Work Update

An update of our work and income for the month.

If there’s one question we’ve been asked more than any other, it’s “How can you afford this?” Most people are a little hesitant; after all, it’s a bit taboo to just ask about someone’s finances. For us, though, it’s not an uncomfortable question at all. We completely understand that this lifestyle is new and confusing to just about everyone, including us!

Basically, this trip is our attempt to follow our life-long dreams and give one final shot at being “everything we always wanted to be” before settling down with a white picket fence and a yard full of dogs and kids. Both of us have goals that we’ve never even tried to reach before, and we found ourselves with an opportunity to really give these new careers 100%. The trade-off is that we lose some stability, for a while at least. For now, these are our jobs, and how we plan to keep on living.

When I grow up, I want to be a travel show host… or at least a travel writer like my heroes Rick Steves and Samantha Brown. I’m writing this blog, spending at least 2-3 hours on social media each day promoting the blog, and planning adventures that are blog-worthy. Right now, my official work title is Travel Blogger and I make money whenever my readers click on ad links on my page. This month, I made $0.57!!! It may not sound like much, but I did literally nothing more than exactly what I wanted to do. As someone who has spent many years getting paid to do things I didn’t want to do, this is a pretty big deal.

WordAds Earnings ‹ The Places We Live — WordPress com
This is my payment summary for the month: $0.57!!!! I’m famous!!!!

Josh wants to be a writer. He is quite a bit more cautious than I am, and therefore doesn’t feel comfortable without having a little bit of “real work” on the side. So, Josh does a little bit of science and freelance writing on Upwork making an average of $200 per month so far. One of his ongoing gigs is translating scientific papers about cannabis research as a PhD news author for CannaHealth.org.

News CannaHealth org
One of Josh’s first publications for CannaHealth

Josh’s real focus, however, is on creative writing. He is 55,000 words (159 pages) into his novel and has written several short stories and flash fictions. His goal is to publish as many of his shorter stories as possible to improve his exposure and improve his chances of signing with an agent. So far, his publications have been limited to “exposure pay”, which means he gets a place to post his stories where a lot of people will read them, but it doesn’t pay any money. He has been applying for paid publications and has been rejected from a couple, but he has been keeping his head high and continues to submit.

He got his very first exposure piece published last week through The Weekly Knob, a website with over 9,500 followers that “prompts writers to write.” Every week, it provides writers with a random prompt to write about. Last week’s prompt was “Bowling Ball.” The submitted stories must be central to the prompt word and is recommended to be under a six minute read. Josh submitted his embellished story about the time he stole a bowling ball in college and was awarded with Editor’s Choice!

The Weekly Knob
Josh’s first publication on The Weekly Knob

Not including the sale of our car and all of our wonderful Christmas gifts, our income was $216 this month. It is not even close to our goal of $800 per month, but we are trying to remember that we are starting over with our careers. It took us a long time and a lot of work to get the salary we wanted with our last jobs. We are going to be patient and stay determined to give our dream jobs everything we have!

Chasing the Dream

Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication.

[Originally posted on The Academy]

A while back I ran across this excellent cartoon depicting a section of “On Writing,” by Stephen King. The first few panels really hit me in the feels, because it depicts King describing his “dream” writing desk. Growing up, I always told people I wanted to be a scientist of one sort or another, because even then I knew writing wasn’t a practical career choice. Everyone wants be to something when they grow up, but how many people actually get there? What reason did I have to think I was any different? So I went with the achievable and smart choice, when really I was fantasizing about my writing room.

Let’s take the tour.

The first thing you’ll notice is the view from the window.  Sometimes there’s a lake, sometimes there isn’t, but the pines are always there, close enough that I can watch the squirrels chase each other up and down the trunks, but far enough away to allow for a nice yard. Under the window is my desk. It’s a little bigger than necessary for its function, but I like to decorate, so I need that space. The desk, like everything else, is a dark cherry color. It’s got everything a desk needs: a blotter; a brass lamp with one of those green glass shades; a decorative typewriter that I’ll try to actually use once and just end up making a huge mess with; and quirky desk toys scattered about for character. To the right is my little library, with bookshelves built right into the wall and soft leather chairs for reading (and maybe enjoying the occasional scotch and cigar). To the left of the desk is one of those old-fashioned refrigerators with the white, clamshell doors and a latched handle. This is my sanctuary, my little hideaway where I can slip into other worlds for a while and no one will notice that I’m gone.

Sadly, this place doesn’t exist. Yet. But I’m working on it. Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication. It’s a short story, a psychological horror tale about an incarcerated protagonist whose life is slowly becoming a waking nightmare. It’s got a little bit of social commentary, maybe some insight into the realities of life, and even some science. Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

I have no idea if it’s going to get picked up. I wrote it, after all, so of course I think it’s good, but it could be a real stinker. It’s just under 6,000 words, and I had to fight for nearly every one. It went through 4 drafts (one was eaten by the Microsoft OneDrive cloud gods — curse you!) before ending up in its finished state, and even now I’m thinking about making a couple tweaks. As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of the good”; it’s time to let it go and see what the editors have to say.

This is the first time I’ve felt like I’m really treating my hobby as a career, and it feels good. All the little things that have been rattling around in my brain are finally starting to coalesce into something real. This first submission, while a small step, is the first one toward making my writing room a reality.

I can’t wait to break ground.

I’m a Travel Blogger

I got my first “job” today!

Sunday Shower Thoughts:

  1. “What would life be like if humans had a mating season?”
  2. “I wonder if sweet potatoes would be good on pizza.”
  3. “I love vacation rentals. How fun would it be to review vacation rentals? OMG, I’m going to review vacation rentals.”

I got out of the shower, threw on some clothes, and immediately set to work. I emailed 10 different vacation rental owners and told them I wanted to look at their place, take some pictures, and do a small piece on my blog. Everyone who actually read my email, responded positively.

On Monday, Josh and I drove into town and met with a woman who owns a dozen properties in the area and was excited to get some professional photographs taken of a property she recently acquired. That made me nervous. “Is she going to be upset when Josh and I show up with our phones and the GoPro? Does she think my blog is being read by thousands of people?” I was so nervous, but I put on my work voice and just did it.

We had so much fun! The woman and her mother were really nice people with interesting stories. The two apartments she took us to were lovely and exactly the kind of places we stay at during our previous travels. Josh took video with the GoPro and I took photos with my phone.

20171113_164448

Again, it was a little nerve racking taking photos on our cheap equipment with very little photography skill, but the photos weren’t the point. It was the story. The woman gave us the rundown of the area (similar to what she would share with her renters) and we visited many of the places she suggested. We imagined an entire week’s worth of amazing blog posts and stories we could tell if we had a week at her place. It would be the dream job I have always wanted.

Dream Job Checklist:

  1. Quit my nine to five and hit the road. – CHECK
  2. Start a blog. – CHECK
  3. Make first contact as a travel marketer. – CHECK

Am I dreaming? Has this really happened? This blog has 30 posts, I doubled my followers on social media, and I got my first “job”. There are still a few steps to go before I’m Samantha Brown famous, but I’m on my way. I really am. How did I get so lucky?

Learning to Fish

Note: originally published over at The Academy

When I was a kid, my parents took me out fishing on a pretty regular basis. I was terrible at it. I didn’t like how dirty my hands felt after baiting a hook. I didn’t like sitting and waiting with nothing to do. I didn’t like not catching anything. At that age, I didn’t have an appreciation for the time that comes in between casts, waiting for that little tug on the end of the line that signals something exciting is about to happen. It just wasn’t for me.

I’m learning that freelance writing is a lot like fishing. First, you have to scope out the waters, looking for the right place to throw out your hook. Then you have to dress up that hook as best you can and drum up a little interest. Once you get a bite, you have to play a game of back and forth until you can reel them in. If you’re successful, you get to eat. If not, you get to come back and try again the next day.

For the past month I’ve been using Upwork to try and find freelance jobs, with mixed success. I managed to land two jobs last month, and the experiences were as different as night and day. The first job was creating a powerpoint presentation for a business professor who was speaking at an academic conference. She was presenting one of her lesson plans and the benefits of using her particular approach. The process was really straight-forward: I sent her an application explaining why I would be the best choice, she interviewed me, I gave her a time estimate and a quote, and then I came in under budget. Easy-peasy.

My second job, less easy. It was supposed to be a quick job, a 500 word “statement of purpose” for a college application. The job post said that they wanted an Expert, which I am, so I applied at my usual rate. She got back to me, and was interested in having me do the work, but was unable to afford my rate. I bid her good luck, and thought that was it. But then she contacted me again a few days later, saying that she’d already gone through two freelancers who said they could do it for $50, and neither of them had delivered, and she REALLY wanted my help because this was her dream school. We went back and forth several times; I’d lower my price, and then the job would become more difficult. In the end, I wound up doing an $800+ job for $100. Not only that, but she had high expectations that she was unable to clearly communicate, and was completely inflexible, something I didn’t find out until AFTER we’d signed the contract and it was too late to walk away. In the end, I think the statement we crafted was really well done, and I’m still waiting to hear if she got in or not, but this was definitely an experience in negotiation and sticking to my guns.

There are plenty of fish out there, if you’ve got the skills to land them. Unfortunately, I’m still learning those skills. But I’m getting better. I’m being selective about the jobs I apply for, my cover letters are becoming more targeted and easier to write, and I’m refusing to sell myself short. It’ll take time, but success breeds success, and the more jobs I get, the easier it’ll be. I just have to learn to be a little more patient and to enjoy the time in between.