Project:NOMAD

Project:NOMAD

One Man’s Attempt at Lifestyle Design and the Quest for the Perfect Virtual Company

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Happy New Years Day, everyone!

Yes, I am still alive…I have taken a few months off to research some social media stuff (especially Twitter) and how to leverage it for Marketing products, and my Real Estate concerns.

So here is the gameplan for 2009:

1) Posting the series I had planned on how I got my first rental property.

2) Posting my progress on what I am doing to get my second property.

3) Posting some cool stuff on Internet Marketing, including stuff I am learning from my membership in The Immediate Edge and 30 Day Challenge Plus.

4) Posting other things I find in my journey, including articles on Freelancing and Entrepreneurship, 4HWW, and Life Hacks.

Although I will probably not post every day, I will try to post more frequently.

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So…I’m a landlord…

I signed the lease tonight with my tenants; so begins my life as a landlord. In the next few posts, I am going to go into details on how I got my house, how I rehabbed my house, how I marketed my house, and the process I went through to become a landlord, in the hopes it helps others who are interested in investing in real estate.

My next hurdle is to refinance the house before my $110K baloon is due in December. In today’s tight credit market, I am worried all available cash has dried up. I have a very good relationship with my banker, but it can only go so far.

Once that is done, it’s on to find my next deal.

I will compose and post my first entry in the series on my rental in the next few days.

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Immediate Edge deal…

If you have heard about The 30 Day Challenge, then you probably know about The Immediate Edge. Dan Raine, and Ed Dale, the guys behind the 30 Day Challenge are probably two of the most knowledgeable guys in the field. Their site contains tools and techniques that explain how to rule your niche and they keep up with the constant changes in the industry. I currently subscribe, and I have learned a lot, just from Dan’s newsletters.

Originally, they offered this deal only to 30 Day Challenge members, but for a limited time they are offering a 14 day trial for $1 to everyone interested. If you are serious about Internet Marketing, and want to know the cutting edge tools and techniques to improve your search engine ranking and increase your sales, then go to the Immediate Edge site and sign up.

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IFA-Voice, A New Freelancer Organization…

There is a new organization created for freelancers and their clients. Here is info from their “About” page:

The International Freelancers Association (IFA) as the Voice of the global freelancers defines and provides the infrastructure for the development of the global freelancer market. The structure enables all stakeholders, be they freelancers, service providers, end user clients, agencies, associates or others, to provide services to each other with an ease and clarity that is not available anywhere else.

You can find more information here.

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It’s Official! I’m throwing my hat into the ring…

Check this out:

Pretty cool…huh? Great way to create some buzz…

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Neat Little GMail Trick…

The August Thirty Day Challenge is over, but if you are interested in learning about basic Internet Marketing, SEO, want to meet a great group of people in the forums, and possibly make a buck or two,  you can still participate. This year, it is organized so that anyone can start it at any time and move at their own pace.  It’s free, and you will not get bombarded with offers to buy the latest guru’s course.

The the basic lesson of the  Challenge is to pick a niche and look for micro niches that are viable, that have a market of willing and able consumers. You will need to test the market by creating a blog or Hubpage that targets the micro niche. This testing is crucial, because it ensures that you can separate the good prospects from the losers without investing a dime.

I am going to share one technique that I use to keep track of the multiple identities that I have on the various blogs I create to test my markets.

First a little about GMail. Let’s say you have  the following GMail address: Bob@gmail.com. You can use the “+” to differentiate email sources. For example, you can give your family the following email address: “Bob+family@gmail.com” and friends “Bob+friends@gmail.com”; in both cases, the email will show up in your GMail account. GMail ignores everything after the “+”.

Now, a little about niches. I am going to use the example market of “people who play tennis”; these are the people I am trying to reach. Let’s say I have tested all the keywords, and came up with the following viable keyword phrases: my mega-niche phrase is “Tennis Racquet”; my niche phrase is “head tennis racuquet”; my micro-niche phrase is “head liquid metal tennis racquet”.  So I will create my blog with someone like BlogSpot with the title “Liquid Metal Tennis Racquet” which will be at the address “liquidmetaltennisracquet.blogspot.com”. When I create this particular blog it will ask for my email address.

Here is where my trick comes in.

I will create the following GMail address – “CrazyAbout@gmail.com”  (not my real address). When I create my blog, I will use my email address, and append my mega niche – in this case “CrazyAbout+TennisRackets@gMail.com”. I also make sure when I post relevant comments on other blogs, I use this email address and associate it with my blog in order to get valuable links. I do this for each of my niches. So I don’t have to keep creating different email accounts.  You can then create a filter in GMail to either forward it to another account, or to label it so you can display it by label.

So far this has worked pretty well for me and it helps keep me organized. I hope you find this tip helpful. If you have any other tips, send me a comment I will share it here.

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You, the expert!

In my post entitled “On risk, and the fear thereof…” I ask the reader to enter “+Skype +English” into Google to show that there are people out there who sell their expertise translating documents or by teaching a foreign language. This got me thinking, are there other sites or services out there that expedite the process and make it easier for people to sell their talents (legal of course) online? Keep in mind, I’m not talking about sites like eLance or RentACoder where you, as a freelancer, bid on projects.

Turns out the answer is a resounding YES! If you have expertise in any subject, chances are very likely that there is a need for that expertise. The Internet allows you to reach a broad audience who would be willing to pay you for your knowledge.

For example, let’s stay on the theme of languages; there is a site called VerbalPlanet who’s sole purpose is to help you learn a foreign language. If you are fluent in a particular language, you can sign up to be a tutor. Payments can be handled via PayPal. You have the freedom to set your own hours, and price.

There are also sites for general subject matter experts. For example, Ether, allows you to set up a phone number that you can publish and market. People then call you based on the hours you set and pay you for your knowledge. Two other sites that operate in a similar fashion are BitWine and SkypePrime. I also found a site called Jyve, but they seem to be down for the time being.

As you can see, your specialized knowledge could be your path to a second income, or perhaps a location independent lifestyle.

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No Pain, No Gain…

On April 7 of this year, I stepped on the scale and my heart sunk; I was 236 lbs. Factoring in my height, if you calculated my BMI, I was 1/100 point off of the start of obesity. I was the stereotypical couch potato geek, who’s only form of exercise was typing.

Why, you may ask, am I mentioning this now?

Because today I completed my first 10K, and here is how I did it.

1) Doctor Doctor, tell me the news…

This was a no brainer, but I talked with my doctor first. I have hypertension and high cholesterol, and I wanted to make sure that I was good to go as far as diet. He pestered me about exercise, but I wanted to lose weight first.

2) Sugar = Bad!

This one started out hard, but got easier as I progressed. I started cutting out carbs (I sort of followed the South Beach Diet in the beginning). All I knew was, if it was white, I kept away from it. My diet evolved to the following on week days:

  • Breakfast – 2 eggs and turkey sausage/kielbasa; I drank coffee sweetened by Splenda (my new friend)
  • Lunch – A Publix (local supermarket) Turkey Cobb Salad with a low carb dressing & 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Dinner – Whatever my wife or I cooked, but a reduced portion, and lots of salad.

I drank diet green tea throughout the day, and snacked on pecans or walnuts. On weekends I ate eggs/sausage in the morning, a simple lunch and dinner. I always seemed full. If I craved chocolate (my one weakness), I would eat sugar free Russell Stover chocolates…Oh, and I would never eat after 9:00 pm – ever.

3) “If it can be measured, it can be managed…”

I am paraphrasing Management Guru Peter Drucker here, but it is absolutely true. I created a spreadsheet listing the date, my morning weigh-in on that day, how much I lost/gained from my prior weigh-in, and pounds to drop to get to my target. If I lost weight, I was elated; if I gained weight, I didn’t freak out. Rather, I tweaked my eating habits until I found what worked better. I kept track of everything that I did. On another worksheet, I graphed the results. There is no better motivation then looking at a graph steadily heading lower as the days pass.

4) Run, Forest, Run!

The pounds stated to come off pretty quickly, until I hit a wall. That is when I realized I needed to start exercising…duh! So I went to a local high school track and started running…for about half the length of the track before the pain got too bad; so I walked the other half, then ran a half, then walked a half…and so on. I did this for the next week. Slowly, I was able to run a full lap, walk a lap, then run two laps, walk a lap, then run a mile, and so on… I would get up at 5:45 am, run/walk as far as I could until 7:00 am, come home and get my daughter up. I’d have breakfast, then drive my daughter to school and head off to work.

And that is basically it.

Today, I only had one goal – Finish the race…and I did.

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On risk, and the fear thereof….

I am going to address something I read in an online forum this morning. It was written by someone who read through my blog and posted a comment on it. I write this not as a slam on him/her, but because until quite recently, I thought the same thing.

The comment that the poster made (in part) was this “I’m risk averse, so quitting my job to do something harebrained is not an option for me.”

In response I said that “I am still at my job, but I am laying a foundation for my transition. By leveraging technology, it is easy to test the waters with minimal investment of time and money.”

But let me take this a step further…I ask you (the reader), in general, what is the absolute worst that can happen to you if things ever go wrong…seriously?

I have given this a lot of thought and I have come up with two core worst case scenarios:

Scenario #1: You are somehow incapacitated (medical issue, injury, accident, etc…) and cannot physically do anything.

Scenario #2: You are reasonably healthy, but BAD happens to you. I mean Job Bad, Country Song Bad (lose the wife, the kids, the trailer, the pickup, and yes, the dog).

In Scenario 1, this can happen to you regardless of income level, social status, or career aspirations. It sucks, but it happens every day and there is little you can do to prevent it. The fickle finger of fate is giving you the bird…But on the plus side, they have this handy little thing called insurance. I have mitigated this risk to the best of my ability by investing in short and long term disability insurance.

In Scenario 2, in the extreme form, I am homeless, penniless, alone.

But I am breathing, and I have a functional brain and two relatively strong hands. I will do what anyone does in a survival situation. I will take stock of my assets – physical and mental, and I will put them to work in best way I can to survive. Yes, it will be hard; yes it will be very painful. I will shake my fist at God and say “Why Me?”, but I will endure; just as humanity has done for thousands of years; just as people now are now surviving day to day. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I approach Scenario 2 as the ultimate do-over, with the added benefit of life experience. In my younger days, I have waited tables, washed dishes, stocked inventory in a department store, and tutored in math and computer science. I have torn down both of our bathrooms (one literally down to the subfloor) and restored them nice and pretty. You cannot tell me that a person does not have at least one skill (other than their current occupation) that they can rely on if the s**t ever hit the fan.

Do this now, go to Google, and enter the following “+Skype +English” without the quotes (or Spanish, or Italian, or whatever your native language is).  There are people who will teach a language, or translate over the Internet full time or in their spare time, all you need is a computer (If you are reading this, I assume that you have one), Skype (free), an email address (free), and a paypal account (free). Opportunity is all around us if we open our eyes to it.

In addition to skills, what about a social network? What about friends, immediate family, church groups, charities? Yes, they exist in this day and age, but few people are truly hermits.

In my heart, I believe that at our core, we are a self reliant people. It is in our DNA. Not to wax on patriotic, but it is a lot of what makes us the envy of other countries. We seem to be at our best, when things are at their very worst.

So all that is left is the fear of risk, but let me ask you, what in life that is worthwhile has not come without risk (and overcoming the fear of it)? How did you feel when you proposed to your spouse (or when they proposed to you?) How did you feel when you sat down at the closing table to basically sign away your life to the bank to get your house? How did you feel in the job interview? Ok, so maybe you are reading this single, renting and jobless, but you get my point.

Ok this has gone way longer than I intended, and I am sure I am going to get a lot of comments, pro and con to my point of view (which I welcome!). The point of my post is this, once you see that it truly takes a lot to totally mess up your life, and if you shed that fear, it is a truly liberating experience.

I am not saying if you are unhappy at your job, jump ship immediately without a Plan B. What I am saying is that there is always a Plan B, and a Plan C, and a Plan D ad infinitum, and there always will be.

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The secret of my success…

Even though I currently work for a fairly large corporation, I have always tried to maintain an entrepreneurial attitude. For me, it’s not “our customers”, they are “MY customers”. I have been with the company for several years now, though layoffs, outsourcing, reorganizations and buyouts; this is probably the main reason they keep me around :o).

But I will let you in on the real secret of my success and it is so simple to implement; yet I talk with other engineers on my team, and in fact other engineers I know, and they don’t do it at all.

After every customer interaction, whether I was on site or on the phone, I send an email to my customer that does the following:

1) Tell them it was a pleasure to work with them and that I was glad I was able to help them out.

2) Solicit feedback on the interaction.

#2 is the key. I tell them flat out that after every customer interaction, I send this email so that I can get valuable feedback – good and bad – on how the interaction went and what I can do to improve the way I support my customers in future interactions, and I thank them for their candid opinion.

It’s really that simple, yet so few people ever do it.

That feedback has been pure gold, and I have learned a lot from it.

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