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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Get A [Real] Job... Or Change The World?

People often ask me the familiar question, "What do you do?"  They see me at home a lot, often in pajamas (hey, I dress for comfort), seemingly care-free.  I work from home, that's the simple answer, but a real look at what I do, why I do it, and how I do it, well, that can be quite a loaded question to tackle.  The reality is that I am working from home and enjoying it, but I have not quite found the level of success I desire for me and my family - but I am getting there!

Sadly, when you do anything unusual, there are those that will scoff, if not ridicule.
"Get a real job!"
Now, I could let the New Yorker in me come out and respond, "Screw you, buddy!"  That sort of behavior, however, is unproductive.

 What I do *is* a real job.  I pay the bills, my family does not ever go without, and we have more time to share together.  Of course, it's not easy and there are days when I contemplate taking an offer for a traditional job, where I can easily go into autopilot but never have the free time to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

In this diatribe of sorts, I would like to share my logic behind working from home and doing business online/virtually.  I hope I can provide some inspiration for those experiencing my very same struggles!

How you define a real job and success can lead to contentment or dismay.

Pets, Passions, And Purpose

When you are self-employed, you have no choice but to become a self-starter and be self-accountable, unless you have a partner to keep you engaged or perhaps you deal with demanding clients 24/7.  Unlike a traditional salaried job, you get what you put in but, better yet, the returns can be exponentialThere are pitfalls to look out for and, as the theme of this blog would have it, averting these pitfalls has to do with balancing!

In your endeavors, you will have pet projects, passions, and purposes often at odds with each other.  Often, we seek self-employment to do the things we love most and pursue our passions but that is not always profitable.  This is when you have to remember your ultimate purpose and not lose sight of it.
What drives you?
Almost everyone will say "financial freedom" is what drives them but what is that really?  Do you want to have more time to play with your kids before they grow up and go out on their own?  Do you want to be able to afford to go to concerts and special events with your betrothed before you start your family?  Do you just want to not have to worry about bills anymore?

The more tangible and specific your purpose, the more driven you will be.   This is the elusive WHY entrepreneurial gurus and network marketing professionals always mention.  Remember that sacrificing something now will help you enjoy it [more] later.

Once you sharpen your focus on what really matters, balancing your daily activities becomes a little easier.  You will get distracted and pursue the wrong ventures, we all have done that and may continue to do so, but don't give up!  A powerful WHY will allow you to conquer any challenges and prioritize tasks better.

J.O.B. - Just Over Broke

I never want to go back to the 9-to-5 grind.  The corporate rat race just isn't for me.  I've had jobs where I made good money, six-figure income even, but it was always the same: I was a slave to my job and eventually burned out.

What good is money if you can't really enjoy it and have a life outside of the job?
For most, having a J-O-B means you are Just Over Broke.  Between transportation, taxes, daycare, and the countless splurges you will do to feel a little better about having a job you hate deep down inside, you aren't left with very much.  If you want to make more, you have to trade in more time and it's always a 1:1 ratio - if only we had 32-40 hour days to work with (and more sleep)!

Traditional jobs are designed to make company bosses and owners wealthy, not you.  What's worse is that just about any employee is expendable.  There's no security in corporate America, folks, yet we continue to chase after a dream job that doesn't exist.

Don't get me wrong: I know a few people that love their job but they are struggling financially, under-challenged, or just a few pay checks away from being unemployed.  The job market is a vicious cycle and so many people are wasting their talents on a grind that will not get them anywhere, truth be told.

If you're not just over broke, chances are your job(s) have you feeling broken.  I know when I talk to friends and family, they talk about their job as if it is just something they do to pay the bills, nothing more, nothing less.  There's no magic, no learning, no growth..  Nada.

Oh boy, let's not forget what a royal pain in the arse the job search process is.  It's so demeaning because, sadly, the jobs often go to those that put lips-to-bottom, not the skilled or deserving folks.  Again, not knocking anyone that decides to stick to the rat race but, certainly, if you are reading this, chances are you have come to the same conclusions.

"OMG..  I haven't even gotten to the interview chapters yet!"

Beach Money 

My long-time friend, Andy Fewtrell, and I came up with the concept of beach money.  We promised each other that, if our ventures fail, we have to get together and do something big together.  The idea is that we would build up a new system for earning true residual income so we could hang out on the beach and still make money.

Content marketing and subscription-based services still seem to be the sectors with the greatest residual income potential.  In both business models, you have a steady stream of traffic, a captive audience, if you will, which creates opportunities for premium services, ad sales, affiliate links, paid reviews, and other revenue pathsMany of these venues are very familiar to long-time bloggers and online professionals because they still work.

Unfortunately, many of the old ways of creating residual income quickly dried out.  I still see great potential in certain MLM ventures and affiliate marketing works if you really stay at it..  But that beach money won't come easy, folks!

The most realistic, immediate goal we should set our sights upon is simply replacing our job income and becoming more self-sufficient.  I know I don't want to depend on any one person or group to ensure that my family is provided for and my bills are paid.  I like to diversify so that there is always something on the horizon.  You should too - but don't bite off more than you can chew.

Bumps Along The Way

I can't reiterate enough that working from home or just working for yourself period is not easy..  But it is much more fulfilling.  For me, the biggest bumps have always come when I trusted in one person or relied in one income source too much.  That is exactly what happened with Social Prize.

Now, I have no regrets, but the worst thing you can do for yourself is not have a backup plan.  The beauty of working for yourself is that you set your own hours.  If you want to take a vacation, you can, if you want to take on new projects, you can.  Nothing really stops you but yourself.. and your time management skills.

Of course, the dream of being your own boss is not 100% realistic, at least not initially.  You will always have a boss until you are the one funding projects and hiring a full-time team/staff.  As such, always be careful when you find that one particular project or gig is taking up most of your time because that means the rest of your efforts are probably suffering.

I know that many of my fellows are authors/bloggers.  Their content is what helps them get noticed.  From there, they either sell products or services.  Ideally, we solopreneurs like to serve a few clients at a time so that income is steady and we are not spread thin.

You always want everyone to be happy but there will always be partners and customers that will remain unsatisfied no matter how much you give them.  This is one of the benefits of working for yourself: you can fire them before they can fire you!  As much as I love to find ways to say "yes", it's also quite empowering to be able to say "no" when negative nellies come along.

Whatever ways you come up with to make money from home, don't over-do it but also make sure you try to focus on things you truly control.  For example, if you are doing an affiliate program that only works on Facebook, that may not be something you want to focus on as much because Facebook can change their policies and kill your business.  The more you own and control, the better, but don't be afraid to try different things, either!

Back to Social Prize (since I did bring it up), the biggest issue for me was that I found I was spending way too much time on SP and letting my other business suffer.  My partners wanted more and more from me; meanwhile, they were not taking on operational roles.  It was just too much work for too little reward.

There was great potential with Social Prize but, in the end, I chose my family and my sanity over million-dollar potential.  One of my partners in particular, the money man, became quite demanding and abrasive.  As Seth Godin describes in "The Dip", knowing when to quit is often the greatest skill one could develop!he greatest skill one can develop - not every project is meant to be completed!

Innovating, Not Just Iterating

If you look around enough, you are sure to find lots of jobs and business opportunities providing "income generating systems" that are "easy to use and proven ".  There are a few worth looking at and we will be sharing them over at Money Slave No More but be wary of exagerrated claims.  What the gurus and hard-sellers do not tell you is that just following the system alone will not make you the big bucks.

Systems are meant to instill disciplines and create habits that we may not otherwise possess.  Money-making systems may very well work but the true wealth and residual income only happens when you add your own personal touch.  After all, if everyone is doing the same exact thing, the marketplace is sure to get saturated and potential buyers will start to tune you out.

I say innovate, don't just iterate!  What this means is that you take the parts of the system that truly work and then build upon them.  Avoid scripts, generic/salesy talk, or robotic habits.  Be authentic, be exciting, and, most of all, be yourself.

While I am a firm believer in personal development, I do not agree that we should change completely.  There are people out there looking for someone to team up with or do business with, someone with personality traits, backgrounds, and interests just like yours.  Why completely throw away everything that you are?  That's just madness!
You are AWESOME!

The Hope Economy

When I launched The Practical Life, I had hoped to attract other bloggers, work-from-home professionals, online marketers, startup founders, and thought leaders.  I wanted this to become a soundboard for all the things that did not really fit into other sites we contribute to.  My colleagues are busy with their own pursuits and I can appreciate that..  but I still have hopes that we can all make some small ripples together that will make a great impact.

If you look around at most businesses, especially large corporations, they are built on despair, fear, and/or luxury.  They are driven by the status quo, the need for good appearances, hiding our warts, faking it 'til we make it, and the like.  We are conditioned to have a great aversion to failure and we hide any mistakes we make, yet that is what makes us real and helps others truly identify and connect with us.

The littlest details support this, too.  Look at collections.  Most businesses make obtaining support darn near impossible or at least very inconvenient but, when you want to pay your bill, it's easy to get through to a human person or find a system that allows you to square away your account.  Bill collectors are often the nastiest people and they will threaten your life if they can get away with it.  The focus is clearly on money and fear of losing/failure, not helping people and enriching lives.

Ultimately, I believe we will see a shift towards a hope economy.  As new businesses are established, competition forces established businesses to be more mindful of their practices.  This is why I believe in what YOU are doing.

Everyone that launches their own business plays a part in creating a new world where hope trumps fear, nastiness, and ugliness.  Imagine a business world where customer service is truly a focus.  A place where customers are empowered and valued.

A "real" job does not often afford us an opportunity to have such an impact.  A "real" job is often just a trap.  If you want to be financially free, you have to take risks and stick with it.  Team up with others doing the same and be sure to uplift each other frequently.

Financial freedom can and will be yours!