Automatic Income: Alexis Dawes on Life & Work

I’ve interviewed six-figure eBook tycoon and NorthxEast contributor Alexis Dawes on earning an income online and working anywhere.

Don’t miss the tips on successful remote work and her #1 piece of advice on successful eBook development!

How did you earn your first online dollar?

I started out creating and selling turnkey websites on eBay. It was something I discovered completely by accident – I had no idea such an industry even existed.

Back then even the cheesiest of ‘hits for sale’ websites could generate a $3K-$10K sale on eBay. Pay per click traffic was really gaining a lot of momentum back then. So turnkey pay per click search engines were also hot sellers.

The idea wheel in my head immediately began spinning and I started making my own turnkey websites.

My first site sold for $770. The second one went for $5K.

I was hooked.

At what moment did you realize that you could earn a living through the web? Was it a planned move or an accidental discovery?

After my first turnkey website sale on eBay I realized that I could work online all the time.

I mean I had been investigating the possibility of starting an online venture prior to that. But once I got over the initial hump of creating the site and selling it, I knew that I’d found my future in the online world.

What drew you to information products?

After almost a year of doing turnkey websites I’d amassed a good collection of links and resources that I was using on a regular basis. Stuff that newbie turnkey site developers probably didn’t know about.

I was an eBook buyer and I thought my information would make a good eBook. I especially liked the idea of creating something once and being paid for it over and over.

Plus I’d just given birth, and I just didn’t have the energy to create sites like I had in the past.

So I fleshed out the list of resources I’d accumulated, PDF’d it, and put a $39.95 price tag on it.

I didn’t have a website to sell the eBook at the time, but I figured I’d be able to do well just selling it on eBay.

A few days before I ran the first Dutch auction someone else came out with an eBook on creating turnkey websites. And it was cheap! Like under $10.

Needless to say, I was crushed. I debated on whether I should try to sell my eBook, and finally decided to do it. It was the best things I could’ve done. My first 5 Dutch auctions – with 10 eBooks in each one – all sold out.

Once again I was hooked.

You love traveling. Do work and travel mix well for you? If so, what are your top tips for working while you travel?

The world inspires me. Meeting new people and exploring new places keeps me creatively fresh. So I would definitely say that work and travel mix well for me.

But there were a few lessons I had to learn the hard way-

1) Investigate all wireless options ahead of time.

Once I was stuck in Paris for a month with no wireless access because the apartment I’d sublet didn’t have it.

So imagine trying to answer customer e-mails… with a 2-year in tow… at an Internet cafe… using a European keyboard – which has slightly different letter placement than an American keyboard. It was a mess.

Most hotels provide wireless to their customers. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s not. But if you’re going to rent an apartment during your travels, make sure that wireless is included.

2) Bring a backup writing device.

After a year of being in Montreal I arrived in New York to look for a new residence. I was staying at a hotel for a week.

This time the hotel had wireless. But as soon as I plugged in my computer and turned it on, the screen went dark. The computer was still booting, and I could see the extremely faint images. However there was no way I could work on my laptop. The backlight in the monitor was dead.

Fortunately my Palm Pilot TX saved the day. Yes, it’s a small screen. But with a foldable keyboard, you can type Word or text documents, access the Internet, and much more.

Plus the Palm Pilot is light enough to be carried with you, even when you don’t want to bring a laptop.

3) Have at least two payment processors set-up in advance.

One of my readers told me that he had a problem with his PayPal account while visiting Thailand. In order to access his account he needed to send some documentation to PayPal – and he didn’t have the necessary documents with him.

Needless to say, not being able to access his PayPal account or accept orders caused hardship.

Right now I sell some of my eBooks with PayPal and others with Google Checkout. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my money isn’t funneling through a single payment processor.

I’m sure a lot of people are wondering how much money information products have earned for you. Is that something you’re willing to talk about?

I earn anywhere from $200-$5K+ a day, depending on what’s being actively promoted at the time. My yearly income exceeds 6-figures.

I’ve been in this income range for a couple of years now. And I estimate I’ll hit the million dollar mark in two years or less.

What’s your #1 tip for anyone thinking about selling an information product?

Choose your topic carefully. Choose your topic carefully. Choose your topic C-A-R-E-F-U-L-L-Y.

You can have an awesomely designed website, a sales letter written by a conversion master, and a steal-of-a-deal for a price. But if your topic isn’t well thought out, none of that matters. The eBook won’t sell.

Whenever I write an eBook, I always look for ‘desperate’ topics. I want customers who are at the end of their rope. They need a solution to their problem, and they need it now.

I don’t even care if it’s a small niche. The only thing that matters to me is that my customers are desperate for a solution. That’s how you assure long-term sales.

How many hours a week do you work?

I’m a single mother, so it really depends on what’s happening with my daughter that week. If all else fails, I always get in some work time between 8pm-1am.

However just to keep it in perspective, many of my eBooks are on autopilot. Even if I do no promotion, I continue to make sales because of my actions early on.

Once again, it goes back to choosing your topic carefully.

Have you ever experimented with outsourcing or automating some aspects of what you do?

I’ve had eBooks written for me. I’ve had sections of eBooks written for me.

But I only work with people who have a specific expertise in the topic I need written about, or have close contact with someone within the field/niche. I don’t want someone who’s only going to research a topic. I prefer insider knowledge.

What’s next for you?

I’m always putting out short reports. I’m always looking for ways to shorten the amount of time it takes to go from an eBook idea to a website with that eBook for sale.

Those are the things that are moving me to a million dollar a year income, and that’s what I’ll continue doing.

 

Interview With Darren Rowse – How to Become a Problogger

Darren’s ability to consistently deliver practical, applicable, and timely tips on blogging, internet marketing, and making money online is truly remarkable. The last time I checked his subscriber count was very close 37,000 and he is currently ranked 17th on Technorati’s top 100 most popular blogs list.

Alongside being a tremendous writer and blogger he is also a fantastic person. At present some of Darren’s online ventures include ProBlogger (of course), Digital Photography School, http://jobs.problogger.net/, and b5media.com where he was a co-founder and currently serves as the VP of Blogger Training.

I think Darren’s true mastery is his ability to “speak to everyone” with his writing style. It does not matter if you are a beginner just starting out or a long time pro, you will always find some information of value on ProBlogger. Enjoy the interview.

Question 1: Where do you see ProBlogger heading in the next three to five years? What are your long-term objectives (e.g. retirement, help the world to be better bloggers, etc)?

Darren’s answer: As I look forward into the next 3-5 years I can honestly say that I don’t really know where it will end up. I do have many ideas for new features, experiments and businesses – but any success that I’ve had so far has really come from an evolutionary process and one that is not overly strategic.

Of course I have some general goals for the blog – that it becomes more profitable, readership grows etc – but I’m not one for tethering myself to specific goals. My own personal plans – again there’s an element of letting things evolve in my own planning.

We do have some goals as a family – to pay off our newly purchased home, have more kids etc. I don’t have any aspirations for early retirement – I see myself working for decades to come.

Having said this I would love to get to a point that I cut back to only working three to four days a week and am able to dedicate the other day or two to my family and to voluntary work for worthwhile organizations.

Question 2: How does your relationship with God and religion affect your blogging? How is leading a flock of bloggers similar to leading a church?

Darren’s answer: I attempt to integrate my relationship with God into every area of life. I’m not always successful at this of course – but I’m learning to spot God at work in all kinds of places and hope that I’m getting better at interacting on that level in places like my work as a blogger.

Leading bloggers and leading a church – hmmmm, interesting comparison. I’ve not considered it really but off the top of my head there are a few immediate similarities. In fact it’s probably not dissimilar to leading any group of people in that you need to have good communication skills, creative thinking, be able to manage change etc.

I do think that I’m a better blogger for my work as a minister as my previous work included a lot of preaching (and preparing for sermons) and I did a lot of study into communication methods, culture etc.

Question 3: Sometimes people can be hesitant when it comes to pursuing their dreams, goals, and aspirations. From the general tone of your blogs it is quite obvious that you are doing what you love. What specifically allowed you to push beyond the fear and strive to create a living from blogging? How receptive was your family to the idea of “ProBlogger” during the early stages?

Darren’s answer: The thing is that I never set out to make a living from blogging. It was purely a hobby and it very very gradually evolved into something beyond that.

There were a few points along the way that I (and my family) had to decide whether I’d step things up (at the expense of pursuing other things) but it was a gradual process. I know others quit their jobs to start blogging and do things in a much more extreme and sudden way – but my style is to transition from one thing to another.

My wife was a little skeptical about the idea at first – but as I was able to show her how things were expanding and as the money began to come in from it she became more open to the idea.

Question 4: Who do you feel are five top innovators that are currently online (either as bloggers or entrepreneurs) that maybe the blogging world has not yet heard about? And what is the one blog that you read every day?

Darren’s answer: Tough question. To be honest I find it very difficult to find time to track a lot of what others are doing. I do keep my head around trends – but don’t really track too many individuals.

One person who influenced me a lot before I started blogging was Seth Godin. I didn’t realize he had a blog until I’d been doing it for a while – but his books did influence me and his writing continues to challenge me. I’m sure there are others doing amazing things online – but none are coming to mind right now.

In terms of blogs that I read every day. Again it’s a tough question because I subscribe to over 600 blogs and I read them all every day (when they publish – via RSS). There is no one blog that I am any more religious about than others as they all have their good and bad days.

Having said that – the blog that I watch the most (according to my Google Reader ‘Trends’ function is Lifehacker. Web Worker Daily comes in at #2).

Question 5: You recently ran a post that discussed your participation in an opinion topic (one side pro and one side con) regarding “User Generated Content and the Threat to Journalism.” Did you find any of Phil Mclean’s opinions such as, “people want ‘intelligent people‘ to help them understand the world” in which he infers that bloggers are not intelligent, either offensive or insulting?

Darren’s answer: I’m not sure that he intentionally was trying to say that bloggers or those creating content online were not intelligent – I suspect that he just didn’t think about how his statement would look.

I didn’t take any personal offense by it – but like I said in my response, some of the most intelligent and insightful people I know are bloggers.

Question 6: (Editor’s note: This question was submitted by Terence Chang of The Internet Entrepreneur Diary) If you could start over again, what would you do to make your life better or different? Besides your success in the blogging world, what achievements are you most proud in your life?

Darren’s answer: The first two things that come to mind are that I’m proud of my family and the work I’ve done with starting a church over the last 5 years (LivingRoom). If I was starting out again I’d probably want to spend more time working on my health and fitness.

Question 7: Was your participation in Movember a success? Do you feel bloggers collectively as a group are doing enough to effect a positive change with respect to social and humanitarian issues?

Darren’s answer: I set out with the goal of raising about $2000. We fell short by just over $100 – so I’d say it was successful. I do think that bloggers have a great platform to bring about social change.

There are some good examples of them taking this up – but there’s always room for more.

Question 8: How do blog media networks, like b5media, help to support their bloggers? Do you think more struggling bloggers (who would like to generate some income) should attempt to join into a network?

Darren’s answer: I’ve always said that blog networks can be great for some bloggers but not for others. It really depends upon your goals and style. Blog networks provide bloggers with more than money/payment for their blogging.

They take away the need to know about hosting, design, SEO, finding advertisers etc. At b5 we also work on training bloggers, creating a community where bloggers work together etc.

This is great for some bloggers who just want to write – but for others who have skills in those areas and want to retain complete control over their blogs then setting up as an owner blogger is probably a better way forward.

Question 9: Your ability to deliver practical, applicable, and informative posts related to all things blogging is quite amazing and rivaled by very few on the internet. I have always wondered, do you do your own research, or do you have an assistant to help out?

Darren’s answer: Until recently I’ve run ProBlogger completely by myself (with the occasional help of guest posters). In the last few months I’ve taken on a staff writer (Skellie) who is writing a post or two a week for me and who is also running our consulting project.

I still write all my own posts though – it’s a lot of work but I enjoy the writing and research involved.

Question 10: When you wake up in the morning what are 5 strategies that you use to get inspired to write, and to help stir the creative juices, if you are not in the mood to blog?

Darren’s answer:

  • Know and work in my ‘golden hours’ – Mornings are my most creative and productive time of the day. So I rarely plan any other activity in them.
  • Work offline – two mornings a week I leave the house/office and go and work in cafes. This takes me away from the distractions of home and work and also puts me in a different environment which can lead to creativity.
  • Batch Writing – I don’t write posts every day but instead try to write multiple posts in a sitting that I can then roll out later in the week. This then frees up time on other days for other activities.
  • Brainstorming – every now and again when I’m feeling particularly creative I’ll brainstorm as many topics and idea for series of posts as I can. In these times I don’t write posts, just titles and topics. This then gives me a head start on those days when I’m feeling uninspired – at least I’ll have a topic on those days.
  • Take time off – I take time off on numerous levels including daily time off (breaks for lunch, exercise etc), weekly (weekends I work less and attempt to have at least one day completely off) and every few months (taking weeks or weekends off to go away). Taking time off makes me more productive when I’m at work.

I would like to THANK Darren for his time — He was actually in the middle of moving and going on vacation when I asked him to do this interview so I really appreciate him taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Interview With Yaro Starak – Art of Becoming a Six Figure Blogger

Yaro Starak is an intelligent, creative, and tireless entrepreneur who runs the incredibly successful BlogMastermind.com mentoring program, which is aimed at those interested in Internet business and Blogging. Recently, Yaro sold one of his websites, Betteredit.com for a reported six figures while also trying to purchase a new home and buy a car.

After reading the interview if you would like to learn a little more about what he is about then I strongly recommend that you grab his free report – The Blog Profits Blueprint, where he outlines the most important points about how to make money from blogging.

Question 1: As someone who coaches and trains people, do you think successful entrepreneurs are created (business school), born (right out the womb), or conditioned (life circumstances)? Other than fear, what do you think holds most people back from becoming an entrepreneur?

Yaro’s answer: That’s a tough question. I think anyone can become a successful entrepreneur with the right training, however there are certain innate drives that entrepreneurs possess that other people don’t.

Without that drive people won’t stick at something long enough to reach success, they won’t have the natural tolerance to ambiguity that entrepreneurs have and well, they will probably find the whole experience of running a business rather unpleasant – they just aren’t built for it.

Conditioning and education can be an advantage, but I think the right personality type is the most critical ingredient.

Fear is definitely the number one reason that holds people back and you can throw in a lack of persistence as another big one. Action is the key to results, fear stops people from doing things, but sometimes it’s pure laziness or incongruent motivation that can hold people back. If you can’t see the path, it’s hard to know where to take the first step.

Question 2: As the owner of the successful, Blog Mastermind Mentoring Program, who were your mentors growing up? (sorry cliché but I have to ask)

Yaro’s answer: I’m asked this question often and today I can definitely say that other Internet marketers such as Rich Schefren and Mike Filsaime certainly are mentors to me. I model a lot of what I do on what they have done. The Internet marketing industry is fantastic at sharing information, so I really have a lot of people to thank from this industry.

Growing up I was fairly aimless in terms of direction, especially during my teenage years. I’ve always admired people who work in humanitarian roles, teachers, doctors and nurses and activists who stand up for a cause they believe in.

Question 3: Sum up your entrepreneurial philosophy in three words and explain how you utilize those terms to achieve your vision?

Yaro’s answer: Freedom – The ability to choose what you do, how you do it and when you do it.

Action – The ability to take steps to realize opportunities that you create.

Persistence – Isolate what you are good at and where you provide value and then continue to leverage that skill or talent for long enough to realize the rewards you are seeking.

Question 4: What has been your greatest failure as an entrepreneur?

Yaro’s answer: There are times where I lose track of the big picture and spend too much time thinking of what I don’t have and what I want. Materialistic goals can swamp the senses sometimes – you need to bring yourself back.

Entrepreneurs need to balance the drive for success with a clear awareness that there will always be another mountain to climb. If you don’t take stock of what you have done and find satisfaction in that, you will forever be working towards another goal. If you feel a void inside that you think you can fill with business success you are wrong – you can only fill that void through raising your awareness.

I could tell you the story of the failed English school, or the graveyard of websites I have created that went nowhere, but ultimately the most important lesson is about awareness.

Question 5: What is one blog post that really had an impact on you either negatively, or positively, and who wrote it?

Yaro’s answer: Early on in my blogging career Steve Pavlina had a strong influence on me from a consciousness awareness stand point.

I could point to several posts of his that I found quite profound, but since you asked for one I’ll recommend his levels of consciousness post here – http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/04/levels-of-consciousness/

Question 6: With a semi-saturated blog market (I seriously just saw a post about a cats bellybutton lint) where do you see online publishing, the web, and internet marketing heading in the next five to ten years?Editor’s note: When I asked Yaro this question I had just written a guest post for ProBloggerLeveraging the Power of Blogs in an Overcrowded Market so the thought of an overcrowded market was on my mind.

Yaro’s answer: You have to be careful when you say something is saturated and clearly define the parameters of the marketplace you are assessing. Saturation usually pertains to markets for business or economic purposes.

Most blogs exist for the enjoyment of the blog writer and they have no financial aspirations whatsoever. You could only say the market is saturated if every single person has a blog and obviously that is not going to happen.

If we were too look at the blogosphere in terms of markets that people could make money from, it is far from saturated. I believe that’s the case because there are not that many bloggers who know how to make money from a blog and most don’t even try or want to try.

I expect the future will see it become easier and easier for people to publish content online and thus even more junk will be published. As a result of information overload, people will actually consume less information and seek out only the trusted experts. Thus those people in leadership positions will enjoy the lion share of attention.

Question 7: What is it about Australia that creates so many phenomenal bloggers like you, Darren Rowse, Skellie, etc?

Yaro’s answer: Haha – good question – maybe it’s because of something in the water.

I suspect if you looked at the actual stats it’s probably not quite as Australian-centric as it might seem, but I am certainly in good company down here.

I think sometimes we tend to operate in an echo chamber and only experience a very small segment of what is going on online. Those with the loudest voices in that echo chamber tend to enjoy the most attention – although as a percentage of the entire market, that one chamber might be very small. It’s the big fish, small pond situation.

Most industries have a few leaders who are mentioned over and over again as the reference points of choice. In the blogging about blogging industry, there just happens to be a few Aussies who rose to the top.

Question 8: As a general rule do you think the “pay for blog content” model can work for small to medium sized sites?

Yaro’s answer: I’m not entirely sure what you are asking here, (Editors’ note: I meant can small to medium sized sites with few readers make money selling blog content or having a premium section) but I’ll answer based on how I interpret it at this moment.

I think paying for blog content is fine as a strategy if you find great writers who have the motivation to take your blog to the top. They have to want it as much as you do.

Alternatively, you can run off less than great content if your strategy is too dominate long tail keywords and attract search engine traffic. This plan is definitely easier and can literally make any blog a money maker.

You may not want to be viewed as the leader in your industry, but as long as you attract the right type of traffic for your strategy, you can definitely make other people’s content work. However, if you want to truly lead an industry, you need a high standard of writing produced by credible experts.

Question 9: How can bloggers from Australia, the US, and Europe tap into the Chinese and Japanese markets?

Yaro’s answer: Tough question – besides the obvious – publish content in Chinese and Japanese, I can’t really offer any qualified response. I don’t know enough about the blogging culture in those two countries or the state of their blog industries.

I suspect though, like with Internet marketing in general, that there is a lot of opportunity to dominate certain markets simply by stepping up and becoming the expert.

For example, in the Pay Per Click industry for English speakers, Perry Marshall is considered the expert. You could take his teachings, become an expert and then enter the Japanese market and start to make inroads to become the PPC expert for the Japanese, just replicating what Perry does.

You can look at markets in other countries and generally they will be at an earlier point on the development curve to their English counterparts. Take what has worked for people in the English speaking world, apply it to other country markets and you stand a very good chance of success, if you know how to effectively communicate in the language and culture of the other countries.

Question 10: Entrepreneurs-Journey.com is filled with such a tremendous amount of applicable and practical information and your Business Timeline alone is a great inspiration. However, for someone who has not been to your site yet what is one tip you that would give a beginning blogger who would like to make money, and you cannot use the terms niche or content?

Yaro’s answer: Focus on creating niche content – just kidding!

I’m going to give some slightly different advice to answer this question – specifically for people in a hurry to make money at blogging. Instead of trying to invent the wheel, go search for blogs that already cover topics you feel you could write about that appear to be marginally successful and ask if they would consider selling their blog to you.

Obviously this strategy requires you have investment money, but there are plenty of solid blogs out there that can be bought for a few hundred dollars. A blogger who has lost interest in writing will be open to your offers and you never know until you ask.

It’s much easier to get started if you have the blog already set up with existing articles, search engine rankings and a small audience. If you have a few hundred dollars, you have enough to get started.

Interview With Tina Su of Think Simple Now

Today, I am lucky to have Tina Su, of Think Simple Now, as a guest. Tina is a rapidly rising “pro-blogger” and she recently had a very well received guest post on how she gained 2000 subscribers to her site in one hundred and twenty days on ProBlogger.

  1. What was the catalyst that started you on your path to personal freedom? How come so many of us are hesitant to take that first step toward serving our own happiness?

Catalyst: My mother. Who encouraged me to learn about EQ (emotional intelligence) when I was a teen. She also handed me my first personal growth books “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Think & Grow Rich” when I was 18.

Why many of us are hesitant to take the first step?
We are afraid. Afraid of the unknown and potential instability. We fear awkwardness and being labeled as an outcast by our peers. We are naturally adverse to change and fear the potential loss and pain. Did you know that we are more sensitive to avoiding pain than we are to gaining pleasure?

  1. Do you have a personal mission statement for 2008? If yes, what is it?

“To live every moment fully and to choose how I spend my time based on passion and purpose.”

In my pursuit for freedom of time, I make decisions regarding projects and tasks by asking myself the following question, “If I had all the wealth and resources in the world, would I be doing this right now?” I will then only proceed if the answer is yes.

  1. What has been the most fulfilling aspect of having your website Think Simple Now, what is the significance behind your website name, and how do you plan to improve or grow the site in 2008?

Most fulfilling aspect: Every time I receive an email or comment from a reader who felt connected with my voice. I am so empowered by the thought that I might have contributed to their lives in a positive way. That means so much to me. I would pay money to experience that. :)

Website name: I did not think very hard about this. The name just came to me one day. It felt right and it stuck. I make many decisions this way, listening and trusting my gut feelings.

Think Simple Now suggests that happiness can be experienced now! In a shift of a thought instantly! It can be as difficult or as simple as we make it. So decide to make it simple, and experience the now.

Plans for 2008: There are many plans for improvement, and many will be implemented in the fall. Specifically, there are three major areas which I anticipate for ThinkSimpleNow:

  1. a) Going Fulltime – Becoming a ‘pro-blogger’ and dedicate more time and focus on the blog. It really makes my heart sing, and so I shall follow my heart.
  2. b) Additional Writers – Bring on additional voices from exceptional writers who share the same mission to making a positive contribution to the lives of others through motivational writing.
  3. c) Internationalization – I’d like to make the content more accessible to other cultures and languages. If you are a proficient writer in another language and connect with my content, please contact me at tina[at]thinksimplenow.com
  4. How did growing up in Beijing help to create who you are today? Was it hard to transition to living in the U.S. as a young person?

The biggest impact that growing up in Beijing had was watching how my parents persevered to leave China. Leaving China was quite a difficult task prior to Tianmen Square, but my parents had a laser sharp vision, even though they did not know how they were going to do it.

Watching how hard my mother worked to save up enough money for our plane tickets to North America was a deeply moving one. Each night after her day job, she would ride her bicycle for 2 hours to see foreign patients in order to make a dollar an hour, as extra income. From that, she saved enough for us to leave. That’s persistence.

Transitioning as a child was simple. As a ten year old, it took me a year to learn English. During this time, the kids at school were quite cruel, because I couldn’t speak English. You know how kids can be.

  1. For budding entrepreneurs out there, what is the one piece of advice that you would give them?

To create a concrete vision, followed by a measurable goal with a date attached, and then plug in at full speed towards this goal with massive action and absolute faith.

Many people don’t get what they want, because they don’t know what they want. I’ve found the act of defining a goal with dates to be the most important piece for me in terms of achievement.

Next, I would work on understanding myself and how to deal with fear. Fear and doubt is the enemy of quick action, which cause our failure to reach our goals. At which point, guilt and regret usually sets in. I feel that taking the time to understand our own psychology and ways to understand ourselves is extremely important.

  1. How do you divide your time between your job (at Amazon), your blog, and your art?

Great question! It was very easy without the blog, but the blog has added an extra dimension of complexity. I am still working and continuously adjusting on better balancing this. I love my blog and my readers, and so I will make it work despite the additional workload.

I use my early mornings and evenings during the weekday for my blog and other projects. I divide up the week for when I’ll work on which and allocate the number of hours dedicated to each.

My job at Amazon has flexible hours, which I am very fortunate to have. My success there is measured by delivering value on time rather than the number of hours I work.

I often work from home, with less distractions, and I am able to become more efficient with my time. I try to stack meetings together, for less interruption and reduced context switching time.

Saturdays are also devoted to the blog. Sundays are for my photography work, meditation and planning for the coming week.

To summarize, the keys are:

  1. Planning & Revising Goals – Regular planning for how I would like to spend the week.
  2. Set time – Allocated time duration for tasks is important. If I don’t set a pre-determined limit to complete a task, I could potentially work on it for weeks. This inserts a sense of urgency, and forces me to get what I need done in less time.
  3. Get Paid for Value – Create situations such that you are paid for value rather than time.
  1. You are off to travel in India soon, will you be blogging about your travels? What types of cultural experiences are you hoping to have?

Blogging about traveling? Probably not, but my partner Adam might. If he decides to blog about it, it will be at AdamTina.com and I would supply the images. We will be gone for several months, chances are we will come up with something.

Cultural experiences I hope to gain: I will be focused on Living in the present and Finding Bliss among Chaos.

I don’t have many expectations other than to experience. I like to watch as beautiful expressions unfold as memorable experiences. With my photography work, I’m incredibly curious about people, so I can expect to spend lots of time talking to strangers. I hope to gain wisdom from the people I cross paths with. I’m also sending out the intention to be invited to an Indian wedding. :)

If anyone have tips about visiting India (including must see places). Please share with us in the comments. I’d love to hear them.

  1. Do you think humanitarians and social entrepreneurs in general have been utilizing the online medium effectively to help raise awareness and funds? How do you as an entrepreneur give back?

Yes, I think so. The web has made it easy for many charitable causes to thrive. Kiva is an excellent example of one such organization. By allowing people to give loans electronically without leaving their homes, they’ve created a low-friction and super-easy way for people to contribute. I love that.

I give back in several ways.

  1. Hosting free ads on my site for charitable causes. Periodically, you’ll see Kiva ads on my side bar, those are all unpaid and they get pretty good click-through rates.
  2. 5% of everything I make after tax goes to sponsoring children inside Tibet for food/shelter/education. I’m currently sponsoring 8 kids and 1 senior.

Here are some sites for great causes that I would like to mention:

  • Tibet Fund: Sponsor a child inside Tibet
  • Kiva: Loans that change lives
  • GlobalGiving: biodegradable gift cards online charitable giving. Support projects that change peoples’ lives – like education for a Zimbabwean orphan, pedal-powered electricity for a Nepalese village, or fuel-efficient stoves for Sudanese refugees.
  • CharityFocus: 100,000 volunteers towards compassionate causes. One of its founders deeply touched me with his stories.
  1. How do you maintain your positive, optimistic, and upbeat outlook everyday?

It helps to be reminded that I am Alive!! What a precious gift! Even experiencing something ‘crappy’ can be a great reminder that we are alive and are able to experience this moment.

I, too, go through days where I’m not positive and upbeat. But as with any habit, or attitude, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

Here are several things that I’ve found helpful in my own life:

  • Language – Watch my language and thoughts. What I say to myself, what I say to others, what I write in emails. Can I replace a word of negative connotation with a positive one? I also avoid saying “I can’t”, even in casual sentences as reply to invitations. I replace it with, “I will not …”
  • Be Inspired – Reading inspirational books, watching motivational videos, listening to empowering audio talks regularly. I don’t do this as much as I would like.
  • Gratitude – As often as I can, I like to take a little time to feel thankful for my day and all the miracles in my life. My partner and I do a “Wins and Realizations” exercise each night.
  • Surroundings – Create an environment. Be surrounded by optimistic people. When I’m on a downward slope, it’s so powerful to have close friends who remind me of alternatively positive views. These reminders have the power to snap me out of the negative vibrational frequency, and put things in perspective.
  1. Think Simple Now, with its high quality content, has become quite a successful blog in a relatively short period of time, do you have a writing background? For those of us that would like to draw more comments on our posts, how have you been able to engage your readers so successfully?

Thank you! I’m very thankful for the support from readers and friends.

I don’t have a writing background. In fact, with English being my second language, writing was a fear of mine. I actually got my undergrad in Math just so I could avoid English. Seriously. You can say that part of my motivation for blogging is to overcome this fear.

The content quality comes from my intention to write from the heart and a deep desire to connect with people. This might sound really corny, but it’s true. I do not read other blogs for inspiration before I write, otherwise I will sound like other people. My inspiration comes from issues that I am dealing with that week or topics that I’ve been thinking about extensively during that time.

How to engage readers?

  • Value Intention – Focus on creating value for your readers. Not just a little value, but send out your best intentions for them as you write. I like to ask the question: “Will what I post today be at the best interest for the readers?” If we do not have the intention to create the best content for our readers, it will show in our writing.
  • Candidness – Be honest, genuine, bold and transparent. Don’t be shy to tell an embarrassing personal story. Embarrassing as it may be, people will be able to relate with you on a more personal level. Because we all experience those embarrassing moments. If anything, people will applaud you for your courage of candidness.
  • Ask Questions – In combination with the above two points, ask questions to see what your readers have to say. Make the questions short and simple. In the process of answering, your readers may discover or be reminded of something in themselves that makes them smiles.

One of my goals with my blog is to “Empower others to live life with few limitations.”

One of my projects which has been in research and development mode is a dating site for people interested in personal development. I would like to find out more about people’s interest level. If you are single and is interested in meeting like-minded singles who share your passions for living purposefully and consciously.

5 Questions With Non-Conformist Chris Guillebeau (Interview)

Would you like to travel the globe while financing those trips solely through your online efforts and income? How about attempting to visit every country that the world has to offer?

Right around the time we started to make final preparations for the launch of Train for Humanity, I came across the aptly titled website, The Art of Non-Conformity, which belongs to Chris Guillebeau.

His site’s tagline is:

“Unconventional ideas for remarkable people. Along the way, I visit every country in the world and profile other nonconformists.”

Certainly after starting a business in the Caribbean, all of my travels,  and a pre-mature escape from the corporate world I thought that I led a somewhat non-conformist life…but I don’t have anything on Chris.

After going through his archives and reading about various travels and adventures, one thing that immediately struck was the fact that Chris had lived and worked on the ground in Africa as an aid worker.

Before the launch of Train for Humanity I decided to email Chris to see if he would provide some feedback on TFH. Almost instantly I received a reply with some solid input and I have been following his adventure ever since.

I think most readers of MyTropicalEscape are living, or are working towards living, a life that is outside of the traditional norm and to that end, Chris has recently published an ebook, The Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself, which is intended to help people create personal freedom via a very small business.

Below, Chris answers five questions that I had for him regarding the direction he has chosen for his life and how he funds his travels.

1. Does nonconformity run in your family? If no, what started you on your path…?

I wouldn’t say it runs in the family, but my dad was really good at encouraging me to do whatever I wanted. He encouraged me to try new things and not be afraid of failure. I think those are essential prerequisites for any unconventional lifestyle.

2. Wouldn’t life be easier if you just got a 9-5 desk job, earned a steady paycheck, and lived like a lot of other people?

No. At least not for me — some people are happy to embrace the 9-5 life, but I would be miserable doing that. Most self-employed people I know would gladly trade money for freedom. Obviously you have to make a living to some degree, but once you’ve had the freedom to make your own choices, it’s hard to go back to the cubicle lifestyle.

3. How do you fund your travels?

I support myself entirely through my own work. I create information products and occasionally consult for other small businesses.

4. What has been your favorite country to visit so far and why? What place will you never return to and why?

I don’t have a single favorite. I especially liked South Africa, the Netherlands, Ghana, Macedonia, and Hong Kong — but there’s usually something to appreciate (as well as something not to like) about anywhere you go. As to where I will never return, well, that’s a long list.

It can be unpopular to say so, but there are a lot of countries that are deeply impoverished in large part because they lack good governance or because the foreign aid system has let them down. When I go to Africa, for example, I’m usually reminded that there are some things I really love about being there and other things that are a lot easier in North America.

5. What inspired you to write your latest ebook,The Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself?”

All of the emails! People ask every day about how I got started and what they can do to create a lifestyle that allows them to pursue their own goals and dreams. I don’t claim to have all of the answers — one of the things I try to be clear about is that there is no quick-fix system to any of this — but I hope the product will help get some people going in the right direction.

MyTropicalEscape readers might also be interested to know that Chris released the very popular (and free) “Brief Guide to World Domination” and if you are looking to save money when purchasing airline tickets, you might be interested in the other ebook in his unconventional series, The Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare.