Coffee heat rising

Writing God a Thank You

My friend Darin Garcia, whose company K&J Windows installed the new doors and windows I craved after the late, great garage invasion, has come up with a charming new website that I think has got to be unique, or very close to it: Write God a Thank You.

The idea is that members of the social website will be able to express thanks for the positive things in their lives and share it with their friends. From, these messages of gratitude can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+, or, if one prefers, users may create private gratitude lists and prayer journals.

Even if you’re not religious, this idea has some interesting aspects. As it develops, quite a few studies have shown that mindfully reflecting on one’s blessings, rather than dwelling on the troubles and annoyances of life, creates an amazing range of benefits. A pair of researchers at UC Davis reported that people who kept a gratitude journal exercised more, experienced fewer ailments, felt better about their lives, were more optimistic, and made better progress toward personal goals than those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. They also found that people who gave thanks daily “were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.”

As readers who’ve been around for a year will recall, even a skeptical old pessimist can take a few minutes a day to focus on the positive aspects of life. Whatever those might be.

Try it. You might like it.

Entrepreneurs: Crystal Stemberger’s Blogging Empire

Need a role model? Here’s one for you: a live wire who’s  earning 15 to 20 grand a month in the blogging biz. No, that’s  not a typo: in February she netted $15,600.72; in January, $17,979.04; in December (“best month ever in my 29 years on earth!”), $22,284.31. Of course, we’re speaking of Crystal Stemberger, proprietor of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. She established BFS a scant two years ago and quickly turned it into one of the top personal finance sites in the blogosphere. Meanwhile, she was building a blogging empire that included an agency that brings together advertisers with bloggers whose sites fit their products. By July of 2011, she found herself in a position to quit her day job, and seven months later, in February of this year, her husband Len joined her full-time in running the business.

Let’s hear what she has to say for herself…

FaM: You started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff with the express goal of finding a way to get off the treadmill. Had you thought of the ad agency idea at that time, or did you conceive of monetizing your online enterprises in different ways?

Crystal: Well, the real reason I started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff was because of a post at Get Rich Slowly about a lady who made $1 million off a business and then hired a housekeeper and a lawn service. She got jumped by the readers, who were all over her saying she shouldn’t be hiring domestic help, that it wasn’t frugal, and she had no business spending her money that way. I thought, “It’s her money, and she can use it as she wants!” It really made me mad that people would presume to pass judgement on her choice to use the income she had earned. So, I started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff to show you can and should do what you want with your money, as long as you manage it responsibly.

FaM: It certainly has come a long way from that beginning. Did you have any idea that you could build such a successful business from blogging?

Crystal: When I started, I didn’t have a goal in mind. I didn’t know how much you could make with a blog. But then I started getting offers from advertisers, and I discovered that I really like negotiating. Pretty soon Budgeting in the Fun Stuff was making good money.

FaM: You started Crystal for Hire in April 2011.

Crystal: Yes. That April Bucksome Boomer asked me to manage the advertising on her site. She said she dislikes negotiating and asked if I would do it for her. I said yes, and now Mr. BFS and I have have 325 client sites!

FaM: I’m with her—I hate arguing over fees. Bet that’s true of a lot of writers and bloggers: if we were good at marketing, we wouldn’t be sitting in our garrets trying to make a living with our keyboards.

Crystal: I had no idea how many bloggers are introverts. But when you think about it, it’s so obvious that it’s a big duhh! I was the other way around. I talked all the time; that was one reason why I started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. My friends and family sort of wanted me to shut up about money.

FaM: It seems like a natural, then, as a business.

Crystal: There are other ad agencies for bloggers. I didn’t know until I started doing this. But they don’t do what we do. Instead of providing just an ad person, we work for both sides: we make it easier for the clients because they don’t have to do anything, since we answer all of the e-mails, and at the same time we simplify things for the advertiser. Advertisers’ representatives don’t want to tell you much when you’re the person running the blog. But when they go through us, they’ll negotiate based on the advertiser’s budget. I like the ones who will tell us what their budgets are.

And since I make more if the client makes more, even though we appear to be working both sides of the aisle, I don’t think it’s a conflict.

Sometimes I know when an ad rep is lying. My favorite is when they forget they’ve been working with Mr. BFS or me and will try to work with me for another site and they’ll lie about, say, what their client will pay. As far as I’m concerned, all my bloggers have Stemberger as a last name, and every one of them is a member of my family. You don’t cheat my family members.

FaM: So what does a typical workday at BFS look like?

Crystal: I usually work from 8:00  or 9:00 to 4:00 or 5:00; then it’s back to work from about 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. On average I put in 12 to 15 hours a day Monday through Thursday.  Then on Fridays it’s only 6 to 8 hours, and on weekends, another 6 to 8 hours if I can drag myself away. I never stop working. Even  seeing things at the movie reminds me of what to do back here. It’s like having a quiet a baby…can’t imagine having kids…having my mind taken over by something else like this would kill me.

FaM: What were you doing before you made your escape?

Crystal: I was a custom forms programmer at a car dealership software company; I was the one who told who told the computer where to put your name address & all that stuff on the forms that you have printed up during a car deal. Half of it was customer service, and  half of it was advanced data entry, and it paid about $35,000 a year.

FaM: When did you realize Mr. BFS could join you in the business? And what was he doing before?

Crystal: We only had that idea about the end of November.

I was getting overwhelmed with 130 or 140 clients. Because I was working 100 hrs a week, I started talking about hiring someone. One day he woke up and said “Could you hire me”? He was a school librarian, so he had the record-keeping experience. He took over the record-keeping and that relieved me of two hours a day, right off the bat. He was doing that after work. When we realized I made $15,000 a month over the previous quarter, we decided it would be worth having him work full-time on the business. Before it took off, we’d only been making $5,000 a month combined from our day jobs.

Now we’re partners. He does the record-keeping and answers clients’ ad e-mails; I do the group ad campaigns and hand-holding. The two aspects of the business reinforce each other. It’s been amazing; it worked much better than I ever imagined. We separated our tasks so we wouldn’t be stepping on each others’ toes—we really don’t even have to talk to each other if we don’t want to.

FaM: How are you planning to deal with Google’s embargo of sites that publish paid links? I understand you recently ran into a rough spot over that.

Crystal: At least 20 of my bigger clients were hit; suddenly their Page Ranks dropped from 4 to 0 or from 3 to 2. It was a difficult time, because it coincided with my grandmother’s passing. This is the first week where things were going along normally. Then our new dog went nuts, but that’s another story.

I think people are overreacting. Not that many advertisers are changing their ways. Because of all the panic and because people tend to succumb to groupthink, I won’t know the consequences of this until the end of April. That will tell us if we hit the $10,000 level. We have to hit $10,000 a month to cover taxes ($3,500), basic savings ($3,000), and our normal expenses ($3,500); we target $15,000 to pay down the mortgage even faster and start saving for a new home.

FaM: Do you think this policy can be challenged effectively? It seems like constraint of commerce…possibly bloggers will get together for a class-action suit someday?

Crystal: No, I don’t think it can be challenged well because it only affects Google Page Rank.

My way of challenging it is to say screw Page Rank; let’s look at other ways to assess sites. I’m pushing MozRank and domain authority, other good metrics. I’ve sold ads on just domain authority alone. You and I have huge domain authority, for example; that can’t be taken away by Google. I want to give Google less credit. Clients with big PageRanks, 3 or 4, will still get the majority of ads, but others will do OK, too. Things will balance out.

FaM: What do you see for the future?

Crystal: I’m going to focus on quality clients. My goal now is not to expand, but to find our core group and stick with that. I started it as a one-on-one thing; I like my customer service and my business model. I think further expansion would take away from that.

Group campaigns are about 10 to 50 people, and I only do a few of those a month. One goal is to teach clients that they must forward the e-mails and letters from advertisers to us. The big money is to be made when people contact you and then we negotiate the best terms. Group deals are just icing.

In our personal lives, we’re already looking at a new house, since prices are so low right now. We can get a 3,500-square-foot house for $180,000! We’re looking for four bedrooms and a big gaming room. Sadly we do not have basements in Houston. Recently we learned that mortgagers don’t want to lend to business entrepreneurs—the “self-employed”—until they can see two entire years of steady income. So if we’re to buy a house before then, we’ll have to pay in cash.

Overall, we’re keeping cash on hand; we could live off our savings for six to nine months. We have $20,000 saved for hard times and $30,000 for the house payoff or for the down payment so far on the new house.

It was time for Crystal to get back to work, so I offered my thanks and let her off the phone.

One thing that our conversation makes clear: quitting the day job is not necessarily a way to work fewer hours. When you’re your own boss, you have the toughest boss in the world. But if you can work smart and you’re willing to work hard, you can make a living in the blogosphere—and then some.

Disclaimer: Crystal serves as Funny about Money’s ad agent.


w00t! Guest Post at Planting Money Seeds

Over at her new blog, Planting Money Seeds, problogger and full-time freelancer Miranda Marquit has kindly published a guest post from Funny, Work Is a Place.

All you who think you’d like to work from home—or who already are doing so—should take a look at it.


Therein lies a tale, one I figured was way too long for the guest post’s purposes. As I’ve suggested at Miranda’s place, when you work from a home office, sometimes it’s not easy to persuade people that you are working.

When my son was little, I had a very active freelance business. To give you a feel for this, one day a friend and I went into a Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and I realized that two of my books and a half-dozen of my various articles were sitting on the bookshelves. They got there because I hustled a lot of business and I made it a point to operate professionally. That last bit included never missing a deadline.

One late October day I was pounding out a story. It needed to move off my desk within a day; meanwhile, another couple of assignments were hanging fire. So I had three assignments that had to be done that week.

Phone rings.

It’s some volunteer mother at the school. She tells me—does not ask, but tells—that I’m to drive a vanful of five-year-olds to a pumpkin patch south of the city for a Hallowe’en outing. And I’m to do this tomorrow.

Understand: I have not volunteered to do anything. This is not a co-op school: we’re paying more than the tuition at the University of Arizona’s medical school send our kid there. I do not volunteer because I’m not the join-y type and because I truly do not fit in with society wives. I make them uncomfortable (that’s probably not the word for it; the actual word begins with b- and ends with -y) and they  make me uncomfortable to the nth power. And even if I were the sosh type, I was working more than full-time as a paid writer.

Sorry, said I, but I can’t do that: I’m working on a deadline and can’t drop an assignment for a client.

She would not take “no” for an answer. She continued to insist that nothing would do but what I had to drop what I was doing (which clearly, in her mind, wasn’t much), pick up a half-dozen kids, and spend the day schlepping them back and forth across the Valley.

I explained what is meant by the term “deadline.” Then I explained that I was working and I could not quit working on short notice, because I had assignments due to my editors.

Now get this: She says, “You can’t be working. I called your home phone number!”

No joke. Then she launches into a diatribe, the gist of which was I was to get off my tail and drive the kiddies to a pumpkin patch. She went absolutely ballistic.

I ended up telling her, not in a friendly tone, “NO.”

LOL! Those were the good old days!

These days, with many people telecommuting or running small businesses out of their homes, attitudes toward entrepreneurs who work at home may be changing.

I doubt it, though. For most people, work is a place, and that place is not in your back bedroom.

Cloud Computing, Marketing Strategies, Hopeless Jobs, and Mad as a Cat

On days like this, my father used to say he “got up on the wrong side of the bed.” Me, I think the explanation is that God Herself is pissed off at me. Can I compute in the cloud? Can our new marketing plan bring us some decently paying work? Are we doomed to an endless series of hopeless jobs paying Third-World wages? And why does all this make me feel mad as a cat?????

It’s been one of those cranky days. Started out that way and went downhill.

Shot off to Scottsdale de bonne heure, well before seven in the ayem, dressed not quite to the nines but certainly to the eights. Good company. Friend who’s a graphic designer of some renown and substantial talent took it upon himself, volunteer-wise, to take control of Tina’s and my project to design a logo and a business card. He surfaced with a truly gorgeous design. Love it covet it want to print it NOW, today! Tina loves it. Test client loves it.

“Test client”: friend who is also a client, whose taste and honesty can be trusted.

Only problem is, designer thinks copyeditor is two words. (He are, as we used to say at picture magazine Arizona Highways, a artist, he are not a english major.) The gorgeous design engages this small misapprehension. To fix it is to TOTALLY SCREW UP THE INCREDIBLY AWESOME UNBELIEVABLY FLICKING SPECTACULAR DESIGN!

In a word: auugghhhhh!

I incline to let it fly.

Colleagues say…wait! Given the business you’re in, it had better be right.

I say, one in 100 of my clients has a snowball’s chance of noticing that copyeditor is one word. Forgodsake, most of them are graduates of Arizona’s abysmal bottom-of-the-state-rankings public school system. They can barely spell their own names. That’s why they need us.

They say, given the business you’re in, it had better be right.

Taking this under advisement, I take the proofs and drive toward Client/Friend’s office, whereinat I need to deliver a job. I figure to ask her what she thinks of the copyeditor/copy editor issue.

But…at her office, no one’s there. It’s after nine, but not a soul is around. The door is locked. And the mail slot, where in the past I’ve dropped packages  of edited copy, is sealed shut.

I walk across the street to the publisher’s bookstore. Doesn’t open till 10:00 a.m.

Visit all the shops and offices in the publisher’s building, hoping to find someone who will take delivery of the mound of work I’ve done till Client can get back and retrieve it. No one’s open. (When do these people start their workdays??????). I can see a hairdresser working on some broad’s hair, but his door is locked. I leave, the work undelivered and the pay undeliverable.

Eventually reach Client on her mobile device. She’s trapped in an all-day meeting. Says she: copyeditor. One word. Copyeditor.

Says she: bring the copy by next Thursday. Doesn’t matter: production manager is off for the week.


Copyeditor. We are copyeditors. Not copy editors. Another week’s delay in receipt of pay, and a shot at another job.

Arrive casa mia, a half-hour later, feeling unduly cranky.

Pup is locked up in his crate, left there by M’hijito on his way to work while I was gadding around Scottsdale shortly after dawn cracked.

Yesterday a student has said she didn’t get her graded paper. I search for it on my hard drives. None. Where????? I think I’ve read it, hope I’ve read it, don’t want to read it, certainly don’t want to read it AGAIN.

There’s a score in the gradesheet for this paper. Whence???

Search two e-mail systems, in-boxes and outboxes. No, nope, not there.

Read the damn thing. Grade it. OK. Go to upload it back to her and…yes. Of course. At that point find the flicking GRADED PAPER!!!!!!!!

There was a good hour’s time wasted.

Another student sends a late paper. I stupidly neglect to tell him to take a flying F*** at the moon. Instead, like a fool, I read it. Just. flicking. God. AWFUL!!!!!!!!!

Two hours wasted, not counting the pointless trip to south Scottsdale. We’re really talking, if you add in that junket, three hours of wasted time.

All this wastage is interrupted every few minutes by Pup, who desires to go out, who desires to chew on stuff, who desires most of ALL to pounce the corgi and tup her until he’s blue in the doggy face. This desire is not shared by the corgi, interestingly enough.

Pup is beginning to get the message of “Leave It!” But it’s a slow process. Occasionally he will stop pumping away at the corgi. Briefly. Very briefly.

This morning it occurs to me that what’s really happening is that when I give him a treat for responding to “LEAVE IT!” he thinks I’m congratulating him for pouncing the corgi. Of course. Get this: Pounce the corgi; get distracted long enough to grab doggy treat; pounce the corgi, get called over for another treat.

Uh huh.

In the process of this discussion, Pup wraps his leash around my ankles as I’m walking down the hall. I fall on my face on the concrete-hard tiles.

Fortunately, nothing breaks.

Except my temper. The air all around me turns blue.

Dog is tied to the doorknob. I go back to work.

Now I have to read, comment upon, and advise about a raft of student drafts. Group 3, the bunch whose papers I should’ve read before I went to bed at midnight last night, has a half-dozen members. Three, count’em, three students have turned in draft comp/contrast papers. One of these is actually a comparison and contrast essay.

Now, I wasn’t surprised when the 102s couldn’t do the extended definition. That’s a difficult rhetorical mode and not one normally taught in our fine public K-12 system. They had, in a word, no clue. However, the comparison & contrast paper is a cliché. By now, they should know how to do it as they know how to breathe.

Another hour wasted, trying to explain to these nuclear physicists what is meant by “comparison.”

Took pup out in the yard again. Leash wrapped around my fingers as he was taking off like a rocket. Damn near dislocated my thumb!

None of these activities did much to improve my temper.

Now it’s time to feed said Pup. A.a.a.a.a.a.a.n.d.d.d.d.d…..we have no flicking dog food! M’hijito has forgotten, for the second day running, to restock my store of dog food from his giant Costco bag of it.

I decide that, rather than traipsing (again) to his house for a baggie full of the stuff, I should go to Costco and buy my own bag of it, thereby limiting the number of future junkets in search of toxic kibble. So, along about 12:30 I arrive at Costco, using time that I need to be using to read student papers and I need to be using for our marketing campaign and that I really truly wish I were using to unwind and that I do not wish to be using to run around the city.

Decide to pick up a bottle of wine, thinking maybe a glass will soothe my frazzled nerves. Also being low on human food, I decide to grab a container of tomato soup. Arrive in the dog food department.

And…yes, you know this, don’t you?

Yes, Costco is abiding by its First Corporate Internal Law of Nature: If the customer likes it, get rid of it!

The question is, how do they know?

Costco has quit carrying the expensive, tony, very nice variety of dog food M’hijito has decided to feed Pup. The new variant of that brand is turkey and sweet potato. M’hijito has told me, in the very recent past, that he believes sweet potatoes give Pup the runs.

This means M’hijito will have to select a new brand of dog food and will AGAIN have to ease Pup from present brand to new brand. Don’t know what kibble manufacturers do to make this happen but whenever you change brands abruptly, it invariably causes canine enteritis.

Interestingly, after you’ve accustomed a dog to eating actual, real human food, you can feed the beast any damn thing you please and never see so much as a loose bowel, much less the rampant diarrhea that happens every time you change kibble brands. I wonder why that is?

Pissed, I head for the checkout stand, where the lines stretch halfway back to the flicking meat department. It’s ten to one on a Thursday afternoon. What are all these people doing here? And why the hell aren’t they at work?

Oh. That ‘s right. There is no work in Arizona.

I beat out an aggressive shopper who tries to cut me off at the relatively short line. He joins a comparably endless line, and we settle in to wait for our chance to get out of the hectic place. And. Yes. My checkout guy seems to have come to Costco from the Post Office.

He moves as though he were swimming through molasses. How do people do that? The arm sloooooowwwwwly moves from item to cash register. The fingers sloooooooowly punch in code. Meanwhile the guy’s mouth moves a mile a minute. He’s gabbling to the customer, an unending stream of small talk. He yaks. She yaks. They yak. He clears off half the conveyer belt but neglects to move it forward, so the guy in front of the guy in front of the guy in front of me can’t unload his cart. He yaks. She yaks. They yak.

Just as it looks as though he’s finally going to hand over the receipt and shovel this pair out the door, it becomes apparent that he’s not done. They’ve rolled up a flat cart bearing a gigantic televison. He’s delighted. They’re delighted. They discuss the glories of this particular television. He yaks. They yak.

I give up and leave.

Drive to M’hijito’s house, close enough to Costco to walk, if one so chose and didn’t mind risking one’s wallet and one’s health. Collect a few cups of dog food, head back to the Funny Farm, feed the dog.

Wasted another hour and a half in this exploit.

Fucking furious.

Tina e-mails to say she’s landed a course with the District, teaching Western Civ online. She hopes to get two more sections.

Her master’s degree earns her a tiny fraction of what waiting tables pays her.

She wishes nothing more than to find work that will let her quit waiting tables.

Adjunct teaching does not fit that description.

We must market our business. We must, must, MUST get better paying work.

The new client, the one who told me how tough things are before walking out of the restaurant where we met and climbing into a Lexus SUV, finally allows as to how he will pay our $60/hour rate. But he claims to be headed out of town and now begins a game of telephone tag. Okay. I can play that game. I’ve given him two pages of freebie edits and some advice on revision as a sample of what we can do. Sincerely do I hope this does not come to naught.

Late in the day, I hear from a headhunter.

He wants me to apply for a medical project management job in Chicago. I am not even faintly qualified for this job, but Tina is. Faintly, at any rate. I forward his e-mail to her, though I know she probably can’t leave the state because her child’s father lives here, sole custody notwithstanding.

The day wends on and I’m reminded, again, that really I need to look in to subscribing to Carbonite, an online backup system much recommended by the Web guru who haunts the very networking group with whom I started the day. This reminder comes by way of a review of the freshly launched iCloud. Reviewer says it’s great for mobile devices but “dead” for desktop machines.


Read reviews of Carbonite and Mozy. The reviewer raves; commenters rant. Three people report that Carbonite failed to actually save their data. Two report that it takes not hours, not days, not weeks, but months (!) to back up their data to its servers. Similar complaints are made about Mozy. The reviewer loses his temper and announces that henceforth he will screen comments and boot those he regards as gratuitously cranky.

I feel gratuitously cranky, myself.

After studying these ruminations, I decide that, since I’m going to have to pony up $30 a year to keep my business e-mail address, I might as well at least try to use iCloud for cloud storage, but remember nevertheless to manually back up key subdirectories to my hard drive. Then if and when the burglar breaks in and steals all my hardware, at least I’ll have a shot at rescuing some of my data from iCloud.

Dinnertime at last. I crack open a beer, being fresh out of wine. Hope it will soothe my crabbed nerves. Used up the last of the dog pork; forgot to defrost another container of cooked pork for the corgi. Feed her half a can of tuna. She hates canned tuna and leaves most of it in her dish, there to stink up the kitchen. Throw a piece of salmon on the grill; it cooks slowly. Assemble salmon and salad and buttered rice on a plate; take it and a mug of beer outside…there to be greeted by the roar of a FLICKING cop helicopter, come to take up residence over the neighborhood.


Curses, curses, curses!


Entrepreneurship: How much time should I spend on…?

The other day I remarked that contract teaching is by far the most reliable source of income among my various little enterprises.

Editorial work, however, pays better by the hour, is less taxing, and requires little or no driving around.

Blogging is entertaining and a nice sop for one’s ego but does almost nothing for the bottom line.

Thinking about how Tina and I might market and grow our editorial business, it crossed my mind to block out a certain percentage of the day or the week for each activity, thereby allowing me to schedule in a regular slot for marketing and networking. And this led straight to the question of how much is a reasonable amount of time to allot to one’s various money-making activities?

“Reasonable” aside, how much am I already allotting to this, that, and the other exploit? I spend rather more time on the blog than I should, given the tiny amount of revenues it represents. Really, until recently FaM has been the only one of the three enterprises that I’ve worked on every single day.

Exclusive of Social Security, teaching generates about 64% of my income. Editorial accounts for about 26%, and Funny about Money, about 8%. So, it would make sense for about 2/3 of my working time to be spent on teaching, about 1/4 of my time on editing, and less than 1/10 of it on blogging.

Because so much teaching work is done up-front in the form of course preparation that happens before a paycheck comes in (and therefore represents unpaid labor), it’s difficult to estimate how much of my time actually is spent on that endeavor. I spend about 9 hours a week in class, but I’ve spent hundreds of hours in course preparation, and to grade a single set of papers can take anywhere from 6 2/3 hours to 20 hours. One of my courses is online, requiring zero hours of class time. In a 16-week semester, not counting drafts, I collect about 15 sets of papers. So it would make sense to approximate an average of 6 to 8 hours a week grading papers. That’s approximately 15 to 17 hours a week, not counting the extensive course prep time. Figure about 100 hours for that, and you can add another 6.25 hours a week, for about 23 hours a week on teaching.

That’s more than 50% of a normal work week.

Editorial? Depends on what’s in house. On any given day, I can spend anything from 30 minutes to 16 hours on editing. It probably averages around 8 or 10 hours a week.

And as for blogging, I average about two hours a day on it; 14 hours a week.

So we have 23 + 8 + 14 = 45  hours of paying work a week.

If that’s accurate, then right now I’m spending about 51% of my work time on teaching, 17% of it on editorial work, and 31% of it on blogging.

What that adds up to is this: the smallest amount of my working time is spent on the best paying work. The second-largest slab of my time is spent on work that pays, at most, about $20 an hour—probably considerably less. And almost a third of my working hours are spent on an activity that brings in a laughable $200 a month.

Well. There’s a little insight, in the “what’s wrong with this picture” department!

If one is to work smarter instead of harder, it would make sense for the largest portion of working hours to be spent on the highest-earning activity, no? That would be…yes! Editorial.

I think we (by that I mean me and my associate editor) could do far better by targeting commercial enterprises—more plumbing/HVAC contractors!—than by working with individual writers and vanity presses. We need to go out into the world and meet the people who bring you all that obnoxious advertising and who blanket the Internet with “information” about their products and services. One thing that’s clear: business executives expect to pay other businesses a fair rate. Too often, individuals do not.

And if we want to earn more from better-paying work, then we need to devote more time, proportionately, to the better-paying work.


I should probably try to up the proportion of working hours spent on The Copyeditor’s Desk from around 15% to 20% to something more like 40% to 50%.

It would be possible to do that simply by setting aside an hour or two a day to work on marketing the little business, and then intensifying that effort during the winter and summer breaks—using time that would be spent on teaching to network and market to businesses. It might require me to spend less time on teaching, and it certainly would cut into the time available for poking at a keyboard to produce blog posts.

At $50 an hour, an editor working 15 billable hours a week should earn about $750 a week, or about $37,500 a year, given a two-week break. Double the number of billable hours for marketing: 30 hours a week, and you come up with exactly the number of hours/week I’m working right now. $37,500 is about $7,950 more than projected earnings from all three enterprises in a typical year. Helle’s belles: I just got a paycheck from the community colleges for two weeks of teaching three sections.

Is that a reasonable allocation of working vs. marketing hours: 66% in peddling the business and 33% in actual work? Various self-styled experts vary, recommending that the small business entrepreneur devote between 20% and 60% of one’s working time to marketing. So if I were spending “only” 60% of my time at hustling business from other businesses, I’d have 18 hours a week to devote to actual paid editorial work, amounting to $900 a week or $45,000 a year. At 20%, I’d be pulling in $1,800 a week, or $90,000 per 50-week year.

Now that’s working smarter!

There’s another model, of course: videlicet, I do most or all of the marketing and Tina does most or all of the editing. In this scenario, I earn a salary from the S-corporation for my services and Tina gets paid an hourly contract rate.

So let’s say I manage to bring in 40 hours a week worth of work. That’s $2,000 a week, or $100,000 in a 50-week year. We split the income 50-50, and we each earn 50 grand a year.

LOL! Not likely that I could corral that much paying work at $50/hour. But anything’s possible. One never knows until one tries, does one?


Benefits of Joining a Business Group

Thursday: another early-morning trek across the Valley to the weekly breakfast meeting of the Scottsdale Business Association.

When I was invited to join this group, I privately thought it was going to be more hassle than it was worth. Because eggs make me upchuck unless they’re well diluted with flour and sugar (as in chocolate cake…), it’s always difficult for me to find something to eat for breakfast in an American restaurant. The group’s venue, the Good Egg, sounded especially unpromising {urk!}. And having to dive into the rush-hour traffic at quarter to seven was only slightly less unappealing.

However, I’ve found it really has been a very useful thing.

The benefits have extended far beyond the occasional job lead. For those of us who operate out of home offices, belonging to a local business group has the sterling quality of getting the entrepreneur away from the keyboard and out into the world. If I weren’t teaching, the only time I’d see another human being would be in choir and during shopping trips. Meeting weekly with a dozen other business people means I get to talk with professionals about topics that matter and enjoy the friendly company of a diverse and lively bunch of people.

More concrete benefits have included leads to useful business tools, such Carbonite’s cloud-based backup service, and presentations describing how various financial instruments and business-related strategies work. To those we might add practical advice: last week my dog-&-pony show was a discussion of how my associate editor and I are planning to step up marketing for our editorial business, The Copyeditor’s Desk. In response, practically everyone in the group had some idea or advice to contribute, and this morning they all wanted to know what progress we’d made on our plan.

On the other hand, except for a small local group of women bloggers, I don’t belong to associations of bloggers. Not because I don’t want to and not because I don’t see the value in linking with others who are trying to monetize their sites, but because an online network doesn’t serve the purpose of getting me out of my garret. Virtual socializing, while it has its purposes, is not the same as meeting people face to face. And it doesn’t take you off your chair and out from in front of your computer.

Too, Funny about Money doesn’t provide enough of my little corporation’s total revenue to make it worth spending a lot more time on it than I already do. One half-way decent editorial assignment returns two or three months’ worth of Adsense revenues; the recent two-week plumbing company gig paid more than seven times the amount FaM earns on Adsense in a month. Given that disparity, it makes sense to spend a lot more time on marketing the editorial business than it does to try to further monetize the blog. Really, if I spent as much time every day marketing The Copyeditor’s Desk as I do writing blog posts (hmm…like this one…), it would be earning as much as or more than I earn teaching, which other than Social Security is my only moderately reliable source of income.

Probably one doesn’t need to rub elbows with other business owners to arrive at revelations like this. But it helps.