How They Blog: Mandi Ehman

mandiMandi Ehman

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Life Your Way
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Want to know a geeky fact about me? Ok…well, I’ll tell you anyway: I love everything entrepreneurial (except spelling it, I always have to double check). I love listening to entrepreneurial podcasts, reading entrepreneurial books, following blogs about startups and business.

If I have ever met an entrepreneurial blogger, it’s Mandi Ehman. She is so impressively professional about her blogging and is always trying new things and launching…something. It’s energizing and inspiring just to follow everything she does.

Whether you plan to make your blog into a business or not, each of us can learn so much about how she manages everything on her plate.

I’ve been really looking forward to her interview here, and she has given us one of the most thorough interviews yet. Such good stuff! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Meet Mandi Ehman

1.Intro: Give us a quick intro to you, your family and your blog.
I’m Mandi Ehman, wife to my very favorite person in the whole world and mama to four beautiful little girls (ages 3-8) with one more on the way this fall! We live in wild, wonderful West Virginia, on what I truly believe is a little slice of heaven. Three years ago, we were lucky enough to begin living off my income. My husband is now a full-time stay-at-home dad, and we homeschool our four daughters together.

Because I consider myself more of an entrepreneur than a writer, I actually have a variety of sites that I run, including Life Your Way , Easy Homemade , Jungle Deals & Steals and BundleoftheWeek.com.

2. Tell us your blogging story. (Is this your first blog? How did you get started? How long have you been blogging?) Feel free to share anything that might be helpful for growing bloggers.
I first started blogging in the fall of 2004 when I was expecting our oldest daughter. A friend “suggested” that I might want to blog instead of sending long, rambling email updates to friends and family after we moved cross country to St. George, Utah, and so I began blogging the minutiae of our day, as much for myself as for the people we knew who might be reading.

In 2007, I was working as a transcriptionist from home when I first stumbled across Money Saving Mom and discovered the idea of earning money from your blog. I attempted to monetize my family blog through every horrible strategy known to man, and looking back, it’s no surprise that that didn’t go very far.

I decided to start a new blog, the now defunct Doodles’ Place, which was pretty much your typical mommy blog. I blogged about fun things we were doing, recipes, etc., with some affiliate offers thrown in. But it was nothing to write home about, and it also didn’t go very far, although it did open some important doors!

Mandi-ehman-Family-Room-Couch

At the time, Tara and Shaina, who I knew through our other work-at-home ventures, also got bit by the blogging bug, and in addition to making plans for their own sites (which have both been a resounding success from the start, unlike my own attempt!), together we launched Transcription Talk, a blog specifically for people interested in transcription.

About a year after I started blogging with the intent to earn money, I got the itch to start a new organizing blog. I played around with that idea for months and months, and in December of 2009, I finally launched Organizing Your Way. I worked up the courage to ask Tsh from Simple Mom to be my blogging mentor, and having her input during those early months was an important turning point for me and really helped me to grow that blog.

At the same time, I also pulled back on my transcription commitments and began working as a virtual assistant for Tara, Tsh and several other bloggers, learning more about social media, coding, design and writing in the process.

It wasn’t long before my entrepreneurial itch started working overtime again, and I began making plans to expand Organizing Your Way to what is now known as Life Your Way , a magazine-style blog with 20+ paid contributors. At that time, my mom began working for me, and together we launched Jungle Deals and Steals.

Eventually, I was able to step down from my virtual assistant positions to focus exclusively on my own sites, launching the Easy Homemade ebook and accompanying blog and just this year launching BundleoftheWeek.com.

Through all of that, I’ve learned to stop getting huge batches of business cards printed for blogging events because I know chances are my site portfolio will change between events and I’m tired of throwing away all the unused ones!

3. Tell us about a blogging “success” or “failure” that taught you a powerful lesson.
I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from all of my failures (of which there have been many) is that no failure is permanentClick to tweet. It’s easy to take a failure and turn it into a stop sign, but I’ve learned to step back, evaluate the failure, learn from the experience and — here’s the important part — move forward.

No failure — no matter how bad, how embarrassing, how big — has to mean the end of your blogging career, and understanding that has made me a lot more willing to take risks along the way!

4. What are the intangibles that have helped you succeed?
There’s no doubt that I couldn’t have done any of what I’ve done without my husband. He did more than his fair share of housework even before he quit his job, and he’s always willing to listen to and support my crazy ideas.

Honestly, I think the other part of it just comes down to good, ol’ fashioned hard work. I don’t have the stamina and energy now that I did 5 or 6 years ago, unfortunately, but I pulled many all-nighters and put in hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds!) of unpaid hours in the beginning, and I think that’s what allowed me to grow a successful business despite not having any particularly remarkable skills when I started!

5. How do you keep your blog and home life in balance? What does a “typical” blogging day look like for you?
This question makes me laugh because right now I’m in the middle of the first trimester and a typical day includes about 12 hours of sleep! But in general, the rhythm of our home goes like this:

mandi-ehman-Family-Room-Couch-2

6am or earlier — I’m up and working while everybody sleeps away (my favorite part of that day).
**note: this is not happening right now

8am — The girls wake up between 7:30-8 and play in their room for a while. When they come down, we immediately start school while Daddy makes breakfast. Our homeschooling philosophy has changed a lot out of necessity recently, and while I’d love to be a fun, hands-on homeschooler, we’ve found that giving the big girls independent work just works much better for our family. They bring me their assignments as they finish them so I can check them off on their daily assignment sheet, and I usually work on projects that require a low level of concentration since there are so many interruptions! My husband does school with our kindergartener, since she does require much more one-on-one help.

11am — School is finished by 11am. During the winter this usually meant computer or TV time, but now they’re anxious to head outside the moment they’re done. I buckle down and focus more on my work while they play

12:30pm — My husband makes lunch, and then the girls have a 2-hour quiet time. Each of the girls heads to a different room to play, read, listen to music, etc. during this quiet time. Because we’re home all day together, this time is as important for their sanity as it is for my husband’s and mine!

I try to focus on work during this time as well. {Although right now I often use it to nap!}

3pm — The girls are up from “nap” and take time to make themselves a snack then head outside to play until dinner. The best part of our little slice of heaven is we’re surrounded by acres and acres of fields, so they really can run and play and explore for hours.

5pm — Another side effect of the first trimester is I can’t stand to be in the kitchen, so I haven’t been preparing meals during this season, but *typically* I’ll head to the kitchen around 5pm to get dinner started. We then eat, clean up the downstairs as a family and enjoy some TV time before the girls head up to bed between 7:30pm and 8pm.

I try not to work too much after 5pm, but the truth is I often end up working anyway, especially when I’m working on a big project.

10pm — And I try to head to bed by 10pm at the latest (although right now it’s closer to 8pm — ha!) because I know that a full night’s sleep makes a huge difference in my ability to get things done as well as my mood while juggling everything during the day.

Truthfully, I’m not a fan of the idea of “work-life balance” because I think the reality is it will often be off balance — with one area requiring more energy than another at any given time. In my first ebook, How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too , I use the term “juggling” instead to describe my philosophy, and I try to give the most attention to whichever thing needs it at the moment.

Sometimes I tell my girls, “I’m sorry, Mommy’s working right now,” and often I jump up from my computer to comfort a crying child. I try really hard to deliberately make eye contact when one of my girls talks to me, but otherwise we consider this a family business. That means that in addition to all of the benefits of mommy working from home — like being together every day and being able to travel — we also accept the downsides — like deadlines and fires that need to be put out.

Come back Wednesday to read all of Mandi’s Blogging Gadget and App recommendations and on Friday she’ll share her thoughts on social media and writing. Stay tuned!

Q & A with Mandi Ehman

What questions do you have about blogging for Mandi? Click here to share your thoughts or ask your question!

Read All The Interviews with Mandi Ehman

1. How They Blog: Mandi Ehman
2. Gadget and App Recommendations (Coming Wednesday)
3. On Social Media and Writing (Coming Friday)

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Comments

  1. I am very impressed by Mandi’s work ethic and version of her business being more than just a blog. As a new blogger myself I am learning so much from her model and vision. I love her blog too!

  2. I really like your life/work philosophy of giving the attention to the things that need it most.

  3. Super inspiring story, Mandi! What is your take on starting a blog now? Do you think that the ‘mommy blog’ niche is over-saturated? How have you stayed focused on your blog’s intent? There’s so many different directions that I think about going with mine and just staying true is sometimes hard.

    • Breanne, I’m not sure I believe any niche is (or could be) so over saturated that it’s not worth starting a blog if you’re passionate about the topic, but I do think it’s harder to stand out in a niche that is very saturated, which makes it more important to find your hook — the thing that makes you stand out from other bloggers — and to be really true to your voice!

      I’m not sure I have done a good job of staying focused (that’s why I went from the tight organizing niche to a broader lifestyle blog!), and I think sometimes focus is what draws people in and sometimes variety is, so again, it’s really about being true to your passions!

  4. Mandi, Kat’s right, you are thorough. It must be why we’re ‘friends.’ :p You should see some of my text messages to my friends. ha! I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog a few years ago. :)

    • Ha, Joyce — somehow I missed this comment before, but I’m laughing! I love that you send long text messages. Who needs to be confined by character limits?! :)

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