Leaving Work Behind

I’m Starting P90X and I’m Bringing You Along for the Ride!

Written by Tom Ewer on April 25, 2013. 46 Comments

Tom Ewer with P90X.We all know that eating healthily and exercising regularly can have a hugely beneficial impact on your overall quality of life.

Back when I was running 30-40 miles per week, I practically jumped out of bed in the morning and had tonnes of energy. I ran early each morning and felt fantastic for the rest of the day. While my hardcore running days are behind me (for the time being at least), I still appreciate the effect that a regular exercise regime can have on every aspect of my life.

One of the biggest things I struggle with on a daily basis are my energy levels and motivation. I know that the problem is in part down to the fact that I eat terrible food and don’t get enough regular exercise. I’m certainly not unhealthy, but I could definitely be far more healthy.

And that leads me to today’s announcement: on Monday 29th April, I am starting P90X. And I am going to log every single step of my journey in detail for you to see.

What is P90X?

P90XFor those of you who don’t know, P90X is an intensive at-home 90 day fitness and nutrition program.

It requires you to work out for approximately one hour per day, six days per week. In addition to that you are advised to stick to a regimented eating program that incorporates healthy ingredients and supplements and eliminates junk food altogether.

In short, it’s pretty intense. It also happens to be perfect for me. Why? Because every single time I have embarked upon such a program, I have always been crippled (mentally!) by doubt. Doubt as to whether or not what I am doing will work. But P90X is tried and tested by thousands of people who have experienced great results from the program. I know that if I apply myself, I will see results.

If you want to read more about P90X then click here.

Is This Just Another Faddy Exercise Program?

I suppose I cannot really answer that question definitively until I’ve experienced it myself, but I have taken a long hard look at the P90X program and am convinced it is for real.

Consider it from a logical perspective — if you eat really healthily and exercise regularly for 90 days, are you likely to see a positive change in your fitness levels? The answer has to be yes. The only questions remaining then are how dramatic the changes will be, and what they will cost (both financially and in terms of my willpower and determination!).

And that’s where my new blog comes in.

P90X Journal

I know that the key to me succeeding with P90X will be how effectively I hold myself accountable. And that is where I need help from you guys.

My thinking is simple: I tell the world that I intend to complete P90X and I look like an idiot if I don’t. I am very publicly pledging to complete the program, and if at any point I falter or fail you have my express permission to kick my ass and tell me to buck my ideas up.

That is why I am launching P90X Journal. This new blog will act as a (you guessed it) journal for the first 90 days of my P90X journey. I will log every single session and publish updates on my progress, including all the trials and tribulations that I face along the way. I’ll tell you about all the supplements I use and the food that I eat. It’s going to be a no holds barred exposé on the P90X challenge, and as always you can expect me to be totally open and honest about the entire process. Think of it as a Leaving Work Behind for the exercise world.

If you are in any way intrigued by the P90X program or are simply curious to see how I get on, just head on over to P90X Journal now and subscribe for regular updates. You can also follow my Twitter and Facebook accounts where I will be posting regular updates on my progress.

What Next?

I am starting the program in just a few days, so right now I’m getting prepped.

I’ve got all the gear and supplements I need — now it’s just a case of doing the P90X fitness test to measure my current fitness levels. This involves a bunch of different exercises that will demonstrate my strength and flexibility in various different manners.

I’ll be posting my fitness test results on P90X Journal in preparation for the beginning of this pretty drastic undertaking, and then from Monday onwards the real fun will start.

If you want to support me by sharing my new blog with your friends and followers, just share via your social network of choice or just click to tweet below:

Check it out: @tomewer is starting @P90X and has launched a blog to journal his progress! (tweet this)

Thank you in advance for your support — you guys are awesome.

Click here to visit P90X Journal now!

How to Become a Freelance Writer: 15 Principles for Success

Written by Tom Ewer on April 22, 2013. 68 Comments
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: sunside

It’s easy to say that freelance writing is easy, but it’s also easy to say that it’s hard.

In reality there is a middle ground in which one can succeed and prosper in the world of freelance blogging. The process of learning how to become a freelance writer hasn’t been easy for me, nor has it been especially hard. I believe that if you understand the basic principles of successful freelance writing and put them into action on a consistent basis, you will find success.

With that in mind, in this post I have collected what I consider the most important principles for successful freelance writers into fifteen actionable nuggets. If you absorb and apply the following principles then you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of succeeding as a freelance writer.

Phase 1: Prepare Yourself

Before you actually begin to look for freelance writing work you should make sure that you are set up for success; both in a psychological and technical sense. To put it simply, you need to be a good writer and you need to know that you are a good writer.

Believe in Yourself

The very first question you must ask yourself when learning how to become a freelance writer is simple yet vitally important: “Do I believe in myself?” I.e. do you believe that you are capable of becoming a successful freelance blogger?

If the answer is yes then you are ready to move on. If the answer is no then you need to consider what your lack of faith is based upon, because without belief you are likely to prevent yourself from succeeding.

The simple fact is this: if you want to succeed as a freelance blogger then you need to help yourself rather than hinder yourself. A lack of belief in your abilities will be all too obvious for prospective clients to see. If on the other hand you exude confidence, their perception of your abilities will be heightened.

Let me put it another way: I’d rather be an average writer with an unerring belief in the inevitability of my success than a great writer wracked with self-doubt. Believe that you can succeed and you are far more likely to.

Learn to Write

That’s right folks — if you want to be a successful freelance writer you should be a good writer. It should be blindingly obvious but I think there are lot of people out there who don’t fully appreciate the importance of honing their writing skills.

Becoming a better writer is just as important as learning to find prospective clients or negotiate rates effectively. It is perhaps the most powerful element in terms of influencing every area of your budding freelance writing business. If you’re a good writer, everything becomes simpler.

A lot of people will say that in order to become a good writer you should “just write.” I call bullshit on that. It’s like telling someone with a terrible golf swing to keep practicing that same golf swing — they’re just learning bad habits.

So I encourage you to study and learn the principles of effective writing, and more specifically, writing for the web. The good news is that effective online writing relies upon a set of straightforward rules underpinned by just one principle: keep it simple. If you put no more time into learning how to become a freelance writer then remember that.

If however you are of a mind to improve your craft and want to know where to start, I recommend that you start with the Yahoo! Style Guide. It is my bible and taught me most of what I know about online content writing.

Consider Your Expertise

One of the biggest perceived issues that faces freelance bloggers is their area of “expertise.” I get a lot of people emailing me with this problem — they desperately want to become a freelance writer but feel that they do not know enough about a specific topic to offer value.

The first thing I’d say is that everyone knows more about something than most. If I am stood in a room with all my friends I can point to each one and name at least one thing they know more about than me. Steve knows more about cars. Briony knows more about medicine. Kim knows more about teaching. Dan knows more about law. Vicky knows more about fund raising. Sarah knows more about horses. Tom knows more about marketing. I could go on but I’m sure you get the message.

My point is this — you do have value to offer on any number of topics if you take a moment to consider where your expertise lies. This becomes even more obvious when you consider that the vast majority of  people interested in learning more about a certain topic are complete beginners. You only need to have an intermediate understanding of a topic to be well-placed to teach the majority of the market.

I personally experienced this when I landed my first job at WPMU.org — a blog dedicated to the world of WordPress and blogging. At the time I had been blogging for about five months but I’d already learned enough to provide value to many of the readers. I was “expert enough.” I am certain that you are expert enough in plenty of fields to offer value.

Keep an Open Mind

Following on from my previous point, I would advise you to be open minded concerning which topics you’re happy to write about — especially when you’re just getting started. I’d advise you to snatch up anything you can find that pays a decent rate and/or offers good prospects in terms of exposure, etc.

One thing you’ll quickly discover is that you learn a huge amount about something when you write about it. That should be an obvious realisation to you but many do not fully appreciate it. If you can get your foot in the door in a certain market and start building up a reputation, you’ll soon find that your perceived value grows and you can soon move onto bigger opportunities. That is precisely what I did in the WordPress market, despite having barely any prior experience.

Did I see myself as a WordPress writer when I started out on my freelance blogging journey? Absolutely not. Do I consider myself a WordPress writer now, capable of offering a great deal of value to the majority of the community? Definitely.

Stage 2: Find Work

When learning how to become a freelance writer, the idea of putting yourself out there and pitching prospective clients can be pretty terrifying. I remember it well myself — I submitted pitches to a number of prospects and felt utterly absurd in doing so. Who was I, a completely unqualified beginner blogger who nearly failed English at school, doing submitting pitches for freelance writing jobs?

Overcoming that psychological hurdle is one of the biggest steps you can take towards freelance writing success. Once you have the confidence to consistently submit pitches to prospective clients you can focus on the nuts and bolts of getting more work and building your business.

Go Looking for Jobs

Having said that, one common issues amongst startup freelance writers is that they simply don’t go looking for jobs. They somehow expect jobs to find them, or submit a handful of pitches and give up when they don’t get a response.

So let me make it clear — if you want to become a successful freelance writer then you’re going to have to hustle. To begin with, at least. You cannot expect people to come to you when you have no experience and no reputation. You’re going to have to get out there and demonstrate to people why you are worth their time and money.

To give you a sense of scale when I talk about finding jobs, consider my friend Ruth Zive’s “Ten Before Ten” approach in which she made sure to contact ten prospects before 10am. Ten prospects every working day soon adds up and makes success all but inevitable.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can find work in the freelancing world. Those first few jobs that get you on the ladder shouldn’t be too hard to come by if you’re going about the process in the correct manner. Make a start with the following posts:

Write Great Pitches

Once you’ve located a prospective client your likelihood of landing the job comes down to just a couple of things — one of which is the quality of your pitch.

Put simply, your pitch plays a huge role in determining in whether you land a job. It’s not always the best writer that gets the role — it can be the person who submits the best pitch. After all, clients aren’t just looking for writing skills — they’re looking for someone who demonstrates an aptitude and enthusiasm for the role. They’re looking for someone who makes a good impression — someone who sets themselves apart from the crowd. That’s what a good pitch can do.

For tips on creating good pitches, start with my post on finding your first freelancing job.

Get Some Great Samples

A lot of beginner freelance writers feel that they are hamstrung by a lack of quality samples, and they’re right. However, they don’t appreciate that it is possible to get your hands on good samples without getting paid work. The perceived catch-22 of getting quality samples when you can’t get work doesn’t actually exist.

The first thing I’ll say about samples is that you shouldn’t attach them as files to pitches. When it comes to online writing, prospective clients want to see that you’ve been publishing — if you’re sending them articles as Word docs then they’re going to wonder why no one has seen fit to publish you.

In terms of getting published you have three potential solutions:

  1. Publish content on your own blog
  2. Guest post on other blogs
  3. Land an unpaid ongoing blogging role

The first is obviously the least effective (as anyone can publish content on their own blog), but it was enough for me to land my first role. I recommend that you target all three if you are truly keen on succeeding. The third option is especially effective in my opinion, as that position likely emulates the type of role that a quality client is looking for.

Create a Quality Writer’s Website

Even if you choose not to create your own blog to help build your freelance writing business, I consider having a website to be absolutely mandatory. After all, if you’re touting yourself as a freelance blogger you need to demonstrate at least a modicum of technical ability!

Your writer’s website should be the hub to which all prospective clients refer. It should be linked to from within your email signature so that they can visit it and see that you are not just a fly-by-night hoper. The site should be cleanly designed (I recommend one of the default WordPress themes such as Twenty Eleven or Twenty Twelve). Please refrain from the temptation to try anything fancy with the design unless you know what you are doing.

The site should be professionally presented and convince any prospective client that you are a candidate worth of their consideration.

Get Good Testimonials

Aside from a short biography, contact information and example of work you’ve already had published, your website should feature a number of positive testimonials relating to your writing abilities and general professionalism. If you have not yet worked as a freelance writer then you may feel that getting hold of testimonials is impossible, but that is not the case.

The easiest way to get hold of testimonials when starting out is to ask your friends and any colleagues. Their testimonials do not necessarily need to relate directly to your writing ability but can refer to your professionalism, organization skills, reliability, etc. Throwing these in the mix can be an effective way of bulking out your testimonials and no prospective clients needs to know that the people that wrote them have a personal connection to you.

Another relatively easy way to get testimonials is from bloggers that you have guest posted for or are blogging for on an unpaid basis. Most will probably be happy to write something up for you and these can of course relate directly to your writing ability.

Create a Blog

This blog has been hugely influential in determining my success as a freelance blogger. Beyond my first two clients it has served as a consistent referral machine — it is the reason why I haven’t had to go looking for freelance writing work in about eighteen months. As such, I urge any beginner freelance blogger to start their own blog.

The topic(s) you choose to cover isn’t necessarily that important — for instance, the subject matter I cover here is rarely directly related to anything that I blog about for clients. Having said that, it certainly won’t do you any harm to blog within an area of interest that you would like to be paid to write about. The topic is up to you but the real benefit is in showcasing your technical writing ability and your ability to create a successful blog.

If you can show a client that you’re good enough to build a community around your blog from the ground up, it serves as a strong mark in your favor as to your ability to help them.

Stage 3: Build Your Business

Consistently seeking out prospective clients is of course extremely important when starting out — without doing so you are unlikely to find those few jobs that can get you on your way. However, you should also have one eye on how your business is going to develop — the sooner you hone and perfect your approach, the better it is for your growth.

Learn to Negotiate

In submitting pitches your hope is of course that a prospective client will bite and offer you a job. If they do so then you may be required to state your rate. This is enough to paralyse any enthusiastic beginner freelance writer into inaction — I say that from personal experience.

However, setting and negotiating rates does not need to be an imposing concept that looms over you like a storm cloud. In reality, the application of a few simple concepts can give you the confidence to state a rate that has been calculated in a reasonable and sensible manner.

To learn more about setting and negotiating rates, check out this article.

Learn to Write Fast

If I had to single out one thing that has had the most influential impact on me earning $100+ per hour from freelance writing, it is my ability to create content quickly.

I’m not just talking about my typing speed (although that is hugely important) — I am talking about the process of creating a blog post from that moment where you have a kernel of an idea through to when you have finished the post publishing promotion process.

If it is not clear then let me state it plainly: your ability to work quickly has a direct impact on your ability to make more money. A $100 articles make you $100 per hour if it takes you one hour or it makes you $50 per hour if it takes you two. That is the simple math.

If you want to know more about how to be a fast writer then check out my post on the topic: 9 Steps to Writing Blog Posts Quickly (and Making Much More Money).

Write to the Client’s Standard, Not Your Own

To follow on from my previous point, an error that many freelance writers make is to write to their own standards rather than their clients’. This is especially costly when starting out on jobs that pay modestly — nothing is more depressing than spending hours on a job that pays pennies.

The point to consider is this: if you’re being paid pennies then the client is probably expecting work of an equivalent value. Don’t give them your A game if they’re only paying you a bargain basement rate.

I must clarify something important: I am not saying that you should do shoddy work. But I am saying that you should work to a standard that reflects the value of your compensation. That will keep the client happy and will take you far less time. And most importantly, it was massively reduce the chances you feeling jaded by your over-exertion and giving up altogether.

Be a Solution, Not a Problem

One of the key things you must understand about the working relationship you have with your clients is that you are there as a solution, not a problem. You are there to save them time and provide a quality solution with minimal hassle. If you are not delivering on all fronts then you are making yourself a problem.

Your writing ability is only one consideration — in reality, a client will want you to deliver a quality product, as promised, on time, and consistently. If you produce brilliant work but you’re consistently late or difficult to communicate with, the client is going to have a conflicted opinion of your value to them.

So whenever you are working with a client, remember that you must always be a solution rather than a problem. Blow them away with quality of product and of service and your business will grow.

Be More than Just a Writer

I have noticed an increasing trend amongst prospective clients — they want more than just writers. In fact, very few of the people I have worked with have simply wanted me to write and submit articles. Clients are more often than not looking for a bigger solution than that — they want the articles to be written, published and promoted. They want to make sure that their online marketing strategy is sound. They want their website to look good and convert well.

If you can build your business around the basis of offering a well-rounded service that incorporates more than just writing, you’ll find that the scope for the development is huge. This is not something that you should worry too much about when just getting started but it definitely is something to bear in mind for the future. Although your time is finite (which in turn limits your earning potential), a content marketing business that caters to a client’s every need is scalable and could represent the next level for your business.

In the meantime, just focus on developing your skills around your writing ability. This is another reason why having your own blog can be so valuable — it will give you a well-rounded experience of what creating a successful blog is all about. Your potential value to a client will skyrocket if you can demonstrate that you have true aptitude in blogging and all that it incorporates: social media, SEO, and so on.

Follow the Process

Above I have outlined a broadly chronological approach to successful freelance writing. While there is plenty more to be said about each principle and many other things to take into consideration, this barebones process will certainly get you on the right path and will make you far better equipped than most of your competition to succeed.

If you have any questions regarding the above or in fact any questions about freelance writing at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch via the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts!

How to Emulate the Growth of My Blogging Business

Written by Tom Ewer on April 15, 2013. 40 Comments

Improvement is always possible and should be sought out at every possible opportunity (tweet this)

A graph of my income growth over the past six months.

My income growth over the past six months.

Are you ever concerned that the action you are taking at any given time is perhaps not best for your business or side endeavor in terms of its ongoing development?

If you do then congratulations: that awareness is an extremely valuable asset. If you don’t then you’re either nailing it and have nothing to worry about, or there is room for improvement that you are completely ignorant of. I have a feeling that most people fall into the second category. After all, there is always room for improvement.

In this post I want to explore that principle and explain the simple system I have used to drive consistent growth in my business over the past eighteen months so that you can do the same.

The Momentum of Success

When it comes to running my business I will forgive myself for many transgressions.

I won’t beat myself up if I lie in on a Monday morning (which is precisely what happened today) or take some time off in the afternoon to get some cricket coaching (that’s today again). Quite frankly, I didn’t work so hard to quit my job and build a successful online business so that I could be a shitty boss to myself!

However, there is one thing I do not forgive myself for: straying off track from taking action in areas that will have the biggest impact on my business. Why? Because ensuring that you take small (or big) steps towards growing your business on a consistent basis is in my opinion the key to consistent growth.

The trouble is that it is all too easy to wander off track — especially if you have experienced some success and just feel like patting yourself on the back more than anything else. However, success should breed success. That moment where you achieve something remarkable is the prime time for you to build upon what you have achieved.

Consistent Application = Results

I have learned over the past few months that conscious application in the most fertile areas of your business can create big results. That understanding is the reason for the growth of my freelance writing  rate, affiliate income and information product sales. It is the reason why my net income has grown 67% in the past six months.

There are no miracles at work. In my experience, a successful online business is primarily built from two things:

  1. Persistence
  2. Leverage

Those two principles have got me to where I am today. Bullish persistence enabled me to find opportunities that I then leveraged.

You can observe this in just about everything that I do. In October 2011 I discovered that there was potential in freelance writing. My first client only paid $20 per hour but I recognized that if I developed my skills and reputation I could probably command a higher rate. Fast forward 18 months and my effective hourly rate is around $100 per hour. I persisted until I found an opportunity and have since leveraged it as much as possible.

The same goes for affiliate marketing. I worked hard for a very long time and made very little from this blog in terms of affiliate marketing — it is only in the last few months that I have began to make more than a few bucks. My persistence is paying off and my improved understanding of how effective and honest affiliate marketing should be done is enabling me to better leverage the potential that this blog has.

Finally, consider my information product. I am constantly seeking out ways of better leveraging the money-making potential that my freelance writing guide has. I have tested different price points. I am currently designing a new sales page that I will soon be testing. And just last week I managed to get a link to the sales page from Lifehacker. All attempts to better leverage my product.

How to Apply My Process Practically

Fortunately, the foundation that underpins my process is extremely simple and can be implemented within a few a minutes.

If you’re anything like me then you’ll have some sort of task-based system that helps you to keep track of what you are doing — it could be anything from a mental list in your head to a notepad and pen or an application on your computer or smartphone. Whatever your system is, I want you to add an extremely important list to it: Priorities.

Your Priorities list should include every outcome that has a positive impact on your business’ growth. I’m not talking about tasks or actions that you should take, nor am I talking about specific quantitative goals — just simple outcomes.

Here are some examples from my list to give you a better idea of what I mean:

Each item on your list should devolve into a Next Action. For instance, “Increase traffic to LWB” could result in me creating a task such as, “Get a post syndicated on Lifehacker” (which is what I did last week).

You should list as many of these outcomes as you can imagine. Don’t worry about them overlapping or being too similar — that’s not an issue. Just worry about creating a comprehensive list of all outcomes that have a positive impact on your business’ growth.

Once you have completed this list the next step is to ensure that you have at least one active Next Action in place for each of the outcomes. To put it another way, you should always be working on every aspect of your business’ growth.

The process is no more complicated than that: create a list of outcomes with associated Next Actions for achieving those outcomes. The outcomes are deliberately open ended and should never be deleted until you feel that you have achieved all that you can in that area.

Business Growth Defined

Applying this thinking to my business had a huge impact.

I went from hoping that I was moving in the right direction to knowing that I was giving my business the best possible chance of growing into something bigger. My Priorities list and its associated Next Actions are evidential proof that I am applying myself in terms of building my business.

I recommend that you refer back to your Priorities list once per week to ensure that everything is on track. I also recommend that you tag your associated Next Actions in some way so that they stand out from what may be a sea of items that are less important in terms of growing your business. That way, you can always make an easy decision to apply yourself to growth every working day.

Whenever possible I try to make sure that the first thing I do on any given day is complete a Next Action that helps me to get closer towards one of the outcomes on my Priorities list. No matter what I do for the rest of the day, I will know that I did something to grow my business.

What do you think of my system? Do you plan to implement it? Do you have any suggestions, comments or criticisms to add? Let me know in the comments section!

The Best and Most Affordable Web Hosting Service (My Verdict)

Written by Tom Ewer on April 11, 2013. 79 Comments

Tom: Since writing this post I have switched my hosting back to Bluehost. To find out why I now recommend Bluehost, click here!

Web hosting.

Image Credit: mikekorn

I think a lot of people new to blogging underestimate the importance of web hosting. I know I did. I purchased my first hosting package without giving it a great deal of thought beyond “what’s the cheapest service?”

However, I soon found out that the relationship you have with your hosting provider is an extremely important one. They are largely responsible for your website’s load speed and uptime, and if your website is either too slow in loading or not even available, you’re screwed. As such, it pays to spend a little time carefully considering your web hosting provider before taking the leap. It can make all the difference — believe me.

In this post I am going to explain why the web hosting provider you choose is so important and name the provider I recommend (and use) above all others. Whether you are yet to purchase a hosting package or are looking to move from your existing provider, I’ve got the answers here. I’ve also got an exclusive 30% discount for you available at the bottom of this post!

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

What I Want You To Avoid

In a nutshell, I hope that this post can help you avoid the mistakes I made in choosing sub-standard hosting providers. You will probably be surprised to find out that some of the mainstream hosting providers are the ones I have had the worst experiences with.

At one time or another I have had hosting packages with BlueHost, HostGator and GoDaddy — all three of which I ended up being extremely dissatisfied with. BlueHost in particular is a company that I would urge you to avoid at all costs. At one point this blog was down for over 24 hours and I got the distinct impression from BlueHost’s “support” team that they simply didn’t care.

But that’s not all. You need to consider overall uptime as well as the load speed of you site. While all low-cost hosting packages run on “shared servers,” the difference in load times can be dramatic between providers (as I discovered when switching to my preferred provider).

But perhaps the most important thing you need from a hosting provider is a rock solid support system. If I have a problem with one of my sites I need to know that I can get on the phone (or instant messenger) to someone who cares about my custom and has the necessary expertise to resolve whatever issue I may be experiencing.

At the end of the day, nothing is more important than being able to trust your hosting provider.

The Issue of Price

Having said all that, I can appreciate that you may be driven somewhat by your wallet. You may be eager to snap up the cheapest hosting package on offer as I was when I first started out.

Well, the good news is this: my recommended hosting provider is comparable in price or cheaper than all of the mainstream “low-end” providers. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they offer such a superior service without charging more.

When it comes to affordable but quality hosting for your site you can experience a win/win scenario — if you know what to look out for. I learned the hard way that there are some pretty poor providers out there, but if you go for the right one then you won’t regret it.

The Best and Most Affordable Web Hosting Service

WesthostThe web hosting company I use for all of my sites (including Leaving Work Behind) is Westhost.

I have been with Westhost for the past year or so and haven’t regretted it for one moment. Not only did they handle the migration from my previous hosting provider at no extra charge, Leaving Work Behind’s load speed increased by 10% immediately after the switch.

But that’s not all — with their Preferred Hosting package (from $5.99 per month) you get a free domain, daily backups and 24/7 support based in America. I have never come across a support team who are so knowledgeable about their product and so eager to help. And for total peace of mind, if you find yourself in any way unhappy with the service they offer a 60 day money back guarantee (although I very much doubt you’d need this).

I love it when I am able to enthuse so openly about a product or company because what they do is just so good. It doesn’t happen very often, but I have nothing but good things to say about Westhost. Whenever I’ve had a problem (even if it’s an issue I have caused with a rogue plugin or something similar), their support team has been on hand within an instant to help resolve the issue for me.

I can vouch for Westhost’s performance for websites that handle up to and over 20,000 visitors per month on their Preferred Hosting package. Not only do I recommend them, I use them — I’m putting my money where my mouth is here. And when Leaving Work Behind does outgrow shared server hosting, I know that I can continue to expand with Westhost (either by choosing an improved hosting package or by upgrading to their cloud server sister company, VPS.net).

Making the Switch

The decision to switch to Westhost was a big one for me. I was terrified that the website migration process would be costly and/or complicated. I was concerned about lengthy downtime or just plain breaking my site by accident.

So when I found out that Westhost offers free site migration with new accounts, a huge weight was lifted off my chest. If I’m honest I was still a little wary about handing my site over to Westhost’s support staff to handle the migration, but they completed the process without a hitch and at no extra cost.

The moral of the story is this — if you are unhappy with your current hosting provider (as I certainly was), switching isn’t the nightmare you may think it is. At least, it certainly isn’t with Westhost. You can probably get a pro-rata refund from your existing provider and make the switch at no extra cost. Then all you’ll have to look forward to is a more reliable hosting service, great features (such as free backups) and brilliant service.

Are You a Westhost User (or Are You Planning On Becoming One)?

I’ve held back on writing up this review for months because I wanted to be absolutely sure that I could recommend Westhost in this manner without hesitation. If you’re familiar with Leaving Work Behind then you’ll know that I am very selective in terms of what I promote, so take it from me that Westhost are the real deal.

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My Monthly Income Report — March 2013

Written by Tom Ewer on April 8, 2013. 77 Comments

A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions ~ Marcus Aurelius (tweet this)

A penny.2013 has been a great year for me so far. January and February netted me well over $13,000 — equivalent to $78,000 per annum.

Although it is truly wonderful to earn that kind of money and I consider myself very fortunate, I cannot help but strive for more. I don’t see this as being greedy — the money is actually something of a “side effect.” The key influencer is that I see more opportunity and potential than ever before in what I am doing. I am motivated by the idea of growing this blog’s audience, diversifying my income streams and ultimately making more money so that I can in turn show you how I did it.

Nonetheless, I can’t ignore the fact that earning more money in itself is greatly satisfying. In February’s income report I predicted that March could be a new record month for me in terms of earnings. Was I right?

What Happened in March?

I didn’t plan to start any new projects in March. I had a lot of work to do in terms of consolidating existing projects and I was also on vacation in Colorado for the last ten days of the month. With that in mind you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a pretty uneventful month in terms of my business.

Big cheesy grin for the camera.

However, it was not without its moments. I was pretty packed out with freelance work and had to ensure that I got ahead with my regular work at the same time, which made things pretty interesting. Being able to competently manage such situations is vitally important in terms of determining your worth as a freelance writer. In my opinion, clients hire you as much for your reliability and your consistency as they do your writing ability. Fortunately I was able to deliver on my promises and kept everyone happy (which also enabled me to relax fully on my vacation).

Speaking of my vacation, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did I need some R&R, my time away was a huge period of inspiration for me in terms of ideas for my business. I have come back with a whole bunch of potential projects to work on and can’t wait to get started.

But that’s enough about the future — how did I get on in terms of earnings in March?

Monthly Income Report — March 2013

  1. Freelance writing:
    • Income: $5,399.74
    • Expenditure: $19.95
    • Profit: $5,379.79 ($100+ per hour equivalent)
  2. Websites:
    • Income: $11.17
    • Expenditure: $0
    • Profit: $11.17
  3. Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
  4. Information Products:
    • Income: $1,392.50
    • Expenditure: $80.05
    • Profit: $1,312.45
  5. eBooks:
    • Income: $101.44
    • Expenditure: $50
    • Profit: $51.44

Total profit for March 2013: $7,472.42

A quick glance at my income reports summary page will tell you that this is a new record, beating my previous best in January 2013 by $619! It’s also the first time I’ve broken the $7,000 mark.

Speaking of new records, my freelance earnings of $5,400 is also a new high. This was down to a fair amount of one-off work in addition to some quarterly charges for website maintenance arrangements that I have with a couple of clients. Those quarterly charges have warped my hourly rate calculations somewhat, which came out at $150. Therefore, for this month I have simply approximated my equivalent hourly rate as $100+.

My gross affiliate income was broadly comparable to last month’s earnings, which I’m really happy to see. Affiliate marketing is something I am working hard on at the moment and I’m looking forward to sharing my strategy with you soon (when I’m confident that it is fully effective).

My information product continues to sell pretty well as I continue to tweak and test — I hope that with increased traffic and further optimization these earnings will continue to climb.

Finally we have the rather paltry eBook earnings. It is fair to say that my endeavours on this front haven’t generated spectacular results (which led me to alter my strategy in March), but I’m not quite done yet. I plan to release the final two books in my freelance writing series this month then optimize all five books as best I can. At that point I’ll judge just how worthwhile my Kindle publishing experiment has been.

The Issue of Overspending

Up until the end of 2012, I’d never really been in a position where I’d earned much more than my outgoings on a consistent basis. That is now changing — with my regular outgoings hovering around the $4,000 mark, each month in 2013 so far should have seen me with a nice wad of cash left in my pocket. However, that has not been the case as of yet.

It started off with some unfortunate but necessary expenses such as a new washing machine and dishwasher to replace faulty old appliances. Then it was planned expenses, such as the work to refurbish my spare bedroom into a home office (I’ll have all the photos up on my Facebook page when it’s finished!). Then my house was burgled, which of course has an associated cost regardless of how good your insurance policy is.

But beyond that, I have definitely been guilty of spending more than I typiclly would. I think it’s largely unavoidable when you start earning a bit more — that freedom to spend when you’ve always had a mindset of being relatively careful with your money is an intoxicating feeling. While I’m not spending beyond my means, simply increasing my outgoings in line with my income is not going to get me anywhere. If I want to make the big changes in my life (such as buying a new house and providing for a family in the future) I need to be more responsible with my increasing income.

My Financial Target

With the above in mind, I took the opportunity while waiting for my plane home at Newark Liberty Airport to write down a rough idea of what I want to earn (and save) in order to reach my “material goals.” Here’s what I came up with.

What I Want in Two Years

What I Need (to Get What I Want)

Capital required:

$150,000 + $15,000 = $165,000

Monthly income required:

$4,000 (existing outgoings) + $3,225 (extras as per above) + $6,875 (capital) = $14,000

In other words, I need to approximately double my existing income within two years in order to achieve my financial target (which is in turn led by my material goals). Which means I’ve got a lot of work to do.

However, I must add a caveat to all of the above. As I said in a recent update on my Facebook page, it is key to find “less material things” than money to work towards in order to feel truly fulfilled. At this point I feel that I can work towards earning more money and helping other people at the same time, which is truly awesome. I’m not going to be distraught if I don’t reach the above financial target — for one thing, I am 100% sure it will change within the next six months, let alone the next two years.

As long as I feel that I have good forward momentum I am likely to be happy. I’ll keep reaching for the stars and we’ll just have to wait and see how far I get.

What’s in Store for April?

April is yet another month of consolidation, but hopefully my last one. I will be wrapping up the bulk of my Kindle eBook project and hope to be doing a great deal of work on my authority site to establish whether or not it has legs as a “mainstream” project in the long run. I will also be starting on one major new project — something that is going to be very big indeed for Leaving Work Behind. More on that soon.

I doubt very much that April will see a record month of earnings as I will be doing less freelance work and I do not expect any other stream of income to increase dramatically. My hope will be that I can maintain my affiliate and information product earnings and hopefully increase my eBook earnings, but only time will tell.

What I’m really excited about is my new home office, which should be completed by the end of April. I am hoping that a uncluttered room completely dedicated to work will enable me to be far more productive than I have been recently. Increased productivity is something that I am in dire need of and I am hoping that my new working environment will give me the jump start that I need.