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The Biggest Disadvantage of Being Self Employed

Even though I grew up with two self-employed parents, I didn’t even really get it until I started working for myself. It’s something that you don’t really think about if you work for someone else, but it’s a daily thought if you’re your own boss. What do you think it is? Discipline, hard work, no boss to keep you on track? Nope, it’s…

Finding work.

That’s the killer. Getting enough hours is the bane of most self-employed people’s existence. My friend Sergej who does freelance translation says that he spends 70% of his time translating, and 30% of his time finding new clients. My father, who runs the business Timberbuilt, spends large sums of money to get new clients every year. And he always says to me; “We can handle more work, first we just need to get it.

Employed vs. Self-Employed

In my own experience, getting enough hours to make the kind of money I want has been the hardest part of working for myself. For example, my hourly wage is a respectable $25 to $30 at the moment. That’s great and I’m happy with it, but if I only get 10 hours a week it doesn’t matter how good it is, the guy making $10 an hour, working forty hours a week, is still doing better than me.

When you have a normal job with a boss and a water cooler and coworkers you don’t like, you take it as granted that you’ll always have work. In fact you probably wish you had a less steady supply of the stuff. While I don’t think it’s fair to look at your workload as a blessing, it is something that you might want to appreciate to some degree. You can do your work without having to worry about whether you’re even going to have any hours at all next week.

Is it Worth it?

Of course, there are many self-employed people who never worry about getting hours. They regularly turn down jobs. However, I believe this is something that typically comes once you’ve been in the game a while and the quality of your work is high. If you’re in the beginning stages it’s more difficult. Getting work is a big part of the grind, and the constant search can grow tedious.

So if you’re thinking about working for yourself, or starting your own business, be aware in advance that a large part of your time is going to be spent finding new clients. It’s easier for some people than others, but everyone has to anticipate this arrangement to some degree. Despite this, I think the advantages heavily outweigh the drawbacks, and I encourage everyone to take steps to start their own online business today! You can read my post: How to Make Money Online, or check out all the other resources available on the internet today.

How to Make Money Online

I’m going to base this entire section on the assumption that you’ve never worked online before. A few months ago I was the same way. That all changed when I read this article. Chase gave me the idea to start working online, and I haven’t looked back since. The difference between Chase’s article and mine is that he focuses on getting a job as a copywriter, while I’ll be narrowing my focus to look exclusively how to start earning money on Upwork. Let’s get started.

1. Sign Up for Upwork

Go to www.Upwork.com and create a profile. When you create your profile you need to take it seriously. A real live human being will actually screen your application and if your profile is incomplete, they won’t let you sign up until you fix the problems. To get it right the first time follow this advice.

*Upload a professional looking picture of yourself.

*List any experience you have writing or doing other online work.

*List real world experience you have in any industries.

*List what skills you specialize in (or would like to specialize in). Some examples include: SEO content, copywriting, translation, creative writing, web design, content marketing, social media expert, graphic design, and so on.

*Look at the picture below, which will give you an idea about how to create a professional, to the point profile.

2. Begin the Application Process

Now that you have a profile it’s time to start applying for jobs. A good place to start is by simply typing in “creative writer” or “content writer” into the search bar. You’re going to find hundreds of jobs, of which you should apply to dozens. Play up any experience you have. If you got an A on a paper in high school for writing about a local event, say you have experience in journalism. If you wrote about about a your grandma who survived WWII, say your talented at crafting personal profiles. If you’ve never written anything in your life, say you’re enthusiastic about learning.

Spend anywhere from five to fifteen minutes on every application. The key here is volume. Every month you can apply to 30 jobs, and you want to apply to all 30 of them. Out of those jobs you’ll probably here back from three or four. Take this seriously, no matter what the wage is. Remember, you’re in this for the long run. In the beginning it’s way more important to get a positive review from a client then to earn a decent wage. For example, which one should you choose?

A – Work your first hundred hours on Upwork and receive an incredible $5,000 for your effort!

B – Work your first hundred hours on Upwork and receive$0 for your effort, but get amazing feedback from three clients.

If you picked B you’re correct. Feedback is going to make or break you. That’s why even if you’re earning $4 an hour you have to act like you’re earning $30 an hour. For me, even with extensive writing experience, I didn’t start earning more than $5 an hour till well after I had put in 50 hours. However, I got amazing feedback, and now I’m up to $10 an hour. That’s no coincidence.

3. Work Every Single Day

The more you write, the quicker you’ll gain experience, the sooner you’ll be able to start earning a decent living wage. If you fuck around and write two hours today, then two hours next Saturday, then a few hours in a month, you will get NOWHERE.

Since my first day on Upwork I’ve had a very simple rule: four hours a day no matter what. I’ve stuck to that rule like a nerd sticks to his girlfriend. The result is that not only have I doubled my hourly rate in two months, I’ve also gained a huge amount of experience in a short amount of time.

On Upwork, the more experience you have the more likely you are to get hired. For example, I’ve now written about the following topics: solar panels, renewable energy, water filters, web design, cloud faxing, healthy eating, losing weight, working out, dealing with peer pressure, Russian women, drinking water, and windows. That means that when I go look for a new job, I already have a huge bank of things I’ve already written about which means that I can ask for more money $$.

4. Apply for Higher Paying Jobs

After you have more experience, and some positive feedback, you can start applying for better jobs that actually pay you a decent wage. Once you reach this point, you want to change your application strategy a bit. Stop sending out applications in bulk, and start focusing on making several applications amazing.

I regularly spend in upwards of twenty to thirty minutes on a single application. Even though I get a response from only one person in five, it’s still worth it. Getting a high paying job is a really good feeling. But you’ll only get it if your application is one point. By the time you reach this point you’ll hardly need my advice. You’ll have enough experience to function on your own, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your income goals.

Bonus Tips

1. Write down your income goals. Not only that, but set dates to reach them by. That will really light a fire under your ass to get on the computer and get hustling. My personal goal is to be making $2,000 a month by my birthday in May, 2016. Also, read the book Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill.

2. Always update your profile to reflect new experience. As you learn new skills, be sure to make that obvious.

3. Go above and beyond for your first few clients. It doesn’t matter how much you’re getting paid, you have to have that positive feedback.

4. Consider creating a website in order to showcase your portfolio. You can check out my website here. I have a full portfolio of what I’ve written and I’m always updating it. I literally only get a few views a week, but it doesn’t matter. Those few views are from high paying clients which makes it all worth it in the end.

5. Move to a cheap country where your dollar goes far. When I was earning $600 a month I was living in Ukraine. Do you know what you can do with $600 a month? Live like a fucking king! Do you know what you can do with $600 a month in New York City? Beg for change during the afternoons. You’re starting to write online so you can travel right? Well you might as well travel to a country where the dollar goes a long ways.

How I lived for One Month on $376.16

As the title of this post suggest, my first month of my $2,500 challenge was successful. In fact I came in under budget! I’m allowed $416.67 a month, which means I was about $40 light. Damn, that’s awesome!

It really wasn’t that hard though. I put myself in a situation where it would have been difficult to fail.

The Rural Life

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts you know that I spent two weeks on a commune in Ukraine. I don’t even know if commune is the right word for it, but it’s the closest word that I think of.

Everyday I worked about five hours, carrying water and working in the garden. In exchange I slept for free, and enjoyed three delicious traditional Ukrainian meals a day (probably my favorite part of being there).

The closest store was a fifteen minute bike ride away.

I estimate that in the fifteen days I was there I spent about $7. I bought some ice cream cones, some cookies for the kids, some Tarhun, and a couple of muffins. Obviously that complete lack of expenditure is a big reason why I came in under budget (not to mention not buying alcohol).

The Kiev Party

It’s a good thing I didn’t spend any money for those two weeks, because I overspent the rest of the time.

When I first arrived in Kiev it was the beginning of my vacation, after working eight months as an English teacher. I was so thrilled to be done teaching that I went a little nuts. Lots of restaurants, lot’s of bars and lots of overpriced morning coffees at the local cafe.

I also paid a decent chunk of change to help fund an awesome adventure.

A local Ukrainian guy me and my friend Zhena knew took use to a movie theater, where we rented out an entire room to ourselves. We drank wine and made fun of Mel Gibson, it was a riot!

However, as the average monthly salary for a Ukrainian is about as much as I paid for my hiker’s backpack, I picked up Max’s share of our movie theater adventure, and wrote it off as a brilliantly fun night.

The Budget Continues

I’m working with this challenge month by month, and July is taken care of. I’m volunteering at a hostel near the city center of Kiev. In exchange for a couple of hours a work a day I have a free place to stay. That means my only expenses are food and alcohol.

With $13.87 a day to spend, this is easily doable. I’m sure that there are million of Ukrainian out there who do it on half this amount.

You can go to any bar around here and buy a beer for $1. Food is also inexpensive. Yesterday I went slightly over budget, spending $15.23. However, for that money, let’s take a look at what I got.

A bottle of Wine from Chile, a block of Swiss cheese, a package of pre-sliced salami, two-hundred grams of vegetable salad with feta, two slices of cake, a bottle of Kefir, five small cucumbers, a bar of chocolate, eight sausages, and two cans of summer edition RedBull.

Pretty awesome huh!

If you’re converting Dollars or Euros to the local currency (Grivna) you benefit from a wonderful exchange rate. A couple of years ago you could only buy half as many Grivna as you can today. Add to that that most things here are cheap to begin with and you get a winning formula.

It’s not wonder that I’m going to come back to Kiev next summer and rent an apartment.

Why Aren’t You Here?

All of this begs the question, if there is a place you can buy a back pack full of food for $15, and a beer at a downtown bar for $1, why wouldn’t you come?

The war in Ukraine is invisible here. I feel safer in Kiev than I did in New York. The people are fantastic, and nearly without exception, every person I’ve met has said how much they love Kiev.

What are you waiting for?

My $2,500 Travel Manifesto

Born out of the idea that it’s possible to live on a very tight budget, I have created a simple challenge for myself. Live for 6 months, in Europe, on $2,500. Or, if you break that down further – $416.67 a month.

I’ve been doing the research, and I know that I can make it happen. It won’t be easy, but anything in life worth having is worth working for.

Instead of sounding abstract, allow me to break down into further detail how I’m preparing myself for this journey, what the rules and guidelines are, and how I’m funding myself.

Part 1) The Saving

There is a skill that I am eternally glad my parents taught me. Money management.

From my mother I learned about credit, paying bills on time, and how to effectively use money. You know the saying, actions speak louder than words? Well that’s the behavior my mother modeled for me. From the time I could speak, till the time I left for college, I watched my mom effectively handle money, and keep an outstanding level of credit, on less than an ideal income.

From my father I learned the power of saving money. My dad lived frugally, and he often talked about it. But the difference between frugal and cheap, is that he was saving to spend later. He lived frugally in order that we could take marvelous vacations and splurge on awesome holidays. Growing up, I came to understand that if you save money, and live below your means, you can buy experiences later on.

Combined, these two skills have allowed me to save 50% of my paycheck since arriving in Russia. This is the origin of the funding for my current journey. This seed money is what’s allowing me to embark on such an adventurous undertaking.

What’s Going to Make this Trip Financially Possible

At this point, I’ll do what poker players don’t do, and I’ll reveal my ace in the hole. I’ll share with you the powerful tool that is going to allow me to pull this trip off on such a small budget.

WorkAway.info

If you haven’t heard about WorkaWay, which I hadn’t till about a month ago, allow me to fill you in. It’s a website with numerous hosts spread across the world. In exchange for a few hours of work every day, a host provides you with shelter, and possibly food.

These hosts are spread across Europe, in every country I could hope to visit. Furthermore, WorkaWay makes the previously limiting expense of a country work for you. I can afford to live in Ukraine or Thailand for next to nothing. Sweden? Fuh-get-aboutit.

WorkaWay takes the prohibitively expensive aspect of a country and reverses it. Since there are more well-off people in first world countries like Sweden or Germany, there are more people who have extra space to let out to a traveler. If a person is well off financially, they will be happy to lend a room and some food, in exchange for some difficult chores. Planting trees, gardening, painting, boat building, language practice, and what have you.

These are the types of jobs I expect to do in the coming months. None of them serious (the maximum limit is five hours a day, five days a week), none of them paid. Food and shelter, that’s all I expect.

My First WorkAway Experience

That’s how I expect to live on $2,500 for six months. I’m going to stay with different hosts in different countries, never spending a dime for shelter. I’ve already arranged my first trip.

I’m going to a commune in Ukraine to plant trees (oh heavens, my life is so awesome!). After that, I’m going to live with a woman in Kiev. In return for English lessons, the only money I’ll be expected to pay is for my electricity bill.

I won’t get into my plans further at the moment (mostly because they don’t exist!) but I will make one final note. WorkaWay has a nautical equivalent.

FindaCrew.net

When Eastern Europe starts to cool down, I may pursue a nautical life. I dream of crossing the Atlantic, or at least sailing down to New Zealand or Australia. The trip isn’t that important, so much as my desire to learn to sail.

That wraps up this section. Next, I want to clarify exactly what my budget will consist of.

Part 2) An Exact Definition of Spending

I want to be very clear about where I will draw the line in my expenditures. I will start living off of my $2,500 on June 1st, 2015. And I will continue to do so until December 1st, 2015.

However, let’s look at my preparations. Before I enter into my frugal living stage, I’m going to make several purchases.

Exception 1

-A $350 Nikon D3500 Camera, for superior recording
-A $250 Osprey hiker’s backpack, for superior comfort
-A $100 SSD Hard Drive for my laptop, for superior durability
-A $100 down payment on Russian lessons with my amazing Skype tutor Irina
-A $32 dollar plane ticket to Stockholm, from Warsaw, for the fulfillment of my long term dream of visiting Sweden

As you can see, that amounts to $832. Which I think is fair, because if someone from America wanted to replicate my journey, that’s less than they would spend for a round-trip plane ticket to Europe.

Exception 2

From August 12th to August 26th, I will be traveling with my sister. We will meet in Berlin, after nearly a year of being apart. By the time we have finished our travels, we will have taken in Dresden, Berlin, Prague, and Krakow.

This will be the second exception to my journey. During this trip I will be living a lifestyle that is necessarily different than the ultra-frugal one demanded by my budget.

I won’t be splurging, but I expect to spend twice as much a day while on this trip than I would otherwise. I have thus made this an exception period, because I would not otherwise be spending that money. Perhaps time will show that I can pay for this trip, while sticking to my original budget, but I won’t hold myself accountable if I go over.

I will keep meticulous records of this two week trip, and I will factor in additional expenses, writing them off as the result of spending some time with my super fabulous, super amazing sister.

Summary

That’s it. Those are my two exceptions. I have several pre-purchases that I will make in order to prepare for my long journey ahead. And I have a two week grace period, while traveling with my sister, that will be excluded from my normal expense column.

Wrapping up this section, I want to take a moment to lay out the reasons I think I will succeed.

1) My proven ability to live according to a strict budget. I am excellent at saving money and not making impulsive purchases.

2) My ability to think outside the box. Where other people see a wall, I see an opportunity. With utmost conviction, I believe that what I am about to do is possible.

3) The support of my family. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been born into an adventurous family. Both of my parents have traveled extensively and they can empathize my desire to do the same. I appreciate that they understand what I’m doing, and have my back.

The End Product

I’m going to post regular updates on my blog. Everything from stories, to how the budget is working out, to what I’m finding difficult. As long as I have internet, I’ll surely make at least one post a week about this awesome journey.

And finally, provided that I complete this adventure, on budget and alive, I will write a book about the whole trip. It will detail my decisions along the way, some of the awesome stories I’m bound to accrue, and of course a practical section detailing how you can follow in my footsteps. Once I’ve proved that you can live for six months on a scanty $2,500, I hope that other people are inspired to start out on their own adventures!

TL;DR – Going to Travel around Europe for the next six months on $2,500.

Cheers from Russia (and tomorrow Ukraine).

Sam