Tag: Entrepreneurship

 

Oprah: From Broke to Billionaire

She’s rich, she’s famous and she’s one of the most successful women in America. She’s Oprah Winfrey, and as of March 2018, her net worth is estimated to be about $2.7 billion dollars, according to Forbes.

Her empire is comprised of The Oprah Winfrey Show (the final episode aired in 2011), as well as a magazine, a cable network, and a hefty investment in Weight Watchers. However, Winfrey wasn’t always the rich and powerful woman that she is today. In fact, she had a humble upbringing and her life wasn’t always smooth sailing.

So what’s her secret to success? Read on to learn more.

Humble Beginnings

Winfrey was born on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954. She was initially raised by her grandmother, who taught her how to read at the age of two. A bright and gifted child, Winfrey loved to talk, and started public speaking a young age. She would give speeches at school and even her local church.

When Winfrey moved in with her mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her life took a difficult turn, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Despite her circumstances, which included sexual abuse, she made the best of things and continued to excel in school. Eventually, she went to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was strict, but his discipline paid off. When Winfrey graduated high school, she received a full scholarship to attend Tennessee State University.

Getting Her Start

Winfrey was popular during college, and this helped her win Miss Black Tennessee during her freshman year. At 19 years old, Winfrey accepted a position as co-anchor of the WTVF-TV evening news. She was the first African American female to achieve this.

After graduation, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she spent seven years reporting the local news. From there, she went to work for A.M. Chicago, where she took the initiative to focus on controversial topics like politics, racism, and even child molestation. When Winfrey joined the news show, A.M. Chicago was last in the ratings, but within a few months, ratings soared and the program was renamed The Oprah Winfrey show. It went on to become the highest rated talk show in history.

Winfrey soon added acting to her resume when she debuted in The Color Purple in 1985. The movie was a huge hit and Winfrey was in high demand as both a television host and actress.

Making Strides

In 1986, Winfrey founded Harpo Productions, a production company that has produced television shows like the Dr. Phil Show and The Dr. Oz Show, as well as many movies, including the 2014 critically-acclaimed Selma. Starting with just five employees, Harpo now has more than 12,000 employees. Most importantly, at only 32 years old, Winfrey was the first black women to control a major entertainment studio.

During that same year, Winfrey became the first African American television host to be nationally syndicated. Her income jumped exponentially. Between 1987 and 1988, Winfrey earned $30 million. By 1995, her net worth was estimated to be about $340 million.

Winfrey continued to host her talk show until 2011. At the same time, she began investing in other companies as well. She also formed a charity, Oprah’s Angel Network, and became the CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network (or OWN).

Learn Key Money Moves From Oprah

Winfrey has proven time and time again that you don’t have to be born into money to make money. Not only is she a billionaire, but her money continues to grow. So how does Winfrey achieve financial success? Here are our thoughts on this:

1. She has multiple streams of income

Winfrey not only has her own TV network, but she has multiple other income streams as highlighted above. This allows her to make money in different ways – without putting all her eggs into one basket. And, regardless of how hectic things get, Winfrey doesn’t let being busy run her life. She also seems to have an excellent grasp at time management, which helps her earn more money.

2. She works hard

Winfrey has worked hard ever since she was a young child. She has faced hurdles along the way, including being fired from her first “real” job. But, she handles it all with grace and often creates a business opportunity from a disappointment.

3. She gives freely

Winfrey has often expressed that she likes to show gratitude by giving back, and giving back she does! In fact, her non-profit Oprah’s Angel Network is now worth over $200 million dollars. But that’s not all. Oprah also works with many other charities, including Free The Children, Peace Over Violence, and Women For Women International.

4.She doesn’t let anything hold her back

Winfrey’s first job was working at the grocery store next to her father’s barber shop, a far cry from the work she does now. However, this did not hold her back from pushing forward with her dreams.

She has dabbled in multiple areas of business and entrepreneurship, and this has helped her earn millions during her 30+ year career. She has also made wise investments to grow her money beyond what most people will make in a lifetime.

We can all learn a thing or two from Winfrey. At the very least, her financial prowess can help you realize that with hard work, determination and smart money moves, you too can achieve success.

 

5 Key Benefits of Incorporating Your Business

Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy feat. Deciding on the right legal structure for your business is a common challenge you might face.

So if you’re going to legitimize your business, which option should you choose? Sole proprietor, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or corporation? Here are 5 key benefits of incorporating your business and using it to boost your bottom line.

1. Personal Asset Protection

Unlike a sole proprietorship or partnership, a corporation is completely separate from its owners from a legal standpoint. This means that your personal liabilities and debts are separate from that of your business. This separation is key when protecting your own personal assets like your home, car, retirement account etc.

If in an extreme case, you’re unable to pay a business debt or someone sues your business, they won’t be able to seize your personal assets.

2. Tax Benefits

Certain tax benefits make corporations very appealing to entrepreneurs because self-employment taxes can be pretty brutal if you are operating as a sole proprietorship or even an LLC.

Generally, a corporation pays the standard corporate tax rate on its taxable income and the owners pay income tax on their personal earnings from the business. Yes, this is double taxation but it can be beneficial given the fact that only the owner(s)’ salary is subject to self-employment taxes instead of all your earnings.

If you can run a successful business and legally save on taxes, why wouldn’t you want to keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket?

3. Automatic Protection For Your Business Name

When you incorporate your business, the business name automatically becomes protected in the state you registered the company in. This means that no other company or LLC in the state that sells similar products or services can use the same name as your business.

If you want to protect your business name throughout the U.S. you must file a trademark, but incorporating your business is a good first start especially if you do a lot of local, in-state work.

4. Opportunity to Get Shareholders

One of the cool perks of having a corporation is that you can sell stock ownership of your company to raise money. This could be a nice alternative to taking out a loan to grow your business. With a C-corporation, you can have an unlimited number of shareholders

5. Instant Credibility

Finally, I’m going to be blunt and say that incorporating your business will most likely provide instant credibility which is what you want as you expand your operation.

When you take the time out to formally register your business, it can make finding prospective clients, customers, and vendors easier. Even if you’re great at what you do, it’s difficult to trust people these days and there are tons of scams out there that others want to avoid (rightfully so). You want to give the best first impression when you meet people and network.

Having a formal and organized business tells people that you care about your company and are serious about working with them in some capacity.

Summary

Incorporating your business is a big decision so it will require some thought, planning, and a discussion with your attorney and accountant if you think it’s necessary. If you do choose to move forward, you’ll need to make sure your business meets all the legal and financial requirements. Then, you can start filling out the registration paperwork.

 

How to Keep a Side Hustle and a Day Job Simultaneously

While it seems as if everyone is turning a side hustle into a full-time gig, the reality is not everyone wants to do that. Heck, not everyone even should do that!

Contrary to how you may be feeling, it doesn’t make you any less of a business owner to keep your day job. That being said, you do need to find ways to stay sane during all of this. After all, you’ll be working quite a bit.

Tip #1: Prioritize self-care.

If you want to keep a side hustle and a day job, you will need to prioritize self-care. If you don’t, you will likely lose your mind with all the work you have to do.

Back in the day, I had a regular job, a side hustle and I was taking classes for a certification simultaneously. I had almost zero time for anything outside of that and the time that I did have was spent exercising.

Whether it was yoga or kickboxing, I was at the gym twice a week no matter what. This gave me the energy I needed to keep hustling and helped me deal with the stress related to the pressure I was under.

Tip #2: Know how much money you want to make on the side (and why)

I recently interviewed someone who has three businesses on the side of his day job. His success has a lot to do with the fact that he knew exactly what he wanted – to be financially independent by the age of 35.

Because he was so clear on what he wanted, he knew how much he wanted to earn and how. This allowed him to maximize the time he had outside of his job so that he could create three profitable businesses.

Tip #3: Take your side hustle seriously anyway.

Just because your side hustle isn’t your full-time gig doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. In fact, you should see it as a business like any other.

The problem many people run into is they don’t see their side hustles seriously. They just think it’s a hobby or a way of making some extra money – not necessarily a business.

This leads to problems in a few ways. First, you lose motivation to work on it. Second, because you don’t take it seriously then you allow other things to easily get in the way of growing your business.

Before you know it, you no longer have a side hustle that is providing you with extra income and you’ve reverted back to just having a day job.

Tip #4: Build a team.

While all business owners need to think about building a team, I would argue that it’s especially important with a side hustle. The reason is that you have limited time to create an extra source of income.

While I was recently interviewing people who successfully kept a side hustle on the side of their day jobs, I noticed they all focused on having team members. They wanted to remove themselves from certain tasks so they could focus their limited time on making more money.

Final Thoughts

It’s more than acceptable to choose to keep your side hustle as a side hustle. After all, not everyone needs to be self-employed full-time. Just make sure that you still take it seriously so you can create another source of income.

 

5 Ways to Make Money Online in 2018

It’s a new year which means it’s time to set new goals for ourselves. If you’re like most people your new year’s goals are either to get healthy or make more money. If you said make more money, then you’ve come to the right article. Want somewhere to start? I suggest trying to make money online. If you can run a business from your couch what’s the excuse right?

Here are five ways to make money online in 2018.

Launch an Online Store

If you’re willing to really put in the time and effort launching an online store can be immensely profitable. Now before you say no because you don’t know how to code listen to this. Thanks to e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce you can easily build beautiful online stores with little to no technical experience.

You can create and run an entire online business using one of these platforms. They offer plenty of integrations like marketing, payment processing, search engine optimization, and more!

Ghostwriting or Guest Posting

Every single blog on the internet could use more content. If you’re a good writer you can make serious money ghostwriting or guest posting for various companies. If you’re an expert in a specific field like FinTech or cryptocurrencies you can make well over six figures a year writing full-time.

You can research companies in your field and try to find the person in charge of content. Reach out to them either with a finished post or a few sample titles. Once you get approved by a few companies start typing away and watch the cash roll in!

Start Your Own Blog

If you want to take your writing to the next level you may want to consider starting your own blog. Again this works best if you’re an expert in a specific area or industry. For example, if you’re a fitness expert you can start a health and fitness blog. Make sure your content is creative and try to offer as much guidance as possible.

Health and fitness blogs work best if your readers use your advice to achieve their fitness goals. If you get big enough you can turn your reader’s success stories into case studies and attract an even larger audience. Once your blog is popular enough you can offer sponsored postings or product placement by health and fitness related products. This example for health and fitness can be used for virtually any industry.

Trade Cryptocurrencies

This is a controversial yet highly lucrative one. Cryptocurrencies seem to be hot right now and it’s for a good reason. So-called “unsophisticated” investors are making millions trading digital currencies. The most popular coins now are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, however, there are new coins coming out every day.

If you want to make money trading cryptocurrency you need to get educated and use the proper tools. I suggest starting off with a Coinbase account and do your best to understand cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as a whole.

Offer Services on Fiverr or Upwork

If you consider yourself a professional you can offer your services on Fiverr or Upwork. These platforms connect freelancers with contractors for virtually any type of job. Services range from software development all the way to accounting.

The only issue with these platforms is that contractors typically only work with freelancers who have a developed work history. That said, it can be difficult to get your first few jobs. However, if you’re good at what you do then you’ll be a 5-star freelancer in no time.

Final Thoughts

If you want to make money online there are plenty of options for you to choose from. For starters, I suggest considering the five above as they can all become highly lucrative side (or full) time gigs.

 

5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Business Owners

The holidays are just a few weeks away again. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Not because I have something extravagant on my wish-list. I just have a bunch of business-related nick-necks I’m hoping a few people will buy for me. If you have a special business owner loved one in your life, here are a few gifts that they will appreciate from you.

Gift Cards for Audible Books

Business owners are usually digesting a ton of information from blogs, books, public speakers, and more. Audible books are a nifty way to get inspiration from books while you’re doing other tasks. Trust me, your friend will appreciate being able to buy an audio version of a book that they haven’t had time yet to read.  

Content and Yearly Planners

You can never go wrong with an annual business or productivity planner. If your friend is a heavy writer, blogger, YouTuber, or podcaster, an editorial calendar can help them organize their year. You can find plenty of these types of planners on Amazon. 

A simple yearly business-oriented goal-setting planner can fit the bill as well. Ask your buddy what type of planner they’ve had their eye on for the upcoming year. If they’re a Type A person, I guarantee that they already have one in mind.

Coaching Package or Course Gift Cards

If your business owner friend has been talking about taking a course or working with a coach, some of these service providers offer gift certificates to work with them. Ask your friend to reach out to the coach or course creator to see if this is an option.

Before you get sticker shock, coaching packages and courses can cost $500 on the low end to several thousand dollars on the higher end. The person you’re giving the gift to will understand that you’re not going to pay for the whole thing. However, a gift card for a small bit is a nice gesture that shows you invest in their professional growth.

You don’t want to purchase them a very expensive business related gift anyway because it’s something that the business owner can purchase and write off on their taxes. 

Coffee or Tea Related Products

Writers, bloggers, coaches, and other online business owners usually love a good cup of coffee or tea. One of my very favorite holiday gifts was a coffeemaker a few years back. I use that coffeemaker faithfully every morning. Consider purchasing your business owner loved one a unique type of coffee or tea they’ve never had before. Another idea is a simple mug with a snazzy saying on the front.

Video or Audio Equipment

For business owners who are venturing into video or audio broadcasting, affordable cameras or recording equipment may be the perfect gift. There are many affordable options that newbies in this space can use before investing in higher quality equipment later on. 

Final Word

Every year since I’ve run my business, my holiday wish-list has been filled with a few business-related items. It’s an exciting time for business owners because the end of one year and beginning of another means new opportunities and a fresh start. Whenever I receive business gifts, it’s also nice to know that my friends and family support what I do.

 

How to Rock Your Finances While Self-Employed

Keeping an eagle eye on your business and personal finances while self-employed is highly important. When your business is having a cash flow problem your wallet is also having a cash flow problem.

Here are ways to rock your business and personal finances while running your own show:

Overplan for Emergencies

Your household’s emergency savings account is going to be your savior in situations when checks don’t come in. Clients can pay late or you may lose a client altogether. You need to be prepared for all circumstances.

The typical amount that everyone should have socked away for a rainy day is about three to six months of household bills. Self-employed workers may want to have a few more months of bills in savings. Your income is variable, so an extra bit of cushion can be a lifesaver.

Choose a Savings Vehicle 

Traditional employees can take advantage of company-sponsored 401(k) plans with company matches.  There’s also a 401(k) solo plan for self-employed workers that comes with tax benefits and allows you to make employer contributions from your own business.

For 2018, you’re able to contribute up to $18,000 into the 401(k) solo account as an employee. Your business (employer) can make contributions of up to 25% as well. 

Aside from the 401(k) solo account, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA accounts are other options. Social security is not something you can rely on to live comfortably in retirement. Make sure you have your own savings plan in place. 

Keep Your Money Separate

At first I kept my personal finances and business finances combined. It’s a nightmare. It makes record keeping difficult and filing taxes tragic.

Set up a different checking and credit card account for your business. Save for taxes and pay your business expenses before giving yourself a paycheck. Choose an accounting system for business bookkeeping that will make sending invoices and collecting payments a breeze.

Set Up Two Budgets

Don’t feel bad if you’re a little bit disorganized right now with your money as long as you commit to making a change. Create a budget for your business. This will help you monitor how much money you’re spending to operate. It’ll also keep you aware of whether or not your business is profitable.

There may be some months (or even years) when you’re business is not profitable or breaking even because you’re investing in resources, tools, equipment, or coaching. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re aware of it and investing with a purpose.

Final Word

Even the most organized people can find managing business and personal finances difficult when working for themselves. There was definitely a learning curve for me. I kept a meticulous budget that helped me save and pay off debt aggressively when I worked a full-time job with a steady paycheck.

Having a variable income threw me for a loop for a while, but it was something I got better and better at managing over time. Experiment and find a system that works for you.

 

Matching Income to Expenses When You Don’t Have a Steady Paycheck

When you have a regular day job, you get paid on a predictable schedule. Getting paid twice every month means your paychecks are typically around the same amount when they arrive, and they show up magically in your bank account via direct deposit on a regular cadence. This means planning to pay your bills is easy.

When I still had day job income, I paid my credit cards every other week on payday and paid my mortgage on the last payday of the month. This made managing my personal cash flow easy and predictable. Any side hustle income was just gravy on top! But now that my side hustle has become my day job, my cash flow works a little differently. Here is what I’ve learned along the way.

Save and build revenue until you can pay yourself a paycheck

My first step in getting more normalized revenue was to avoid paying myself. I took the minimum cash from the business I could to pay for my family’s basic living expenses in the first few months I had the business until it had grown enough to start paying myself a regular, weekly paycheck.

When I moved from Portland to Southern California last year, I converted the business from an LLC to an S-Corp. There are some big tax benefits of S-Corps for businesses that make over around $40,000 per year, and it was clear from my prior year side hustle income of $40,000 that I would be doing more than that the first year I took the business full-time.

As an LLC, you have to pay self-employment tax on every dollar you earn. As an S-Corp, you only have to pay self-employment tax on your paycheck, which has to be a “reasonable salary” for your position according to IRS rules. I pay myself $35,000 per year, a reasonable salary for someone working as a full-time writer, divided over 52 weekly paychecks.

Knowing that I will get a check for $587 every Friday (after tax, I use Gusto as a payroll service) makes it easier to manage my monthly bills. It is hard to get predictability in self-employment, but this step helps smooth out my personal income.

Give yourself a small paycheck with monthly “dividends”

If you read my blog, you know I make a heck of a lot more than $35,000 per year in online revenue. After taking out my paycheck, taxes, and other business expenses, the business earns a nice profit every month. Even after my paycheck, the business often has at least a few thousand dollars in cash sitting in the bank.

The business pays me this cash in the form of dividends, which are just online banking transfers from my business checking account at Chase to my personal checking account at Charles Schwab.

These dividends are actually worth more than my paychecks! It’s nice being a business owner where the “employee” (that’s me) does the hard work for $35,000 per year while the owner (also me) gets to keep the profits!

Dividend payments are not on the same regular schedule as paychecks, which have to follow certain Federal and state regulations. My dividends are typically more of an “as needed” payment. My paychecks cover my rent but not much more, I live in Southern California after all, so the dividends make up the difference in my monthly living expenses to ensure we have enough cash in the bank to pay off the credit cards and other bills in full every month.

Build up a sizable business and personal savings

I only pay myself what I need to live, which means if the business earns more than my expenses, which it does every month, the business should end the month with more in cash in the bank than the start of the month. If your business doesn’t earn enough each month to cover you necessities, it is probably better as a side hustle than a full-time gig, or you need to do something to fix your business and earn more, or cut your expenses.

Because of the way LLCs and S-Corps are taxed, it doesn’t matter if the income sits in the business bankor the personal account, so last year when taxes were due it was nice to have that extra cushion in my business account. Last month, I took two weeks for work and vacation trips. It was nice knowing that even if I earned zero dollars in May, I have enough cash in the bank to cover my paycheck and other expenses for a month without blinking an eye.

Everyone should have an emergency fund that covers three to six months of expenses if they have a day job and steady income. Self-employed entrepreneurs should double that. Save three to six months of expenses in a personal emergency fund plus another three to six months of expenses in your business account as an absolute minimum. My long-term plan is for the business to have an entire year of expenses saved up plus at least that much in personal savings.

Make an annual plan and review your finances monthly

Solo entrepreneurs, small business owners, and startup founders typically don’t have a team of full-time finance and accounting professionals monitoring their money every day. That falls on your shoulders. So make sure to review your finances annually and monthly.

Every year at the start of the year, create a basic budget that outlines your expected revenue and expenses each month for the year. You know it won’t be exactly right, but it can act as a good guideline to follow. Make small adjustments and check in monthly to ensure you are on track and make changes as necessary if your revenue is too low or expenses too high to meet your business and personal needs.

You’re the boss, enjoy it!

One of the biggest benefits of self-employment is the freedom to adjust your schedule and be flexible as you want, or need. If money isn’t coming in, cut back on expenses and go on a ramen diet for a few weeks. If money is flush, save up during the good times to weather the bad.

Self-employment is an amazing lifestyle. As long as you have the finances and operations under control, you can relax and focus on the parts of your business you enjoy most. You’re the boss, enjoy it!

 

How Much Money Can You Really Make as a Freelancer?

If I tell you I work from home as a freelance writer, you may assume it’s a nice little side hustle to make me feel more productive as a stay-at-home parent. In reality, however, freelancing is my full-time job, and I earn a full-time salary. I’ve been at it for two and a half years and I consistently earn more than $5,000 a month.

What does my workload look like? I work about 15-20 highly focused hours per week (i.e. no checking Facebook while writing) and churn out about 30-40 articles per month on topics ranging from parenting to finance to emotional labor. I write exceptionally fast, which gives me the bandwidth to take on more work. When I’m not writing, I’m still working. I still have to account for the time spent brainstorming and pitching new story ideas, finding new outlets to write for, bookkeeping, and collecting payments for overdue invoices.

Of course, no two freelance writers do exactly the same thing. They also don’t necessarily earn the same hourly or project rates. Some freelancers hustle at it full-time, whereas others prefer to take on freelance projects on the side. To learn more, I decided to talk to a few writers to get their take on how they make money. Take a look.

Katherine Clover: Freelance rookie

Freelancing for two years with earnings of $12,000 to $18,000 per year

Schedule: I set aside three days per week, or about 25 hours, for freelance work. I want to push myself to earn more than my average of $1,000-$1,500 a month, but I want to do so without burning out.

Since I am my own boss, I think about how I’d want a boss to treat me. “That means allowing myself to take breaks, setting a reasonable schedule, and trying to work with my strengths. It also means creating systems to streamline things, and keeping track of the money without getting addicted to the money.”

Best part of the job: The work itself is something I love. I also like going after projects that excite me, like writing about dinosaurs for Salon. I was delighted to learn “the big secret” of freelancing is to simply ask to write about the things you love.

Worst part of the job: People do not realize how much of a hassle it can be to get paid for the work you’ve already done, how much bookkeeping is involved, and how much it really is like running a business. All of that time doing invoicing and paperwork is essentially unpaid labor. I think people imagine when I’m working, I’m writing. This is not always the case.

Advice: Just keep pitching. You won’t get work if you don’t ask for it.

Emily Monaco: Freelance go-getter

Freelancing for four years with earnings of about $48,000 per year

Schedule: I work weekdays between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, with very little time off for breaks. I’ll usually take off one afternoon per week, but I occasionally do a bit of work in the evenings or on the weekends to make up for it. The work is a mix of interviews and transcribing, pitching, story writing, and working on my novel.

Best part of the job: The freedom. I love being able to decide on a sunny Tuesday morning to go for a hike or to go back to New York to visit my family for several weeks with little or no disruption of my schedule. I also like that my work life is constantly changing and evolving, and I can work on projects that interest me.

Worst part of the job: Self-motivation is definitely a challenge and it’s important to come up with a system that works for you. I actually think the most difficult part of freelancing is getting other people to respect your work hours. Just because freelancers don’t go into an office doesn’t mean we don’t have to work.

Advice: Break down your income goals into manageable pieces. Look at your life and the money you need to make to maintain it. For example, if you want to earn $2,100 in a month, you can break this down into 21 working days, so $100 a day. “When you get up in the morning, work until you meet that goal. Then you can either take the rest of the day off, work ahead, or pitch for new projects.”

Chaunie Brusie: Freelance veteran

Freelancing for six years with earnings $100,000 to $120,000 per year

Schedule: I start work at 5:30 am and work 40 hours per week around the schedules of my four children. I work on and off all day, spending pretty much every free moment writing, and I try to dedicate at least one full day to work while I have a babysitter. I very rarely have “set” hours.

Best part of the job: I can make a significant income and still set my own schedule. I never miss field trips or school events, I go to the gym every day, and I have the freedom to go out to lunch with a friend or do whatever I want. I enjoy being my own boss and the backend of running my own business. I also genuinely love writing and find enormous satisfaction in being a storyteller. I also love how it encourages exploration. “I can write about going on a wine tour, for example, or take my kids to a new museum exhibit. It’s awesome when life overlaps with what works for me.”

Worst part of the job: How incredibly hard it can be to set boundaries for yourself. I only recently have started to cut back on work a bit after it started affecting me physically. I’ve literally been glued to my computer and phone for years and it’s not healthy! The isolation is also hard: I feel a lot like I am writing about life instead of actually living it.

Advice: Know what you’re willing to give up because freelancing comes with a price. Are you willing to give up leisure time and TV shows? You’ll have to carve the time out from somewhere. On the flipside, set some rules for yourself so you don’t wind up working 24/7.

Do you want to try freelancing?

Whether you’re interested in freelancing as a side hustle or a full-blown career, it helps to set reasonable, actionable goals for yourself. Figure out what you want – whether it’s a cool byline at a big publication or a set dollar amount each month. From there, come up with a plan to achieve your goal.

Celebrating LGBT Pride with The Debt Free Guys

When they started dating, David Auten and John Schneider were 30-something professionals with 13 years of combined experience in financial services. They also had more than $50,000 of combined credit card debt.

Today, they’re married and debt-free. They’re also the only gay couple talking about money and the LGBT community.

LGBT individuals encounter some unique financial challenges compared to their heterosexual peers. For example, same-sex couples may have trouble accessing employer-sponsored health insurance benefits or tax deductions for shared expenses like mortgage payments. Indeed, many of these challenges were alleviated by the Supreme Court ruling in 2015. This historic ruling guaranteed same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry. Today, same-sex and heterosexual couples alike can take advantage of joint tax returns, shared health insurance and retirement benefits, and more. Yet, even with these strides forward, there’s still a lot to be done to ensure the financial future of the LGBT community.

These days, Auten and Schneider are forging the way for queer individuals and allies to become financially strong while fighting for LGBT equality. In addition to blogging at Debt Free Guys, the pair run a podcast and YouTube show focused on personal finance for the queer community.

We sat down with the Debt Free Guys to talk about pride, personal finance, and living debt-free.

Chime: What does financial wellness mean to you?

Debt Free Guys: To us, financial wellness means financial security. If money is a stressor in your life, it will affect your physical and mental health. If you’re distracted by too much student loan debt, a mortgage that takes more than 50% of your income or credit card debt that carries from month to month, you can’t be fully engaged in what’s most important to you and your family.

Chime: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned since starting Debt Free Guys?

Debt Free Guys: The most surprising thing we’ve learned since starting Debt Free Guys is how much information about money people crave. It’s widely accepted that we aren’t adequately taught about money in school and most adults know that financial knowledge is important for their success. We need more money experts of all stripes, from certified financial planners to money bloggers.

 

Chime: What are your favorite tricks for saving money?

Debt Free Guys: Know your ‘why.’ No tip or trick will help until you know what you want and why you want it. We’re often asked in interviews how we paid off $51,000 in credit card debt in two and a half years. The underlying question here is: What tips or tricks can you share? While tips and tricks are helpful, it wasn’t until we learned what was important to us that we had the motivation to implement the tips and tricks required for our financial success.

Chime: How are you celebrating Pride this year?

Debt Free Guys: We spoke at Prudential’s LGBT Financial Experience Symposium in Newark NJ and we’re attending the Stonewall Community Foundation Awards in New York City.

Chime: Any tips for our LGBT members?

Debt Free Guys: Contrary to popular belief, many in the LGBT community struggle with financial insecurity. We’re not all “fabulous” and upwardly mobile power couples. That said, it’s important for us to talk about money and to seek advice and help with our money whether we earn $10,000 a year or $1,000,000 a year. People who talk with peers and mentors about money tend to do better with money. Seek help because regardless of why you may be struggling financially, there is a way to improve your financial life. This helps you personally and our LGBT community broadly.

 

5 Steps You Need to Take Before You Can Earn More Money

Most of us wish we had more money. And, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to think about what you could do with an extra $3,000 per month or even $1,000. If my income doubled today, one of the first things I’d do is book a three-week trip to the Caribbean for some much needed R&R. I’d also pay down the remainder of my debt because one of my goals is 100% debt freedom.

The question then becomes: How do you get from wanting more money to actually making more money? The answer is not so simple as this takes much more than just sheer grit. Here are 5 steps to take before you can earn more money.

Make decisions based on where you want to be.

Are the career moves you’re making putting you one step closer to your goals, or one step further away? This is a pretty deep question. So, let’s break it down into some more manageable questions to ponder:

  • How important is a work-life balance to you? For example, do you mind working 80-100 hours a week? Or is 50 hours per week your limit?
  • What’s your end goal? For example, do you want to be a chief technology officer or do you want to be a solopreneur or a creative entrepreneur?
  • What do you need to do to get there? Do you need to switch careers, get some certifications under your belt or even go back to school for an advanced degree? Or, do you need to start networking like crazy and join a professional organization or two?

Remember, the way to make money by doing what you love is to, well, do what you love. Yup, you read that right. Find out what you’re most passionate about and turn that into your career.

Ask for what you want.

Most people are uncomfortable asking for a raise because they don’t want to come across as being too pushy. Or, perhaps being turned down is something you don’t want to face. But did you know that the odds of receiving a pay upgrade are actually in your favor? A 2015 study published in Time Magazine showed that 44% of people who asked for a raise got the amount they wanted while 31% got less than they asked for. Hey, those who fell into that 31% are still better off than if they hadn’t asked at all.

Keep in mind that if you just started your job or took on a new client, chances are you won’t get a raise until you have proven your worth. Think of it this way – when it’s the right time to ask for a raise, you don’t want your boss or client to think twice about whether or not you deserve it.

Write down all your accomplishments at your job for the past six months. Figure out what a reasonable increase would be based on researching your industry and the strengths you bring to the table. After you’ve done this, go for it!

Take on more responsibility.

Now that you’ve asked for more money and hopefully received it, you’ll probably be expected to take on more work. You could even be asked to take on a leadership role and manage other employees. However, make sure you can handle any extra tasks. If you say yes to every extra assignment, you may quickly find yourself on the brink of burnout.

Ensure that you’re agreeing to an extra workload for the right reasons and that you have the bandwidth to take them out on. Have an honest and open discussion with your supervisor or client about expectations and timelines. Then, get these expectations in writing if possible.

Scale back your lifestyle.

When was the last time you spring cleaned your finances and trimmed the fat from your budget? If you’re struggling to remember, then it’s probably time to take action. Challenge yourself to find some areas in your life where you can scale back. Chances are, there are many ways to pare down and “find” money in your budget. Here are three possible options:

  • Cancel that gym membership that you swore you’d start using at the beginning of the year.
  • Cook more meals at home instead of eating out. Millennials spend close to $3,000 a year on eating out according to a recent study in Forbes.
  • Find a cheaper place to live or if you have a spare room, consider renting it out on Airbnb.

Review your spending over the last 90 days and separate wants from needs. Figure out where you can scale back and start living below your means. The idea is to start developing healthy financial habits so that you can start building wealth for your future.

Create a solid plan to save more money. 

One big motivation for making more money is achieving financial freedom. However, making more money will not get you closer to this goal if you squander it away. Instead of spending it all on shoes or vacations, it’s time to get serious about your money and your future. That’s right, I’m talking about saving most, if not all, of your pay increase. Use this extra money to pay down debt, build an emergency fund or save for retirement.

With a Chime bank account, you can save when you get paid and automatically direct 10% of every paycheck into your savings account. This way you can put your savings on autopilot and achieve financial goals faster. As a bonus, if you use your Chime card to make purchases, Chime will round up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar, and transfer the round-up from your Spending Account to your Savings Account. How awesome is that?

To recap, before you can start making more money, you need to remember these five strategies: Create a vision for the future, ask for what you want, understand the extra responsibilities, live below your means and start saving when you get paid. Now it’s time to go after your goals and make it happen!

Banking Services provided by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Chime and The Bancorp Bank, neither endorse nor guarantee any of the information, recommendations, optional programs, products, or services advertised, offered by, or made available through the external website ("Products and Services") and disclaim any liability for any failure of the Products and Services.