Leaving Work Behind

My Thoughts on the Future of Leaving Work Behind (And Blogging in General)

Written by Tom Ewer on July 25, 2013. 84 Comments
Photo Credit: Cillian Storm

Photo Credit: Cillian Storm

You can’t beat the rush of an epiphany.

I seem to have them periodically. The first in this chapter of my life (i.e. the “Leaving Work Behind” chapter) was back in May 2011, where I seemingly came to a decision overnight that I needed to quit my job and launch an online business.

The second was in in May 2012 when I decided that I was no longer in a rush to get rich, which was quite a revelation for someone who had grown up thinking that working your ass off and getting rich was the whole point of life.

The third was just a few weeks ago while on vacation in Turkey, where I realized that my business wasn’t performing anywhere near to its potential and that I had to implement some big changes.

That final epiphany leads me to this post. I have spent the past several days putting some serious thought into the future of Leaving Work Behind and how I can make it a more valuable resource for you, my readers.

I have concluded as follows: the conventional model of blogging is not for me and I am going to make some big changes.

The State of Blogging

The other day I stumbled across an engrossing article by a photography enthusiast named Chuq Von Rospach (spectacular name by the way Chuq). Rarely have I encountered something that was so timely and so fitting to my frame of mind — I thoroughly recommend that you read it.

In the article Chuq refers to what he considers the problem (or in fact, problems) with blogging:

  • Too many keyboards chasing too few ideas.
  • Too many people following “the rules” rather than the material.
  • Too many short, shallow, forgettable, thin pieces of crap.
  • Lots of opinions without backing facts or expertise.

I can’t help but agree with Chuq.

That may come as a shock from someone who writes blog posts for a living and has just launched a content marketing agency, but bear with me.

It’s not that “conventional” blogging in itself is redundant — it is in fact a highly effective means of attracting prospective prospects, customers and/or clients. It works. But what is effective may not be what is rewarding to write, nor is it something that I feel brings something new and unique to readers that often.

As a writer working to a schedule you cannot always be at your best. Sometimes you write something that you are truly proud of and that gets a great reception. Other times you write something not so good, or even worse, something while under the influence of ulterior motives (generally financial).

My Involvement in the State of Blogging

I have been as guilty of these shortcomings and sins as any other blogger in the past, but it stops here.

Leaving Work Behind is more than just the little accountability journal on the web that it once was. It is a source of inspiration and perhaps even a beacon of hope for a loyal group of people, either still in their jobs and working to find a way out or already in business and looking to build upon their success to date.

I will not take advantage of the trust and goodwill that I have developed over the past twenty-five months by following the established rules of conventional blogging and online marketing. No more.

Chuq puts it better than I can:

When you boil it all down, blogging today, at least as the so-called experts preach how it ought to be done, has been turned into a big marketing engine. It’s more important that it SEO well than if it’s actually well written. Or interesting.  Short and punchy, and break it up into pieces posted over days, so you can get more hits and pageviews out of it. Blogging has been turned into writing daily press releases in hopes of gaining attention. It’s now a PR function, not a creative one. And frankly, most of the time, it fails miserably at that, too.

Writing stuff every day that someone comes and looks at — for 30 seconds — is pretty easy, actually. But not very fulfilling. I don’t want to write stuff that causes people to come to the site and bounce off to the next site two paragraphs later. I want them to stop and finish the piece and then pass it along to their friends to read. That kind of writing — not so easy. What I want to do doesn’t segment out well into 500 word chunks posted five times a week. I’ve tried in the past to build that cadence into my writing, and what I find it does is it pushes you into writing simple, forgettable, easily created chunks of shallow and not terribly useful words.

The other reason I’ve been wandering photography blogs like a hobo the last few months is I’ve been trying to understand how I could add to the conversation about photography out on the net and not merely repeat it. Lets be honest: nobody, anywhere, under any circumstances needs to write another blog post that tries to explain Aperture mode to a new user. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of people who’ve written about that, so if that’s your idea of useful content to write for your blog, just stop and go get your camera and go take pictures instead.  The universe does not need another blog full of generic 500 word tutorials on basic camera concepts — except that if you follow the best practices experts, that’s the kind of material they tend to push you at, because it’s easy, it’ll SEO well, and it’ll drive PAGEVIEWS. Quality? Good writing? Interesting topics? Kiddo, that stuff doesn’t SEO, why waste your time?

I’m not talking about blogging as a business model; this is about blogging for self-fulfilment and for the greater good of the LWB community. I’m talking about creating a blog based upon the principles of altruism; not focused on how to get more fans, followers and subscribers.

I won’t lie to you — it is my hope that by taking this approach to my blog, it will continue to grow (both in terms of subscribers and revenue). But I am not going to sell my soul to the devil in the hope that I can make an extra few bucks.

Where Has This Come From?

I guess the issue about trust and value has been on my mind since the very first day I started work on this blog.

It has raised its head at times — such as when I first monetized LWB, when I did a couple of webinars that fell flat and most recently when I published an article on email marketing best practices.

It is a search engine optimized post that was written in an attempt to generate affiliate sales. Don’t get me wrong — I feel like I have created something of value — but it’s not the kind of piece that I get excited about producing.

That post has produced just nine comments (including my own) and zero affiliate sales. I didn’t really enjoy creating it and the lack of interest left me feeling pretty dejected.

The truth is this: I never felt “right” about publishing that post, and my gut feeling was validated by its failure both in terms of financial goals and engagement.

Is doing something unrewarding that I do not feel best serves my audience worth the potential affiliate earnings? I’ve decided that the clear answer is no. It’s the same reason why I’ve never written a post on my affiliate strategy despite having been asked a few times — my heart’s not in it. I don’t feel like a deliberate affiliate marketing strategy is “me.” It’s not how I like to operate.

The only way in which I find affiliate marketing truly rewarding is when it ties in perfectly with a topic that I want to write about — a topic in which I feel I can add value and help my readers. An example of that would be this post: How I Attracted 10,000 Twitter Followers in a Year (My 5 Step Process).

Guess what — that post was shared a load of times, received over fifty comments and resulted in a healthy number of affiliate sales. Take from that what you will.

So What Next?

I’m following Chuq’s lead:

So what I’m going to do is this. I’m going to stop blogging. Any pretense of it. I’m going to write.

I am setting out to create the world’s greatest resource for those who are interested in quitting their jobs and building successful online businesses that afford them the freedom to live as they please. I intend to do that in a manner that I am 100% comfortable with and at no point will I compromise my principles, nor will I do anything to divert my attention from that goal.

No more set blogging schedule. No more sheer volume of content in the hope of attracting more search engine referrals. No more cookie cutter blog posts. No more picking topics on the basis of what I think might rank in Google. No more writing posts in the hope of generating affiliate earnings.

Instead, I will only produce content when I believe it is truly unique and/or adds value to my readers in a way that they could not easily find elsewhere. I will be driven by a perpetual desire to help as many of you as possible to leave work behind.

In a nutshell, this means that you will be seeing less content on the blog — probably just one post per week on average or perhaps even less. But when I do hit publish on something, you will know that it is the best possible content that I can produce.

But What About Making Money?

The last thing I want to do is mislead you and make it seem like I’m presenting myself as some kind of philanthropist. Don’t get me wrong — I want to help you, but I want to make a living too. That’s where the element choice comes in for you.

Here’s the deal: the vast majority of the content on this site is free. There is over two years worth of content packaged into well over two hundred blog posts available at your fingertips right now. That number will only continue to grow. But if I create something I deem valuable enough, I will charge for it (such as I did with my freelance writing guide). I believe that to be an utterly transparent model of creating and providing value.

That won’t stop me from writing free content on the same topic (as I have done to a great extent with my considerable collection of articles on freelance writing), but if you decide that you want to pay for premium content organized and presented in a logical structure, you have the option to do so.

As a brief aside, that brings me onto the great irony of the affiliate marketing system: A system that many claim is far more “transparent” than the “salesy” techniques that so many bloggers pursue in trying to sell their products. But ask yourself this: What is potentially more insidious — someone who says, “Hey, buy my product if you want!” or someone who says, “You should buy this product — I’ll get money if you do so, but don’t worry — my recommendation isn’t biased at all.” As far as I am concerned, you should only trust someone’s affiliate recommendation if they demonstrate that they still use it and have gained positive effects from its use.

Why Blogging is a Terrible Medium for Information Consumption

I’ve got a little secret to tell: I’m not subscribed to a single blog right now.

I am on an “information diet” — I don’t read or watch the news, I don’t engage in personal social media (although I am of course still on Facebook and Twitter in my LWB capacity) and I don’t read blogs. While I still share links to blog posts from those handful of blogs that I love the most, I’m not reading them.

Why? Because when you read a blog you are taking part in the world’s greatest ever exercise of random information consumption.

The reality is this: anyone can blog and there is a lot of crap out there. Even the “best” bloggers publish a high ratio of poor to good content, because there is no real editorial oversight (after all, today’s terrible article is history by tomorrow).

Furthermore, the consumption of blog articles is largely a random act. What your favorite bloggers decide to write about, you read, leading you down paths you never chose. It’s a recipe for paralysis by analysis – one of the most dangerous conditions you can suffer from as a budding entrepreneur.

This may seem pretty crazy coming from a blogger, but I intend to be the exception to the blogging rule.

I encourage you to keep reading Leaving Work Behind, but if you feel that a post isn’t applicable to what you are trying to achieve, don’t read it. Carry on with what you’re doing. That post will still be there in the Archives if you need it in the future. I’ll be waiting if you need help with anything.

So How Am I Supposed to Leave Work Behind?

As a reader of my blog, that is the key question for you. How am I going to the promise of my tagline: “Quit Your Job and Build Your Best Life”?

All I’ll say for now is that I have a plan. A big plan. Something that I am extremely excited about. This plan will come into fruition within the next few months, at which point we could see this blog go in an extraordinary new direction.

I hope to see you there along for the ride. But in the meantime, take a mental note: Leaving Work Behind is about to change.

Who’s with me?

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!

With Thanks To…

Written by Tom Ewer on December 27, 2012. 29 Comments

Thank YouMy first year of self-employment is drawing to a close. It’s certainly been a wild ride but I am really happy with how things have gone.

If I cast my mind back to May 2011 — when I first started out on my journey to leaving work behind — it’s amazing to see how far I have come. However, I would not be where I am now without the help of some really awesome people.

With the above in mind, in this post I want to take you through a list of the people that have inspired me me and explain how they have impacted my journey so far. If you want to thank these guys too just click to tweet below!

Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau The Art of Non-Comformity was one of the first “lifestyle design” websites I came across and I devoured Chris’ two manifestos (A Brief Guide to World Domination and 279 Days to Overnight Success) eagerly. He has been featured twice before on Leaving Work Behind.

There are are three reasons why I have so much respect for Chris and consider him such a great guy:

He really reached his zenith (to date) with the release of The $100 Startup — a New York Times bestseller. Although that book came a little late for me in terms of inspiring me to leave work behind, his story served as huge inspiration when I was first starting out.

Tweet your thanks to Chris.

Corbett Barr

Corbett Barr

When I first decided that I wanted to quit my job back in May 2011 I read an enormous amount of stuff in attempt to figure out what I should do. If I look back now only a few things stick out — like Chris Guillebeau’s aforementioned manifestos. However, Corbett Barr’s own manifesto — 18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures — is utterly unforgettable and introduced me to the man and his blog, Think Traffic.

He demonstrated to me that creating a successful blog is possible and also did a great deal in teaching me how. For instance, when I sought to re-launch Leaving Work Behind earlier this year I turned to his Start a Blog That Matters course, which is one of the best internet marketing purchases I have ever made.

Corbett’s business is growing from strength to strength and I am seriously excited to see what he has in store for 2013.

Tweet your thanks to Corbett.

Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn

If I were to pick out one person that had the greatest impact on me when I was starting out it would have to be Pat Flynn.

I came across his Niche Site Duel post series and was totally hooked — he gave me a singular focus with my first niche site. Although that project ended in disaster, by that time I was determined to succeed. Pat’s varied success has served as a beacon to my own efforts as I seek to create diversified income streams.

The best thing about Pat’s Smart Passive Income blog is his upfront and straightforward approach to real-life case studies (like the aforementioned niche site duel). Although Pat has been doing less of these posts recently he recently vowed to refocus on them in 2013. I for one am really interested to see what he comes up with.

Tweet your thanks to Pat.

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan

I’ll admit that Marcus’ blog — The Sales Lion — has become less relevant to me as the months have passed, but that does not detract from the impact it had on me in my developmental stages. His story of struggling “pool guy” to accomplished and recognized content marketing expert is nothing short of inspiring and I remain a subscriber to this day.

His practice of always responding to blog comments pushed me to replicate that very approach on this blog — nothing is more heartwarming than a blogger who demonstrates that he has time for you. Any blogger or content marketer can learn a huge amount from Marcus’ approach.

Tweet your thanks to Marcus.

James Farmer

James FarmerThe owner of Edublogs, WPMU DEV and WPMU.org is not much of a blogger but that does not detract from the huge influence he had on me. After all, James was the guy who gave me my first writing gig back in September 2011 and without his validation of my burgeoning blogging skills I honestly do not know where I would be right now.

Although James himself may not be able to help you in any direct way (beyond the aforementioned sites which are great resources for WordPress users), his impact on my professional life in the past 15 months or so should serve as a reminder that breakthroughs can come from the most unlikely sources.

Tweet your thanks to James.

Steve Scott

Steve ScottI’ve got a lot of time for Steve. I very clearly remember the first time I interacted with him, when he commented on an early post on my blog. I knew all about his blog at the time and couldn’t believe that such an established blogger had taken the time to comment on my little site!

From there me and Steve have become good friends online and speak regularly about our respective businesses. He has been an internet marketer for many years and is a great person to know. I am hoping that Steve and I will be able to collaborate in 2013 — stay tuned!

Tweet your thanks to Steve.

Not to Mention…

I could go on forever in listing the people that have had a positive impact on my development as a freelance writer, blogger and internet marketer but I have to draw the line somewhere. However, there are more people that I think deserve a mention alongside the names above, so here goes:

…and to anyone I have forgotten, please accept my sincere apology and my thanks for helping me to get to where I am!

Who Has Influenced You?

So now it’s your turn — if you could mention just one person who has had a positive impact on your own attempts to leave work behind, who would it be and why? Let me know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Kate Pulley

7 Stories: Joys, Trials and Tribulations of My Journey to Date

Written by Tom Ewer on December 14, 2012. 39 Comments

A Long RoadLast week I asked my email subscribers to fill out a simple poll.

It was made up of practical questions like “How often are you happy to receive emails from me?” and “Do you enjoy my exclusive tips and advice emails sent on a Thursday?”

The idea was that I could use the feedback to send the kind (and frequency) of emails that my subscribers want. I was really happy to see that the responses indicated a high level of satisfaction with what I was currently doing, but it was the “Any more comments” submissions that really got me.

Of the 151 responses submitted, 30 people were kind enough to leave me some really heartwarming feedback, for which I am hugely grateful. However, there was one message in particular that really touched a nerve and inspired me to write this post today.

“Give Us What We All Need”

The message was anonymous, like all the others (except those who had actually identified themselves). Here it is (paraphrased):

Bring it. Give us what we all need. Much more saturation, more tears, more in-the-trenches detail of personal growth including:

  1. Big and small failures
  2. Daily miseries
  3. Impossible life-choices and painful dilemmas
  4. Sacrifices
  5. Green-eyed monster jealousy of others’ ease of success/looks/luck
  6. Debilitating backstabbing disappointments and letdowns of friends and family abandonments
  7. Dumb-luck rare wind-falls and unexplainable great breaks

Don’t ask me why this message struck such a chord, but it compelled me to do exactly what was asked for. So here we go — seven personal stories to match the seven requests in my anonymous subscriber’s message.

1. Big and Small Failures

Failure should be treasured (tweet this)

If I’ve done one thing well since I started down my path to leaving work behind back in May 2011, it has been the act of failing.

I don’t say that in some kind of self-loathing, “I’m useless” kind of way. After all, with the year drawing to a close I am absolutely delighted with how my first year of self-employment has gonemy income is going in the right direction and I really enjoy what I do.

Yet I have failed on countless occasions — some notable examples can be found in mid-2011. I launched two sites that both flopped dramatically — Modeling for Kids and Deal With Anxiety. Just reading those words may seem inconsequential but those two failures probably represent in excess of 100 hours work.

Deal With Anxiety Screenshot

I poured a huge amount of time into Deal With Anxiety, but it only attracts a handful of daily visitors.

But I didn’t stop there. For instance, at the beginning of 2012 I tried to devise a system for creating profitable niche sites. A few months (and $3,000 in expenses) later, I gave up. And I’ve not even mentioned the multitude of small failures which occur on a weekly basis.

I believe that anyone who is trying to achieve something worthwhile must understand that failure is part of the process. If you’re not failing on some level, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough. Constant failure is something to be worried by, but occasional failure that teaches you invaluable lessons and pushes you in the right direction must be treasured.

2. Daily Miseries

Accepting that perfection isn’t possible can make you a great deal happier (tweet this)

I struggle with productivity on a daily basis. I’m a terrible sleeper which certainly doesn’t help — I often oversleep and struggle to concentrate come lunch time. That inevitably leads to a nap which can often extend well into the afternoon, despite my initial best intentions.

I can imagine that some of you must think it’s pretty great to be able to moan about taking long naps in the afternoon, and I get that — I understand how fortunate I am that I don’t have a boss to yell at me for sleeping on the job. But it’s a bad thing too. That same boss motivates you to work (even if you don’t like their method of motivation). When you work by yourself and are your own boss, all of the motivation has to be internal.

With tiredness comes lack of motivation, and with lack of motivation comes a poor work ethic. It’s something I really struggle with. Some days I will be totally fired up and work non-stop all day long. Other days I’ll feel like doing anything at all is a huge effort.

These days I’ve learned to simply accept that I’ll have good and bad days and take an average view. If I feel like I’m progressing overall then I’m not going to beat myself up about slacking off at times. Quite frankly, life is too short to do that to yourself if you can afford not to. And the fact that I can go easy on myself reminds me of how fortunate I am to have worked myself into such a position.

3. Painful Dilemmas

Quitting your job is always a risk, but so is staying (tweet this)

My Old Office

What I left behind.

There are few more painful dilemmas than the decision as to whether or not you should quit your job. That’s where I was in November 2011. I had just one writing client who had paid me a grand total of $450 in October — not quite enough to cover my $4,000 outgoings.

Despite that, I made the decision to quit. And it may sound strange given the circumstances, but I didn’t actually feel like it was that hard a decision.

First of all, I was unhappy. I was leaving a well paying job that I enjoyed but I was never going to be satisfied by working for someone else. Although I was taking a big financial risk in quitting my job, I was risking my ongoing happiness by staying in the role for any longer. And if I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that money is not the most important thing in life (far from it).

Secondly, I could see the potential. If one client was willing to pay me $x per hour for my services and that hourly rate matched my current wage, theoretically I could make it work. In reality I felt that I could actually earn much more, and was proven right — in November 2012 I earned an equivalent hourly rate that was nearly five times higher than what I was paid in November 2011.

Conventional wisdom states that you should be earning as much from your side venture as you do from your job before you take the leap. I think that’s terrible advice for anyone who values their time and ability. If you have established a proven method of making money that you can scale, why wait? Quitting your job is always a risk, but so is staying. You’ll have to make a tough decision at some point.

4. Sacrifices

It is possible for sacrifice to make you happier (tweet this)

It would be far more dramatic for the purposes of this post if I could say that I’ve made huge sacrifices in getting this far, but I really don’t feel that I have.

When I started out I knew that I would have to cut back, and for a time I did. I kept a careful eye on my expenditure and tried my best to keep my savings from disappearing (which they were doing so at a fair rate in the first few months of 2012). I got down to around $3,000 in the bank at my lowest point. With my outgoings being more like $4,000, I was getting a little bit closer to the breadline than I would’ve liked.

Big sacrifices were certainly on the cards. I agonized over selling my beloved car. I considered selling my house and moving in with my sister in Texas for a period. And that’s not to mention all the less dramatic considerations like getting rid of my satellite TV package, buying cheaper groceries, going out less, and so on.

But none of these considerations of sacrifice gave me regret for the decision I had made. I felt that I was on the right track, and more importantly, I was happy with what I was doing. Although I was earning less, I was happier, and that was far more important to me.

As it turned out my income continued to grow and in July 2012 I broke even for the first time. My income hasn’t dropped below $4,000 since then and I would like to think that it never will. But regardless of that, I still know that I made the right decision, and I have never regretted it.

5. Jealousy

To be ignorant of success is to not understand how it was achieved (tweet this)

If there is one constant in life it is that someone will always be “better” than you.

Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner

I remember reading a post by Marcus Sheridan many months ago when he made note of that the fact that he had launched his blog in the same month that Michael Stelzner launched Social Media Examiner — a behemoth of a website.

Whilst there is no doubting Marcus’ success (I for one have a huge amount of respect for him), one must acknowledge that Michael has a far bigger site and presumably makes a great deal more money.

You can’t avoid those facts. I can’t imagine how many people there are that started out in May 2011 that are way ahead of me. But what’s the point in me comparing myself to them? How will that help me?

Holding yourself to a higher standard by focusing on how you can improve yourself to beat your competition is one thing — beating yourself up because someone who you perceive to be “similar” to you is doing “better” (whatever that means) is a waste of time.

As for putting someone else’s success down to luck — that’s a dangerous road to walk down. Trivialize other people’s success at your own risk, because to be ignorant of success is to not understand how it was achieved.

6. Disappointments

If there were no assholes then you wouldn’t appreciate those who are good and kind (tweet this)

Fortunately I have not been the victim of “letdowns of friends and family abandonments” during my journey. I was certainly the focus of plenty of concern and perhaps a lack of faith in my ability to achieve what I set out to do, but people’s hearts were always in the right place.

Neither have I been backstabbed, although I have certainly been verbally attacked on more than one occasion. The last time was just a couple of days ago in fact:


At such times it is all too tempting to stoop down to their level and respond in kind, but that is never a good idea. I am slowly learning that the moral high ground is always the best place to operate from, so I responded as such:


To Elaine’s credit, she apologized for her first statement and all was well in the world again. But I know that there will be plenty more antagonistic tweets and angry emails in the future — it comes with the territory. Whilst it’s always disappointing to be confronted with them, it’s something you have to accept.

In short — people can be assholes. That’s part of life. If there were no assholes then you wouldn’t appreciate those who are good and kind. So accept assholes for the value that they offer and only give them as much time as they deserve.

7. Great Breaks

Never presume that the smallest of opportunities won’t result in a positive outcome (tweet this)

Ask a hundred entrepreneurs when they got their “big break” and most will roll their eyes and tell you that they don’t exist. What people consider to be “big breaks” are typically the culmination of months or years of hard work.

Well…I may be the exception that proves the rule. In September 2011 I submitted a handful of pitches for writing jobs via the ProBlogger Job Board — more out of sheer frustration with my lack of progress than anything. I didn’t expect to receive any positive feedback. After all, I had no writing qualifications or experience.

But from those pitches I received an offer to trial for the WPMU blog. That trial led to a writing job which inspired me to quit my job, which in turn inspired me to seek out more clients and establish a successful freelance writing business. That then inspired me to write and publish a freelance blogging guide. My freelance writing income enables me to commit many hours every day to passive income projects, and I hope to see my income grow in future months. All because of a handful of pitches, submitted on a whim.

That experience taught me an extremely valuable lesson — that sometimes the best opportunities and outcomes arise from the unlikeliest of situations. I see this fact repeating itself time and time again. For example, just the other week I landed an exciting new client from one of this blog’s readers. I certainly wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for a referral from her, but it came nonetheless!

Never presume that the smallest of opportunities won’t result in a positive outcome. Be as indiscriminate in your focus on every possible avenue in life as you can afford to be.

What’s Your Story?

There you have it folks — seven distinct stories that encapsulate my journey to date. I know that there will be many more stories to come and I can’t wait to experience them and share them with you as they happen.

But now it’s your turn — I’d love to hear your story. So pick from one of the above themes — one that strikes a chord with you — and tell it to us in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Genista

Paid Blogging: Why it Should Be Your First Option

Written by Tom Ewer on November 26, 2012. 50 Comments

"Money" spelled out in Scrabble tiles

This blog attracts a pretty wide range of readers but you can separate them into two broad categories:

  1. Freelance writers (aspiring or established)
  2. Internet marketers

Or to perhaps be more specific, those who are are looking to make money via service provision and those who are looking to establish passive income streams.

Those two groups certainly overlap — I am an example of that as you can see from my income reports. But I know that many passive income advocates turn their nose up at the idea of paid blogging and consider it a last resort at best. And in fairness, I understand that attitude — I once felt similarly.

But no more. In this post, I want to explain why paid blogging should be your first option when it comes to making money online (tweet this), why it doesn’t have to represent the end of your passive income projects (quite the opposite!), and why it could completely change your life — as it did mine.

Why the “Passive Income Only” Mindset Can be Damaging

There are people in the blogosphere who have made a lot of money from the kind of passive income streams that we could all attempt to emulate with minimal financial investment. Let’s consider a couple of the best known: Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws. I know that these guys are role models to many of you (as they are to me) and there is no doubting their success.

Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws

However, their success was borne out of a lot of hard work for little or no reward, over a period of many months. Pat’s Green Exam Academy was nearly two years in the making before it finally made money, and Spencer toiled away on niche sites for months before hitting on a winning formula. Their patience and persistence were huge assets.

What I want to get across is that the passive income dream doesn’t become a reality for many. Often it’s not because they lack the capability — it’s because they run out of steam. You’re working a full time job and spending a considerable amount of your spare time on passive income projects. There will be a point at which you seriously debate the value of what you are doing.

You can easily go many or months or even years without making serious progress, and it wouldn’t be because you are incapable or a failure. The fact is, establishing passive income streams is extremely tough.

But what does that have to do with paid blogging?

Why Paid Blogging Can be Your Savior

Let’s rewind to September 2011.

A screenshot of my first ever passive income project

My first ever passive income project.

At the time, my goal was to quit my job and establish a viable online business. How I did it was less important than the act of actually doing it. I’d tried various approaches, mainly revolving around niche/authority websites. Nothing had worked. I was at my wits’ end, and seriously frustrated by my lack of progress.

If you’re a regular LWB reader you’ll know the story well — in total frustration I submitted a few pitches to people via the ProBlogger Job Board and subsequently landed a job with WPMU. From there I got another client a month or so later, quit my job, and the rest is history.

My key point is this — I may have started off dreaming about passive income but it was paid blogging that enabled me to quit my job. Not only that but it gave me the time with which to work on my passive income projects without it taking up all of my spare time, and without me being under the pressure that it had to work.

If you’re just having a bit of fun with your passive income projects, fair enough. But if you have a burning desire to quit your job and build a viable and diverse long term business, you owe it to yourself to consider paid blogging very seriously.

How Paid Blogging Can Benefit Your Passive Income Projects

Every passive income project I work on is directly benefitted by my blogging ability.

Whether it was my first ever niche site back in the day, my freelance writing guide, my One Hour Authority Site project or Leaving Work Behind itself — each project has revolved around my ability to write good content. My writing ability is my business’ most valuable asset in everything that I do.

And my ability to write good content has increased exponentially since I started being paid to blog. I believe that it gives me the cutting edge not only in terms of my freelancing business but also with my passive income projects.

But that’s not all. Working with some big clients (and with blogs attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per month) has taught me a huge deal about blogging. I have gained a huge number of invaluable contacts — my network has swollen.

A spreadsheet of my contacts

Just one screen’s worth of my contacts spreadsheet.

In a nutshell, paid blogging has exposed me to the online world in a way that simply would not have been possible otherwise. Furthermore, it has afforded me both the time and necessary skills that enable me to concentrate on passive income projects.

What if Paid Blogging isn’t For You?

In short, it probably is.

If you have ever written content for a niche or authority site, you could be a paid blogger. If you have ever created your own blog, you could be a paid blogger. If you nearly failed English at school (like I did), you could still be a paid blogger.

Up to about 14 months ago, I never thought I would be a freelance writer. Actually, that’s not technically true — in reality, I’d never even considered it. In a sense it is all too easy to look down on it. Exchanging time for money? How antiquated.

But with the greatest of respect, you are a fool to look at it that way (as I was). And in reality, the absurdity of that thinking can be exposed pretty quickly if you consider how much time you have spent on failed passive income projects without earning a penny.

I was that guy — the passive income failure with a chip on my shoulder about service businesses — but boy have I changed my colors. My freelance writing business now earns me about as much as I ever did from my job in less than half the time. That’s an extra four hours every day that I have to work on passive income projects that I am far better equipped to succeed with because of the experience gained from paid blogging.

Net income over the past four months

My net income over the past four months.

Ultimately, if you want to look down at paid blogging and carry on regardless with your passive income projects, that is your prerogative. But in doing so you may well be turning down the opportunity of a lifetime. Paid blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I would love to help it do exactly the same for you.

So What Now?

Your decision comes now.

I have heard more than one person say, “Paid blogging is fine if you want to make a bit of money on the side, but I’m going to keep working on my blog/niche sites/[insert generic passive income strategy here].” Those people are invariably the ones who fail to ever make any real money. Which person are you going to be?

Leaving Work Behind is packed with plenty of free advice if you are interested in finding out how to become a successful freelance blogger — start here. And if you’re really committed to launching your own freelance writing business, check out my guide: Successful Freelance Writing Online.

Whatever your decision I’d love to know how you feel about paid blogging, so please leave your comments below!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Philip Taylor PT