Grace Hwang Lynch

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Grace Hwang Lynch

Grace Hwang Lynch
Location
Silicon Valley, California,
Birthday
December 31
Bio
I'm a former television news reporter. Currently a communications consultant, freelance writer, and mother of two. I write about raising a multicultural family at HapaMama, and I'm also the News & Politics Editor at BlogHer. My work has been published in several magazines and newspapers, as well as in the anthologies "Lavaderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word" and "Mamas and Papas:On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting" by City Works Press. Follow me on Twitter: @HapaMamaGrace

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FEBRUARY 19, 2011 8:31PM

Is blogging the new Amway?

Rate: 29 Flag

During my teenage years, my mother worked as a real estate agent — a successful one, with a corner office wallpapered with plaques listing her as a member of the "Million Dollar Club" (feel free to say that aloud with Austin Powers intonations). To be successful at selling houses, she found any opening in a conversation that could possibly lead to a discussion of real estate. When she drove carpool and noticed that one of my friends' homes was being painted or landscaped, she'd ask, "Are your parents selling? Do you have a Realtor?"

I was mortified by her brazen salesmanship and vowed to never go into any career field that required hawking things. Especially selling things to people I consider friends.  I chose a career in journalism and rolled my eyes at the sales and promotions staff who would wander into editorial meetings with "story ideas". As a reporter, I considered my work more noble than merely selling things.

Eight years ago, after spending most of my adult life in a television newsroom, I took a break from the (paid) workforce to raise my kids. Our family lived relatively frugally, confident that our single-income status would be a temporary thing, a few years until the kids were old enough to go to preschool... then Kindergarten.

In Mommyland, I was introduced a whole new world of women who "worked from home". Join any mother's group, and it's only a matter of time before you start getting invited to parties. It starts out like this: you get an email inviting you to someone's house for a Girls Night Out. There will be cocktails, hor d'oevres and jewelry. Or Candlelite, Pampered Chef, Southern Living, Cabi Designs clothing, maybe even good old fashioned Mary Kay cosmetics.

Every invitation comes with a clear disclaimer to "Come for the company,  you don't have to buy anything!"

Being a softie, I ultimately either succumb to high-pressure sales or feel so sorry for the hostess — who must be in such dire financial straits that she would debase herself to peddling shlocky goods, that I always end up leaving in possession of more scented hand lotions or Bundt cake pans and less money in my checking account.  It took me a long time to learn to tell people that I categorically just don't attend parties where things are sold, joking, "I don't drink and shop," or  "I'm taking a break from shopping. " I stopped feeling sorry for these at-home salespeople, knowing that the few vitamins or bracelets I buy would never bring them the six-figure income promised by multi-level marketeers.

 Fast forward a few years, and I am trying to once again contribute to our household finances, as a freelance writer and communications consultant. Three years ago, I started my own blog, HapaMama, where I wrote heartfelt essays read largely by no one except the handful of friends I told about it. These days, linking and social media play a crucial role in "building your brand" and "getting exposure". I learned to cross-post every new article on my Facebook status update, I joined networks such as Open Salon, and I put Google Ads on all of my blogs.  

No story about my mother and her career would be complete without noting that she did not start out as a salesperson, either. A trained scientist with advanced degrees, she also took time out of the workplace to raise children. She lamented the fact that her skills were obsolete to her industry by the time she tried to return to the laboratory.

I'll be the first to admit that my writing has yet to qualify me for the Million Dollar Club (still trying for a living wage). Maybe I'm no smarter than those women who got suckered into selling Amway.  But like my mother, I will have to try and find a way to make things work.

Some other recent posts about the topic of blogging, writing, paid journalism:

Barry Link 

Scott Rosenberg

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Okay. Well, I'm looking at the ads over here on the right. The only one that jumps out at me is Asian Food Wholesalers, who are pushing Korean food right now. I suppose I could spring for a little kimchi for old times' sake if that would help you at all.
There's nothing wrong with selling as long as you believe in the product and honestly feel that people need it.
Thank you Barry and Trudge. I'd read your post, Trudge, but I'm afraid it's not safe until after the kids' bedtime.
You make such an interesting point. Today, it's hard to do just about anything without the need to toot your own horn a little or "build your brand". I figure, just because someone is advertising something - be it their writing or real estate - as long as it's not offensive, invasive, or, God forbid, boring, why not? Your writing is none of these things, so I say, go on advertising - I'll definitely keep reading! ....On the other hand, if you ever turn to the dark side and start hosting OS tupperware parties, I will warn you in advance, I won't buy anything! :-)
Roosters aren't safe? : )
Grace, this is your newsroom. What is the difference between some of the articles that appear on Open Salon and appear on Salon itself? Reporting is redefining itself. Each one of us has a bit of the "Matt Drudge" inspirit.

I am sure you will make it work. I know you will.
Great points. I'm with you on the "come to my party train" I went through the same thing when my kids were young. BUT I also always admired people who could stay home to raise the kids but always seek a way to make some money at something they are good at.
I always kind of figured someone who was good at sale could own the world, and I think you've put your finger on why: Sooner or later, every profession requires it somehow.
I can't even fathom what it means to have a solid "career" job that is just one full time gig, with a salary, benefits, vacations, year after year as I have never worked anything like that and I am facing limited employment (versus self employment) opportunities over the years. Good for your mom, to make such a change. And you too, there is still so much more to come.
I totally hear you about MLM. If I get invited to another USANA or Arbonne or Pampered Dildo party... I just always so no to shopping.
Grace : who knew in 1974 when I opened my now late store that people would be selling online. Who knew about computers?
Who knew about blogging?
Your mother knew what was what way before the cyber age came along. It was called networking..:)
rated with hugs
Christianity has been a very successful money-making book-club amway-sales gimmick in the past two millennia.
This is terrific, Grace. And yes, I *did* read "Million Dollar Club" in Dr. Evil's voice...~r
The more I get into this, I realize that the writing is the easy part & the marketing is the tough part. (And I thought this post was going to go another way.)
You're on my wavelength today, Grace. I'm working on a little something on blogging (maybe.)
As I see it, blogging is all about selling -- salesmanship, branding, marketing, the right message at the right time, all that good stuff, not unlike the old ad biz ... and hard as hell to catch the wind. It's a lightning medium -- I'm still trying to figure it out.

Food seems to catch a lot of attention, I will say. Cheers.
There is nothing wrong in promoting what you do well. And you do it well. -R-
That is an interesting way to look at it, Grace. I know that more than a few OSers have either written books or are working on one (or two), and any agent will ask -- "How's your traffic? How many readers can you verify?" This is information they need in order to make you a viable commodity, or, as you say, a "brand." I suppose writers (and all other artists/musicians) have always had to toot their own horn, and the internet makes that easier than ever before. I *think* that's a good thing -- but when you compare it to Amway, you've made me step back and look again.
Blogging is fast and immediate which is in keeping with the life current trends. As long as that is the way, I think blogging will be the way to brand and promote oneself. However, I would hate to think of it as the new Amway - I hope it is not Amway in any form.
I can relate to your feelings about selling stuff--I was brought up to think that good work speaks for itself and it's vulgar to run around tooting your own horn. But I'm finding out now , as you probably are, that if you're self-employed, you have to be your own salesperson, no matter how unnatural that may feel. Good luck to you!
What Catherine said....xox
Thanks. There is a new work-at-home dream, which is also the work-while-hanging-out-in-Starbucks dream, to somehow be making money from a blog. It takes smarts, marketing, determination. I think your mom is a role model. How many times she must have wanted to just let it go. . . but didn't. Very few of us can be passive and professional and wait for people to discover and support us.
I tried the Google "thing" ages ago when I first started blogging and it didn't work for me but I know some who've been very successful with it. Good for them, bad for me! I'm always looking for ways to earn a little pocket money...I think the next step for me is to show off a little of my junk on the street corner but I'm not ready to go there just yet. ;)
Amway is what's known as a pyramid scheme. An Amway seller needs to recruit other sellers to move up the pyramid and make more money. Only a few people at the top of the pyramid rake in big money while the suckers pester their friends and family to buy Amway products and become Amway sellers.
I don't see blogging as a pyramid scheme and I didn't start blogging as a money-making venture. Anyone who starts a blog to make a living from blogging is likely to be disappointed.
the hardest thing (from what I have seen) for artists of any genre is marketing. I'm in a different place in my life...post kid-raising and working full time. But there is no job security especially working for a not for profit arts agency, so I've been contemplating next moves. My husband bought me a new MacBook Pro (an investment???) but knowing what it would take to really make any money makes me want to take a nice long nap.
Well, it worked for Julia Whats-her-name.
Really thoughtful post, Grace, thanks for sharing. Making sense of how blogging fits into the "content output" of a professional writer is tricky, and evolving. I remember telling a colleague at a conference three years ago that I would never blog - "why give away what I can sell?" Over time I realized that blogging was a way to build an audience for the pieces I DO sell, or want to. I've yet to work with sponsors or put AdSense on my blog (though am experimenting with it here on OpenSalon); even so I'm learning never to say never and just signed up for BlogHer 11 so I can learn from the pros.

It would be SO nice to have an affirmative answer for my husband when I regale him with a summary of a blog post I've written and he says, "Do you get paid for that?"
I hear you, girlfriend! Boy does this ring a bell :)
I've only been blogging here a few months, but notice that many people blog almost daily. I find it hard to motivate myself to write without the threat of a deadline or the promise of a paycheck. But guess many people here link their blogs to their "real" blogs or their published books. I'd do it, too, if I had any. I love reading OS and wish I had the time and motivation to write more posts myself. Good post. R
I've only been blogging here a few months, but notice that many people blog almost daily. I find it hard to motivate myself to write without the threat of a deadline or the promise of a paycheck. But guess many people here link their blogs to their "real" blogs or their published books. I'd do it, too, if I had any. I love reading OS and wish I had the time and motivation to write more posts myself. Good post. R
notice men need no product-excuse to party?!
Hire a few actors and a professional camera person, then call yourself a Mormon. Blog that life and you may just hit the jackpot.
Thank you for all the comments! I have been mulling about this subject for a while... and I guess many of you have, too.

People blog for different reasons: to express oneself, to advocate, to have fun, and to earn money (or try to). I do appreciate the varied kinds of blogs and voices out there. Here on OS there is such a high quality of writing, I'm sure we'll see more from you.
Big business is a good thing, it supplies the computers and the Internet that we use to work in our own home offices. In the last few generations big business has wiped out the old original marketplace, where people could put up a stall and sell their produce, whether it be food or tape decks or whatever.

Now we're rebuilding that free marketplace on the World Wide Web. Mind your own business, create your own free enterprise, instead of working for someone else's free enterprise.
Check out Examiner.com, which pays you by page views. You write short, informative articles and get a paid once a month.
I have been blogging for less than two weeks, so I appreciate your opinion. There is still a lot to be learned......R
I'm a former television reporter myself. Know all about those promotions people you referred to. I'm also an author. When I was writing my book, I was all about the writing; once it was published, I was all about the selling. I don't see a problem as long as you can keep those processes straight. The tail should not wag the dog. But both processes are necessary. I am a writer who counts beans, not a bean counter who writes.
Excellent post. It's funny because I was just having qualms about posting a link to my latest article on Facebook--it's a quandary because I don't want to be constantly selling myself, yet I really rely on traffic from friends to up my numbers, a vital part of getting my next article published.
Lovely point of view. I too shunned the sell-side. In my line of work, people refer to it sometimes as the "dark side" but I too need to make money... I would have been exquisitely suited to a life with a trust fund but sadly the universe did not provide that. I read the bit about going back to work with a bit of trepidation: I resigned three years ago; my son has just started pre-school; I am currently looking for a job... Wish me luck. xxx m.
This is such a thoughtful, insightful post on blogging/being a work-at-home woman, etc. rated
Working at home is great, but not easy to make a blogging , you must have exceptional personal discipline, organizing skills and persistence. Those who work less at home than in the office will certainly make far less working at home than working in the office. In the office you may take a thirty minute coffee break and not get caught. At home, with that sort of discipline, your coffee break may go on for hours or even days. Or you may just sleep in and not even get up to make the coffee. for hours, days or weeks. And there goes the rent or mortgage payment and there goes the house.

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