5 Hard Truths about Blogging & The Best Advice

Blogging Truths

blogging

April marks the 6-month point since I started blogging. I originally started with a different site, and changed it over two months ago to this one, and changed everything to SiteGround. That was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Like so many other bloggers, I started out reading a couple blogs, hearing about blogging on podcasts, and saw the income reports that people posted. I fell in love with blogging. It felt so good to write in a public forum! At the same time, there were some hard truths to learn, and for anyone thinking of starting a blog, here’s what I’ve learned over the last six months.

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5 of the hardest lessons to learn about blogging:

1. Bloggers are everywhere.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of bloggers in each niche. If you have dreamt it, chances are that someone has blogged about it somewhere. There are bloggers from every part of the world and no matter what niche you are in, it’s doubtful you will ever be alone.

2. Profits are not instant.

If you are part time like me, it can take years of effort to be noticed and read, and to start turning a profit. Do not ever go into blogging and think you can start bringing in money immediately… and if there is, share it with me!

3. Information is expensive but worth it.

There are two ways to go about blogging: one way is to reinvent the wheel, and the second is to learn from those who have reinvented the wheel and learned what works. One takes time, persistence, patience, and there’s no guarantee to find the best way. The second takes money and the willingness to learn from others.

Don’t discount the courses out there. There are some amazing teachers that can show you the foundations and the basics, but be ready to invest heavily in yourself if you do not have a background or foundation that supports blogging already.

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4. Monetizing via affiliate marketing still takes time.

Affiliate marketing does not equal overnight income. Need I say more? Many bloggers make a lot of money from affiliate marketing, but it requires traffic to your site. As a newbie, chances are you are not getting a ton of traffic yet, and that’s ok. I’ve been told that the time you invest today and tomorrow sometimes takes a year to come back around.

5. Negative people still exist online.

There will always be nay-sayers and haters. So what? Ignore them. Everywhere you go, you will always find people who put others down, who challenge the best intentions, and blogging is like any other field.

Why blog, then?

It’s a question a lot of us ask sometimes – why bother? Because we have things to say, and we want to help others. At least, that’s why I do. I started this blog after hearing a podcast talk about other personal finance bloggers, and how there were few bloggers in Canada in the personal finance realm. What a surprise to me when I find more and more every day! However….

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Here’s the amazing parts of blogging:

I have discovered a community of people who are truly well-spoken, well-educated, and interested in sharing financial woes and successes in order to help others. Bloggers are dedicated, and usually offer incredible support, positivity in spades, and while we are all running a business, it’s not competitive in a negative way. There are a few rules, and no right or wrong way to share your own stories.

One resounding piece of advice:

I am a nerd about learning: I listen to podcasts about blogging, finance, running businesses and side hustles, and even real estate. Continuously, I am reading as much as I can, and anything else I can get my hands, eyes and ears on. One question I hear time and time again is: What piece of advice would you give bloggers?

Be genuine. Tell your stories and share your information in your own words and your own voice. No one writes exactly as you do, and no one experiences everything exactly as you do. Don’t try to emulate someone else. Just be you.

Be genuine. Tell your stories in your own words. Don't try to emulate someone else. Just be you. Click To Tweet

On that note, I enter my 7th month of blogging, and ask you to sign up to my email list so you don’t miss anything coming up! I have some great interviews with home inspectors to share, and I will be starting a Spotlight Side Hustle series shortly. If there’s anything you want to read or know more about, send me a comment! I love question and answer posts!

As always, join me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and have a fabulous day!

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links. Please see my disclosure for more information. Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by providing links to Amazon.ca and affiliated sites. 

blogging

Direct Sales: How and Why It Could Be Your Best Money Maker

Money MakerI Believe In Opportunity 

Recently, I have witnessed a lot of distrust and dislike for certain side hustles or side gigs, namely with respect to direct sales and MLM companies. I share a different perspective, and I am going to tell you why. I believe direct sales and MLM companies can present one of the best side hustle or side gig for anyone who is interested in building their own business. But, before I do, I want to share a few things that you need to know. 

Background Info You May Not Know

MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing. Direct Sales and MLM companies have been around for over a hundred years, and started with door to door sales of knives, encyclopedias, and perfumes. This is how Avon started. It was a sales person who performed poorly at selling books, but every house he went to, he received praise for his fragrances and cosmetics that he made at home as a hobby. One of the original side gigs, if you will. He expanded on this side gig as he saw more promise in selling women’s products than the books that he peddled. Today, that company is still in existence, and is still a profitable way to earn money.  

Tupperware, Amway, Thirty-One Gifts, Scentsy, Norwex – these are just a few of the opportunities in direct sales or multi-level marketing.

The Details of the Business (Nitty-Gritties)

Opening shop with a direct sales company is much like opening a micro business of your own. Each company has a “buy-in”: usually it’s a kit of common items that a representative would sell in the normal day-to-day business. Sometimes the company requires a big buy-in, where you get a large kit of goods, and other times you can sign up for free, or a very small cost. Either way, the company doesn’t focus on this buy-in to make money. The range is usually between $10 – $300.00 to sign up. 

 

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I like to compare this concept to franchises. If you wish to operate a franchise, you have to purchase the rights to have that storefront. You pay money for the opportunity to hang out a well-known name, and to represent their goods. Think Subway, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. All of these places charge for start up, and there is a head company who controls all of the franchises. (Which is why the BigMac is supposed to be the same around the world.)

No Big Bills

The direct sales companies handle promotional advertising and marketing.

This is ideal for a few reasons:

  1. The independent sales rep pays for this from a portion of sales made, and doesn’t have to put out thousands in advertising.
  1. The company can control the quality and quantity of the advertising.
  1. The company has a marketing team of experts who know what works and what doesn’t.
  1. The independent sales rep is not required to test the market, pay for advertising, pay for experts, etc.

Direct Sales Responsibilities 

The biggest responsibility that falls to the rep is to keep herself (or himself) organized; and build a customer base. Keeping customers happy on a service level is within the control of the rep, and the company takes responsibility for the rest. 

How to Make Money in Direct Sales

In most situations, the representative has options on how to make money:

Sales

A representative makes a base commission (or a set value) on the sales. This is no different than a car salesman! As the representative builds her sales levels, she makes a higher commission.

Commissions can be based on the size of the order, the amount of sales over a period of time, or on the items ordered. Each company sets out their own earning structure.

The representative is responsible to obtain sales materials, like catalogues, and any other branded items that she wants to use. While this comes from the representative’s proceeds, it is still a business expense that can be written off at the end of the year. 

Branded items, like pens or car wraps, are not necessary, but are a great way to get the conversation started. I have experienced sales firsthand just by having a magnet on my car stating what company I was representing.

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Teams (like Affiliate Training!)

Some companies offer additional commissions or rewards if you provide support to other representatives.

Much like affiliate marketing and training, you find a product that you support, and the company will pay you to promote the product. If others purchase that product based on your recommendation (or link), you are paid for your services. The company wins with your promotion of their product and you win by being paid.

Building a team with direct sales is the same concept. It’s natural to talk about your business, and to find like-minded individuals who want to sell the same products. By supporting these individuals throughout their growth as a representative, they are more likely to succeed, which makes the company money. In turn, the representative is rewarded by receiving a commission of the team member’s sales. 

The Pyramid Scheme Plan

It’s the model of the “pyramid” that makes people believe there is a hidden and  nefarious intention, but in reality, it’s a smart marketing move. As a head of any company, if I can motivate representatives to take on a team, support them and encourage success, why wouldn’t I pay an extra 2-10% of the sales? That’s worth it! 

Be Passionate

Choosing the right direct sales company is always key. My personal rule of thumb is to choose a company when you are passionate about their products.

Ideally, choose a company that you already use products from. I chose certain companies because I knew I would be buying the products anyways, and saving some money with a seller’s discount just makes good “cents”.  

The success of direct sales is often tied into selling items that people already buy. In the general population, who doesn’t buy soap, gift wrap, clothes, food containers, candles, books… we all buy these items at one time or another.

 

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Misnomers, Myths and Lies

Some misnomers about direct sales companies: 

– The companies encourage representatives to spam products on those around them.  WRONG.

This is very false. Most companies frown on spamming. When you see a representative “spamming” groups online, feeds, fliers, etc., you are seeing someone who is very excited about their products and their business. It’s more of an etiquette issue than anything else, but it’s no different than that vegan over there that tells you she’s a vegan every day. Oh, did you know she’s a vegan? (No disrespect to vegans!)

– You have to sign up your mom, grandma, sister and neighbour, otherwise you will not make any money. WRONG.

Good companies do not force representatives to sign up others. It’s a big responsibility to run a team, and to encourage them to continue. Having your family as representatives for the same company does not fair well: it means everyone is buying at a discount, and everyone is getting the same thing for Christmas, (ha) but really, companies do not force you to do that. Again, it’s the individual representative’s enthusiasm that is usually behind the push. 

– Very little pay for a lot of work. WRONG.

Like any business, side hustle or investment, it’s like pushing a rock up a hill. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but eventually you will get up the hill. Keep at it. Then, when the rock crests over the hill, you know you’ve made it. It’s still going to be a lot of work to keep up with the rock, but you are finally seeing progress. 

You see, direct sales companies are modeled after bigger companies, and have many of the same traits. There’s payment for a job well done, and freedom to run your business how you see fit. Many people find their direct sales business fits into their life, as opposed to having their life fit around a business. 

Isn’t that the goal? 

When we naturally purchase these items as part of our daily life, it’s not unreasonable to seek out the best value. Prices are competitive everywhere, and depending on the product, they can be as readily available as if you had gone shopping at the store. The difference is customer service. You will never find a Wal-Mart employee who does house calls, or gives you fragrance samples with your purchase. Target doesn’t offer raffles, thank you gifts or camaraderie with the sales person, and you cannot rely that the same sales person will be there next week.  With direct sales, you have one person you are dealing with, and that’s what makes it special.

If you feel inundated with ads on social media, requests to host parties, or the office “pass the book around”, do not feel guilty by saying, “No, thank you.”

However, by buying from direct sales representatives, you might be:
– fundraising for a good cause
– helping a struggling mom fit her side business into her off-hours because she can’t get a second job with her schedule
– assisting a student pay for school
– enjoying a quality product!

Any side gig or hustle requires dedication and hard work, and some of these people work the hardest. I know some that have made a fulltime income from their home business. It’s very possible.

My intention today is to show you that direct sales are not what they used to be. They are simple, flexible, home-based businesses worked by people like us. They are not scams, and no more a risk of being a fly-by-night company than any other opportunity out there.

Watch the video below. Two people from Hamilton, Ontario launched a company selling tea mixes, and they pitched the Dragon’s Den. The investors jumped at the opportunity, and the expansion grew beyond anyone’s expectation. This is an example of a direct sales company. This could be yours.

I look forward to hearing what you think of direct sales companies, and if any of this was new to you, or changed your mind.  You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or join the community page on Facebook.

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Minimum Wage: the unsaid truth

The Argument About Minimum Wage

 How many people do you think make minimum wage? Can you count it in a percentage? Do you think that it’s a majority? If it’s a majority, then there’s a problem that our society is not seeking out skill training, and if we, as a country, are not attracting jobs that are higher than entry level, unskilled positions, then we, as a country, are seriously failing.
The value of the dollar varies in the hands of the beholder. This beholder has two college degrees, and is making a lower/mid 5 figure salary. XB and Mr. XB are not blessed with children, so we work hard at our jobs. As a result, we stress out when things go wrong, and give up off-time and weekends to ensure that the work is done and done right.
Side note #1: Ontario recently increased the minimum wage to $14/hour in January, 2018 and scheduled the next increase to $15/hour in January, 2019. 
Side note #2: Someone recently said: Take care of yourself, because killing yourself over a job ends in one fact: your position will be advertised before your obituary. 

How much is that a year?

A $15 min wage is a $30k/year salary. In Ontario, that means if you are fulltime, you would gross about $30k before taxes, and get two weeks paid vacation a year. This is for a minimum wage job.
College educated people are working in this area for barely above minimum wage, and benefits are a rare commodity.
It appears that we are seeing a push to increase minimum wage jobs (because who will pay much more?), and a push that is decreasing the amount of money that educated people are making, in comparison. Anything above the dreaded “minimum wage” title is supposed to be gravy.

Why go to college?

Isn’t this the question of the decade! Why go to college? What is the point of spending $25k or more on transportation, supplies, text books, food, tuition, time… why do this if all that is offered is slightly above minimum wage, if that?
Until people start realizing that $15/hour is not a fair representation of minimum wage OR …

WAIT!

Is it that those who employ either the minimum wage earner or the college-educated support staff/labourers are so heinously greedy? Or is it time that they started sharing the wealth and start paying their staff a decent wage?

Example Time

Let’s look at people who are making $40,000.00 a year.  This is a “decent” wage to most. But is it? Off the top, you lose 22% on taxes, CPP and EI. That means take-home pay is $31,200.00.
In Niagara, the average two-bedroom apartment in a decent building is $1,200.00/month. A mortgage on a $300,000 house would be $1,500.00. Then you have utilities… say $300/month. Insurance. Taxes. Maintenance. Repairs.

So, is a college education enough to own a home?

$31,200/12 months = $2,600.00. If you have a home that is “modest”, chances are you spent more than $300k. Using this example, I would say it’s fair to assume costs of home ownership, without repairs or any extras, cable tv or internet packages or telephone, would eat up close to $2,000/month. That leaves $600 for food, entertainment, transportation, health care, retirement savings, repairs, replacement of household goods, insurances, etc. Are we not allowed modest home ownership as a single income family?

I can hear the naysayers out there: get a second income, a roommate, etc. Find cheaper housing. Cut the extras.
Why are we allowing people to tell us to live in sub-par housing, have sub-par services, and deal with making less? Where do you live for less today?

Factor in children.
  • Child care.
  • Debt.
  • Annual vacation.
  • Education.
  • Student loans.
  • Transportation.
  • Elderly parents or grandparents.

I no longer think that the problem is minimum wage. If the government is saying that a basic job should pay $30k annually on a full-time basis, then that tells me a skilled, educated person who is support staff or labourer for an employer should make nearly twice as much as the example above.

So… then what?

So instead of saying the minimum wage needs increasing, we should be looking at those who are in the middle. A minimum wage increase of $2.40 (the most recent jump to $14/hr) is a cut for those who make more. We will pay more, as the companies charge more to pay for the increase in wages. We will lose options, because the cost of doing business has increased significantly. Our dollar in our pocket will not go as far. And yet, the wealthier people, the employers, the ones living in houses twice the modest price, and driving cars as much as a third of the modest price of a house, … they say, well, everyone is on salary here, or makes more than minimum wage, so it doesn’t affect them.

It doesn’t affect them.

It doesn’t affect the employers that futures are bleak, employees of the middle can no longer afford housing, and there is not a decent income anymore, because the employer needs to afford their lifestyle. (Think about a particular $19.9 million yacht up for sale recently.) It doesn’t affect employers because support staff is replaceable, trainable, and shapeable.
And for those like me, who have an opinion, well, we are not desirable. We are replaceable. We affect the bottom line.
Let’s affect it together  Talk about this problem. Let’s find a solution together.
This is why I blog.