Leaving Work Behind

The Drawbacks of Goal Setting (Why I Agree With Leo Babauta)

Written by Tom Ewer on February 27, 2014. 10 Comments

GoalsI’m incredibly fortunate. I’ve got to a point now where I make enough money to support me. At this point, my day-to-day contentment with what I do is more important to me than making me more money.

That puts me in a rather interesting position where I don’t want to set myself strict goals.

The thing is, ambitious goals are brilliant for pushing you and getting you to places you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to. But they can also be a source of stress. They can put pressure on you. That’s the nature of goals.

Richard Koch says you should impose tight deadlines to force you to do more in less time, which is great in theory. But in reality, that creates stress.

All of this can be a good thing when you’ve got a big goal in mind. For instance, setting tough goals and really pushing yourself when you’re trying to quit your job can all be worth it. Quitting that job can be worth the stress and hassle.

But I’ve got myself into a position where the stress of strict goals is no longer worth it. I want to feel that I can wake up in the morning and do precisely what I want to do — I can’t do that if I have goals looming over me. I want to only do those things that I find most rewarding; those things that align with my moral principles. I still have goals — I just don’t set myself arbitrary deadlines or put myself in a position where I feel pressured to do something I don’t want to do.

Consider my experience with Clear Blogging Solutions. I started off by trying to attract every client under the sun. I soon discovered that I didn’t like dealing with people who wanted to pay $50 per article, and that my original core client (who would pay a good price for good value) was someone I wanted to stick with. There might be less of them, and I might make less overall by dealing only with them, but it is sure more rewarding. Screw the extra money — I don’t need it. I’m happy.

Depending upon your current situation, this may come of something as a revelation to you, or you may be sitting there telling me that it’s all well and good for me. Fair enough, but I’m not here to hate on goal setting (far from it) or gloat that I can afford not to set goals. My point is that goal setting is a tool; one that should be used with forethought. As such, you should always ask yourself why you are setting a goal and whether it is worth it — not simply set goals blindly because you feel it is the done thing.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals — after all, without goals, we are highly unlikely to ever reach our true potential. But perhaps reaching our true potential involves sacrifices that are too great. That is the equation you have to consider.

Photo Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk

Why You Need to Come to Terms With Your Job

Written by Tom Ewer on February 25, 2014. 19 Comments

This article is a chapter from one of my upcoming books. If you’re interested in paying what you want (from just $1) for the series of books I will be publishing in the coming months, join the Leaving Work Behind Book Club!

Good JobYou almost certainly cannot quit your job tomorrow without some repercussions. You’re probably not there yet. And that is why you need to come to terms with your job before you do anything else.

The first step is to understand that your job is temporary. It is a means to an end. You may currently need the benefits that your employment contract offers – medical insurance, paid maternity leave, a pension – but those needs will not be permanent. A job is a safety net that allows you to get in a position where it is no longer needed. If you cannot bring yourself to like it, appreciate it for that fact.

Even if you absolutely hate your job, considering it as a placeholder position rather than a terminal illness can make all the difference to your attitude.

Believe it or not, your job gives you freedom. It enables you to work on your fledgling online business without fear of failure, because failure will not mean that the bills will go unpaid. It enables you to create a vicarious business, free of the concerns that cloud many entrepreneurs’ minds. Remember that whenever you feel negatively about your work.

One of your immediate goals will be to quit your job, but that is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. If you do not conduct yourself appropriately you may find the perceived nightmare that is your job hides much bigger monsters when you finally quit.

Leaving work behind isn’t just about quitting your job – it’s about building a life that allows you the freedom you desire. If by quitting your job you are jumping from the frying pan into the fire, you have not really taken a step closer to your goals. You may have taken a step away.

Ultimately, your job is a factor that must be taken into consideration. You may be indifferent towards it, you may dislike it, or you may even hate it. But it is a part of your life – not forever, but for the time being. It provides you with a relative level of security and enables you to work on your fledgling business without fear of the possible repercussions.

Learn to appreciate your job for the above reasons and you will benefit from a more productive outlook.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

Why You Should Offer Your Blog’s Readers an Abundance of Choice

Written by Tom Ewer on February 20, 2014. 17 Comments

Sign up and keep upHands up who hasn’t heard the phrase, “The money is in the list.” I reckon there’s two, maybe three of you.

The rest of us are all too familiar with that horribly overused expression. As bloggers, we’re told that our primary overruling focus should be on getting people to sign up to our email list. Why? Because it has been demonstrated time and time again that communicating with your readers (i.e. potential sources of income) via email offers the highest return.

I’m not planning on arguing against that fact — in my experience, email is the most effective way to communicate your audience, and an email list is a powerful asset. However, an overruling focus on email signups may not be the best way to grow your blog. In this post, I want to explain why.

Window Shopping

Imagine you run a retail store. On any given day, hundreds of people will walk through your doors — people of varying types. Let’s split them into some broad categories:

  1. Bouncers: those who peer through the window but never actually make it into the store.
  2. Browsers: these guys may make it into the store, but after browsing for a while, they leave without spending a dime.
  3. Thrifty customers: those who spend a little money on a small-ticket item or two in your store. Despite their low spending, they may be repeat (and valuable) customers.
  4. Average customers: these guys might spend a fair bit in your store, returning regularly.
  5. Whales: those who buy your big ticket items with little hesitation, and return to do it again and again.

The above scenario serves as a nice analogy for your blog. Each of the above customer types fits potential visitors to your site.

  1. Bouncers are the guys who (you guessed it) bounce off your site after just a few seconds without exploring further.
  2. Browsers are those who hang around on your site for a while, but do not interact with your content in any way.
  3. Thrifty customers might never make a purchase or even sign up to your email list, but they might comment and/or share your content.
  4. Average customers will sign up to your email list and probably buy one or more of your products at some point.
  5. Whales are your blog evangelists — people who shout your name from virtual rooftops and purchase everything you release.

Most bloggers focus on a combination of these visitor types, but rarely all five. And therein lies the issue: the key to growing a successful blog is to enable each visitor type to offer value in whatever way they are comfortable — whether that be through commenting, sharing, subscribing or purchasing.

Furthermore, whenever possible, you want to convert bouncers to browsers, browsers to thrifty customers, thrifty customers to average customers, and average customers to whales.

If you’re only focusing on say bouncers and whales, there’s a big black hole in the potential progression that visitors can make when they hit your site. And that’s no good.

Making Your Blog a More All-Inclusive Affair

In an ideal world, your blog should cater for all types. And contrary to popular opinion, doing so is possible.

Many blogging “gurus” will tell you to limit the sign up and engagement options available on your blog in order to increase the likelihood of a reader taking the most desired action: subscribing via email. However, there are people in this world who will never sign up to your email list. They may well be willing to buy your product down the line, but they’re just not interested in being communicated to via email.

I know this all too well, because I am that person. I like to keep my email inbox as clean as possible, so I don’t subscribe to any blogs. But that doesn’t mean I won’t share content and buy a blogger’s product if I think it suits my needs.

Furthermore, I disagree with the notion that we must limit choice when it comes to engagement options. While an abundance of choice can be a bad thing, I believe that most blog readers these days are savvy enough to identify their engagement model of choice and use it as they see fit.

What I mean is this: some people like Twitter and some people like Facebook. Some people like commenting and others like forums. Some people like to receive their updates via RSS and others via email. Your job is to present all of those options so that each person can pick the one they want.

Your visitors won’t be overwhelmed by the number of options because they’ll know what they’re looking for. Facebook lovers will instantly recognize the “Like” button and click on it if they are so inclined, regardless of what else is on your page. It will stick out like a sore thumb to them. And who are we to try to force people to subscribe to a blog in a way that is not their preference? Surely that’s not a recipe for building an engaged audience?

Is Email Still King?

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not hating on email. I love my email lists and consider them the best way to communicate with my readers by far. But at the same time, I don’t see it as my prerogative to tell people how they should follow Leaving Work Behind.

This was demonstrated to my quite plainly by the responses to a request I recently posted on the Leaving Work Behind Facebook page:

Facebook status update

The response was encouraging: 36 likes and thirteen comments from people telling me that Facebook is their sole way of keeping in touch with Leaving Work Behind, including:

Facebook comments

It makes me think — given that I don’t have a Facebook Like box plainly displayed on my site, how many people who have no interest in subscribing via email but would’ve “liked” the site have slipped through my fingers?

Conclusion

My overriding point is this: it should not be up to us to determine how readers choose to follow our blog. Furthermore, offering multiple signup and engagement options needn’t be overwhelming — it is easy enough to include a subtle widget with some small icons (something which, admittedly, I need to do on this very site — definitely a case of do as I say but not as I do!).

Your blog should cater for bouncers, whales and everyone in-between. Your success is best driven by catering for everyone who wants to engage with your blog. To do any less is akin to asking people to leave your store if they haven’t made a big purchase after browsing for a couple of minutes. You wouldn’t do that as a retail store manager, so why should you do it as a blogger?

Photo Credit: Howard Lake

The Best Way to Make Money Blogging (That You’re Ignoring)

Written by Tom Ewer on February 18, 2014. 45 Comments

$20 notesWhen I decided that I was going to quit my job in May 2011, freelance blogging was the last thing on my mind. As is the case with most people, my focus was on creating passive income streams.

Invariably, I failed on that front. After six months of trying and failing, I turned from passive income exploits to freelance blogging — out of sheer frustration more than anything else.

Despite freelance blogging being the reason for me being able to quit my job, I felt for a long time that I’d only carry on with it long enough to get my passive income projects off the ground. My attitude was simple: freelancing was a means to an end — not a long term solution for leaving work behind.

However, my attitude has changed markedly over the past 2 1/2 years. In this post, I want to reveal how freelance blogging has had a more positive impact on my life than almost anything else, and convince you why you should be following in my path.

The Fallacy of Passive Income

Let’s start with one of the most important things you should know about making money online: there is no such thing as “passive” income, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

“Passive” income implies that you do not have to work for it, when nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the phrase can only be used in the loosest sense of the term — i.e., you might work very hard up front to produce something that makes money over a period of weeks or months without you having to do too much to sustain that income.

So while the idea of doing no work to make lots of money is an attractive one, it doesn’t exist in the real world. Furthermore, the attraction of spending a great deal of time creating a product that you can then sell in a “passive” manner has been blown way out of proportion.

When it comes to making money, there are only two things you should care about on a fundamental level:

  1. How much money you make
  2. How much work you do to make that money

In my opinion, you can throw issues of passive vs. non-passive income out of the window, because there is a much simpler equation: what makes you more money.

For example, let’s say that Joe has a “passive income” business that makes $5,000 per month and he spends (on average) 6 hours per day maintaining it and creating the products that produce the income. Meanwhile, Jenny is a freelancer, makes $80 per hour and works 3 hours per day. Jenny makes more than Joe while working half the time.

Who would you rather be?

Put another way, if you can make more money from a “non-passive” business, why wouldn’t you go down that road? I know the 4-Hour Workweek approach to life as all the rage, but most of us have a desire to work and won’t necessarily be more fulfilled by working less. I think most people end up discovering that it’s more about finding rewarding work than trying to work as little as possible. That’s why Tim Ferriss doesn’t work four hours per week — on the contrary, he probably works harder than you or I.

A lot of people argue that the key to running a successful business is to disconnect yourself from a direct relationship between your time and income. However, unless you hire enough staff to keep your business running without any of your input (which is one hell of a challenge), your income will always be linked to your time input. It’s unavoidable.

My point is this: the sooner you disconnect yourself from the notion that your input should be far removed from your earnings, the better.

Blogging vs. Freelance Blogging

The world of blogging offers countless examples of how many people are completely lost — to their detriment — in a dream of making passive income. I’ll use myself as an example, and more specifically, Leaving Work Behind’s “passive” income generation.

Since launching this blog it has made in the region of $30,000 (including affiliate income and information product sales). In that time I would estimate that I’ve spent approximately 900 hours working on the blog (about an hour every weekday on average since July 2011, which is probably an overly conservative approximation). That gives me an hourly rate of ~$33.

Now consider my freelance blogging career progression. My first gig paid $20 per hour. My second gig, which I landed a couple of months after I started freelancing, paid about $30. In other words, it took me a couple of months of freelance blogging to equal the hourly rate I have achieved after over 2 1/2 years of “passive income” blogging.

But that’s not all. My freelancing rate continued to climb to a high of $161 per hour before I “quit” and moved to the subcontracting business model I currently operate (i.e. I work with a team of writers and operate in an editorial role to ensure that each article is up to scratch before passing it onto the client).

My blog has got a long way to go before my equivalent hourly rate matches my freelance blogging success.

Despite this, people continue blindly pouring hours of time into their blogs. Just imagine if they took that same drive an applied it to a freelance blogging career. It could change their lives.

The Issue of Scalability

I know what you’re thinking though: “freelance blogging doesn’t scale.” Well, I’ve already proven that wrong.

Having established myself as a freelance blogger, in the middle of last year I sidestepped into a subcontracting business model with surprising ease. Just like that, I had created a “passive income” business. My hourly rate went from ~$150 to ~$400 per hour — something that will take me a long time to match through blogging (if I ever do). Not only that, but it’s money in my pocket right now — it’s not money that I can hope to have down the line after countless hours of hard work.

To be honest, writing this article has encouraged me to spend even more time on my writing business. Compared to blogging, it’s a license to print money.

I think a lot of people are put off the notion of freelancing due to its lack of scalability, and while one-man-band freelancing isn’t scalable, such businesses can sidestep into scalable models — just like mine did.

But Freelancing’s No Fun!

I guess this is the most compelling argument for people who turn their noses up at the prospect of freelance blogging. After all, who wants to work for clients? Isn’t that just like having another job?

In short: no. I’ve never felt like that. I’ve only worked with clients I want to work with and I’ve only done work that I want to do. I spent around 18 months freelancing for 2-3 hours per day and earned thousands of dollars per month in the process. It wasn’t a hardship. On the contrary, it enabled me to quit my job and acted as a springboard for just about everything I have achieved so far.

I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. Freelancers will invariably feel far better about being freelancers if they view their business as a business — not some kind of quasi-employment. Furthermore, I believe that all freelancers should have one eye on the future potential of their business — i.e. leveraging the skills of others and creating a scalable business. That’s where it gets real interesting.

It’s Not All Roses

For those of you who have been convinced by this article that freelance blogging is worth consideration, I do want to make the point that it’s not a cakewalk. You will need to work hard and smart.

So many freelance bloggers ignore what I consider to be the fundamentals of success and thus only ever work with low-paying clients. However, in my experience, the potential rewards are enormous.

I’m not going to turn this into a big sales pitch (yes, I do have a freelance blogging course). If you’re interested in the course, take a look. But what you could also do, totally free, is check out all of the freelance blogging articles I have here on Leaving Work Behind. That will get you going.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. The best thing to do is leave your question on the freelancing forum here on Leaving Work Behind — that way, you’ll get the benefit of more answers than just mine.

Alternatively, leave your comments and questions below!

Photo Credit: Unhindered by Talent

Join Me in Berlin for the ALIVE Conference!

Written by Tom Ewer on February 13, 2014. 6 Comments

Alive in Berlin logoI’ve never been to a conference in my life.

It’s something I’ve felt that I should do for the last couple of years – ever since I quit my job and became a full time blogger.

The main things that have held me back are (1) cost and (2) distance. Almost all entrepreneurial conferences are in the USA, which means an expensive conference ticket, plus expensive flights, plus jet lag!

That’s why I was so excited to learn about the ALIVE conference in Berlin this May, created by my friend Jana Schuberth. Not only is it far closer to me than any US conference, I also managed to snag an early bird ticket, saving myself £100 in the process.

I’m going to ALIVE, and regardless of where you are in the world, I want to convince you to come with me and grab hold of your own £100 discount!

About ALIVE

To borrow from the ALIVE site, this brand new conference “is a global gathering devoted to personal transformation.” It takes place on 30th and 31st May 2014 in Berlin.

To put it another way, it’s exactly what I’d create if I decided to launch my own conference, which is why I had no hesitation in not only attending, but offering to act as an ambassador.

The conference will be made up of a number of core themes:

Basically, it covers all of the topics you can read about here at Leaving Work Behind and at my other blog, Healthy Enough. If you’re a LWB and/or a Healthy Enough fan, this conference is practically tailor-made for you.

Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau — one of the keynote speakers.

If that wasn’t enough, the icing was well and truly laid on the cake when I discovered that both Chris Guillebeau and Pamela Slim are speaking! I can see their paperbacks lining my office bookshelf as I type this, so to say I’m excited to see them speak in person is an understatement.

The ALIVE site says there are six reasons why you will love the conference:

  1. Explore common threads across a number of disciplines, to taking all areas of our lives to the next level
  2. Learn directly from a wide spectrum of experts in personal transformation
  3. Make deep connections with change-makers from around the world and strengthen online connections
  4. Leave with a powerful, realistic action plan for personal change
  5. For Europeans it’s significantly cheaper than attending similar events in the States
  6. A rare chance to combine world travel and adventure with personal development and network-building

Having spoken to Jana about ALIVE, I can name an important seventh reason: the conference will focus on quality rather than quantity. There are a relatively small number of talks with plenty of time in-between to reflect and discuss what was said:

The two-day event will include 8 brilliant expert speakers from a wide range of disciplines, space throughout the weekend for relaxed conversation and interaction, daily Q&A sessions where you can interact directly with many of our speakers and coaches, and opportunities to get active and involved for those who want to. There will also be a chill room and coffee corner to relax, reflect and take time out if you need to!

So rather than a weekend of information overload and analysis paralysis, I actually plan to walk away with a very clear idea of how I will apply what I’ve learned.

Meet Me at ALIVE!

I can’t wait for the conference, and I really can’t wait to meet LWB readers in “real life”!

Speaking personally, it’s an awesome opportunity for me to grow my network. I hope to speak with some of the influencers in my space — both small and big — and create some meaningful connections. I have no doubt that the entire event will be of huge benefit, both personally and professionally.

And the same goes for you! I don’t have any fixed plans yet but it would be great to organize a meet-up with LWB readers at some point during the weekend so that we can get to know each other better.

Obviously this is a great opportunity for the Europeans amongst us to attend what is bound to become a key fixture in the conference calendar, but I would love to see some familiar American faces there too!

Grab Your Early Bird Ticket Now!

Tickets for ALIVE will be available for £349 until they sell out, but they’re currently available for just £249 — an enormous £100 discount! (Don’t worry — prices will be converted into your domestic currency at checkout.)

However, this discount is only available until 11:59pm GMT (6:59pm EST) on Friday 14th February (tomorrow), so if you want to join me at ALIVE you should grab your ticket now!

If you’d like to know more about the conference before you get your ticket, you can find out everything you need to know at the official ALIVE in Berlin website.

If you do grab a ticket, please get in touch and let me know! And as always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I can’t wait to meet you in May!

Get your £100 discount and purchase your ALIVE in Berlin tickets now.