Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

These Are the Only Three Money Apps You Need

How many money apps do you have? Turns out, the perfect number might be three: a budgeting app, an investment tracker, and a credit monitoring service.

At Business Insider, Eric Rosenberg explains that these three apps are “the three most important tools I use to manage my own personal finances whether I’m on my laptop or with mobile apps on the go.”

I also have these three apps, and I agree with Rosenberg—with a budgeting app, an investment tracker, and a credit monitor, you have an excellent understanding of not only where your finances are today, but where they might take you in the future.

Here’s why.


On Following Your Dreams

You know that song I shared in Friday’s Open Thread? One of the handful of songs I wrote all those years ago that I still like?

It came to me in a dream.

Melody, almost in full, and several of the lyrics.

I sang everything I could remember into my phone’s voice recorder as soon as I woke up, and spent the next few days putting the piece together.

The mysterious house at the core of NEXT BOOK was part of a dream, too.

A recurring dream, spent visiting the places in the house that I had grown to love in previous dreams. Attics and basements and secret rooms and staircases that went up and up and up forever.

I hope I end up loving the book as much as I love that song. ❤️

I Am SO EXCITED to Read Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame

I’m pretty sure I got to be the first person to check out Seanan McGuire’s new book Middlegame from the library, because it is in my apartment RIGHT NOW and also because I put a library hold on a copy four months ago.

Here’s the blurb:

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

And here are the two related articles you should read this weekend:

Whatever: The Big Idea: Seanan McGuire

This is the book that took me ten years of writing basically constantly before I could call myself good enough to write it.

That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best thing I’ve ever written, or that it’s going to be anyone’s new favorite, although of course, I hope both those things are true. It just means that from a sheer craft standpoint, it took me a very long time to get all the skills necessary to write what is essentially an alchemical superhero story about family, connection, and time travel. Juggling the various timelines this story required a level of precision that I had to work my way up to. I’m still a little stunned that I was able to manage it. And as the reviews have come in, even the ones that didn’t like the book have been forced to admit that I managed my timelines well, which is really all I had any right to hope for.

Tor: “Sit down, write, keep writing” — Seanan McGuire on the Daily Process of Writing a Novel Like Middlegame

This is my process: I get out of bed, having already assigned myself tasks for the day which include which projects I will be (need to be) working on; these assignments are based on my deadlines, unless I’ve managed to get far enough ahead of deadline to buy myself some free time. When I have free time, it’s less recess, and more free study: I get to work on projects that haven’t necessarily been sold yet, or aren’t slated to be, like the free short stories on my website. The words happen every day that it’s possible, and some days when it really shouldn’t be (Disney World or San Diego Comic Con are both environments that are very antithetical to getting actual work done).

And here I am telling myself that I’m not going to work on NEXT BOOK while I’m at Disney World. Now I might have to tell myself to live up to Seanan’s example. ❤️

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

How Increased China Tariffs Might Cost You Money

As you might have heard, President Trump just raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods—from 10% to 25%.

Here’s how that might affect you.

Achieve a Personal Goal Before Letting Yourself Make a Big Purchase

The reason this system works, Mr. Money Mustache argues, is because it focuses on other ways you can improve your life—which removes some of the pressure to improve your life with the big purchase.

Friday Open Thread

It’s Friday, so let’s THREAD IT UP.

Today, I’m thinking about how the best things you made in the past still get to be part of your present.

Like… nine years ago (almost to the day) I set myself the goal of writing or covering a song a week because I wanted to be like Jonathan Coulton.

Then I spent a couple of years performing those songs up and down both the East and the West Coasts, at various comic conventions and house concerts and JoCo Shadow Cruises.*

A lot of those songs were just okay, and many of them were made better by my performance (which is to say that if you’re able to make an audience laugh, you can cover at least some of your creative shortcomings).

But a few were pretty good.

And I’m going to get to sing one of the best ones at a jazz concert next Friday.

(I’m also going to cut the last repeat of the chorus, where I make the Firefly joke, because Joss Whedon’s Firefly isn’t as culturally relevant as it was in 2012.)

Anyway, what I mean to say is that even as we get older and our identities change, the best stuff from our past doesn’t have to go away.

We can still keep it, and share it with people. ❤️

*So… Jonathan Coulton has an annual cruise called the JoCo Cruise, and cruise attendees create their own slate of performances/events/etc. to accompany the official performances/events/etc., called the Shadow Cruise. I got to be part of many Shadow Cruises.

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker, Haven Life

Lifehacker: How to Survive a Freelance Dry Spell

If you aren’t getting as much freelance work as you used to, it’s time to start pitching again.

Trouble is, you can only send out so many pitches in a day. Same goes for reaching out to your network, checking the freelance job boards, asking a former client if they need any help (or know of anyone who might need help), etc. So what else do you do, when you’re in a freelance dry spell?

Lifehacker: Why Low-Stakes Friendships Are So Valuable

If you want to feel like you’re part of a community, it’s time to get to know the people in your neighborhood.

This is hard, for many of us—we’re busy, we’re pretty sure the person standing in front of us at the coffee shop doesn’t want us to introduce ourselves, and so on. But forming casual, low-stakes friendships with the people you interact with regularly is a good way to feel more integrated with the world around you.

Plus, some of those low-stakes friendships could eventually turn into true, close friends.

Haven Life: How to Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Job

Twenty-four million Americans want to work for themselves by 2021, according to FreshBooks’ third annual Self-Employment in America report.

If you’re already your own boss, you probably want to stay that way; FreshBooks reports that 96 percent of self-employed Americans surveyed “have no desire to return to a ‘regular job.’” In fact, the majority of self-employed people in the FreshBooks study have a better work-life balance now that they’ve switched over to freelancing or small business ownership.

But how do you make the switch? A lot of us can figure out how to start a side hustle, but don’t know how to turn the extra $50 or $150 we earn every week into a full-time income.

One More Thought on The Hustle

Look, I’m not saying I agree with Danielle Steel, but this is an interesting piece of synchronicity:

Steel struggles with the idea of burnout culture, the “millennial affliction” of being completely exhausted by work and the world. She recounts a conversation with her son and his partner; both are in their twenties. Her son told her that he never works past a certain time at the office, a model of that elusive work-life balance. Steel balks. “They expect to have a nice time,” she says. “And pardon me, but I think your twenties and a good part of your thirties are about working hard so that you have a better quality of life later on. I mean, I never expected that quality of life at 25. I had three jobs at the same time, and after work I wrote. Now it’s a promise that it’s all going to be fun.”

Read the full article at Glamour, just because it’s great (Danielle Steel writes at a desk shaped like giant Danielle Steel books, for starters), and then… um… think about how that quote ties in to everything else I’ve published this week:

Brandon Stanton’s thoughts on when to hustle and when to ease up

My review of Juliet’s School of Possibilities (and its reference to my review of Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You)

Em Burfitt’s guest post on why she likes writing for content mills (for now)

There does seem to be an unexpected theme here, even though I am also very very very very in favor of work-life balance. You hustle better if you give yourself time to rest between sprints, after all. ❤️

Where I Got Published Today: Lifehacker

If You Want to Grow Your Net Worth, You’re Going to Have to Invest

If you want to grow your net worth, saving as much of your income as possible is a good start—but it’ll only get you so far.

To truly maximize your income’s potential, you’re going to have to do more than stick it in a savings account. You’re going to need to invest.

Before You Buy a Home, Think About What You’ll Need Five Years From Now

The standard homebuying advice is “only buy as much home as you need.” Makes sense, right? If a newly married couple is shopping for their first home, for example, a two-bedroom bungalow might be a smarter choice than a four-bedroom ranch house. 

But you also have to consider another piece of standard homebuying advice: don’t buy unless you plan to live there for at least five years. If that newly married couple is planning on expanding their family, their two-bedroom bungalow might feel too small all too soon.

Why I Love Working for Content Mills… for Now

Em Burfitt is a freelance music journalist with a focus on female, queer + nonbinary artists. She’s also a copywriter with two years of content writing experience. Learn more about her work at emburfitt.com.

Freelance writing and I met at a very strange time in my life.

Since kickstarting my writing career, I’ve checked it all out: gigs, data collection, transcription, content mills. I’ve also signed up to plenty of those “How to make six figures!” sites that, as much as I respect the people who run the classes, are a big part of how they’re making it.

I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s impossible to make that much as a freelance writer. After all, it’s all about how much work you do in the run-up and how committed you are to scoring those high-budget clients.

Palahniuk aside, all’s fair in love and invoices. So to speak.

And I’m a bit too lazy to go after the high-paying work. I admit it.

As much as I know I could up my income if I went out of my way to find new leads or draft cold emails, my inhuman best friend is procrastination and we go way back. I even spent half of the week I was in Paris doing cold email research for a client rather than myself.

But the key word there isn’t “research”, nor is it “client”. It’s “Paris”.

I got to work in Paris, staying in an Airbnb I rented from money I’d saved up. From writing. Not working hours and hours of shifts to make ends meet but from writing. Two years ago, I never would have believed I could earn enough to live by writing for only five hours a day. Let alone doing so from my favourite city in the world.

AND CO — also my favourite invoice program — did a study towards the beginning of 2019 on freelancers and the financial stability of remote work. Although 77% of the freelancers surveyed weren’t making any more money than they had in their previous work (in fact, 43% said they were worse off), 68% of the surveyed group said their quality of life had improved since they started freelancing. Seeing that made me realise I wasn’t alone.

Granted, more money might also improve my quality of life, but did I mention already that I worked from a flat in Montmartre on my own for a while? Because I did.

And not to get too wax-y or poetic-y or film junkie-y, but nowhere in Moulin Rouge does it say that money is one of the four Bohemian ideals. It’s not money, truth, beauty, love. It’s freedom. It’s what we, as remote workers, as writers, have regardless of how much we’re raking in.

Still, if you spend as much time on writing forums and communities as I have, you’ll probably see writers arguing that content mills are the devil. They’re even worse for us than those “how to make six figures” courses.

And I agree, to a point.

Why work dozens of hours for a pittance while your contemporaries are seeking out repeat clients that keep on coming back?

I agree with that too, don’t get me wrong.

That said, I’ve been leaning on content mills for about four months now.

It was content mills that got me to Paris.

And honestly?

I just think they get a bad rap.

Some of the mills out there really do pay next-to-nothing. I feel pretty lucky that my favourite content sites pay better rates, and I hope my luck doesn’t change. For pretty easy, straightforward work, I can make a couple hundred dollars a day. Some of my friends are doing shift work for less money, and they can’t work those jobs from Paris.

Now, I should probably add that I’m also a music journalist.

It’s kind of my calling.

For the most part, unless my pitches are picked up by paying publications, that work is done pro bono. It’s done pro bono by all of us. Pretty much exclusively because we love music and, for me, I’m tired of the trite music news that’s taken over the internet in recent years.

I’ve also got a client I earned via a referral from a previous client, who pays me around the same rate as I make on the “mills”. He’s a dear and we work well together. With that and any pitches I make that are picked up, it’s a little more income.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of income I make comes from these so-called “content mills”. At the moment, I’m making $50 for 1,000 words. Those 1,000 words, if the topics are good, can take me an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Tops.

Even though I’ve never been good with maths, that would be $200 in five hours.

If I decided, “I’m going to work a full 8-to-4 day today!” it might even be $400 for the workday.

Which means if I worked a standard eight-hour workday, my calculator tells me that’d be $2,000 in a working week. It also says that if I did that for a month, I’d be $8,000 better off.

I’m not, but that’s due to my attention span, or lack thereof.

That, and I value my freedom more than I value lining my pockets at the moment. On top of that, the problem with these “mills” is that the work isn’t guaranteed to be there for that month in which I could theoretically earn $8K.

I also have to factor in time for my music.

And having a life.

I want time to prepare for interviews with my idols, to listen to new albums, and to attend gigs.

I want to drink with friends and discuss the existentialism of life.

I want to go for long walks with my dog whenever I feel like it.

For the moment, I can do all of these things making what I do on ContentFly and Crowd Content. I can go to Paris or Berlin or wherever I want to go. Sure, it’ll take me longer to save up than it will for those who are paid more, but I don’t mind that.

Reading about the pitfalls of content mills can be disheartening, especially when you’re just getting started. But the detractors always come across as way too harsh. While it’s true that ghostwriting content for low-paying mills should never stop you from pitching higher paying clients, for me? It works.

For now, at least.

It works.