Things fall apart… and other updates

Hola! Bon jour! Whatagwaan?

So, as usual, it’s been a looooong time since I updated this blog, and in the last seven or eight months, things have been changing for me. I thought I’d share a couple of updates with you, as well as my plans for continued change. Are you in? Read on!

Those of you who’ve been following me since I started this blog a few years ago would already know certain things about me. You already know I’m a wife (to a man who likes a home-cooked meal now and then), a mother (to a 4-y-o who’s smarter than me and knows it!), an educator (more on that later), a certified copy editor, a freelance administrative service provider, an occasional blogger (very occasional!), and — most recently — a novelist (whose novel has made it to the top ten of its category on Amazon! God BIG, eeh?).

Well, things kind of fell apart after my last post when (drum roll, please!) I lost my full-time teaching job. I probably mentioned this before, but I was employed on a temporary contract for nine months (sometimes twelve) per year for a few years. In that time, I was given lots of reasons for not being offered a permanent position — the government hiring freeze and challenges to programme continuity chief among them — and I accepted them, though grudgingly. In addition to only being employed full-time for nine months out of the year for most of the period, I was not being paid for my master’s degree or my years of experience because of the temporary nature of the post, which means I was getting the same salary as people who were neither as qualified nor as experienced as I was.

At first, I accepted the conditions for two main reasons: 1. I live in rural Jamaica, where positions such as these are few and far between, so I was grateful for the work, and 2. I was initially told that if my services were retained after two years, I would be made permanent and my salary would become commensurate with my qualifications and experience.

Well, as you can imagine, as the months and years passed with no change on the horizon for the reasons outlined above, my motivation waned, with my interest following not too far behind. I — who had been all excited at the beginning of the job — quietly started my own little ‘work-to-rule’ situation. I worked the required hours and did the required things, but I stopped going over and beyond the call of duty. At the same time, I continued to do small projects online in whatever spare time I had.

And then the bottom fell out.

Eleven days before my expected contract renewal date, I was informed that said contract would not be renewed. At first I was awestruck, and there were tears shed on my husband’s broad, manly chest (had to slip that in there). I called my boss’ boss and listened to the explanations given. I agreed with some and refuted others, but I didn’t ask them to reconsider. I didn’t fight it. I didn’t beg. It was disappointing that I wasn’t leaving on my own terms, but I had known that my season there had been coming to an end for a while.

What sealed it for me, too, was when my husband held me through my tears and when I finally told him why I was crying, his very first words were, “Who knows? Maybe this could be the best thing to happen to you.” He then reminded me of times in the past where things had fallen apart and had come together better than before… times when the bottom fell out and we ended up in an every better position. Sometimes he gets on my very last nerve, but I do love me some him!

So I accepted the decision, told them I was available for part-time teaching, and bowed out with a smile. And cake… lots of cake, courtesy of my former teaching colleagues, with whom I continue to maintain a great relationship because I still work with the same institution part-time. Of course, after just a few months of teaching one class, I can’t even remember teaching full-time for five years. The teaching… the standing for hours at a time… the marking of research papers…  the personality clashes…. I don’t know how I did it on a daily basis for such a long time. Kudos to all the teachers reading this now. You all ROCK!

So I was now faced with the situation where I had bills to pay and had lost the lion’s share of my income. What to do? The part-time teaching income helps, but I only teach three hours a week, so that wasn’t going to make much of a dent after losing a full-time position.

I was already working online part-time through Elance, so I called up my client, explained the situation, and asked for extra hours. Done! Unfortunately, although I got more hours, the hourly salary is still nothing to write home about, so although I am able to cover my bills every month, I still needed to find other sources of income.

I’d written a book, but the royalties there are not great. Most of the time, I get less than US $0.50 for each ebook sold, so even if I sell 100 copies a month (which I don’t), I’d only get US$50 there. I had to look elsewhere.

My admin job won’t allow me to do much in terms of dedicating a lot of time to another project, so I was kind of at a standstill.

I’d love to write and publish more books, but writer’s block is real!

And that’s where you come in.

If you’re here, I assume it’s because you are interested in finding multiple streams of income, yourself. It seems almost everybody wants to make more money — office workers and bank tellers and teachers and more. I have one friend in particular who sends me lots of links and asks me if I’ve ever worked online with that company, done surveys with this one, etc.

So I’m here to revive the blog and share some insight with you as I go forward trying to distill the tons of information coming at me in this season of my life. I mean… there is SO much out there right now as it relates to multiple streams of income! I’m not exaggerating here: every single week, I come up with one or two ideas of things I can do to make more money. Unfortunately, all of them involve some kind of marketing, and I haven’t got a marketing bone in my body BUT after I write this post, I promise I’m going to start somewhere, and I’m going to share what I learn with you.

I’m also going to make more of an effort to monetize my blog. After all, I still have bills to pay. So please know that there will continue to be affiliate links on this page. That means if you click on one of the links and you decide to purchase something, I will make a small commission. It doesn’t increase the cost of the product to you, but it will help me to continue to cover those bills that keep coming back every month! You can relate, right?

So… look forward to more blog posts from me as I sift through things. Thanks for reading!

Walk good!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The next time I write a book…

I have been below the radar on this blog for too long. I admit it and I’m sorry. I went AWOL and I didn’t even tell you why. I apologize. I’m here to make up for it today, if you’ll allow. I’m kind of nervous, because at some point in this post I will say au revoir to my anonymity, which I’ve tried to maintain with these posts. Sigh. So it goes.

If you’ve ever read this blog, you already know that (like many of you reading this between tasks or with a fork in your hand) at any given point in time I have lots of stuff going on. I am:

  • the wife of a man who appreciates a home-cooked meal now and then (excuse me a minute, I need to go take the already-seasoned chicken out of the freezer—today’s a home-cooked meal kind of day);
  • the mother of a rambunctious child who likes to have all of my attention all of the time (thank God for the hours he’s away at school!);
  • a teacher (originally, this said “full-time teacher,” but I only teach part-time now);
  • a part-time administrative assistant (online, four nights a week);
  • a part-time freelance copy editor (as often as I can get projects), and
  • a novelist.

How many of you caught that? Did you? Yes. I’ve added yet another job title to the list. I have become a novelist!

Somehow—while lying in bed between my child and his father, while standing in lines at the bank or tax office, while standing in the kitchen waiting for the pasta water to boil—I managed to write almost 90,000 words of mostly fiction—much of it on my old BlackBerry .

So in addition to everything else I’ve been doing, I have also had to figure out how to get those 90,000 words of mostly fiction out of my head and into the hands of readers. Now that the book is “out there” and racking up those five-star reviews (to date, all nine of them!) on Amazon, would-be writers have been coming out of the proverbial woodwork, asking for guidance on self-publishing. While I am clearly not an expert, I thought it would be helpful to share – not my wisdom, for it is quite finite; not my experience, necessarily — but the steps I will probably take if I ever decide to publish another book. There will probably be affiliate links included below if I can figure it all out by the time I’m ready to publish this. I’ve already been writing this post for over a month.

It took me all of five years to write my “first” novel, but most of the work went in over the 18-month period leading up to publication earlier this month (July 2015). Several readers are already demanding a sequel, which has me thinking… and the first thought is that they won’t wait five years on the next one. What, then, shall I do to move through the process in a more efficient manner than the “first” time? Let’s see.

Before writing the first draft of my next book, I will likely:

  1. Start saving… a lot! My first novel cost me almost US$1,000 to prepare for self-publishing. Yes . You read that correctly. It cost almost US$1,000. That included (in no particular order), ISBNs, two rounds of writing consultation, writing services (I could write an 89,000-word novel, but I couldn’t write my own bio or book description, go figure!), editing, cover design, royalty-free stock images, proof paperback copies, professional photo shoot and more. It doesn’t include the marketing that has been done in the three weeks since publication. My prayer is to at least break even and hopefully make a profit. It is a Christian novel and its purpose is to minister, but it would be nice if I could make some money while I sleep (to make up for all the time I was writing instead of sleeping).
  2. Take a writing course… or at least read a book or two about writing Christian fiction, since that is my genre of choice. I will admit that I purchased two such books years ago, but I didn’t finish reading them before writing the first draft of my novel (I still haven’t, but I will). I should have read them. The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel (Penelope J. Stokes, Ph.D.) and Writing Christian Romance (Gail Gaymer Martin) are incredible sources of information. Having read thousands of novels in my lifetime, I thought I understood how to write one. I didn’t. And with my first novel, I didn’t figure it out until it was quite late in the process. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had read them through first.I would also recommend making use of the free video tutorials available on YouTube and elsewhere. There are videos to help you write and others will help you to self-publish.
  3. Choose models for my book cover. When I wrote my novel, my main character (at least in my mind) was a pregnant, dark-skinned African American woman with stylish “dreadlocks.” When the time came to design the cover, I could not find stock images with a model who fit all those criteria. I went so far as to hire a suitable model to take pictures, but they didn’t come out right and I had to scrap them. Money down the drain. I eventually found affordable stock images of a pregnant, fair-skinned African American woman with curly almost-natural hair that was not locked. Next step: I had to rewrite the physical description of the character, which involved looking for every reference to the character’s appearance in the book. I could have saved a lot of time, money and effort if I had identified the model first, and had that image in mind or on my bulletin board while writing. I have already started hunting for cover models for my next book, although I am still trying to work the plot out in my mind.

While writing the first draft, I will:

  1. Use software that was specifically designed to help authors write. At the time of writing this blog, I have just downloaded a trial version of Scrivener; I haven’t even installed it yet. I recently watched a few video interviews with successful self-published authors, and several of them recommend Scrivener, which is supposed to help save tons of time by helping with organizing, outlining, note-taking and composition. If I find myself suitably impressed with it, I’ll probably update this blog post.
    Update on Scrivener (two months later):
    So I eventually installed Scrivener and I have been “suitably impressed with it” (as mentioned above). It has been a real “God-send.”

    At first, I only used it to kind of organize my thoughts about the prequel I have now started writing (as well as two other plots that have come to me in the past couple of months), but I understand now that I have not even begun to understand what this awesome software can do. Just yesterday, I attended part of a webinar that simply amazed me. Apparently, while I have been using Scrivener to type my scenes (I still use my old BlackBerry and current smartphones but I convert everything to Scrivener) and organize my chapters, I could also have been using it to do so many other things that I can’t even remember them. I had to leave the webinar early to go pick up my child at school, but I will be watching the replay while it’s available online (sorry, only those who registered for the actual webinar beforehand can see the replay).

    One of the features I plan to use often is POV color-coding. For the uninitiated, POV is point-of-view, and fiction is usually written from the POV of one or two major characters (I used three in mine). It’s important not to jump from the head of one character into the head of another. Scrivener can help with that by color-coding the scenes so that just by looking at the title of the scene, I can know whose POV is active. That’s awesome, because it will show me when I am spending too much time writing from the POV of one character. That alone is worth the price.

    Speaking of “the price,” that’s pretty fantastic, too. It’s usually between US$40 and $45 depending on whether you use a Mac or PC, but as I write this it’s on sale for $19.50 and that’s the price I paid for mine here. Don’t forget you can also download a free, fully-functional trial version here that you can use for 30 non-consecutive days (if you use it once a week, you will be able to use it for 30 weeks). Awesome! There are also a ton of YouTube tutorial videos. The only drawback I see thus far is that I can’t find an app that would allow me to work on my smartphone and have it appear on my computer like OfficeMobile does with MS Word.

After writing the first draft, I will:

  1. Consult with someone who has successfully done what I am trying to do. In my case, I am blessed to know a few self-published authors because of my work as a freelance copy editor. Some were available for me to bounce ideas off and pick their brains a bit as it relates to the process of publishing. I also hired a writing consultant (Terri of funcreativewriting.com), who gave me a chapter-by-chapter critique and a rubric that helped to improve my writing. As a writing coach and award-winning author in her own right, she was able to tell me where I was losing momentum and where I was getting it right. Her work made my effort worthwhile by elevating my writing beyond my own abilities.I also made the very smart move of purchasing an incredibly useful book by a successful self-publisher in my genre — The 21-day Publishing Plan: From First Draft to First Sale in Three Weeks or Less (Michelle Stimpson). This ebook has been the most useful online resource for me to date. Ms. Stimpson’s advice helped me to decide which routes to take to get my novel published as a paperback and an ebook. I highly recommend it.
  2. Hire a great editor. And this is not a shameless plug for you to hire me, although I am available (visit my website Nitpicking with a Purpose). I’m being quite serious: hire a great editor. I did this for “the first” book and I will keep doing it if I keep writing. Even though I am an editor and my writing wasn’t horrible, she pointed out things I’d never have seen without her, e.g. beginning two sentences in close proximity with the same word. A good editor is worth every penny spent. As a reader, I have had to fight the urge to try and contact published writers with poorly edited books and offer my copyediting (yes, that’s one word) services for free. A poorly edited publication is unprofessional and reflects badly on everyone involved.
    Update: somewhat ironically, when I finally worked up the nerve to read the paperback of my own novel, the professional copy editor inside my head was appalled at some of the mistakes she noticed. I have now revised the novel and it no longer has those errors (though they may be others my copy editing alter ego may have missed). When I think of the paperbacks that were sold within the first two months, I shudder to think of how many people have seen those mistakes. You live and you learn.
  3. Decide which print-on-demand company to use. I’ve already made my choice, but if I hadn’t, I would use the  “downtime” while waiting on writing consultation or editing to conduct research on the options. For me, I only did a print run because there were a few people who insisted on a paperback copy. Because of shipping costs to Jamaica, the royalties I have made on paperback copies have been negligible, but nothing beats seeing your hard work in actual print and signing an actual copy for a fan. Right now, seeing my work in bookstores across the USA or the world is not on my radar, but there are distribution options such as Ingram if you would like to be able to do that.For my purposes, I chose CreateSpace, an Amazon company, to produce my paperbacks. I am quite pleased with their work. The cost is manageable and the quality thus far has been great. The fantastic thing is that they will print a copy of your book each time someone orders it from your CreateSpace store or Amazon, so you will have no need to stockpile books or purchase them by the thousands. No one wants to come to your house and find you using your book as full-sized furniture because you couldn’t sell all the copies you had to print. Through CreateSpace, the paperback version of my book is not only in the USA, but it has already reached the shores of UK and Germany, because they print them in the USA or Europe, depending on the shipping address. Amazing!I also chose a fairly reliable local delivery company to help me get the books from CreateSpace to my hands in Jamaica when I needed paperbacks in hand, e.g. at the launch. There are several companies that will let you have a US shipping address and then they will ship them to you in Jamaica, and that can cut down on your costs.
  4. Come up with a cover concept and hire a cover designer experienced in working with your printer. Ensure that the person speaks your native language. Fiverr offers hundreds of graphic designers eager to do their best work and earn your five-star review for five dollars per gig (or multiples thereof). Check them out now! It’s less expensive and time-consuming than learning to design your own book cover. Several of them already subscribe to stock image companies and can offer you (legal) stock images for much less than you’d pay elsewhere. I like to have more control, so I use 123RF to purchase royalty-free stock images myself. Ensure that you and your designer agree on who holds the copyright to the cover.Whatever you do, do not simply copy images for use on the cover of your book. Today’s connectivity means the original model or artist could easily stumble across their work under your name and sue you for more than you have earned from the book.
  5. Find good ebook distributors and sign up with them. They will put the ebook up on their site(s) and pay you a royalty, which in my very limited experience varies between 30% and 75% of the selling price of the ebook.The jury is still out on whether or not my current all-in-one ebook distributor is worthwhile (I just published my novel three weeks ago), but I went with Smashwords to distribute my ebook to several outlets (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo) while I went to Amazon directly and uploaded my manuscript through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). My decision was fully based on the advice Michelle Stimpson gave in her ebook. I haven’t actually collected any royalties just yet (they are paid two months after the sale), but I can tell you that three weeks after releasing the book, I have made more ebook sales through Amazon than any other site (ratio of 25:1).Please note, however, that for persons who publish through KDP, there are several things to consider regarding your royalties and the cost of your ebook. Michelle Stimpson explains some of these, but there are other phenomena specific to international writers (like myself) that you might want to be aware of:
  • Ebooks that cost less than $2.99 or more than $9.99 generally attract a royalty of 35%, while those between $2.99 and $9.99 generally attract 70%. Sounds good, right? But the 70% royalty applies only to ebook sales within certain countries (the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and more). For readers in countries not on Amazon’s list, the royalty is 35%. I am a Jamaican living in Jamaica and marketing locally. If a Jamaican resident (with a local billing address, I think) buys my ebook through Amazon, my royalty is 35% regardless of my selling price.
  • Another thing to consider is the fact that Amazon’s Whispernet feature may attract a US$2 surcharge on ebook sales to customers outside of certain mainstream countries. I don’t understand why, and to be fair to Amazon, I haven’t tried to understand. My brain is overworked already. What I do understand is that the author does not benefit in any way from the increased cost to the reader. I have had readers in Jamaica who tell me, for example, that they see my book for US$2 more than advertised. That’s because of where they are. As far as I know, other ebook stores don’t have a similar fee. This is why I’ve made the book available through Smashwords, who have placed it on barnesandnoble.com and Kobo.com as well as their own website. It is also available as an iBook. That way, my readers have a choice and I can honestly say that the book is available “almost everywhere ebooks are sold.”
    (Side note: I just found out that Michelle Stimpson is in the process of updating the 21-day plan. I have suggested that she include the challenge I mentioned here relating to Whispernet.)
  • Taxation is something else for you to consider if you are publishing with a US-based ebook distributor. The withholding tax on sales is something like 30%. There are ways around that (not ways to avoid paying the taxes, but ways to pay a portion in the USA and a portion in your country so that you only pay the full rate charged in your country), but I’m no tax expert and therefore encourage you to look into those options yourself. Catherine Ryan Howard has a great explanation on her site.
  1. Start marketing early via social media. I waited until I was sure I was going to publish my first novel before I started marketing it with a Facebook page or website. I will do that again next time (if there is one), but I will start the hype a few months earlier. I use Facebook, myself, but others do this via Twitter, Instagram and other sites with which I am unfamiliar. I have already starting asking my fans on Facebook for suggestions regarding the next book — the one that I’m still trying to plot in my head. I think I’ll keep doing that as time passes. It will motivate me and keep them interested.
  2. Have a book launch party. With the first book, I had a private pre-launch party at my church. Yes, I had a party at church. It’s a Christian novel and my church is very comfortable to me, so that worked out well. I had a special guest performer who is nationally known, and a friend and I did two readings. I also spoke (and cried) about the process of writing and the reason I felt led to do so. Afterwards, I signed the paperback copies sold on the night.I did a private party because I wanted to control those who could come. I am a very introverted individual and I detest public speaking, so it was very nerve-wracking for me to share something this personal on a stage. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the general public had been invited. Some friends were offended because they weren’t invited, but since I was paying for everything myself (it was a catered event), I had to keep the list small and manageable. Next time, I will consider inviting more people.

Having said all of that, I know there will probably be other things I will do when the time comes to publish my next book.

Curious about the first one I’ve been referring to? His Last Hope is a contemporary Christian romance novel set in the US state of Florida. Watch the book trailer here. It’s also featured below.

Check out my website Author M. A. Malcolm and my Facebook page, and (of course!) buy and review the book:

Writing a novel was never something I expected to accomplish, but it was something I felt called to do because of the message of hope that I’m trying to share. What’s your calling? This could be the perfect time for you to start working towards achieving it.

“A work mi a work, a nuh chicken mi a jerk!”

I may not enjoy my so-called “day job” all the time, but I do have some fantastic colleagues, and one of the best things I’ve learnt from them is the saying, “a work mi a work, a nuh chicken mi a jerk!” It has become a mantra for me, playing over and over in my head although I try not to let it come out of my mouth too often. I don’t want to over-use the phrase and end up having it lose its flavour (pun intended).

So, what does the phrase mean for me, exactly? Why has it been playing in my head over and over for the past few weeks?

Well, for one thing… because it’s true.

I mean, here I am at minutes after one in the morning, taking a break from a project I’m working on through Elance, and I’ve been reminding myself as I work that “a nuh chicken mi a jerk!”

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love jerk chicken as much as the next person — in fact, I have it for dinner every single Saturday night, bar none — but preparing jerk chicken is not my job. When I’m working, therefore, the truth is, “a nuh chicken mi a jerk.” No, not at all, because slaving over a hot “jum-pan” isn’t my idea of the ideal job. The cleaning, the seasoning, the smoke, the “facety” customers, the hours, the profit margin… none of those appeals to me. Regardless, every Saturday night I thank God it’s someone else’s vocation, and that he (yes, he, I buy from the same vendor every week) is good at it.

I might not be jerking chicken as I sit at my fabulous new desk (thank you, Bashco!), but I could be doing any of a multitude of other tasks that other people might find unpleasant.

Right now, for instance, the project I’m working on is one that has me questioning whether or not I — the “proud” holder of both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree — need to be sitting at my desk at this…I won’t say “ungodly” hour, because God is in every hour, but at this decidedly unpleasant hour, re-typing a novel of some 66,403 words. But who’s counting?

I am.

I am counting every word as I re-type someone else’s novel while my own sits unfinished in cyberspace. Why, you may ask? It’s fairly simple, really: the publisher is paying me to do it. The author’s computer crashed and the format of the file they have isn’t working for them, so they need someone to type the entire work again — “from scratch”. So, as tiring a job as it is, as difficult as it is on the wrists, the fingers and the back, for the next ten days, it is my job, and the one to which I will dedicate every hour I can find, because “a work mi a work….”

No doubt the more software-savvy among you will immediately wonder why I don’t just copy the text and clear all the formatting, and then re-format the document and sit back, wait a few days and collect the money, but the truth is, that is not what I am being paid to do, and though they may never know if I took that approach, I would. I am committed to doing the job I will be paid to do. Why? Because “a work mi a work, a nuh chicken mi a jerk.” You want to pay me to do something like this, I’ll do it if the price is right (and it is).

Many people (and I use the term ‘many’ very loosely and under advisement) read this blog because they are interested in earning money while working from home in Jamaica. Isn’t that what has brought you here? Well, the next question I have for you is this: what are you willing to do to earn that money?

Would you willingly take on a project that involves writing a love letter “from” a man “to” his wife in order to settle a bet between the two about whether or not everything (including love) can be outsourced? I’ve done that.

Would you read all the course material for something you’ve never been remotely interested in, and then turn around and write scores of test questions for the course? I’ve done that.

Could you see yourself sitting up in the wee hours four mornings per week, reading descriptions of literally hundreds of construction projects in a far-away land, categorising them and then assigning a budget in a foreign currency? I’ve done that.

Would you agree to listen to a legal hearing or a mind-numbing medical lecture and transcribe every single thing you hear, down to the “ums” and “uhs”? I’ve done that.

Are you excited about copying and pasting contact information from the Internet into an Excel spreadsheet… hundreds of times, day after day? I’ve done that.

How about agreeing to edit someone’s undergraduate paper, only to find it riddled with unimaginable, dare I say unfixable errors and easily identified plagiarism (a.k.a COPYING!) but being unable to call them out on it because they’re not paying you for that? I’ve done that.

What about marking and commenting on university-level papers for a course you’ve never taught? I’ve done that.

So when you read or hear somewhere that I’ve earned a bit of money working online, and you get all excited at the prospect of earning money, too, remember that many of the jobs that are outsourced via the Internet are only made available because qualified people in the developed world wouldn’t necessarily want to do them. You’ve got to be willing to do the work if you want to be paid. I know that for me, every time I accept a project that I feel is not using every single one of the skills I consider “most valuable”, I have to remind myself, that hey, “A work mi a work, a nuh chicken mi a jerk!”

Walk good.

Write the Vision … Make it Plain

Yes, I know it’s been a while, but remember I never promised to update this blog frequently. In fact, I probably promised to update it fairly infrequently! After all, I’m trying to balance “wife-hood”, motherhood, a full-time job, a part-time job, another part-time job (new!) and other family responsibilities like being a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a pet-parent. Yes, I said it. I’m a pet-parent; my dogs are important to me. With that in mind, happy belated new year, happy belated valentine’s day, happy belated birthday/happy birthday in advance, happy Easter when it comes, and all of that. Heck! I may as well wish you a happy “Emanci-pendence” and a Very Merry Christmas while I’m at it.

You may be wondering what has caused me to dust off the old blogger hat and don it. Well, the truth is that today is an important day and I thought it prudent to remind you that this blog exists. You see, today (the day I;m writing this, which probably won’t be the same day it’s published) is my birthday (happy birthday to me!) and I’m in full-on introspection mode. I’m nowhere as young as I used to be, and it’s prime time for me to examine what I’ve accomplished thus far, as against what I thought I would have accomplished, as against what my new thoughts are in that respect. And before you start rubbing your hands together with gleeful anticipation of the ‘suss’ (gossip), hold your horses! I’m not going to share all that with you; however, what I will share is a little insight into one of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently, and that’s my Vision Board 2014-2015.

If you’re not familiar with vision boards, they are basically a sheet of paper, fabric, corkboard, etc. where you gather images associated with your personal goals and ambitions. It’s a graphic representation of things you would like to see manifested in your life. The logic behind it is that seeing these things in front of you will help you to do what it takes to achieve them. If it is true that “out of sight [is] out of mind”, then what will happen when your hopes and dreams are “in sight” just about all the time? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll remain “in mind”, too.

I saw a vision board on The Oprah Winfrey Show some years ago, and the concept stayed with me. Having one allows me the opportunity to visualize where I see myself going and what I see myself accomplishing, and if my memory serves me correctly (which, let’s face it, it rarely does these days), there is usually a time factor. In other words: what do I want to accomplish within the next two, five, or ten years (for example) of my life?

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about my Vision Board 2014-2015 is that I’ve been noticing a particular trend the past few years, and I’m sure that other Christians may have noticed it, too … unless it’s all in my head (which, let’s face it, it might be)! It seems that all over the place, people are proposing theories – especially in the self-help genre – that are “new” and “exciting”, that actually date back to Bible days. I’m thinking of things like maintaining an attitude of gratitude (doesn’t that sound like Thessalonians 5:18?); speaking positive things over yourself and your life (isn’t that basically the same thing that Romans 4:17b talks about?); and then there’s the vision board (you know, a 21st Century adaptation of Habakkuk 2:2?).

The way I see it, making a vision board is a lot like writing the vision and making it plain, or as one translation of the Bible puts it, making it clear enough that it can be read at a glance. Of course, we’ve taken the liberty, in 2014, of tweaking the instruction so that instead of writing our vision plainly in words, we choose to Google, copy and paste it with images, instead.

Some people use large sheets of cardboard or cartridge paper, and affix photographs, cut-outs from magazines, and print-outs from the Internet thereto. Others create their vision boards using digital methods that can be edited as time goes on. For mine, I searched the ‘Net and my own files for pictures and clipart images that represent the things I would like to see manifested in various aspects of my own life over the next two years, and I used Microsoft Publisher (one of my favourite programmes) to put them together on a single sheet of 11×17 paper (thank goodness I have a printer that can handle that!). On it, I have my most intense hopes and dreams represented in graphic form: a clipart of a certificate to represent professional certification, a photo of house keys being dropped into someone’s hands to represent my dream of home ownership while I’m “young” enough to get a mortgage, lots of “thumbs-ups” to represent success in various avenues of my life, a brand-new SUV, a well-appointed home office, clips of money to represent financial success, photos of happy families, words I want to be used to describe me, and so on. I find that when I look at my Vision Board 2014-2015, it really does inspire me to do more, and to be more. In fact, I’ve already accomplished one piece of professional certification this year, and I’m doing active research into new areas I can pursue. Yay, me!

So, having written all of this, I’d like to encourage you to think about creating your own vision board by whatever means are available to you. Write your vision and make it plain. Keep it in a prominent place in your home … or maybe a not-so-prominent place, if you prefer a little more privacy. Mine is taped to the inside of my closet door – a place no one needs to see it but me, and a place I visit fairly frequently.

I don’t claim to be an expert; I just heard an idea and chose to “run with it”, so a Google search will give you more information on how to make your own vision board and about its practical purpose. I just did a quick search to make sure, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have to let you know that I did not read the article called “Throw Away Your Vision Board” that came up on the first results page. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Walk good!

Make more money in 2014… unless you’re me O_o

Happy 2014!

I wish I was better at smiley faces and so on, but imagine the caption with lots of smiley faces and high-fives and party hats and whatever else you like to see with your new year’s greetings.

In the meantime…. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve honestly been so busy that every spare moment has been spent asleep. Sad, but true. My contract with the government-owned institution with which I work is so unpredictable that I cannot afford to give up my second job (categorization) in case I’m not with said government-owned institution come September this year. Let’s not forget the now two-year-old-with-a-school-fee and his home-cooked-meal-a-few-times-a-week-loving father, a.k.a. my husband! There simply aren’t enough hours in the day!

So I’ve been working pretty much like a slave for the last four months (teaching, doing school runs to pick up the child, cooking, preparing lectures, marking exams, etc. during the daytime, and then working three to four hours online at nights), and I have another five months of this hellish schedule to maintain until I get another break from teaching in the summer. Sigh. I miss sleep.

And with all of this, I still feel like I’m not making enough money. Note, I didn’t write “I’m not earning enough money”; I do feel like I’m earning a lot, I’m just not being paid what I earn. And no, I’m not being ungrateful, I just think that I deserve to be paid more. After all, I do have a master’s degree I worked hard for, which neither of my jobs is taking into consideration. Sucks, doesn’t it? These are the things that happen when you live in rural Jamaica and basically have to take whatever job you can find that utilizes at least some of your wide range of skills. Sigh.

Soooo… you may be wondering about the other things I’m trying to do to earn an additional income.

Now, I’m no expert in passive income opportunities; I barely understand what multi-level streams of income are, and pyramid schemes that shall remain nameless but involve selling meal-replacement shakes or mushroom-laced coffee aren’t for me (I know, I’ve tried one), but I do know what it means to be an affiliate and to sell stuff. So, let me share what I’ve been up to. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see something you like and buy it! At the very least, it might give you an idea of how you can make some extra money as you work from home.

Affiliate Marketing

So I’ve signed up to be an affiliate with several companies. What that means, is that, in theory, at least, I market their products/services and when they make a sale based on my marketing, I get a percentage. I’ve signed up as an affiliate with Elance and oDesk (which, by the way, have now amalgamated though they continue to operate separately), but I am yet to earn a dollar. Why? Because I am not a marketer. I couldn’t sell ice water to a man dying of thirst in the Kalahari Desert.

I’ve also signed up as an affiliate with Yaneek Page’s “Build a Better Business Boot Camp”, which offers the amazing deal of a 33% commission if you sell one of her courses. That’s US$15 at US$1:J$106-and-counting! Again, I am yet to earn a single dollar. Why? Because I suck at marketing. I couldn’t sell a fur coat to a woman freezing her tush off at the South Pole. You get the picture.

But since I’m not a selfish person, I’m letting you know that you can sign up as an affiliate (and no, I don’t earn anything for telling you this), and if you have the time, energy and personality to sell stuff, go ahead and make a killing while people are still interested in Elance, oDesk or Yaneek Page and her TVJ show “The Innovators”. I don’t know her personally, but I admire her and her hubby Kevin, and I respect the work she’s doing in helping “di likkle man” make something of himself.

Of course, if you want to do her course and help build your own business, help me out nuh? Sign up via the ad on the top right of this page you’re reading now.

Online Store

And then there’s my online store. Yes, folks. I have an online store. Now this one is much nearer and dearer to my heart because for me, it’s a kind of ministry as well as a business.
So, if I haven’t told you before (which would be totally out of character for me), I’m a Christian. I love the Lord God Jehovah and His son Jesus Christ. A woman of God is who I am and what I would like to be remembered as. I believe we are spirits with souls living in bodies, and despite the fact that I’m a great copy editor, an okay teacher, a good mother and an alright wife, I know that my calling really involves getting the word of God into people’s spirits.

Enter “God’s HandMade Haven”.

“GodsHandMade” is the name under which I design products, and through the services provided by Café Press, I am able to have an entire catalogue of print-on-demand products online in my U.S.-based web store, God’s HandMade Haven, without my having to spend a cent. Of course, I might actually earn money from this if I did a better job of marketing stuff, but I have lived long enough to know that marketing just ain’t for me, and I’ve got to work my way around that. When I have the time. If I ever have the time.

Soooo … do you have a talent for photography and/or graphic or other forms of design? Why not check out Café Press and open your own web store there? There’s no spending upfront, and they will give you whatever mark-up you choose above their base price for items. They have hundreds of products, ranging from t-shirts to coffee mugs to calendars to wall décor to handbags. You just upload your design, choose your products and put them in your web store. You can also choose other options to have them market the designs for you. And no, I don’t have an affiliate relationship with them so my telling you this doesn’t earn me one red cent.

So, as we walk boldly into the year 2014, let us do so armed with all the knowledge we can muster that will open the necessary doors and get us where we want to go in life. My prayer for everyone reading this is that God will open doors of opportunity for you, that He will close doors that will not bring you closer to your God-given dreams, and that, as is written in scripture in Proverbs 18:16, your gift will make room for you.

Take care till we meet again!

God’s HandMade

BTW, if you’re interested in making contact with me about the web store, please write me at godshandmade@gmail.com.

Why I should learn to say “no!” and actually mean it

Just so you know, I haven’t slept for weeks. At least, that’s how it feels. I haven’t slept because I’m now working a full-time teaching job, a part-time online job, and two short-term projects, all while being the mother of an energetic toddler who’s not a fan of sleep, and the wife of a husband who likes a home-cooked meal several days a week.

I’m stretched so thinly that I’m writing this blog post on my cell phone while waiting in the car with my napping toddler (at 7:00 pm gosh darn it! I envision a long night ahead) while my flu-ish hubby visits the doctor. If the doctor’s office is empty and the hubby comes out quickly, it may take me days to finish writing this! And the only reason I’m actually able to do this is that I have none of the necessary tools to work while I’m here. No laptop. No modem. None of the papers I have to grade. The night ahead looks very long, indeed.

Why am I stretched so thinly? Well, it’s because I’m basically a people-pleaser who finds it hard to say “no, thank you!” and stick to my guns. While my hope is that this blog will be more descriptive than prescriptive, below is an example of “what not to do”.

So I may have told you that I found a part-time, online data processing/categorisation job in the summer. I knew it was a long-term thing when I applied in June, but the truth is that I didn’t expect to return to teaching full-time due to the perceived lack of sufficient students and I needed something else that was long-term and could cover some bills. Then (as usual), the institution for which I work as a teacher on a contractual basis called me back to work with less than a week’s notice, and I’m back with them for the time being. I mean, I couldn’t tell them “no!” It’s full-time work with full-time pay! But at the same time, I couldn’t give up the part-time online job, because I’d made a commitment and, well, there’s the – ahem! – “Jamaica People Stress” bill to pay (thank you, Ity & Fancy Cat). So I juggle both.

Did I mention that I’m the mother of an energetic toddler who’s not a fan of sleep, and the wife of a husband who likes a home-cooked meal several days a week? Yes, I did.

Add to that the fact that at my full-time job, they assigned me some extra work for a few weeks (yes, for a LITTLE extra pay), which I told them I couldn’t do, regardless of the extra pay. And they didn’t believe me, because who doesn’t want extra pay, right? So they didn’t make any other arrangements and here I am again with a project I didn’t want and a deadline God knows I don’t need. So I juggle all three.

Did I mention that I’m the mother of an energetic toddler who’s not a fan of sleep, and the wife of a husband who likes a home-cooked meal several days a week? Yes, I did. Twice.

And then one of my satisfied repeat clients from my summer stint on Elance asked me to do some work on a new project. And I didn’t turn it down because, well, she’s willing to pay me to do something I’d gladly do for free (proofreading and copy editing, a.k.a reading a novel and finding errors in it ). So I accepted. And now I’m juggling all four. 

Did I mention that I’m the mother of an energetic toddler who’s not a fan of sleep, and the wife of a husband who likes a home-cooked meal several days a week? Yes, I did. Thrice. 

So, what’s the outcome of all this? Well, peeps, it ain’t pretty. I’m surviving on 3-4 hours of sleep every 24-hour period and probably not doing as well as I could on ANY of my tasks, just so I can do ALL of my tasks, none of which is getting my full attention. Now, who’s that gonna benefit? I mean, it’ll pad my wallet a little more and help me to put aside a little supm for a rainy day, but darn! Mi waah sleep!

KMT. I think I’m gonna lock the doors and take a nap right here in the car. Let this be a lesson to all ye lovers of sleep – learn to say “no!” and mean it, people!

Post Script: FYI, hubby returned to the car quickly and it actually took weeks to write this! O_o

“Mi Tutty Gran’ Computa!” Some Pitfalls of Working From Home

So we’ve all seen the news report and watched the refix videos in which “Rosie” asserts that she needs the “contracta” to replace the possessions she lost when her home was flooded as a result of bridge work nearby. She let the “contracta” know in no uncertain terms that her items were quite pricey and she wanted them all to be replaced. Which got me thinking … what happens when you work from home and there’s some kind of disaster and you’re left without any equipment? Who replaces your computer – especially the one that was no “tutty gran’ computa” to begin with?

Read on.

The ability to work from home is a lifesaver for many people who, for whatever reason, either cannot find a traditional job or do not wish to do so (see my previous post, “Of ‘Bleachers’ and Other Job Seekers”). I cannot stress enough how happy I am not to have to wear shoes when I’m going to work! 

However, I don’t want to give the impression that working from the relative comfort of one’s home is some kind of professional Shangri-La or heaven on Earth. There are numerous pitfalls, some of which I will be mentioning here. These are not meant to scare you, but to provide a balanced view of the matter, as I see it.

When you work from home, you’re always “at work”
If you don’t have the demands of family or other responsibilities pulling at you, you may find that you can’t adequately separate “work time” from “home time”, and your work-life balance is non-existent. Your smartphone’s flashing light draws you in, like a moth to a flame, and you just HAVE to check your email. And then when you do, you see something that needs your attention. Right. This. Minute. No, it can’t wait till the end of “Necessary Roughness” or “Scandal”. You’ll probably never know how that punch line went on “The Ity and Fancy Cat Show” (unless you look for it on Youtube). You have to learn to tear yourself away from your desk. Unless you hate your job, in which case, it becomes quite easy to shut down the computer. J

 

When you work from home, you’re always “at home”
When I’m working and my Elance Tracker is on, I have to fight the urge to go into the kitchen every ten minutes. I am always hungry, and if you know anything about me personally, I am always counting down the hours to my next cup of decaf. Working a few meters from the kitchen, the TV, the bathroom, the mango tree in the backyard, etc. means I have to be more disciplined than I’d need to be if I were in a traditional office with fewer distractions. I have to make an effort to stay at work. So if someone else is home, I let them answer the telephone or see why the dogs are creating such a racket outside. Being at home is distracting and you have to turn up the discipline level. At least, I do.

The buck stops … here
Then there’s the question of equipment. When you work in a traditional office, the equipment you use belongs to your employer, and if it breaks, usually they are the ones who fix it (unless you knock over your instant cornmeal porridge or cup of ramen noodles unto the keyboard at the desk you’re not allowed to eat at). If the ink in the printer runs out, they pay for it. If the electricity goes, they’re aware of it and you’re not expected to keep working unless they’ve installed a generator. When you lose or run out of the items in your home office, they are your responsibility, as is the initial cost of outfitting your “home office”. As it relates to the expensive stuff, if you’re serious about working from home, perhaps you should at least look into content insurance in case of “di contracta” and other disasters – natural and unnatural.

Another thing that we have to take into consideration is the reliability of our equipment and service providers. Right now, for example, I am having tremendous difficulty completing calls on Skype, now that I’ve switched over to a new Internet Service Provider (ISP). I’m looking into alternatives or back-ups in that area.

As it relates to electricity, I’m not going to call any names, but most of us are dependent on a particular utility company for that — a company that expects us to just pay swiftly. We have little control over when we will lose that valuable service for a few minutes or a few days. I recommend investing in a good battery back-up (UPS) system for your computer and modem so that you can at least let your employer(s) know that there is a power outage and you will have to be offline for a while. Otherwise, you’re in the middle of your Skype conference and braps! Light gone and your employer has no idea what has become of you. That has happened to me a couple of times, including during more than one Skype job interview. A UPS system, depending on the specs and what you plug into it, will allow you anywhere from a few minutes to almost an hour of uninterrupted power so that you can save your work and advise your colleagues. There’s a system available at a computer supply store somewhere near you. Even if you can’t afford a UPS in the short-term, you should at least fork out the dough for a good surge protector … just in case of a power surge that could “lick” your equipment. If that happens, no calling di contracta for you!

Render unto Caesar… (Matt. 22:21b)
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2022&version=KJV

Pay your taxes. If you’re working in Jamaica, you’re supposed to pay some form of taxes. And I’m not talking about GCT this time! Believe it or not, you might actually become so grown up that you may WANT to pay taxes, because we do get some benefit out of them. Some. Specifically, Jamaicans working above the threshold of $507,312 (effective. January 1, 2013) are supposed to pay at least 25% of their annual earnings above that threshold in income taxes to the government. Then there’s NIS, NHT, Education Tax … I feel like I’m forgetting something important. Now, I can imagine you asking why you would want to pay taxes when it’s very likely that the government doesn’t know you’re working from your living room (or the parish/school library), but if you ever plan to get a loan from the NHT to purchase or build a home, you’re going to wish you had coughed up the dough. You can’t get a loan from the NHT without paying a percentage of your income into the fund, and when you try to do that, they will want evidence that your other statutory deductions are being paid. When you’re employed, your employer withdraws PAYE taxes and hopefully pays them over to the government, when you’re self-employed or working for an overseas employer via the internet, the responsibility and liability are yours. You should check out this website if you’re interested. And maybe even if you’re not interested. You don’t want them to “buck up” your little business in a Google search someday and come repossess the SLK, the Range Rover, or yuh one likkle tutty gran’ computer, now do you?

http://www.jamaicatax.gov.jm/publications/income_tax/income_tax_for_individuals_businesses.pdf

I miss “cheap” health insurance

I’ve already mentioned this in a previous post, but one of the benefits I had at my last job was health insurance. I paid under J$1,000 per month for health insurance for my family of three, and my employers paid the lion’s share. The same insurance plan costs almost ten times as much when I’m paying it on my own. The good thing is that credit unions and some building societies have health insurance plans that will allow you to get discounted services by joining with other members. Look into them and see what you can find. Health insurance is important. Right now, healthcare in our island home is free, but I’m told you have to BYOB (bring your own Band-Aids) these days.

I miss paid days off
The nature of my current jobs means I get paid on an hourly basis or per project. That means that I don’t get paid when I don’t work. No more paid days off or vacations. Well, I wasn’t getting paid vacations at my last job since I was a temporary contracted worker, but at least I was entitled to 12 personal days plus sick leave every year. Not so these days. I literally can’t afford to get sick! Sometimes I do take a day off, but I do so with the full knowledge that I will have to find a way to make up the financial shortfall later. The good thing is that there is scope for jobs with benefits that are done from home. I just haven’t found one of those yet. Happy hunting to you!

 

To reiterate, I’m not trying to discourage you; why would I have a blog if I didn’t want you to find great opportunities online? I’m just sharing things with you from my perspective, right here in my “home office” (a.k.a the second bedroom with a computer desk in it). Yes, I moved from the living room.

Of ‘Bleachers’ and Other Job-seekers

Although the buzz has died down a bit, I wanted to add my proverbial ‘two cents’ (that’d have to be in US dollars, of course) to the debate that raged after Television Jamaica aired (and re-aired, and re-re-aired) the All Angles feature on skin bleaching in Jamaica. Several of those interviewed made reference to the fact that many employers are refusing to hire applicants who are … shall we say … pigment-challenged? Which got me thinking … why would anyone want to work from home anyway?

So, I have to ask: who are you? Why are you reading this blog? Why are you even thinking about working from home? What’s preventing you, really, from going out there and getting (or finding) a “real” job?

Before I get into the “meat of the matter”, let me say that there’s lots of stuff people can do from home. Lots of illegal activities come to mind. Let me state categorically that I am NOT talking about illegal work. Specifically, this post is about legal work that can be done online, which technically means it doesn’t have to be done from home.

I’m hazarding a guess that if you’re thinking about working online, then it’s probably because you fall into one of these totally un-researched categories I will be coming up with while typing:

1. Those who can’t get a “real” job

Now, before you get all offended, read on. I know that working online is “real work”, and there are “real jobs” available online. How do I know? Because I work online and I do “real work” and have a “real job” … all online. BUT there are going to be people out there who think that online work is not “real work”, simply because it isn’t traditional. You don’t get up, bathe, get dressed, have breakfast and then go and commute to work. You don’t sit in a cubicle or at a cash register, you don’t wear shoes if you don’t want to, so you can’t really be working, can you? Well, you and I both know that you can! I do it every day these days.

BTW, I should probably mention that since my last post, I got a short-term project and am now being trained for a medium- to long-term project, so I’m working online every work day these days. I love Elance!

But why can’t you get a “real job”? You know your reasons. Maybe you’re pigment-challenged or heavily tattooed; maybe you have some other kind of physical characteristic that might prevent people from hiring you. Maybe you’re disabled and unable to traverse the dangerous Jamaican roads to get to work. Maybe you’re educated, but not experienced. Maybe you’re experienced, but not educated, Maybe you’re neither experienced nor educated. Maybe you have a criminal record. Maybe you were in some ill-advised music (or other) video and people judge you before they meet you. I don’t know! You have your reasons. You can’t get a traditional job, so here you are.

2. Those who can’t find a “real job”

There are some of us who are both qualified and experienced who find it difficult to actually find a suitable job. In my case, I live in rural Jamaica, and nobody needs to hire somebody with a Master’s in Spanish Literature! When I was doing the degree, I imagined myself as a Ph.D. living in a city and lecturing full-time at a university, but things happen, people and their circumstances change, and I’ve found myself happily back home in rural Jamaica. I have weighed the pros and cons of moving back to a city, even migrating, but I’ve found that the pros of living where I live (close to my family and Mommy’s awesome cooking!) far outweigh any advantage there could be to living in Kingston or overseas. That’s a decision I took for myself, and not one I’m encouraging you to take.

Many of us can find jobs we can do, but they are not necessarily jobs we want to do. Sometimes we wouldn’t mind doing the work, but we find that other aspects of the job are not worth the effort. I, for example, could work in the hospitality industry, but the hours tend to be in shifts and I have a young child who needs consistency in his life right now. I could teach in a high school, but I think they frown on teachers barring students from classes because they don’t have the patience to deal with them.

3. Those who don’t want a “real job”

There was a comment the other day from a new mother who spoke about managing her home full-time. I suppose if one were doing that out of choice, then one wouldn’t actually want a real job (time to stop using the quotation marks; you know what I mean by now). There’s nothing wrong with that.

Perhaps some of you are otherwise occupied on a full-time or “most-time” basis because you’re in school or working elsewhere, and you’re just looking for something to “top-up” your income. After all, if you live where I live, the cost of living is going up but wages and salaries are certainly not doing the same!

4. Those who hate shoes.

This is a major thing for me. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I have feet. Yes, I like to see women in cute shoes. For me, shoes (cute or not) are a form of legalized torture and I refuse to wear them if I don’t absolutely have to. That right there is reason enough to want to work from home.

I’m sure if I tried hard and wasn’t hungry, I could find other reasons, but this is rural Jamaica and there’s no delivery outside of the main town, so if I want food, I have to either prepare it myself or go out and buy it (or get some from Mommy a few miles away), so I’m going to stop thinking about possible reasons and get to another important point I have to make.

Whatever your reasons for seeking online work, please, please, please, bear in mind the following:

  • Online work is real work: Yes, I’ve made the point several times, but if you do manage to find a project or long-term job online, you have to treat it with as much seriousness as you would a traditional job. Working online is not an excuse to slack off and do the minimum. All people have to go by is whether or not you do what you said you were going to do, so you should try and meet all your deadlines, submit all your deliverables, and treat your employers and/or colleagues with maximum respect. If you say you’re going to be at work at 10:00, sign in at or before 10:00. Be reliable.
  • Other people will not understand: Since you’re not leaving the house, people who know you’re at home will often forget that you are actually working. It took me months to get my family to understand that when I’m working, I’m working. Just like it would be difficult for me to leave a traditional workplace and come home to cook, it will be difficult for me to leave my online job to cook. Running errands like picking up someone else’s prescription or their children from school is only possible when I’m not actively working. Childcare and working online rarely go hand-in-hand, unless your child/ren embrace naps a lot more than mine does. So even though I’m home now, my child still goes out of the house for childcare. People think that’s a waste of money, but I cannot take care of him (or anyone else) while I am working, and I am earning more working from home than I would be saving if I were keeping him home and not working. Does that make sense? This is not to say that YOU will be unable to do that, but you should at least consider the possibility that it might pose a challenge.
  • Working from home costs money: Let me be quick to clarify! There are many legitimate and illegitimate sites out there that promise to find you online work for a fee. In my experience, you do not have to pay money to find jobs, although there are legitimate sites that allow for that. But I’m not talking about those kinds of costs.What I mean by “working from home costs money” is that there are bills to pay that are associated with having a home office, whether by home office you mean an actual office or a small desk in a corner of the house, away from much traffic, or your dining table or bedroom floor. Reliable internet service is necessary and rarely free unless your kind neighbour gives you the passkey to their wireless network. If you’re working from home, your electricity bill is likely to increase, though your commuting costs will decrease. You’ll have your computer and modem running, and you’ll probably be using a fan for hours on end. I’ve taken the decision not to work with my TV on, even though I used to. I don’t have shares in JPS, so I don’t benefit from that! Your supermarket bill is likely to go up if you’re spending more time at home, but your food costs overall are likely to go down because you’ll probably be buying less fast food and fewer restaurant meals. Working from home costs money, so weigh the costs against your income and make the right decision for you.
  • You don’t have to be home to work: I recently discovered that the parish library offers free broadband internet access. Woo-hooooo! There are times when I can’t work at home because there are too many things going on, so I simply pack up and go to the library until I can go home again. The downside is that my library does not have electrical outlets in the common areas, and we’re not allowed to plug in, but once the laptop is fully charged, I can sit there for hours and do what I need to do. This is not for those doing anything that requires microphone use, but for transcription or proofreading, it works well. Be careful when transporting your laptop and/or other electronic devices, though, and be vigilant in public spaces. Look up now and then and make sure no one is “casing” you.
  • Understand what the job entails: Elance has a wonderful facility called “Elance Tracker” that allows those doing hourly work to keep track of their work hours. It works by taking snapshots of your screen at (I believe) random moments once you sign into the tracker. It means you have to have an internet connection to work, since Tracker is an online facility that must be downloaded to your computer, but it also has a payment protection feature that provides evidence that I’ve done what I claim to have done.
    The other day, I saw a profile on Elance where the person had a work history with only one job, and the client had given the contractor only one out of  a possible five stars. Among the complaints: the contractor was always on Facebook and sending personal emails when (s)he said (s)he was working. Clearly, (s)he didn’t understand how the Elance tracker works! That thing takes a photo of whatever is on your screen at the time, whether that is Facebook or the employer’s database. When I’m signed in on the tracker, I close everything unrelated to work, including FB, email, Youtube, this blog, etc. Depending on the nature of the job, I might listen to music or something, but I don’t spend time searching for my fave songs while people are paying me to proofread, edit, do data entry, etc. This comes back to an earlier point: be reliable.

So, that’s a lot to digest, but I think some of it definitely needed to be said.

I want to hear from you. Why are you interested in working online or from home? What kind of help can this blog provide, outside of doing job searches and finding you a job (which I can’t/won’t do)? Leave me a comment and I may create a new blog post that responds to your specific needs. Till then, walk good!

¡Hola!

Before I jump into this post, let me just state categorically that the Communications lecturer, proofreader and copy editor in me all know that I shouldn’t begin a sentence with “So”, “And”, “But” or “Because”. But a fimi blog … fimi rules! Who don’t like it, bite it! 🙂

So, first things first: no, you shouldn’t expect a post from me every day; I suspect that one post every week might be pushing it, but since I have the time (I wonder why?), I’ve decided to jump right in and tell you all about the online work experience I do have.

I’ve maintained a fairly active profile on Elance for the past six years or so. Why? Because it works for me! I started out with Elance after sitting at home for months and months, unable to find work I wanted to do in the rural part of Jamaica where I live. The work on Elance did not come rolling in all at once, but with perseverance and a few wise moves, I’ve earned quite a bit of money using the site.

How it works

Elance is a site that allows freelancers like me to see freelance projects that are available all over world. Some are temporary, while others are full-time positions or long-term part-time positions. Freelancers read job descriptions and submit a proposal, which is really a bid telling the client/employer how much you are willing to do the job for and what qualifies you to do it.

People are willing to pay people good money to do weird stuff. A lovely gentleman once paid me US$80 to write a love letter to his wife on his behalf. Why? They had a bet! He said you could outsource anything, and she said you can’t outsource love. He won, by the way. He said she was overwhelmed by the letter and the card I had also created and included. BUT that’s not typical! I’ve also been paid to:

  • grade English essays,
  • write trivia questions and answers on various topics ranging from American popular culture to Science, Geography, History and more,
  • write test items,
  • do data entry (cut from a website and paste into Excel),
  • transcribe audio (very time-consuming with generally low pay, but still better than nothing), and
  • proofread parts of novels, essays, etc.

My major success with Elance came in the form of a long-term part-time project that allowed me to telecommute from my living room on the Rock to an office in Santiago, Chile, South America. I did that for 2 – 5 hours per day, Mondays through Fridays, for 26 months. Yes, that’s two years and two months. I hated leaving that position because I enjoyed the work, but I had finally found a full-time teaching job (which later turned out to be only nine months per year) and couldn’t handle both.

So, like I said. Elance has worked for me. Check out my profile here.

If you’re looking for work from home opportunities, even part-time, I encourage you to set up an Elance profile for free. Yes, it’s free to set up a profile and start bidding on jobs. With a free membership, you get a certain number of connects per month. Connects allow you to bid on jobs. Usually, one connect is worth one bid for jobs with budgets under US$500. The higher the budget, the more connects required. A project with a budget of US$500 – $1000 will require two connects, Use your connects wisely. Don’t bid on jobs with hundreds of other bids unless you’re positive you’re the best choice. If you do get a job, Elance withdraws 8.75% as a fee and you keep the rest. For a paid membership, you get more connects and you can pay to sign up in more than one job category.

N.B. I find that people are more willing to hire those with a complete profile who, for example, list their actual work experience. Also, bear in mind that Elance is not easy money. You have to bid against other (desperate) service providers and you have to actually do the work if you want to get paid. You may find yourself bidding for weeks before being chosen to do a job. Why? Employers want experience and good reviews, which means you have to start out bidding below your worth so that you can increase your experience and your reviews. Use your connects/bids wisely. Don’t bid against dozens of other freelancers unless you’re absolutely sure you’re the best there is. Join their referral program and refer other people in order to get free connects. Be smart about it.

Show me the money!

Now, I know you’re already asking, “how do I get paid?” There are a couple of ways. Let’s start with the “worst” way first. You can add your local US dollar bank account number and they will send you the money by wire transfer. That’s the absolute worst way to get paid, in my experience, because the fee is US$30 and I think that’s in addition to the fee the local bank will charge. That’s only for people making hundreds of dollars on a project, as far as I’m concerned.

Next, you can get paid via PayPal. If you don’t know what PayPal is, go check it out right now. PayPal allows you to make or receive payments into a virtual account. Elance will deposit money into that account and you can use it to make purchases online, etc. PayPal can also be linked to your bank account but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how it works. They also now offer a PayPal Debit MasterCard/PayPal Prepaid Card, but again, I haven’t tried it so I don’t know if that works in Jamaica.

I get paid using my Elance Prepaid MasterCard, issued by Payoneer. When I want money from my Elance account, I withdraw it to my Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard and I go to local ATMs and withdraw cash, even USD if the ATM allows it. There are fees but I find them to be minimal when you consider the convenience that you can get cash in your hand, usually within a few minutes of Elance depositing it on your Payoneer card. I have also used my Payoneer card over the phone and internet to pay local bills and at the supermarket, pharmacy, etc. I highly recommend applying for the card. And if someone overseas wants to send you money, they can also deposit it to the card via the Payoneer website. Please note, though, that you may have to be working with a Payoneer partner company in order to apply for the card. That’s how it used to be, though things may have changed.

Recently, they’ve also come up with a way to get your PayPal funds deposited on your Elance Prepaid MasterCard using their US Payment Service. How cool is that?

So … there really is no excuse. If you are interested in working from your living room, your verandah or an internet cafe in Jamaica, go sign up for your free Elance account right this minute.

What are you waiting for? Gwaan nuh!