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How to Make Money: Get Serious about your business

I got my first job on Elance! I had tried in the past, but never managed to make it happen. I was totally convinced that the only jobs which were awarded on Elance were for the cut-rate subcontractors who live in other countries, but I proved them wrong. The best part of this experience is that I can tell you WHY I got a job on Elance. Not only can I replicate the steps, but I can tell you how to make money.

I got serious.

Up until the beginning of the month, I wasn’t serious about getting the jobs. I would send half-assed proposals out to potential clients and I would be turned down. My profile and portfolio were sparse, and my overview was lacking what they needed. The day after I upped my game and decided to take the hunt seriously, I got a job paying my real rate.

Getting serious about the jobs is not about wearing a dour face. It’s not about taking each rejection as a brutal blow. It’s about doing what needs to be done and presenting an image to employers that you are trustworthy and capable of handling their assignments. I plan to leverage this single assignment to get many more.

Actions YOU can take to be serious about getting the job

1. Make the Decision

Making the decision to take it seriously is the first step for success in any endeavor. If you’re actually serious about getting the job, it’s going to take time and effort. It’s going to take revision upon revision of your resume, as well as a fervent dedication to hunt down your dreams, stab them, and drag them back to your lair. The decision to pursue a job is the first step..

2. Research

Research allows you to develop strategies for success. There are tactics which you can use to make you more tempting to employers. Since Elance is a virtual platform, you need to present a aura of confidence and trustworthiness. Read five of the websites about getting the job, and stop there to avoid contradiction and confusion. You’re ready for the next step.

3. Give Them What They Want

Once you have discovered what is needed to get the job, it’s time to actually create the necessary materials. At Elance, there is an emphasis on portfolios and skillsets. Beef up those two things and make an excellent overview which portrays confidence in your abilities. Look at this process objectively: what would make you hire you?

4. Emulate

Research is an essential part of getting the job. Take the time to find successful people within the field, study their path, and emulate them. Find the steps that would be best suited to you and follow through on doing them. If you know someone who is successful at the job that you’re wanting, dig deeply to find the steps which they took.

5. Put Your Heart Into It

People can tell whether you are paying something lip-service or putting your heart into it. They know whether you are presenting them with your first draft or your second, and they know what is ‘right’ for their qualifications. Since you have made the decision to get the job, make the decision to do it right. Polish your resume and your qualifications. Examine your portfolio. Pour your personality into it, and take it seriously.

6. Network

Develop of peer group of people who are going through the same process of finding a job. Use the forums if you are trying to get a virtual job. Use networking groups if you are trying to get an offline job. You’ll find that the more you network, the more that people will open opportunities within your life. Take the time, and those contacts will repay you with more contacts as well as jobs.

7. Disclosure

Tell others about your job history. Reveal parts of yourself which are absolutely unique to you. Tell the story, and others will be attracted to you because you are showing that you are unique. There are many applicants for the position that you want. It’s in your hands to show your potential employer what makes you different from the rest.

8. Strengths

Don’t throw your hat into every ring. Cater to the strengths that you have, and only apply for jobs which you can knock out of the park. If you find yourself wanting to get a job just for getting the job without regard to your personal strengths, you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. Look for the jobs that you can actually see yourself doing, ones for which a strategy immediately comes to mind.

9. Honesty

Be honest with yourself and others about your capabilities. Lying about your experience or fluffing it up usually leads to disappointments. Overselling yourself is quickly detected during the course of doing the work, and you’re likely to lose a potential client and reference as a result. This is part of playing to your personal strengths.

When you decide to get a job, pour your heart into it and make that your job. Devote as much time, care, and attention as it takes to make it happen. When you do this, you will find that employers take you more seriously, and more opportunities will open.

Photo courtesy of Sara G on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

What are you doing to take your job search seriously? What tips and tricks do you have? Please leave a comment below.

Saving Money the Zen Way

Saving money sometimes baffles me. There are at least a million ways to save money, and each one has their pros and cons (link goes to an MC Napkin video. That dude’s got FLOW). Which one is right? In reality, it doesn’t matter.

Thoughts About Saving Money

Well, it does matter and it doesn’t matter. First and foremost, the primary goal is to save money. You’ll save more money by getting a used car over a new one. You’ll save more money by paying a little extra on the credit card balance than by getting more goodies. What really matters is that your eye is turned toward saving the money in the first place.

I’m prone to think about it like a fat person losing weight. The basics for losing weight have the fat person moving more and eating a less. The ‘right’ exercise doesn’t have to be on the table for that fat person, they just have to move more. When starting out on a savings plan, the same principles apply. The right fat loss program and the right savings plan will develop over time.

The most effective savings plan happens through experimentation, research, and more. There are some things which work for the novice saver which don’t work for someone who’s just trying to pay off that last credit card bill. Achieving the goal, whether it’s financial freedom or losing a lot of weight, takes consistent attention. The details will work themselves out.

Do your research, push toward the goal, and do a little bit every single day. You will have your targets within your hands in no time.

Picture courtesy of epSos.de at Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Do you have a plan, or are you winging it like me?

Crowdsourcing to Save Money

Unless you are a trust fund baby, independently wealthy or some sort of entertainment or banking star you probably have wondered at some point in time (maybe within the past few minutes even), how you can possibly save enough money. We are told inflation is tame, that it is ok to spend and everything will be alright, but in the meantime it seems we have less money every month.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one so why not 25 heads? Some of the top personal finance bloggers have come together to crowdsource ways to save more money and here they are for your saving pleasure: Crowdsourcing works, if you’re willing to listen to the answers.

1. Steve from Money Infant – My favorite way to save more money is by making more money. Keep your expenses stable and don’t become a victim of lifestyle creep and every extra dollar you make is another dollar saved. Plus it is fun and exciting and the potential to increase your savings is theoretically unlimited. The saying spend less than you earn doesn’t always mean you have to spend less, it can also mean you need to earn more.

2. Emily from Million Ways to Save – My favorite way to save more money is to be mindful of saving money. By taking those first steps toward mindfulness and your money, you can thwart the personal demons of loss of self control and bad spending. Saving money is all about keeping a little more in your pocket, rather than having personal financial regret.

I’m sending this on to Haru over at I’m Bleeding Money. He’s got plenty of money saving tips up his sleeve! 🙂

Crowdsourcing Blog Chain Posts

So, I’ve been thinking about blogging, traffic generation, and crowdsourcing. I’ve got some great ideas from Ana over at Traffic Generation Cafe (It’s one of the very few blogs that I can stand about traffic generation) and she sent out the idea that you network and ask to be on other people’s blogrolls. It’s a good theory, and it’s highly effective because it raises your exposure as being a trusted member of the community. I was rolling this idea around in my head when I got a letter from African royalty informing me that she was willing to share her $9.4MM dollars with me for just the price of my bank information.

And the idea struck me, something that I’d not heard of folks doing.

The Blog ‘Chain Letter’ Post

I know what you’re thinking. If you’re old enough, you might be thinking about the physical paper chain letters which demand that you put a dollar into fifteen envelopes and send them back to the people on the list or something bad happens. Younger people will think of the digital chain letters which exercise the same sort of tactics – if you send this meme out, you’ll be blessed, if you don’t send it out, people will hate you. That tactic is crazy and manipulative.

No, this is something different.

There are guest posts, blog carnivals, and blog roundups where the best posts of the week are highlighted in other people’s blogs. This develops backlinks for the blogs in question, as well as having the potential of going viral and getting seen by one of the larger blogs (I had this happen to one of my posts, the traffic was *amazing*) . What if something like this were done intentionally, so that everyone who participated benefited from the activity?

This is something like a meme, but done with a blog in a slightly more controlled atmosphere. One person starts a topic of suggestions/hints/etc like ways to save money. Everyone within the PF blogger community has posted something like this at one point or another, and there’s plenty of material to work with.

At the end of the post, that blogger would ‘tag’ another blogger. That blogger would post the original part as well as adding to the content with just one more tip/piece of advice/suggestion. Not the whole post, just a single tip. At the end of that post, they would ‘tag’ someone else with the responsibility of posting that particular post, complete with the links from the other two, and put their own on there, repeating the process until an arbitrary number (let’s say 25) of tips and suggestions was reached.

At the end, the person would get to ‘keep’ the post, leaving that list of 25 crowdsourced tips and suggestions on the site, and the process would start over once more at another blog. There are no penalties like evils happening to your family, this is just something fun to do. To make a more ethical atmosphere, instead of ‘malicious’ tagging, we could actually get permission from the possible next one on the chain.

No bad things would happen, and the early adopters would get multiple backlinks to multiple blogs. The later ones in the chain would gain a little bit of authority in the process, as well, making it one of those ultra win situations.

What about duplicate content?

Content is truly king. Google talks about duplicate content here. There would be some duplicate content, but since there is also something new being added to the conversation, it wouldn’t be aggregious and the process itself would actually be fun.

Doesn’t this already happen?

Somewhat. But it’s not intentional. People post great stuff all the time, and other people take it to their own blogs to comment on it, but that’s generally where it stays. It’s only one link in the chain. Other people get the opportunity to see it on other sites, but there’s no tagging like a meme occurring. And, it would be entirely consensual – one of the problems that I have with getting tagged in someone else’s meme is that I’m obligated to do stuff that I didn’t really want to do. With the opt-in philosophy, it’s like your’e being asked to do a one paragraph guest post that requires very little *actual* work.

How hard is this?

Not very. The responsibility of the starting person would be to write the introduction and the first tip. The rest just add to it. As writers, we’re writing things every single day, and something like this would only take a few minutes of your time. This is more intended to be fun, something which develops links and a little bit of authority.

Here’s a sample post:
Saving money is the mantra of some, the bane of others, but there are a lot of people who want to do it within their everyday lives. A little bit of scratch in your pocket is always good to have. Here are some crowdsourced tips on ways to save money:

1. Emily from Million Ways to Save
Make a List

Making a list beforehand is very important when you go shopping. If you stick with the list, you will prevent yourself from making those impulse purchases which can be detrimental to your budget. Take a few moments before you go to the store to make a list of the things that you need, and watch your money stay with you!

I’m sending this letter on to X of X blog. He’ll have some awesome tips for you!

And then X from X blog would remove the final paragraph, and put in something like 2. X from Xbloglink — Buy scratch and Dent… or something, then sends it on. None of this is very hard at all!

Chain letters don’t have to be malicious or mean, they don’t have to obligate someone to things which they don’t want to do. There doesn’t need to be money involved, and the whole process can be completely deliberate. Starting a chain letter might even develop some well deserved traffic, and more.

UPDATE – You’re more than welcome to include me in any of the blog chain letters that you might start. 🙂 I don’t have any of those new-fangled detection devices, but I wanna know so I can take it and pass it on. Pingbacks to specific posts, Twitter mentions, and email (justyammer@gmail.com) pull me out of my reverie.

Photo courtesy of Paul Simpson on Flickr.

What do you think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

How We Saved $600

After writing about The Best $500 I Ever Lost, I wanted to give you a success story.

The Unlikely Mage and I had been battling with our clothes washer for weeks. It was pooling water on the floor, not draining properly, and otherwise being a nuisance. Our emergency fund had taken a few hits, and it would be several months before there would be any kind of money available for having a professional fix it. Neither of us particularly enjoyed the prospect of taking our clothes to the laundromat (I’m not even sure where it is, actually), so we were weighing our options.

1. Go to the laundomat

This can cost up to $20 each time, not including the costs of detergent, travel, and time taken out of the day (not to mention having to find something to wear to go to the laundromat). Despite the comparatively low cost each time, those once a week trips add up in the budget and are highly inconvenient.

2. Get a New Washer

The washer and dryer are stacked, wedged perfectly into their space. If we were to get another washer, we would more than likely have to get another dryer as well. New setups can cost $600 on the low end, not including the delivery costs and other necessary accoutrements. It’s a serious hassle to get new things, sometimes.

3. Pick up a Used Washer and Dryer

The same concerns apply to this one as they did for picking up the new washer and dryer. The price would be less, but there would still be the matter of delivery and making it actually work within the tiny space that we had available. Used appliances are sometimes flaky and need research. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there’s no ‘washerfax’ like Carfax.

4. Wash Clothes By Hand

The jury’s still out on whether this is indeed cost effective. I’m prone to believe that it isn’t, because the dryer has to work harder to get the moisture out of the wrung but not spun clothing. The average bathtub can hold 42 gallons of water, and the average washer uses around 20. Besides, hand washing my clothing with a wringer and a LOT of elbow grease was not how I wanted to spend a Sunday.

5. Hire Someone to Fix It

Although we are not averse to hiring people to repair our stuff, we are leery of the costs which are involved. Between the two of us, we have very few friends who were likely not to fix it themselves and call one of the professionals. I assumed that the problem would take at least $100,, and that money could be spent more effectively somewhere else.

6. Trade Favors

We have friends who are rather handy, but getting them to come to our neck of the woods would have costed around $50. There would be gas, and feeding them, and the fact that we would be calling in favors. This particular crisis didn’t seem to be worthy of that type of attention.

7. Fix it Ourselves

This is where the rubber meets the road. Use all of the resources on the internet to discover the source of the problem, and eventually fix the problem. The best option, by far, as it required only a time investment, and the temptation of learning a new and improved skill. We ultimately chose this option.

Fixing the washer proved to be less hassle than originally planned. It took almost an hour to diagnose the problem of clogged hoses, clean out the lines, drain the lines and reattached. There were a couple of test runs made, and the washer was once again doing all of its washery things.

Ultimately, doing the research and doing it ourselves (actually, TUM did it) saved us $600 or more for an hour’s worth of work. This was absolutely incredible, and it came out of the necessity of being low on funds. You can save a ton of cash if you’re willing to do some research and experiment. We did!

The Best $500 I Ever Lost

I love the stock market. I enjoy how people are able to make money on it, trade shares of companies, make fortunes and more. I’ve made a serious run at playing the market twice, and both times I lost. I’d like to talk about the second time that I tried (the first being a gradual bleeding of money, and not very interesting).

Like I said, I love the stock market, but I haven’t developed great strategies to make money. It’s something that I’ll likely try again when I have money, but I know that it’s like ‘crack’ to me, highly addictive and detrimental. Right now, my primary investment is with Prosper, and it’s going to stay that way for a while.

The Story

Last year, I cleared out my 401K. I desparately needed the money, as my freelance writing business wasn’t taking off. I wanted liquid funds to tide me over until I could figure out the ‘thing’ that I was missing (that ‘thing’ was seriousness, and I’m going to write more about that later). The total amount that I withdrew was $8K.

Of that $8K, much of it went to pay off lingering student loans and a car. A small amount went to daily living expenses. The logic was that if I had fewer bills to pay each month, I would save a whole lot of money in the long run in interest charges and more. I’d set aside $3K to play with on the stock market.

The plan was simple. Look for a stock which had a regular ‘sine wave’ pattern in its ups and downs. There was no need to pay attention to the other stuff, because the stock would be regular, right? I was excited, because I had several candidates – all of which were going to make me something. So, I took the $3K and put it into ENER. It was the steadiest of all, ranging between $4.50 and $5 a share, like clockwork.

In fact, the first day that I had it, the stock spanned its range, and I was poised to make some money. Unfortunately, due to my triggers, I was one or two cents below the automatic sell point. I was angry at my fumbling fingers, but I still had the money. I decided that I would hold off for a little while until the stock did it again. The stock, unfortunately, had other plans. It sunk below the $4.50 and then a bit further.

During this time, my mother got sick and needed medical attention. Her finances were in shambles because of poor money management skills, and I was her resource for living expenses and unexpected expenses. How I felt about that obligation is a different story, one which isn’t going to be shared. Her unemployment and her medical bills were getting out of hand, so I had to do something.

I liquidated the stock, taking a $500 loss. I knew that there would be other opportunities, and if I got rid of the stock, I’d be able to support her a little as well as support myself. Frankly, I was livid, because I was dead sure that the stock that I’d just liquidated would be shooting back up and had taken only a temporary dip. This obligation was pressing, and I did what needed to be done. The emergency was averted, and my mother was safe.

It took nearly all of the cash to make sure that her medical bills and living expenses were accounted for. I was still struggling with figuring out my own finances, and was eventually left with nothing. I’d gone through my safety net, and I wasn’t going to be able to get that back again. My mother would pay me back, I knew that, but it would more than likely be in dribs and drabs, not the lump sum that would allow me to get back to playing.

As it turned out, the stock didn’t recover. Not at all. The company itself had filed for bankruptcy and was leaking money like it was going out of style. It was on the down elevator, and it wasn’t going to be able to get off. As of the last check, the stock had reached a low of $.19, and the company’s resources were going to be bought by someone else. The temporary spike from that news brought it up to $1.50 for a single day, then it plummeted. After seeing this news, I was so very thankful that I’d lost only $500, because I had totally planned to keep the stock.

The Lessons Learned

Some people shouldn’t play the stock market

I’m one of those people. I’m too emotional and impulsive, and feel that most of the activity on it should be *doing* instead of waiting. I get emotionally involved in the stocks, and find that I get *extremely* wrapped up in their rise and fall. For those who are out there dreaming of the stock market, the best way to avoid this is to set triggers so that you can go off and do other things rather than worrying about what your investments are doing.

Crappy things happen for a reason

My mother tapped me out of all available cash, but I thank her every time that I think about this particular event. She effectively saved me from losing the entire thing by being sick and needing the money. I would currently be sitting on an investment of a hundred bucks with no chance of recovery if it weren’t for her. I might have been extremely mad about it at the time, but the decision that I made to get the money out saved me more.

Things Change Quickly

In a matter of a week or so, I had gone from having a wonderful little nest of an emergency fund to nothing. I would not hesitate to do it again. I have seen situations change in seconds, whether it be from accidents on the road, to revelations made by friends. We are constantly bucking the changes, but they keep rolling on and on.

Losing that $500 really really sucked at the time. I felt embarrassed, silly, stupid, and a lot of other things. I resented the hell out of my mother for a few weeks because I knew that I could have done better by everyone involved. As it turned out, I did the best that I could and I effectively won. The crisis was handled, and my purse was (comparatively) only a little bit lighter.

Image courtesy of Mikael Miettinen at Flickr.

Have you had a situation which looked ugly, but it turned out that it was one of those better situations which could have happened to you? I’d love to hear about it.