We've been talking a bit about work for the past couple weeks and I'm going to continue on that theme because this is where we're at right now. It's what's fresh in our lives and our writing. We're trying to answer the question (for our family's unique situation) "how can we live the life we want and earn enough money to support our family?"
Broad Work Goals
Everyone has certain work goals. These goals, acknowledged or not, drive what you are doing and steer the direction of your current and future income earning.
We have some definite goals - both broad and specific - for our work. How we secure our necessities, (i.e., the means by which we earn our living) matters as much to us as simply securing it. A first world privilege for sure, though I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue meaningful paid work.
Over the past couple years we’ve tried hard to identify and envision (dreamin’ and schemin’) the kind of work that makes us fulfilled. Fulfillment beyond putting food on the table, paying the mortgage/rent, and saving for the future.
- We want work that integrates our experience, interests, passions, and skills; that is an extension of our personal and family missions.
- We want work that stimulates us emotionally, intellectually and physically and challenges us to grow.
- We want work that provides enough income for our family’s needs and some of our wants, work that enables us to live and give in abundance.
- We want work that allows us to contribute meaningfully to society, in our actual work, not by just giving some of our earnings to charity while working a job that leaves us uninspired.
- We want work that allows us to remain very grounded in family life and spend a significant amount of time building relationships, not just bank accounts. Similarly, we want our work to be a part of family life, not separate from.
- We want work that is self-governed. We’re not afraid of hard work, but we want to steer our own ship. Not just sail along someone else’s vision.
- We want to be able to earn a living, remotely, anywhere there is an internet connection. Specifically, we want to work from and at home, wherever home is. In this way, we can travel and adventure for extended periods of time. And both share in the raising and teaching of our children.
Take away number one: Start dreaming. Talk about the kind of work you want to do. At first, don't ask yourself how those dreams will make money. That part will come. First you have to dream.
I know. We’re dreamers and we’re idealists. And it’s clear from a list like this that we’re going to have to create our own livelihood. Which is exactly what we’re doing.
Project and Income Goals
We want to build a livelihood from diverse income sources using the project model. Projects could be a computer programming job for a client, an e-book we release, coaching, a freelance writing gig, an e-course, etc. None of these on their own provide the sum total of our income and none of them solely rely on just Damien or me.
Every family needs to work to earn money. Sometimes both parents work for money, sometimes only one earns an income. We're moving away from a one parent income-earning model to a two parent income-earning model.
But we're not aiming to increase our income, instead we want to distribute our effort and influence.
Essentially we both want to work the equivalent of part time paid jobs. The rest of our effort being spent on taking care of our home (cooking), taking care of our bodies (exercise, the outdoors and creative pursuits), being active in our community, and taking care of our kids (homeschooling specifically). We're working all the time, cooking is work, so is exercise. Just not all of it earns income.
Take away number two: Identify your income goals. Some people want to earn big money, more power to them. Some of us want enough to do the things we love to do. (Some of us think we need to earn big money to do the things we love to do). Neither is better, or right or wrong. But your income goals will definitely help determine the kind of work you want to do.
Where we are now
Our current income mostly comes from Damien’s computer programming work. Damien is a web applications developer and this is what he’s done for the bulk of his “career life” (after graduating as a civil engineer). As a freelance consultant he now does projects for clients - small businesses, individuals and non-profits - all over the world.
Damien is a technical wizard of sorts, with an intuitive understanding of computer technology. It’s one of his strongest aptitudes. That, and problem solving in general. In addition, he has patience and insight to explain and de-mystify technology for us non-techies. As icing on the cake he’s incredibly modest about his gifts and a man of integrity. Once a client works with him, they don’t let him go.
Writing is a distant second, but growing contributor, to our income earning. Blogging, freelance projects, and e-books.
How do we earn money from blogging? The typical ways - advertising and affiliates on both Toe Salad and FIMBY. These are income trickles right now.
More significantly, blogging has given us a platform that leads to paid freelance writing work, which we both do. Examples of this are articles for online publications, reviews (this is how we "buy" a lot of clothing and gear), and contributions to other people’s products, online courses specifically. We have two, almost three, e-books published to date. We have plans for more.
Blogging has also opened the door to coaching and teaching, having established a readership and a level of trust with people after years of writing.
Where do we want to go from here?
Mostly, we want to do our own projects. Projects that inspire us, that use our unique gifts, skills and experience in interesting ways that meet a market need (we have to earn after all). A lot of different projects fit into this description, which is good, we want to be diverse in what we do so we have a lot of income earning options regardless of the economy.
Projects that weave together technology, mentoring, writing, the outdoors, encouraging, homeschooling, healthy living, adventuring, and raising a family.
Right now our family is at a crossroads. A crossroads we saw coming, in the distance, but weren't anticipating quite so soon.
Our family is at a lull in Damien's computer programming work and we are not yet earning the equivalent of that work from our other income streams.
So we're stepping up our game and stepping out in faith. Again. We're learning it's not good enough to have a good product, we also have to market that product. We have to market us. Half the work is making the thing, the other half (or more) is promoting it. And no one is going to do that for us.
Damien and I are joining forces now more than ever as we move forward the vision we have for our income earning work. We've launched a store. Damien is marketing my e-books to a broader audience, we are creating content, marketing, and making intentional connections more than ever. And we're trying to do all of this in a way that doesn't feel commercialized and icky. We're not business people and we don't want our blogs to be all about earning money. Instead we want to tell a story and help you, in whatever way we can, live yours.
For the past year we've tried to figure out how and when to move forward on our own projects. But Damien's other work projects always had priority since they were bringing in the money.
Now, instead of wondering, we're working. Nothing like the reality of a situation to get your butt in gear.
Take away number three: There is no perfect time to leap or launch. You do the best you can to line everything up but the push that moves you forward is also the push that moves you out of your comfort zone.
We have a ways to go to make our work visions a reality. But writing them is definitely part of making that happen.
Have you written out your work dreams and goals?