Beat the 9 to 5 http://beatthe9to5.com Moving from the Rat Race to Entrepreneurship Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:15:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Key To Hiring A Contributor For Your Blog http://beatthe9to5.com/blog-contributor-hiring/ http://beatthe9to5.com/blog-contributor-hiring/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:15:32 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2985 I’ve been a contributor to a lot of websites, including Huffington Post and Forbes.  I’ve also hired a lot of contributors to help me with all my websites.  What frustrates me is that too many people and companies are getting it wrong when it comes to hiring a contributor. A contributor can be a great [...]

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blog contributorI’ve been a contributor to a lot of websites, including Huffington Post and Forbes.  I’ve also hired a lot of contributors to help me with all my websites.  What frustrates me is that too many people and companies are getting it wrong when it comes to hiring a contributor.

A contributor can be a great asset to a blog team.  They can bring in different perspectives, different writing styles, even different knowledge of a subject.  However, too many companies try to constrain their contributors and don’t allow them the freedom to allow their talents to shine.  As such, the relationship doesn’t work as well as planned for the company, and it usually ends up frustrating the contributor as well.

Follow this guide if planning to hire a contributor for your blog or website was something you’ve been considering.

 

Reasons To Hire A Blog Contributor

There are a ton of great reasons tot hire a contributor for your blog or website.  In my case, I don’t have the time or experience to write for some of the properties I own.

Hiring a contributor can free up time in your schedule by writing content for your sites.  They can also provide different knowledge and experiences for your sites.

Take, for example, a science website.  You could hire any writer to write for the science site, but chances are you’re only going to get generic content.  But, if you hired a science contributor, chances are your content would be much stronger and popular for your audience.

Contributors can also add perspective to blogs.  I hire writers for blogs I regularly write on just to have a different perspective.  Since audiences are diverse, this can be a great way to have more inclusive content for your entire community.

 

What To Look For In Contributors For Your Blog

There are a few key things that I look for in blog contributors that I think are pretty universal.  First, they must be good writers.  I don’t need amazing writers, just good ones that can connect with the audience.  If they have blogs already, that’s even better because you can see how they write and how the community responds.

I also want to make sure that they have knowledge about the subject.  If you have a parent blog, your writer better be a parent.  If you have a finance blog, you better have some good knowledge about personal finance.

But here’s the caveat – knowledge doesn’t mean book smarts.  In the personal finance case, you don’t need a CFA to be your writer.  Someone who struggled with personal finance and then mastered it, but only has their real life story to tell, could be an amazing fit as a contributor.

Finally, the tricky question – pay.  The better the writer, the higher the pay they will command.  You need to find a balance between professional writers and bloggers, and new ones just starting out.  You need to find writers that match your budget, but you should also consider what they bring to the table – networks, resources, social media followings, etc.  These other factors could make one writer more attractive than another.

 

How To Manage Blog Contributors (and how I do it)

Once you have contributors, there are two common ways to manage them.  The first is to create an editorial calendar and delegate out content to your writers.  I’ve seen this done several ways.  You can either assign content directly to individual writers, such as “Write this article on XYZ Widgets”, or you can maintain a standing list of articles and allow your writers to pick a topic from it.

The advantage of this method is that you can maintain a solid editorial calendar with themes that connect from day to day or week to week.  If you have a lot of writers, this can also prevent topics from overlapping or being similar.  However, I think that this system has a big drawback in that you are losing the key essence that you are hiring a contributor for.  Your goal in hiring a contributor is to have them share their perspective and ideas, and if you are spoon feeding them topics and asking them to stick to a single prompt, you’ll lose their essence in the article.

That’s why I prefer the standing theme method.  This is what I employ on my sites, and it has worked very well for me.  I ask all my contributors to simply follow a set of themes for their articles.  For example, for The College Investor, the theme is simple: investing, student loan debt, and personal finance for college students and millennials.  As long as the contributor’s article connects to these central themes, I’m happy.

The benefits I’ve found with this method are that I get really great articles that are in depth and relatable.  You also get to see the author’s personality shine through.  I’ve outsourced content enough to know that if you give the prompt, you’ll get a simple generic article.  But if you give the theme, you get something much more.  The biggest con is that you really have to trust your contributor.  Beyond the deadline aspect, you need them to be on the same page as you when it comes to the themes you outlined.

 

What To Do If The Relationship Isn’t Working

The fact is, though, that sometimes things don’t work out with blog contributors.  But before you jump to conclusions, I would challenge you to ask yourself – is it something I’m doing or something they are doing?

If you’re giving you contributor specific prompts and are getting back generic articles, ask yourself (or even better the writer), what would have made this topic better?  Is it the prompt that was boring, or did we miss something in the theme of the piece?  If I gave my author more leeway, would they have written something amazing and I constrained them?

Too many times I’m seeing companies constrain their authors and then are disappointed with the articles.  It’s just silly.  You hired your contributor to share their opinions, and then you don’t want them?  Should you have hired your contributor in the first place?

Have you hired a contributor or do you work as a blog contributor?  Share your thoughts on this below!

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My Monthly Income Stream Report – June 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/monthly-income-stream-report-june-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/monthly-income-stream-report-june-2014/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2882 Welcome to Summer!  Summer is always a tough time for online business – there’s a lot of holidays, and people just read online media a little less. But you know what’s great about this summer compared to past ones?  My traffic is about 4x higher than it ever was before.  I love that people are [...]

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Income Report June 2014Welcome to Summer!  Summer is always a tough time for online business – there’s a lot of holidays, and people just read online media a little less.

But you know what’s great about this summer compared to past ones?  My traffic is about 4x higher than it ever was before.  I love that people are finding my content and enjoying it.  That’s what this is all about – inspiring others to build multiple income streams and hustling.

Important Happenings

June had a couple important happenings that I wanted to share.

First, with the increase in search traffic that I’ve been experiencing I’ve also seen a boost in affiliate revenue, which is great.  My goal this year was to transition more towards affiliate advertising and my own products instead of just relying on private advertisers.  Along with this affiliate boost I’ve been working on increasing my Amazon earning as well.  This was a challenge I received from a reader and I took some steps over the last few months to boost this segment.  While it’s not much, it is higher than past months.

Second, I’m prepping for the relaunch of my Investing 101 Course.  I’m going to structure this relaunch in a much similar fashion to how I launched this site.  I’m being much more targeted than I have been in the past.  The goal is to relaunch here in August, so this month is all about prepping for the launch.

Income and Expense Report

Alright, onto the multiple income stream report!  By now, you should know how this works, but I like to break down my multiple income streams into categories so you can see how I make my income.  You can read more about my investing income stream here.

I don’t include my salary or my wife’s, although I do consider those part of my multiple income steam strategy.  Remember, this is about building income streams beyond your 9 to 5.

Income Breakdown

  • Investments
    • Dividends: $888.25
  • Other
    • Writing: $944

Gross Total: $5,791.43

Difference from Last Month: -1,550.72

Expense Breakdown

  • Domain Stuff: $194.72
  • eBook: $6.95
  • Hosting: $0 (It’s paid quarterly)
  • PayPal Fees: $101.18
  • Subscription Software:
  • Software: $99.00
  • Subcontracted Services: $1,165.00

Total Expenses: $1,901.75

Difference from Last Month: -$90.90

Total Income: $5,791.43
Total Expenses: $1,901.75

Net June 2014 Income: $3,889.68

Difference from May: -$1,459.82

Remember, you can find all of my income reports here, but last year I didn’t break down gross vs. net income like I am this year.

What I Learned

This month I really focused on developing a new personal calendar for myself.  I’ve been trying to figure out a great routine for myself, my family, my work, and my business, and I think I’ve found a little secret to success.  I’ve read a lot of other bloggers who talk about blocking time and calendarizing everything, but you never realize the importance of this until you’re starting to get stretched thin.

My family is incredibly important to me, so spending time together is huge.  I don’t want my business to take that away and have my family start feeling second – so this balance has been the key.

What To Expect This Month

This month, I have a plan to share a huge frustration of mine that I’ve encountered, as well as the problem I’ve been dealing with.  I finally have some great numbers to share so I’ll be putting that all on paper for everyone to see.

How was June 2014 for your business or goals?

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The Simplest Tricks To Boost Your Social Media Engagement http://beatthe9to5.com/simplest-tricks-boost-social-media-engagement/ http://beatthe9to5.com/simplest-tricks-boost-social-media-engagement/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2847 Social media is designed to be social, right?  So are you creating conversations around your content to drive engagement, and in turn drive traffic?  Or are you just posting your articles out into the nether reaches of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and simply hoping for the best? Tools like BufferApp, CoSchedule, and others make it [...]

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Social Media EngagementSocial media is designed to be social, right?  So are you creating conversations around your content to drive engagement, and in turn drive traffic?  Or are you just posting your articles out into the nether reaches of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and simply hoping for the best?

Tools like BufferApp, CoSchedule, and others make it easy to just click and post.  But the problem is that just posting content doesn’t engage anyone.  And social media is designed to catch peoples’ attention and engage them.  Failing to do so results in failure of your content.  That’s why you need a blog marketing plan, and you need to follow these tricks to boost your social media engagement.

 

It Starts With The Title

The first trick to boost your social media engagement is to focus on the title of your article.  It needs to be catchy.  It needs to make sense for your article.  It needs to be “good”.  Sorry, I don’t have another word, but good make sense.  You can’t just put out an okay or generic title.  It has to be good.

My favorite article titles are ones that:

  • Add intrigue
  • Highlight information that seems unbelievable
  • Is a “hack” or something that will benefit me

It almost goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  If it helps you, you’ll be more likely to engage with it.

Another title trick is to spark some controversy.  That can also boost engagement in your community.

 

It Ends With The Social Media Title

After you nail the title of your article, you have to craft your social media messages.  I saw messages because you should be developing your blog marketing plan, and then following it.  So you know that you’ll need multiple messages for each social channel, and then multiple messages for within the social media channels.

The great thing about social media is that you can have a different title for your post than the article title.  Let’s focus on Twitter for a minute (although this applies to all of the channels as well), and let’s use this article as an example.

I could Tweet “The Simplest Tricks To Boost Your Social Media Engagement”, and that’s a nice tweet.  It’s a little catchy, and might get some clicks and conversation.  I think that’s better than what some people do, which is “New Blog Post: The Simplest Tricks To Boost Your Social Media Engagement”.  That whole “New Blog Post” thing isn’t really necessary.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.

But what if you changed the Tweet to something like this: “Learn How To Double Your Social Media Traffic:” or “See The Simple Words I Use To Get 5x More Twitter Traffic”.

The great thing about having a social media plan where you post multiple times per day – try all of these ideas out.  Also, consider using quotes or citing facts as well.  Those sometimes work great on social media.

 

Don’t Forget To Interact!

Finally, don’t forget to interact on social media.  Social media is social.  When you Tweet, use hashtags.  Reply to other people’s Tweets that are using that hashtag.  Also, thank people and respond to them if they Tweet your articles.

What if you have a guest post?  What if the Tweeter doesn’t use your @username?  Well, if you leverage HootSuite, you can setup a search for the URL of the article, and it will show you all Tweets that were made from that URL.  It’s a great tool, and it helps me interact with people who Tweet my guest posts (and it also grows my following).

Remember, the goal is to interact, build relationships, which will in turn boost future engagement with your articles.

Do you have any tricks for boosting social media engagement?

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My Monthly Income Stream Report – May 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/monthly-income-stream-report-may-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/monthly-income-stream-report-may-2014/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2879 First I would like to acknoledge that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to posting here at Beat the Nine to Five.  I have some ideas bouncing around, but I really only want to add content when it adds a lot of value.  So, I’ve been holding off for a bit.  I have some [...]

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Income Stream May 2014First I would like to acknoledge that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to posting here at Beat the Nine to Five.  I have some ideas bouncing around, but I really only want to add content when it adds a lot of value.  So, I’ve been holding off for a bit.  I have some really great stuff in the pipeline, but I want to get some more concrete data and experience before I put it out there.  So far, I’m excited about it, and so I hope you will be too!

 

Important Happenings

First, if you’re in our online mastermind group, I got the forums working again and everything is back live.  I really want to personally thank Bobby for being such a great member and letting me know, as well as consistently being a champion in the forums.  I’m glad to have a community that is thoughtful and engaging!

Second, I had a little bit of bum news this month, but I think it’s important to share with you both my successes and failures.  One of my personal development goals this year was to work on my public speaking and presentation skills.  To challenge myself, I applied to be a speaker at FinCon14.  Sad to say, I was declined.  For whatever reason it really made me sad, but I’m sure that the line up of speakers will be great and I’ll have to find another venue to speak at.

Third, I was asked last month about what “fraud” was on my expenses.  Well, last month someone managed to hack into my PayPal account using a mobile phone.  At about 10pm one night last month, my email started blowing up with “Payment Confirmations” for PayPal payments I never sent.  Given that sometimes it’s a phishing email, I logged into my PayPal account, and the transactions were really happening – in fact, they were still happening when I was logged in!  In the end, the person hit me for $400!  I had to file a bunch of complaints with PayPal, and this month you will see the reimbursement as an expense.  Lesson: watch your accounts all the time!

Finally, you’ll notice that this month had much improved earnings across the board.  As always, if you have a question, please feel free to ask in the comments!

 

Income and Expense Report

Alright, onto the multiple income stream report!  By now, you should know how this works, but I like to break down my multiple income streams into categories so you can see how I make my income.  You can read more about my investing income stream here.

I don’t include my salary or my wife’s, although I do consider those part of my multiple income steam strategy.  Remember, this is about building income streams beyond your 9 to 5.

Income Breakdown

  • Investments
    • Dividends: $2,735.55
  • Other
    • Writing: $1,195.36

Gross Total: $7,342.15

Difference from Last Month: +2,198.52

Expense Breakdown

  • Advertising: -$7.75 (Refund for overpaid ads)
  • Hosting: $0 (It’s paid quarterly)
  • PayPal Fees: $98.50
  • Subscription Software:
  • Software: $67.00
  • Subcontracted Services: $1,950.00
  • Fraud: -$450 (offset from April)

Total Expenses: $1,992.65

Difference from Last Month: -1,783.93

Total Income: $7,342.15
Total Expenses: $1,992.65

Net May 2014 Income: $5,349.50

Difference from March: +3,972.45

Remember, you can find all of my income reports here, but last year I didn’t break down gross vs. net income like I am this year.

What I Learned

The biggest thing I learned this month was the power of community.  Sometimes you get discouraged by projects.  Other times you get encouraged.  Looking into my mastermind forums this last month and seeing the small community that was participating, and then letting me know that they weren’t working, that’s amazing.  It’s so great to see a small community being built around the theme of beating the nine to five.  I know it’s a goal that I’m working to achieve, and it feels good to not go it alone.

Second, I continue to be amazed at the power of multiple income streams.  It was one of my original beliefs from all the way back in 2011, and it has continued to prove true today.  Even though April 2014 was a slow month, this month was amazing.  And it was due to the combination of investing, my online businesses, and my freelance writing efforts.  It’s great to know that if one is off, there are other income streams there that could pick up the slack.

 

What To Expect This Month

This month I have several great posts lined up.  The first will be about social media, and one of the other ones will be about the project and problem I mentioned last month (and again today).  Hopefully you enjoy the articles and I hope you had a great May!

How was May 2014 for your business or goals?

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My Monthly Income Stream Report – April 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-april-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-april-2014/#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2796 Sorry I’m a bit late getting this out this month.  It’s been a hectic few weeks around here and my priorities have been focused elsewhere.  But I’m here now and I’m excited to share what’s been happening. I just realized that I’ve been sharing my income online since May 2011.  It’s really more than just [...]

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income reportSorry I’m a bit late getting this out this month.  It’s been a hectic few weeks around here and my priorities have been focused elsewhere.  But I’m here now and I’m excited to share what’s been happening.

I just realized that I’ve been sharing my income online since May 2011.  It’s really more than just sharing my income – it’s about showing you how I’m building multiple income streams beyond my 9 to 5 job.  My goal is to share my wins and opportunities, and to be clear that building multiple income streams is a real possibility for everyone.

Let’s get to what’s happened last month.

Important Happenings

April was a month of re-grouping at The College Investor.  Personally, I’m not satisfied with the level of growth The College Investor has been getting, but inside, something just didn’t feel right.  I felt like I was doing all the right things, but where was the residual income.  Anyway, I decided to to hire some professional help on this front – a bigger expense than I’ve normally taken for my business – and I’ll share the results with you this month.

When what you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore, you have to try something different.  If you really believe in your business, you need to invest in it, even if it’s more expensive than what you’re used to.  So that’s what I’ve been focused on.  As a result, net earnings have been a little lower than normal, but the goal is to see these ramp up significantly this year.

Income and Expense Report

Alright, onto the multiple income stream report!  By now, you should know how this works, but I like to break down my multiple income streams into categories so you can see how I make my income.  You can read more about my investing income stream here.

I don’t include my salary or my wife’s, although I do consider those part of my multiple income steam strategy.  Remember, this is about building income streams beyond your 9 to 5.

Income Breakdown

  • Investments
    • Dividends: $416.22
  • Other
    • Writing: $1,222.27

Gross Total: $5,143.63

Difference from Last Month: -$597.39

Expense Breakdown

  • Advertising: $173.75 (Facebook Ads)
  • Hosting: $330.89
  • PayPal Fees: $80.09
  • Subscription Software:
  • Software: $69.99
  • Subcontracted Services: $1,497.00
  • Taxes: $800
  • Fraud: $400

Total Expenses: $3,766.58

Difference from Last Month: +$983.93

Total Income: $5,143.63
Total Expenses: $3,766.58

Net April Income: $1,377.05

Difference from March: -$1,581.32

Remember, you can find all of my income reports here, but last year I didn’t break down gross vs. net income like I am this year.

What I Learned

As you can see, this month was significantly lower than anything I’ve had in a few months.  But I’m okay with that because it was planned.  Right now is a time to refocus and fix some of the structural things that have been wrong in the past, and have an even better month next month and every month in the future.

One of the areas that has been consistently improving is CPC Advertising, specifically on The College Investor.  I don’t use AdSense – but I have connected with some awesome partners that are helping me grow this area.  Also, I’m continuing to focus on developing my affiliate income.  This has been one area that I have neglected, and I’m going to refocus on it to increase income in this space.

Finally, I am continuing to learn the importance of a plan.  I had a great plan through the first quarter of the year, and that has reached the end here in April.  As such, April didn’t really have a focus to it – and the income shows.  I sat down and planned out my business through September, so hopefully we will see some dividends from this soon.

 

What To Expect This Month

This month, I plan to share what professional help I was requesting for my site, and what that will mean for my business.  I think it will also have a ton of great information for other bloggers out there – so start looking for this later this month!

Thanks for another great month!  How was April for you?

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Best Tools and Tricks For Running an Online Business While Working http://beatthe9to5.com/best-tools-and-tricks-for-running-an-online-business-while-working/ http://beatthe9to5.com/best-tools-and-tricks-for-running-an-online-business-while-working/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2545 I still work full time.  I know – I haven’t made the leap to self employment yet.  But with that being said, side hustling is tough.  And it requires some skills and tools that traditional entrepreneurs don’t have to deal with. Let me back up a second.  If you didn’t realize it – I run [...]

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tools and tricks onlineI still work full time.  I know – I haven’t made the leap to self employment yet.  But with that being said, side hustling is tough.  And it requires some skills and tools that traditional entrepreneurs don’t have to deal with.

Let me back up a second.  If you didn’t realize it – I run 5 websites (including all the social media jazz and stuff), write for two major publications, freelance write for some other publications, have a wife, raise my son, and work full time 40-50 hours per week.  It overwhelms me a bit writing that, but here I am, at 10pm at night, writing again.

The truth is, I love to write, and I love online business.  I have multiple sites because I get bored focusing on one thing and need to mix it up a bit.  But all of this takes a strategy and tools.

Let me share with you a bit on how I balance it, and some of the tricks and tools I use.

 

The Tricks For Running Multiple Side Businesses

First, I want to start off with the tricks that I use to run multiple side businesses while working full time.  You may be thinking, man, he must be spending a ton of time at work doing this.  In truth, my employer blocks all outside internet for security.  As a result, the only outside access I have at work is my smartphone – and I really can’t do a whole on on it during the day.

But I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Outsource

The first thing that I do is outsource as much of the work as I can.  I really try to focus on what I’m best at (and needed for), and that is content.  I do all the content on my main sties – writing it and coming up with ideas.  If a writer does help out, it’s always published under their name or under “Guest”.  If it’s me, it’s me.  I also write all the content I outsource.  But, there are a ton of things that I can outsource.  For example, I can outsource the scheduling of posts, the creating of the artwork for posts, the social media aspect of posts, and more.  I can also outsource the advertising, the dealing with customers, and a lot of the business and marketing stuff.  I’m also looking at outsourcing some of the launch sequence and building of the marketing funnel for some upcoming product releases.  There is a lot that others can do better and more efficient than me, especially since I work full time.

Automate

Next,  automate as much as possible.  I will talk about it more in the tools below, but I automate a lot of my social media – at least the general scheduling of it – using the Blog Post Marketing Plan I created.  I also try to automate the idea creation process as much as possible by repurposing content from my real life.  Finally, I get a lot of the same emails, so I have setup auto-text replies that I use that I can quickly reply with on keystroke.  For other questions, I answer with a blog post so that I can direct all future inquiries to that post.  You won’t believe how much of a time saver that is.

 

The Must Have Tools For Online Business

In order to leverage these tactics, I use a lot of tools to make it happen.  Some are basic, some aren’t so much.  Plus, I will mention that this setup is subject to change, so unless you’re reading this on day 1, I may be trying out or experimenting with something different.  Here’s a brain dump of what I use:

Gmail: I’d be lost without Gmail.  I currently use Google Apps, which is great because it let’s me have all of the various email addresses I use for my sites filter into one single email box.  Then, if I reply, it is smart enough to know to send it back from that address.  I like this setup better than forwarding because it looks cleaner.  Also, I could delegate out my inbox if I wanted to someone else in my organization.

iPhone: Like I mentioned earlier, I can’t access any Internet at work.  So, my only connection to the outside world during the day is my iPhone.  I use it mainly to check email, but also to follow up on social media.  I like to reply and have conversations if possible, and I do that through my iPhone.

Skype: I love Skype – it’s the key way I chat with my designer and a couple members of my team.  It’s also great for interviews.  For my Millionaire Investor series, I use Skype + Call Recorder to have the call and record it.  It frees me up from writing notes and instead lets me have a conversation with my guest.

Evernote: My life is in Evernote.  I use it to keep track of my notes at work and for my websites.  I have created a notebook for each site, and I jot down ideas I have for posts, projects, courses, products, and more.  Anytime an idea hits me, I bust open my Evernote and jot it down.  Then, as I craft my editorial calendar, I look at my topic ideas list in Evernote and put together a bunch of cohesive ideas.

Text Expander: I was a little leery on buying Text Exapander, since it is a paid program that doesn’t do a whole lot – it simply lets you use a shortcut to paste a whole bunch of text into something.  However, it’s now one of the key tools I use daily.  I use it for canned email responses (especially for advertisers), and for sending out mass emails that need to be more personalized.  This is a great tool that has been worth the investment.

Calendar: If it’s not on the calendar, it’s probably not getting done.  If you would have said this to me 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have understood what you meant.  Now, with working on so many projects, online and offline, I have to use my calendar to get things done.  I’m also working to have my assistant help curate my calendar more this year.

Google Drive: Over 2 years ago I started moving as much as I could to the cloud, since I worked remotely a lot of the time.  I would say I only spend 20% of my online time at my desktop – the rest is on my iPhone or iPad.  This required me to have a place where I could always access my documents, especially important ones that I use almost daily.  This led to me Google Drive, which is great for online cloud storage.

Quickbooks Online: Along with my cloud storage, I use Quickbooks Online to handle the business finances.  Once again, because I’m working all over the place, it was getting difficult to keep track of what vendors I needed to invoice, an who had paid what.  Now that I’m using Quickbooks Online, I can do that from anywhere!

Ontraport: This year I switched from Aweber to Ontraport for my email list.  Aweber is great, but it didn’t have enough tools for me to do what I really wanted to do, which was conditional targeting based on user actions.  Plus, it didn’t always integrate nice on my site.  Now, I use this in combination with Lead Pages, to gather email addresses and other contact information.  Now, when a user takes an action, I can send them a tailored response to match that action.

CoSchedule: Another tool I switched to this year was CoSchedule.  When it comes to automating, this is what I use for my editorial calendar so that I can automate the publishing of my posts, as well as the scheduling of my social media.  You can read my review of CoSchedule here.

HootSuite: I still use HootSuite for my interactions on social media, especially Twitter.  I also use HootSuite to allow my assistant to use my other social media accounts as needed.  HootSuite has a great setup that lets you give access to others without having to give up your passwords.

Asana: Another tools that I just started using again is Asana.  This is my task management system that I’m using to keep track of my various projects – especially when it comes to my paid courses and projects.  It helps me keep everything in order, and once again, it’s free to use.

Elance: I love Elance for small projects, and I find a lot of people for odd jobs using Elance.  I’ve found people that help write, help with research, and even help consult on projects.  Elance is great because in hours you can have 10+ people apply for your project, that are all typically pretty well qualified.

Virtual Staff Finder: I’m also a fan of Virtual Staff Finders.  If you’re looking for a virtual assistant, this is a great service that can connect you with some top notch virtual assistants.  If you’re looking for a permanent team member for your business, start here, and then use my Virtual Assistant Guide to get your started.

Fiverr: Finally, there’s Fiverr.  I use this almost monthly for finding really small jobs.  Lately, I’ve been using Fiverr to have icons created or other small graphics.  I’m terrible at graphic design, but for $5 you can’t beat the price.

 

Now you know what tools and tricks I’m using – what do you use?  Anything different that you just love?

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My Monthly Income Stream Report – March 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-march-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-march-2014/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 07:15:11 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2752 I can’t believe that, as I’m writing this, it’s almost tax day.  That means we are 25% through 2014.  Where has this year gone?  It seems like just yesterday it was Christmas – I’m really feeling time fly.  I’m also shocked by how fast my son is growing up.  A little over a year ago [...]

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income reportI can’t believe that, as I’m writing this, it’s almost tax day.  That means we are 25% through 2014.  Where has this year gone?  It seems like just yesterday it was Christmas – I’m really feeling time fly.  I’m also shocked by how fast my son is growing up.  A little over a year ago I announced my first child was on the way, and now he’s crawling all over the house and standing against everything he can pull himself up on.  It’s just crazy!

Wbeing said, it’s been another good month both online and offline.  Let’s get to it!

 

Important Happenings

Several great things happened this month that I’m really excited to share with you.  First, I’m excited to announce that I’m now writing for Forbes about education and personal finance.  It’s something that I’m passionate about, and so far it’s been a great fit.  You can check out my articles here: Robert Farrington Forbes.  It’s a paid gig, and you will start seeing the income from it in the coming months.

Second, my job saga keeps evolving. Since I declined the last promotion (you can read about that here), I figured that I would be stagnant in my current job for the foreseeable future.  Well, that didn’t happen.  In fact, the opposite happened.  I was instead offered to interview for an even better promotion that would actually make sense and raise my salary even higher than the last one.  It would take a couple months for the opening to materialize, but the fact that this is the next step is great.

However, this whole thing makes me look at my job more like the movie Office Space.  It just seems like the less I do, the more I get recognized for what I do.  Whatever works, and it helps pay the bills in the short term.

 

Income and Expense Report

Alright, onto the multiple income stream report!  By now, you should know how this works, but I like to break down my multiple income streams into categories so you can see how I make my income.  You can read more about my investing income stream here.

I don’t include my salary or my wife’s, although I do consider those part of my multiple income steam strategy.  Remember, this is about building income streams beyond your 9 to 5.

Income Breakdown

  • Investments
    • Dividends: $811.42
  • Other
    • Writing: $821

Gross Total: $5,741.02

Difference from Last Month: -$3,249.36

Expense Breakdown

  • Advertising: $403.45 (Facebook Ads)
  • Commissions Paid: $25.68
  • Hosting: $8.65
  • PayPal Fees: $115.01
  • Subscription Software:
  • Subcontracted Services: $1,914.00

Total Expenses: $2,782.65 

Difference from Last Month: +$348.63

Total Income: $5,741.02
Total Expenses: $2,782.65

Net February Income: $2,958.37

Difference from February: -$3,597.99

Remember, you can find all of my income reports here, but last year I didn’t break down gross vs. net income like I am this year.

 

What I Learned

Last month, as you can see, my income was much lower than what it has been.  Working online for several years now, I’ve learned that it’s so hard to have truly sustainable income.  You just never know what you’re going to earn each month.  That’s why it’s so important to me to build multiple income streams (salary, freelancing, business, investing).  Hopefully, if one stream has a rough month, the others can supplement.

This is my key strategy as I move forward to escaping the rat race.  I can’t just depend on income from advertising on my websites – it’s relying on others too much.  That’s why my goals this year include creating products for my sites to sell myself without relying on others.

 

What To Expect This Month

This month, don’t expect me to write too much – I’m planning on one other article.  But, I’m going to continue to focus on this site and building it out.

Thanks for another great month!  How was March for you?

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Multiple Income Stream Goals for 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/multiple-income-stream-goals-for-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/multiple-income-stream-goals-for-2014/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 07:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2698 Welcome to my goal post for 2014 – finally.  Yes, I realize that it’s already March, but I think it’s important from an accountability standpoint to publish a goal post online.  In reality, I actually already crafted my goals, and I spent a lot of time in December really hashing out what I wanted for [...]

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Welcome to my goal post for 2014 – finally.  Yes, I realize that it’s already March, but I think it’s important from an accountability standpoint to publish a goal post online.  In reality, I actually already crafted my goals, and I spent a lot of time in December really hashing out what I wanted for the year.

Last year, my wife made me a beautiful whiteboard (not really white, actually canvas), that I’ve plotted out my goals and milestones for the entire year.

framed canvas whiteboard

 

Now, I’m just codifying publicly what I’m already working towards.

 

2014 Goals

Alright, so here is what I’m working on this year, and the reason why.  If possible, I’ll also share any tactics I’m using and any progress made.

Monthly Epic Posts:  One of my big content marketing strategies for my blogs is to create epic posts each month.   The goal of this is two-fold.  First, I’m a big believer that epic posts can add a lot of value to readers, which is always a good thing.  Second, epic posts get shared a lot – and that is always good for traffic and exposure.

So far I’ve been on schedule with my epic posts on The College Investor, and they have been driving a lot of traffic to my site.  So far, I’ve charted out the posts I want to write through the first half of the year, making sure that they fit in my overall editorial calendar (which I’ve also plotted out for the first half of the year).

To give you an idea of what I’m going after, here are the posts I’ve done already:

 

Build My Email Sales Funnel: One of my big marketing goals this year was to create a sales funnel for my site.  After the great launch of my Investing 101 Course, I quickly learned that it was hard to make a course sustainable.  I tried a bunch of different options, by soon realized that the key was an email marketing funnel to drive traffic to my course.  Basically, it was hard to get “cold” leads to sign up for a course they knew nothing about.  My initial launch was successful because it was marketed to “warm” leads – the existing readership base of my site.  However, why would new readers simply jump into a course without knowing me?

This is one goal I’ve already implemented, but I’m continually tinkering with and working on.  To set this up, I put together a 3 part Free Video Online Investing Training series, where I cover 3 essential steps to getting started investing.  It has been incredibly successful for me, and it is helping get subscribers on my email list, and converting them into paying customers.

 

Boost Email List to 5,000 Subscribers: Along with building a sales funnel for my course, I want to get my email list to 5,000 subscribers.  Right now, my list is 1,576 subscribers, and I’m currently averaging 3.3 sign-ups per day.  If I continue at this rate, I will add about another 900 subscribers this year, which will bring me to almost 2,500.  That’s where I need to step it up.  I need to start averaging about 12.5 sign-ups per day to get to my goal of 5,000.

I’m going to do this two-fold.  One, I’m going to continue to promote my Investing Training Course on Facebook using sponsored ads.  Second, I’m going to launch a strictly email-based free training targeting more advanced investors, not just new ones.  And finally, I’m going to ping my readers soon and ask them what they want to see – and hopefully that will help bring in new subscribers as well.

 

Develop 1 Paid Product for Beat the Nine to Five: As you know, I don’t have any paid products here on this site yet.  I also don’t have any advertising.  But, at some point, I need to move from the free model to the freemium model.  Don’t worry, I’m still going to provide great, useable content, but I’m also going to shoot to create at least one paid product for this site that I think will really add value to what side hustlers and other small business owners are looking for.  I have some ideas already, but I’m always open to your input as well.  If you have some thoughts, share them below!

 

Develop Another Paid Product for The College Investor: I’m also planning on creating another paid product for The College Investor.  This one will be much more targeted to advanced investors and those that want to improve what they are already doing in the stock market.  It will be very similar in layout to my current course – with text and video, and simple, easy to follow modules.  Hopefully it will be a hit as well!

 

Checking In On My 2013 Goals

Truth be told, I didn’t reach any of my goals for 2013.  But that’s okay – because I set high goals and I moved the ball forward in ways I would have never imagined before.

I had two key goals set for myself:

  • 1,000,000 visitors combined
  • $100,000 in revenue

For overall total visitors across all my sites, I hit 402,385.  I’m happy because that is a 72% increase in traffic from 2012.  However, I’m even happier that in the first two months of the year, The College Investor has already received 150,550 visits, including it’s first 100,000 visitor month!  Kids Ain’t Cheap is also boosting it’s traffic significantly, up to 6,840 visitors last month, which is up over 200%.

For overall revenue, I made $64,660.  Not bad for a side hustle, but still short of my goal.   I’m not truly setting a revenue goal this year, but I do want to go after than mythical 6-figure mark.  I think that is a big milestone, and while money isn’t super-important today, it becomes more important as I look to convert from a side hustle to a full time gig.

 

What Advice Do You Have For Me?

So, there you have it – my goals for 2014.  What advice do you have for me?  Have you gone after any of these things before and have success or failure stories you can share with me?  I’d love to know!

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My Monthly Income Stream Report – February 2014 http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-february-2014/ http://beatthe9to5.com/my-monthly-income-stream-report-february-2014/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 08:15:48 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2697 February was a busy busy month for me, both online and offline, and I totally skipped out on creating content here at Beat the Nine to Five.  However, I made some key changes that will hopefully free up my time to allow me to focus better on creating content versus doing other stuff. Beyond the [...]

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Feb Income Report

February was a busy busy month for me, both online and offline, and I totally skipped out on creating content here at Beat the Nine to Five.  However, I made some key changes that will hopefully free up my time to allow me to focus better on creating content versus doing other stuff.

Beyond the craziness, February was also a great month for my business – even better than January.  I’m excited to share with you the good and the bad from this month, and what I’m doing to better myself, my business, and my family.

 

Important Happenings

I had a few key learnings this month that I wanted to share.  Like I mentioned earlier, this was a month of craziness, and it led to being fully overwhelmed by mid-month.  This was due to a crazy work schedule and a lot of things going on in my online business as well.

The only free time I was having was in my car – when I was also listening to Chris Ducker talk about his new book Virtual Freedom.  Anyway, listening to him, in combination with everything that was going on, really led me to realize that if I want this to be a viable business, I need to stop focusing on so many things that I don’t need to do.  I’ve always been keen on outsourcing, but I learned last year that I wasn’t improving the operational excellence of my business while outsourcing.

So, I made a focus on changing that.  I actually hired a new virtual assistant that will be much more like an assistant instead of simply a social media manager.  Already, it has taken a huge load off my shoulders, but this week has been a recovery week from the overwhelm before I can really start to move forward.  With my new assistant, we are really getting into a groove, and she is really helping me drive my business forward, instead of just doing silly tasks that can be automated.

Second, I was offered a promotion at work – for a really terrible job that paid a lot of money.  Last year, I saw this coming, so I asked you guys if you should accept a promotion if it’s not your dream job?  Well, now let me give you a little breakdown of this job, and what I did.  This job would have increased my salary by 30%, but at the same time it would have:

  • Required a 90 mile commute through the mountains everyday, which would take about 1 hour and 20 minutes each direction in good weather (and that’s with no snow, rain, or wind).
  • It would be long hours on top of the commute
  • After commuting costs are taken into consideration, it’s really only about a 18% raise
  • It would really suck

On top of that, I have a young son who I would really want to see grow up.  I have so much fun at home with him, I would hate to be so far away and not being able to make it to things easily.

So, in the end, I turned down the money and the job.  What are they going to do?  Fire me?  Ha – I got offered the job because supposedly I’m a top performer, so I still have plenty of job security in my current role.  Do you agree with me?

I’d rather spend my time building my online business and focus on getting out of the 9 to 5 anyway!

 

Income and Expense Report

Alright, onto the multiple income stream report!  By now, you should know how this works, but I like to break down my multiple income streams into categories so you can see how I make my income.  You can read more about my investing income stream here.

I don’t include my salary or my wife’s, although I do consider those part of my multiple income steam strategy.  Remember, this is about building income streams beyond your 9 to 5.

Income Breakdown

  • Investments
    • Dividends: $936.96
    • Capital Gains: -$19.36 (Read about this here)
  • Other
    • Writing: $568

Gross Total: $8,990.38

Difference from Last Month: +$1,725.74

Expense Breakdown

  • Advertising: $417.33 (Facebook Ads)
  • Commissions Paid: $13.00
  • Hosting: $7.49
  • PayPal Fees: $169.78
  • Professional Fees: $495.42 (FinCon14)
  • Subscription Software:
  • Subcontracted Services: $915.14

Total Expenses: $2,434.02 

Difference from Last Month: -$493.21

Total Income: $8,990.38
Total Expenses: $2,434.02

Net February Income: $6,556.36

Difference from January: +$2,218.95

Remember, you can find all of my income reports here, but last year I didn’t break down gross vs. net income like I am this year.

 

What I Learned

I learned a couple of key lessons this month.  First, focus on what really matters.  This was a hard lesson that I learned in several ways.  First, in my business, I realized that I was spending a lot of time on tasks that I should be delegating or automating, and not enough time on things that only I can do.  But, I also learned it takes the right person to help you delegate to and automate with.  I think I have that now, but that is something that I’m continuing to focus on.

Second, I learned that I need to focus on what really matters more at work.  I essentially took the “promotion” offer as a big fuck you.  Basically, I worked really hard to be offered a piece of crap job.  Yes, the money’s great, but there is so much more than that.  I’ve given a lot of time and effort into my job, have been considered a top performer, already make good money, and this is what I get?

Thinking back – one of the big reasons why I started side hustling was because I had a bad boss.  I tell my story in How a Bad Boss, Boredom, and a School Crush Led Me To Entrepreneurship.  Now, I am much better equipped to handle my work situation – so this is what I’ve decided.  I’m focusing on my side business and my family, and not this job that doesn’t truly value me.  So, will I be leaving early to take Skype calls?  Yes.  Will I feel shame in answering emails on my phone during the day?  Nope.  I’m focusing on what matters.

Finally, you may have noticed that I started writing again.  I’m not writing much, but a valuable proposition came along and I couldn’t pass it down.  You will see writing income the next couple of months, and I hope to do more if the right opportunities come along.

 

What To Expect This Month

This month, I finally plan on tackling that goal post I was talking about last month.  I also want to share with you some other insights I learned from this month of overwhelm.  Hopefully, you will start to see some changes here as well.  I’m changing up a few things, and have them penciled out, but whether I have the time to implement them will be another story.

Thanks for another great month!  How was February for you?

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The Key To Side Hustle Success: Focus On What You Know http://beatthe9to5.com/the-key-to-side-hustle-success-focus-on-what-you-know/ http://beatthe9to5.com/the-key-to-side-hustle-success-focus-on-what-you-know/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 08:15:00 +0000 http://beatthe9to5.com/?p=2659 I had two interesting exchanges with readers over the last several weeks, and I wanted to share a key takeaway from them. First, I had a reader ask: Why don’t you tell us how you went about choosing the web sites you bought last year, why they were doing so poorly at that time, and [...]

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passion online businessI had two interesting exchanges with readers over the last several weeks, and I wanted to share a key takeaway from them.

First, I had a reader ask:

Why don’t you tell us how you went about choosing the web sites you bought last year, why they were doing so poorly at that time, and how they are doing now. It might be good to explain how you went about monetizing them, and why you  chose certain ads for that purpose.

The second reader asked the following:

How do I get started with an online business and how do I figure out which one is best?

And what do you think my answer was to both of them?  Focus on what you know!

 

The Key To Success

The absolute key to success in everything I do is focusing on what I know.  Every website I own is based around some experience I’ve had or passion I want to share.  I’m not the only one who thinks this.  Warren Buffett is famous for investing in what he knows – he usually avoids hot tech stocks because he doesn’t understand them.  Instead, he focuses on consumer goods and railroads – things he knows a lot about.

 

Where To Start

When starting something, there is always an unknown.  You can’t know everything.  But you can do some simple things:

  • Let your passion shine through (this can especially help online as you work through the technical stuff)
  • Ask others
  • Read a lot
  • Find a mentor
  • Pay for advice or help by hiring a coach or taking a course

Last year, I bought several eBooks and took an online course.  I’m all about continuing my education online.  There’s always stuff to learn, and sometimes it’s worth paying.

 

Final Thought

Finally, if you still just know know, you could also focus on what you don’t know.  Some of the most successful bloggers started by using their blogs to chronicle their learning – because they didn’t know.  It’s why JD Roth started Get Rich Slowly, and it’s why Pat Flynn originally started his Green Exam Academy site.  These guys didn’t know, but used their blogs to chronicle their learning.

There is so much potential and opportunity, don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.

What are you passionate about?

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