Collaborative Post: Showtime in Blackpool, England

blackpoolBlackpool, England is known for its big productions, love of dancing and endless fun. You won’t then be surprised that Blackpool plays host to some great shows this year. Why not take a theatre break, book yourself into one of the Travelodge hotels in Blackpool and catch a show or two while you’re in town? Some great choices are:

Mamma Mia

The ultimate feel good musical. Showing between the 20th of June and 14th of September at the Blackpool Opera House, it’s a great show to see on a summer trip to Blackpool. A firm favourite with audiences all over the world, thanks to the film of the same name featuring the likes of Meryl Streep, Piers Brosnan and Colin Firth, it’s a show that will have you singing along and dancing in the aisles from beginning to end. You follow Sophie as she searches for her father, resulting in her mother coming face to face with three men from her past on the eve of her daughters wedding. The resulting hilarity and heart-warming romance will have you falling in love with the characters in no time. A must see in Blackpool this summer.

Derren Brown – Infamous

Straight from the west end the master of illusion comes to Blackpool with his amazing show of psychological illusion. One of the masters of mind control and magic manipulation, you’ll easily see why Derren Brown is famous the world over as you watch in disbelief as he stuns and baffles his audience. Catch Infamous at the Blackpool Opera House on the 12th and 13th of May.

Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular Show

Vegas comes to Blackpool on the 24th of May at the Blackpool Opera House as the Rat Pack swing into town. This fantastic tribute to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin is loved the world over. With toe tapping favourites like Mack the Knife, Mr Bojangles, Come Fly with Me, That’s Amore and Volare, you won’t be able to resist singing along. A fantastic show for fans of swing music.

Killer Queen

A great show for fans of the legend that is Freddie Mercury and Queen will simply love this show. Killer Queen have been performing their tribute to Queen since the 90′s and are incredibly popular thanks to their high energy, powerful performances. With a frontman who’s likeness to Freddie Mercury has been described as ‘spooky’ and all the great and memorable songs being included in the show, it’s bound to be a night to remember. Showing at the Blackpool Opera House on the 25th of May.

Blackpool really does have it all when it comes to live shows. With several venues hosting sell out shows and international best sellers there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy. Some fantastic performers like Little Mix, Daniel O’Donnell and Peter Andre are performing in Blackpool this year, the BetVictor World Matchplay Darts is held in July and some fantastic shows featuring memorable songs from movies and musicals ensure that Blackpool really does hold its own when it comes to show-stopping performances.

How I Make Money Blogging

dv-logo2Mark your calendar. Next Monday, my post ‘Full-Proof Way to Make Money Blogging’ is going viral. I’ve spent a lot of time crafting and editing it, to ensure you have all the information you need to prosper in the world of blogging. You don’t want to miss it. But before next week, I thought it would be good background to share with you how I personally make money.

Keep in mind, I have been blogging for over 9 years, which makes me an online dinosaur. Please no whining about why I’m able to monetize my blog and maybe you’re not. Try blogging consistently for 9 years then get back to me.

What I earn is not a lot, but it’s not chump change either. In total, I average a couple hundred dollars a month (revenue). I have expenses that need to be factored in, but the point is I actually get companies and brands to SHOW ME THE MONEY! I never thought it was possible.

My expenses include web hosting, graphic design, and virtual assistance, which reduce my profit, but I also have a full-time job outside of blogging, working for a Fortune 25 company. That means, I’m essentially making money from a hobby and also writing off my business expenses for tax purposes.

Key point: Bloggers make money in direct correlation to the business work that they put into it.

If I didn’t have a full-time job and if I had more time to devote to the marketing and sales of my brand, I would earn more. I’d have to work my ass off, but absolutely, I’d make substantially more than I already do.

I make money 4 ways, in descending order:

  • Sponsored Posts
  • Sponsored Tweets
  • Free Product
  • Advertising

Sponsored Posts

For me, monetization started when brands asked if I would consider sponsored posts. They set the rate and I just went with it, especially since I had never made money before. Then bigger brands contacted me, giving me the confidence to negotiate and command more.

Side Story: I attended a blogging webinar sponsored by a design brand. The Head of PR said she was looking for blogs that were well-designed with page ranks 3 and above. That’s not me. I shrugged and figured I’m not a design blog so I wouldn’t have been the right fit anyway. Hours later, the company contacted me about advertising on my blog. The takeaway? Don’t reject yourself before companies have the chance to consider you. Have confidence!

Sponsored Tweets

As a member of the BlogHer network, brands are interested in my Twitter following, of which I have 7,000+ followers. These are followers that I have cultivated over time which is considered massive influence. I’m paid $50 for my ad tweets.

Quick plug that my Tweets are really informative, stemming from the fact that I have an academic and entrepreneurial background, and I’m pretty knowledgeable when it comes to new technology, venture capital, etc. If you don’t follow me already, check out my Twitter feed and see for yourself.

Free Product

With a 60+ Klout score, I get a lot of free products because of my influence (Flip headphones, Braun thermometer, leather laptop case, etc.) in exchange for an honest review.

Advertising

Lastly, I make money through advertising (those ads in my sidebar and at the bottom of my site). I’m with Federated Media, one of the top ad networks.

Here’s the deal, what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. It drives me nuts when I read posts on blog monetization and they say, you gotta get on Pinterest, or you have to know SEO. It’s total bullshit. It’s all about marketing and selling yourself and cogently explaining what your strengths are.

Here are my selling points:

  • Blogging for over 9 years
  • MBA University of Chicago Booth School of Business; BA University of California at Berkeley
  • Highly-educated, large income-generating followers
  • Followers concentrated in metropolitan areas: San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and Chicago
  • 7,000+ Twitter followers
  • 60+ Klout score

When I say business work you put into it, I don’t mean that you’ll make more money by posting every day. For anyone who does this, PLEASE STOP! In fact, success must be inversely correlated to volume of posts because I personally am turned off by bloggers who post every day. It’s way too much and very overwhelming. STOP!!!

Things to consider:

  • You get what you put into it, but you have to think like an entrepreneur. Your blog is a business. How are you going to make money?
  • What are your selling points?
  • How can you better market yourself?
  • Does your blog look like a kid designed it? Or does it look professional?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask or pay for help. You have to spend money to make money.
  • Analyze the top blogs. How do they look aesthetically? What posts are getting the most comments?

If you were a business with a blog advertising budget, which blogs would you advertise on and why? The answer to this question is how you should be positioning your blog! Why would businesses want to advertise on your blog? You tell me!

Anyone can make money blogging. Come visit next week for my insight on monetization.

Money Monday: Flying High on Financial Security

paragliding turkeyThis week has been tough. Moving is stressful. I wish I could go on vacation–that’s a picture of me paragliding in Turkey. Add to the mix that my stolen Honda coupe still has not been recovered and I’m a visually-impaired Asian driver trying to get used to driving Dean’s big ass SUV.

We’ve purged at least 20% of our possessions. Dean has been selling shit on Craiglist, dropping off at Goodwill, and handling AT&T, cable, and other vendors and contractors. I am overseeing all the logistics of being a landlord: checking employment, rental history, putting together the contract, etc. We also need to buy a washer and dryer, change our address for all of our bills, install mailboxes (the place came without mailboxes!), remedy items from the inspection report… The list is never-ending.

We are tripping over boxes, at each others’ throats. Dean works from home so I have unreal expectations that he’ll have accomplished all these household tasks as if he’s an onsite handyman. I get upset. He complains about everything he has going on. I point to my stomach, “Yeah?! Try growing a human!”

Despite the madness, life is so good. Buying this property has secured our financial future. Here’s why.

1. It’s not our dream home. 

When you go looking for your dream home, you introduce irrational emotion into the equation which leads to unrealistic offers. That perfect house is one that everyone else is eyeing too, and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a bidding war, contemplating submitting an offer waiving all of your rights as a homeowner because you simply must have it! How many people do you know who bought their dream home, then several years later they were in foreclosure or declaring bankruptcy. We bought a 2-unit property, brand new construction, adjacent to a very busy street (it’s almost like a freeway). Zero character, zero charm.

2. It made financial sense.

I ran the numbers and drummed up every single worst case scenario, and financially, buying this home made sense no matter what. Let’s say Dean and I both lost our jobs. We could easily rent out each of the units due to its highly-coveted commutable location. With the combined rental income, we could pay the mortgage, the property taxes, and use the excess to cover the rent on another apartment in the city. Hell, we could move in with my mom and dad and pocket several thousand dollars a month.

3. We did our research.

What’s it like to be a landlord? What rent should we charge for an apartment in our location? Dean and I both have experience with renting, so doing the research wasn’t hard. Test the market. Place an advertisement or post on Craigslist and see what kind of interest you get. When we posted our ad, I had HR admins from Apple and Genentech begging to get their employees into our apartment.

Is it luck or business savvy? Chance or calculated risk? I’m very optimistic about our future and so glad that we’ve laid this groundwork for the arrival of our most precious investment (the baby) coming in May!

Your turn:

What decision-making criteria did you use in buying your home?

How have your real estate investments turned out?

What is the best life decision you made that helped anchor your financial future?

Dude, Where’s My Car?

bartThis past weekend, we went from renting a 1-bedroom apartment in Lower Nob Hill to homeowners of a duplex in Glen Park. Yes, Glen Park is still in the city of San Francisco! How people can live in the Bay Area and not know where Glen Park is baffles me since Glen Park is a stop on the BART train line. That same train most people take to go to the San Francisco International (SFO) airport. Cmon people! I get these dazed and confused looks whenever I mention my new neighborhood, which I can understand from people who aren’t from here. But locals should be ashamed.

We had been on the hunt for a home for almost a year. Went to an open house and less than four weeks later, we were moving into our new home. Is that record time or what?

Saturday was our move day. Gain a home, lose a car. That’s right. The morning of our move, we discovered our car had been stolen from the safety of our parking lot in Nob Hill. I should add that our parking lot is manned by valets from early morning until late at night, so someone decided to take it on a joy ride in the wee hours. The police officer who filed my report and my insurance both said that 95-99% of the time, the car turns up within a week.

In buying this property, we’ve also become landlords. The rainbow after a grueling weekend came in the form of a lovely couple who we’ve selected to be our neighbors. They, too, are expecting a baby which is awesome. My little one will have a built-in playmate. We are thrilled.

Now…just waiting for my car to turn up.

Closing on a Home

loanHas anyone taken out a mortgage or closed on a home recently? Holy shit!

There isn’t a single day that’s gone by where I haven’t had to email or fax statements, transactions, and responses to questions from the real estate team, the mortgage team, the insurance team, and the title company. I’m convinced that you have to work a day job and be available online with access to all of your financial accounts to get this thing closed. It has been insane.

Here’s an example of one of the many items that the underwriter dug into.

Underwriter: We need you to verify payment of your rent for the past year.

Me: Sure, here’s our landlord’s home phone and cell phone number.

Underwriter: We can’t verify the information since he’s an individual and not an official rental property management company.

Me: So what do you want me to do? He’s the one who owns the building.

Underwriter: We need you to prove that you paid rent every month.

Me: Here are my checking account transactions.

Underwriter: Why do you pay your rent in cash?

Me: That’s something you should ask the landlord.

Underwriter: How come sometimes you withdrew $1720 and sometimes $1740. I thought you said your rent was $1700.

Me: The rent is $1700! Sometimes we withdrew extra cash. What does it matter to you?!

Underwriter: We’re going to need you to sign a statement saying that your rent is $1700.

As background, I work for the company that I’m getting the loan from. They know how much I get paid every two weeks, what my annual bonuses have been, my stock allotment, and how much sits in my 401k account. What does it matter what my historical rent history has been? All that matters is that I make enough to be able to pay the mortgage on my own, and that doesn’t even include my husband’s compensation. So what is the big deal. So stressful and frustrating!

For those of you wanting to buy a home and thinking that saving enough for the down payment is enough, it’s not. You need to have a large excess amount of money on reserve even after your down payment and the fees are accounted for.

Welcome to home ownership! And I thought having the winning offer was the hard part.

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