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.
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.
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….
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.
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!
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$5,500.00. This is the amount that you can contribute to a TFSA or IRA this year. Let’s talk about how you can max it out, or if you don’t have a TFSA or IRA in your country, how you can max out your savings and investing power as well.
If you aren’t sure what a TFSA is, start here. If you do not have TFSAs in your country, scroll down just a little more. (IRA information can be found here. Remember, I’m a Canadian gal, so IRAs are not my forte.)
TAX FREE SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
A Tax-Free Savings Account is an account that is designed to help you save money. The funds that are deposited into a TFSA account can be invested, and the earnings from the account are tax free. Since you do not get a tax deduction for contributions to a TFSA, the benefit is from the tax-free earnings, and the ability to withdraw from the TFSA at any time without penalty.
There are guidelines and rules as to how much you can contribute into a TFSA, and how much you can withdraw and re-contribute.
“Since opening her TFSA in 2009, Jenny has contributed the maximum TFSA dollar limit in each year. By the end of 2016, she has accumulated a total of $46,500 in her TFSA account. In 2017 Jenny makes a $5,500 contribution, the TFSA dollar limit for 2017. Later that year, she withdraws $3,000 for a trip. Unfortunately, her plans change and she cannot go. Since Jenny already contributed the maximum to her TFSA earlier in the year, she has no TFSA contribution room left.
If Jenny wishes to re-contribute part or all of the $3,000 she withdrew, she will have to wait until the beginning of 2018 to do so. The $3,000 will be added to her TFSA contribution room at the beginning of 2018.
If she re-contributes any of the withdrawn amount before 2018, she will have an excess amount in her TFSA and will be charged a tax equal to 1% of the highest excess TFSA amount for each month that the excess remains in her account.”
TFSAs are not only for retirement savings, but are also great vehicles for saving for a house purchase, a trip, a new car, or anything else you are working towards.
How to find $5,500 over the year:
Now that we are clear on how to use a TFSA, let’s focus on how to max it out. In 2018, the maximum contribution amount is $5,500. This the goal to contribute.
The Simple Way:
There are 52 weeks in a year. $5,500 divided by 52 = $105.77/week. You could set up an automatic transfer for $105.77 weekly. Are you paid bi-weekly? Your automatic withdrawals should be set at $211.54 to save $5,500.00 a year.
How to fill that account without using your weekly income:
Let’s say you receive a bonus each year of $1,000.00 as part of your performance package. If you directly contribute that to your TFSA, your weekly savings would decrease to $86.54. That’s a lot more manageable, but you need to know yourself and make sure that bonus goes directly to your savings account: do not pass go, do not spend $200!
If you receive a raise at work (congratulations!), immediately calculate the difference between the previous pay amount and the new pay amount. Set up an automatic transfer to deduct that amount from your account and move it to the TFSA before you see it in your chequing account. Resist the urge to inflate your lifestyle – those few dollars will serve you better if saved for a future time.
Did you stay to finish a project, or to complete paperwork? Maybe you signed up for a few hours here and there. Move that money immediately to your TFSA. More money for savings, and no change to your weekly pay. Win Win!
Do you get reimbursed for gas for running errands at work? Bank it. Do you get tips? Bank it. Anything extra, bank it.
Tax refunds is the government’s way of returning the excess money it collected from you throughout the year. At the same time, it’s a great feeling if you have a few bucks (or many bucks!) coming your way. Since a tax refund is not part of your weekly budget, bank it. You will not miss it, and it will go a long way to filling up your TFSA.
Declutter for Profit
My method for decluttering includes four boxes. I have a KEEP box, a TOSS box/bag, a SELL box and a RELOCATE box. Without going into a lot of detail: Keep: things that I want to keep Toss: things that are garbage, and things that have no value to someone else Sell: things that are still in good condition and are unwanted. I start with a sell box, and anything not saleable is donated. Relocate: things that belong in another room or part of another project that need to be dealt with at another time. When your sell box is full, it’s time to decide the best way to sell these items. You could have a yard/garage sale, vendor sale, sell online with Craigslist, Kijiji or Ebay, or any other method of posting your wares. (There are tons of resources for how to price your used goods, but the easiest way I find the going rates is to look at what others are selling it for.)
Any profits that you receive, you know what to do. Bank it!
No Spending Challenge
Challenge the family or your partner or yourself to not spend money in a category for a period of time. That’s the equation. What you save, bank it.
Example: For two weeks, your budget usually includes eating out 2-4 times. Instead of eating out, challenge yourself to make from the pantry. Take the money from eating out, and bank it!
For a month, challenge yourself to find no-cost entertainment. Take that amount saved, and bank it.
Hustle a little
Have you looked into any side gigs? Most common side gigs for cash:
Listings for one-time assistance, like handyman items or snow shovelling/grass cutting
Errands for seniors or housebound individuals
Haul loads to the dump
Caring for children, pets or houses
Clean houses or offices
Be a (paid) companion or assistant to someone with a disability or to a senior
These are just a few examples of what you could spend a couple of hours on, and make some extra dough.
Hustle a bit more
These ideas tend to be more permanent or may require more preparation time to set up:
Start a landscaping/grass cutting business in the neighbourhood
Sell products from home (see more about that here)
Drive for Uber or Lyft
Seek out a part time job
Build an online business
Resell goods online or in consignment stores
Tutor or teach a skill
Cut the fat
By making changes to what takes the money OUT of your wallet, you can start directing more to your savings. Think of what is automatically withdrawn from your accounts as these are likely to be missed when considering where to tighten a budget. Here are some ideas where you could save (up to) enough to fill that TFSA:
Switch to no-fee banking
Move emergency funds or other savings to a high interest savings account
Cancel credit cards with annual fees in favour of one without
Music subscriptions: do you use this? Can you get it for free? Can you do without for a while? Is there a family plan instead of paying individual rates?
Television: consider downgrading or cancelling cable and subscription programs in the summer. A lot of people are outside most of the time, and wouldn’t miss the programming.
Cell phone: are you paying for any extras? Have you called and asked for a lower rate? As cell phone services are changing all the time, look around for a cheaper option. If you can’t find one, then negotiate to keep a rate the same in exchange for your contract. (If you are signing a two-year contract, you could ask to keep your rate plan from before and avoid the new customer increase.)
BIG ways to save:
Do you need a three-bedroom house? Could you live in a two-bedroom apartment? Consider the cost of utilities, rent, taxes, etc. Can you downsize and live as well?
Depending on the needs in your house, do you need multiple cars? Are you living somewhere that you could downsize and save? Could you use occasional services and save as opposed to paying for maintenance, gas, insurance and/or car payments?
Do you have a collection that you are no longer interested in? Are there other collectors that would pay for your collection? (Hard questions: do you have anyone to pass it on to, and would they appreciate it? If not, then you might be kinder to your children by liquidating it now for what it’s worth, instead of forcing them to feel guilty and not knowing the true value.) Do you have a room full of Beanie Babies, vinyl’s, model cars, Barbie Dolls, etc?
Do you have a second home, like a cottage or trailer, that you do not use as often as you once did? Can you rent it or sell it?
If you save $5,500 in your TFSA account annually, and invest with a modest 6% return, here’s your savings over twenty years: (source)
In twenty years, your money has nearly doubled – and that’s with a modest 6% return. If you invested with a 10% return, you would have $318,376!
There are more than thirty ways to save and make money in this article. Between that and a weekly automated savings, and the motivation from you to do the work, there is a 100% chance of success.
AND… if you fill your TFSA to the brim, then move on up to door #2: Your RRSP! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more how-to money advice. You can also sign up for email updates here (it’s free!).
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.
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:
The independent sales rep pays for this from a portion of sales made, and doesn’t have to put out thousands in advertising.
The company can control the quality and quantity of the advertising.
The company has a marketing team of experts who know what works and what doesn’t.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.