The New Year

2011 is the start of my fourth year as a freelance writer. I feel extremely blessed to be working in this career, and despite some of the hiccups along the way, things have progressed nicely. I’ve managed to steer my career more and more towards travel writing and away from generalized content writing, and starting next year I’ll be launching a separate website that focuses entirely on travel, working remotely, and learning how to effectively live and work as a traveling freelancer, regardless of your profession. I’ll be selling travel guides that take you deep into the heart of the locations I’ve lived in, showing you how to live like a local rather than a tourist, enabling you to keep your total annual expenses between $7,000 and $10,000 per year. Note I said total expenses, not just living expenses.

The new website will also be offering podcasts and weekly newsletters focused on educating people on how to transition into a digital career, as well as how to go about finding the countries that are most suited to people living this lifestyle, and it will be documenting my journeys through Central and South America, which I fully expect to last the next 5+ years while I make my way through the various countries. In 2011 I will be making my way south from Cancun, and documenting my travels as I go, using each destination as a new travel/how-to-live-here-like-a-local platform. Right now the plan is Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Columbia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil as the main stopping points along the way, and I’m already looking beyond to India/Asia after this.

With the holidays fast approaching, I have been enjoying a relatively quiet December in Cancun, with mild weather and friendly people, and I have been spending the vast majority of my spare time working on the new website and its associated content. I have finished the Cancun travel guide for the Location Independent company, and I am now finishing work on a Bulgarian travel guide that will focus on Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Veliko Tarnovo. Both of those will be available in early 2011 through my other website, which will also go live in January. For the foreseeable future I’ll be using Cancun as my headquarters, although technically my headquarters are actually whatever country I’m calling home for the duration I’m there. Still, there is something special about this place that really does make it feel like paradise, although my only complaint is that it’s almost a bit too touristy, a bit too Americanized with the Wal Marts and the Costcos and the Sam’s Clubs and the Office Depots and the Home Depots, but the beaches are beautiful and the Mayan Riviera stretching out from here is quite simply one of the most beautiful places in the world. The weather is amazing, the beaches and the women are beautiful, the food is phenomenal, the cost of living is affordable and it is just a great place to be.

As far as Complete Writing Solutions goes, it will continue to operate as it has since its inception, as an online resume, an online resource for other readers, and as a way to supplement my income while the new business gets off the ground. Eventually I’ll be transitioning over to full-time travel writer, but for now things are balanced nicely between the two.

On the off chance I do not get the time to make any additional posts between now and the New Year (Christmas and New Years will be busy for me; I have a full plate here until the end of the month, then I’m back to Florida for a week for my sister’s wedding before heading back to Cancun), I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I get a chance to post before then I’ll reiterate those points. Cheers!

Posted in Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips, The World Is Your Oyster

Cell phone alternatives

Everyone has one. They use them to text, download music, watch streaming media, check their email, send files, stay in touch with their friends, and talk to family members no matter where they are in the world. Cell phones are, for many people, an addiction.

Do you have what it takes to disconnect?

Cell phones are items of convenience. Items of necessity…perhaps, in some cases, with individuals who work on the go and need access to bandwidth 24/7. I’ll be the first to admit that my job, who I am, and how I do business is all related to the Internet, so I can appreciate the “need” for something, such as a broadband connection. And as a traveler, I need a laptop rather than a desktop, so I can take it with me no matter where in the world I travel to. However, for the vast majority of people I would not consider a cell phone as a need. Rather, a convenience..

It is a rare occasion that I actually speak with a client. And when I do, I use Skype, which is now up around 24-25 million users online simultaneously daily, because almost everyone has it, and communication between Skype users is 100% free. No bulky cell phones to carry around, no extra chargers, no worrying about roaming fees or contracts or limits on minutes or international long distance rates: just 100% free. And if your client doesn’t happen to have Skype and wants to have a phone chat, Skype has pretty decent per-minute rates to call landlines and cell phones around the world, along with monthly plans for extended stays in certain regions, offering you (for example) unlimited calls to certain areas of certain countries, depending on what plan you pick. I have a package, for example, that is 7 dollars a month and gives me unlimited calling throughout the regions of Mexico I need, since this is where I’m headquartered presently, and you can do similar plans for different countries. But only if you need to. People who have Skype on their computer can have phone calls and video conferences with you real-time for absolutely free, no matter where in the world you happen to be. It’s an amazing tool for people working in digital media.

So first of all, when you can rid yourself of the cell phone you can literally start putting anywhere from 50-150 dollars a month back in your pocket, depending on how much your monthly plan is. Skype (and programs like it, such as Google’s new phone program), allow for free communication on an international level with everyone you know that has the same service, so if the only thing you are using a cell phone for is communication, this is a no-brainer decision: out with the cell phone, in with the 100+ dollars a month back into your pocket.

Second of all, you should notice a drastic increase in your daily productivity, no matter if it is reading a book, enjoying a walk in the park, watching your favorite show, playing a computer game, having dinner with your spouse, taking time off with the kids, or any other scenario. This is because you no longer have this gadget spliced onto your hip/hand/wherever that is controlling your life and manipulating you into spending money on an unnecessary feature.

If you have an Internet connection (which you do, because you are reading this), you have no reason to be paying for a cell phone bill if the only thing you use it for is talking to friends/family/clients. You can be doing that for free. It’s only if you rely upon a cell phone for a living that you could simply blow it off.

I work off of a laptop. I have a set window of working hours per day, during which I check and reply to emails, as well as make any necessary phone calls to clients. Outside of those windows, I don’t exist to the rest of the world. I literally disappear. I am unplugged and unwired and free to roam as I will, without the entanglements of someone texting me, leaving me a voicemail, calling me, and the continual, incessant ringing of the phone in my pocket, always begging for my attention. And as long as you have a laptop or desktop that you have access to on a daily basis, such as home (and who doesn’t have a computer at home?) you can easily get rid of the cell phone

Nowadays If I need to talk to my family, I call them via Skype. I have friends on Skype, and some of my clients use Skype. Free communication, no matter where I am in the world. And since I work via a laptop and have access to a computer on a daily basis, there is no point in me having a landline phone or a cell phone, because I can communicate when and how I need simply using a headset, microphone and a broadband Internet connection with my laptop. And it is controlled by me. I have no telephone number that someone can call. I have email. And once I have established a working relationship with a client, they go into Skype. But I still keep the vast majority (I would estimate 95% of my communication with client is done through email) of my clients on an email-only basis. This could be you, if you haven’t already made the step.

Living without a cell phone takes a little adjusting to. The first couple of months I was fidgety because I didn’t have this appendage attached to me. It was almost like losing an arm. But I suddenly found myself investing more time in creative projects. I started working out more, I started having more ideas, I started having 2-3 hours more a day to work on projects, and it was like a whole new world had opened up to me. I had forgotten what it was like to live free of the connection.

Disconnection is not for everyone. Some people can not handle being unplugged from the main vein of media. But for those of you willing to take control of your own lives, the option is there, putting your hard-earned money back in your pocket where it belongs, and freeing up more time every day for you to do things, whether it is work on creative projects, a hobby, spend some time with your kids and spouse, and just enjoy life on your own terms.

Posted in Being a Green Freelancer, Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips, Freelance Writing Tips, The World Is Your Oyster

Medical Tourism and the Freelance Writer

I’m a big fan of medical tourism. As defined by the Wiki (something else I’m a big fan and supporter of), medical tourism is “a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care.”

To understand medical tourism, one must first examine the reasons why medical tourism exist in the first place.

One of the major reasons medical tourism exists is because the cost of medical care through privatized medicine is beyond outrageous; it is downright unaffordable. And while many health practitioners will say that you can’t put a price on the value of your life (thus bringing forth the whole argument about why they should be allowed to charge such ludicrous fees for health care in the first place), the reality is that yes, you can.

Bear in mind that this discussion is simply my opinion. You have the right to disagree if you see fit. But as someone who has been taking advantage of medical tourism for several years now, I know a number of benefits that make it far more worthwhile than traditional, privatized medicine.

The other reason medical tourism is beginning to gain popularity is that more and more people are waking up and realizing that the myths surrounding medical care in foreign countries is largely just that: a myth. Doctors in Bulgaria go to the same universities as doctors from the United Kingdom. Doctors in Mexico go to the same schools and universities as doctors from the United States. They all order their supplies and equipment from the same manufacturers. They all have the same standard operating procedures. And while yes, it is true that in certain backwater sections of the world you might run into places where sanitation or procedures are slightly more limited than they are in major cities, the same can be said for any backwater location, whether it is in the middle of Oklahoma or the jungles of Peru. As long as you stick to civilized sections of these countries (see major cities) you will come in contact with the exact same types of doctors you are used to visiting in your home country.

So why then should you be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on procedures that cost a fraction of the price in other countries?

The best answer? You shouldn’t.

Alarmist, mainstream media outlets such as the United Kingdom’s Guardian have their opinion. In an article published back in November of 2006, the author talks about the high costs of dental work in the United Kingdom, and the fact that medical tourism is very much “the only option” for people who are unable to pay for private treatment. The article then goes on to paint a grim picture of some lady who went abroad for medical treatment and was “horribly disfigured”, but what the article fails to mention is that the cases of this actually happening are no greater than they are in Western nations; doctors sometimes make mistakes.

I’m a proponent of medical tourism for most non life-threatening issues, such as checkups, general dental work, blood work and etc. For example, in early 2010 I went to the dentist in Bulgaria and had my teeth cleaned, the plaque removed, and a crack in one of my teeth filled. The cost of my 4 hour dentist trip? Less than 30 USD. The same procedure in the States would have ranged between 400 and 700 dollars, depending on the dentist and which area of the country I was visiting my dentist in.

And while mainstream media likes to point the figure towards the horrible mishaps, they also don’t tell you about the success stories, such as the one woman from the United Kingdom who needed around 10,000 pounds worth of implants and work done on her mouth, and she came to Bulgaria and had it all done for under 200 pounds, and was so satisfied with her treatment and dentist that she started a blog about it talking about the amazing benefits of traveling to another country for cheap medical care, effectively allowing her to save 10 thousand pounds.

My neighbor here in Cancun is another example. He went through sleep dentistry in San Diego a few years back and paid over 30,000 for porcelain caps, and just this year he found out that they are offering the exact same services with a doctor in Cabo San Lucas who studied at the same school his San Diego dentist went to, but the price is 6,000 USD versus 30k. A 25k price tag difference for the exact same procedure, using the same tools, the same materials, the same schooling and the same level of professionalism.

No one is denying the fact that in certain parts of the world you probably don’t want to have invasive procedures done because the lack of proper equipment could lead to issues. But the fact of the matter is that most of the hospitals in major cities around the world have the exact same medical equipment as anywhere else, and the doctors all have to go through the same standards of education. While not all private practitioners around the globe are the same, the chances of you running into someone who is practicing medicine without a license is extremely rare, especially if you are an intelligent individual who does his/her research on a place in advance.

So how does medical tourism affect you as a freelance writer? Since you are already working remotely, without the need for a physical office, you can take advantage of the savings by traveling to other countries. While it’s not necessarily beneficial for every individual, and there are some procedures you might want to only have performed at the highest level possible (such as open heart surgery), the vast majority of regular procedures that we all go through are perfectly acceptable to have done in other countries where it costs a fraction of what it does back home. Need your annual checkup on your teeth? Why pay a few hundred dollars when you could pay 25-30? Want liposuction but don’t want to pay thousands of dollars? Want porcelain caps but don’t want to spend 30k or more on dental work? Start looking elsewhere to countries where the medicine is a hell of a lot cheaper.

The pharmaceutical companies in the United States and the United Kingdom are two of the biggest money-making schemes on the planet, and they have one plan and one plan only: get as many people taking their products as possible, and they do that by brainwashing people into believing that they can only obtain quality health services in their countries, from their recommended doctors using the pills and antibiotics and drugs that their doctors prescribe. The reality is that there is this vast world of educated individuals out there, and they have just as much passion for saving lives as the next doctor…only without the price tag attached.

Medical tourism is not for everyone. Understandably some people are nervous about it, largely because they have been brainwashed into believing that the only “safe” health care is that which is offered in the United States/United Kingdom. But the reality is often such that you can spend a couple hundred dollars on a round-trip ticket to somewhere south or north of the border and get your dental work or other processes done for literal pennies in comparison to what you are being charged back home. Don’t think you are limited to the physicians in your area. Start looking at other countries, and look at the credentials for their doctors. These guys go to the same schools, have the same degrees, the same access to equipment, and the same level of professionalism and hygiene as anywhere else on the planet, so long as you stick to the major cities around the world.

Posted in Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips, The World Is Your Oyster Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Happy Halloween

Whether you call it Halloween or Day of the Dead or any other symbolic name, it’s a holiday in many countries. Here’s wishing you a safe and energetic night, no matter if you are trick or treating or paying respects to your deceased loved ones and ancestors.

Happy Halloween from Cancun.

Posted in Uncategorized

Working Remotely: Part One

As part of the ongoing series I was talking about in my last post, I’m going to be taking a closer look at living and working remotely from anywhere in the world, and taking you through first-hand experiences of cities and countries that have great infrastructures, an extremely low cost of living, and provide the creature comforts of home in an environment that is at the same time both exotic and foreign yet comfortable and providing you and yours with everything you need.

This first post focuses on one segment of the product I’ll be releasing around January. In Part One we will discuss accommodations around the world, the differences between hotels and apartments, the pros and cons of living in furnished apartments, and some really affordable places to live in the world where said accommodations are a fraction of the cost they are in most Western nations.

Furnished Apartments

There are those who argue that renting apartments is a waste of money. Perhaps that is true for some people, but for those of you who enjoy having the flexibility to enjoy life in a variety of locations while working, it just makes sense to find cheap accommodations that include all the amenities you need and use the money you would otherwise be putting towards a house to travel and explore.

When you are looking at spending anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months or beyond in a given location while you scout it out for possible long-term living or just to experience a new place for the first time, furnished apartments are the way to go. I’m not going to go into the details of how to find the best deals on apartments in local environments (that topic is covered in the book), but I can talk about the benefits of furnished apartments versus hotels.

With a hotel you generally get a bed, WiFi, breakfast, and access to any facilities that the hotel might own, such as a pool, massage parlor, gym area and so on and so forth. But even in the cheapest destinations in the world a relatively cheap hotel or bread and breakfast experience will range upwards of 40-50 dollars per night, even for a single person, which adds up to a lot of cash at the end of the month. If you figure a 30 day average at 40 dollars per day, you are looking at 1,200 dollars in rent. Meanwhile you can generally find furnished apartments for anywhere from 250-400 USD per month, and while they might not come with access to the gym or a pool, you are spending at most 400 dollars on a fully furnished, WiFi-included apartment that includes a kitchen, TV, amenities and beyond, for mere third of what it would cost for a cheap hotel. When a gym membership only costs around 50 dollars a month, it’s very easy to see that a furnished apartment allows you to save a far larger portion of your money and use it for other things. Bear in mind these numbers are only a rough estimate based upon the figures I’ve seen in countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Mexico. But 250-400 dollars per month versus 1,200 dollars a month is simple math…hotel areas always tremendously expensive compared to long-term, furnished apartment rentals.

Pros and Cons of Furnished Apartments

There are always pros and cons to any type of living arrangement. With a furnished apartment the pros are fairly evident right off the bat. Most furnished apartments come complete with a kitchen and all furniture, plus WiFi and AC/Utilities. Some places might charge extra for utilities (such as my place in Cancun; electric is separate from the rent, but it only costs me around 15 USD per month for utilities and that’s with running my AC 24/7), but for the most part furnished apartments are all-inclusive deals when you know how to find the right sort of places. The place I am staying currently, for example, focuses on long-term leases from English-speaking foreigners, and the prices range from 350-600 dollars a month, depending on the size of apartment you want, ranging from studio to small single bedrooms to the large executive studios for business travelers. Electric is never more than 20 USD a month, so your only bills are the rent + groceries + whatever other expenses you might have, such as a car, cell phone, or covering any extracurricular activities. I don’t own a cell phone; I use Skype for everything, and I rely on public transportation, and with a central location a furnished apartment can provide you with everything you need. My location in Sofia, Bulgaria was the same, with a fully furnished place on the main tram route through downtown.

The downsides to furnished apartments is that you don’t own any of the stuff inside. This is a major turn-off for some people because they want to “own” their things. But I’ve always gone with the Tyler Durden approach: the things you end up owning end up owning you, all using money you don’t have to pay for shit you don’t need.

I realize I’m not everyone in this approach. Some people need to know that they are working towards a tangible, physical goal of some kind, such as a house or a nice car. For other people the destination is not important, but rather the journey, and for those people the cons of a furnished apartment really aren’t that big of a deal. For those of us with adventurous spirits the flexibility of only needing the things in your backpack, your camera and your laptop are far more important.

You also do not have any physical roots when you use a furnished apartment, because you aren’t purchasing things to tie you down. Some people prefer to have roots in a specific place. It really is up to the individual.

And another important con of a furnished apartment, I think, is the fact that you can be limited in space in the sense that even if you do find something worthwhile that you want to purchase, you might not always have some place to put it, because you do not own your own place, but are rather renting. It all depends on your point of view.

The Myth of Developing Countries

There’s no running water. There’s no toilets. They have third-world health standards. They don’t have an infrastructure. Their Internet isn’t up to par. They don’t have nice cinemas. Their crime rates are too high.

While this may be true of certain countries around the world, this sort of generalized thinking is what has so many people in the world trapped into thinking that they can’t leave their “home” because society has told them that the world outside of the borders of their city or country is just too “impossible” to achieve. This is a lie. This is a lack of education on a massive scale. People who paint the world with generalized brushes have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, because they are limited by their own lack of adventure. The world is a giant place and it is full of amazing opportunities, none of which you can experience if you stay in your home country.

While there are certain countries around the world where things are that bad, there are a great many others who have been rapidly developing in the past 20 years and can now provide Western style amenities in the major cities, all at a fraction of the cost it is in places like the U.K. or the U.S. Places such as Bulgaria are becoming popular places for medical tourism because the doctors there go to the exact same schools as the doctors in the U.K., for example, purchase their supplies from the same European sources, and have access to the very same dental equipment. They also uphold the same measures of clinical excellence, yet a procedure costs a fraction of the cost. In early 2010 I had my teeth cleaned, the plaque removed, a cracked tooth filled, and some other general maintenance and the entire procedure cost me 35 USD. The exact same process in the U.S./U.K. will range anywhere from 350-700 USD, depending on where you live.

Crime, murder and kidnapping? Seriously? Do people really believe that these things are more rampant in developing/third world countries than it is back in the U.S., for example? Any major city in the world, regardless of the country, has its good and bad sides. There are always gangs, shady neighborhoods, and places where you just don’t go if you are a “normal”, law-abiding citizen and want to stay out of trouble. Do you think you can’t get murdered by gang members in New York, Los Angeles, Frankfurt or London? The fact is, crime exists everywhere in the world, and while it is true that it is more prevalent in certain countries, as long as you pay attention to where you are going you will be just as safe as any suburban section of the United States.

High speed internet is available in every major city on the planet. WiFi is accessible and available in every corner of the globe. Satellite Internet allows you to travel anywhere you want, even the depths of the jungle or the heights of the Himalayas and still have Internet access. I’ve yet to see a place that didn’t have running water, and bottled watered can be purchased in any major city on the world. The movie theaters are brand new, IMAX is everywhere, the infrastructure is great in Eastern Europe and Mexico, for example, and the only downside is that the bureaucracy can sometimes be a little slow and backwards. But as a general rule the myth about developing countries being places where there are no amenities and where you end up murdered or kidnapped are completely fictional.

Cheap Places to Live

Off the top of my head, speaking from my own personal experience, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania are all extremely cheap places to live. I’ve also found this out about Cancun from my nearly two months here (out of a planned 6 that is looking like it’s going to turn into something even more long-term, such as a base of operations for the next 2-3 years). If you want Western-styled amenities such as AC, a security guarded apartment building and all the creature comforts of home, you can expect to pay between 300-400 USD per month in cities within these countries for studio-single bedroom apartments. If you want luxury accommodations you can expect to pay double those amounts, which is no different than anywhere else in the world. If you don’t mind living by local standards (which change depending on the country and city you are on), which means occasionally going without things like AC, perhaps seeing a scorpion or cockroach or two (depending on if you live in the tropics), and having a small, studio apartment, you can pay anywhere from 200-300 USD per month.

The average 2 bedroom place will run you between 450-600 a month with Western amenities, or half that that for a place that the locals would use. Bear in mind we are talking fully furnished apartments here, which means all of your furniture, dishes, laundry facilities, WiFi and etc. are generally included. In cities such as New York, a 1 bedroom furnished apartment will run upwards of 1k per month unless you are living in the absolute slums.

Having only been in Cancun for 2 months I can say this: you can find nice places in the downtown district for 300-400 a month for furnished studio and 1 bedrooms. Hotel Zone it’s triple that. If you don’t mind taking a 30 minute bus ride to the hotel zone, you can actually head out into the suburbs of Cancun and find places to stay where you can rent a studio room for 150-200 USD per month, but you should speak Spanish and have a working knowledge of the bus routes and streets before you get to this point, otherwise it’s easy to get lost. Plus, that far out from downtown and the Hotel Zone not everyone is going to speak English, so you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you are a gringo.

Posted in Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips, Freelance Writing 101, Freelance Writing Tips, The World Is Your Oyster Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Busy In Paradise

I just crossed the 5 week mark in my 6 month preliminary stay in Cancun, and the results have been beyond my wildest expectations. In short, this is paradise. It’s been a great journey so far, and I’ve been getting a lot of time in at the beach, finding my way around the downtown area, visiting places like Isla Mujeres, and basically just enjoying my time here. My Cancun travel guide for the Location Independent folks is coming along nicely, and I’ve got about half of the information that I need for the complete guide, with the rest of it coming as I continue branching off and discovering the hidden truths about Cancun.

But the biggest piece of information is that I’m working on my first product for Complete Writing Solutions. Without delving too much into the juicy details, it is going to be a digital product that focuses on working remotely and why you should be taking advantage of things like medical tourism, reduced cost of living in countries that are mis-labeled as third world, and getting the most out of your money while reducing the amount of hours that you spend “on the job”. Too many people have been brainwashed into thinking that the only way they can survive is to spend 40, 50 or 60 hours a week grinding away at the sweat shop to make an income that is borderline poverty level, constantly questioning their sanity and wishing for a way out. Thankfully, there is an entire WORLD of opportunities available in the 21st century, and all it takes is a little bit of ingenuity and a little bit of “I can do anything” attitude and anyone can be enjoying the benefits of working part-time hours while spending all of their spare time hiking the jungles, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, relaxing on the beach, and traveling anywhere in the world, while at the same time seeing their money go two or three times further than it ever would at home.

I’ve spent a lot of my time in the past couple of years researching the cost of living in various countries around the world, and it’s a topic you have seen a lot of in the past on the Complete Writing Solutions website when I talk about content writing and the cost of living comparisons between countries like Italy and the United States. And having been blessed to travel in abundance over the past decade, especially in the last 3 years throughout Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, I’ve uncovered a lot and experienced a lot when it comes to knowing how to live the life you’ve always wanted to live without having to spend the amount of money places like the United States and the “Western” world tell you that you should be paying for things. I’ll be delving even deeper into the concepts that I’ve presented before on my website here, and showing people the physical proof they need to help get their career off on a new start and get out of the old rut that keeps them bogged down as worker bees for the corporations.

Sometime in late October I’m going to begin releasing snippet posts that cover portions of each chapter in this first book, and that will continue as I work towards completion of the book. My rough deadline is around Christmas or New Years, and I plan on covering a wide variety of topics within a central theme aimed at helping people understand the global pool of opportunities that exist in the modern world, and every week I’ll be releasing a post that contains just a portion of what is included in the book. I look forward to hearing your comments, ideas and thoughts as I make my way forward.

So for those of you who have been waiting patiently for me to make a “meaningful” post (since the last few months have been somewhat non-helpful and more bloggy in nature) in line with the nature of offering advise to writers and remote workers around the world, the wait is almost over :) Thank you for your patience, and I look forward to continuing to provide help to the global pool of entrepreneurs and adventuresome spirits.

Posted in Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips, The World Is Your Oyster

Cancun travel guide

A random update from yours truly.

Over the weekend I received word that I’ve been commissioned to write a travel guide for Cancun for the folks over at the Location Independent website. I’ve been following their website for a couple of years now, and have been actively participating in their forums for the past couple of months, and as of now I’m slated to have a January deadline for a guide focusing on a LIP guide for working professionals who are looking for long-term accommodations and local insights to help people who are choosing Cancun as a base of operations for any length of time.

I’ve mentioned the LIP group before. Basically, it’s people who work and live location independent. That is, without a home base of operations, or in some cases, using a home base of operations for only a few months out of the year but spending the majority of your time living and working abroad and moving country to country, whether it be every 4-6 months or every 2-3 years.

While I’m not going to delve into the juicy details here, I’m pleased with the fact that I’ll be able to make yet another step at transitioning into more travel-related writing projects. I’m currently working on an editing project for another travel/golf magazine focusing on luxury travel, as well as my on-going content work, and earlier this month I did a nice chunk of work focusing on camping and beach sites in Croatia, so it’s been nice sinking my teeth into the kind of work I enjoy the most, which is travel writing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any gaming-related writing, and I’m thinking of perhaps seeing about doing some more of that. The only downside to being LIP is the lack of a permanent base of operations, which means no console games; I’m limited to those which are ported to the PC or are made specifically for the PC. I have to admit I’m jonesing to play Halo:Reach, but I’m biding my time with a run through the latest Dragon Age: Origins DLC while I continue waiting patiently for Dragon Age 2 and the all-powerful Star Wars: The Old Republic in spring of 2011. I’ve actually applied to a couple of RPG writing gigs in the last week, so finger’s crossed on those.

As far as fiction work goes…I’ve been too busy in September to focus much on that. I still have 3 or 4 short stories in circulation looking for a home, and I wrapped up the 12th chapter of my fantasy novel in August, so I’m sitting comfortably at over 80k words on that beast. I’m settling into the routine here in Cancun, and I should be putting in some fiction writing during October, depending on how much time I spend at the beach, exploring the Yucatan, swimming, snorkeling and otherwise. That’s the downside to living in paradise…there is always something to do, something to see, something to explore, and it leaves little in the way of spare time to do things like hobby writing.

In any case, that’s the latest update from me. Hope everything is going good for you on the writing front, and if you have any questions or comments feel free to drop me a line.

Posted in Complete Writing Solutions Travel Tips

Update

For those of you who have been following my blog, you may have noticed there has been a severe drop in terms of per-month blog posts from me ever since the early parts of 2010. Some of it was due to dealing with the affair + divorce, but the last three months in particular have been due to moving my base of operations to Cancun.

As of today, the 17th of September, I can say that I’m comfortably settled into my new base of operations. I arrived on September 6th and have a beautiful studio apartment located in the heart of downtown Cancun, just a few minutes from everything I need in terms of stores, facilities, transportation, and most importantly, the beach.

Here’s the thing: I’m not quite sure if I’m going to continue doing “freelance writing” posts here on the Complete Writing Solutions blog. There’s a few reasons for that. First and foremost…there’s a hundred blogs out there talking about the same recycled topics over and over and over, and I really don’t think it does you, the readers, any service to simply re-hash things that are already being discussed elsewhere, such as rates, content mills versus traditional clients, and so on and so forth. I stay as busy as I need to be for my lifestyle, and right now I’m working hard on transitioning into more of a travel writer than anything else. I’m also finally getting back to working on a novel I started back in 2009 and have 80k+ words completed on to-date.

One of the things I’m debating on doing is using this blog as a travel blog, and keeping the main website up to use as an online resume for clients to peruse, and as a place to put up testimonials and otherwise. I’ll likely still post tidbits on freelance writing from time to time when I feel I have something important and original to say, but for the most part you won’t be seeing too much from me in the way of “how to make a living as a freelance writer”. There’s more to it than just not wanting to re-hash other’s comments, however. I also feel that giving away tips for free defeats the purpose of being in business. Lawyers offer initial consultations, but they charge for anything beyond that. Gambling sites offer a few free tips, but if you want the juicy details on how to really make money betting on horses and sports, you pay a tipster for the money-making tips.

In short…I feel that general advice giving is all well and good, but I’m not going to be discussing my own numbers any longer, nor will I be writing “how to make money” articles, because it defeats the purpose of me making money if I’m sharing all my tidbits with people who are accessing the information for free. I may move to a paid forum, I may start pushing the consultations more frequently, or I may write an ebook…I haven’t really decided yet.

In the meantime I’m staying busy, enjoying life in Cancun, getting a tan, staying in shape, eating healthy, picking up hobbies, and generally pursuing a life of travel and work. Feel free to stay tuned as I gradually make changes to the format of the website, and rest assured…Complete Writing Solutions isn’t going anywhere…it’s simply making some changes in terms of what kind of content will be offered on the website.

Thanks to those of you who have followed along in the past, and to all future readers…I hope you enjoy what I put up on the blog, regardless of the focus of the content. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized

When productivity trumps quality

There’s a lot to be said about people who are successful in their given field. I was recently watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchens From Hell, and I was reminded of this as I watched a belligerent backwater chef go off on a rant about how Ramsay is a hack chef who is only popular with a certain group of people. A group which he was most certainly not a part of. And while there is a kernel of truth to his tirade, you have to look at the fact that Mr. Backwater Chef was just that, while Mr. Ramsay is a multi-million dollar chef with a brand behind his name and a worldwide enterprise.

How did he get to be successful? By learning his trade inside and out, learning when to cut corners, when to spend extra time finessing something, when to streamline and the best methods for him to produce high quality food at a level which also maintains a good influx of cash.

But when does spending extra time on something actually hurt your bottom line?

Using the chef/cook analogy, there are times when it is more important to pay attention to mass production than it is to whether the item in question is cooked to perfection. Let’s say it is  the dinner rush, and you see that your shepherd’s pie has become the most popular item of the evening. Suddenly you need several pounds of potatoes cooked. Now, you could spend a lot of time ensuring that they are cooked to absolute perfect tenderness and then whipped or mashed to the perfect consistency, but a smart chef knows that in a case like this, it is more important to simply get them as close to perfection as possible without spending an inordinate amount of time on absolute perfection. When combined with all the other ingredients, everything will taste like pure bliss and no one will be the wiser.

Quality is important. But it does pay, in some instances, to focus more on production than absolute perfection. It is a fine line to traverse, however, and not every writer is cut out to make the call. But for those who can, there is an opportunity to make significant amounts of money using the content mill strategy that myself and others employ in between traditional clients.

Now, before you put words in my mouth, I am not saying that quality is irrelevant, nor am I advocating a complete divergence from writing quality. But I often see some writers complaining that they cannot work with the content mill writing models because they “can’t possibly write a 400-500 McArticle” and be profitable at it. I’ve seen some people saying that they can’t write a 500 word article in less than 2 hours, because it takes them that long to compile the research, write the material, and then edit it. My opinion is that such writers are focused too much on the quality and are missing an opportunity to push production. They are spending too much time cooking each individual potato when they could be simply dumping them all in a pot and boiling several pounds of them at a time.

One could argue that a gourmet dish takes time to prepare, but for those of you who have ever watched Gordon Ramsay or other shows, you understand that in a dinner setting where the restaurant is filling up with people, if you take too long to prepare the food, customers will start leaving because you aren’t up to the challenge of handling production. Food critics will complain that if your kitchen can’t handle the load, you shouldn’t be in business.

Gourmet or not, occasionally you will come across projects that are more about production than they are about quality. And while you can stick to your guns and continue to cook each potato individually, eventually you are going to come across customers and critics who will tell you that if you can’t handle a little heat from time to time you should find a different career path.

If you are someone who spends 2 hours writing a 500 word article, and you refuse to take less time or are incapable of taking less time…content writing is not for you. But if you are someone who knows when loading a few pounds of potatoes into the pot is more important than spending hours focused on a single potato…there is a significant amount of cash to be made through content mills and other places where quantity trumps quality.

Posted in Freelance Writing Tips Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

A quick fix

Just to keep you all updated, since it takes me so long to write between posts these days :)

I’m currently hanging out in Fort Collins, Colorado, working out of various coffee shops for the next week and a half or so until I head down into Mexico on September 6th. I’ve been doing a lot of travel writing lately for a German company I work with, so I haven’t had a lot of time to spend writing blog posts.

In the meantime, thanks for the continued support and I’ll get another post up as soon as possible. I’ve got three ideas which have been burning a hole in my head, so I may start working on one of those in my evenings hours.

On a side note…what’s your working schedule? Right now I get up at 7, drink coffee, watch news, then work out from 8-9. I shower, and head out to the coffee shop where I work from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. At 3 it turns into happy hour, which means it’s time to kick back a few brews before I head out and walk the streets on the way back to the house, where I relax in the evening hours with some TV and light reading. That’s about the same schedule I plan on keeping in Cancun, with the 3-until-10 afternoon/evening hours spent scuba diving, relaxing on the beach and just enjoying life.

What are your working hours?

Posted in Uncategorized




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