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Unexpected and awesome things that happened when I started writing

6 Unexpected but Awesome Things that Happened When I Began Freelance Writing

I always liked writing, but as I discussed in my last post, it was something that I mostly kept under wraps for a long time. Then one day, I stumbled across HorkeyHandbook which offers an online writing course called 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. (Affiliate link – details at the end of the post)

I was definitely skeptical at first. Getting paid real money to write about topics you like sounded too good to be true. But I took the plunge and did the course this past April, and I haven’t looked back since!

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a lot of work getting started – and I’ve only just scratched the surface of the freelance writing industry. But I have been surprised by the way things have developed in just four short months. The most notable of which have been the following:   

I Started Seeing Success Sooner Than I Expected

I was pretty lenient on myself when I started setting goals for freelance writing. After all, my main focus is on my full-time job.

But here’s a secret: There’s actually a demand for freelance writers out there! Who would have thought!

There are so many opportunities online, it’s just a matter of understanding your niche, knowing where to look, and pitching as much as possible. There was definitely a learning curve to pitching ideas to publications, but I managed to score my first paid submission less than two months after I started!

My Niche Started as One Thing, then Grew into Something Else

And it’s still growing! At the beginning, I really enjoyed writing lifestyle type topics that centered around work-life balance, wellness, and yoga. (and still do!) After a while, my niche evolved to contain more of a career-development focus, and I have had a great time with it!

I Converted to Google Docs

I used to be a total Word snob, and I hadn’t even heard of Google Drive before a few months ago. I was resistant to start using it because I have been using Word since I was a teenager and I am stuck in my ways. But I finally sucked it up and switched over and I haven’t looked back since. Shared folders? Access from anywhere? Group editing capabilities? Yes, please!

Google Sheets ain’t bad either 🙂

Writing Actually Became Fun and Exciting

I thought getting started would be more of a grind, but for the first month, it was all I wanted to work on. Sending out pitches actually became fun once I got comfortable doing them.

And now there’s always this lingering excitement that the next time I log into my email there could be a submission acceptance waiting in the inbox!

Plus I’ve enjoyed sharing blog posts with others, and reading and commenting on other writers’ work as well!

That’s not to say I haven’t already rolled into a rut or two. There are some weeks when I’m about to plaster the neighbourhood with “lost” flyers and start stopping people on the street to ask if they’ve seen my motivation. Its times like those when I look for a dose of inspiration, which brings me to my next point…

The Online Writing Community Became a Huge Source of Inspiration

A perk from taking the 30DOL course is gaining access to the course’s FB group. They are such a group of inspiring, helpful, awesome people! There is this misconception – one that I admit I had before getting started – that other freelance writers are competition for work.

But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Who better to share your writing struggles, questions, and successes with than other writers? Not to mention it’s a great hub for sharing writing opportunities and support. Sometimes I just pop by the group to read other people’s posts for a boost of inspiration.

I Wanted Other People to Try Freelance Writing

Sometimes I come across job posting and I think, “Ohh, _____ (friend/family/etc) knows all about that topic, they should get into freelance writing!” There are so many niches, topics, and opportunities out there that it’s hard not to wonder why more people aren’t doing it!

30DOL

If you are interested in freelance writing but not sure where to start, check out Gina’s free 200+ writing niches for ideas how to get started. Yes, this is an affiliate link which I proudly endorse as I would have never embarked on this journey had I not taken it.

In the kickstart course, there are 5 lessons which are very useful and give you a good idea of what to expect from the full version.

You certainly don’t need to take the course to begin a freelance writing business, but for me, it took a lot of the guesswork out of getting started. It broke everything down in such a way that suddenly I was like, “Hey… I can DO this!”

So there you have it. I’ve still barely begun this journey and yet it already feels like so much has happened!

What do you think about freelance writing? Let me know in the comments!

House-hunting tactics

Tactics for Finding a House in a Competitive Market

My spouse and I have moved twice in the past nine months, and four times total since 2012. It’s been a stressful time but we feel we are making the right choice and have learned a lot about the state of today’s real estate market.

Searching for a place to live in a seller’s market, like the GTA, can be a grueling and heartbreaking experience. Everything seems out of your budget and the places that aren’t get snapped up before you even have a chance to go look at them. When you finally are able to put an offer on the house, you find yourself being outbid by five other competitors.

What gives? While in no way do I consider myself to be an authority on real estate, I have been through several moves in a challenging buyer’s market which has introduced me to a few tactics.

Before you give up and contemplate moving into a cardboard box until the situation improves, consider the following options:

Rank Your “Must-Haves”

You can’t have everything. There, I said it. Now that that’s out of the way, make a list of the things that are important to you in a house and rank them from most to least important. It’s not going to be easy. Inevitably you will have to ask yourself some hard questions.

Private backyard or en suite washroom? Bigger house or shorter commute?

Acknowledging the tradeoffs and being firm on what’s most important can help keep you from waffling when you find a potential but not-quite-perfect house. This is critical in today’s market because you don’t have time for soul searching when deciding to buy a property.

If you aren’t willing to sign on the dotted line within hours of seeing the place, you’re going to have a bad time.

Consider Reserving a New Build

The obvious con to this option is the timeframe involved. Buy a house that isn’t built yet, and you’ll be waiting a couple years for it to get done, and then spend the first several months living in a virtual mud pit/construction zone. But if you look at the big picture, there are some major advantages to this.

First, there’s less competition. Get in the presentation centre the day they release the floor plans and you’ll have your pick.

Second, new builds can be a little bit cheaper than buying a resale, at least in this market. Just don’t get suckered into buying the outrageously expensive upgrades. Be patient and hire a contractor to put in upgrades after the fact.  

Look at Leases

There are a couple good reasons to look at leases. It works well as a temporary measure if you’re planning on buying a new build.

As well, with the housing market the way it is, it may not be the best time to buy right now. For years now, economists have been speculating on the GTA’s “housing bubble” which will inevitably burst.

There’s a ton of conflicting opinions on this, and it may never happen, but how much would it suck if you just took on an enormous mortgage only to have the market crash the next year? You could be stuck with a debt that’s larger than your house’s value. The last time this happened in the 80s, it took a decade for the market to recover.

Or, what if interest rates finally rise within the next five to seven years and you can no longer afford your monthly mortgage payment because of the interest?

The other thing about leases is that there’s always a chance the owner of the house might be willing to sell instead. Investigating this avenue could be advantageous because you’re less likely to get into a bidding war if the house isn’t listed for sale online.

 

As I said, I’m not an expert by any means, but these are just a few strategies we’ve found helpful the past few years.

Do you have any great house-hunting tips? Share in the comments!

7 Things I Learned from Bees

(Warning: Bee Puns Abound)

This post is a tad ironic because I’ve always been terrified of bees, especially when I was younger. I used to run screaming if I heard any kind of buzzing, even if I wasn’t sure it was actually a bee. I thought they were out for blood with their poisonous stingers, and that I would surely have a fatal reaction if I ever got stung. I’ve never been stung in my life so I have no idea where this fear came from, but I’ve been dealing with the phobia for as long as I can remember.

In recent years, I’ve learned more about bees and what they do for our environment, and my fear is now softened by a deep respect. I am fascinated by them – so long as they keep their distance. There are few species more industrious than the honeybee, and is in fact sometimes referred to as a super-organism. 

After researching about these amazing insects, I’ve gleaned a few lessons that I would like to share. I’m looking at them mainly from a career development standpoint, but they could apply to any area of your life.

Let’s get down to bizzzzness! (I know, sorry!)

Find Your Niche

Bees are the only insects that produce foods consumed by human beings. Talk about being indispensable! We all have our own innate strengths. Find out what you’re good at and nurture it! The best way to be happy in your job is to find one that plays your strengths and encourages you to grow. 

Go the Distance

Collectively, a hive of bees flies around the globe a total of three times to collect just 1 kg of honey! That’s about 56000 kms! In a more figurative sense, you may need to go a long way to reach your goals, but if a swarm of bees can orbit the earth, then you can make it to the top of the corporate ladder – or even start your own business if you dream of being an entrepreneur.

Keep going and don’t ever give up.

Bee Efficient

Bees must be expert mathematicians because they are somehow able to calculate the most efficient path of flowers when foraging for pollen with uncanny accuracy. There are supercomputers that can’t figure out this equation!  But you don’t need to stump an A.I. to follow their lead. Simply take the time to plot out your course. Whether you’re laying out your career goals or hashing out the best way to tackle a new project, proactive planning will help you accomplish your goals more efficiently!

Communicate Effectively

When honeybees have found a plentiful source of pollen, they’ll fly back to the hive and “dance” to communicate where the choice flowers are. While I’m not recommending you attempt to communicate with your coworkers via whip and nae nae, developing your communication skills – whether by email, phone, or in meetings – is key to cultivating successful relationships with your clients and colleagues. (Or really anyone!)

Recognize You’re an Integral Part of the Team

Bees contribute to the hive from the time they are a few days old, cleaning their cells and even feeding younger larvae. As they grow, they take on new roles like guarding the hive and building combs, until they are old enough to leave the hive and start collecting pollen.

No matter where you are on your career path – or in life – you are part of a community and your contributions matter. Instead of zeroing in solely on what your job functions are, understand how what you do contributes to the big picture and you’ll find yourself taking more pride in what you do.

Do More with Less

There’s evidence suggesting that out of all structures the bees could have chosen for their cell shapes, the hexagonal shape uses the least amount of wax. Who knows how they figured that one out, but clearly they know how to be economical!

Get inspired by this and think of ways to do more with less at home and at work.  Try going paperless or ensuring you properly power down your computer at the end of the day. You could even try pitching casual day at the office to save cash on dry-cleaning bills! 😉 

Never Stop Learning

Recent studies have shown that bees will learn to complete new tasks by observing other bees. Whatever your goals are, finding a mentor to help guide you is a surefire way to reach them!

Bees are also progressive learners who are gradually able to build their problem-solving skills by overcoming easier problems first. Take each challenge one step at a time and eventually, you’ll be able to take on even the biggest challenges in your career or your life!

And that concludes the many reasons why I salute the bees…

From a safe distance, inside my house.

Save the Bees!

I’d just like to end with a quick PSA here. In recent years, the bee populations have been floundering due to habitat loss and pesticides, which is extremely concerning considering we rely on them to pollinate our crops. But we can help to build a more friendly environment for our buzzy friends just by planting flowers or creating little bee baths for them. And doesn’t a “bee bath” sound like the cutest thing?

 

Photo Credit: juergen.mangelsdorf via Compfight cc

What Happens Someday

It’s not that you don’t love your job.  But let’s face it, you’re a nine-to-fiver. Weekdays are pretty much a write-off. By the time you get through the front door at the end of the day, it’s all you can do to pour yourself a glass of wine and unzip your pants. If you’re lucky, you get to flake out on the couch for 45 minutes until family duties drive you to action. Sure, there may be some days when you can muster up the mandatory excursion to the dentist after work, or the carefully timed mission to Service Ontario on your lunch hour, but there’s just only so much you can accomplish between home time and crash o’clock, right?

That means that the majority of your errands and social life must be accomplished on one of those two special days, Scatterday and Someday.  But really, you can forget about Scatterdays.

On Scatterday, you at least wake up early because your body is on a 9:30 pm sleep schedule. From there, the day is a blur. You hoist a week’s worth of clothes into the laundry machine and hasten to the grocery store to beat the crowds. But as usual, the Superstore is already rammed by 8:30 am. No matter how well-organized your grocery list is, it still takes you an hour to grab everything and check out, and when you get home you realize you forgot the sour cream. Again.

The afternoons are less predictable. Sometimes, you’re finally getting around to organizing your closet, or tackling the weeds in the garden, or cleaning out the fridge. Other times, you’re able to get out to see that movie with your spouse, or get your hair done, or catch up with a friend. Those afternoons go by so fast that you’ve but blinked twice before you find yourself back at home, realizing that your laundry from that morning is still crumpled up in the drier waiting for you to fold them. You try to stay up late because it’s Scatterday night, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. But you end up passing out at 9:30 pm, because that’s what you always do.

So really, Scatterday is a write-off too. Everyone knows that Someday is the only day you can get anything done.

Someday is far less hectic than any other day of the week. It’s the one day that you have some amount of mental space. You are introspective. You wake up early in order to get to yoga class. Then you dream that Someday you’ll be the one teaching the class instead of being the one who falls on their face during crow pose. Instead of finding nirvana as you lay in savasana, you think about how you still need to pick up the sour cream, and Someday you’ll remember to buy it at the same time as the rest of your groceries.

The afternoon creeps in and you start thinking about the workweek ahead. You sigh to yourself that Someday you’ll have more time to do accomplish everything else you wanted to do.

That night, you stare at your computer screen and think that Someday you’ll have enough time to write something, because you do love to write, you just really don’t have time to today.

Then in one magical moment, you remember that Someday is today.

And then you write.

 

Photo Credit: 藍川芥 aikawake via Compfight cc