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It's been about a month since my last post and life is just busy! I'll do my best to fill in the gaps given that this is a hustling blog and what this means moving forward. Otherwise without context, it seems odd to have income reports and reflections back-to-back when it doesn't look like I've been active. Without further ado, Income report with reflections for May 2017.
Life and Traveling
About 2 weeks of May went into traveling and a lot of soul searching, then fatigue and overwhelm set in. About a week later (last weekend), I also traveled again knowing my body is in survival mode.
I had one of the best experiences inside a JetBlue Airlines Stimulator. As an aviation amateur, it was a blast “handling” the controls with an experienced co-pilot. If he didn't have dual control, my passengers would all be facing a red screen of death which is fatal in both the real life and machinery world. That experience also gives you full appreciation of pilots braving harsh weather (fog, rain or hail) and turbulence isn't such a bad thing. I appreciate a little plane shaking with all things considered. If you ever thought driving through fog and rain was hell, pilots have it a lot worse and they're responsible for keeping an entire plane in the sky.
The other memorable thing is my stubbornness (it's a Taurus trait!) to learn DC Capital Bikes. There are these red tall cruiser bikes that you rent by the half-hour. I'm almost certain half-hour is intentional in their business model (the sweet spot is 45mins-1hr). You can't get remotely more than a couple blocks in people trafficked areas without needing to check the bike in. If you were late by a slight DC minute, you were charged $2hr per half-hour. You can see where this model adds up incrementally even if you paid for the daypass privilege. First, the bikes sit tall at the lowest setting. At 5'3″, my legs dangles above the ground so I'm disadvantaged as far as using my legs as a backup to braking. Second, living objects (such as pedestrians and dogs) are actual obstacles that there were points I was walking my bike instead of riding it. Third, it's really fun to ride downhill and fourth, exploring can get expensive when you are both directionally and weather challenged (the humidity gets to you). I overshot a bike station near Arlington Cemetery, but I also got to experience an area removed from DC noise.
Investments toward the blog (please note these are promotional prices I paid)
- Crystal Paine‘s Your Blogging Mentor Platform/ 5 Days to a Successful Blog Launch Course (aff. link) $7: Trying out her membership platform. Her 4 week course last year inspired me to start blogging again. 5 Days to a Successful Blog Launch is her mini-course of what goes behind creating and launching a blog. It's quite digestible and made an effort to complete it during a work week one day at a time.
- Tasha Agruso‘s Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers: The Master Course (aff.link) $75
- Focused Elite Annual Membership (aff.link) $248: One of the sessions (Jessi Fearon) at Focus Blogging Conference encouraged a small mastermind for accountability and networking. Over the last year, Focused was constantly talked up with enthusiasm that a small blogging conference with lots of niche-blind bloggers. The speakers/ mentors were top notch covering homeschooling, finance, faith and education. I have no doubt if I stay invested and work with the mastermind behind Focused Blogging Conference (Dolly Freeman), I’ll get to a good place with my blog this time next year. I observed how together she was handling setbacks that were far beyond her control during the conference. Yeah, those parts sucked (such as the hotel mishandling gluten food for those with severe gluten allergies). I’m already excited in a year’s time, I’ll be way more confident past this newbie phase.
- La Quinta Providence (booked using points)
- HI New York Hostel ($84 x 2 nights), paid an extra night out of pocket for coming at an odd hour
- HI Hostel Membership ($28) – paid for a membership for the coupon. It further took off $3/day, for each HI day. Can be used Internationally also. I previously had one when I was in China 6 years ago. Worth it!
- $24 Groceries at Giant – vs. money from dining out
- Uber (aff. link) and Lyft (aff. link) credits
- $54 to replace a broken SIM card in New York.
- HI Washington DC Hostel ($33 x 2 nights)
- Capital Bikes $16 daypass + 3*$2 late charges)
- Greyhound and Megabus: $23 (greyhound: SD), $17 (greyhound: Providence to New York), $21 (Megabus: New York to DC), $19 (greyhound: DC to Richmond), $27 (greyhound: SD). I ended up paying more on some Greyhound legs to rack up more credit when the differences between non-flexible and flexible fares was small.
- $220 for shared room in Richmond, VA
- USA SD Hostel $34
- Chair cushions for office chair: (1) seat cushion (aff. link) and (2) back pillow (aff. link). Turns out while the chair was heavily discounted, it’s not a comfortable chair for bony people without modification. That said, I suppose it’s more affordable to replace cushions than chair parts. Plus those cushions are mobile! I can bring the seat to the kitchen or on a plane! Or stock up on more!
On the surface, with lack of updates, it look like I put the blog on the back burner. About a few weeks back, I started getting a Divi Builder Timeout error and instead of working on posts, I elected to try to fix it. I completely wiped all the plugins and themes and cleared all the caches on the computer and WordPress. No luck, the current fix is installing a plugin, WHICH I hate doing; too many plugins slows down a website loading and usability. So having to throw a plugin to fix another one as a temporary fix is going bite me later. I know it will. The other thing to consider is the potential memory leaks (crashes, slow loading times) and site vulnerability because I don't know what exactly the plugin hides. All it tells me is it's likely incompatible with the most current theme. This also means I need to decide whether to stick with Divi or switch over to a Genesis Theme. I do like the customizability (Divi) but reliability is more important to me (Genesis with child theme).
While I'm fixing the site, I went ahead and scheduled the Swagbucks (aff. link) series so they would be up. I also had to delay it as some information is outdated/ changed for the enduser. As I'm trying to go through Elite Blog Academy (aff. link) as intended, I decided that I'll have to forego images until a future unit and instead get content up. This logistically will allow me to move forward and write about more interesting topics (than Swagbucks!).
Installed Google Analytics finally! I deleted the JetPack plugin so the site would run faster. I realize I didn't get a snapshot prior to deleting the app for stats purposes (apologies). This blog has unofficially went live in late March and for 5 posts, I would estimate the traffic to be almost 1500 page views since the first post went up. This takes into consideration that I was not tracking the first month and I was more actively sharing with my immediate Facebook friends and Twitter engagement (1.5x my May traffic).
Email is set up and forwarding as appropriately. I plan on changing it to an active mail link to reduce spam comments instead of displaying the address in plain sight for bots to just grab.
Swagbucks: It was my least “productive” month in over 2 years, which is AWESOME. I was traveling for over two weeks and elected to devote my time growing and writing posts.
Knowing that I need an affiliate marketing strategy down the line, I invested in Tasha Agruso's Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers: The Master Course (aff. link)(-$75) as I previously invested in the Genius Blogger Toolkit (aff. link) and she kindly allowed that subset to upgrade at a lower additional cost.
I'll be upfront, the quality of this blog depends on affiliate marketing. I write to help and inform my audience to create systems in place to build their own ventures and businesses. Taking and reviewing courses is an investment the same way college would have been. It is going cost money to make money. To make money, I have to keep writing to establish some authoritative ground in this arena. It somewhat depends on my ability to build traffic who loves me for me and wants me to succeed so I can help them without it being a clear money exchange, but one of value. So periodically I talk about courses (I love learning) and products and tools I adore and use to increase my productivity and life hacks. I aim to also direct my readers efficiently to resources I see enriches a quality of life. I don't write to hawk products and services, at least I can't without compromising values and integrity.
The challenge to hustles is they are fickle. It's a whole lot of trial and error; you also need grit and time. I don't expect my audience to stay with me long-term because one can tell if a hustle is for them or they'll quit once they get to a good point in life where they won't need a hustle. The dream is get to a point of financial independence or make quality of life better. There are even a point where you can have too many hustles. After much soul searching and meeting with inquisitive like-entrepreneurial minds, I decided to let go of retail arbitrage as a hustle. Retail arbitrage is sourcing physical products to resell. It's a fantastic proposition for Amazon as an alternative to sourcing specific items that aren't always going be available at a brick and mortar. Amazon wants to be the default (assuming you buy in their Prime membership) that they'll even package and ship for you. To do Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), all you need to do is find product, ship to Amazon warehouses and they'll handle the rest. After working Ebay, this is a total godsend as packaging, shipping and time eats into your overall profit. Amazon is a valuable partner in all of this because we are symbiotic: Amazon benefits being the reSource that we'll go to check first, customers get quick and inexpensive ship times and the third party sellers benefit by setting higher prices if we used Amazon's shipping centers to maximize profits (which pays our sourcing time).
Unfortunately for me, that means the most valuable sourcing time is the day during operating store hours, followed by prepping for ship. It's a lot of work and admittedly I'm not passionate about the grind. As a previous merchandising specialist, I have an eye for hidden gems so this is lucrative. It isn't fulfilling. I'm spending my time to build up a sustainable income so I can blog when I can do just that. It wasn't easy to realize that on my own. My hustle is my blog. It’s funny that I didn’t make that logical connection.
I do know if people are asking the same questions, it means there is a curiosity and a need out there. The same question that came up in the group is “Do you enjoy it?”
The hunt was fun. It resembled what I used to do at Best Buy. After finding the products, then resourcefulness kicked in. You know ALL those Amazon Prime packages? Score, it means less spend goes into packing material! Nothing went to waste, but my actual workspace was cluttered with all this shipping material until it going go somewhere. It wasn't practical with two sheddy huskies, which I had to be careful didn't mix little allergen bombs with the packing material. So now, I don't feel too bad about letting that hustle go. I still do some arbitrage, but mostly digital and anything I can dropship.
- Winging it when it came to booking bus tickets. Great idea and flexibility in theory. Each incremental change cost money over time. If you are sure of a plan, go for it and lock in a lower rate. Ex. Megabus and Greyhound tickets. I knew I was doing these legs, so booking a week in advance vs. <72 hours (3 days) would save more money. Greyhound is true in this case. They have 3 tiers of flexibility and points you would receive. Short distance flexible trips are significantly cheaper in advanced.
- Made the mistake of going for a cheap stay in Providence by the airport. What I didn't account is the distance of the hotel from the venue Hotel. Didn't even bother checking or Lyft or Uber for actual cost, so that ate up money. As a solo female traveler, site unseen I honestly didn't know what I was getting into. It was also about 15mins per way (twice). I booked it for “free breakfast” but I felt general discomfort from just being there. It sucks when the elevator and the hotel halls reeked of secondhand smoke. I felt no physical danger from being there but I made a mad dash as soon it broke daylight. For this reason, you'll notice I didn't link the hotel in my spend section. I didn't actually save money in hindsight. Transportation was the difference of the conference rate. Clearly the Omni (4stars) has a less ick factor than a 2.5?star.
Summary: Don't book cheap fare far out. If you do, check the cost and compare. The rate was likely cheap for a reason.
- I should have also went directly to DC and stayed longer. I was overall disappointed with my visit in New York. The hostel and the drive over the bus stop there made a world of difference. My SIM card on my phone broke and Verizon basically kicked me down further by forcing payment to replace a card in-store vs. it being free online (-$54). As I was traveling, it just wasn't an option though I really did sat there and considered for an hour with going off-grid completely. I also endured about an hour of the salesperson trying to sell me on a new phone. No, DO NOT KICK ME when I'm already down. He backed off when I emotionally broke down in the store what the phone meant to me. However, he did clue in that the phone is on numbering days. Replacing the phone in the Fall unless someone has a spare Google Pixel.
- Losing 2 days in New York also meant I could have booked 4 days in DC with a further subsidized cost with a hostel coupon (good for 3rd night free) AND 4th night would have been covered by a credit card. Should have gone directly to DC even though dividing the legs Providence -> New York and New York -> DC was the correct step to take instead on Providence -> DC direct.
- Lost a bank bonus (luckily it's easy to downgrade) from missing the initial deposit deadline it by a couple business days and it could have been avoided altogether if I elected to open it after coming back from travel.
Note to self: bank representatives aren't always fully knowledgeable of their own bonuses. Don't assume there is a single Chase Bank outside of New York. I should have deposited funds prior to leaving New York. Hint: procrastination hurts. There apparently isn't a branch ANYWHERE near DC. Semi-win: Business checking account established.
- Traveling with too much stuff. I should also reconsider using my trusty red rollerbag. Coming home, I was almost schlepping 60lbs on a single shoulder. It also drained me during my Global Entry supervisory appointment (which turned out to be a complete waste of time). I lost time and money by confusing San Ysidro with Otay Mesa only to be told I am connected with someone with a questionable background. The agent there even admitted that it was a waste for me to come in when WASHINGTON had final say as far as appeals. Which is funny because I emailed them prior and then called San Diego to inquire what to do about appeals.
I’m not short of credits (though it gets expensive to throw them aimlessly into the fire). I let my first application lapsed, but my second application turned to a provisionary approval quickly. I answered every question to the best of my abilities unnecessary thorough as possible. All I can do is keep waiting and see if the CBP Ombudsman would look into my case.
- Making good connections in both Providence and Richmond. I was also surprised by the amount of bloggers based out of North Carolina. They scared me good about moving there any time soon by regaling about tales of snakes, bugs and random creepy crawlies. I've also been splashed with graphic images of disturbing bugs I cannot unsee. Luckily they looked up the images on their phones so my Google isn't plagued with images of bugs like it did during my bedbug days (sidenote: don't do this). The one commonality I noticed is people seems to be more relaxed outside of California.
- I had one friend who was homeschooled growing up and learning about unschooling methods is fascinating to me when I'm near childrearing age. That's one reason I want to be location independent and it drives my entrepreneurial spirit. I was educated in a school system that broke me by teaching me success is racing as fast to be comparable to my peers and needing to keep up.
- It was nice spending company with good people at late hours. We did two late nights at the bar just getting to know each other. I pretty much forgot that it was my birthday and another day older. It also hit me that I was one of the younger bloggers there and that family enriches that experience.
- Tried Cracker Barrel. I'm a sucker for good Southern biscuits with Apple butter. I tried southern dumplings, it’s too thick to have it regularly.
- My flight going out to Providence was overbooked. Scored travel credits to offset the cost of future travel in the Fall. (+$550)
Next Month’s Goals
WordPress woes: I am testing layouts how to best present information to the masses. I love bullets, good spacing, and emphasis, but WordPress SUCKS without fixing it with HTML or additional plugins. I can do HTML and CSS, but I also don’t want to. I also know I will have to. I have the ability to hire out designing, but without this extra tinkering and the programmer’s mind, I don’t think I can fully understand the struggles of the technology inclined.
My layouts aren’t consistent yet. Once I figure out how to systematically present, I’ll be returning to each post and rewriting them so nothing is missing. Such that each income report and reflection will match the month before and the month after. I really liked April’s, but I had no organization in terms of recording expenses (this is still true, and something to work on). My last resort is to keep a separate notebook and record literally every purchase so it's in one place. The other option is print of ALL of my credit card statements. That's not going be fun to go through. :laughs:
I was struggling with the lack of scrollbars that WordPress decided that was distracting. I had to go into the settings and unclick that checkmark to bring back the one in the text-space. That’s a usability flaw when you’re writing long articles and using an I-bar to move up and down a page. The alternative is copy pasting your drafts from Google Docs, but the rich editor messes up the spacing. That’s crazy! The same with WordPress’ editor with stripping out spaces by default (yes, this is a html code issue, but it shouldn’t be!) I shouldn’t have to add plugins to create the shortcuts and functions I need.
Installing good plugins and opting into premium versions: There's a few I'm looking into, namely (1) Pretty Links: readable links for the human eyes (2) Social Warfare: un-intrusive icons for sharing ease and (3) Yoast SEO: I need all the help I can to boost readerships online. The last is Grammarly to analyze posts for readability. I've always been somewhat a fan of Grice's Conversational Maxims (Linguistics/Logic) and know my writing can get too wordy.
No images or logo: I also don’t have images or a logo, so I’m up for creating over the next couple months. My current strategy is to go ahead and pushing content consistently and set a more predictable schedule. I would love to get it down to twice (or maybe trice) where I would talk about hustling one day and lifehacks and productivity on the other though I don’t expect this happening in the next month.
Setting up ConvertKit or Drip: I’m serious about this craft and honestly I don’t want to switch email managers anytime in the near future that I’m considering buying in on Drip blind even though I don’t completely understand its potential. I know enough colleagues who are probably beyond ConvertKit admit that the analytics are crap (which, I care about, numbers and graph gal) and haven’t made the transition to Drip for whatever reason. Every time you switch a manager (Mailchimp, MadMimi, Aweber), you risk losing subscribers during each move. I’m all about simplicity and doing right the first time.
Prematurely filling out my navigation bars: This is fantastic in theory because I inadvertently testing which content my potential audience was interested in and resonated. Got good numbers, but in the end, I posted a disclaimer on my home page which pages were “done”. The traffic was definitely artificial and people were bouncing around.. so, it’s great, but I don’t want to mislead or be dishonest. This site is very work in progress and I appreciate that I can share my otherwise quiet personality with the world. The next step is to fill it. I will be refining the Arbitrage/resell category.
Setting up affiliate programs and providing proper links and disclaimers: I signed up for Amazon Affiliate, which both requires me to make a sale to be official. Similarly Merch by Amazon expects me to get a design up soon. Outside of Amazon links, I'll also change out the gibberish links for readable (pretty links) so my readers can see what they're getting directed to.
Complete more courses: Better yet, make a list of all the ones I was suckered into by their compelling messages and stories and why it worked on me. There has to be a relatability factor that I decided to invest at that moment and time. A wise blogger by the name of Rosemarie Groner recommended that until you make a regular consistent income, you should reinvest 100% back into your blog until you conquer a consistent marker. When you get there, you can redistribute and start considering profits or a take-home pay without feeling guilty. The beautiful thing about a blog is it's low startup cost in exchange for time to grow (like anything else). Until I make $1500/month consistently, 10% will go into student loans, 2.5% towards Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and 2.5% towards Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and 85% back into the blog. My numbers are slightly different than her suggestion (100% at $1000/month), but that's what it is, I have to adapt and create my own goals.
100 Days Mastery Journal: I have had both the Mastery and Freedom Journals for over a month. I’ve cracked it a few time to assess how to record my progress. Once I decided to let go of retail arbitrage, it’s becoming clearer how to fill it out and use it to manage time blocks.
Planning a visit to the Bay Area: I haven’t been home in over a year. I’ve done a lot of domestic traveling for business and leisure, but no trips. As of this writing, Golden State Warriors are the Finals Champions 2017. Another year has gone by and I would love to make one home game happen next year before they move over to Chase Stadium.
Planning a trip domestic to somewhere that is selfishly leisure: Not sure where this will be yet.
Increase my Duolingo sessions for Spanish and French to 10 lessons a day: Language will always be a part of me. I’m aiming to finish both sets before the end of the summer. I plan on revisiting Chinese in 2018 via EdX. Depending how much time I can dedicate to Chinese, I'll look into conversational or HKS Level courses.
Reorganize room and declutter: Almost everything material that matters to me is within a contained space. Over the years, I quickly learned that stuff doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. I notice that when clutter builds, it avalanches. It traps and is emotionally suffocating. When uncluttered, there’s a sense of relief that you can do other things.
Switch out TV for podcast: I’ve been slowly transitioning away from TV and watching more webinars and listening to more podcasts. I’m a bit slow to adopt podcasts, but will get there. Once I’m done with Orange is the New Black season 5, it’s on! Ok, I won’t cut back on Ellen either.
Cook one dish well: My current obsession is soondobu, which is a Korean tofu stew. Why? I’ve always had trouble eating. Soup was one of the few ways to cram pretty much everything (meat, seafood, veggies, proteins, etc) in a semi-solid and liquid form and pass it off as a meal. It’s no surprise I love Asian noodle soups. Soondobu encompasses protein and whatever else is appropriate in boiling form. Kimchi, clams, mussels, mushrooms, egg.
You can purchase soondobu starter kits! No shame there, though I’m still figuring out the ingredients in the little sauce packet, so I can make it from scratch. The single sauce packets is more expensive than the tofu! Not to mention chock full of preservatives.
So how do I feel in all of this? Focusing on a single project is tough stuff. Everyday I worry I may never make another dollar out of this blog and it’s silly to fund it with payments that could have paid down my student loans faster. I’m figuring this out as it comes and goes. I’m every bit as fickle as a hustle, but something tells me this is right. Like any other hustle, I’ve considered giving up the grind (it honestly takes hours to write a single post of any substance) and take a real job again. Overwhelm and burnout happens early and often when you’re creating out of intuition. The self-doubt is strong. If not, hey, it’ll be the one thing I’ve focused on and completed all the way through.