You never know where something will lead. I believe this as one of the core tenets of my business and try to treat every opportunity and connection equally.

I know that the best things in life rarely come from constructed opportunities or scripted events. They just happen, in an unlikely place, in an unlikely time.

The path is the road less traveled. The unconventional way. But the chance for making things happen is even greater, because it’s less cluttered.

When I first started this blog, I  couldn’t find a full-time job for the life of me. I tried all the traditional avenues. I applied relentlessly to full-time jobs and kept sending shot after shot in the dark, hoping someone would give me a chance and realize that I wasn’t some sort of loser.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, blogger, and brand connector, I’ve seen how things can shift by trying a new approach. A few examples:

I reached out to Kathleen and she encouraged me to start this blog. I may have never met her as well as a whole other slew of great people in Portland if I didn’t start this blog. I’ve pretty much written for nearly all the local Portland bloggers in some respect and they are all dear friends.

I met one of my business partners on Twitter. We connected over the fact she lives in Brooklyn, where I used to live. I dug her work. That simple connection has now launched a different aspect of my business.

A few months ago in the FinCon Facebook group, there was a post looking for freelance writers. I responded and applied. I got it. They’re now one of my best paying clients.

I got an editing job in another Facebook group I’m in.

I pitched a company in my niche and said I love their content…there was just one problem. There were no female voices. I boldly sent an email and said I’d love to add my voice to the mix. Now I’m a writer for their site.

Last year at FinCon, I met someone for approximately 10 seconds. I was on my way out, but we both joked that we should “network” and exchange cards. So we did and I didn’t think about it that much. But after FinCon, I spent hours sending every single person a unique follow-up email. This 10-second connection in-person turned into one of my largest partnerships.

One of my writing clients saw that I enjoy Twitter and asked me to manage their social media. I happily obliged and got an increase in pay.

I got a consultant gig from a company that I followed on Twitter. I sent a simple message that said, “I love your mission!”. A relationship formed and now we are great colleagues.

Instead of ignoring a press release, I responded and pitched an idea. It worked and now I have an exciting opportunity ahead.

Aside from these professional successes, I even found love the unconventional way when I was set up on a blind date by a friend. To be honest, I was not really into the idea. I could have said no, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

My whole point with this is that so often we think we are doing things the “right way” but they are clearly not working. Try to step outside of yourself and see what you could be doing differently.

Your approach is EVERYTHING. I cannot emphasize that enough. Your approach is everything. If your current approach is not working, stop beating a dead horse. Try something new.

Be bold, ask for what you want, and be confident in what you can deliver. We all have to deal with the perils of Impostor Syndrome coming to rain down on our parade, but get an umbrella and keep going.

You never know where a connection will lead. You never know where your next gig is coming from. Opportunities are right around the corner.

The key is to keep at it and put yourself out there, everywhere. Be unabashedly yourself. I know for a fact that my freelance business took off once people could “see” me — both literally and figuratively. I stopped hiding behind the mask of anonymity, put a picture up and started writing about things in my own voice that felt authentic to me and not veiled under fear.

If you’re looking to start a business, get a new job, fall in love, etc. and what you are doing isn’t working, try something new. Keep putting yourself out there on social media and follow-up with everyone you meet. Everyone.

Your network is your net worth, so foster your connections. Be yourself and believe there is something out there for you greater than yourself.

This post is in: Entrepreneurship, freelance, goals

August was my first full month of being full-time freelance. It has been a wild month full of highs, lows, and uncertainty.

But this is what I signed up for, right?

And I love it! I didn’t realize how utterly exhausted I was until the transition. For the first two weeks, I took a nap. Every. Day. After working more than 80 hours a week for the past six months (and really I’ve been pushing myself for years, since graduate school), I was just simply exhausted.

It felt both oddly exhilarating and worrisome to freely take a nap in the middle of the day. I’ve now recovered and no longer take naps. I feel rested and happier than I’ve been in a very long time. I am now getting around 7-8 hours of sleep every night, compared to 4-6 hours before.

I have had some challenges, though.

Being a Night Owl

I have always known I am a night owl. It’s like as soon as 10pm hits, I’m ready to work! When I was juggling my full-time job and freelance work, being a night owl was helpful…until I still couldn’t get all the work done and was routinely waking up at 5 or 6am to get stuff done before work too. Now that I’m on my own, my inner night owl has taken over. I’m often working until midnight or even 3am. Then I sleep until 8-10am. Somehow it really works. So while I do my best work at night, during the day I’m often doing easier stuff like answering emails, responding to comments, etc. Easy stuff that doesn’t require much of my brain. I’m feeling really guilty not doing “important” work (although I’d still regard that as important – but it’s unpaid, nonetheless) during the day. But I still meet my deadlines. I get things done. It’s just at night, most of the time. Somehow I really enjoy working when I know most people aren’t, but I need to let go of the guilt of not being productive every waking hour.

Payment Schedule

Most of my freelance work pays me once a month. That’s a stark difference from twice a month. Luckily, I do have some event work and other gigs that pay me sporadically, but I swear I felt like I waited 3 weeks to get paid for anything. I was stalking the mailman, hungry for my check. I’ve come to realize I need to get used to this, which is why I’m going to continue to prioritize my emergency fund, to get me through those moments of paranoia. I know the money is coming, but I just have to wait.

Divorcing Myself from the Employee Mentality

For so long I’ve been in the employee mentality; I’m good at being told what to do; I behave; I collaborate; I play nice, sometimes too nice. But I’m the boss now. And that’s still hard for me to accept sometimes. I’ve been slowly pushing my boundaries and asking for what I want and need in several low-risk situations…and it’s worked out well. I realize I need to be more assertive and ask for what I want. No one is going to just give it to me. Action always beats inaction. I’m also realizing that what I think is a big deal in my head, really is nothing to other people. In short, these are my issues, not other people’s – to get what I want I need to get out of my own way and ask for what I want and need. No one is a mind reader, so be upfront.

So how did I do financially?

On one hand, I made more than I did at my old job…

But it was actually less, after you consider taxes…

And it’s definitely less than what I was making with my full-time job and side hustles combined.

But I’m happier than ever, rested, and I’m hustling. I have faith I will continue to grow and make more money.

For my first month out, I’m pretty happy with the outcome. But I have room to grow, too, so if you need a writer, editor, virtual assistant, social media manager or side hustle coach, get in touch!

While I won’t be sharing totals, you can see percentages of my income and where it came from:

63% of my income came from writing, editing, and virtual assisting.

35% of my income came from brand ambassador and event work. I work as a brand ambassador a lot and also have a very part-time job working for a local congregation in town as an event assistant. I always get free food and wine, too.

2% sales. I was able to sell some old stuff I didn’t need.

So as you can see, while I am making the majority of money online, it isn’t all of it. I like it that way too because I believe wholeheartedly in diversifying your income. The event work also helps me get away from the computer and gets me interacting with people face-to-face.

Some days I don’t leave the house, or I don’t leave until much later, and I’m so surprised by the sun and all the sensory experiences of being outdoors. Such a difference from the near fluorescent luminance of my laptop and the dark aura of my closet-turned-office.

So there you have it folks. My first full month in review. I can still hardly believe I quit, but I feel in my heart it was the right decision. And I’m excited for the continued adventure (especially at FinCon in 2 weeks! I’m going to FinCon camp, baby! Come see me at karaoke?).

p.s. If you haven’t filled out my survey, I’d greatly appreciate if you could spare 3 minutes for 3 questions. I genuinely want to make a better experience for you.

This post is in: freelance, goals

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 18, 2014

When you want to give up

Throw in the towel

Be done with this shit

Cry in the corner

Scream in a pillow

Don’t give up hope

Believe in yourself.

Believe in possibilities.

You may not see it now, the hard work you are doing.

It doesn’t make any sense does it? Why would it?

It’s nonsense and all sense.

Life is beautiful, even amidst the chaos.

If you are buried in debt, take a deep breath. Be grateful you are alive.

Enjoy food that keeps you nourished.  The roof over your head.

If you hate your job, be grateful you have one, and try to get out.

If you don’t have a job, keep looking. Have faith. Things change.

It’s all cyclical.

But most of all, don’t give up hope.

If you are single, and lonely and can’t find love, enjoy your friends. Enjoy your hobbies. Enjoy freedom in your solitude.

If you are in a partnership, say ‘I love you’ everyday. Remember why you fell in love. Savor that moment. Replay it in the cinema of your mind.

But if you feel like your world is falling apart, don’t give up hope.

It’s a test. Life will throw many of them at you. It might shake you to the core, change your outlook.

It might make you wary, tired, or depressed.

Just don’t give up hope.

If it’s really bad, please seek help.

You are not alone.

If you dream of better days, keep those dreams alive.

This is only temporary.

If you are living your dreams, give back to others who need some support.

We need you.

You can do it.

You can get out of debt. You can find the love of your life. You can move where you want. You can find a different job. You can find a job. You can make money at your passions.

The broken record is just that, broken.

Put on something new.

Even if everything is telling you “No”, fight to say “Yes”.

You have to want it.

Just don’t give up hope.

This post is in: debt, goals, life

As many of you know, side hustling is a large part of my debt payoff journey. I make a fairly low amount of money in relation to my debt, so for me to reach my ambitious goals, I need to hustle.

Side hustles have included: cleaning houses, washing dishes, working events, being a babysitter, selling water at a rave, being a brand ambassador, and a freelance writer.

One thing I pride myself on is that I think work is work. As long as I am in debt, there is no job too small or too big for me, and certainly nothing that is “below” me. I may have thought otherwise a few years ago when I had a fancy job title and managed several employees.

However, the 2 years after graduate school that I searched for a full-time job was a humbling experience. It was an emotional roller coaster for me and I felt like I took a dive in status.  I went from being a director of a program to cleaning houses.

I realized that perhaps I was wrong before. That I did think I was “too good” to do certain things, and now being forced to do whatever was available humbled me and deepened my understanding of the human experience, and this bizarre class structure we’ve created.

Now I have a full-time job that’s pretty rad. I’ve learned a ton of new skills that are highly marketable, and I’m having fun. I’ve also started this blog, and I’m seeing it as an opportunity for other doors to open. At least I hope a few will.

My current long-term side hustle that I’ve been doing every weekend for the past three weeks, and will continue for another five, pays $10/hr.  It’s a pretty low amount, and of course I’d love to be paid more, but here is the scoop:

Part of me is really proud of myself. I do things that I know my friends won’t do; I meet crazy people who are like characters from the circus; I have odd, amazing experiences; I get out of my routine and my comfort zone.

Most of the time, I’m very happy about my hustling. Other times I start to think that I might be selling myself short.

I have a master’s degree in something fairly useless, but it’s given me the ability to write. I also have management experience, as well as outreach and communication experience. I also speak Spanish, which has helped me land almost every job I’ve ever gotten. Shouldn’t I get more than $10/hr?

Yes, of course, I should. But these jobs I do on the side don’t require any of those skills.

I also think if you have the time available, then making some money is better than none.

Right? Or is it holding me back from pursuing larger paying side jobs? I really want to focus 100% on my blog; I want to update it more frequently, write good content, get paid to write content, and continue down the many avenues of creative employment.

But I’m not there yet. I can’t in good conscience turn down legitimate, albeit low paying work with how much debt I have.  I stand by the fact that work is work. Sometimes I just wish I could throw myself into this head first and reach my full potential.

What do you think? Am I a #1 hustler or am I selling myself short?

This post is in: freelance, goals, side hustle

A lot of personal finance bloggers write about net worth. I am not one of them. If you follow this blog, you know I am still in loads of debt (circa 44k now compared to 81k), so I don’t think it’s necessary to write about my net worth.

It would be a hilariously large, negative number.

I don’t own a car, a house, have nothing of financial value, and I’ve depleted my savings. When I look at my financial value, I can easily get depressed and think I’m so behind, and that I have nothing after almost 30 years on the planet.

Although I have no noteworthy material possessions, I have to remember that I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, most of them travel and work related. I’m also rich in love and friendship, and in my eyes that is priceless.

Everyday I have to tell myself that my self-worth is not my net worth. I am defined outside of my income, outside of my possessions, outside of my job. Our society places so much value on these things, it’s really hard to separate yourself from those identifications.

I know this because recently my side hustle income has been the worst it has been in months. I’ve made $100 extra this month out of my $400 per month goal. I’m looking for work, applying and trying to hustle and I’ve come back with nothing.

For two years I was also looking for a full-time job and I was struggling to find that, too. My confidence was shaken, and even though I have found a job, I’m still dealing with those ramifications as well.

It’s hard to work really hard at something and feel like you are going nowhere. I am trying to look at things differently, try new tactics and be open to possibilities. I am also telling myself it’s okay if I don’t meet my goal. A goal is something to strive for, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t meet it. We live in a world where a lot of things are dependent on others. In the end someone needs to hire me to have extra work. I may send out emails, make follow-up calls, but if people don’t respond, there is only so much I can do.

To not go insane from the radio silence, you have to keep going. Be your own source of confidence outside all the external meanings and definitions. I’m learning that is really hard to do. I’ve always seen myself as a hustler, but if I’m not hustling successfully, who am I? I want to get to know that person better. I want to find comfort in the uneasy, and not languish in the unpredictable.

In the end, your self-worth is not your net worth. How much you make or how much you have in the bank doesn’t make you a good person. It doesn’t mean you are better or worse off than someone else. We all have our own goals and dreams, and that is what we need to be defining ourselves by. At this point, my main dream is to be debt free. I’d rather have a net worth of $0 than my laughable negative number. I can’t wait to pocket all the money I am now throwing toward debt. I want to learn to relax, share the wealth and reach my full potential. Money is a tool and it doesn’t mean everything. But for me, money means freedom of choice, more opportunities and less fear.

Do you ever compare your self-worth to your net worth? For my debt fighting warriors, how do you deal when things are slow?

This post is in: goals, life, side hustle

I’ve recently come back from my trip to LA and found myself with the plague. My boyfriend gave it to me. Thanks, honey! But I’m finally getting better and feeling better.

The holiday was so lovely and will make me think twice about going another 4 years before I go home for Christmas. It was so nice to catch up with family and friends, and just be. I took a technology detox, which was also nice. I work in front of a computer all day and blogging requires more screen time as well, so it was nice to rest my mind and my eyes.

Then I got sick with something that overtook my nose, throat and lungs. Not cute, and not fun. I pretty much spent New Year’s eve in bed. But, I’m feeling somewhat alive today and drinking some tea at a café. I dream of a day where I can hang out in cafés, drink tea and write. It’s nice to do that today and reconnect with you all.

2013 was a pretty great year, and a life-changing year as well.

The highlights:

2013 was the Year of Being Uncomfortable.

Now that I’ve tried some new things,  and have become more stable, I’d like 2014 to be the Year of Refinement. I want to work smarter, have more fun, refine my skills and passions and really be who I want to be, not who I should be or what people think I am.

My goals for 2014:

I’m feeling nervous and excited just looking at that list! Once I’m 100% better I know I can kick it into gear and make these things happen.

I hope all of you had a wonderful New Year’s and are preparing to kick ass this year. Seriously, you guys keep me going.

What are you most excited about for 2014?

This post is in: goals, holidays, life