Caregiver Balances Elderly Care with Part-Time Home Business

by Gil Zeimer on May 27, 2011
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Margaret Shebalin (pictured) spends her days taking care of her 84-year-old mother at her San Francisco home.

But instead of watching TV or reading an endless stream of romance novels, she uses her spare time to help small businesses connect with their clients, reach out to prospects, and send gifts through a web-based greeting card company that lets you send real greetings through the mail.

We asked her how she balances the two worlds.

ISBB: What are the biggest challenges of working at home while caring for the elderly?

Shebalin: My life is all about being flexible. Life changes my plans every day. For example, we were about to go out to dinner one night, but we ended up going to the Emergency Room.

The biggest challenge is the role reversal of me taking care of my Mom who has dementia, but who is still highly functional. The worst part is losing who I knew as my mother.

Now that my husband and I live with her, other challenges are home maintenance issues and being the master of multi-tasking: taking care of Mom, running the household, managing our finances, growing a business, and remembering to take care of myself, which is a low priority but should be first.

How does your mother feel about the time you spend with your business?

She likes it because she needs to have me here. Because this is a part-time business, I can live here and take care of her when she needs me. I first heard about this business as a customer management system to keep in touch with clients and friends as a life coach – and I found it to be fun, easy, and very personal. Moving here, I realized I needed to be very flexible with my time, and I could do this job in the evenings or weekends.

How do you feel about being a family caregiver?

It’s very difficult having a life, being married, and taking care of my mother, which is similar to taking care of a young child but much more challenging. In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 1.8 million households in California are caring for a loved one 50 years or older, and 4 million family members are caring for someone 18 or older, and most of this is unpaid, so being able to earn a small income – without leaving home – is most welcome.

What other sorts of home-based businesses have you tried or considered?

I tried a number of other multi-level marketing companies and even lost $20,000 on one. Then I was at a wealth-building seminar where they mentioned Send Out Cards and it appealed to me because it has a two-fold mission: to help millions of people to act on their promptings and to provide a vehicle for financial freedom.

We’ve heard reports that 69 percent of Send Out Cards participants don’t make any money. How profitable has it been for you?

I recouped my initial investment of less than $500 last year and am now profitable by earning extra income every month.

We’ve seen some bloggers refer to Send Out Cards as a multi-level marketing program or even as a scam. How would you respond?

It is an MLM program, but with a minimum up-front investment. You’re not paid to recruit people, which is different from the “personal development company” I tried five years ago. I sell my clients the initial wholesale or retail package, but if they want to upgrade to the Entrepreneur Package, they do.

How much time do you devote to it each week?

It varies, depending on my mother’s needs and my energy. There are days when I send her to adult daycare and I take a mental health day because I’m so exhausted as a caregiver. Overall, I spend about 10 to 15 hours a week sending cards and offering demonstrations on the web and phone.

How are you growing your business?

I’m a product of the product. I use this service to send at least one heartfelt card a day, one business building card a day, and one gift a week to people in my church, to my weekly BNI networking group, to people who help me with my mom, and to other people who come to mind. When I do a live demo with someone on the phone where I let them send a free card, I often sign them up as clients. And when they send cards to others, the recipients sometimes call me to buy the service.

Do most clients just send cards or send cards with gifts?

Most send cards at first, but when they realize how easy it is to send a popular gift like brownies, or a gift card like Starbucks, Target, Macy’s, American Express or restaurants, they start sending the gifts more often.

Anything else we should know about Send Out Cards to grow a small business?

The video cards are new and way cool. You can now send a card with a link to a video that you can make to showcase a personalized message. When my clients see a video, they want to send their own. This week, I’ve sung “Happy Birthday” to friends, showed an example of a product I loved, and created other personal video greetings.

To find out how to send a personalized Send Out Cards greeting card, email Margaret Shebalin.

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