How much is enough? AKA: There’s no such thing as security, but drinking helps.

11 10 2011

THE BIG MOVE… How can I decide when it’s time?The truth is, there is no perfect time to move. Slowly, I’m beginning to pull fuzzy rabbits out of my hat again, and for me, this is the definition of success. Money is beginning to be defined as something I can create again versus something that depends upon a job to acquire. What do I mean? Marketability versus traditional security.

My Mini Bottles on a Plane

I have several talents/skills that can generate income for me: 1) writing; 2) singing; 3) cooking; 4) acting; 5) communications and business development; 6) public speaking… these are marketable anywhere. The trick is to make sure each of these talents/skills are polished and at the ready to be marketed and delivered with exceptional quality. This level of marketability is far more secure than a job. I can’t get fired, I can mold the skills to fit within any changing market, and I take it with me wherever I go.

For me, I find that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol at strategic periods of time helps hone these skills. You know–focus.

Where to move? Look I only speak American English. So I’m honestly not concerned about the language barrier–I’m an alien anywhere. Argentina and Brazil look very promising, but I’m not ruling out Costa Rica or Panama. Belize has some fine attributes also.

When to move…? Again that pesky question. I think I’ll get drunk (or even high for the first time in my life) wind up on a plane, and there I will be.

More to come…


Advice on starting a freelance writing biz while working fulltime

10 10 2010

[Dedicated to Russel–thanks for the comment and question.]

I began my education and career as a classical vocal performer (yes, I sang opera, oratorio and all that). I had the opportunity to speak to the famed operatic soprano Beverly Sills once, who said when asked what it takes to be a professional opera singer, “First you must determine if you have any talent. Then the work begins.” The same advice applies to writing and most anything else you may choose to do. Talent is very important, and some may confidently argue that it can be a learned trait. Regardless, countless hours of work follow for you to achieve mastery of anything. The rest of this post will assume you are a master writer, and so here is my advice on beginning a freelance writing biz while working fulltime:

  1. Compile a diverse body of work for your portfolio, assuming you don’t already have one. Make certain it highlights the exact type of freelance writing you would like to focus upon and also have accents of other types of writing you would like to showcase to potential clients. Have this printed and bound, in color if appropriate.
  2. While still working fulltime, realistically determine how much time (per day, week, month) you can dedicate to your new business. This includes actual billable hours, marketing, business development and organization, accounting, etc. At the start, while things are slow, this won’t account for much, but please plan for success. Unplanned success sinks many new small businesses.
  3. Work. Develop copy. Even if you don’t have a lineup of paying customers, get to work. Start a blog to show off your skills and get Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg and other social networking site participants to pay attention to you growing body of work.
  4. Offer introductory discounts, but be careful here. Make sure your clients know that you are offering an introductory rate. If you would normally charge $30, 40, 60, 70+ per hour, and you are providing a, for example, 30% introductory discount for a new client, make certain to show the math in your bid and invoice for them. The need to see the actual value they are receiving as you build your relationship with them. Also, when you raise your prices, they need to know why and what to expect. Don’t be afraid to volunteer a bit if you need to build your portfolio. Approach local nonprofits/charities that you care about, and offer to do a little pro bono work for them. Let them know why–that you care about their cause and that you’re starting a freelance biz. If all goes well, ask if they’ll give you a praise statement or general letter of recommendation  to include in your portfolio.
  5. Accounting: open up a business account, and you’ll probably want to invest in a little accounting software. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire an accountant who works with small businesses, and consult with them for an hour. Do a little research first so that you have great questions to bring to them to get the conversation started. You’ll want to know about taxes, best ways to keep track of profit and loss, what to track, etc.
  6. All about business. Get a business license and apply for an EIN through the IRS. I always recommend that individuals begin as a sole proprietorship, and if they want to get incorporates, calculate all of the costs associated and wait until the company’s revenue can afford to incorporate. Usually, my rule of thumb is that the business needs to pay for all expansions, advertising, etc., or it just isn’t time. There are exceptions to this rule, such as you just landed a huge corporate client, and you won’t see cashflow for at least a month, etc. and you need to take out a loan to handle the upfront costs until you start getting paid–that’s perfectly understandable and a not-so-bad problem to have. Remember–plan for success.
  7. A word on marketing–brand yourself. Develop a solid on-line and community-wide presence/brand. I recommend the book “Crush It” for those not familiar with developing an on-line personal brand. As for community-wide, if you’re at all comfortable with public speaking, get some presentations developed on your subject. Let people know why they need your services–not just what you offer, but what problems exist and what solutions you will bring forward. Be a spokesman for your industry not just a walking advertisement for yourself.
  8. Give a generous gift. Develop something for free to give to people. Something specific–a model communications plan, winning press release formula, etc. Be a little selective in who you give your gifts to, and make certain you are not asking for something in return.
  9. Collaborate and partner. Graphic design artists, web developers, accountants, thought and industry leaders–these are our friends. Collaborate on projects together, invite them to join a dream team for a large client project, refer and accept referrals, etc. We all need friends and having the ability to share resources and expertise will boost your value and offer value-added services to your clients.
  10. Have fun! This is a lot of hard work. It’s only worth it if you enjoy the process as well as the results. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself and other things you enjoy, and prioritize spending time with family and friends. They, and you, come first always.

Bonus: When to quit the day job? I’m fighting that one as we speak. Make certain you have accumulated money in savings to last you through the hard times. If you get sick and can’t work, you’ll have a loss of billable hours. This may seem obvious, but many people forget to plan for this. There’s no PTO when you’re self-employed. Unless you have some passive income on the side, if you don’t work, you don’t make money. Also, plan for vacations and costs associated. You not only have to save for the vacation but also the missed billable hours for your income. Don’t forget about other benefits you may be used to such as life, medical, dental and eye insurance, 401K, etc. remember, you won’t have an employer, so make certain this is really the life you want to lead–with all responsibilities resting on your shoulders. Personally, I can hardly wait!!!!

The big advantage I have is that I have spent years as a professional writer, employed as such. This not only gives me a large portfolio to present to potential clients, as well as the opportunity to cut my chops on various writing styles (grants, reports, technical, plans, copywriting, article writing, etc.)… having been employed as a writer gives me additional credibility from my employer and former employers. Resumes matter, but trust me, they only matter to a degree. Your body of work and the reputation you have and the one you will build are what will make or break you. There is plenty of work to sustain freelance writers. As the economy remains shaky, this business will be steady, but the competition is high. Many staff writers are being laid off and are turning to freelance work as their source of income. The jobs that laid them off still need writers, but they have learned that they can get more bang for their buck paying higher fees for jobs without being stuck with fulltime salaries and benefits to cover.

Happy trails  –Daphne

I’m beginning to fall in love (I think). Buenos Aires–is there a better reason to move?

25 09 2010

So, yes. I’m still investigating many Latin American countries to help determine the best spots for me to live abroad. As a result, I may have accidentally fallen in love. And no, it has nothing to do with the cost of living, which surprises even me!

I’m in love with Argentinian culture, history, beauty–the magic of a people who invented the Tango! What pushed me over the edge was an article from National Geographic: Buenos Aires: A City of Style–and Sizzle

This article, while not intending to be wholly persuasive, read like a love letter to me. Ups and downs, impacted by invaders, tyrants and friends, with a resiliency that can only be found through the richness of continual self-re-discovery juxtaposed with a steadfast identity.

It’s appearance is flatly beautiful–for all that it is, what it has been through and what it is yet to become. For those of you who know, do you agree?

I have seen, and I have, many reasons to move abroad. But the best reason to move somewhere–to do anything–is out of love.

Q and A–7 questions for travelers and expatriates. Comments? Please?

12 09 2010

My “Q” dreaming of its “A”

Below are a few questions I’m posing to expatriates and travelers. Just a few things that could help me jump-start this journey in a positive direction. Please let me know your thoughts (or even if you just think something is a particularly good or bad question), and feel free to provide links to other resources by posting a comment.

  1. Cellular phones: when traveling to or living in Latin America, is there a particular cellular provider you recommend?
  2. Internet connectivity: Are aircards from the States helpful, or do you recommend using local internet service provider?
  3. Republic of Panama or Argentina? Any thoughts on which location is best for a wannabe expat on a budget whose favorite hobbies include fine and performing arts, history, great conversations, sailing and staring at large bodies of water?
  4. Housing? Any great links or resources to help a wannabe expatriate learn more about affordable but safe long-term rentals in the Republic of Panama or Argentina?
  5. Caution: What would you recommend that a first-time traveler to Latin America know to be careful of, particularly in the Republic of Panama and Argentina?
  6. Don’t miss this! What are some locations, activities, etc. that you would tell a new expat not to miss in the lands of the Republic of Panama or Argentina?
  7. Be sure to: General “To Do” or “Don’t Do” lists, such as “Be certain to pack these items before you leave the States;” “Never do this or go near that;” “While you are there, make sure to do this;” “Always check this out before you leave the States;” etc.

Please post your comments and/or links in the comment section on the blog. No need for brevity or even staying on topic. Just really looking to solicit intelligence from those who’ve either been there or who have done a lot of research and can help with resources.

Happy trails  –Daphne