Meet Lisa Lightner
This dynamic small business owner has helped over 16 million parents, changing outcomes of disabled children by giving families the tools and knowledge they need to be better advocates
When did you start publishing, and what inspired you to create your site?
I had my first blog in 2008, but created A Day in our Shoes in 2011. At the time, I was just pivoting myself and was in training to become a Special Education Advocate for Parents. As I was learning, I realized that there was just so much out there that parents didn’t know. And what was out there was in formal language — you know, like government policy-type speak. My mission from the start was to explain this stuff to parents in language they understand. And not just understanding the laws and statutes that protect our disabled children, but how to use it and put it into practice. My audience for 10 years has consistently been 95 percent moms, and they are the ones who inspire me.
What do you love most about being an independent publisher?
The flexibility and ability to create my own success. Long ago, I had a successful friend who told me just to focus on getting to 1000 page views a day, then worry about monetizing. So I achieved that goal, and my next goal was to be eligible for AdThrive, and I achieved that in 2015 or so. My next goal is to be in the million page views per month club, and I’m steadily marching toward it.
Our society is still less than family-friendly when it comes to working moms. I have a disabled child who requires a lot of my time and attention sometimes. I can still be a valuable employee with much to contribute, but some employers don’t see it that way. But that’s ok, because now I work for myself and my success is all my own. If he needs me, I can step away for a few days or few weeks and still generate income. I have taken my laptop to children’s hospitals with him, and I can work from there and still be there for him.
There have been many days that my disabled child was in school (he goes year-round), and I would sit poolside with my non-disabled child and he could swim with his friends, and I was using their wifi to get work done.
I am in several mastermind groups for women/mom online entrepreneurs, and it’s been amazing to see so many thumb their noses at the traditional workplace and find success on our terms.
Do you have a team?
Yes, I have two part time Virtual Assistants who help me manage administrative tasks associated with my business. Then I have 5 moms, all parenting disabled children, who help me with content and the niche-specific information that my readers and social media followers need. As my audience and reach expands, I hope to bring the moms on in a much larger capacity soon. IEP knowledge is a very specific knowledge base that not many people have.
What can you tell us about interacting with your audience?
My audience really helped me niche down and focus on what was important and what would be read by them. Early on, I had a much larger focus and was trying to publish “all the things!” and it was exhausting. They helped me focus because what they wanted was the IEP content. Honestly, my site and content is only necessary if parents are in conflict with their schools, and that part stinks. I genuinely would love for my job to become extinct, but I don’t see that happening in my lifetime. Parents only turn to me when things are bad, and it can be hard to take all that in sometimes. But, it’s the success stories that keep me going. The thank-yous via email and Facebook are so motivating.
How does advertising impact your business?
Well, it’s how I pay myself and my Virtual Assistants. It pays for my hosting, everything. I worked for many years for peanuts. And that’s just not sustainable. I prefer to refer to myself as an online business owner, rather than “Mom Blogger” or ick, “Mommy Blogger” because that leads to people not taking me seriously. I am changing lives. I have donated a lot of my income to DonorsChoose, so teachers and classrooms get a direct benefit. I am affecting lifetime outcomes for disabled children. I am providing a needed and valuable service to parents with disabled children, this is much more than a “blog.” At the same time, I am providing very a very valuable, specific and niche audience to advertisers, and should be recognized as such. Advertising is what allows me to help other parents in many capacities. Income generated by my site allows me to pay for lobbying trips to affect real change for disabled children. My site wouldn’t be as good as it is, nor lasted as long, if it wasn’t for AdThrive and advertising.
What else should we know about your site?
I have helped over 16 million parents with my site. I have changed outcomes of disabled children by giving parents the tools and knowledge they need to be better advocates. So many disabled children are not being served appropriately by their schools. I have affected legislation and funding for these kids by testifying before legislatures.