In Praise of Podcasting, by Sandra Beck, Motherhood Incorporated

by Sandra Beck

in praise of podcasts by sandra beck, motherhood incorporated

in praise of podcasts by sandra beck, motherhood incorporated

In Praise of Podcasts by Sandra Beck, Motherhood IncorporatedIn praise of podcasts A plethora of cliches often signposts a kernel of truth. Take your pick: women are good at multitasking; there aren’t enough hours in the day; I feel torn in two. Time is tight if you’re juggling motherhood and working. Add in any vague ambitions at maintaining broader interests or world awareness – and you’re stuffed, aren’t you? I laugh at the idea of old me, feet up, reading the newspaper. I used to enjoy settling down with a good non-ficton book to really get myself informed on an issue. My friends and I debating over black coffee and pastries – we could have been in Paris. For me, podcasts are an amazing shortcut. Simply browse, pick the ones that interest you, and subscribe to them. That ensures that I always have the latest edition on my iPod. I always have an ear in when I commute. I’ve been known to stay listening if I’m walking with the buggy. It gives me an hour each day out of nowhere, that very nearly meets the definition of ‘me time’, At least, I feel a little more like ‘me’ if I can make informed contributions to conversations. Being a London fan. I’m a big fan of BBC output. However, the real joy of the podcast can be in its accessibility to the amateur broadcaster. A high rated contributor on a podcast directory can often combine reasonable ‘listenable’ production values with some sharp commentary that the mainstream networks wouldn’t dare broadcast. I think that this anarchist iconoclast edge takes me back to my student days. We all know how seductive it is to feel young again. For Christmas, we got a radio which can be connected to an MP3 player. Now the kids are getting into podcasts too. They enjoy all the songs and jokes from their favorite characters, without needing to be glued to the TV. I thought I was being especially clever when I put a ‘tidy up song mix’ on my iPod. The kids loved it – they twirl and dance while I’m crouched on the floor picking up the toys. Never mind. Some interesting sites to browse:

Getting Through the Holidays, by Sandra Beck

by Sandra Beck

Many moms have written me this week wondering how they are going to get through the holidays working and trying to have a wonderful holiday season for their families.  My advice to them is simple. Do what you can, don’t do what you can’t. Enlist the aid of others.

It may sound trite, but it is very true. Between the kids, the dogs, the visitors, the parties, the playdates, the presents, the wrapping, the cooking, the cleaning, the decorating I am somehow supposed to get my work done? Here are some of the stratgies I use to get through the holiday season without losing my cool.

1. Hire a babysitter so you can shop, decorate or do what you need to do because you will get it done faster.

2. Hire your babysitter to wrap present or look for charity organizations who will wrap your presents for a small fee. I paid $20 to have almost 40 gifts wrapped with my own paper.

3. Have your kids help. My kids helped me decorate the house. It may not look perfect, but its done.

4. Schedule a playdate agreement. Yesterday, my sons went to my friends house while I did what I needed to do. Then today I have her sons for 4 hours so she can get what she needs done.

5. Call your church or local charity.  My organization that I belong to offers teens to help you for no fee. It is part of their voluneteer work and they helped me bake and we had a whole lot of fun.

6. Delegate. Everyone in my house – including guests must help for the three holiday parties we have each season. Guests in my experience want to bring something, so why stress out. Let them bring brownies, cakes, salad whatever…they feel good and so do you!

7. Take a moment each day to sit by your Tree or Menorah. Remember that the holidays are about much more than presents, parties and people. Get yourself spiritually grounded.

8. Don’t color or perm your hair the day of a party. 

9. Chase your kids around the house once a day. Everyone needs to blow off steam – the stress of the holidays gets to us all…scream, dance, throw snowballs, tickle…whatever it is – get everyone involved in the stress relief!

10. Be thankful.  In a time where it is very difficult for many – personally, financially, physically – be thankful for all that you have and all that you can do.  Being grateful can take the sting out of unraveling the tangled mess of your holiday lights – you have a tree, you have electricity, you have someone to share this time with.

Happy Holidays to all!

10 Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants by Sandra Beck / Motherhood Incorporated

by Sandra Beck/

At we hear this all the time.   I have been through 5 virtual assistants this year alone!  I found a great virtual, but then he or she disappeared.  I paid my virtual and now I can’t find him or her.

These are all too common stories in the virtual assistant industry – and virtuals – like employees are both responsible and irresponsible.  So how do you find the good ones?

One route is to go to a company like who pre-screens virtuals before passing them on to you.  Yes, you will pay a little bit more per virtual job for someone else to administer the job, but in the end you get what you need done.

If you are choosing to hire a virtual on your own, here are a few tips that can help make the working relationship smoother and more effective for both of you.  I am sure virtuals will get up in arms about what I am writing, and maybe so will the clients reading this – but this is what I hear – the good, the bad and the ugly.

And, you may think that I spend way too much time keeping my virtuals happy, but they come to work for me and stay for years.  Can you say the same about your virtual assistants?

1. Pay Virtuals Fairly — and give them a bonus for a job well done or done before deadline.  You many think that you are getting a great deal by underpaying a virtual for a job you know on the public market pays twice what you are paying them, but the message it sends to the virtual is that you are cheap and all you care about is the bottom line – and what they do – a good job, a mediocre job or a barely passable job is all the same to you. You are what we call Bottom Line Joes.  Most virtuals leave clients because they are underpaid and the virtual is not dumb. They might take the job out of desperation one month, but they high tail it out of there for cheap employers.


2. Communicate Clearly What You Want Done:  You need to be very specific in what you want a virtual assistant to do for you. They are not in your office. They do not know your day to day operations.  They do not read minds.  And, if you yell at them for not understanding what you did not explain clearly in the first place, then they won’t want to work for you.  If you are impatient and don’t want to take the time to clearly explain what you want, don’t expect great results.  You are what we call the Impatient Joes.  Many virtuals leave Impatient Joe’s because it is just not worth the time because Impatient Joe’s usually dispute the bill in the end anyway. 

3. Pay a Deposit to show Good Faith.  Most virtuals tell me they hate real estate agents because they don’t pay or they wait to pay a virtual when something closes.  Knowing this, pay a small deposit upfront to show good faith and cultivate trust at the beginning of the working relationship.  Most virtuals come to me because they know I will pay them EVEN if the client does not pay me.   Virtuals get $100 or $200 and can’t wait two months for a close that supports you for 3 months.


4. Find Out WHY Your Virtual works Virtually – I found in forming my business that the only real group of people I could count on to get the job done were moms who NEED money.  Free lancers, people who have a full time job and only work side jobs – they can blow you off because they have money coming in from other sources.  When a mom comes to me and says her husband hurt his back and they can’t make their mortgage on his disability and she can’t afford childcare to go to work – it tells me that she HAS to work and I have a very good chance of getting the work done early because she needs money NOW!


5. Develop a Relationship with Your Virtual – take the time to get to know them as a person. You wouldn’t expect to garner a client for life without getting to know them – so why would you expect a virtual to hang around because you dangle the occasional $100 bill.   People in relationships have a less chance of blowing each other off, not paying or treating unfairly the other – if there is a quasi-friendship/relationship there.  At we know our moms have kids, dogs, husbands and families. We get to know them and as such they are PEOPLE not just someone at the end of an email doing something you don’t want to do.


6. Create Reasonable Timelines: when you give a virtual a job to do, make sure that your timeline is reasonable for the work to be done.  Give yourself a buffer between the end time of the job and the window for late virtual work.  If you need something by next Friday, ask for it next Monday – if the virtual hits it or earlier great! If they are late or flake, you have time to get someone else to do the job.


7. Shower a Great Virtual with Love, Praise and Bonuses – like anyone, virtuals stay where they are appreciated, paid well and respected.  I am often criticized by other professionals for “spoiling my virtuals” but when I was an office manager I was criticized for “spoiling my assistants.”  The end result is I have not had to “hire” someone in decades – people come to me on a regular basis wanting to be part of my personal admin team or my company


8. Don’t Be a Jerk – I can’t believe I have to say this, but again, my virtual moms come to me again and again with horror stories about people who call them at home at 6 in the morning because THE CLIENT had a thought – or at dinner time because THE CLIENT can’t wait until normal business hours.  Just because a virtual works at home, like our mom’s, doesn’t mean they are available 24-7.  And if you want to have your virtual disappear like a puff of smoke, call them names, berate them, insult them and take out your bad day on them.  Treat the virtual the same as you would a client – because in a good business – you need both the client and the support staff.


9. Pay as You Go – if you have a large or ongoing or complicated project to do, it might be better to split up the work between virtuals and create like what I have which is my virtual team.  In cases like this that are more than just a one time job, I parcel out payment over time.  When my team hits benchmark 1, I pay 25%…when they hit the midway point, payment #2 goes out at 50%…the remaining 25% goes out on COMPLETION DAY – not after.  My teams know I give a reward for a job done under deadline – makes me look good, we can take on more work and we all win.


10. Pay for All Virtual Time – most virtuals resent training time or “client talk time” that is excessive and not paid for.  You are buying their time – and because you don’t pay payroll taxes, the virtual provides most if not all of their own supplies and equipment – and you are usually paying lower than employee labor – you need to compensate them for the time you use to talk or email – especially if you are a talker or major emailer. For this reason, we often charge a client a setup fee because it takes them so long to get to the point.  


It’s all a trade off, if you want to have the luxury of having people waiting for work at your fingertips – when, where and how much you want it – and not pay benefits, payroll taxes, sick days and vacation time, then something has to come from your end.  As JW Marriot coined – take care of your employees (virtual) and they will take care of your business.

 It may seem that they hold all the cards, and in essence they kind of do – if you don’t want or can’t afford a full time employee then you have to take care of them.  Good virtuals are in demand – and they can always walk away and find more work quickly and often for more money – and believe me they do.

So take this advice in the spirit it is given and from someone who manages 87 virtuals on a daily basis – take good care of them and you won’t be sorry…

What You Need to Know about Outsourcing By Sandra Beck

Outsource- a popular word in today’s business culture. The Harvard Law School Web Library defines outsourcing as: the practice of contracting with an outside company in order to provide a service or product that otherwise might be too expensive, complicated, or time-consuming for the institution to do internally. A common example of outsourcing is that of copy machines, which are usually rented and/or maintained by an outside agency.

We all outsource work on a regular basis and we have for years. When you take all of your tax papers over to your accountant so she can prepare your taxes, you are outsourcing. You could have done it yourself, but at what cost? You made a decision to pay a professional to do it properly. It was a smart choice. Outsourcing is such a smart choice that millions of companies around the world have decided to outsource huge chunks of their companies to the far corners of the earth. Some of these companies have outsourced smart, some not so smart.

The first rule of outsourcing is that is has to be cost effective, which is not the same thing as cheap. I could take all of my tax papers to the 14 year old girl who lives across the street; because she is smart she could probably figure out how to submit my taxes. I am quite sure she wouldn’t charge what my CPA charges – but would she be cost effective? NO! Clearly the money I saved in paying her reduced wage would be lost in paying fines or just not receiving the maximum deduction because as 14 year old she isn’t an expert. Some companies have confused cost effective for cheap.

I spent 4 hours on the phone with GMAC the other day because I couldn’t find a single person who understood what I was saying. Please don’t misunderstand me – everyone on the phone spoke better English than I can speak any other language, and I respect all of them for their ability to learn a second and a third language, but the fact is their command of the language was not good enough to conduct business in English. It was a tremendous waste of my time; but a great example of bad outsourcing! I know GMAC thinks it is saving money but what could have been handled in 2 minutes took 4 hours! Too bad GMAC doesn’t outsource to American Moms who have made the decision to be home with their little ones. Imagine what great publicity that would be for them. Not to mention how cost effective it would be.

This among other reasons was why I started Motherhood Incorporated ( The business culture demands in many instances someone in command of the english language and someone who understand the culture. Recently a client came to my company because he hired a person on to write 100 blogs about speakers for his public speaking website. The person wrote 100 blogs including items about stereos, cd players and other items that used “speakers.”

Was the virtual who did the work wrong or was the person who hired him not clear in his request for articles about speakers. Electronic components vs. public speaking 100 posted blogs later, the man had to create a new blog because he was so firmly entrenched in the electronics market. Sometimes it doesn’t matter the English or the cultural component. Sometimes it means the life or death of your online business venture.

Outsourcing is a great business tool when done correctly. Just make sure you think about these things and the difference between cheap and cost effective!

Don’t We All Work? by sandra beck

by Sandra Beck

Recently I was at a school event when one of the mom’s asked me how my company was going ( I own when a mother I did not know asked me what I did.

When I told her I employ moms who want to work from home doing all sorts of administrative and management jobs, she asked if I had an office.  I said that I worked out of my home.

Oh, so you don’t really work, she said – like I was somehow not “working” as much as she did at a nationally based company.

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say I probably make more than you and have more time for my kids, but I put that cat down.

Don’t we all work? Some of my moms work only 2-3 hours a week for my company. Some moms work 20 hours a week. Some of my moms have a full time job in an office and moonlight for me? Some of my moms work for me only in the summer when they are not teaching.

I work full time in an office in my home where I pay half the mortgage on the house.  I know this mom was just being $^&#@,  but it made me think about the phrases we use today:
stay at home mom
working mom
work at home mom

We all work too many hours for too little pay. Period.

I think that the next time someone askes me if I work, I am going to answer her with, “yes, I do — too much