This blog post is part of the Pay Down My Debt (PDMD) blog tour, sponsored by US Equity Advantage. PDMD is a solution that accelerates debt payoff and helps consumers monitor their credit and make smarter purchasing decisions. If you’re looking to pay off debt, find out how they can help. This post contains affiliate links.

In theory, paying off debt should be simple right? Cut expenses, increase earnings and put more toward debt. Though these concepts are relatively simple, putting them into play is much more difficult.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Paying off debt is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Why? Because the process is so emotional.

You have to give up certain beliefs that may have gotten you into debt — or kept you there. You have to change your lifestyle and go against the status quo. It can be a very isolating experience.

Because of that, it’s very easy to let your debt fall to the wayside and get back into old beliefs and bad habits.

Everyone’s in debt.

You only live once!

I can pay off debt later!

What really worked for me was not going through the process alone. If you want to pay off debt, it’s crucial to have accountability systems in place.

Consider starting a blog

When I published my first post on January 3, 2013 I felt alone, scared and overwhelmed. I had tried to pay off debt on my own while barely getting by.

I didn’t know what would happen when I published that first post, but I can confidently say it changed my whole life. Through my blog I created a community of other debt fighters who were going through the same things I was.

I had people I didn’t know cheering me on — rooting for me. They wanted me to succeed. Having that positive external reinforcement really made the difference.

Every month, I published my debt updates and I felt accountable to all my readers. I didn’t want to fail. In many ways, it was what kept me going.

If you don’t want to start a blog, find a friend who is also paying off debt. Set weekly meetings where you talk about your progress and setbacks.

Use Pay Down My Debt to make biweekly payments

One of the best things I did to pay off my debt was make multiple payments toward debt each month. This helped me lower my interest and put more toward debt.

I’m not going to lie — sometimes I made excuses. It’s very easy to lie to yourself when paying off debt. Being consistent is a skill you have to master, but our will and temptation can get in the way of our best intentions.

If you want to stay accountable and make multiple payments toward debt, consider using a service like Pay Down My Debt.

Pay Down My Debt helps users automate their debt by making automatic payments that are deducted from your account biweekly or bimonthly.

According to their website, “Our system makes the equivalent of an extra monthly payment on each loan every year. This also reduces your balance faster, again with less interest going forward. It’s a win-win!”

While the service isn’t free, it is only $9.99 per month for managing up to three loans. But you don’t just get the benefit of accountability and biweekly payments, you also get access to your credit score and credit monitoring. They’ll also send you reminders and payment alerts.

For the price of two lattes you are essentially paying for the accountability to propel your debt forward. No excuses.

Sure you can do this stuff for free, but sometimes you need a little extra help. You can work out on your own, but sometimes you need a trainer to kick you into shape.

Sometimes, putting a little money upfront can go a long way and help you battle your own doubts and demons. Like I said, there were some months I made excuses and only paid once a month. If I had a foolproof, automatic way to make biweekly payments without thinking about it, I could have gotten out of debt earlier.

Create positive habits

In order to pay off debt, you need to change your financial habits. To do that, you need to actually track where things are going.

I created a daily habit of checking my bank account. I signed up for Mint and stuck with it — I enjoyed seeing their weekly spending reports and seeing my net worth (if you read my book, you know that I initially deleted my Mint account because I was seriously in denial!).

I signed up for text and email alerts from my student loan servicer. All of these things kept me accountable and got me out of denial. If you want to pay off debt successfully, it’s crucial that you get out of denial and take action.

It’s tough but putting systems into place can help!

Bottom line

Paying off debt is tough. Doing it alone? Even harder. Don’t leave your debt repayment up to chance and put accountability systems into place so that you can finally get out of debt.

This post is in: blog

The other day I woke up from a bad dream.

In the dream, I was in graduate school (again) pursuing a different degree — this time on a full scholarship (yay).

As it turns out though, there was a fluke and my scholarship didn’t go through, and somehow I had $100,000 in debt.

In my dream, I was so panicked.

“Nooo!” I thought.

“I just paid off nearly $100,000! I have to do this again?”

I felt demoralized, scared, and daunted by the task of having to go through that experience once again.

I woke up looking around, blinking twice to make sure this was my reality. Living debt-free in Los Angeles, living the life I want.

Yes, yes, it was. A wave of relief crashed over me as I tried to forget the pain of being in debt.

It’s been over a year since I paid off my student loan debt, but I was in student loan debt for my whole adult life. I am just now coming to terms with what life without debt looks like. In many ways, it’s very sweet.

I have less guilt, less anxiety, and more freedom. I have more choices or access to them at least.

But in the year or so since becoming debt-free, I haven’t completely shaken the pain of debt. I’m still worried that something will happen and I’ll be back in debt.

Having medical issues this year stirred up that worry. Taking on a project like Lola has me concerned about managing my business finances.

I realize I think about things differently because of my experience with debt. I am cautious.

It’s like I got burned and I’m a little too scared to get close to the fire again. Though I am doing everything in my power to rock the debt-free journey by saving money, investing, and paying off my credit card in full every month, I still have these lingering worries.

Ultimately, I don’t ever want to be in debt again. I don’t ever want to feel like everything I earn belongs to someone else and can be taken away from me.

After paying off close to $100,000 in student loans and interest, I know that paying off debt can be trying on your finances, your health, and your relationships.

Though I have my freedom now, I want to keep it. So I acknowledge these feelings and where they are coming from, and try not to let them rule my life.

As a blogger, I’ve always tried to be honest about the emotions related to debt. It turns out that some of those feelings don’t go away — at least not right away — even when you are debt free.

This post is in: blog, Uncategorized

August 19, 2014

As a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to streamline your workflow and make your time count, especially when you are just getting started. Time is money after all.

In the beginning, I was so slow and everything seemed to take forever. As I got more clients, I started to feel so disorganized at keeping everything in order. There were so many little details I needed to remember.

I’ve (luckily) become more organized and smarter about the way I do business, so that I can spend time creating and not on the ever-pervasive follow-up (which is still necessary as a freelancer). Here are 4 tips for new freelancers to help streamline your work, stay organized, and work efficiently.

1. Set up a Google Alert for your name and your blog

Although I check my Google Analytics as well as my referrers in WordPress, I can’t keep track of everything. In order to stay on top of what is being posted about me or my blog, I created a Google Alert for my full name and my blog name. This is helpful, so you can keep track of what is being posted. Even if you don’t have a blog, this is useful for anyone to monitor their identity on the internet.

To get started, go to the Google Alerts page. Then enter the terms you want to be notified about. Then enter your email address and start getting alerts when those terms show up on a page.

2. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of clients, forms of payment, due dates, etc.

All clients are different and expect something different from you. To stay organized, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my clients, how much they paid, due dates, how they prefer to pay, how they would like me to send an invoice, etc.

Instead of trying to remember how each client prefers something, I’ve just kept track of it in my spreadsheet. Some people are flexible with deadlines, while others have firm dates. Some people prefer to use PayPal, while others write checks. I need to keep track of these details, so I can follow-up and get paid and so that I have all the important details in front of me when I need them.

Click here to download your own client spreadsheet

3. Ask important questions upfront

Goodness, how many emails went back and forth when I just started freelancing? I’d have a million questions and think of them at different times, resulting in a million different emails.

That’s annoying. Your clients are busy and so are you, so don’t waste anyone’s time. Ask important questions upfront. Here are questions I ask when taking on a new writing gig.

– How many articles are you looking for per month? What are the deadlines?

– Do you prefer to receive articles in a Word doc, Google Doc, or via WordPress?

– How many words are you looking for?

– Do you want me to pitch topics to you or just write what I want? Or do you have ideas in mind?

– What is your budget and how do you pay? PayPal or Check?

– How and when would you like me to send an invoice?

These are my standard questions, but there are other questions you should consider as well. Where will your writing end up? Who are you writing to — i.e. who is the audience? Do you need to source an image? Will you get a link to your site or just credit? These are also important things to consider when starting out.

4. Create a separate tax savings account & save 30%

This year was the first time in my life I owed money to Uncle Sam. Fun times. Right after that, I vowed to save 10% of my freelance income. Well, I hate to say it, but I was naive. I need to be saving about 30% to cover my butt from any crazy tax bills. I also need to start looking into paying taxes quarterly. Save yourself the trouble and just save more for taxes. If you don’t need it all, you can use it elsewhere later. It’s a good practice to get into.

These four tips have helped me streamline my work as a freelancer and get to the point when taking on a new client. It also puts my mind at ease, because I am empowered with information so I can do my job well.

I hope some of these tips are helpful for you, too! Feel free to use or modify as you see fit!

This post is in: blog, career, freelance

August 12, 2014

I’m so excited to see my blog lookin’ all sexy and fresh! So fresh and so clean. I haven’t been thrilled about any of the blog designs I’ve had – but if you read my quote about fashion, you would know I can be quite utilitarian. But it was time for a change!

Your website is often the first impression someone has of you. I knew the previous designs didn’t reflect my personality, at all. I want to make sure people feel welcome here, enjoy being here, and understand a little about who I am.

But money, I thought!

I’m trying to pay off debt!

Then, thanks to Debt Busting Chick, I realized that you can buy pre-made themes on Etsy for $20. Say what? After getting lost in the abyss that is Etsy, I found my designer.

Not just a designer. A chef, even. The Master Chef at Graphic Cookies. Mr. Tautvydas Gaudesius is a pretty rad dude (with a pretty rad name). I was going to get a pre-made theme for $20, until I realized a custom design was only $100. I was flabbergasted by the price. How could I say no?

He was so wonderful to work with and so accommodating. I was a real pain in the a$$. I didn’t know what I wanted, hadn’t really thought about color and was extremely picky. He was patient, generous, accommodating, creative and so fun to work with! He has a great eye for things, too.

My new design cost me $100 and took 3 weeks. I couldn’t be happier! He even installed it for me, so I didn’t have to lift a finger to make it happen.

If you’re looking for a new design, I highly recommend him.

Here’s some other things I love and highly recommend:

Carrie from Careful Cents. I think she’s a rockstar babe. Full disclosure, I do work with her and help her out with some editing and writing. But she has been more than a boss to me. She has been an incredible mentor and friend to me and I can’t even express my gratitude. I wouldn’t have pursued this crazy adventure without her support and guidance. I’m so excited that she is offering 30-minute sessions to pick her brain — so you can get started on pursuing all your wildest dreams, too. That’s how it started for me, so be ready. 🙂

I really dug this post by Lauren at The Write Budget. I used to waste so much time doing client work, but using a timer has really set me straight.

Also, Kassandra’s post on how she is saving 50% of her income! You go girl! I can’t wait to follow in your foot steps.

Tell me. Do you judge people by how much money they make?

Lastly, if you enjoy my content, would you consider nominating me for a Plutus award? I’d love to be considered for Best Debt Blog or Best New Blog (i.e. blogs created in 2013 or 2014). You can use this simple link that is already filled out to nominate me (and others!). You do NOT need to be a blogger to vote.

Thanks for reading! I don’t generally do roundup posts anymore, now that I retired Sunday Worship, but I do still want to spread the love. By the way, there are no affiliate links in here, just sharing content I think you’ll find useful. But if you do use any of these resources, let them know I sent you?

What things are you loving lately? How is the start of your week?

This post is in: blog, career, creativity

Melanie, you are crazy.

What have you done?

You are in so much debt.

You don’t have a fully funded emergency fund.

You are the breadwinner in the relationship.

You have no idea what you are doing.

Do you remember how long it took you to find a job?

Are you not grateful for what you have?

What if you are making, yet another, BIG mistake?

Thoughts like this have been swimming in my head for the past few weeks, as I’ve adjusted to my new freelance lifestyle. I quit my job and left quietly and without a peep, sharing details with only a handful of people. Truth be told, I was a little ashamed. I was scared of being judged. I didn’t want to share my thoughts or experiences with you and have the anticipation of leaving colored with positive and negative feedback.

I wanted to make this (very difficult) decision on my own.

Since February, I have been working the equivalent of two full-time jobs or more. I’ve been running myself ragged and I wasn’t giving 100% to anything. Not my job, not my blog, not myself. I felt like I was barely getting by. But deep down I was having fits of depression, anxious meltdowns, and a face full of tears that wouldn’t wash away. I was doing too much, trying to be too much.

I know, I know. It’s all my fault. I let that happen. I bit off more than I could chew. That’s not a reason to quit a job. Not a reason to quit a job you searched two years for. Not a reason to quit a job that you got after beating out 200 other people, after not having any of the technical requirements for the position.

No, that wasn’t it. There was definitely more to it. I started to realize that after a year with the organization, I wasn’t going to grow in a direction I wanted. I wasn’t going to grow much at all, actually. And what’s the opposite of growth?

I also started to compare my freelance income to my low nonprofit salary. The gap was very small. I thought to myself, what if I could free up eight hours a day and work on my own stuff? I was convinced that I could make more money, doing things I love, in the comfort of my own home. Now, I know freelancing is not a stroll in the park. I still have deadlines and still have to hustle for work.

But I’m confident, for one of the first times in my life, that I will be okay. Why? Because I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket. My income is diversified and comes from many different places. As soon as I let a few key people know I was leaving, I got more writing work and more brand ambassador work.

For the past few months, I’ve finally ramped up my EF, so I have at least three months of expenses saved up. My current income will pay my bills, but my student loan payments may be fluctuating. I want to continue to increase my savings rate, while paying off debt.

Don’t you worry, my priority is still becoming debt free, as soon as possible.

But I still have so much to learn and prepare for, as I figure all this stuff out. I am astonished with how much things have changed in a year and a half. I started this blog when I felt like I was at the end of my rope, making $12/hr at a seasonal job, eating from food stamp money, and feeling like I had no future to speak of. I was stuck, ruminating on past failures, possibilities of things that never happened, and replaying times in my life I was more successful.

My therapist asked me, “Do you want to live on the shelf of regret? Look how many things you have there.”

Up to that point, I felt like everything I had done was a mistake. Leaving my job was a mistake, going to grad school was a mistake, moving to Portland was a mistake. WTF was I doing? Everything felt meaningless.

This blog very well saved my life. It sure as hell saved my relationship, too. And now it’s turned my life into something else completely. Something unexpected and new. An adventure.

And that’s how my blog changed my life.

 

This post is in: blog, career

I have a confession to make. I used to be a terrible writer. In English, my native language no less. Now, I would like to preface this by saying that by making such a statement I am not saying that I am a great writer. But I’m a good enough writer to get paid for it from time to time and I’ve dramatically improved from my younger years.

In High School when writing essays started to be really important, I would consistently get Cs and Bs. I was almost a straight A student, and to have English as the one class holding me back really bothered me.

I would get my papers back and they would be covered in red ink. I didn’t have a firm grasp on principles of grammar and I wasn’t clear in my writing; it wasn’t engaging.

I started learning Spanish, which really helped me understand English. I started to better understand how verbs work, grammar, adjectives, etc. Starting from scratch and learning the basic principles of language really helped me with understanding English. It made sense as I have been speaking English my whole life, before I even knew what an adjective or past participle was.

I slowly started to become a better writer. I graduated high school and moved on to college, where my writing skills would be put to the test.

Initially, I was a Philosophy minor, which required me to write nothing but essays as my homework. I also had to pass a Freshman writing test to prove I was “good enough” to move on to be a Sophomore. In my Philosophy classes, I would get so excited talking about ideas, thinking about reality and perception and more. But my writing issues still remained. My writing sounded like a book report. It was stale and bland, each word dying on the page.

After being frustrated and realizing that if I wanted to master Philosophy, I was going to have to be an engaging writer and a clear communicator. I started meeting one-on-one with my professors each week to receive feedback. I started going to the Writing Center for tutoring.

I remember how happy I was when I got my first A on an essay. It was so rewarding for me. I passed the Freshman English exam and was able to improve my writing throughout college.

I wish I could say that I had a natural-born talent at writing and that I’ve always been good at it. I’m often envious of people who are good at something without much effort. But that’s not the case.

However, my writing has improved because of perseverance. My writing has improved because I learned another language, I started reading more, and really cared about improving.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s amazing that 10 years ago I would receive papers covered in red, looking at the editing bloodshed. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure.

Now, I get paid to write. Not a lot, but I still get paid to express my thoughts in a creative way. I sew words together to make them sound pretty. I re-arrange them to make them shift their meaning. I create copy that sells in a friendly, unobtrusive way.

I still have so much to learn too and that is the exciting part. As any type of creative, your work is never really “done.” I still make stupid mistakes, or have major bouts of insecurity, or even have epic fails. This week I received my first big writing rejection. I tried my best and worked really hard at it, and it still wasn’t good enough. The sting of rejection is always painful, but it’s something that I am getting better at dealing with.

I put my big girl panties on and kept working on other projects. I looked back on how far I’ve come and was simply amazed that I AM a writer. Writing used to cause me so much distress. Now it is fun, pleasurable and intense.

So, why is this important? Because wherever you are in your life, whatever struggle you are dealing with, it can get better. If your financial situation sucks, or you feel like you can’t do something, don’t give up. Just keep going and commit yourself to learning and getting better.

You can learn something and improve, even if your mind is telling you, “I’m just not good at that.” Don’t confuse talent with skill. You can learn skills, talent is just a predisposition or an aptitude for something. Hard work does pay off (eventually).

So whatever stumbling blocks you are going through, know that you can overcome it. Work at it. Every day. If you are feeling comfortable, work harder. Do something that scares you. Remember the people you admire are just people. They are not more or less special than you.

So get out there and start doing. Start creating. Start improving. Change things around in big or small leaps. Do what you want because there is only one life. Stop self-sabotaging yourself by saying, “I’m not good at that,” or “I can’t.” Say, “I’m still learning.”

You can do it. I believe in you.

Melanie’s Notes: Check out my other writing around the web.

How Much is Your Job Costing You?

The Cost of Convenience

15 Awesome Inexpensive Date Ideas

Also, if you find value in my content and you like what I do, would you consider nominating me for Best Debt blog for the Plutus Awards, starting August 1st? It would mean a lot to me.

This post is in: blog

These days I’m feeling very behind on things. I am absolutely thrilled that my dreams are coming true. I am working more as a freelance writer, and more opportunities are coming. In the attempt to manage my full-time work, and freelance work, every hour is seemingly booked and I feel so behind.

I think to myself, If I could only comment a little more! If I could only write 2 more posts a week for my own blog!

I think these things as if I were to do them, all other things would cease and I’d be “caught up.” The thing is, as I’m realizing, as an entrepreneur you are never caught up. Maybe you have met your deadlines, but there is another one looming right around the corner. Maybe you are done with one client, but you need to find another one.

The work is never over. Being caught up is merely a momentary sensation — more of something we tell ourselves so we can allow ourselves to relax.

I’m trying to be less hard on myself and be happy to focus on paid work. And even though I vowed to not apologize, I want to give a half-hearted lament that I’m not around as much as I’d like. I am reading, but cannot comment and share as much as I’d like. The less time I have, the more desire I have to be a part of the community.

Because I am just barely “catching up” with everything, I might be a little more absent. It might take me longer to do things. But I’m still around.

Check out where I’m on the web this week:

My First Job — life and money lessons I learned from my first job.

Is Working for a Nonprofit Right for You? — working in the nonprofit sector has its own set of challenges and rewards.

What’s the One Thing Holding You Back? — find out how my fear of failure has cost me money.

Some other posts I loved in the blogosphere:

Why Income Matters over at Well Kept Wallet, by the awesome Stefanie — I am making less in my day job than I did at 23. Granted, I have a much lower cost of living, but it still sucks. My hustling is slowly changing that, and I want to increase my income potential.

Weekly Roundup by Michelle at Fit is the New Poor — She quit her job and is now freelance! Show some support.

How are things in your world? How do you deal with your never ending to-do list?

This post is in: blog, career, freelance

Lately, I’ve been dipping my toes into the waters of freelancing. It’s been delightful, and I’m learning how to swim. As I add freelance writing, editing, and more to my list of side hustles, I am amazed at how much work there is in the blogging community. Making money as a blogger isn’t a quick-fix idea, or something that happens overnight. But it can be a viable side hustle, with some persistence and determination.

Many successful bloggers outsource work and hire freelance writers, virtual assistants, editors, commenters, and the like. In turn, bloggers like me are getting to earn more money, pay down debt, and save more.

The blogging community is an entire sub-economy that is driving much of the internet, and yet, it’s not really talked about. People on the outside don’t believe it’s real, or that it’s legit work. Blogging and making money on the internet is still a very new thing for most people, and it’s as nontraditional as it comes. It’s as if you are telling your parents that you are going to art school, and they think that it’s just a nice hobby, but not a real profession.

But bloggers are making real money, sometimes really good money on the internet. I think about Sam making 35k in his first year of blogging, and Stephanie who is making 1k per month freelance writing, and the many other bloggers I admire who are freelance hustlers and have taken the leap into this odd and amazing world.

Before I started blogging, I thought a blog was like an online diary. In fact, I have several old blogs on the internet with old poetry, ramblings, and musings. I never thought a blog was something that could or should make money. But as someone who has become used to nonprofit salaries, I find myself excited by the prospect of making more money and learning new skills in the digital age. We are living in the era of a new economy, one that isn’t as easily quantifiable as the one we constantly hear about in the news. Although the economy is slowly recovering, many people are having difficulty finding jobs, or finding meaningful careers.

I recently read Amanda Abella’s piece on Why You Can’t Get Rich Working for Someone Else. She makes some really interesting points that I am starting to realize for myself.

I started to think about bloggers and the economy — are they being counted in the jobs report? How much are bloggers bringing in? It seems like they are making a decent amount and fueling the economy, while creating a micro economy of their own by outsourcing work.  Bloggers are seen as influential — as people who can reach many because of their audience.

Bloggers are getting paid in a variety of ways through products and services: affiliate marketing, freelance writing, seo services, tech help, editing, virtual assisting, commenting, social media management, and brand partnerships. The ways to make money on the internet are both exciting and intimidating!

I remember when I first started blogging – I didn’t know what SEO was. I felt challenged by my lack of technical knowledge. I had to learn so much in a short period of time. But like anything, it just takes practice and a willingness to learn. Learning new skills in the digital age can really launch a great side hustle, or even a new career.

In short, I think bloggers are adding to the vitality and strength of the economy in new and interesting ways.

What do you think? Are bloggers stimulating the economy?

This post is in: blog, side hustle

For months, I felt like I was constantly writing, working on my online endeavors. I wanted to write, find others in the community to connect with, and sink my teeth into some work.

For a long time, I felt like I was doing things without much feedback or response — I was on my own little island of solitude. It was a bit disheartening, but I kept going. I enjoy blogging with or without the opportunities it presents.

Then in a sudden twist of fate, it seemed like people were knocking on my door with opportunities. Not only my door, but my window, too. Seemingly all at the same time. One thing led to another, and I found myself scared and excited to enter new territory.

As I adjust to full-time work while juggling freelance work, I can now reflect on the many ways I was unprepared for all of this. Recently, I’ve felt like I was scrambling to get things done, update materials, etc.

I realize that as I was plugging away, just hoping for an opportunity, I pushed a lot aside because I deemed it unnecessary at the time. I thought, “I’ll update to a professional design when it’s time. Bio? No one cares about reading mine! Resume? Haha, you know I’m a blogger, right?”

All of these things sort of bit me in the ass. I now realize doing these things when it’s “the right time” is too freaking late!

When you are working towards something, and you can’t quite see what it is, but you know where you want to go, be ready for it. Just because you can’t see it coming, doesn’t mean it’s not right around the corner. You don’t want to miss an opportunity because you weren’t ready, or scramble to make something happen that ultimately comes off as being half-assed.

Embrace your greatness, and cultivate your dreams. Let your imagination run wild with possibilities, and know that sometimes reality can be sweeter than dreams, and better than anything you could have imagined.

All this to say, there will be some changes around here to make it look spiffier. I will continue to try to be the best version of myself, while still being brutally honest about the struggles of debt repayment and juggling multiple jobs.

It’s an interesting time for all this to happen – it’s been 3 years since I graduated from NYU with my master’s in Performance Studies. I know, it’s kind of a joke. You can laugh (while I’m dying on the inside).

The road from graduation to present has been paved with tumultuous experiences. I went from working in my field in NYC, but missing my love, to moving across the country, unable to find a job and saddled with student loan debt to be with him. As a workaholic, and as someone who paid for the privilege of going to one of the best schools, I felt worthless not having a job. It took me 1.5 years to find a full-time job in Portland, which forced me to get food stamps. It’s dawned on me that this city is really not for traditional employment, something that I resented when I didn’t have a clue about how to work for myself.

With all the negativity that surrounded the few years after graduation, things started to shift in the past year. I got a full-time job that challenges me and has given me the ability to learn amazing new skills. I officially launched Dear Debt and the Dear Debt letter project. I have friends online and in real life that support me, and an amazing partner who helps me keep it together.

Anniversaries are always nostalgic for me, so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different my life was 3 years ago. I was talking to my partner when a pang of doubt hit about my current situation.

What if I was supposed to work in the arts? My life used to be so much easier before grad school. Am I a fake? A phony? Do I know what I’m doing? I can’t believe I’m a personal finance writer!

He’s a very wise man and told me, “there is no ‘supposed to’. You’re not supposed to be anything, nor should you do anything. Do what you love, and go after the opportunities in front of you.”

He’s absolutely right. I am who I am, and I guess I am dealing with my own fractured feelings of who I am as a professional. Teaching Artist/Coordinator/Personal Finance Writer/Brand Ambassador/Events Assistant?

Instead of feeling divided about my various interests, passions, and money-making endeavors, I should be proud that I have such diverse interests that allow me to do so many things. I shouldn’t regret past decisions, because what does regret do? A whole lot of nothing. You can’t change what happened in the past. The bitter residue of regret might linger with you for a while, but all you can do is accept it, learn from it, and move on. Make it part of your story.

Because even though sometimes I feel like I do regret going to grad school, I know I wouldn’t have my blog if I never left L.A., and never went to grad school. I would have never experienced NYC or moved to Portland.

It’s all part of the adventure. So accept it, and be ready for the next chapter.

This post is in: blog, career, goals, life

March 24, 2014

I have been blogging for over a year now, and it’s been quite the ride. I started out as Do or Debt, and realized I didn’t want to be considered doordebt. I later had an epiphany and realized I wanted something more creative and came up with the concept Dear Debt, or writing break up letters to debt.

Initially, I was inspired to start my blog after stalking Kathleen and finally meeting her in person. She had me convinced; I could share my voice and my experience, while writing my way out of debt.

The first six months were pretty rough for me. I couldn’t really find my voice, knew nothing about SEO or any other weird acronyms, was a technology neophyte, and felt paranoid about revealing too much of myself as I was in hardcore job search mode.

Now I finally feel comfortable in my own digital skin. I’ve found my voice and feel part of a community. As I work through blogging, experimenting, and trying to improve, I keep the following in mind:

Don’t Apologize

It’s your blog ,write about what you want. If it’s not about personal finance, or whatever niche you are in, it’s okay. Once again, it’s your blog and people come to read what you have to say. If you decide you need a break from blogging, that’s okay too. If you don’t respond to comments right away, that’s okay, too. The world isn’t going to end.

I see a lot of apologies going around and I don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t need to live in the culture of ‘sorry’. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I realize that it’s okay and I don’t need to apologize, because I’m not doing anything wrong.

Speak Your Truth

Everyone’s experience is different and that’s why we follow so many different blogs. We can find people we relate to, or people who are living the lives we want. The point is don’t try to be someone else. Be authentic. Be passionate.  Speak your truth, even if it’s hard to say. You are unique and people want to read your stuff because you are different from other people.

Be Honest, but Not Too Honest

I think speaking your truth and being honest is really important. It helps people relate to you and offers insights into your life. If you are a regular reader here, you know some of my posts can be ‘raw’, ‘emotional’, or ‘out there’. While those may be my signature attributes, I also have to be careful. A few weeks ago, in the midst of exhaustion I wrote a post that was a pretty big downer. I wrote it, posted it, then headed straight to work. Then I started to panic and felt really vulnerable. I had shared very personal thoughts about my emotional state of affairs that were probably better kept private. My blog shouldn’t be a diary, or a therapy session. While I am committed to being open, honest, and truthful with my readers, everyone should have boundaries.

Focus on Engagement, Not Analytics

It’s easy to obsess over your analytics and readership. You can spend hours combing over your views, visitors, comments, search terms, and referrals. It can be a vicious cycle; on a good day, you are flying high because your views are up. Conversely, on days where your viewership is low, you may feel low. I’ve recently been on this roller coaster and it’s not sustainable. Your time  would be better spent on improving your blog, creating good content, etc. Analytics are important, but they shouldn’t be tied to your self-esteem or the worth of your blog. Focus your energy on genuine engagement with others. I am happy to say that I have blogging friends in real life, and digital friends that I feel are just as good. You know who you are. I may not be the best, or most popular of bloggers, but I am happy with my engagement and that’s what I am going to focus on. I’m committed to creating a community of support, love, and care to everyone who is fighting their battle with debt. I’m interested in empowering all of us, in debt or not, to live the lives we want, and to be financially sound and secure.

Do you have any other thoughts or tips on blogging? I’d also like to share some of my favorite new (or new to me) blogs.

TrendyCheapo – almost debt free!
DebtDebs – new blogger and working through her debt
Debt Free Martini – with a name like that, how could you not follow? I want a debt free martini.
Stop Worrying About Money – wow, that name is just brilliant for SEO. Adam is also super likable and writes good content.
Marilyn Knows Money – NYC blogger writing about money and career tips. I dig her style!

This post is in: blog