Kali Hawlk

Financial Writer & Money Makin' Expert

Around the Web: March 2015

How did the month of March treat you, friends? It was another full month, but in a I-had-a-ton-of-fun way instead of I’m-buried-under-work-send-help way.

I’m extremely excited for the start of April next week, as I have some big things lined up and in the works. We’re moving to our new place soon (exciting! exhausting!), and in a little over two weeks I’ll head out to Las Vegas for a week to hang out and soak up some new knowledge at New Media Expo.

Once we settle into the new place, I’m also planning on focusing on some big projects that got pushed to the back burner after we started dealing with our move. Some are personal, and some are for business. I’m thrilled about them all!

What do you feel excited about right now? What was your favorite part of March — and how do you plan to make April amazing?

What I’ve Written Around the Web

Where I’ve Been Featured Around the Web

What I’ve Loved Reading Around the Web

How to Make Time for a Side Business

Make Time for Your Side Business

When people ask how I made room and time for a side business, I’m not always sure how to answer. I want to respond, “I sat down and did the work.”

Simple as that. There are no fancy tricks or complicated tips that made it any easier. It was hard, and it was work. A lot of hard work.

That’s what it feels like sometimes, that it really is that simple and there’s nothing else to it. And in some ways that truly is the big secret to any success. People who do big things do the work.

But there is more to it than that. Because “doing the work” involves planning, time management, prioritizing, learning efficient systems and processes — and for me, many, many times it involved someone to lend a helping hand.

If you’re wondering how to make time for your side business, use these tips to help get you started:

  • Cut off the TV. If you want to make time in your life limit yourself to a Netflix subscription or an antenna (if you can pick up channels where you live). Get rid of your cable package and you’ll save yourself hours of time plus plenty of money each month.
  • Put time limits on tasks. Work takes up however much time you allow it. Set yourself 15, 30, or 60 minutes to accomplish a task — and then get it done. Don’t multitask. Schedule a time for everything and stick to it.
  • Hack your productivity. Try techniques to increase your efficiency and productivity to get more done in less time. Try crossing off your most-dreaded to-do list item as soon as you sit down to work on your side business (in other words, swallow the frog). Or make a list of 3 things to do each day; things that if you get them done the day will be a “win” no matter what else happened. Or try something that I’ve been using lately: the Pomodoro technique.  (As fanatic as people are about this I feel a bit like I’ve joined a cult by using it myself.)
  • Prioritize and write it down. We all have limits, so the reality is that we won’t get to every single task every single day. But you can prioritize what must be done and what’s truly important to you. Then write it down; stick it on your calendar; put it in a planner; schedule everything out. My Passion Planner helps me with this. (And to be honest with you, I have two planners. A small blank one that I use to scribble all over and make sure I write down all tasks, and the Passion Planner which is how I schedule and prioritize all the scribbles.) You can download and print pages from the Passion Planner for free if you want to give it a try.
  • Replace unproductive, unfulfilling activities with meaningful work. Before I started developing a side hustle — and then a side business — whenever I would get bored I’d seek out something to occupy me. Instead of doing something constructive, creating something, or learning something new, I would do something completely meaningless just to fill up my time. I would go shopping and spend too much money. I would hang out with toxic people (who were probably just as bored and unproductive as I was) and gossip. I would get sucked into Pinterest or blogs for hours. This didn’t make me happy and at the end of each day I’d go to bed frustrated that I didn’t make anything useful that day. If you can identify with this at all, replace those activities with a few hours of making. Write. Draw. Play an instrument. Develop a business plan. Outline a course you could teach.
  • Reach out for help. Don’t be too afraid or proud to ask someone to help you when you need it. This might be outsourcing parts of your business to someone else who could do a better job than you could. Or it could be accepting a meal your spouse cooked for dinner because you were working away. I’ve done both and am extremely grateful for all the help I’ve received (and continue to receive). I could not manage a side business without the many helping hands that have supported me.

We tend to put importance on a sense of “busyness,” on displaying our flurry of activity to prove something. (I’m not sure of what.) We may think that there’s a correlation in value and an outcome that is more elaborate, more complex, or just more — more to read through, listen to, see.

That’s not the case, though. More is not always better.

Sometimes, you make time for your side business by cutting the fluff and getting down to the point.

You take advice on managing your day to squeeze just a few more minutes out of every hour. And then you do the work.

Stop Competing and Start Collaborating

Start Collaborating!You want to know my favorite thing about working in the digital economy? The internet makes it possible to connect with anyone, anywhere. That means you cannot possibly serve every potential client you can reach. For practical purposes, your pool of potential customers is endless because it’s no longer bound by physical location.

And that’s a very good thing, because it effectively kills aggressive competition. Think about it: with an infinite source of business (i.e., more customers than you could ever possibly serve all on your own), there’s enough for everyone.

You Can Start Collaborating and Still Succeed in Business

Traditional ways of doing business say to watch your competition with suspicion, and protect your products and ideas from the competitor. They might steal those ideas, become more profitable than you, and take away all your paying clients! They may cause you to fail!

This is an outdated way of thinking if you’re a freelancer, a solopreneur with a digital business, or even a professional trying to get ahead. And it’s just not true.

Again, we’re talking about infinite pie here. Everyone is welcome to take a slice all their own because of the sheer volume of people out there. Still not convinced? I regularly refer people to my “competitors” because I know someone else will be a better fit for that potential clients. And my “competitors” do the same for me.

You no longer need to feel fear, jealousy, or frustration when you think about other people doing the same job in the same industry. They are not a threat to your business or your side hustle.

If anything, they are assets that can share experiences, lessons learned, and advice to help you grow and find even more success. But only if you stop competing with them and start collaborating instead.

The Collaborative Power of Smart Women

Nothing proves this to me more than the women in the financial blogging space.

I started thinking about this earlier this month, when my friend and talented blogger, financial planner, and podcaster Shannon from Financially Blonde created a post to celebrate women she admires. She created an amazing movement in the financial blogging world last year with her Women’s Power Wednesdays series and I loved taking part in that. (Unfortunately, my 2014 WPW post was deleted due to a malware threat just weeks after I posted it.)

This year, she’s continuing the support of her fellow smart and talented ladies and encourages others to do the same.

This sort of collaborative project that shines a spotlight on people you admire — people who, arguably, could be seen as “competition” — is only possible we focus on collaborating together instead of jealously guarding our resources, client lists, ideas, and experiences.

As further proof, consider the photo above in this post. From left to right, that’s me, Melanie from Dear Debt, Cat from Budget Blonde, Erin from Journey to Saving, and Carrie from Careful Cents. We got together last year at FinCon as part of a Careful Cents team meetup.

We all had experience working for Carrie — but Erin and Melanie were also invaluable members of my own biz team and Cat was a fellow writer the freelance arena. And we all run blogs that produce financial content in one way or another.

I’m proud and honored to call these women friends and I’ve learned so much from each and every one of them. In fact, I continue to learn from them and grow because they inspire and help me today.

Do More with Your Work by Working Together

I can’t call out all the women who have helped me over the last few years as I’ve ventured into the world of blogging, freelance writing, marketing, and running an online business. Undoubtedly, as thorough as I may be I would leave a name off the list — that’s a testament to how long and full it is!

I can say that I never experienced the kind of friendship and kindness from other women that is present in the financial media space before I started writing and blogging. The women who constantly impress me with their business knowledge, inspired ideas, and spot-on thoughts about how to do more with money also blew me away by how willing they were to help, support, and encourage everyone else around them.

To each and every one of them, I’m channel my inner Leslie Knope on this Women’s Power Wednesday to say:

leslieknope-list-ox

You’re wonderful, ladies. Thanks for inspiring me and for showing how much more successful we ALL are when we stop competing and start collaborating.

 

Before Making Money Online, You Need to Understand This One Thing

Making Money Online Know This First

Countless people dream of being able to start “making money online.” Everyone wants to know how to do it, how to make it happen for them.

Little wonder, right? The promise of being able to make money online is so appealing because if we can make a living from our computer screens, we can work anywhere, anytime, with anyone. We can be location independent and we can provide our services or products to people regardless of location (ours or theirs!) as long as there’s a device with an Internet connection.

But there’s a crucial thing you need to understand about making money online before you set boldly down a new career path and leave a traditional, office-bound, 9-to-5 behind.

Making Money Online Presents a New Frontier

If you’re in your mid to late 20s, you may dimly remember a time before smartphones — or before cell phones in general were commonly found on every man, woman, and child. I know you can clearly recall the sound of dial-up screeching through your home.

If you’re older, you may remember a time before computers were common in average households. You might have even experienced a world without Internet (or at least, as we generally know it today since the history of the Internet actually stretches back to the 1950s).

And no matter how old you are, you can think back and consider how much our technology has advanced in just a few short decades. Technology evolves at an exponential rate, so we can expect things to continue hopping right along.

Here’s the point: in the grand scheme of things, the Internet is a very new thing. The digital economy is even younger. Jobs that did not exist 5 years ago are in high demand today.

People making money online — through freelancing, owning their own digital businesses, selling virtual products or services — are on a new frontier. They’re leading the way and introducing us to businesses, services, and ideas that simply didn’t exist a few years ago because there wasn’t a need until now.

This is what you need to understand: there’s a flipside. All these things are so new, and many very novel, that there’s no telling how long they’ll be needed. Just as there are positions that didn’t even exist 5 years ago, there are positions that were thriving 5 years ago but have been wiped out and are now no longer in demand or needed.

It’s very easy to cultivate a trend online. It’s even (relatively) easy to join the trend and start monetizing it.

It may be harder to spot when the trend is done and it’s time to find a new way to continue making money.

So before making money online, you need to understand that things change quickly and no online career is guaranteed to last forever and ever.

To be fair, the same thing applies to traditional careers, but change there usually happens at a slower pace. Things can happen instantaneously online. While a career might have taken decades to die out in the past, a job that exists solely because of the Internet (and the popularity of a particular part of the Internet) can dry up in a matter of months.

That’s the one thing you need to know: things change quickly.

The one thing you need to do about it to survive now and many decades into your working career: have a sustainable game plan.

Don’t Panic!

(And carry a towel. Where my fellow nerds at?)

This isn’t supposed to be all doom and gloom, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that the Internet itself is going to up and walk away and leave us all screwed one day. I seriously doubt that we’ll collectively decide, “oh, the Internet is boring,” and move on to something entirely different in the next few years.

If you’re interested in making money online, via side hustles, owning your own business, or starting a freelance career — I fully support that and think it’s wonderful! (And of course, let me know if I can help you along the way.)

But the fact remains that things evolve and change, so you need to be prepared to adapt so you can handle whatever changes the online economy and world throw your way.

Let me give you an example of major shifts in online moneymaking opportunities to cement this point.

Consider blogging — and by that, I mean blogging as a job to make money and not blogging to support another business that is actually the primary source of income. “Professional blogger” is a legitimate job title (which is amazing considering that when I was in high school a blog meant writing on Xanga or LiveJournal).

And it’s been an extremely lucrative career for thousands of people for the last ten years. Some bloggers have made millions from running their sites. Others made millions by selling those sites and moving on to new projects. The majority of professional bloggers make a very nice living from their blogs, and often report incomes in the high 5-figures or even low 6-figures.

But a new trend has been on the rise. In the personal finance space, it’s gained serious momentum in the last year or so. People are still blogging… but they’re also podcasting. It seems that every week another blogger adds to the growing list of podcasts with a new show.

This is not:

  • a bad thing — I listen to a number of financial podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy, my favorite being Stacking Benjamins.
  • a new thing — Brian over at The Money Guy Show (another excellent financial podcast) has been podcasting since 2006!

But it is a growing trend that we can’t deny. Meanwhile in the wider online world, some people claim that blogging as we used to know it is on the way out.

Who knows what this will turn into and what it means for the online media community. I don’t have a crystal ball (and suck at making predictions), but that’s kind of the point.

Because you don’t have a crystal ball either. So don’t assume the way things are now are the way they’ll always be. That’s the one guarantee you can take to the bank: things will change. Don’t know how, don’t know when, don’t know why. But we’ll keep advancing and developing, so you need a plan to keep up.

Like I said, there’s no need to panic. Here’s what to do instead.

Creating a Sustainable Online Career

If you want to make money online from a sustainable career, you are one smart cookie. Sustainability and adaptability are the two keys to success in my book. Here’s how you can develop your own career that will last:

  • Build a diverse network. A handful of people all in the same exact position or line of work will not be of any help to you if your work all dries up together. Network and connect with a number of people from all kinds of positions and even industries. Not only will this help you find new opportunities you never knew existed, but it will also introduce you to new ideas and ways of working.
  • Maintain a solid skill set. It’s one thing to learn a skill and start putting it to work. It’s another to maintain some core skills and continue to improve them on a regular basis. Invest in yourself by periodically attending a seminar or training event. Purchase a course from an instructor via sites like Udemy or enroll in free classes and webinars. Focus on a few core areas of your knowledge and abilities to avoid spreading yourself too thin, but maintain those skills with care and frequent practice.
  • Consider how your core skills apply to various positions. Ask yourself, how can you apply your current knowledge to a new industry or field? Know where you can immediately go, without investments of time and money into education or certifications, if your current line of work was no longer viable.
  • In other words, have a Plan B…and Plans C through Z. This point builds off the one above. Have a backup plan! This is a helpful exercise in building confidence, too, as odd as that might sound. If you brainstorm all the different ways you could continue working and making money, you’ll realize that the end of the world is a long way off — even if your current job suddenly disappeared. Considering these things while you don’t have to worry about them can also help you better handle an unexpected loss of income or work, too.
  • Remain open to new opportunities. You never knew when something new will come your way. Put yourself in a place to pick up on those opportunities when you want to! Remain active and engaged in your industry. And remember to help others find opportunities, too. You don’t have to believe in good karma. Human nature encourages us to agree to you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours agreements — even if the agreement is completely unofficial and never spoken of. If you can help someone today, that person will be more likely to help you when you need it in return.
  • Don’t rely on a single source of work or income. This is where the side hustler can reign supreme. It doesn’t matter what you situation is, everyone can benefit from a side hustle. Not only does this diversify your income, but it also broadens your experience, your network, and your knowledge base.
  • Try new things. This is really scary sometimes, but the best way to keep on keepin’ on is to try new things. I’m currently in this process myself — instead of seeking out new content management clients, I want to maintain the work I do have while exploring the possibility of starting a coaching program. In your own work, don’t be afraid to try new things on the side. Let that project become your side hustle! If it doesn’t go so well, that’s alright. Consider it your time spent dabbling in a new hobby. If it went well, congratulations, you just developed a new opportunity and maybe even an income stream.
  • Get while the gettin’s good.  Here’s what I mean by that: don’t rely on something bigger to come your way down the road. Whether it’s a client, a paycheck, a bonus, a job, a business — you name it. Whatever it is that you’d like to rely on, don’t. Take care of what you can right now while you know you can.

There’s one more thing that can help you if you want to (or do) make money online now and for a long time to come: stay positive and believe in yourself. I know it’s fluffy, but this really does go a long way toward helping you develop success.

There’s nothing wrong with making money online, and even better — it’s actually both realistic and rewarding. But before you start, you need to understand that we’re doing something very new and untried. We’re a very long way from what work and careers looked like just 20 years ago, and there’s no telling what changes will come our way in the next 5 to 20 years.

That’s no reason to panic, but it is reason to prepare yourself and to build a sustainable career online for continued success.

What else do you want to know about making money online and working virtually before you start? Let me know!

Around the Web: February 2015

Holy moly this month FLEW by and it obviously left me behind, as evidenced by the lack of new content around here. That was completely unexpected and I’m blaming (most of) it on the fact that I have spent hours upon hours of time I would have otherwise been writing dealing with the process of selling our current house and buying property.

Lenders do not make it easy for those with self-employment income to take out a mortgage, even a reasonably-sized one that is literally hundreds of thousands of dollars less what the bank initially told me we could “afford.”

Because I was self-employed with no W2 income from June to December in 2014 — and I haven’t been able to file my taxes for 2014 yet because I’m still waiting on documents from clients and investment companies I have accounts with — that time period is viewed as a “gap in employment” because I can’t prove my income without a tax return.

I’ve been jumping through various hoops for the lender all month, and just this week we got the official word that we were good to go and would secure the loan we requested.

This experience is definitely good fodder for a future blog post, and I hope you’ll find the eventual write-up of my experiences valuable if you’re interested in making income on your own (full-time or part-time!) and also want to purchase a home where you’ll finance a percentage of the cost.

In the meantime, accept my apologies for not producing anything for you here this month — and get caught up on what I did manage to write (and more!):

What I’ve Written Around the Web

Where I’ve Been Featured Around the Web

What I’ve Loved Reading Around the Web

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