Adventure! an extraordinary plan to escape an ordinary life

16 10 2010

What’s next? I’m working like crazy to stay excited–not just motivated, but gleefully excited about everything I’m doing to break free from this suffocating blanket of everydayness. The ordinary job, unexceptional lifestyle, starving for new and interesting experiences and conversations with other passionate people–people passionate about life and possibilities! Adventure!

So, what’s next? Well, I’m blogging like mad and developing a freelance writing business that’s growing legs, and this is keeping my head in the clouds–which is exactly where my damn head belongs! Not everyone is cut-out to take big risks and pull dreams out of the sky and make them happen–maybe–but I know that I am. I need more cloud time. It feeds me.

While my 2-year plan is to expatriate to Latin America, one of my short-term goals is to live off of my freelance writing business fulltime. My head in the clouds, I’m creating opportunities and making things happen! Why didn’t I do this years ago? Ha! Not going to think about that one right now. As I said, cloud time.

 

 

Do you have a cloud dream you’re making happen or want to make happen? Tell me about it–would love to hear about dreams and ambitions.





Developing business needed for Latin America launch–a little disappointment

13 10 2010

Freelance Writing!

Worked like crazy to develop a new blog for my freelance writing and communications consulting business. It’s only been one day, but I am disappointed by the response so far. It seems that thee’s much more interested in living a dream and fleeing the country than there is in communications and marketing practices. I’m not surprised–I think living dreams, planning for adventures and exploring new lands is far more exciting to read about than business strategy, too. But I have no idea how to make a living as an explorer–I do know about writing and communications.

I’m far from feeling defeated. I just expected a much more enthusiastic response on the reorganization. Anyway, if you have any interest in learning more about my professional life, please feel free to visit my other blog: http://daphnestreet.wordpress.com/ and please, please promote it if you feel the spirit move you to do so.

Anyway, things are still progressing on this end. I’ll keep trying different strategies in hopes of stirring greater buzz. More later.

Happy trails  –Daphne





America is a slave to its laws at grave expense to decency, ethics and common sense. What will it take to restore balance?

10 10 2010

Forgive me. I’m a bit off-topic on this post, but I think it’s imporatnt, so here it is:

America is a slave to its laws at grave expense to decency, ethics and common sense. Weighing heavy at the top of this list are patent laws, particularly involving living organisms. Let it be known that neither the people of the United States nor any member of Congress have ever voted on such laws, rather they have been established at the sole discretion of the US Supreme Court (similar story in Canada). These justices deliberated on the First Amendment and arguments brought forward, and laws were ruled “Constitutional” by majority rule of opinions of justices sitting at the time. As it stands, any individual or more likely corporation can own a patent on a seed, gene, or many other parts of living organisms and claim ownership of anything that contains that part of the organism. As far as humans go–there is a majority percentage of the organism that must be non-human for the patent to be held. Terrifying to think of in theory. In reality, the injustice served to many farmers who have been sued and forced to destroy their own seeds due to these laws is simply horrific.

For those of you who know me well, I am very far from a conspiracy theorist. However, what I am witnessing in America is that corporations are ruling our government and ferociously infringing on the rights of all Americans to earn a successful living in many industries. Agriculture is being exploited by big business in insurmountable ways. Other industries are not immune. Additionally, big business has been infringing upon government with exponentially increasing influence. At the very top of this list is the insurance industry. Take a hard look at American healthcare reform. Special interest groups, lobbyists and namely those representing the insurance industry are running the show. Who gave them all this power and permission to control our government and destroy lives?

There are myriad documentaries, movies, articles and books produced on this subject–all with conclusive evidence of this. Please search out information on this topic on your own, and that way you will have personal buy-in regarding your own position on this topic. The more informed you are, and the more original sources you can cite to back-up your claim, the stronger your argument will be and the more convinced you will be regarding your own beliefs.

Personally, I am at the very core a capitalist. I believe in free-markets and that competition works for business and consumers, ensuring that supply and demand set pricing along with competition ensuring that quality remains high and prices reasonable for the marketplace.

I also believe in a balance of some socialized systems to help ensure human rights in a compassionate culture: access to housing, healthcare, social services, food, clothing, education (including higher education and public libraries) and just laws are human rights that a developed society has a responsibility to make available to its citizens so that they may have the opportunity to live healthfully and have resources to create an improved live for themselves and their children.

Who cares and what do I know –what authority do I have to speak on such issues? I care, and you should too, because it affects all of is in many ways–all citizens of the United States and those who would like to live here. And, I know that having the majority of wealth and power, in obscene proportions, accumulated by a minute fraction of the population by individuals and corporations who wish to do little with this wealth other than to accumulate more wealth and power and ferociously abuse this power for the sole purpose of accumulating even more wealth–this is a perfect storm of disease–an aggressive, unstoppable cancer eating away at America, preventing individuals’ inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I do love the United States and all of its rich history and successes and stories–everything that makes it what it is–good, bad and inbetween. But, I fear it is broken. In a big way. And instead of holding its position as “the land of opportunity,” it is becoming a wasteland of insatiable greed juxtaposed by hardship and suffering. I know that America will find balance once again, and I have great faith that we will have a stronger, more resilient country as a result. But at what cost in the interim? Can we afford the cost? How many will not be able to survive the transition?

[My apologies for run-on sentences, spilt inifinatives, etc. My purpose here is content and communication. Style and rules have suffered in this post, possibly more than others.]





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





Pains of jumpstarting freelance writing biz while working fulltime

9 10 2010

Okay. First realization. This isn’t easy. My fulltime job takes a minimum of 60 hours a week, on salary, as a writer for a large nonprofit. Plus, the job market is fantastically weak, so to be competitive, I’m having to offer huge discounts, calling them “introduction rates,” making sure to document all discounts within every bid and invoice.

Meanwhile, I have one steady freelance gig that pays weekly, with some eventual room for additional special projects. However, it is most definitely location-dependant, which is the type of job I don’t want as I am trying to move abroad. That’s okay. It’s steady income into the freelance business, so that’s positive any way I look at it, for now.

Fulltime gig is getting more and more tedious. With no support staff in various departments, I’m being required to take on more data entry work for other departments and not doing as much writing as I would like. This just adds stress to an already overworked schedule. But, that’s just business life these days. No one can afford much support staff. Hopefully it’s at least appreciated and/or helpful, but that’s wishful thinking. It’s really just expected and demanded.

The agony is that if I left my fulltime job, I do have ample work to make more money with the freelance work than I’m making through the fulltime job. The fulltime job is getting in the way of me making more money. It’s taking up so much time, including time that I’m not actually compensated for as I’m salaried, that I could use through billable hours in my freelance work. I could also spend the additional time marketing the freelance biz and taking on more higher-paying, large-scale jobs that I don’t have time to take on right now, thanks to working fulltime.

But, is it time to quit yet? How about now? Now? What about now? Grrrrrrrrrr….. 

Insurance, paid vacations, steady pay, blah, blah, blah…. barriers I’m not sure I can abandon right now. Plans are for another six months to a year. I wonder if I should change my plans and speed things up?





More about retiring in the Republic of Panama

9 10 2010

So… interesting development on the homefront. My mother has recently become acquainted with the President of Costa Rica. Here’s the skinny: even the President of Costa Rica (unofficially and unconfirmed, of course) thinks that an American’s best value is in retiring in Panama. Believe it or not… your choice. Most of my mother’s personal connections are in Costa Rica, and still the best value she has found for herself is in Panama (plus there’s an added bonus that Costa Rica is very close by). This is official and confirmed.

Republic of Panama Beach

Here are some reasons why[Source: MSN Money]:

  • low cost of living,
  • near-perfect weather and
  • one of the world’s best discount programs for retirees 
  • up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor’s visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares
  • newcomers who buy or build a new house won’t owe any property taxes for 20 years
  • residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income
  • the U.S. dollar is legal tender in Panama, which insulates its economy from global shocks. During the Asian monetary crisis of 1998, Panama became one of the healthiest economies in Latin America.

Source: MSN Money. Link: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills/RetireInStyle/PanamaIsParadiseForRetirees.aspx





The power of thought: it can fester and rot like a caustic poison and it can radiate like a sun, bright beams of opportunity and joy

3 10 2010

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever underestimate the power of thought. I am living in a dangerous environment. Not something that would ever threaten me with life and limb. This environment threatens hope. It threatens ideas, opportunity and dreams. And this is the very environment that most people experience. Oh, it’s not easy to identify. Most people have good intentions. But as we all know the time-honored cliché, “the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I have found myself, or rather placed myself, in a sort of limbo–neither here nor there. I am in between permanent residences and have wound up living on my mother’s sofa. Yep, I am employed full-time. In the same job for nearly six years, collectively (I spent a few years in between doing other things before returning). The result of revolving roommates in the townhouse I used to have along with a recent and very substantial hike in student loan payments, poor credit due to being laid off from a job a few years ago and settling a costly probate issue following my father’s suicide. In short, life is difficult. Yet, it’s far from unmanageable.

I am slowly building a freelance writing business, with more opportunities on the horizon and a surplus in cashflow that is either trickling in at a snail’s pace or manifesting as a flash in the distance, just out of reach for now. And here I am, barraged with background noise–a steady stream of negativity, blame, shame, sadness, depression, fear and scarcity. The very same messages that infested my head years ago when I decided to give up on my dreams before I even gave them a fighting chance to become real. And I feel that cold, dark blanket of depression and fear falling hard, trying to snuff out the spark that I recently worked so incredibly hard to ignite.

Inspiration! Inspiration is the kryptonite here. And, I will take inspiration from anything right now. A survivor’s only chance at rescue is a steadfast belief, faith that it will come. With enough hard work, determination, talent and grace, it will come, and hope is all that will truly bring about change. So, I am newly committed to combatting the negativity surrounding me with an overdose in inspiration: books, art, music, conversation, socializing–anything that will help me remember who I am, what I believe and that faith and hope are at the core of my being. I will not accept anything else. This is survival. And everything is a stake, particularly my mental health.

I must commit to rejecting the poison of negative thoughts and fight them ferociously with hope–hope that will radiate like the sun, illuminating my world with bright beams of opportunity and joy. A bit bold and fantastical? I certainly hope so. That’s my goal, and it’s the only way I think I will survive.

Happy trails  –Daphne