Happier than a Billionair

10 07 2012

I’m in the middle of reading this book called Happier than a Billionair. It’s about a couple that quit their jobs and moved to Costa Rica. It’s extraordinary. If you have your own expatriate dreams, especially if these dreams have anything to do with moving to Costa Rica, you want to read this book.


I’ll post an in-depth review of the book once I’ve completed reading it. So far, it’s fabulous! It is filled with great stories, lots of humor and adventure along with good information…


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.

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

Live the story of your life: what do you risk by not following your dreams?

2 10 2010

Complacency. There’s something to be said for the sense of security and calm the familiar and everydayness of life brings to our minds. The comfort of your own bed, the warmth of a smile from an old friend, hearing your favorite song from years ago and sitting down to your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant–these are strong elements tying you to your “comfort zone.” Beware–there’s also great danger here! What if you never added anything new and exciting to your treasured memories and experiences? To live the inevitable end-life of an old man or woman continuously regurgitating stories from when you were in your twenties, being a bystander in your own life’s tale, nothing unique to contribute and no new perspectives to offer. Complacency can destroy opportunities, little worm-holes of chance that pop up once in a while, saying “live!” while you smile at the temptation and determine these chances are meant for someone else, and return to sofa watching some crime drama rerun. The American Dream? 

Ahhhhh, the good old USA. The melting pot–land of diversity, opportunity and solace for “huddled masses” from far away lands seeking a better life, the pursuit of happiness where there is “liberty and justice for all.” Not to dispel a well-believed myth nor to completely knock the land of my birth, but things may not be completely as originally described. Go ahead and travel to every corner of the “lower 48” (The United States minus Alaska and Hawaii, because they DO have vastly different cultures–congrats!), and you will find similar scenes: somewhere, not far away there’s a suburban sprawl complete with strip malls, casual dining eateries and concrete block houses containing families (meaning individuals who barely know or like one another), electronic devices (televisions, computers, video games)that capture the majority of brain activity that is left after 10-15 hours of work or school per day, including homework. Exceptions exist for those involved with sports: football, basketball, baseball, soccer, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, etc.

In short, Americans keep ourselves so busy with work/school, technology and recreational activities–not to mention the insurmountable time spent keeping track of complicated finances, personal debt, complex taxes and insurances and emergency situations–that pursuing happiness or even paying attention to our own surroundings is sorrowfully uncommon. Uncommon, too, is being an active participant in developing the story of our own lives. So, this must be the basis of our values, right?

What do we truly value–many would commonly argue that what we value is a simple equation of how we spend our time. If we spend most of our time at work, then work is what we value most. If we spend most of our time taking care of our family, then family is what we value most. If current time-values calculations are correct, then what most Americans value today is fear. Fear? A value? seriously, this is a grave miscalculation. For if this were true, then why are so many Americans resentful of their long work hours or feeling suffocated by domestic duties or are swallowing anti-anxiety meds at epidemic proportions?

No–this is all wrong! Look to American history, even recent history. Americans are an aggressive, resilient, determined and adventurous breed. For the most part, all Americans come from a stock of people who got pissed off and left wherever they came from, facing grave danger in the most extreme situations or at the least, great inconveniences and fears, in hopes of a new start, freedom and opportunities. Those of Native American and African-American descent pass on  their own brand of resiliency and strength, born of a strong spirit enduring centuries-long attempts at genocide and slavery, stories of overcoming relentless oppression and victimization.

Many foreigners are not welcomed to this new land with open arms, and they fight and struggle, determined to succeed against all odds, because they believe in the dream. They believe in their dream like a fire burning in the pit of their soul, and are unaware of any other outcome. They pool resources with friends, family and community and build their dreams. They work and save from their beginnings as an immigrant store clerk or sales associate to owning their own companies, homes, cars and providing a college education for their children. They actively create their own stories, and their dreams come alive, because these dreams were the only realities they allowed to exist in their hearts and minds.

For those of us white-bread, fear-infused, spoiled, complacent multi-generational Americans–we are dysfunctioning in our own creation. We have, for the most part, become voyeurs, spying on the stories of others’ lives or fictitious lives through television, movies, computers, magazines, books and games. But, if we dared to break free–if we dared to take the chance to actively author our own stories to travel, truly develop a career that makes us happy and live out loud authentically, what would happen?

Most of us already live in fear, so there’s no need to worry about adding to fear–it’s here. Many of us already consider our lives failures, so there’s no need to worry about failing–it’s already here. If fear did not exist, what would you want your life’s story to be? What steps would you need to make that happen? What’s stopping you from starting now? What’s the risk of you not starting now? I bet that’s worse.

Do something extreme, and life will greet you with a big hello, saying, “Hey, where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting for you. Kinda worried about you. Anyway, glad you finally made it. Welcome! Now, let’s get started…”

A little progress: on my way to leaving the country

27 09 2010

Nothing worthwhile is perfectly easy.

Somethings are progressing nicely. The freelance business is building. This is leading to increased income, which leads to increased savings and job security that will be sustainable when I move. This is improving my outlook.

Researching Latin American countries as destinations to live–that’s progressing nicely, too. Based on certain details that I’ll get into later, it seems that the first move will be probably be to Panama with an ultimate destination of Argentina.

I may wander around a lot due to visa requirements, but that actually sounds great to me! Perhaps I’ll end up becoming a bit of a travel writer. Wherever the tide washes me to shore, I’m certain I’ll enjoy it. It’s never difficulties that get me down; it’s always the everydayness and all-too-familiar surroundings that grate on my nerves. I was not designed, psychologically, to be set in one place, in a single full-time job, in a godforsaken office somewhere.

Still contemplating on the best time to permanently vacate the full-time office gig. Benefits are pleasant. Paid vacations, major medical, steady salary, etc. are strong temptors, occasionally successful in luring my thoughts back into the dark abyss of the misery of false safety for me. And I do know how false this safety is. In this economy, anyone could lose their job at any moment. Benefits can be reduced in the blink of an eye depending on how hard my company gets hit with the residual affects of governmental budget cuts.

Meanwhile, either way, I’d still be miserable, living a life that is clearly meant for someone else. I would continue not living my own life, and that is horrifying. Not taking the risk to jump off of the cliff into endless possibilities is a bone chilling thought.

I must take the first huge step and have a go of it on my own, but when?