The Dream Chaser Project: Week 2 – My Expat Criteria

Photo Credit: danorbit

Photo Credit: danorbit

How goes it, dream chasers? This week I had to do a bit of solo research when it comes to working remotely/independently and living outside of the US because my lovely fiancé has been sick.

Trust me, I tried bugging her, but her body wasn’t having it.

In the meantime, I decided to keep things simple and determine the criteria most important to me when it comes to choosing a country in which to reside. A few things to note:

  • I may end up adding to these criteria once the wife-to-be is feeling well enough to add her two cents.
  • I’ll be ranking the criteria based on what’s most important to me. This is also subject to change.
  • Living in the US is still an option, though I really would prefer to experience another culture.
  • Going nomadic may be an option as well.

Let’s get this party started.

  1. Monthly Cost of Living – This one is pretty obvious, right? I’d like to live somewhere cheaper than I do now. Granted, I live near New York so rent, food, etc. is pricier than other places. Seeing as how I want to maintain finances without working my tail off, this is a pretty major consideration.
  2. Ease of Residency – Some countries like Italy and France are difficult when it comes to expats attaining residency. When it coms time to make our move, I’m looking to do it as quickly as possible so… you know… ain’t nobody got time for that.
  3. Internet – This may seem like an odd one to place so high, but right now all of my income is generated from remote jobs and online freelancing. Also I have a blog to maintain, thank you very much.
  4. Crime – Who wants to deal with crime?
  5. Healthcare – Wherever we live, it’d be awesome to have a hospital in somewhat close proximity. That said, general quality of healthcare is a factor that we’ll be considering.
  6. Nature – This may sound silly, but I want to be around nature. I’ve been around urban areas my entire life; concrete and asphalt just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I don’t have to be in the middle of the Amazon or anything, but being surrounded by some green wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  7. Public Transportation – Public transportation is good for the planet! Well, better than everyone having a car, right? Sadly, this is still last on my list, though it’s important nonetheless.

I’m currently putting together a spreadsheet ranking several countries we’re considering based on these criteria. I’ll share this in next week’s post. If you guys have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Week 1

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Putting a budget together sucks. Quite a way to begin a blog post,eh?

If you read part one of this piece, you know my current goal is to save $15000 (US) by July. This is a tall order for a guy who currently works part-time. I’ll go back to fulltime work if a worthwhile gig comes along. But in the meantime, I need to focus on the minimum amount of income I need in order to achieve this goal. Last time, I came up with the following numbers:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

Remember, this takes saving and bills into account. Honestly, I feel like this could be much worse. It’s by no means simple (I’m essentially starting my life over from scratch), but I’m confident I can swing this if I keep my head in the game.

Right now I make about $47 a day in part-time work. While I’ve applied this over the course of seven days, I’m actually only working about 20 hours a week. Also, I tend to make more because I log out late some days, but I don’t want to rely on that. I need to know what I’m guaranteed. I don’t know what works for you, but if some amount of money isn’t a sure thing (or a close approximation), I see no good reason to track it. It’s simply a bonus.

Like when you randomly find a 20 dollar bill in your coat pocket.

So I’m a bit more of 1/3 of the way there (depending on the month).

Awesome.

Sort of.

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Either I need to get that fulltime job I’ve been avoiding or I need to simply earn more money. Truth be told, I became a bit spoiled over the last few months as time is a much better motivation for me than money. Earning more is awesome, but if I go that route, I want to ensure it’s an ideal situation for me. I’m not trying to be stressed out of my mind all day then take my work home so I can continue that feeling all night.

Been there, done that.

So I need to make up the rest of it with freelance work unless anything changes. This is where things get tricky.

I make my side moola freelance writing or editing. Recently I landed a somewhat steady editing gig, but I’m not getting any more than $55 a week from them. In this case, steady definitely doesn’t mean a lot of hours.Either way, let’s just reduce this to $30 a week because that $55 isn’t guaranteed. Per day, that’s about $4.29. Not much but it gets me over $50 a day.

Side note: I realize this is going to be a ballgame with a ton of singles and doubles. So be it. I should have been better at this months ago, but life (or in my case, love) became a higher priority than making money.

Yes, it’s actually true.

But with my fiancé stuck in Sweden until we have that K1 visa, I don’t mind putting forth some extra effort to reach this goal.

Anyway, if we’re talking about February, I need to make about $98 more per day to hit my goal. Actually, let’s just go with $150 per day as a nice, round goal. I realize this is totally stream of conscious and I should probably just update what I wrote before, but I’m lazy as all sin right now. Deal with it.

Most content writing gigs offer crap for pay and, quite frankly, are not worth my time. Some of them are decent if I need money in a pinch, but most of them demand a lot of effort with marginal returns. Next week I’ll dive into freelance writing more and what I’m doing to increase my odds of landing better paying gigs. But for now, let’s finish up the rest of this budget.

While income is a significant part of tracking finances, I would argue spending is far more crucial. That’s because any money that is earned will ALWAYS help. Spending, on the other hand, hinders monetary growth unless its an investment in something else that will generate revenue.

Luckily, getting laid off curtailed my loosey-goosey spending habits big time. All I need is food, honestly. I’m basically in stasis until my fiancé and I are back together. It sounds horrible, but I’m fine with limiting my outings, only spending when I end up exceeding my daily goal consistently. One or two days aren’t a green light to loosen up those purse strings.

January will end up being a proof of concept month. I will be tracking ALL of my spending. This way I’ll have a concrete idea of where money is going and where I can cut corners sans any negative repercussions. Here’s what I can estimate at the very least:

  • $25 a week on groceries (very doable living alone and being a vegetarian)
  • $5 a week on public transportation (I’m still debating selling my car. Right now it’s not on the road so I don’t have to pay for insurance)
  • $50 every two weeks miscellaneous spending

This is a strict budget. As you can see, I’m keeping it pretty minimal as I’m not factoring in much. This is because I don’t need much. This savings goal is more important than stuff I want to buy so I may as well act like it.

Okay, folks; that’s it for now. Join me next week when I start talking about things you can do to help snag more writing gigs (this should be appropriate for other types of freelance work too). I hope your journey is as exciting as mine and, as always, hit me up in the comments if you have any tip or feedback of your own!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

The Dream Chaser Project: Week 1

IMG_4458

I have a dream. As much as I dislike racism, this isn’t the Martin Luther kind. No, this one is decidedly more selfish. My dream is to make a life with my girlfriend and see the world.There’s some criteria to this:

  1. This life must support me, my fiance, and our dog.
  2. I want the freedom to pick up and move when we want.
  3. In order to achieve the previous point, we need to minimize our possessions.
  4. I want to minimize our footprint on this world.
  5. I want to maintain a certain safety net of savings that I’m fine growing, but it should never go below $10000 US.
  6. I need internet access.
  7. I want to achieve this with as little stress as possible.

Let’s call these The Dream Chaser Commandments. This list may have amendments, but my fiance and I are pretty simple people who don’t need a ton out of this life. But there are things that would be pretty awesome to include as well. Here’s my Dream Chaser Bucket List (which is definitely subject to change):

  1. I want to earn a living purely from freelance writing
  2. I want to start or invest in a business
  3. I want to figure out a way to literally spread positivity everywhere I go
  4. I want to go with solar energy
  5. I want a greenhouse
  6. I want to document all of this through pictures, videos, and blogs. Maybe even rebranding my podcast

Oh, I’ll definitely be adding to this. Some may be ridiculously impossible to do, but I figure if I’m gonna live, I’m gonna live.

I’m gonna keep my bucket list in a Google Document. I think a cool idea would be letting people join my bucket list goals. I’ll figure that out later.My fiance and I are also applying for a K1 visa so we can get married. I’m submitting my portion of this in January. This is a huge part of our dream so a lot of this may not happen until we get approved.

In the meantime, I’m focused on trying to save as much money as possible. To be more specific, I’m trying to have $15K saved by July. We have to wait on that marriage anyway, so I may as well try to be productive.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to share different things we have to do in preparation, how we’re deciding where to go, budgeting, working remotely, etc. I feel like dreams can be achieved if you’re lucky enough to have the right circumstances and a little bit of drive. Maybe I have that now. Maybe I don’t. I’m damn well going to try.

Time to chase a dream.

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

I spent a lot of days hiding out and carb-loading ever since my girlfriend’s visa expired. It’s been a week now so I figured it’s time to emerge from my one-man pity party and start working toward my and my fiance’s dream. I’ll talk a little bit about that dream next, but the weekly tracking of making this happen will be in a series I’m starting called The Dream Chaser Project (every Wednesday at 11am).

So without further ado…

The Mission: Save $15K by July
Problems: School loans, various bills
Temporary Problems: Current rent,

There have been times in my life when I started something without a goal in mind. For example, I could just say I want to start saving money, but I’m not actually working toward anything. Here, I’ve set a goal, albeit a challenging one given I’m currently only working part-time

Whatever. I’m up for the challenge.

First things first, I’m moving in with family starting in February. That means I won’t have to worry about regular rent after January. Outside of that, my biggest expense is my school loans. So let’s break this down a bit. If I were to start on my goal in February, this is where I stand:

Goal: $15000
Loans and Other Bills (Per Month): $1500
Other Monthly Expenses: $150

Alright, so let’s figure out how much I need to earn per day and month:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150 (Let’s just round that up to $4200)
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

I can totally do this with a regular full-time job, but I’m only going that route if I have to. Otherwise, I’m shooting for this with part-time, freelance, or remote work. Additionally, my fiance and I want to either travel while working or simply live outside of the US for a while. Because of this, I can also sell a bunch of belongings because, you know, stuff just weighs people down. I’m trying to keep it lightweight.

Lastly, there are two general rules I’m going to follow (more will be added as I follow this):

  1. I will not adjust my daily/monthly goals regardless if I exceed them or if I come up short. I need this data so I can adjust how I move forward in the future.
  2. ALL spending will be tracked. My other monthly expenses are just an estimate. I have no clue what they will be once I move home. I know that I’ll be going out much less only because my focus is to save.

So this is just the beginning. I’ll be giving more details as to my plan and different suggestions from various sources. I know this is “Lessons from a New Self-Earner,” so here’s the lesson I learned:

I’ve made it through life never planning anything when it comes to money. Some may see that as bad to admit, but it is what it is. I’m not here for anyone’s approval. Now, however, I know the life I want. Saving this money is a priority, but to be honest, this is a study on how I can earn money remotely with as little stress as possible. I have no idea if I’ll be able to do this without some sacrifices, but I’m more than down to try.

Let the games begin.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

marsellus wallace

Man oh man, my life is in a big transitional phase, folks. My girlfriend and I did a lot of talking last week and we decided a couple things:

  1. We’re applying for a fiance visa so we can get married next year.
  2. We’re moving the eff out of the US as soon as possible.

Not that I dislike America, but if we can have a life more suitable for us in another country, why not?

The thing with a fiance visa is it can take five to eight months for approval.

Ugh.

Then my girlfriend (and parents) made an excellent point. If our ultimate plan is to move elsewhere and start a life together, why are we going to spend money on separate apartments while we wait up to eight months (if all goes well) for a piece of paper that says we can get married. Wouldn’t it be smarter to save money in the meantime? I’m taking the opportunity to do just that.

In February, I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do in a million years (or however long I’ll be alive): I’m moving back in with my parents.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As I’ve said before, being a self-earner can be rough. It also didn’t help that I slacked off SIGNIFICANTLY over the last three months while my girlfriend has been here (not that I minded at all). But now it’s time to refocus.

My goal in making money is NOT to be rich. I don’t give a damn about wealth. I care more about living a worry-free life. That’s wealth to me. Is it possible? Yo no se (or ‘I don’t know’ for los Americanos out there). Here’s the thing: for the last three months, I discovered what I want the rest of my life to be. I’m not trying to kill myself and waste life by giving my time to other people/things. I know what my priorities are and they don’t involve fancy cars and designer shoes.

So I’m moving back home and I’ll be moving out as soon as my girl gets her visa. In the meantime, you better believe I’ll be saving money like a madman and using our time apart to earn as much money as possible.

I know this isn’t really a tip or suggestion, but still, it’s a lesson I had to learn. I had to learn to be alright with accepting help from my family to attain a more significant goal. I have a lot of pride and I am more than willing to struggle in order to achieve something on my own merits. That’s stupid and inefficient. My school loans are expensive as hell and paying rent and utilities doesn’t help matters. Sure, I can do it, but it doesn’t get me to my goal any more quickly. It just makes the journey unnecessarily harder.

So let’s be zen about this and take the path of least resistance. My pride is nowhere near as important as my future with my girlfriend/fiance. I don’t know if you can take anything from this post, but if you do, just know that you aren’t the only one who has that pride. Let it go. And once you get that help from someone, do your damnedest to make the most out of the opportunity.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

When I first started writing part one of this post, I really had freelance writing in mind. Very limited, right? Especially when writing isn’t where the money is. Not in comparison to other types of freelance gigs anyway. If you’re like me, you probably go for freelance writing gigs because they’re either what you love or what you do best. Maybe both. But it never hurts to have options.

According to Business Insider, these are the top ten highest paying freelance jobs on Elance and oDesk (by hourly rate):

  1. Patent Law ($112.20)
  2. Voice Acting ($72.70)
  3. Ruby Programming ($61.00)
  4. Startup Consulting ($54.00)
  5. Google Website Optimizer ($53.80)
  6. Investment Research ($53.20)
  7. Network Administration ($51.10)
  8. Statistical Analysis ($49.60)
  9. Amazon Web Services ($49.40)
  10. Legal Writing ($49.20)

Glad to see some form of writing made it into the top ten. Some other interesting ones are Database Development ($47.60), User Experience Design ($43.68), and Mobile App Testing ($32.90). I’m personally shooting for some mobile app testing and Ruby programming gigs, though I have to learn more for the latter.

So where do the writers out there stand? Craigslist, Elance, and the glut of content farm organizations would have you believe writing doesn’t pay squat. That’s true for those who are unwilling to dig deeper. That’s what we’ll explore next week. For now, explore other options! I believe everyone should follow their passion if at all possible, but if your goal is to make money, you have multiple paths as a freelancer. For example, my girlfriend’s visa expires in two weeks. I haven’t been on top of my game in terms of generating income while she’s been here so you better believe I’ll be busting my hump to earn as much as I can while I eagerly await her return.

Wish me luck.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 1)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 1)

elance-odesk

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I hope you all enjoyed the time off. I certainly did. Let’s get down to business, shall we?

So if you haven’t already guessed with all the self-earning posts I write, I make a portion of my income from freelance work. There have been times when I’ve told people to give freelancing a shot, especially when they already have a full-time job. It’s more so they can dip their toe in the pool instead of fully diving into these treacherous waters.

Because let’s be real, freelancing, like pimpin’, ain’t easy.

The biggest problem with online freelancing is the level of competition out there. You essentially have 7 billion people who may be looking at the same gig as you. Chances are it’s not that many, but you know what I mean. Because of this, potential employers/clients have the ability to hire those with exceedingly low rates. As an American, that sucks for me. And possibly you depending on what country you’re from.

Here’s the good news: people still pay for quality, something that exists less with cheaper payment. You simply need to get over the hump of building that freelancer resume. For example, I come from an eDiscovery background, but I’m doing mostly freelance writing. When I started, I was relegated to dirt cheap gigs that pretty much weren’t worth the amount of effort I was putting in. Still, I stuck with it and have slowly fleshed out my writing resume in order to open myself up to higher paying opportunities.

Sites like Elance and oDesk are great for beginners, but just know that many folks on there are shooting for rock bottom prices. You have to sift through the noise to get some good gigs, but your best bet is to go with a dual-pronged approach: promote yourself as you hunt for gigs. Let the internet know who you are as a freelancers. Have a personal website. Use social media. Join online communities. Do what you must to raise your stock so you don’t fall prey to the surplus of bottom-feeders out there.

There is a ton to write about freelancing and I plan to do so. Tune in next week; I’ll go into more specifics and a breakdown of the highest and lowest paying types of gigs.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Multiple Revenue Streams

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Multiple Revenue Streams

money tree

During the 33 years of my life, I’ve started more ideas than I can even remember. My first business venture started when I was ten years old. My buddy Ahijah and I began drawing our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics and sold them for a quarter.

Copyright infringement FTW.

Since then, I’ve had more ideas die and go nowhere than I’ve had successes. Many more. Over time, I began realizing what leads to a big part of failure: not embracing pre-existing strengths.

There was a point in my life when I was building websites as a part of a business my buddies and I started up. We got a couple clients, but I was way in over my head because I was learning as we went along. Eventually, I couldn’t fulfill requests and, unsurprisingly, the business died. This trend repeated itself numerous times until I finally broke out of it recently. Why was I trying to learn how to do things myself instead of partnering with people who could compensate for my weaker areas? Why was I even pursuing ideas that didn’t take advantage of my talents?

Every self-earner should be keenly aware of their skills and how to apply them to a money making idea. Sure, enjoyment should go into it as well, but skill is essential. Otherwise, you could easily lose momentum because you’ll eventually reach some hurdle that, for one reason or another, feels too daunting to overcome.

Embrace your strengths and exploit your skill set. If you want the challenge of learning and creating something new, good on you. I’ll worry about that later when I’m more established. For now, I’m just going to continue doing what I do best.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Embracing Your Strengths

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Embracing Your Strengths

Photo Credit: Amir Jina

Photo Credit: Amir Jina

During the 33 years of my life, I’ve started more ideas than I can even remember. My first business venture started when I was ten years old. My buddy Ahijah and I began drawing our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics and sold them for a quarter.

Copyright infringement FTW.

Since then, I’ve had more ideas die and go nowhere than I’ve had successes. Many more. Over time, I began realizing what leads to a big part of failure: not embracing pre-existing strengths.

There was a point in my life when I was building websites as a part of a business my buddies and I started up. We got a couple clients, but I was way in over my head because I was learning as we went along. Eventually, I couldn’t fulfill requests and, unsurprisingly, the business died. This trend repeated itself numerous times until I finally broke out of it recently. Why was I trying to learn how to do things myself instead of partnering with people who could compensate for my weaker areas? Why was I even pursuing ideas that didn’t take advantage of my talents?

Every self-earner should be keenly aware of their skills and how to apply them to a money making idea. Sure, enjoyment should go into it as well, but skill is essential. Otherwise, you could easily lose momentum because you’ll eventually reach some hurdle that, for one reason or another, feels too daunting to overcome.

Embrace your strengths and exploit your skill set. If you want the challenge of learning and creating something new, good on you. I’ll worry about that later when I’m more established. For now, I’m just going to continue doing what I do best.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Good morning, potential self-earners! Let’s talk motivation, shall we?

I already spoke about the power of persistence, but that was more in reference to maintaining momentum when you already have something going. But how about folks that have yet to start on their journey? Is this right for you? If so, what’s your motivation?

Here’s the thing with being a self-earner: the road is tough. Trust me on this one. It’s not all pots of gold and sunshine as some would have you believe. It takes hard work and dedication, especially in the beginning. Therefore, there is only one rule in determining whether or not this life is right for you.

If there are other things in your life that are more important and require as much or more time than being a self-earner, don’t bother.

I’m being serious here.

I mean, you can do it, but it will be that much harder to actually make any progress. Passion has to be your motivation. Without that, this becomes a less secure version of a job. Do you really want that? If this is your passion, there’s a much greater chance of success, enjoyment, and peace of mind.

Sounds awesome, right?

Don’t buy into the hype where people try to sell you on the dream of making millions by just quitting your job and following their secret tips. Sure, some are legit, but many of them are just self-earners on their own hustle. As for you, my best advice is for you to weigh your options and if things feel right, just dive into the pool. Throw caution to the wind and chase that dream like you never have before.

Would you be okay being a half-assed parent? Probably and hopefully not. You’d do the best job possible, even if you make mistakes along the way. This is no different.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Art of Letting Go