Category Archives: Blog
Blogging is one of the top ways to make money online and escape the nine to five, and even if you don’t make money directly from your blog it is a platform in which you can promote your online business and entrepreneurial pursuits. Keeping your blog regularly updated with content is important, but even writing about the most straightforward of subjects is a creative process, and as with any creative writing a form of writer’s block is inevitable at some stage, but there are things you can do to tackle this state of mind and push through it! Here are my tips for overcoming writer’s block for bloggers.
- Ship some content, even if it isn’t written. This shouldn’t be a long term solution but there are loads of ways of creating content that don’t involve writing, if you’re finding it difficult to put your thoughts down in words, try to record content on video or start a podcast, if the subject of your blog is particularly visual, you can even incorporate photos or video.
- Take a break! A lot of writers block comes from trying to “force it”. If content isn’t flowing then it is tempting to just keep going in the hope that you manage to pull something out of the bag, but the chances of this happening when you’re not on form are slim, and it is a much better idea to take a break and return when you feel more inspired, the chances are you’re just tired or overworked.
- Try not to put pressure on yourself. Though it is really important to publish regular content on your blog, you shouldn’t let this become an added concern when you’re already struggling. You know that feeling when you’re laying in bed and you can’t sleep, so all you can think about is how much you need to get to sleep? Well, it doesn’t help, does it? You’re better off accepting that you might not get there today with your blog and come back to it tomorrow.
- Watch or listen to something that inspires you. I do this sometimes when I’m struggling. At the heart of most great work is inspiration. I listen to my favorite internet marketers’ podcasts, watch a movie I know will inspire me or put on my favorite album. Taking an hour or so out as ‘inspiration time’ can vastly improve your output.
- Do something else useful. Ok, not so much a way to tackle as a way to avoid your writers block. As a blogger there are always things you can do to push forward and they don’t always involve writing. If your content isn’t flowing today then do some SEO or Networking, research some topics you’d like to write about or even improve the design of your site. Writing is at the heart of your blog, but it isn’t everything.
So there we go, five tips that have served me well when my brain isn’t in ‘content mode’. I hope they help you overcoming writers block, and please do add your own tips in the comment section below to help out other bloggers in the same position.
We’ve all heard a load of mixed signals about money in our lives. From when mother told us that if we really wanted something we had to save our pennies and watching our parents sweat it out in a tough job to put food on the table to when the Beatles told us that they didn’t care for money because it couldn’t buy them love. With all of those messages flying around it was hard to know who to believe, well, I’m sorry not to make it any simpler but they are both right.
The Importance of Money
This is a bit of a “well, duh” moment in a lot of ways, but yes, I am going to talk briefly about the importance of cash in your life. Unless you life in a self sufficient environment without anything to pay for then you need it to get by, everything in life costs money from rent to food to entertainment, but how much do we really need?
- Enough to feed us properly
- Enough to clothe us
- Enough to feed and clothe those who depend on us
- Enough to put a roof over our heads
- Enough to pay our medical and heating bills
- Enough not to be depressed
One word that sticks out there? Yep, enough. I remember reading a Tim Ferriss Quote about living with the bare minimum. Putting ourselves in the position we often fear, where we do not have a huge amount of extravagances, and often when living in this environment we realize that in fact our lives do not entirely depend on our bank balances. Perhaps our perspective of “enough” has become skewed?
It is really hard to write about this stuff without becoming extremely cheesy extremely quickly. It is however true that money is not everything, and there is so much in life that doesn’t depend on it. Lets talk about some things more important than money.
- Friends and Family
- Hobbies and enjoyment
- Security (the two do not always go hand in hand, trust me)
- Life experience
I understand that sometimes you need money to fuel some of those things, but not usually millions, you don’t have to be CEO of a multinational to have a hobby (in fact it probably makes it a lot less likely). It is the last on that list that people often have a problem with, TIME. You might well be one of the people who slaves away for 50 hours a week in search of a better job, more money, promotions and pay rises. Besides that perhaps not being the best use of your time in terms of getting rich, you should ask yourself if that is really how you want to spend your time. You could be doing so much with those 50 hours and though you probably need to use them to do the things we mentioned such as eat and have shelter, some of the luxuries you have such as cable TV or gym memberships could be sacrificed for more time in which to chase your passions and do what you want to with your life. Ironically, this might make you more money in the long term anyway.
Remember that you can’t take money with you. One day you are going to be six feet under and your bank balance will not matter. Live your life and value your time enough not to devote it all to money and you’ll live a happier life.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog here at Escape Nine to Five, you’ll know that a lot of what we cover revolves around careers, and specifically dissatisfaction within careers. So many people are staying put in jobs they don’t enjoy for all the wrong reasons, and though my chosen path was to try and run a business and escape the rat race altogether, for some people a career change (whether employed or self-employed) is a great way of getting away from a job they don’t want or enjoy.
Colonel Sanders was 65 when he started KFC, and sold his business (which he invested very little money in starting) just ten years later for $2 million. The company now is of course worth a lot more but the Colonel did well out of his investment and is surely the ultimate proof that it is never too late to make something big happen. Though not a big career change Sanders proved that you could go in a different direction and still be a success even later in life, it is all about drive and passion.
Of course, writing this I do not have the luxury of knowing your circumstances, your age, financial commitments, current career and future plans for a career, but I do assume that you are not thinking too strongly about retirement just yet and that your proposed new career is one you would care a lot about, otherwise why would you be changing?
It is easy to forget just how long we spend working. Here in the UK it is not unusual to work into your 70′s, so if you’re in your 40′s and wondering if it is too late for a career change, think again! You could have 30 more years working, would you deprive yourself of the change you desire for a whole 30 years? I have seen people as young as 30 wondering if they are too old for a career change, a ridiculous idea when you consider they may be only 7 years into a 40 0r 50 year career. You might have to take a step backwards in your earnings but hopefully you can prove that your skills learned elsewhere can relate to your new job.
Depending on your ambitions you may well need to retrain to work your new job, and some sacrifice could well be in order. If you absolutely have to get a new qualification though, options are available, consider home learning, evening classes or saving money for a career break. It can be expensive and sacrifice earning potential, but it will probably be more than worth it in the long run.
In summary, we are all about following your passions here on Escape Nine to Five. There is always a way, and age should not be an obstacle. Don’t let your fears stand in your way, it might be hard work but you can make it happen.
During the times when we are supposed to wind down and relax, the issue of work life balance can often come to the forefront. It can be really difficult for the hard worker to get the balance between work and play right, but it is so important for your health and productivity to get your ration of working and “life” (time to chill out, relax and do exactly what you want) correctly tuned.
The reason I am writing this guide for the self-employed as opposed to the employed is because there is a distinct difference between the two. If you are a salary or hourly rate payed employer with a boss who sets your hours for you then leaving work behind at the office can be pretty easy, you learn to sign off at 5 and switch off until 9 the following morning – easier for some than others but it is an important skill to teach yourself. We self-employed on the other hand have dreamed of a life without a boss and set hours, which is great, but can be a double edged sword. For hard workers, it can be tough to switch off from a business or income you have created, knowing that you could be chipping away at tasks or working towards your goals.
Here are my tips for getting the right work life balance for the self employed:
- Set yourself hours of work. I know it might be what you wanted to avoid, but having set hours is actually very helpful, and even by structuring your days you can still be flexible and make sure you work when it is convenient for you. This way you have work time and down-time, and it will be easier to differentiate.
- Set a place of work. Another way to differentiate, when you’re at your desk, you’re working, when you’re not, you’re not! This works really well for a lot of self employed people I know, and some even have different laptops for work and play. No murky grey areas.
- Tell your clients when you work. It is fair to have time off, and days off, and not to have to be at the beckon call of your clients 24/7. If your phone goes off at 5, make sure they know that, and that post 5 o clock is your time.
- Value your free time. This is a hard thing to come to terms with, but if you see your free time as wasted then you’ll never value it enough to insist on having it! You need to rejuvenate and you need to rest sometimes, burnout is a sure fire route for failure, avoid it at all costs by making sure you know that your mind and body need holidays. Time that you enjoy wasting was not wasted.
Writing and publishing a novel is simpler than it has ever been in the modern age. We have so many routes to get our books published, whether it is through a large or independent publisher or you decide to go alone and self publish on kindle or through a similar method. It isn’t necessarily easy to make a success of your book, but getting it published is something anybody can do.
Writing your novel is probably the biggest challenge, and it can be broken down into simple steps in order to gradually work your way through and make sure you don’t get stuck half way or lose your way in your novel.
Here are our top tips for writing a novel:
Plan and Outline Your Book First
You don’t have to know every single detail of how your finished novel will read, but you should have a structure to work around. I find a great way to do this is simply to break your writing into chapters (something you will want to do anyway of course) and write a couple of sentences about what will happen within. Your writing then simply becomes padding out the story, and you don’t have to worry so much about plot.
Get a Draft Finished, Then Revise
I know some writers tend to write a few paragraphs and then go back and change bits and pieces, but in my opinion this makes the whole writing process disjointed and is an almost sure fire way to get caught up in details. There is plenty of time for revision later, get through to the end of your novel and then treat it as a draft, go back to the start and make alterations as needed.
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
Hopefully you wont be short of well educated people you can run your book by before it goes forward to publishing. Whether you choose to finish your draft before getting feedback or distribute each chapter to your feedback helpers and letting them take notes, you simply must get people to read the book before you start making money out of it, and their contribution may end up being vital to your finished product.
You can do this in whatever way you see fit, but don’t just let yourself drift off target. Set aside an hour a day to write 400 words or promise yourself 3,000 words a week. That is just an example and some people will have more time than others of course, but if you don’t have a goal, you’ll never get anywhere.
This ties in well with the above point. It isn’t always enough just to say “yeah, well I’m going to write a bit each day and then finish in March” but you might not stick to it if there is nobody breathing over your shoulder checking that you’re getting it done. Promise to send somebody a chapter a week to read or have a deadline to finish your novel by and you are far more likely to get it done. I also use my blog as an accountability journal, and I’m happy when people nudge me in the right direction.
Structure is great, but you need to enjoy writing a novel, that’s often the whole point anyway! You’ll enjoy it far more if it is finished, but you must make sure you enjoy yourself along the journey.
Of course, tips are just that – tips. Different techniques and methods will work for different people, but as I always say on my advice posts, in my experience sticking to the above points wont see you far wrong.
Hi guys, something a bit different for today’s post. Today I’m going to talk about anger. Something I seem to be learning more about every day at the moment. We all have our share of problems, and we all have things that make us angry in life (I don’t care how much of a saint you are, anger is a basic human reaction and nobody is going to judge you for feeling it). Whether it’s the ex girlfriend parading her new man around, the boss who hates you, or just the guy who cut you up on the highway, anger is a part of life. Today I’m going to share my thoughts on anger as a tool for motivation.
Depending on your state of mind, you may well draw an awful lot of motivation from the circumstances that leave you riled. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, based on my reading (and my opinion, too), I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t really either, but how did I make that decision?
Anger gives us energy. It’s natural. Put an angry man in front of a punch bag, and a placid man in front of a punchbag (of similar strength, not like Hulk Hogan vs The Monopoly Man) and it doesn’t take a genius to work out who is going to punch the hardest. But it isn’t just physical motivation. Keeping the things that make us most angry at the forefront of our mind fills us with all sorts of emotions, and they can stay with us for days, weeks, months and even years. Often, the prevailing feeling is injustice and a desire to level the playing field, or a determination to improve our situation, show somebody what we can do or just get even.
It is because of the ‘revenge’ aspect that anger can be a really dangerous emotion, which is also part of the reason that it isn’t necessarily the ‘best’ motivation. But it undeniably does fuel motivation. And that’s when it can really help. People lose huge amounts of weight because they’re angry with their situation. Make fortunes to prove people wrong, build empires to spite and achieve amazing things because of the anger they feel. Whatever your moral outlook on how this might affect people, how ‘shallow’ it may feel achieving for these reasons (probably the wrong reasons in most people’s eyes), you can’t deny but the rage people feel is fuel to the fire.
In fact, feeling angry all the time can eventually make you snap, and the anger will quickly become unhappiness or even severe depression if you have no way of combating or dealing with it. It is not a pleasant thing for you, or for people around you, and if your state of mind becomes a problem, professional health should be sought.
So Anger is neither good, nor bad motivation in it’s purest form. It isn’t about the anger itself, it is about what you do with it, whether you channel it to help you to deal with situations or let it consume you and compromise your happiness. The power of anger is not in question, but it is what you do with it that’s important.
We’re quite an entrepreneurial bunch here at Escape Nine to Five. The desire to get out of our dead end jobs sparks an enterprising spirit in people that we like to both celebrate and facilitate. However, a lot of people want to make the shift from office job, mechanic, teacher or any other profession to full time business owner and free man/woman don’t have a big pot of money to start their business. Luckily, there are loads of ways to get a business started on a shoestring.
Before I look at the cheapest businesses to start up, I’m going to share with you a book that has had a big impact on me. I know, I usually save the recommended reading for the end of the post, but this one is so integral to the point I’m trying to make. It’s called the $100 startup, by Chris Guillebeau, a blogger, business owner and travel addict who I am a huge admirer of. In the book, Chris uses case studies of people who have started their business without a lot of money in their pocket, and the journey to their success.
Now, to the cheap start ups:
- Dog Walker. I know, it isn’t glitz and glamour, but depending on how much business you can drum up locally (and how many dogs you can handle at a time) this can actually be surprisingly lucrative, it’s good exercise too and also allows you to work towards other goals you might have.
- Blogging and Writing. We’ve covered this a lot here on Escape Nine to Five, and you might already know that my words are my preferred method of building an empire on a budget. It costs very little to start a blog or write an eBook, and if you put the hours in and learn a little about how the internet works, there is money to be made.
- Event Planning. Whether you want to offer your services as a freelance wedding or event planner, or start your own events such as singles groups, concerts, business network events or craft fairs, the possibilities are endless and you’d be surprised what you can get started thriftily in this modern age.
- Website Design. If you’re tech savvy, and know a bit about designing websites, brush up on your html, php and css and get designing. Great if you already know a few local businesses.
- Teaching a Skill. From guitar to photography to just about anything people will pay for, you can sell your time teaching a skill to people in your local area. This is a rewarding way to make a bit of cash and network with people along the way.
- Consulting. This depends on your skill set, but businesses always need fresh input, whether you choose management consultant, marketing consultant, brand development consultant or another type, get your business cards made and get networking, the outlay is tiny but the potential earning power is big.
- Domestic Services. Cleaning, ironing, gardening…all the things people don’t always have time for and would likely pay someone else to do. Get the equipment you need, distribute some fliers and you’re on your way.
- Food. If you’re good with food, get the necessary health and safety certificates, some ingredients, and start to make cakes, sandwiches, whatever you have a market for locally. You can distribute these to local coffee shops, take orders from businesses or even do home deliveries.
There are loads more ways you can start businesses on a shoestring. A lot of entrepreneurship is about being inventive, so I’d urge you to take these ideas as inspiration and evolve them into a business model you can sustain.
Location Independence is an amazing luxury bestowed upon us in the 21st century. The art of being able to live and work anywhere in the world is a dream for so many people, and some of the lucky ones are making it happen.
Regular readers will know that escape nine to five is all about my journey to, well, escape the nine to five. Get out of dead end jobs and work towards businesses and careers that allow me to work in my own time, and my own space, whichever space I choose, be it here at my home in miserable England, or away on my travels. As you may have seen from my last post, I’ve been on some of said travels recently, Malaysia to be specific, but I’m not your boring auntie with a slideshow of holiday snaps. I’m merely inspired to write a post about the dream of working independently from home or a location of choice, and the ways we can mould our lives.
One of the main influences behind my ambition to work remotely and achieve location independence was reading Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week. I mention this book a lot, and ironically, in spite of being a must read, isn’t one of the main books that has helped me on my journey, but its ideas run alongside what we’re trying to do here on E9-5, and the book is a must read for those of you who are looking to work anywhere. The key themes Ferriss talks about are automation, outsourcing and remote work, and when I first read the book it really gave me belief that this is achievable. I dont care about the amount of hours I work, as the title may suggest, but I do want to travel around with my work, and outsource as many menial tasks as I possibly can. Tim is something of a guru when it comes to this.
So what are the options for those of us who dream of this kind of lifestyle? The four hour work week pretty much breaks it down into two options, The first is that you prove that you can do your job from home, then away from home, then you make your boss give you freedom to work anywhere providing you get your jobs done. The second is that you start your own business, and as much as possible you automate the process of money coming into your bank account. Sounds simple, right?
Of course, it isn’t easy to get to this stage, but there are a lot of options for those of us who choose the business route out of the nine to five grind, and online business is growing all the time. Some careers and methods of making your living online?
- Online Marketing
- Flipping (buying and selling) websites
- Virtual Assisting
- Stock Photography
- Data Entry
- Subscription Websites
- Web Design
There are many more, but you get the point, most of these weren’t career choices (or at least careers you could do remotely) as recently as a few years back, but they certainly are now, and these are just some of the more obvious options and well trodden paths. Why not take a job as a virtual assistant while building a hot dotcom or starting an online shop? You dont need an office to do business, and in a world of skype and high speed internet our options are limitless.
The real inspiration for this post was my latest trip. I realised whilst in Malaysia that often, by choosing to make your living in this manner can make your life a hell of a lot easier. The benefits of time, being your own boss and working on a beach sipping a cocktail are obvious, but one of the less obvious benefits is the fact that in a lot of the countries you can move to (certainly if you’re from the US, Europe or UK) living will be an awful lot cheaper anyway. In Malaysia, I could survive on about 30-40% of a job income here. To replace the income of a full time job is difficult, but replacing 40% of it seems somewhat more attainable, and can still give you the lifestyle you desire. Once you bring your wages up to Western standards whilst working remotely, you can head to the cheaper parts of the world and live like a king. Your money can be worth however much you choose when your work follows you wherever you go.
Today, I’m in the amazingly fortunate position of being blogging from the beautiful Batu Ferringhi in Penang Malaysia (I am going somewhere with this, not just boasting). Batu Ferringhi (I’ll call it BF for short) is famous for its night market, where street vendors line the seafront roads selling their wares, from souvenirs to fake bags. Tonight, after negotiating with a really forceful salesman (I use the term salesman very loosely) I decided I didn’t want to buy the bag we had been negotiating over. Suffice to say he wasn’t impressed, and I was met by some really nasty insults (Boo hoo, sob story over).
The episode got me thinking about hard sell tactics and soft sell tactics. This guy was clearly a hard seller, and his only hope in the end of getting me to buy his item was simply to intimidate me. As I walked past his stall, just like around 60-70% of BF traders, he tried desperately to get me to look at what he was trying to sell me, and once something took my fancy he wasn’t letting me go without a fight. Having moved over 60% on the initial price he was trying to sell to me for (a flaky sales technique at best) he then assumed the sale had been made before I had parted with my cash, and was practically taking my money out of my pocket. If anything it put me off more, and no, I didn’t lead him on or make him think I was trying to buy it, I just wanted more information.
The flip side of the coin is the rare street trader whose tactics don’t wreak of desperation, and I have been lucky enough to come across a couple. Purely by comparison, these guys look like saints, and who wouldn’t want to part with an honest and quieter salesperson than a pushy and confrontational conman? Needless to say the good guys have been the ones who receive my time and ultimately my money.
This is all pretty obvious stuff, but I figure there’s much more of a science to the whole thing. The conman obviously cant have been dumb enough to think that he was doing the right thing by his customers, and I’m guessing he just sees me as a piece of sales fodder who will be gone again in a few weeks and he can try and work his “magic” on the next tourist. Intimidation was his only tactic, and by trying to make out that I was in the wrong, he wanted to either frighten or to guilt trip me into buying. The truth is that even after he had begun on a pushy footing, I may have still parted with my cash if the offer and product were good enough, but the more pushy and irate he got, the less I wanted it and the more I wanted to get out of there. He looked desperate, like the kid at school who wont stop begging a girl to notice him and hold hands in the playground, he was anything but an attractive prospect, but again, as with relationships, the guys who were open to your custom, so to speak (sorry, bad analogy), but didn’t have desperation written through them like a stick of Brighton rock, were a more attractive prospect.
A similar thing goes on with pricing too I’m sure. I’m no retail magnate, but I’m pretty sure that when my girlfriend sees a $1,000 bag, she wants it more than the marked down $20 bargain basement bag. The value to produce might be the same, the quality might be the same, they might even look identical, but the fact that it isn’t screaming “buy me” from the depths of the sale section of a shop make it seem eternally more stylish and desirable.
The next time you have to price a product up for sale and try and physically shift it, whether in person or online, make sure you don’t use any underhand tactics, be the friendly but happy go lucky salesman or the $1,000 bag that doesn’t care if it’s being bought or staying on the shelves, even if inside you are desperate to make a sale, don’t let your customers see this weakness, and for goodness sake don’t scare them away.
Amazon are undeniably one of the key players in the world of eCommerce, affiliate schemes and other ways to make money online. As with other huge online businesses such as Google and Facebook, an industry has sprung up around Amazon, and their platform is allowing thousands of people to make an income, large or small, in loads of different ways.
The latest method of making money out of Amazon and it’s many spring-off departments is by publishing your own books, whether fiction or non-fiction, on the Kindle store.
Now Amazon are unsurprisingly cagey about their Kindle sales, and it is not widely known exactly how many people around the world own one, but it was estimated last christmas that one in forty people received one as a gift, and that’s just one day! Of course, Amazon’s Kindle team haven’t been daft enough to keep their product exclusive, and you can get kindle readers on the iPad, other tablets and even on your smartphone, which means that there is an undeniably huge market for eBook sales via the Kindle platform.
Much like music did 5-10 years ago, books and the written word is undergoing something of a digital revolution that many would argue is long overdue. Nobody is surprised to see a device that allows us to read almost any book in the world remotely without having to carry them around with us, and nobody is surprised to see it becoming so widespread, but what you may be surprised by is just how simple it is to get involved with this revolution and begin publishing your way to an income.
The way to get your books up for sale on the Kindle is to use their direct publishing platform, which is over at https://kdp.amazon.com and is surprisingly simple.
How it Works
This is a little more complex than I’m going to make it sound, but all the info you need is at the link above so I wont bore you with details here. In basic, though:
- Create your eBook. There is no minimum length, but depending on whether you’re writing fact or fiction, and the subject matter you have chosen, you’ll probably be looking anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 words for an Amazon eBook (I tend to shoot for 20-30,000 minimum to offer my readers value.
- Format for the Kindle. There are a few ways you can do this, it’s all about the type of file you save it as and the way you make it look in whichever program you have chosen to finalise your writing for the Kindle. Remember to try and make it look nice, and don’t be afraid to splash out a little to get an eBook cover professionally made.
- Set your price, categories and description. Remember that the price has a big bearing on your royalty share, too, which will be either 35% or 70%. Pricing points are a huge area of debate in the world of self publishing, and it can be key to experiment and find what works best for you.
- Promote your book and reap the rewards!
So, will Amazon get you a bunch of sales? Hmm, this is a tough question, and the answer can be both yes and no. What I can tell you is that simply putting a book up on the Amazon Kindle store is not enough on it’s own to get you a ton of sales (sorry), if only it were that easy. To make your book popular in the first place, and encourage the organic sales that Amazon can eventually bring, you need to generate a lot of the sales yourself.
How can you generate sales? The same way as with most digital products, you can utilise blogging, mailing lists, social networks, affiliate schemes, videos…the list is long, and there are ways you can start your book selling.
So if I’m selling Myself, What are the Benefits of Kindle?
Well, I contradict myself slightly here, and I have to apologise. Thought it is true that initially, you’re going to have to put tons of effort into making the first few hundred sales, but eventually your sales could well end up on autopilot. It’s like trying to get it to a tipping point, when you reach a certain level of sales and promotion the scales will tip and you will begin selling automatically, your book will be on amazon lists of bestsellers or show up well when people search for things, as well as coming up in the “people who bought this, also bought…” sections. Millions of people have amazon accounts and kindles, and are much more likely to part with their cash through the device than they ever would be on a DIY page you have made on your own site.
As with most money making endeavors, those who are successful often shy away from the limelight, not to mention hiding their secrets to success, but luckily there are some awesome stories out there that we can all read, some of which you can see over on one of my favourite self publishing sites, The Creative Penn, and through John Locke’s brilliant…er…eBook on how he made a million sales of er…eBooks (link).