Why I Turned Down a Potential Client — and When You Might, Too

Awhile back I replied to a Craigslist posting for a “Fast Paced Virtual Assistant Needed.” The business owner was crystal clear that she wanted the person she chose to be a self-employed independent contractor, NOT an employee. That means she would pay me a contracted rate in exchange for my services – no taxes withheld, no benefits; just the rate.

Fine with me. That’s how I operate as a virtual independent contractor.

Then she went on to tell me:

  • the hours I needed to be available,
  • that she would train me on exactly how I needed to do the job,
  • the amount she was willing to pay per hour,
  • and if it worked out, it would become full time and she would pretty much only want me to work for her.

As a self-employed independent contractor.

Whoa, mama. Something just went south.

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing – IF she were hiring an employee. But she wasn’t.

And that’s a BIG problem.

Don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask the IRS.

(That’s the Internal Revenue Service, for those of you not from these parts.)

“The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.

“You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.”

Why is this a big deal, you might ask?


For contractors:

“The earnings of a person who is working as an independent contractor are subject to Self-Employment Tax. If an employer-employee relationship exists (regardless of what the relationship is called), you are not an independent contractor and your earnings are generally not subject to Self-Employment Tax.” -IRS

Advice from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) directed toward the business doing the hiring:

“If your independent contractor is discovered to meet the legal definition of an employee, you may be required to:

  • Reimburse them for wages you should’ve paid them under the Fair Labor Standards Act, including overtime and minimum wage
  • Pay back taxes and penalties for federal and state income taxes, Social Security, Medicare and unemployment
  • Pay any misclassified injured employees workers’ compensation benefits
  • Provide employee benefits, including health insurance, retirement, etc.”

In plain English, it’s a big deal because:

  • If they’re treating you as an employee but paying you as an independent contractor, you’re paying more taxes than you should.
  • You’re also missing out on employee benefits like health insurance and retirement.
  • If you’re a self-employed independent contractor, that means you run your own business. They shouldn’t dictate the hours you work, whether or not you can work for other clients, or how to do your job.
  • There are legal consequences for their company if you are misclassified.

The important part is that you’re fully aware of the difference and being classified (and paid!) accordingly.


So when you’re searching for a gig, what should you look for in the posting to see if it’s an employee or independent contractor position? Here are a few key differences so you know what to look for.

Why I Turned Down a Client - Independent contractor vs. employee postings - www.VAMomsNetwork.com


If you are a business owner or independent contractor who provides services to other businesses, then you are generally considered self-employed. If you want to read more of the nuances, click on the “Show More” button below to get the full scoop from the IRS.



Common Law Rules

“Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

  1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
  2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)
  3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor.

There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another. The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.”[/su_expand]


If you’d like to read more, there was a GREAT article posted a few days ago on Entrepreneur.com, “Think Twice Because Your Freelancer Might Legally Be An Employee.” It lays the whole thing out in more detail.

Needless to say, the gig with the potential client didn’t work out and I haven’t looked back. (That’s a story for another blog post…which I will be sharing soon.)Should you be a work at home employee or self-employed? Here are the pros and cons of each.

Do you work as a virtual employee or an independent contractor? Neither one is bad; you just need to understand the difference and know what you are. Like anything, both ways have pros and cons. I hashed that out a bit in this post.

What questions do you have about being an independent contractor vs. employee?

Chances are someone else does too, so share in the comments below.

If I don’t know the answer I’ll help you find out!



Join other work at home moms and access the Resource Library for free tools to help you build your work at home business:

VA Moms Network Free Resource Library - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Free Resource Library for work at home moms. Sign up for free access and jump start your VA business today!

How to Use Your Bookmarks Bar to Your Advantage

So I thought it might be fun for this month’s list to take a look at my Bookmarks Bar. In case you’re not using this tool, it’s such a time-saving shortcut for the sites you visit most. I’m curious what others have pinned to their bars, so drop a note about yours in the comments below!

A couple of things you should know first:

  1. I don’t claim to be super techie (don’t judge!) If you are, please, please feel free to fill in the gaps for us and give any advice or clarification!
  2. A couple of these are affiliate links, but most are not. A lot of them don’t even have affiliate programs. (I’m just supposed to disclose that if I have any at all on here.) They’re all simply what’s on my bookmarks bar right now, the good, the bad, and the unused.
  3. Yes, I realize my bookmarks bar has probably gotten a little out of hand…time for some virtual housecleaning!

Just in case there’s someone out there who’s even less techie than I am and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s what I mean by bookmarks bar:

Bookmarks bar screen shot - VA Moms Network


I should say favicons, not icons. Whatever.

If you’ve never utilized your bookmarks bar, it’s a handy little tool. There’s a quick tutorial on setting it up here. Really easy!

You can shorten the names (or delete the word entirely and just use the favicon) by right-clicking, then click Edit, then shorten however you like.


My Bookmarks Bar:


Pandora Radio – Because music makes everything better.

Spotify – Because sometimes you’re just in the mood for specific songs.



WordPress – Quick link to the back end of my website.

A2 Hosting Control Panel Login – These guys have been spectacular. I’ve tried other hosting companies, but so far this one blows them all out of the water. Tech support, easy to install, reliable – so far I’m really impressed.

Google Analytics – Because who wants to track all that down every time? One-click is my friend.

MailChimp – All the better to email you with, my dears. Customizable and plays nicely with WordPress. And it’s pretty user-friendly for us non-technos.

BoardBooster – My latest Pinterest BFF.

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer – Mind-blowing tool. Try it.

CoSchedule’s Resource Library – Yes, they get two spots on my bar. They’re that awesome.

Pexels – Good source for free stock photos. (Can you tell I like free stuff?)

Information comes at us from every direction. How do we sift through to find the good stuff? Here are some tips. www.VAMomsNetwork.com


Gmail – All my business emails go through this, even the ones with my custom domain name.

Boomerang for Gmail – Brilliant invention. With my sporadic work at home hours, I can reply at my convenience but schedule emails to be sent during business hours. Or if I know someone’s on vacation, I can schedule the email so it arrives at the top of their inbox the day they return instead of getting buried.

Yahoo Mail – Yes, I have another account. I use this email for my newsletter subscriptions. I explain why here.



FreshBooks – Love this! Easy to use, simple for a solo biz (or teams), set up separate clients and projects. You can customize everything with your logo and style. It has a time tracker and will automatically create an invoice for you from the project/dates you select. (They’ll even let you try it free for 30 days.)

Dropbox – Essential for storage. And sharing files and pictures. Sometimes.

LinkedIn – Good to have.

HelloFax – Great free service if you don’t send faxes often.

eFax – Free service to receive faxes via email. (You get a free fax number and it sends them directly to your email. In case you didn’t know. I didn’t till I used it.)

HelloSign – Again, I stay within the free range and it’s an awesome online document signing tool.

Color-Hex – Super cool tool for matching and coordinating colors and finding their fancy code name like #b34s90. (I just made that one up but I’m sure it’s gorgeous.)

Copyscape – Search for copies of your page on the web. Haven’t used this much yet but it might come in handy.

SimilarWeb – This is a pretty new link for me. They say you can get insights for any website or app.

This article:   Easy guide to setting up your Google Analytics so it doesn’t count spam and junk. You can get more accurate data that way.

Todoist – Simple, reliable little to-do app that syncs with my phone. I didn’t want all the bells and whistles – just a simple (and you guessed it, free) to-do app I can use on the go. Raise your hand if you love checking things off a list as much as I do. Even if it is digital.



Feedly – Article reader. I don’t use this, but maybe someday. Or maybe I’ll delete it.

Google Drive – Must have.

Google Maps – How did we ever survive without this?

Google Calendar – I’m seeing a theme here…

YouTube – I don’t use this bookmark much and usually forget it’s there.

PinIt Button for Pinterest – Well duh. Every girl’s gotta have this.

Ebay – Can’t tell you the last time I’ve used this one!

FlyLady – I haven’t visited this site in a looong time (and my house looks like it!) But she’s a hilarious source of housekeeping advice and encouragement.

Amazon – Everything from A to Z, of course.

Twitter – Because I’d forget about it if it weren’t on the shortcut bar.



And there you have it, my friends. My bookmarks bar all laid out for you. (Tomorrow I’ll clean it up, promise.)

You may notice that most of the social media links are missing from the bar. I took Facebook and Pinterest off a long time ago because it was just way to easy to click over all the time. Now that they’re not quite so accessible, I think twice before opening them.

Related: Productivity Hacks for Work at Home Moms + Free Printable

I do have other bookmarks organized (sort of) in folders, but these are the ones that have earned a visible spot on my browser.


I’d love to hear, what bookmarks do YOU have?

Got a question about any of mine?

Chances are someone else does too, so share in the comments below!


Looking for more work at home resources?

Check out the free Resource Library for printables and tips:

VA Moms Network Free Resource Library - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Free Resource Library for work at home moms. Sign up for free access and jump start your VA business today!

Work at Home Time Budgeting: What to Do When You Just Can’t Do It All + Printable

Time budgeting when you work from home: Something’s gotta give

Time budgeting is an elusive, tricky  balance for parents. As moms we often suffer from Supermom Syndrome…We think we can do all, be all, and manage all for everyone. It’s our job to keep everything running, for everyone, every time.

I suppose we’re wired that way to some degree. It’s a mom thing.

The reality is that there’s only one of us and only 24 hours in our day, no more, no less.

Because of that reality, we have to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. We have to be deliberate about time budgeting effectively because there’s only so much of it.

My Breakthrough Work at Home Time Management Hack - Tips and a free printable. My Breakthrough Work at Home Time Management Hack - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial teacher, has developed a widely used concept of financial management and budgeting. The basic idea is that you tell your money where to go rather than letting your money be the dictator of you. There’s some flexibility and common sense involved, but it’s all within certain spending/saving guidelines that you set for yourself. If you follow those guidelines, you’ll meet your financial goals much more quickly.


My suggestion is that as moms we consider using the same concept for more effective time management – a sort of time budgeting, if you will.

What if we start telling our time where to go instead of letting our circumstances be the dictator?

It’s not realistic to pay off a $100,000 loan in two months if our monthly income is $2,000.

In the same way, we can’t expect to singlehandedly:

work a 40-hour week at home

+ be full time stay at home mommy

+ sleep 8-9 hours a night

+ have a perfectly clean house with home-cooked meals

+ volunteer in PTA

+ host play dates three times a week

+ be taxi driver for everyone

+ grocery shopping

+ local moms group leader

+ whatever else comes along.

(Not to mention self-care or time to relax!)


That’s just not realistic. But we still try to do it all anyway.

The reality is that it’s a recipe for a stressed out, unhappy mama.

You know what that means. Unhappy mama = unhappy house.

In an interview recently with author Mary Byers, she told me, “Remember, you’re the therMOMeter in your house. If you’re stressed, your kids will pick up on it even though they may not be able to articulate or recognize it. When I’m stressed, I’m always able to trace their behavior back to me. We set the temperature of the home. If your business stress is causing family stress, that’s no fun. Have your antenna up and be very aware of how what you’re doing in your business is either helping or hurting.”

We have to be realistic about how much time we have. About what we can and can’t do.

We have to be honest – with ourselves first, then with others.

We have to stop being supermom because that will eventually fall apart.


We have to be realistic about effective time budgeting for our:


·         Obligations·         Responsibilities·         Commitments
·         Family/Friends·         Interruptions·         Circumstances
·         Self-care·         Priorities·         Availability



Think of yourself and your time like a pie.

There’s only so much of you to go around.

Your priorities and commitments have to all fit inside that pie.


It’s simple math. The more things you squeeze in, the smaller the pieces become.

Effective Time Management as Work at Home Moms - www.VAMomsNetwork.com


When one thing takes more time, another piece is going to get smaller. When a new thing tries to squeeze in, something else has to shift or go away to make room for others.

The key is to be deliberate about the size of your pieces. You decide what priorities get a piece of your time, not the other way around.



First, let’s be realistic about what you can and can’t do.

  • Do you have an infant that cries 23 hours a day? (or seems like it)
  • Do you have a toddler that needs constant supervision? (If I wasn’t watching him every second, my little guy would climb anything!)
  • Do you spend an hour dropping off kids at three different schools in the morning, then four hours later have to make the same route to pick up?
  • Do you homeschool, have kids home from school during the summer, or have younger kids home all the time since they don’t go to school yet?
  • Do you have any built-in buffer time  between activities, or is it a constant mad rush from one to the next?

If your life includes any remote variation of the above, it may not be a realistic expectation to work 40 hours a week plus stay at home singlehandedly with your kids. (And have any quality of life or basic self-care like, you know, eating, sleeping, or bathing.) You might want to reconsider your time budgeting. Just sayin’.


That means it’s time to take a long hard look at your circumstances. Ask yourself (and your spouse, if you have one) a few questions (click here to grab them in a handy printable):Time budgeting printable: Exercises & questions to help you determine the best use of your time right now. www.VAMomsNetwork.com

  1. Write out your daily routine and include an honest estimate of how long each activity takes.
  2. Under the current circumstances, what is a realistic number of hours I can work per week?
  3. How badly do we need my income? How much do I need to make?
  4. If I need to work more hours, what else needs to give to make it happen?
  5. Is there a way to cut back on hours (such as alter my pricing to offset working fewer hours? Raise my rates or offer packages instead of hourly?)
  6. Is there anything I can reasonably cut out of my schedule?
  7. What are the non-negotiables in my schedule? (These are the things you aren’t willing or able to cut out.)
  8. Are there areas where I can get help? (Maybe outsource some work, hire help with the house, trade off kid duty with your husband, swap babysitting with a friend, or hire a mom’s helper?)
  9. Are there things I can do on a project or package basis rather than hourly?
  10. Are there other ways of making money I should consider that would be more flexible with schedule (list things on Amazon, make crafts to sell, online tutoring, etc.)?

I’ve found that my husband and I have to revisit these questions every so often. Our circumstances change, the kids’ needs shift as they get older, and we set new goals as we meet old ones.

Your answers to the questions will be way different than mine, and they may even change every few months.


Once in a while we need to step back from the hamster wheel and evaluate our situation in light of our current season.Breathing Room for Moms: Making the Most out of Working at Home - VA Moms Network

  • If you have a colicky infant and a busy toddler, this may not be your season to work 40 hours a week. Or if you do need to work that much, maybe it’s time to consider getting some part time help.
  • If your kids are in school but you only have 4-5 hours while they’re gone, you need to evaluate how much you can work and when that’s going to happen. If you commit to 40 hours a week, when will you work? Weekends? Nights? Get up early? Those 40 hours have to fit somewhere, and something else has to give to make room.
  • Are you bringing in enough work to consider hiring a mother’s helper? Once in a while I hired a tween girl to come and play with my daughter while I worked for a couple of hours. She loved having a playmate, the tween loved getting babysitting experience and making a little money, and I could focus on my work in another room but still be available if she had questions.


Are you feeling spread too thin?

Do you need to step back and evaluate where your time is going?

Motherhood is very seasonal. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do everything you want this season. Your capacity for various tasks will shift as your family grows and changes.

There’s a new free printable in the Resource Library

to help you consider your time budgeting

Use this to evaluate your current season and time usage.

Is there anything you need to shift so you can enjoy your current season more? Share in the comments below!

Time budgeting printable: Exercises & questions to help you determine the best use of your time right now. www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Know another work at home mom who could use some support?

Use the buttons to the left and share the WAHM love!


You might also like:

5 Mistakes I Made as a New Work at Home Mom - VA Moms Network9 Things I Wish They Told Me about being a Work at Home Mom - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Proven Tips: The Best Places I Have Found Virtual Clients - www.VAMomsNetwork.com



Time Budgeting for Work at Home Moms: What to do when you can't do it all + free printable. www.VAMomsNetwork.com



How to Prepare When You Have a Difficult Conversation Ahead

Facing the Awkward Conversation Head-On

We’ve all been there in some context or another – the awkward, difficult conversation that we’d rather avoid. Maybe with a client, a colleague, or a friend. You messed up big time, or maybe someone else messed up, but lucky you – you get to deliver the bad news.

We know it’s not gonna be pretty. Nobody wants that job. Yet we can’t skulk away trying to dodge the bullet, hoping in vain that the problem will just disappear. Because we all know how well that goes.

When I was a virtual project manager for a real estate company, I often had to deliver bad news to a client, property manager, or co-worker. Houses got broken into, projects cost more than expected, or water pipes burst and flooded a newly completed rehab. Those difficult conversations helped me learn to stay low-key, gather all the information, and think through possible alternatives before starting the conversation.

When it comes to the awkward conversation, I’ve learned:

  1. It’s best to just stay calm and face it head on.
  2. Usually (usually!) talking to them is not as bad as I imagined.
  3. It helps if I can soften the blow with some possible alternatives, solutions, or encouragement.
  4. I handle it better if I jot down a few notes or talking points ahead of time. I can stay calmer and focus on the points I need to make rather than getting emotional.
  5. Slow, deep breaths.
  6. Listen to them. Really listen and convey that I understand their point of view rather than coming up with a defense.
  7. Own any mistake I’ve made and offer to help somehow.
  8. Keep it low key, low drama, and look for ways to frame it in a positive light.
  9. I try to put it into perspective. Yes, this is important and needs to be handled, but how much does it really matter in the bigger picture? The drama will pass, so don’t let the stress spill over into every area of my life.
  10. Be classy. They’ll remember how I handled it just as much as the problem itself.


The other issue to consider is delivery. Consider your relationship with the other person, how they typically prefer to communicate, and the degree of difficulty of the information you’re giving.

Is the news best delivered:

  • written out in an email? This can give you both time to process your thoughts and cool down. However, choose your words carefully since tone is difficult to convey and often misinterpreted in emails.
  • over the phone? You can hear each other’s tone of voice and explain, answer questions, talk through ideas, and hopefully diffuse any concerns as they arise.
  • in person to read each other’s faces and try to keep it friendly? Sometimes it’s harder for them to get upset when they’re face to face with someone who is truly remorseful or sympathetic. You can also discuss more in person and brainstorm possible solutions. This tends to generate a lot more ideas and camaraderie than emails.


No one enjoys being on either end of bad news, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. We have to suck it up and forge ahead. I’ve learned it’s better to do so calm and prepared.

How about you, do you try to avoid the difficult conversations or have you learned some other techniques that help? I’d love to hear more ideas – share in the comments below!

Join the VA Moms Network for free access to the Resource Library, work at home tips, and more.


You might also like:

Breathing Room for Moms: Making the Most out of Working at Home - VA Moms Network5 Mistakes I Made as a New Work at Home Mom - VA Moms Network

Proven Tips: The Best Places I Have Found Virtual Clients - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Proven Tips: The Best Places I Have Found Virtual Clients – www.VAMomsNetwork.com


5 Mistakes I Made as a New Work at Home Mom

Mistakes go with the territory of motherhood, right? We all start out with this ideal picture of what a “good mom” does, looks like, acts like, and feels like. She always has her act together.

Then reality sets in. We realize some days we don’t have ANYthing together. We look (and act) like we just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. We feel overwhelmed and spread too thin.

Even on the hard days, you are enough. www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Even on the hard days, you are enough. (Click photo to read more.)

I used to beat myself up with mom guilt – I shouldn’t work so much, I should be doing more of this or that with my kids, making more cutesy crafts with them, taking them to sensory-overload play places more often.

Then I got over it.

I’m a good mom. Not a perfect mom by any means – far from it. I still struggle to find a balance between work and family. But being a good mom doesn’t mean I have to do it all or have a Pinteresty afternoon every day.

I’ve learned to give myself grace when I forget to sign up for the PTA chili supper or didn’t see the note that my kid was supposed to take a water bottle to school yesterday.

Some days I even have to explain to my kids why I can’t do something or take them somewhere, and ask them to cut me some slack. They’re quite forgiving little people.

My kids know they are loved, they know they have a safe place to come to, and they’re learning to be considerate human beings in spite of my mistakes. (I know I’ll mess up anyway, so I’m also saving up for counseling when they’re older.)

It took me awhile to get to the point of being okay with an imperfect balance. That balance changes as my kids grow, so I have to allow myself to be flexible.

Before I got to that point of acceptance though, I made several mistakes as a new work at home mom:


1. Thinking I was a “stay at home mom” who worked on the side.

Both a SAHM and WAHM are great, but there’s a big difference between the two. I needed to realize, admit, and own the “Work at Home Mom” role to myself and others. (Full credit goes to Mary Byers and her book Making Work at Home Work for this light bulb moment!)

2. Trying to do it all and fit it all in.

I was trying to fit too many pieces into one pie and it just wasn’t working. Being a WAHM adds responsibilities that have to be taken into account when figuring my priorities. Sometimes other things have to give. I need to make a conscious decision of what those things are rather than letting it happen by default or letting other moms and their agendas decide for me.

3. Not setting clear boundaries between home and work.

I should have learned sooner to set a cutoff time for work and clients instead of letting them intrude any time into family stuff. Now I have a couple of hard rules for myself:

1) I don’t acknowledge or reply to work calls, texts, or emails on Sundays. Period. Owning that mental break has been good for me.

2) I’m never on the phone when I drop off or pick up kids from school. I like to look them in the eye and hear about their day. I want them to feel like they’re important to me. We’ve had some of the best conversations during those moments.

4. Not realizing how important it is to take care of myself, and then doing it without feeling selfish.5 Secrets Successful WAHMs Have Figured Out

I’m a much better mom and wife when I’ve taken a break to do something for myself, even if it’s just for a little bit.

5. Carrying around too much mom guilt.

For a long time I always had the feeling that I should be doing more for my kids, reading to them more (even though we already read for hours every day!), playing more, teaching them more, always more. But no matter how much more I did, it was never quite “enough.”

I finally accepted that I am one imperfect person who is doing the best I can at this mothering thing, and that has to be enough.


Mistakes are a part of life, but they don’t have to drag us down. It’s up to us if we want to use our mistakes to make ourselves better or to beat ourselves up. We’re so ingrained to avoid mistakes, but in reality that’s how we learn and grow best.


So fellow moms, I challenge you (and myself), instead of being afraid to make mistakes, why not be brave enough to make them and let them push us to something better?


“Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.” -Unknown

What mistakes have you made in your WAH journey? Where do you need to give yourself some grace? Share in the comments below.

mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. www.VAMomsNetwork.com


Looking for support

as you work from home with kids?

Join the network of other moms  

as we navigate the journey together!

VA Moms Network Free Resource Library - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

Free Resource Library for work at home moms. Sign up for free access and jump start your VA business today!

  You might also like:

9 Things I Wish They Told Me about being a Work at Home Mom - www.VAMomsNetwork.com

My Breakthrough Work at Home Time Management Hack - Tips and a free printable. My Breakthrough Work at Home Time Management Hack - www.VAMomsNetwork.comA Husband's Perspective: 3 Things a VA Mom Needs from Her Guy. www.VAMomsNetwork.com