unions with extremely aggressive political action committees and lobbyists in local government up to the state level. They benefit from collective bargaining, scheduled pay increases, and nearly free medical.

    Secondly if Christian schools were to charge enough to pay the high salaries paid to public employees, they’d have to charge so much tuition that no one could afford them.

    There is a class of private school that pays teachers very high salaries — those private prep schools attended by the very wealthy.

    I’m thankful that there are teachers like Dave who work from a ethic and value that takes greed off the table and puts Christ at the head of the family. My children went to Christian schools and it was a sacrifice for us, since we still had to pay the taxes on our house to support the public schools. I am also glad that there are teachers like Dave who are willing to sacrifice in order to not have to teach the revisionist history and the gender confusion (trying to be inoffensive here, but I’m very traditional) that’s prevalent today. My granddaughter was appalled that they had gender neutral bathrooms in the charter school she attended.

    You guys are being paid not in dollars but in sooooooo many other ways. America needs more Daves!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes — the world needs more Daves! I agree 🙂

    And yes, we are aware of WHY his salary is less. We both went to Christian schools, my mom is a Christian school teacher, his mom worked in the Christian schools for year. It makes sense and we are OK with it. We were just honestly shocked when we learned how much more our public school teacher friends make right in our same area!

    [Reply]

  7. shan

    04/15/2019

    Andrea, Thank you so much for sharing. Love, love, love how you incorporate work into your priorities at this stage of your life. When I was widowed at 34, my financial planner told me that I could stay home until the kids graduate from high school, after which I would need to work. With that in mind, while the kids were in high school, I took additional courses to sit for and pass the CPA exam. When my children went off to college, I started working as an accountant for 12 years, which gave me invaluable experience and prepared us for an adequate retirement. I look forward to seeing how you continue to fit work into the life of you wonderful growing family!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the encouragement shan!!

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