Apparently, THIS is the secret to making money online….

I just discovered the secret to making a TON of money THIS MONTH working as a freelancer!

But first, I’ll tell you what I see over and over again. Someone creates a website explaining how they didn’t make a lot of money before they became a freelancer. And then the individual goes on to explain a bit about what they’re doing, how much they’re making, etc. And then they suck readers in for a membership site for their ebook or their entrepreneur program or whatever else so you, too, can make six figures selling some stupid program.

Really.

This.is.getting.old.

There are some entrepreneurs online, granted, who are giving legitimate information and releasing informative content. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the ones who have nothing new to say, but because they have a fancy website or a lot of social proof, they make bank. I guess that’s part of the game, but still…meh.

(Social proof – that idea that because everyone else loves something, it must be good.)

The real secret to making thousands of dollars as a freelance whatever? Hard work. Luck. An eye for profitability and viability of an idea. A good social network. More hard work. Sweat. A pretty face. Divine intervention. Blah blah blah. See, there will always be sales shills out there telling you that you have to buy some program to make big bucks. It’s not new.

What courses/forums/ebooks have you found helpful? Which ones were unworthy of your time?

Series: Change Your Risk Plan, Change Your Life (Part 2)

In my last post I wrote about risk levels and the choices we make in areas of our life. My premise is this: some risk is good. Too much and too little can lead to unmanageable consequences and stagnation in life. The trick is to pick the right amount of risk for the areas of your life that need it.

Examine Your Life

When I examine my life, I see areas where I’ve neglected to move forward, and others where I’ve moved forward too quickly. I feel I’ve stagnated in my finances, and let money management slide over the past year. This has resulted in no savings, continued poor credit, and increasing bills. That could also be considered too risky behavior,  in that I invited negative consequences by not being more conscientious. I feel like I made the correct decision to finally come out of the closet. That was risk aware. I was also risk aware by pursuing a promotion at work, since I knew the benefits and consequences of such a decision and pursued the role knowing what I was getting into.

Those Areas We Forget

If you’re like me, there are areas where you are hesitant to expose to risk. Or maybe it’s just a lack of attention. We can’t pay attention to everything at once, right? So if you’re like me, you may pay attention to what’s easiest to manage. But avoiding risk also means avoiding innovation and, ultimately, progress. Part of life is maturing, right? How can we mature if we don’t grow? How can we grow if we don’t change the way we think, the way we handle situations, the way we interact with others? If we don’t change what we know and what we do with that knowledge? If we don’t make the world a better place?

…so…what is risk?

Most definitions of risk I’ve found involve one key concept: uncertainty. Risk implies that there is a potential for negative consequences. In a financial market, risk is the potential for financial loss. There’s also, of course, the potential for gain. Risk is an uncertain outcome, the possibility of disaster.

I found an awesome post about risky behavior and whether risk is “good” or “bad” over at, of course, “RespectRisk” : http://respectrisk.com/risk/57.html. The author splits risk into constructive and destructive. The potential reward of the risky behavior is an opportunity / reward, known as an “opportunity cost.” Interesting, right?

How risky is your behavior? Could calculated risk be the key to changing your life and the opportunities in front of you? What’s stopping you? How about -

Applying for the job you don’t think you’ll get, but you never know

Asking for the raise

Asking that cute person out

Saying “YES” to yourself

Investing in the business opportunity

Moving to freelance work

Having a kid

Not having a kid

Moving across the country

etc etc.

The choice is yours. This life is yours. Make it happen.

 

Series: Change Your Risk Plan, Change Your Life (Part 1)

Get out a piece of paper right now (8×11), or start a new file in Excel. Draw three columns at the top of the page. Along the left, make five large row sections – enough to put three to five lines of text within each.

Okay, for the top columns write:

Risk Averse                                    Risk Aware                             Risky

For the five side sections, write one of the following in each:

Health

Finances

Relationships

Personal Growth

Career

Inside the Sections

So now you should have a chart that takes up your whole page. Got it? Now I want you to think about the five areas of your life that I mentioned:

Health – physical fitness, preventative care, diet, exercise, rest

Finances – spending, saving, investing

Relationships – happiness, investment in relationships, relationship growth, networking

Personal Growth – hobbies, personal development, increased knowledge, spirituality

Career – sought promotions, sought a new job, invested in career growth opportunities, updated your resume, changed career paths, stayed in a career, etc.

Decisions

For each of those sections, think about the last three to five decisions you’ve made (even if the decision was to not change anything). So, did you buy a house? Pursue a new field? Have a baby? Choose to start a relationship? End a relationship? Pursue spirituality? Get a certificate? Conduct a new meeting? Land a client? Finish a to-do list? For the risk categories up top, think about risk as a spectrum. Do you avoid risk at all  cost – to the detriment of new opportunities? Or are you risky on the other end, where you make decisions as you please regardless of the short-term or long-term consequences? Or are you in the middle – risk aware? Do you take some calculated risks when the rewards might be worth it?

Think about the risk spectrum as going from 1-5 or even from 1-10. Most of us will vary in our responses. Factors that affect this include the area of life the decision affects, our personality, our age, and our experiences. Risk’s pull in decision-making will change with maturity and experience (sometimes one will have more weight than the other!).

Think about some recent decisions you’ve made and how you’d categorize them. Next Post, we’ll discuss what it means.

Blogger Shares His $100K Per Month Secrets

Think about it. Do you make $100,000 each month from your blog? Wouldn’t it be great to make that amount, at a minimum, from your online presence? Couldn’t you use that money to pay down school loans, buy a house, get a new car, put your kids through school, sponsor a thousand orphans in Uganda….

Yeah, sounds amazing, right? One blogger, Jon Morrow, says that it’s entirely possible.

Before I show you that link, let me tell you about my life. I’m a mom of four who has just come out of the closet. I have a low credit score (like, under 500), no savings, no credit, and few opportunities. I am smart and learn quickly, but “smart and learns quickly” doesn’t make the doors open by themselves. While I have a good job, I don’t have a great job. I can’t pay all my bills. I need to be able to make more money now to give my kids a better future and build a better foundation for my life.

I’d be happy with a few thousand per month.

What about you?

So, Jon Morrow says that you can make at least $100K per month with your blog. He says that it is within reach! Here’s the link: From 0 to $100,000 per Month: 20 Lessons for Building a Profitable Blog

He recommends some of the following:

  • Guest post before you write on your own blog
  • Write longer content (as in, well over 1,000 words each)
  • Ignore SEO
  • Sell from day one
  • Build your expensive product first

Now, Jon Morrow is no chump. He is the Master of guest posting and blog traffic building. He knows what he’s talking about. So if Jon says jump, you better jump. I can see that, based on the 20+ items he presents in the post, I’m sucking. I’m writing short blog posts, I’m not selling much of anything, I’m selling low-priced items, I’m building my social media presence first, etc. There is just so much wrong with how I’m doing this blogging thing that it’s not even funny.

Maybe you’re making the same mistakes.

Here’s what I want you to do, if you have a blog and have found my post. I want you to read his blog. I want you to try out the tips he mentions. If it works, I want to know, so you can motivate me.

And if I can help you in any way, I want to know. I do offer services like content development and WordPress theme setup. I can even help proofread your content if you don’t feel like you trust your eyes. Maybe we can both win in this blogging business?

The Whole “I’m not worth it” Catch

I tend to get stuck in the loop of “I’m not worth it.” As in, I’m not worth that promotion. I’m not worth that job. I’m not worth happiness. Enough is enough! Success doesn’t happen when we say that we don’t deserve it. Success happens when we reach out and take it. Yes, you are talented enough to earn your success. So am I. We can do it!

…right?! Who’s with me?

Here are some more links I found helpful:

20 Ways to Be Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives a Crap About

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

11 Lame Excuses That Successful Bloggers Never Make

 

We All Have Closets. (Ash Beckham’s TED Talk!)

So… THIS:

I saw it just the other day for the first time, and WOW. How encouraging! She is correct that we all have aspects of our lives that are, well, difficult. Challenging. Overbearing. We all have aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to reveal. The point is to come out of the closet and commiserate together. The point is to be authentic.

What did you think of the video?

How to Hire and Keep Rockstar Employees

As a follow-up to my previous post to my peers about getting the job they want, I wanted to address the company side of the job equation. How does a company hire rockstar employees and how does it keep the ones it has? How does it avoid them from finding another job and take their talent and innovation with them? Well, here are some actions that a company can take.

To Hire Rockstars

  • Social Media

How is your company page on LinkedIn? Do you successfully highlight why it’s awesome to work for your company? Do you have satisfied employees plugging your company? Or is it all sales? Millenials especially will be looking at your pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. At some point, people want to work for an employer that they are proud to put on their resume.

Example: I have about 600 more Twitter followers than a company on my resume, and I Twitter in my spare time. That tells me that I have more to teach the company about social media than the company could ever teach me.

  • Recruiters

How friendly are your recruiters? Where are your recruiters going? Are they innovative in contacting potential recruits? Are they on LinkedIn, going to IT conferences, and meeting with schools? Are they making connections with boot camps and certification programs? If not, the company is potentially missing out on huge opportunities.

Example: I know someone who was working with a recruiter on a job that would potentially triple his salary. But the recruiter kept hounding him for an update faster than the candidate was comfortable. The candidate eventually turned the offer down, mostly because he felt that if the recruiter was that inconsiderate of his needs, that the job would be just as unpleasant.

  • Compensation

This is, sadly, a big one. When top talent compares the offers on the table, they’re going to pick the one with better compensation. Better benefits at the onset means a better long-term future. If you’re not paying an industry standard wage, then you’re not going to get top talent. You’re going to get the leftovers, or those starting out who need to just get in the door.

  • Perks

What perks can you offer the candidate? If a candidate is awesome, they probably have worked to be awesome and know their worth. What can you offer that the others can’t? Do you have a dress-down Friday? Free training? Educational compensation (and not after they’ve stuck around for years)? Free soda? Anything at all? Even small companies can do something to stand out from the others.

  • Reputation

What is your reputation as an employer? Do people they know in the field tell them to stay away, or is your company the one who constantly brings in the talent? If your former employees are successfully taking your top talent elsewhere, your reputation probably stinks. If you’re the company that constantly receives top talent from your new hires, then you’re likely doing a great job and have a good reputation as an employer.

To Keep Rockstars

To keep your rockstars, look to the above points, since they affect your current workforce too. Aside from creating a pleasant workplace and having positions that people actually want to fill, here are some other actions that companies can take:

  • Engage

Some of the best companies have leaders at the top tiers that engage their workforce. Do your employees know the upper management? Is there a leader everyone can rally around? Do you have a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg? Is that person visible? Do the employees feel invested in the company? Are your employees helping you market your company, or are they hating on you in their downtime? Do your employees feel like they’re part of the team, or are they the tool that moves the gears?

Example: I used to work for Trader Joe’s. I loved most of what I did there. I will still plug Trader Joes’ both as a great store to buy from, but also as a great employer to work for. I felt that what I did actually made a difference. I was proud of the products.

  • Promote

Are you mentoring your people to move up, or are you mostly hiring from the outside? If those at the lower and middle levels don’t feel that moving to the top is attainable, why should those with high aspirations stick around? Promote from within. Mentor your future leaders now, so that when the position is right, they’ll be ready. Groom your people for success, and promote liberally. People will stick around if they don’t feel like they’re in a dead end job.

  • Reward

Reward when people meet expectations, and especially when they go above and beyond. Employees don’t want to only hear from their management when they fail. Are there any benefits to increased productivity? Is there any recognition of innovation? Does it matter? Do employees get any share?

  • Value

Do you do anything to make your employees feel valued? Do they only hear from you when they do something wrong? Do your employees feel like a number? Do you provide any perks to make the job worthwhile? Training, so they can increase their skillset? Conferences? Days off? Free company swag? Discounts? Are their needs heard and responded to?

Innovation involves risk, but can also bring rewards.

To My Friends Who Are Looking for IT Jobs or Who Hate Their Current One

My advice to those who want a new job in IT (or a job period) and aren’t having luck:

1) Get on Career Builder and update your resume and contact information

2) Get on LinkedIn

  • Flesh out EVERYTHING. Look at mine if you want help
  • Fill out the “Skills” section completely until you can’t add more. Obtain endorsements.
  • Ask people to write you a recommendation.
  • Ask people to endorse your skills
  • Write recommendations and endorse others (Hey – do it for me!)
  • Fill out any courses you took, whether it’s with a job, school, online, etc.
  • Fill out your summary section and use correct spelling. Write at least a paragraph. Look at what other people are doing to help inspire you.
  • Join groups on LinkedIn and get involved. That will garner you views on your profile
  • Click on other’s profiles. They may look at yours in return.
  • Connect with everyone you work with or have worked with, because networking is key to that next job or position.

3) Do something that shows you are constantly improving and that you give a damn about your chosen career field, such as:

  •  Blogging about your field
  • Take courses online (Lynda.com,pluralsight,Treehouse,etc…)
  • Get a new certification
  • Attend an IT meetup (usually free)
  • Attend a conference in your field
  • And then…. PUT THESE ACTIVITIES ON YOUR LINKEDIN

And if you say you don’t have time for it, then you don’t want your goal bad enough. If you say that you don’t like the format or don’t want to get online, you are telling employers that you either cannot learn new technologies, or that you are reticent to change. Or are otherwise stuck in outdated mindsets. You are also telling employers that you don’t understand the paradigm shift that is the internet. In other words, you are loudly telling potential employers that you won’t be an asset to them in the long run.

If this helps, I’d love it if you could share this with others. Or hey, write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. You could do it for the “Freelance Writer” section if you aren’t a colleague. Thanks!

Keeping Your Momentum

Those who work with me tend to use the same attributes to describe my energy…which is, to say, that I have a lot of it. Speedy, fast-paced, quick, on-the-go. That’s me. I launch myself into projects and don’t take “slow” for an answer. Well, not unless it’s required. I want to move forward even if that forward is only an inch. Eventually the inches make a mile, right?! I walk quickly and I gesticulate with passion. I love taking on new projects and keeping all the balls juggling in the air at once. I get bored, and so learning new things and engaging myself in projects (and finishing them) is exciting to me. But it’s the finishing that’s really the rub, right? Actually finishing a project is almost an art. It’s easy to start, sure. But completing them is the ultimate challenge; that’s where the difficulty really lies.

Those around me who are less driven have told me to “just do one thing”. But how can I do just one thing? I don’t work that way. I enjoy the concurrent streams, and find that being involved in multiple activities means that each one affects the other and brings me new insights I wouldn’t have thought of. So no, “just one thing” doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a limit, right? Maybe only a few at a time?

Anyway….maybe you have the same problem? Any Type-A’s in the house?

A colleague posted this link from LifeHacker which I found personally motivating: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals. (Originally posted on James Clear’s blog: http://jamesclear.com/stay-focused).

According to Clear, the secret really is perseverance. It’s that simple.

[R]eally successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals

The other secret is that the doing, in itself, must be made to be enjoyable. For example, the runner not only enjoys winning the marathons, but the running in and of itself. The writer enjoys the writing process. The programmer enjoys the practice of coding. Same thing. Yeah, it’s great to want the glory. But the grind has to be tolerable too. Make it tolerable, if not enjoyable.

But if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s their commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.

Melissa Foster is an inspiration to me. She is constantly posting, on her Faceboook page, how much she is writing, what stage of her book she’s in, what new book she’s starting, etc. Always! As a result, I want to read her books. I also know – hey, that’s a writer. That’s what she is doing that I’m not. I GET IT.

It’s the same with anything. If you want that dream job in IT, keep going until you get it. I, for example, want a job either doing process improvement, software design/architecture, or even straight-up just programming. I want to hone my writing skills and become a better writer. I want to make enough money to support myself and my children and pay down debt. That requires work, consistent practice, and chutzpah.

Oh and one more – there was a quote in the Pluralsight course I started watching, Learning to Program: Being a Better Programmer. The two hosts said something like, “Experts are experts because they practice frequently.” Hello – newsflash! Yes! Those who practice and hone their skills become better. And of course…we all start at the 0. It’s who continues and who doesn’t that makes the difference.

Who inspires you? How do you keep the tendency to start new projects at bay? (For me, it’s the joy of completing a task. You?)

Oh the things you learn in Help Desk….

The rule seems to be that if you want to break into Information Technology, you should get a job in help desk. Despite the fact that help desk work utilizes completely different skills than other IT positions, it is still considered the best way to get your feet wet. Consider it the tech world’s version of the nurses’ aid: you’ll be wiping ass and doing the grunt work now, and then in ten years you’ll be telling all the other chumps to grab a straw and suck it up because you had it so much worse when you started in IT. I can’t find any real articles on the subject, but tribal knowledge says it’s so.

Jokes aside, there are legitimate reasons behind help desk/desktop support work being the entry-level IT position. In this post I’ve listed a few things you’ll learn in help desk, and some that you won’t.

Customer Service Skills

Help desk is entirely about customer service. Whether your customer is a client or your fellow employees, your role will essentially be one of customer service. The downside for many geeks? Your interpersonal skills may suck. The upside?  This is a job that will help you learn. Unfortunately, those who really should be behind a computer hacking away won’t usually thrive in a help desk environment. Of course, you’ll also learn that the secret weapon of every techie is Google.

Critical Thinking

Help desk work is often sought by those coming straight out of college or technical training. You may have been taught about computer systems, but you may not know how to troubleshoot. Working in help desk / desktop support will teach you how to troubleshoot. (Or it should, anyway!) You’ll gain the ability to analyze a problem, test your theory, and resolve issues. You will, over time, become more efficient and accurate. These skills will help you in all future jobs, in and out of IT. The downside? Some people are slower than this than others. The upside? If you can think your way out of a paper bag, you’ll be in demand. Yes, it’s that bad.

Documentation/Writing Skills

Help desk involves documenting incidents and resolutions, writing knowledge base documentation, and writing emails to…everyone. So if you can’t spell, you better learn. And here, too, you might be surprised at how poor others really are at spelling. Note: You’ll seem promotable if you don’t make elementary school writing errors. Just sayin’….

You’ll learn so much more….

Okay, so you’ll also learn what not to do. I learned more about how computers can go wrong…and how much I actually knew about computers…when I started in help desk. There are still individuals who don’t know what a start button is, who refer to Internet Explorer as “THE INTERNET”, and who think that every Windows prompt is bad news bears. You’ll also learn patience, how to work with superiors (who may or may not have a clue), and that finances run IT more than you’d think.

Some things that a job in help desk won’t teach you….

  • It won’t give you experience in the niche that you enjoy
  • It might not even help you pick the IT niche that you actually want to work in
  • Technical skills – you’ll learn a bit, but the job won’t usually force you to become more technically savvy…you’ll just get better at spitting out the right resolutions
  • How to perform soft skills that will get you a better IT job

 

You might also learn that help desk is not the job you want to stay in. Maybe you’ll get the motivation to move on, too.

PS- The magic phrase for Internet Explorer? “The Big Blue E.” You’re welcome.

Review of: Microsoft Virtual Academy – Networking Fundamentals

I posted earlier about Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). MVA is a free resource by Microsoft which delivers training on various topics. I took one course, Networking Fundamentals, in March 2014 in preparation for my CompTIA Network+ exam.

Networking Fundamentals

The course was built around Microsoft Certification  98-366: MTA Networking Fundamentals, which tests on the following:

From what I’ve seen, this is a less in-depth certification than the CompTIA Network+. Which makes it a great one to get if you’re starting out in IT/networking, because the learning curve isn’t as much. You’ll learn the basics of networks, cabling, protocols, and network security. It’s enough to then tackle more complex topics (like found in the Network+), or to move onto specific areas like routing and switching. It’s definitely enough for basic help desk support.
The MVA Course
Like other MVA courses, Networking Fundamentals is free to watch once you register for an account. It’s a few hours long at most, and isn’t too difficult to get through. What you’ll watch is a combination of the two presenters (Thomas Willingham and Christopher Chapman) presenting at a table and images of the slideshow that you can later download. It’s not bad, and it isn’t overly stoic. The last lesson provides you with some extra tools; I found the “Student Study Guide” they provided pretty helpful.
Thoughts
So far, I’ve recommended MVA as a whole to probably…10 people? I would recommend this course to anyone looking to get into IT or brush up on Networking 101.