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No Business Idea, No Budget? Succeed Anyway!

No Business Idea, No Budget? Succeed Anyway!

Jessica Bosai

How I created a successful writing business with just an internet connection, a slow clunky laptop, my wits and a desire to learn.

When I was pregnant with my first child in 2000, I planned on being a stay at home mom. But the financial reality reared its ugly head soon after my son was born. From my first day back to work when my son was six months old, until the day I began working for myself, I lived a frustrated, limited, financially-cramped existence. With each passing year, the urge to work from home grew stronger. With a long commute, there simply was not enough time to be a good worker and a good mother. I was becoming mediocre at both.

After my second son was born, it became doubly important to find a way to work at home. Failed attempts at bad jobs that would put me near home made it clear to me that there was only one path to get what I wanted: Self-Employment.

Glad for My Son’s Injury? What’s Wrong Here?

One incident in particular stands out as the day I made up my mind to “find a way” to make working at home a reality. My younger son fell at daycare when he was about one year old and cut his head wide open. As soon as I found out he wasn’t in any life-threatening danger, I was overjoyed. I would get to spend the day with my son! There’s seriously something wrong when I’d rather be at the ER with my screaming toddler getting stitches than sitting at work. It was time for a change.

I got “lucky” in that the company I worked for went through a round of layoffs just a few months after that. They were some of the kindest people I had every worked for, so I had no fear in making sure management knew that I was actively seeking work from home. They laid me off and kept someone else instead. That left me with unemployment income to sustain me while I built my business. I launched in November 2008.

Groping in the Dark

At this point, failure was not an option for me. I would never have an opportunity like this again. Unemployment benefits were extended because of the recession, so I would have about a year to make my business work. The problem: I had no idea what that business would be.

Of course, I was nervous. I had skills and determination; that’s about it. But sometimes you don’t need a good business idea. You don’t even need a budget. Sometimes, all you need is the desire to succeed. With just an internet connection, a slow clunky laptop, my wits and a desire to learn, I found my path.

An Example to Live By

I think it helped that my father was a self-made man. He didn’t have money for college, so he asked teachers for permission to sit in the back of the classroom at Cornell. He worked at a bank and was one of the first systems analysts. It was only after he became successful, with a high paying job at a defense contractor, that he decided to go to college for a degree. He grew up dirt poor with an abusive father. He faced immense challenges but did not let any of them hold him back. With all the advantages I had through my father’s success, what could possibly stop me from achieving my goals as well?

Day One

I began looking for regular work online. While waiting for replies that never came, I tried other money-making ventures. I started a make-money-online blog. I tried and fell for more than one scam. I had so many balls in the air it took eight arms to juggle them.

Mel Brooks described himself as “the machine gun of comedy.” I became the machine gun of working from home. I threw everything I had at it and waited for something to stick. Eventually, writing began to stand out as the most promising possibility for me. There were no startup costs, no overhead, nothing to do but put words on the page and send out the bill.

I remember submitting my sample piece to Textbroker, with a shaking hand hovering over the submit button. I had been out of work for six months. I was making $20 a week with other ventures. This just had to work. Finally, I closed my eyes and hit submit. After a few days of agonizing waiting, I received an acceptance email.

Challenges of Change

In the months that followed, I worked on setting goals. Writing was slow at first. It took me forever to research information. I started with a goal of two articles a day, then four. I worked at getting my weak Textbroker rating higher.

The transition to becoming a writer was slow, sluggish, and painful. I doubted myself every day. But because failure was not an option, I had to keep plugging along. Until the money ran out, I was going to keep at it. There simply wasn’t anything else to do.

Inspiration

One quote from Wayne Dyer kept me going, helping me to hold on to the fact that I chose this life…that it was a decision I made, not a situation I fell into…”Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

My theme song at the time was Kelly Clarkson’s “Fly Away.” It embodied the sense of freedom I was after. At night, I listened to Kelly Howell’s The Secret Universal Mind Meditation. I pictured myself successful, focusing on the result, not the stony path that would get me there.

Early Goal Setting

In my efforts to just keep plugging away at it, I submitted articles to sites that offered shared ad revenue and feedback from other writers. My main hangouts were Helium, Triond, Associated Content and Xomba. I started winning jobs on freelance boards. My first jobs paid 1 cent per word. I bid higher with each job, working up to five cents per word. Once I got a little faster at my work, I started setting monetary goals; first $50 per day, then $100. I wanted to make at least the same $45,000 annual office salary by the end of 2009.

A Taste of Success

Eventually, I built up enough confidence and skill to bid on jobs at sites like Elance, Scriptlance and Guru. I set up free profiles on these sites and any other site that offered an opportunity to do so. I must say, this is the one thing I did right. I’ve had people hire me simply because they saw my name all over the place. I never used Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn heavily. I didn’t need to.

It was about four months after choosing writing as the vehicle for my business and taking on a few sporadic clients here and there that a website owner saw my profile on Guru and approached me to write on his Blog. I still write for him, now on two of his websites. I’ve picked up several larger clients by answering ads on Craigslist. Now I have to outsource most of the writing because there’s too much work for one person alone.

Free Tools for Success

Many free online tools help me get the job done. I use GoogleDocs to track guest posting for clients, Gmail of course, and Chrome Editor Lite to edit html code on blog posts. I pick up free images from morguefile.com, bing and photl.com. Google Adsense helps me hone titles for maximum SEO impact.

Several FireFox plugins help me as well. The WebRank Toolbar helps me check SEO status on websites I might approach about a guest post. Read it Later helps me store research that I might need to reference later. Internote lets me put stickies on webpages so I don’t forget the finer details. I have customized Firefox with Chrome Edit Plus so that all the tabs and buttons are at the bottom of the page where I can easily reach them with my tablet pen. Last Pass helps me keep all the websites, user IDs and passwords I need organized.

ClockingIT lets me track my projects and manage my assistants. Freshbooks is my invoicing provider. I use AutoHotKey with Circle Dock and SciTE4AutoHotKey to create short cuts to handle automated tasks and make it easier to work on my convertible tablet. I’m using GNU Cash for my books although I’m looking at other free alternatives right now. C Cleaner helps me keep my PC running clean. NotePad++ is the best for saving posts in html format before emailing them to a website. WordPress is my blogging platform of choice. ClipX is an excellent clipboard manager to help me with all the copying and pasting I must do on a daily basis. Microsoft Security Essentials has been the only anti-virus software I have needed thanks to sandbox features in Google that recognize malicious software before it has a chance to attack.

Tools Worth Paying For

Other tools I have found worth paying for. Microsoft Word has the best grammar checker hands down. OneNote helps me keep all my invoices and records in one place. WordCleaner5 helps me convert word files to html in one easy click, cutting down on my blogging time. My convertible tablet is both my favorite toy and my most important work tool. I picked it up used at eBay for short money and used my geeky skills to get it running like a top. I run Windows 7 with Office 2010. IcoFX is one of my favorite graphics tools for icons. DropBox was well worth the cost of storage to ensure all my documents are available to me all the time from any location. Textbroker is a website that allows me to manage teams of writers. They handle the W-9 and it’s easy to find tons of quality writers to get the 60 or so articles I need each week done.

Ever Changing Challenges

The biggest challenges are the growing pains I am going through right now. It’s incredibly difficult to give up control of some of the work and let others take over. It takes constant honing, pruning and shaping to get things working smoothly. With five clients, each of whom has special needs and preferences, getting someone else to do the job the way I would without letting go of those details is a challenge.

My Team

I now have an army of writers from Textbroker. I have two editors, a senior and a junior. I have two assistants, one dedicate to my biggest client and the other working for my own site and some smaller clients a few hours a week. She’ll be coming on 15 to 20 hours soon and I’m crossing my fingers that this will be the thing that gets my work life down to a dull roar. These workers are all independent contractors because of the immense responsibility that comes with hiring employees. My make-money-online blog has morphed into a writers blog at KillFive.com.

I also mentor anyone who needs it. It’s amazing how helping someone else always comes back to help you. I do it because I like to help others, but I also appreciate the way it comes round full circle when I need it.

What Success Looks Like

I work 60 – 80 hours per week, grossing about 9,000 per month, netting close to 7,000. That’s about three times my office salary, but about double the work. I know that outsourcing additional work will reduce my income, but I’ve already far surpassed my initial goal of netting $900 per week. I get up to 10 cents per word now, and could probably get even more if I was willing to leave the clients I have. But it’s not about making as much money as I can. It’s about enjoying the people I work with and helping them achieve success. Their success creates more success for me. We all feel good about it, and to quote Janis Joplin, “Feeling good was good enough for me.”

While I do see the kids more now that when I worked in the office, I like to be more focused on them than my computer whenever possible. Right now, I get up early and stay up late so I can focus on them in the morning before school and in the afternoon when they get home. Weekends are the tradeoff. My husband is the primary care giver on those days while I try to make up for lost time during the week. I go out so rarely that I can’t even find my makeup bag anymore! I want my life back and outsourcing is the only way I see to get it right now. Eventually, I may be able to find a good business manager to take over the bulk of my duties.

Loving What I Do

Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. It doesn’t feel like work when I’m up all night answering emails. When one of my articles makes the front page of a major website, it feels incredible. Fighting the constant challenges ensures I’m never bored. Also, having a small group of loyal clients is nice. They give you a break if you should need one and because we have a strong bond, it’s easy for me to give them my all. They get my best work simply because I like them.

I only have my name out there on articles and a small note on my profile site at JessicaBosari.com. Yet I get inquiries for guest blogging services from new clients every couple of weeks, without having to advertise at all. I have so much work, I have to turn people away.

My Business’s Future

Ideally, I’d like to find the right person to run most of the daily tasks for me. While I still want to maintain liaison status with clients, I’d like an editor or assistant to handle the constant shuffle of email. With the extra time, I’d focus on my websites and build them up to be something that brings in residual income for me. That way, I can work less, earn more and have even more time for my kids.

I’m not here to make a fortune, but the money seems to make itself. As hackneyed as the saying might be, it’s really true. “Do what you love and the rest will follow.”

 

 

 

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