Free Home Business Opportunity. This may seem like a strange home business opportunity but when you think about it for a while you will realize that it could be the best one for you.
It offers a person the chance to get out of the nine to five grind and get outside to enjoy the country side and the great outdoors. It has a minimal start-up cost and can be done whenever you feel the urge to do it. The business involves the selling of junk cars and trucks to various scrap yards.
The majority of scrap yards have the facility to accept whatever type of scrap metal you have. It may seem logical that a scrap yard would be able to accept all metals but this is not always the case. Some scrap yards only buy the better metals such as copper, brass, or lead. The reason that they do this is because they are not big enough to handle all metals. As a result of this they only pay a portion of what the bigger companies can offer. This is not a good situation for those who are trying to make a few extra dollars selling scrap.
Imagine that you have spent all week going around from farm yard to farm yard collecting all types of scrap metal. It has been a hot and dusty week and you are looking forward to selling all of your scrap and getting a few bucks so as to buy yourself a few treats and a case of beer to watch the football game on Sunday. This is not any normal football game between two teams. It is a grudge match that is played yearly between the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins. Washington won last year’s event and New Orleans is looking for revenge. It should be a great game.
You arrive at the scrap yard on a late Saturday afternoon just before the scrap yard closes. The owner of the scrap yard tells you that he does not handle the type of scrap metal that you have. You are in shock as you realize the perfect football Sunday is now in jeopardy. He then tells you to go to one of the other scrap yards in the area that are bigger and will take everything that you have. The only problem is that they are all now closed and will not be open until Monday.
For this reason and many others people that have a lot of scrap metal to sell only deal with companies that are big enough to take all that they have. The larger companies will also pay you a premium if you are a regular seller of scrap metal to their yard. These bigger scrap yards are known for taking all of the metal that you have and they should be the first place that you choose. Otherwise, you may find yourself on a Sunday afternoon watching football with a bottle of water and a few soda crackers.
So do yourself a favor and quit that boring job at the local steel mill and get yourself into something that is exciting like a junk metal collector. This may appear to be the strangest home business that you have ever heard about but give it a try, you might just like it.
A lot of people look at blogging as a hobby and a way to communicate with other people. There are also other people who look at blogging as a way to make money.
Regardless of the reason why you are blogging there are three mistakes that you should avoid when you blog.
Not Having Structure To The Post
One of the worst mistakes you can make is not having any structure to your blog post. This will include the bloggers who write the entire post in one paragraph and the bloggers who do not separate ideas into different paragraphs. This is a very simple thing to do and you should take the time you do this.
A lot of bloggers have a problem when they transfer their post from the word processor to their blog. The blog may not pick up the spaces between paragraphs. If this happens you need to work through the post and put the spaces in. There is no reason for you to leave the blog post as one long paragraph with no reprieve for the readers.
When you make this mistake you could find the readership of your blog decrease. Reading one long paragraph is hard on the eyes and it does not look very good. Many readers will also assume that your blog is unprofessional when it has this error.
Not Talking About What Your Readers Are Interested In
A lot of bloggers make the mistake of being too personal with their blogs. While the blog is a way to communicate with people no-one wants to read pages of your problems. You have to make sure that all your posts are related to your blog theme and something that your readers will be interested in.
When you start your blog you should have a theme and key issues that you are looking to tell people about. Your posts should be about these issues and not about the annoying thing that happened to you when you were walking down the road. Of course, if these personal anecdotes lead to your key issues then you can incorporate them, but the post should not be about them.
Doing The Hard Sell
There are many people who use their blogs as a means of making money. When you do this the worst mistake you can make is having a post that is all about the hard sell. The hard sell is basically a blog post that tells people they have to buy some and buy it now.
Most people will go to a blog to see what other people think about a product. When you sell something on your blog you should offer the pros and cons as well as a personal experience. If the viewer wanted the hard sell they could go to a store or look at the product manufacturer’s website.
There are three major mistakes that you should avoid when you are blogging. These will include having no structure to your blog posts, talking about personal problems only and posting a hard sell.
These are all ways that you can drive people away from your blog.
Usually, your best option is to “buy and hold,” but not in these three scenarios.
Car leasing is back — big time.
One in four new vehicles driven off car lots so far this year was leased, according to Edmunds.com, putting the auto industry on track to break last year’s record 22%.
That’s a stunning rebound from five years ago, when the credit crunch led Chrysler to announce it would stop leasing cars, and other manufacturers dramatically cut back.
The trend is being fueled by aggressive deals that have driven down the cost of leasing. The gap between the average monthly lease payment of $418 and the average auto loan payment of $464 is the widest since Edmunds.com started tracking these numbers in 2003.
Manufacturers are targeting younger drivers, who “seem to have a pay-as-you-go philosophy,” said Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor. Many young drivers view cars much the same way they do cellphones, Reed said: as pieces of technology to be replaced quickly with more advanced versions.
“If you lease, you get the most recent technology,” Reed noted, citing rapid improvements in safety features, fuel economy and navigation systems.
So has leasing become a smart financial option? Sometimes, the answer is yes.
This was news to me, because when it comes to cars, I long have held that the cheapest option was to pay cash for a slightly used one and drive it for at least 10 years. That’s still true, but there other considerations that sometimes favor leasing. Some examples:
When you want an electric car. Consumer Reports has never been a big fan of leasing, pointing out that “buy and hold” is a better financial proposition for most drivers. But it makes an exception for plug-ins.
“With electric cars, it’s pretty cut and dried,” said Consumer Reports automotive expert Eric Evarts. “Why lock yourself into the first generation of technology?”
Today’s typical electric car has a range of about 75 miles and takes four to five hours to charge fully, Evarts said. But technology is improving constantly, with better batteries that have more range and charge faster.
“We don’t know what’s coming next,” Evarts said. “The only thing we do know is they’re going to be better.”
The tax credits for electric cars also favor leasing, Evarts said. The $7,500 federal credit – plus any credits your state might offer – dramatically reduces the cost of the car, reducing lease payments, as well as resale value.
If you buy today’s electric car and try to sell it a few years from now, you’ll be offering outdated technology to someone who can get a better car, plus a tax credit, by buying new, Evarts said.
Manufacturers are promoting $199-a-month lease deals on many electric models, with down payments of $999 to $2,000. If you need more range, you can get a Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a gas engine for backup, for $269 a month with $2,399 down.
When you can afford the luxury of a new car every few years. This is a very small percentage of drivers – much smaller than the number who are leasing now.
The problem with buying new cars is that they’re expensive (duh), and too many people wildly overspend when they opt for new vehicles. (For more, read “Your car is wrecking your retirement” and “The real reason you’re broke.”) The commonly given advice that you should limit car payments to 20% of your take-home pay works only if you have cheap housing and no debt. Otherwise, you’re likely to spend too much on your wheels and shortchange other important areas of your life.
If you want a new car you should:
- Be on track with retirement and college savings
- Have a fat emergency fund, enough to cover six months’ worth of expenses
- Be adequately insured (health, life, property, disability)
- Have no consumer debt, such as credit-card bills
If that describes you, and you want to indulge in new wheels every few years, then leasing likely would be less expensive than buying.
You’re still spending a lot for your transportation, though, and you would save tons of money over your lifetime by committing to a car for longer periods. In my book “Deal With Your Debt,” I figured that someone who kept his cars for a decade apiece would save $250,000 compared with someone who bought a new car every five years. Those who change cars more often are costing themselves even more.
When the lease is a one-off. The problem with paying cash for a car is that sometimes you don’t have the cash when you need the car.
Let’s say you’re fresh out of college, your savings account is on fumes and your hoopty just died. You could lease a 2013 Honda Fit for $210 a month with nothing down for 36 months and start saving up for your next car.
That last part is important, because otherwise you could wind up a serial leaser with a never-ending car payment. And that’s not a good deal for most of us.
The agency says it’s to ensure effective delivery, but the cash-strapped carrier hangs onto them for a month and doles them out to security agencies on request.
As the National Security Agency tries to recruit hackers to scan online data through its Prism program and law enforcement visits the homes of folks who use Google (GOOG +0.26%) to look up “backpacks” and “pressure cookers,” at least there’s still the U.S. Postal Service to keep away the prying eyes, right?
Guess again. Even though the mail carrying agency is scarcely solvent, it somehow has the time and resources to take pictures of every piece of mail processed in the United States and hold onto it for a month.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told The Associated Press said the photos of the exterior of mail pieces are used primarily for the sorting process, but they are available for law enforcement whenever agencies ask for them.
So, no, there’s no expectation of privacy through the mail, either. You can thank the anthrax attacks in 2001 for this little program, which was just used to track ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Donohoe says there’s no single database of the images, which are kept on nearly 200 machines at processing facilities across the country. Each machine retains only the images of the mail it processes. The images are kept between a week and 30 days because, as Donohoe claims, it may be necessary to ensure delivery accuracy, for forwarding mail or making sure that the proper postage was paid.
There’s a guy setting up an apartment in Moscow right now who may be just a bit loathe to believe Donohoe’s story, mostly because the USPS is tracking the snail-mail equivalent of the metadata Prism is scanning and that even corporations such as Chevron (CVX -1.18%) want a look at.
According to Donohoe, mail processing machines take photographs so software can read the images to create a barcode that is stamped on the mail to show where and when it was processed, and where it will be delivered. Mail from the same mailbox is relegated to the same batch, which helps investigators track where a particular item was mailed from to possibly identify the sender.
So how do you communicate without the government listening in on every word? Have conversations face-to-face, in public, with no electronic devices nearby — preferably in a non-extradition country.as posted on MSN Money
New dietary guidelines http for the prevention of Alzheimer‘s disease have been developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
PCRM is a nonprofit organization that advocates preventive medicine, especially good nutrition; conducts clinical research; and advocates for higher ethical standards in research, according to their Web site. The new guidelines were released last week at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain held in Washington, DC, sponsored jointly by PCRM and George Washington University School of Medicine.
PCRM president and lead author of the guidelines, Neal Barnard, MD, said, “The current generation of clinicians is in a battle over food — especially Alzheimer‘s-promoting foods, such as those which contain saturated and trans fats. We potentially have the capabilities to prevent a disease that is poised to affect 100 million people worldwide by 2050. Why wait?”
The guidelines are very similar to the habits that prevent heart disease in that they recommends avoiding saturated and trans fats, grounding the diet in plant-based foods, and adding sources of vitamin E and B. “Combining this diet with physical exercise and avoiding excess metals, such as iron and copper in multivitamins, can maximize protection for the brain,” Dr. Barnard claimed.
The 547 healthcare providers who attended the conference sampled the dietary recommendations themselves by eating meals such as roasted broccoli salad, spiced chickpea curry, baby bok choy, and blueberry sorbet.
Several Alzheimer’s experts asked to comment on the guidelines for Medscape Medical News all had similar opinions: that the recommendations were for a healthy diet and exercise, which was always good general advice, but that high levels of evidence that following these guidelines would definitively reduce Alzheimer’s risk are lacking.
The 7 Dietary Principles to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk
|1. Minimize saturated fats and trans fats.|
|2. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should be the primary staples of the diet.|
|3. One ounce of nuts or seeds (one small handful) daily provides a healthful source of vitamin E.|
|4. A reliable source of vitamin B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least 2.4 ?g per day for adults) should be part of the daily diet.|
|5. Choose multivitamins without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.|
|6. Avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contribute dietary aluminium.|
|7. Engage in aerobic exercise equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking 3 times per week.|
Dr. Barnard cited several studies that supported these guidelines. For example, in the Chicago Health and Aging Project, individuals who consumed the most saturated fat (around 25 g each day) were 2 to 3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who consumed only half that amount. He acknowledged that not all studies agree.
For example, a Dutch study found no protective effect of avoiding saturated fats, although the population was somewhat younger than that in the Chicago study. He suggested that high-fat foods and/or the increases in cholesterol they may cause can contribute to the production of ?-amyloid plaques in the brain. High-fat foods also increase the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, common risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, he added.
A large study of Kaiser Permanente patients showed that participants with total cholesterol levels above 250 mg/dL in midlife had a 50% higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease 3 decades later compared with participants with cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL, Dr. Barnard reported. And he noted that the APOE?4 allele, which is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s risk, produces a protein that plays a key role in cholesterol transport.
On the recommendation for vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains, Dr. Barnard pointed out that these foods are rich in vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B6, that play protective roles for brain health. Studies of Mediterranean-style diets and vegetable-rich diets, such as the Chicago Health and Aging Project, have shown reduced risk for cognitive problems compared with other dietary patterns.
Dr. Barnard cited an Oxford University study of older people with elevated homocysteine levels and memory problems, in which supplementation with B vitamins improved memory and reduced brain atrophy.
On potentially harmful metals, he noted that excessive iron and copper have been linked to cognitive problems. And while the role of aluminium in Alzheimer’s disease remains controversial, he pointed out that aluminum has been demonstrated in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and studies in the United Kingdom and France have found increased Alzheimer’s prevalence in areas where tap water contained higher aluminium concentrations.
He added that several studies have found a correlation between exercise and a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s.
Commenting on the guidelines for Medscape Medical News, Heather Snyder, PhD, director of scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, said, “There is evidence supporting the idea that physical activity reduces risk of Alzheimer’s. And it is always good advice to keep to a healthy diet and stay active. So we would endorse those views. But there is really not enough evidence to support some of the other specific aspects in these guidelines to the level of prescription given.”
She added that some positive studies suggest benefits with certain foods/vitamins, but there were also others that show completely opposite results. “So it is difficult to reach a consensus on individual foods.”
She noted that benefits have been suggested with some foods, such as dark leafy vegetables (eg, spinach, which is low in saturated fat and has antioxidant effects), but these are not definitive.
Malaz Boustani, MD, Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, had broadly similar views.
“Unfortunately there is no high level evidence to support these guidelines,” he commented. “But the adverse effects of following such a diet would be minimal. It is a very healthy diet that they are recommending so there would be no harm in it. But whether it provides value in reducing risks of Alzheimer’s is not known. Yes, there are some observational studies suggesting that some of these guidelines may be beneficial. But there is no hard evidence from randomized trials.”
Dr. Boustani pointed out that recently, the National Institute on Aging reviewed the literature and did not find any strong evidence to support issuing these type of guidelines and that in a randomized controlled trial vitamin E did not slow Alzheimer’s disease or the underlying pathology.
Information from Industry
“I would say the major caveat would be whether people can afford to pay for the supplements recommended. If you can afford it then there is no harm in trying it. It is always good to eat a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat and do physical exercise every day. We should all do that anyway,” he added.
Samuel Gandy, MD, Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, New York, said, “The diet recommendations makes good sense but must be subjected to one or more randomized clinical trials before one can say that they truly modify the risk for Alzheimer’s.”
“The new dietary guidelines are mainly based on findings from observational studies and seem reasonable,” added Joe Verghese, MBBS, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. “However, there is a paucity of proof from well-conducted clinical trials that supplementation prevents Alzheimer’s disease in elders without nutritional deficiencies.”
The full guidelines document is available at the PCRM Web site.
Every year, about 48 million Americans — 1 in 6 — get a food-borne illness.
Often, the culprit food is a mystery.
Now, a new CDC report based on a decade of data offers the first comprehensive estimates of which foods are to blame.
Produce accounts for nearly half of the illnesses, and the norovirus is often to blame. Norovirus causes about 20 million cases of “stomach flu” each year. A new strain is going around the U.S.
Poultry is the food source with the most fatal infections. Salmonella and listeria are the common germs causing these infections.
“There is food-borne illness caused by a wide variety of foods,” says researcher John Painter, DVM, an epidemiologist at the CDC.
“We didn’t attempt to assign any risk for [specific] foods in the study,” he says. The report does not mean people should avoid any foods, especially healthy choices such as produce, he says. The foods most often involved in outbreaks are often the foods we eat frequently and are part of a healthy diet.
According to the CDC, the report is the most complete effort to attribute illness to specific foods.
Food-borne Illness Report: Details
Food-borne illness sends 128,000 Americans to the hospital each year and kills 3,000 annually.
To compile the report, the CDC evaluated nearly 4,600 food-borne disease outbreaks from 1998 to 2008. The researchers had information on both the specific food causing the outbreak and the specific type of illness.
They estimated how much food-borne illness is accounted for in 17 food categories. Among the findings:
- Nearly half of illnesses were linked to produce. Produce includes fruits, nuts, leafy greens, and other vegetables.
- Of these produce foods, leafy greens were most often involved in food-borne illness. Norovirus was often the germ involved.
- Dairy was the second most frequent food source for infections.
- Contaminated poultry was to blame for the most deaths, involved in 19% of fatal cases. Many were linked to listeria and salmonella infections. Together, meat and poultry were to blame for 22% of illnesses and 29% of deaths.
- All 17 food categories were involved in some outbreaks, but the frequency for each category varied.
- Half of the outbreaks with a known food involved foods with ingredients from several food categories.
- Dairy and eggs accounted for 20% of illnesses and 15% of deaths.
- Fish and shellfish accounted for 6.1% of illnesses and 6.4% of deaths.
Food handlers are often to blame for norovirus outbreaks, according to a previous CDC study.
This virus is in the vomit and stool of infected people. It can be passed when infected food handlers don’t wash their hands.
Preventing Food-borne Illness
Simple steps, both at home and when eating out, can lower your risk of food-borne illness.
“Being careful of cross-contamination in the kitchen is one of the most important elements,” Painter says.
For instance, slicing chicken on a cutting board, then using it to prepare a salad, raises infection risk.
Wash hands often, especially when preparing food, to cut down the risk of transmitting norovirus, Painter says.
Don Schaffner, PhD, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the report, recommends that people wash raw food. “If you are buying your own produce, such as head lettuce, you want to wash it properly in your kitchen,” he says.
However, if you buy the packaged, triple-washed products, he recommends against washing it again. The risk of contamination in your kitchen has been found to outweigh the risk of triple-washed lettuce making you sick.
Home cooks just getting over a bout of vomiting and diarrhea should not be handling food, Schaffner says.
When eating out, if you notice employees not washing their hands, report that to the manager or your local health department, Painter says. If many people get sick eating out after having the same meal, call the county health department.
“It’s those outbreaks that are the basis of outbreak reports,” he says.
Schaffner reports serving as a consultant to the food industry and for companies making hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps.
Painter, J. Emerging Infectious Diseases, March 2013.
John Painter, DVM, epidemiologist, CDC.
Don Schaffner, PhD, professor of food microbiology, Rutgers University; science communicator, Institute of Food Technologists.
Checking accounts cost banks money, and fees — sometimes big ones — are a largely unregulated way to make money from these accounts.
Heard of an empty-envelope bank fee?
That and other creative bank fees, such as one for account-balance inquires or online imaging, have been creeping into account statements in recent years. And anyone can get socked with them, including online customers or businesses.
Banks are looking for new ways to make extra money, says Suzanne Martindale, a staff attorney for Consumers Union. As a result, consumers must be more vigilant about bank fees, since types and amounts aren’t heavily regulated by the government, she says. Overdraft fees are currently the only ones that you must opt in to and that the federal government regulates.
Still, many bank fees can be easily avoided, says Nessa Feddis, vice president, senior federal counsel and retail banking expert for the American Bankers Association. For example, to avoid empty-bank-envelope fees, make sure you’ve included some money in the envelope before sending.
“Simply, be careful,” she says.
There are lots of bank fees to sidestep. According to a study released by the Pew Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project, the number of bank fees ranges from a high of 48 at one bank to four at another. Amounts charged were 10 cents to $125.
Why so many fees? Checking accounts are money-losers for banks, especially big banks. Annual checking costs can run from $250 to $300 per account, according to a 2010 report by financial services research firm Celent. Many banks never recoup this money, hence the additional fees to cover costly overhead.
Martindale says that’s why oddball fees won’t change anytime soon — and there’s no prohibition on what can be charged.
Watch for these fees
That said, here are some curious bank fees to flag.
Human teller fees. Online banking customers are most likely to get socked with this bank fee. Take one major bank’s free e-banking checking account. When you use online paperless statements or make your deposits or withdraw money at ATMs, the account is free. If you use a teller, you’ll shell out $8.95 in monthly fees.. One small bank charges its online banking customers $10 for manual withdrawals.
“Those fees are pretty rare,” says Feddis. “And, you can always choose another account. Banks typically offer consumers different checking options based on their habits.”
Returned mail fees. Consumers get dinged when bank envelopes, such as an account notice, are returned to them. For example, one bank charges $6 for returned mail. And a second bank has a $5 fee for undeliverable bank statements.
They’re imposed for time and money spent, adds Feddis. Empty envelopes trigger additional fraud protection research to determine why they were returned, she says.
Charges for redeeming rewards points. Some banks now charge customers who redeem credit or debit card rewards points. For example, one bank charges $4 fees for debit card redemptions, along with a yearly program fee.
These are handling fees, Feddis says. To avoid them, shop for rewards programs with no bank fees. “It’s a very competitive market, with lots of choices,” she says.
Early account closure fees. Banks began imposing these fees as an obstacle, after people began moving their accounts in 2011, Martindale says. The typical window for early account closing fees is 90 to 180 days after opening a checking account. For example, one bank charges $25 if you close a new account within 180 days. At a second bank, the fee is $25 within 90 days.
Cash deposit fees. Many banks don’t charge fees for using coin-counting machines. However, some big banks are charging customers who deposit lots of cash. At one major bank, there’s no fee for the first $10,000 deposited. After that, you’ll pay 20 cents per $100.
Large cash deposits require extra manpower, Feddis says. Reports must be filed to comply with anti-money-laundering rules, she says.
Weeding out extra bank fees
The trick to avoiding extra fees is reading bank disclosure boxes, says Susan Weinstock, the director of Pew’s safe-checking project. “However, fee schedules don’t always tell you what you need to know,” she says. That’s because the average fee disclosure runs 69 pages. “So, it’s hard to comparison-shop among banks,” she says.
So, Weinstock recommends looking for banks with simple disclosure boxes. Fifteen banks and credit unions now offer them, including big ones such as Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo. The list is available at the Pew Center on the States website.
It’s important to avoid banks with long laundry lists of fees, Martindale says. One tip for dodging them: Small banks have lower overhead than big banks do, which translates to fewer bank fees. And credit unions don’t have to pay a portion of their profits to shareholders, giving them leeway to keep fees low.
“Big banks rely on fees the most,” she says.
Also, if you’ve just discovered an uncommon new fee, ask a bank manager to waive it.
If the bank won’t budge, you should consider moving your money, Martindale advises.
“Yo, what’s your WiFi password?” It’s a question we’ve all asked, and answered, dozens of times. Happily, there appears to be a neat way around the issue, as an intrepid Reddit user recently made well-known: big QR codes.
Generate a big QR code, frame it, and have your friends scan at their leisure to snag your digital network’s information. It beats shouting out that no, it’s in fact a capital k, lowercase c, and that the l is actually a 1. No, the second l. Wait, I’ll just type it in for you.
WiFi is a ubiquitous quantity in any home worth visiting, and thus to lower the pain of getting onto a network would be a boon for all parties involved.
Here’s what Redditor ‘thatshitischurchyo‘ put up in his house:
In case you were curious, that specific QR code yields the network “PjokNet” and password “pjok1324.”
Now, how to do the same thing yourself? Simply head to this website, input your WiFi details, and a code will be generated for you. Please note that, at last, QR codes have a useful function. If we had learned of this fact before the 21st, we would have taken it as a sign in favor of an impending apocalypse.
Almost all freelance web developers are doing it wrong. And it’s a miserable existence to endure.
If you awake one day and say “I’d like to be a freelance web developer. Now how do I get clients?”you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Yet nearly everyone who chooses this career path makes this mistake. Like consulting, freelancing ought to be a natural progression of a web developer’s career (though of course, not the only path). Done right, it becomes the obvious next step for someone who has built an extensive professional network, developed finely honed skills, and has an entrepreneurial spirit. But prematurely deciding to freelance for any length of time can severely damage your career and mental health. You’ll feel pressured to take any work you can find just to keep the bills paid and your skills will erode as you crank out an endless stream of cheap WordPress sites. Here’s how to do it right:
Step #1: Obtain full-time employment in web development.
For the readers starting from scratch, this first step obviously is the most frustrating. After all, how do you get experience if every job requires experience? My initial advice is dependent on just how close to zero you’re starting. For those who are self-taught but just lack a bit of pedigree, I would recommend contributing to open source projects on GitHub and building a technical portfolio. Then craft a project-focused resume rather than a chronologically organized one. If you are uncertain about your skills and find the thought of contributing code a bit intimidating, offer to write documentation. Good documentation is critical to the success of every open source project and yet most maintainers are loathe to spend time on it because writing code is more fun. Plus, the ability to understand and explain other people’s code is an exceptionally valuable professional skill to develop.
If you lack the expertise to yet make sense of code, my recommendation would be to consider taking a few classes at a local community college. A well-taught certificate course will help you establish a baseline of skills. A two-year degree may or may not be worth the investment, depending on the content. A four-year degree in “web development” is, without a doubt, not worth either the cost or the time (a Computer Science or MIS graduate from a reputable school is infinitely more employable).
Obtaining full-time employment early in your career, even if you eventually prefer to be a freelancer, is important for a number of reasons. You’re exposed to how a business operates from the inside and will learn what works (and what doesn’t work) on someone else’s dime. Operating as a freelancer can also be a financially precipitous position for even those that are successful. A secure job will provide the opportunity to build up a savings cushion and practice managing personal finances.
Step #2: Start networking like your job depends on it.
I’ve been a professional web dev since 1997 when I first wrote a simple online shopping cart in Perl for a small computer store where I was a PC tech. Over the past 16 years, the biggest mistake I’ve made was spending too much time honing my technical skills at the expense of all other aspects of my career. I’d rather spend hours tangling with the toughest bug than go to a business social event. It wasn’t until my late 20s did I stop discounting “soft skills” as pure fluff.
Spend some effort getting to know your co-workers; especially those whom you rarely interactive with and don’t know well. Chat with clients about more than their immediate project. As the level of trust builds, ask about other aspects of the business you might be able to assist. Attend local user groups, meet-ups, and developer conferences. These events can require a significant time commitment but are invaluable because everyone is there specifically to meet you (and people like you.) MeetUp.com is a popular resource that I’ve used with success, as are searching for local groups on LinkedIn.
This networking is laying the groundwork for your eventual freelancing and is absolutely necessary for your success. A moderately-skilled programmer who’s really good at communicating with people is worth at least 3-5x more to most businesses than a brilliant programmer who prefers to be left alone all day. Schmoozing increases your “social surface area”, which leads to more professional contacts and more work, but also improves your ability to translate between tech-speak and business-speak. Your goal is to become known as someone who solves problems, rather than the “web guy.”
Step #3: Leverage your network to find a job that’s compatible with freelancing.
For most developers who love their field and have no desire to freelance, I’d recommend seeking employment at a software/web development company rather than an insurance company, bank, etc. Being on the front lines as production staff (the people making the money) generally means that your interests and the company’s interests better align: higher pay, more interesting, varied work, and greater respect. However, for those looking to moonlight on the side, this often presents a conflict of interest. Don’t be tempted to circumvent a non-compete agreement, unless you have both a good legal standing and avery good personal reason for doing so. This can backfire and ruin much of the goodwill you’ve spent your career building. Additionally, it will burn a bridge that otherwise could be a great backup plan in the event that freelancing doesn’t work as well as planned.
A better option is to find a job that allows you to comfortably leave “work at work.” While not as exciting (or lucrative) as other career options, it does leave enough energy to pursue side work in the evenings and on weekends. You may even want to make a lateral move and spend your days doing something other than development to help prevent burnout. In my case, I took a job as an IT Manager for a microchip engineering company.
Step #4: Tap your network to find gigs.
I use quantity of LinkedIn connections as a measure of preparedness to enter the freelance marketplace. Are you connected to less than 100 people? If so, step up your networking efforts. While wholly arbitrary, it’s a good barometer to whether you lack a large enough network to support freelancing. Using this network, reach out to past employers, coworkers, and clients. Let them know that you’re currently seeking side work and whether they know anyone who needs help. This type of shameless self-promotion might push you outside your comfort zone, but becomes easier with practice. And if you have the desire to becoming solely reliant upon freelancing to earn a living, learning how to sell yourself is an essential skill.
I’d also recommend that you give freelance marketplaces such as ODesk, Elance, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com a shot. Don’t concern yourself with the fact that you’re bidding against developers from all over the world who are willing to work for pennies. My company is in the top 0.8% of providers on one of the aforementioned marketplaces. We use it for short term, filler work and routinely bring in more than $100/hr because I’ve gotten rather good at marketing our services. I’m highly selective about the projects I bid on and in my initial contact I address the specific problem that’s immediately in front of the client.
Step #5: Keep raising your rates until your gigs pay better than your “real” job.
Rational people make purchasing decisions based on value, not price. Pricing yourself beyond the reach of irrational clients is a good first line-of-defense against taking jobs you’ll regret. As you work to establish your reputation as a freelancer, your time becomes more valuable. The industry is fraught with unreliable and poorly skilled freelance web developers. Always ensure that your rate grows with your value.
Properly pricing your web development services can be tricky, especially for those who don’t have a background in business. However, if you’re taking the advice of this article and gradually and organically growing your freelancing, it actually becomes rather simple: Allocate a fixed amount of hours each week to your freelance gigs, perhaps 12-20. Doing so will help prevent burnout and, since work expands to fill available space, force you to work more efficiently. Once you’re consistently booked each week, raise your rates on new clients by 20%. Rinse and repeat until you’re turning away more than half of new business and then begin raising rates on existing clients. The goal is to hit an equilibrium where your schedule is booked solid 4-5 weeks in advance. Getting to this point will take several years of hard work and you will make a lot of mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
Step #6: Profit! (er, hopefully)
Assuming you’ve been patient, persistent, and extremely driven, by this point your freelancing should be more lucrative than your day job. The decision of when to make the leap into full-time freelancing is a very personal one. It will vary depending on your risk tolerance, skill level, amount of debt, family obligations, and other factors. In other cases, such as with myself, the decision is made for you through the loss of your job. However, looking back on it now from the perspective someone who’s managed the finances of a business, ideally I wouldn’t recommend quitting until you’re consistently making double your annual salary with freelancing 20 or less hours a week. If that sounds like a lot of money for a lot less work, you’re in for a shock. At the end of most months, you’re likely to be making about the same as you did at your day job.
Now that you’ve escaped your day job, remember this mantra: Always Be Selling. Freelancers frequently slip into a “feast or famine” cycle. One month you may be feverishly pulling 70 hour work weeks while the next your diet may consist mainly of Ramen and PB&J. This cycle occurs when you let your pipeline dry up and focus exclusively on the fun work of building web sites. Even if you’ve got more work than you can handle, spend one day a week (20% of your time) on business development efforts. It needn’t be anything as dreadful as cold calling (and in fact, shouldn’t be if you’ve carefully managed your pipeline). Call/email past clients to reconnect, attend networking events, or update your blog.
Beyond: Specialize and then clone yourself–or hire (whichever is easier.)
I could write a book on everything that I’ve learned (the hard way) that fits under this heading. Briefly though: the most important bit is to specialize. My company, RightBrain Networks, specializes in consulting on engineering best practices for applications that run “in the cloud” (generally Amazon Web Services). There are other companies out there that only make websites for luxury car dealerships or personal injury law firms. And there are yet other, independent freelancers who make a killing supporting legacy ColdFusion or ASP classic applications. Don’t be afraid to specialize. At first, it can be unnerving to turn away work that doesn’t fit with your new, better-defined vision. But it’s a necessary step unless you want to permanently be competing with every person on the planet that has ink jet-printed business cards that say “freelance web developer.”
Hiring is an even more tangled topic to wade into. Growing to need employees is what graduates a freelancer from the ranks of the self-employed to a business owner. However, a person absolutely must be sure that he wants be a business owner first and a web developer second. Plenty of businesses fail because the owners figure that it will run itself if they focus on the billable work. Employees are God-awful expensive and the company has to be in a condition to support them, but it’s because they’re worth it when/if you’re ready. Don’t be in a hurry to hire and remember that a comfortable living can be made as a successful freelancer, sans employees. Work your network and find other freelancers to assist with overflow work on a contracted basis. Do this for as long as possible before contemplating hiring actual employees.Article was posted on Jamie’s blog
- By LARRY PRINTZ
- The Virginian-pilot
Although the cost of gasoline has declined in the past few weeks, the cost of fueling a new car should still be a major consideration while shopping for a new car. These tips can save you hundreds of dollars a year, enough to spring for a new flat-screen TV if you keep your vehicle for several years.
CONSIDER A HYBRID
When one says “hybrid,” the Toyota Prius springs immediately to mind. But there are many other hybrids on the market, including the Ford Fusion, GMC Yukon Denali, Honda Insight and CR-Z, Hyundai Sonata, Lexus ES 350h, Toyota Camry and Toyota Highlander, among many others.
Hybrids offer better fuel economy than their conventional counterparts, although they generally cost more. So it can take several years before you realize any savings.
Consider the 2013 Ford Fusion SE. It costs $ 24,495 and its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is rated by the EPA at about 26 mpg in combined city/highway driving. In contrast, its hybrid counterpart, the Fusion SE Hybrid, costs $ 27,995, yet returns about 47 mpg in combined city/ highway driving. It would take four years to recoup that $ 3,500 premium, according to the EPA.
If you equate diesel engines with the loud, smoky machines of the 1970s, your thinking is outdated. Modern diesels, offered by Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and others, offer good fuel economy, a smooth demeanor and — thanks to turbochargers — good performance.
OPT FOR A SMALLER ENGINE
Consider a four- cylinder instead of a six-, or a six- instead an eight-. If you can live with a little less power, you can save money at the pump. Choosing the 1.4-liter four- cylinder engine in the Chevrolet Sonic instead of the 1.8- liter four- cylinder saves $250 a year for fuel, according to the EPA.
SKIP ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Unless you’re going offroad in an SUV, all- wheel drive is not worth considering in a car. While there might be a small benefit in traction in some situations, you’ll pay more for all-wheel-drive models, and then continue to pay at the pump. The allwheel-drive Dodge Charger, with its V-6 engine and eightspeed automatic transmission, surrenders 2 mpg in fuel economy to its front-wheeldrive counterpart, or about $200 annually. That may not sound like a lot, but over 10 years, that’s $2,000.
WATCH WHAT IT DRINKS
Vehicles that require premium fuel can be costly. The six-cylinder Volkswagen Passat requires premium gasoline; the five- cylinder Jetta doesn’t. The difference is $400 a year, or $2,800 after
SKIP GASOLINE ENTIRELY
If your new car is being used to commute, consider getting an electric car. The Nissan Leaf has a 100- mile range, while the Chevrolet Volt has a 40-mile range before a gas generator kicks in to recharge the battery. Similar electric vehicles from Ford, Honda, Toyota and others are on the market or due shortly. Two caveats, however. First, make sure your round- trip commute is within roundtrip range of the batteries; recharging takes a long time and charging stations are scarce. Secondly, you’ll need a garage to recharge your car overnight. Apartment dwellers are, for the most part, out of luck. Finally, weather and driving style can affect a vehicle’s range.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll save a lot of money year after year. Larry Printz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org