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Can Adding a Pool Increase Your Home Value?

On scorching hot days, there’s nothing like taking a dip in a swimming pool. In some areas of the country, a swimming pool is close to a necessity. In fact, there are 10.6 million swimming pools across the U.S., with 3,000,000 of those in California alone. From in-ground to above-ground, chlorine to saltwater, there are numerous styles, sizes, and prices of swimming pools. And while having a swimming pool just steps from your back door may sound appealing, is it really a good economical choice and does it increase your home’s value? There are a lot of factors to consider before adding a swimming pool, or even before buying a home with an existing swimming pool.

installing a pool at homeinstalling a pool at home

The Cost To Install

While having a pool sounds like a great way to be the life of the party when hosting friends and family during warm months, it can be pricey. And as with most large purchases many people finance the addition. The average cost to build an inground swimming pool is $35,000, with most spending between $28,000 to $55,000 for the initial investment. Of course, the amount of site work, soil type, and additional finishes can greatly impact the cost of a swimming pool. For many, the equivalent of a new car is worth the enjoyment a swimming pool would bring.

The Cost To Maintain

The costs associated with maintaining a swimming vary based on location, size, and type. According to Michelle Sbabo, co-owner of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa, homeowners can “expect to spend a minimum of $500 per summer on chemicals and supplies – plus at least a couple of hours a week testing water, adjusting chemicals, brushing, vacuuming, cleaning filters, netting, and emptying skimmer and filter baskets.” Depending on the type of swimming pool, average annual maintenance costs can vary from $375 to over $2,750. When choosing the type of swimming pool, it’s important to inquire with a local pool maintenance company what to reasonably expect in annual maintenance costs.

Read: Tips for Selecting Above-ground Pool Equipment

The Cost To Open and Close A Pool

For some parts of the country, swimming pools can remain open year-round; however, in colder climates, homeowners must close swimming pools to prevent damage from cold weather. According to Sbabo, “Closing a pool will run $200-300 for a standard pool, more with complex equipment and plumbing. Opening a pool is roughly the same cost as closing – unless the pool is extremely green or dirty and requires more time and chemicals to clean up.”

pool at housepool at house

How Your Geographic Location Affects Your Investment

Michelle Sbabo of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa also explains that “The contents of source water also affect pool water care. In many parts of the country, for example, the water is very high in calcium and other minerals. This can cause scaling on pool surfaces and inside equipment, and water must be treated appropriately to minimize scale damage. Additionally, weather and environment greatly impact pool care. Pools in areas with a lot of rain or wind may need a greater range of chemicals to address contaminants that enter the pool. And certain plants and trees can cause maintenance issues.”

Read: Tips for Landscaping Around a Pool

How A Swimming Pool Affects Homeowner’s Insurance

Once a swimming pool is on a property, the chance for injury or death increases which is why homeowner’s insurance increases with a pool. According to Zack’s Investment Research, insurance companies typically require an increased liability coverage, sometimes up to half a million dollars, and some even encourage additional umbrella policies. There are ways to keep premiums at a reasonable rate by installing a locking gate around the pool, keeping the pool covered with a safety tarp, adding motion sensors to the pool, and even cameras surrounding the pool.

…But Will A Pool Add To Your Home’s Value?

One of the important things to remember: swimming pools aren’t for everyone. So just by the mere fact that a pool is on the property, there will be a group of potential home buyers that will not be interested. However, the bottom-line answer is: it depends. For some geographic areas (like Southern Florida or California), a swimming pool can certainly increase appeal- and value. However, in areas like Michigan or Northern states, they may have less desirability and the pool could appraise for less than the install price. However, a recent study by LendingTree shows that homes with a pool are valued at 54% higher than those without one.

Tips From The Expert

Michelle Sbabo, co-owner of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa offers a few tips for those thinking of adding a pool or buying a home with an existing pool.

  • Most home inspections don’t include the pool. If the buyer is new to pools, it’s a good idea to hire a pool pro to check the equipment and understand any potential expenses.
  • Contact a local pool maintenance company to teach you how to care for a pool. Many new pool owners greatly benefit from a “private pool lesson”.
  • Check into a Home Warranty that covers pool equipment. We have seen major equipment expenses covered by good warranty programs with only a small deductible out of pocket.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

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How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips

Have you ever sat down to go over your budget only to find out that you’ve outrageously overspent on food? Local, organic, artisan goods and trendy new restaurant outings with friends make it easy to do. With food being the second highest household expense behind mortgage or rent, our food choices have a huge impact on our budget. Using this monthly budget calculator can also help guide how to budget for food. 

You may be surprised to find out that the most nutrient-dense foods are often the most budget-friendly. It’s not only possible, but fun and easy to eat nourishing, delicious food while still sticking to your budget. Here are 11 ways to help you learn how to budget groceries.

1. Track Current Spending

Before you figure out what you should be spending on food, it’s important to figure out what you are spending on food. Keep grocery store receipts to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending by category, including beverages, produce, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can get an idea of where to trim down spending.

2. Allocate a Percentage of Your Income

How much each household spends on food varies based on income level and how many people need to be fed. Consider using a grocery calculator if you’re not sure where to start. While people spent about 30 percent of their income on food in 1950, this percentage has dropped to 9–12 today. Consider allocating 10 percent of your income to food as a starting point, and increase from there if necessary.

3. Avoid Eating Out

This is the least fun tip, we promise. Eating out is a quick and easy way to ruin your food budget. If you’re actively dating or enjoy going out to eat with friends, be sure to factor restaurants into your food budget — and strictly adhere to your limit. Coffee drinkers, consider making your favorite concoctions at home.

4. Plan Your Meals

It’s much easier to stick to a budget when you have a plan. Plus, having a purpose for each grocery item you buy will ensure nothing goes to waste or just sits in your pantry unused. Don’t be afraid of simple salads or meatless Mondays. Not every meal has to be a gourmet, grandiose experience.

5. Keep a Fridge Grocery List

Keep a magnetized grocery list on your fridge so that you can replace items as needed. This ensures you’re buying food you know you’ll eat because you’re already used to buying it. Sticking to a list in the grocery store is an effective way to keep yourself accountable and not spend money on processed or pricey items — there’s no need to take a stroll down the candy aisle if it’s not on the list.

6. Eat Before You Go to the Store

If your mother gave you this advice growing up, she was onto something: according to a survey, shoppers spend an average of 64 percent more when hungry. Sticking to a budget is all about eliminating temptations, so plan to eat beforehand to eliminate tantalizing foods that will cause you to go over-budget.

7. Be Careful with Coupons

50 percent off ketchup is a great deal — unless you don’t need ketchup. Beware of coupons that claim you’ll “save” money. If the item isn’t on your list, you’re not saving at all, but rather spending on something you don’t truly need. This discretion is key to saving money at the grocery store.

8. Embrace the Bulk Section

Not only is the bulk section of your grocery store great for cheap, filling staples, but it’s also the perfect way to discover new foods and bring variety into your diet. Take the time to compare the price of buying pre-packaged goods versus bulk — it’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, plus eliminating unnecessary packaging is good for the planet.

Bonus: a diet rich in unprocessed, whole plant foods provides virtually every nutrient, ensuring optimal health and keeping you from spending an excess amount on healthcare costs.

9. Bring Lunch to Work

Picture this: you’re trying to stick to a strict food budget, and one day at work you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But alas, you forgot to pack a lunch. All the meal planning and smart shopping in the world won’t solve the work-lunch-dilemma. Brown-bagging your lunch is key to ensuring your food budget is successful. Plus, it can be fun! Think mason jar salads and Thai curry bowls.

10. Love Your Leftovers

Would you ever consider throwing $640 cash into the trash? This is what the average American household does every year — only instead of cash, it’s $640 worth of food that’s wasted. With millions of undernourished people around the globe, throwing away food not only hurts our budget but is a waste of the world’s resources. Tossing food is no joke. Eat your leftovers.

11. Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

To avoid wasting food, freeze things that look like they’re about to go bad. Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen and used in smoothies. Make double batches of soups, sauces, and baked goods so you’ll always have an alternative to ordering takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Sticking to a food budget takes planning and discipline. While it may not seem fun at first, you’ll likely find that you enjoy cooking and trying a variety of new foods you wouldn’t have thought to use before. Being resourceful and cooking healthfully is a skill that will benefit your wallet and waistline for years to come.

Sources: Turbo | Fool | Forbes | Medical Daily | GO Banking Rates | Value Penguin

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How to Make $30,000 a Month Flipping Houses

I have flipped more than 200 houses in my career and while I love flipping, it is not easy! We have flipped 26 houses per year multiple times, and I can truly say that the more houses you flip, the more problems you have. Now, when I say house flipping, I am talking about buying houses, remodeling them, and selling them. Some people say they “flip houses” when they are wholesaling, which is buying and selling houses very quickly without remodeling them. Over the years, I have made $30,000 a month flipping houses and even more. It takes money, a team, and thick skin to make that kind of money, but it is not impossible by any means.

How much can you make on a single house flip?

I have written articles like this before and I love to break down the numbers to see how to actually do this, not just live in a fantasy world where good thoughts allow money to fall into your lap. I am also a fan of good thoughts, but that is not all it takes! The last article I wrote in this format was how to make $10,000 a month with rental properties. I love rentals and to be honest, I prefer rentals over flips, but flips allow me to buy more rentals.

I buy flips from $100,000 to $300,000 and they tend to make me from $20,000 to $50,000 per flip. I have made $100,000 or more on a flip before and I have also lost money on flips before. For the most part, I want to make at least $30,000 on every flip I do. That also makes this article really easy to write. If you want to make $30,000 a month flipping houses, flip one house a month. There the article is done!

While that math is simple, the task of flipping one house a month is not simple. Flipping one house can be tough let alone 12 ina year. We have done more and will continue to do more but it was not easy to get to this point. You can see a video of one of my best and most interesting flips below:

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Why is flipping houses hard?

A lot of people watch the house flipping television shows and think flipping is like what they see on TV. You buy a house, change the floorplan, decide what are the best design choices, and boom you make $50,000 or $100,000. The reality of flipping is much different from the television shows. Here is a break down of how it actually works:

  • Line up financing: Most people do not have the cash to flip houses so they borrow money from hard money lenders, friends, or the bank.
  • Find the deals: There are a lot of people who want to flip houses. The deals are not just sitting there for anyone to buy who wants to make $50,000. It takes a lot of work and patience to find the deals from the MLS, wholesalers, auctions, direct marketing, etc.
  • Find contractors: I do not do any of the work on house flips myself. I use contractors and subcontractors to handle it all. If you want to make $30,000 a month flipping houses you will need to hire contractors as well. Finding decent people to work on the houses is one of the toughest parts of the business.
  • Decide on what to repair: On TV, they usually go all out making tons of repairs to properties because that is what gets attention. In reality, the goal is to make only the repairs that are needed to sell the house. The bigger the remodel, the longer it takes and usually the less money you make.
  • Manage the repair process: Things rarely go as planned so someone has to manage the repair process and make sure the work is being done on time and the right way. Some of the biggest disasters come when a flipper trusts their contractor without oversite and huge mistakes are made or no work is being done.
  • Sell the house: It is not always easy to sell flips either. I am a real estate broker and list my flips for sale on the MLS. It is in almost everyone’s best interest to use an agent to sell their houses which cost money. You also need to make sure the home is clean, the work is completely done, and possibly stage the home.

Many things can go wrong during a flip and even experienced flippers like myself sometimes lose money. You have to stay on top of things and constantly tweak the business model. Materials are always getting more expensive as is labor and other costs. We are always finding new ways to get better deals in order to keep that same amount of profit.

To get that $30,000 average profit on a house everything needs to run smoothly and you need to assume there will be extra costs along they want that you are not accounting for.

My book Fix and Flip Your Way to Financial Freedom (197 reviews) goes over the ins and outs of flipping and how to actually do what I talk about in this article. It is on Amazon as an ebook, paperback, and audiobook. 

How much money do you need to flip houses?

Another roadblock for many investors is finding enough money to flip houses, especially if they have a lot of deals at once. There are lenders who will finance flips but the investors almost always need some of their money as well. You may be able to finance 90% of the deal but it is tough to finance all of it. There are also carrying costs, and financing costs while you own the property. The more money you borrow the more that money will cost you. We tend to need $50,000 or more per flip we do. If we have 10 flips going at once, that means we have at least $500,000 of our own cash tied up in those deals when we use loans. If we used all cash we would have $3,000,000 tied up in those ten deals!

It takes a lot of flips going at once to make $30,000 a month because it takes a while to flip a house.

How long does it take to flip a house?

I would love to say it takes three months to flip a house but in reality it takes much longer. We have a lot going at once so we cannot always start working on them right away. It may be a month or two before we can start the work, then it takes time to complete the work, and it takes time to sell the house once it is done as well.

Our fast flips take from 3 to 6 months to complete but may take from 6 to 10 months and a few take over a year from the time we buy them to the time we sell them. I would say our average has been around 8 months from beginning to end.

Because it takes so long to flip houses we need to have a lot of flips going at once to flip 10, 20 or even 26 houses a year which we have done a few times.

How many flips do you need going to make $30,000 a month?

If you want to make $30,000 a month flipping houses and you make $30,000 per flip that is pretty easy math. You need to flip 1 house a month or 12 houses a year. If it takes us from 6 to 10 months to flip a house that means you would need to have from 6 to 12 house flips going at once.

It took me many years to get the point where I could do that many flips, but we usually have from 15 to 20 flips going at one time and that equates to 20 to 26 flips a year selling.

Just remember this is all theory and reality can be much different! You might have some flips that lose money or take way longer than you think that drag down all of your averages. It may take more flips to make that goal or less if you manage to increase your profit margins.

If you decide to build a business like I have where you hire people to help you must factor in those costs as well. I have a project manager, bookkeeper, and other people who help with the flips as well. I also have many other things going on like this blog, my real estate brokerage, my rentals, and more!

If you want to see all of our flips in action be sure to subscribe to the InvestFourMore YouTube channel!

Source: investfourmore.com

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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

April 20, 2019 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Financial Advisor

If you’re thinking about how much is enough for retirement, you’re probably contemplating a retirement and need to know how to pay for it. If you are, that’s good because one of the challenges we face is how we’re going to fund our retirement.

Determining then how much retirement savings is enough depends on a number of factors, including your lifestyle and your current income. Either way, you want to make sure that you have plenty of money in your retirement savings so you don’t work too hard, or work at all, during your golden years.

If you’re already thinking about retirement and you’re not sure whether your savings is in good shape, it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor to help you set up a savings plan.

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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

Your needs and expectations might be different in retirement than others. Because of that, there’s no magic number out there. In other words, how much is enough for retirement depends on a myriad of personal factors.

However, the conventional wisdom out there is that you should have $1 million to $1.5 million, or that your retirement savings should be 10 to 12 times your current income.

Even $1 million may not be enough to retire comfortably. According to a report from a major personal finance website, GoBankingRates, you could easily blow $1 million in as little as 12 years.

GoBankingRates concludes that a better way to figure out how long $1 million will last you largely depends on your state. For example, if you live in California, the report found, “$1 Million will last you 14 years, 3 months, 7 days.” Whereas if you live in Mississippi, “$1 Million will last you 23 years, 2 months, 2 days.” In other words, how much is enough for retirement largely depends on the state you reside.

For some, coming up with that much money to retire comfortably can be scary, especially if you haven’t saved any money for retirement, or, if your savings is not where it’s supposed to be.

Related topics:

How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire

Early Retirement: 7 Steps to Retire Early

5 Reasons Why You Will Retire Broke

Your current lifestyle and expected lifestyle?

What is your current lifestyle? To determine how much you need to save for retirement, you should determine how much your expenses are currently now and whether you intend to keep the current lifestyle during retirement.

So, if you’re making $110,000 and live off of $90,000, then multiply $90,000 by 20 ($1,800,000). With that number in mind, start working toward a retirement saving goals. However, if you intend to eat and spend lavishly during retirement, then you’ll obviously have to save more. And the same is true if you intend to reduce your expenses during retirement: you can save less money now.

The best way to start saving for retirement is to contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement account. It can be a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account. A 401k account should be your best choice, because the amount you can contribute every year is much more than a Roth IRA and traditional IRA.

1. See if you can max out your 401k. If you’re lucky enough to have a 401k plan at your job, you should contribute to it or max it out if you’re able to. The contribution limit for a 401k plan if you’re under 50 years old is $19,000 in 2019. If you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, the limit is $6,000. For more information, see How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire.

2. Automate your retirement savings. If you’re contributing to an employer 401k plan, that money automatically gets deducted from your paycheck. But if you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, you have to do it yourself. So set up an automatic deposit for your retirement account from a savings account. If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into that savings account.

Related: The Best 5 Places For Your Savings Account.

Life expectancy

How long do you expect to live? Have your parents or grandparents lived through 80’s or 90’s or 100’s? If so, there is a chance you might live longer in retirement if you’re in good health. Therefore, you need to adjust your savings goal higher.

Consider seeking financial advice.

Saving money for retirement may not be your strong suit. Therefore, you may need to work with a financial advisor to boost your retirement income. For example, if you have a lot of money sitting in your retirement savings account, a financial advisor can help with investment options.

Bottom Line:

Figuring out how much is enough for retirement depends on how much retirement will cost you and what lifestyle you intend to have. Once you know the answer to these two questions, you can start working towards your savings goal.

How much money you will need in retirement? Use this retirement calculator below to determine whether you are on tract and determine how much you’ll need to save a month.

More on retirement:

Working With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com

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My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do?

When most parents offer to fund their child’s tuition, it’s with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.

Unfortunately, what these plans don’t tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.

Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.

So if you’re a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.

Contact the University

Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parent’s income has decreased.

Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, you’re out of luck.

Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if you’ve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.

Try to Graduate Early

Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.

Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.

Fill out the FAFSA

If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.

Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it won’t show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.

Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools won’t even provide merit-based scholarships to students who haven’t filled out the FAFSA.

Get a Job

If you don’t already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.

Try to think outside the box. If you’re a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If you’re a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while you’re working.

Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if you’re in a different city.

It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.

Take Out Private Loans

If you still need more money after you’ve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.

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Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.

Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.

Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and there’s little recourse if you graduate and can’t find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.

Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School

Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.

If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.

Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so it’s better to be conservative.

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How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It’s wonderful to have the choice.

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

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How to Get a Virtual Internship

This is not a great time to be looking for career experience. Industries are suffering, opportunities are scarce and most people are working from home. But if you’re in need of an internship, there are still plenty of options to work virtually – if you know how to sniff them out.
Here’s what you need to know in order to find a virtual internship: where to look, who to talk to, and how to make sure your application stands out from the competition.

Tips for Getting a Virtual Internship

Before you start applying for internships, you need to have the appropriate documents. Here are the most important.

Draft a Resume

Students who don’t already have a resume can find free resume templates through Google Docs and Microsoft Word. These templates have clean designs and are easy to edit.

If you want something more unique, you can buy a template on Etsy. Choose a template that you can easily edit in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. If you’re applying for internships in a creative field like graphic design or advertising, pick a template that has more flair and shows your personality.

When writing your resume, focus on the skills you’ve learned and your accomplishments. If you were a waitress at Waffle House (like I was for a summer), mention how it taught you multitasking and organizational skills.

Create a LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people you know. Ask past employers for recommendations and to endorse you for specific skills like Photoshop or Excel.

Work on a Cover Letter

Some internships will require a cover letter. A cover letter should express the value you’ll bring to the company, like how your interests and skills fit with the organization and why you would be a good addition.

If you’re submitting a cover letter for an online application, make sure to use any keywords mentioned in the job description. Some companies use software that filters out cover letters missing these keywords.

Have a parent or adult mentor look over both your resume and cover letter. They can offer you advice on how to phrase specific ideas and remind you of jobs, awards, and other accomplishments you’ve forgotten about.

Where to Find a Virtual Internship

Once you’ve created a resume and basic cover letter, you can start applying. Here are the best places to find a virtual internship.

Talk to Your College

The first place to look is your college career center. Many large companies have direct relationships with universities and accept a certain number of interns from there every year.

Contact the university career center and ask them about internship opportunities. If you already have a declared major, your department may also have its own career counselor who can help. They may have more personal relationships with hiring managers and internship recruiters.

Sometimes colleges have their own internship and job boards, but it still helps to talk to a counselor directly. They may have more resources and can answer your specific questions.

Even though the pandemic has changed how colleges operate, some are still holding virtual career fairs. You’ll likely have to register in advance and choose a specific time slot, so look into these options as soon as possible.

Make sure to follow up regularly if you don’t hear back from the career counselor. They may be busy, and your emails can get lost in the shuffle. Don’t feel bad about reaching out multiple times- this is part of what you pay for as a student and you’re entitled to their help.

Contact People You Already Know

If you’ve had internships before, contact people from those companies and ask if they need help. It’s much easier to get an internship when you already know the people in charge – especially if you made a good impression during your tenure.

It doesn’t matter if the people you worked with have different jobs now. They may still work in a similar industry and need an intern. Make a list of where you’ve worked and all the people you remember. If you’re having trouble remembering names, go to the company’s LinkedIn page to jog your memory and find their contact information.

After you’ve contacted them, reach out to any professors you know who still have direct ties to the industry. They can forward your information or send you links to opportunities they’ve seen.

Don’t be afraid to contact people at companies where you turned down an internship position. Most people don’t take that personally and may still have positive memories of you – plus, getting a previous internship offer from a company indicates that you’re probably a good fit.

If you’re reaching out to professors you haven’t talked to in a while, remind them what class of theirs you took and include a copy of your resume. This will make it easier for them to forward the email to any prospects.

Take your time when crafting emails to industry contacts. If you write an email with typos and grammar mistakes, your email may be deleted immediately. This is especially true if you’re contacting someone you don’t know. They may receive dozens of emails from students like you and not have time to respond to them all.

Look at Job Sites

If you’ve reached out to your networking contacts with no luck, it’s time to look for a virtual internship on a job site. Job sites should be the last place you look for a virtual internship because it’s harder to stand out among a sea of candidates.

Here are some of the best sites and apps to use:

Remember not to discount an internship if there’s no mention that the job will be remote. Some listings may be outdated and not reflect the current situation.

When you apply, check the company’s website and LinkedIn profile to see if you have any personal connections. Having someone in common can help get your application into the right hands.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

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How to Manage Your Debt Effectively

Love it or hate it, debt is an integral part of modern life in the United States. And, when you think about it, debt in itself really isn’t a bad thing. Neither are credit cards or loans.

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They only become a potentially negative thing when they’re misused or mismanaged. And once they get out of control, they can head down a long spiral and bring you down with them.

The wise use of debt — whether it’s revolving (like credit cards and lines of credit) or fixed (like a secured car loan or mortgage) — is like the skillful use of the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.

So, it’s important to realize that avoiding debt isn’t really the answer. In fact, trying to go through life without incurring any debt or using credit can be unnecessarily difficult and troublesome. It can even impact non-credit-related situations like renting an apartment. The skill Americans truly need to focus on developing is how to manage debt effectively.

Following are 7 tips to help you manage your debt more effectively:

1. Think Before You Sign

Banks, retailers, and many other organizations make credit very easy to obtain if you have a good credit score.

Nearly every department store or specialty shop has its own credit card that you can sign up for instantly while you’re making a purchase, and it often comes with the enticement of an immediate discount off your purchase.

Even if your credit score isn’t very good, there are many lenders who are willing to offer credit at high interest rates, from 25% APR credit cards to 33% payday loans.

The point to keep in mind is that lenders and retailers want you to spend money with them. They’re not concerned in the least with what more debt is going to do to your budget, your lifestyle, or your future.

So, the first tip is simple:

2. Avoid Applying for Credit Impulsively

Don’t sign up for additional credit as an impulse buy or based on desperation. It’s always going to be a bad idea under those circumstances.

However, if you frequent a certain store and routinely spend money there anyway, and you’re confident you can be responsible with a new credit line, it may be beneficial to sign up. The point is, that needs to be a conscious decision, not a second thought for the sake of a one-time 15% discount.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number calculated by credit reporting agencies based on a number of factors, many of which the average American couldn’t even name. While it may seem somewhat arbitrary, that doesn’t change the fact that that 3-digit number can determine:

  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate or have to settle for a rate that fluctuates at “prime plus 23%”.
  • Whether you’re considered financially trustworthy or not, and therefore whether a landlord will rent to you or certain employers will hire you.
  • Whether or not you can afford to buy your own house one day.
  • And much more…

There are numerous situations that are partially or fully out of your control that can result in damage to your credit score. However, much of the damage done could be avoided if consumers simply understood the basic factors that affect their credit score. Then, they could actively work to improve a bad score or maintain a good one.

So, our second tip is: Seek out reliable information about managing debt effectively and educate yourself, so you’re equipped to take strategic action.

4. Assess Your Current Debt Situation

As you learn more about managing debt and understanding your credit score, you’ll begin learning terms like credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. These simple calculations have a huge impact on your score, and on how willing lenders may be to offer you favorable terms or to offer any credit at all.

  • Credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your currently available credit that you’re already using. (A simple example: If you own one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, and it has a current balance of $200, you have a credit utilization ratio of 20%.)
  • Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly or annual income that goes toward paying off debt you’ve already incurred. (Another simple example: If you earn $6,000 per month and the combined total of your existing car loan, mortgage, and minimum credit card payments amount to $2,000, you have a debt-to-income ratio of 33%.)

There are other important factors as well, but these two figures form a significant part of the calculation when determining your credit score. If they’re going to offer you the best possible terms, lenders want to be relatively confident you’re able to easily afford to pay for the credit they’re offering you.

They can make that decision based, in part, on how much of your current reliable income is already going toward other debt you’ve incurred in the past, as well as how much of your available credit you’ve taken advantage of thus far.

5. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

If you already have four credit cards and they’re all maxed out, when you apply for a new credit card, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to max that one out too. You already have a 100% credit utilization ratio.

This shows you’re probably not great at managing debt, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually overdraw your ability to pay. So, the credit card company may decline your application, or they may offer a lower credit limit and/or a higher interest rate to help mitigate their risk.

Of course, if your income is such that, even with all those maxed-out cards, you’re having no trouble at all making the monthly payments, (your DTI ratio is still low,) they may not worry about your utilization at all. And that’s where debt tends to snowball quickly and dangerously.

To sum up, here’s the tip: To improve your credit score and make sure you’re managing your debt effectively, you should shoot to maintain a credit utilization ratio and a DTI ratio of no more than 30%. In other words, you’re taking advantage of available credit, but you’re coming nowhere near the maximum you can afford to spend on it.

6. Make and Keep a Budget

This one requires very little explanation. Everyone realizes that creating a budget is necessary if you’re going to manage your spending. The more formal your budget, the better.

If you’re currently in good shape, your credit score is high and your debt is low, A strategic budget can help keep it that way while improving important tools like emergency savings and investments.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, your credit score is low and/or your debt is getting out of control. A budget can be the lifeline you need to slowly but surely pull yourself out of that downward spiral one penny at a time.

The formula is very simple: Income > Expenses.

Of course, putting it into practice is a little more challenging. There are plenty of tools available, from a pile of envelopes with cash set aside for various expenses to smartphone apps, but the real value of budgeting depends on your own self-discipline and willingness to stick to the plan you create.

So, for this tip: Make a budget that consistently keeps your income above your expenses, and do everything you possibly can to stick to it.

7. Get Professional Help with Credit Repair If It’s Needed

While all of the above tips are self-serve actions you can take right now to make a difference in your debt management, many Americans are already in a situation where it may not be possible to turn it around completely on their own.

For instance, if the loss of a job, divorce, military deployment, or other major life events caused you to unexpectedly rely on credit cards for months, you may be in a desperate situation that isn’t really even your fault.

Likewise, if you’re like so many Americans who grew up, finished school, and left home without ever learning the basics of financial responsibility, you may have gotten in over your head in debt without even realizing that was possible.

No matter what the reason is for your current situation, you don’t have to go it alone.

Hire a Credit Repair Company

Get in touch with a reputable credit repair agency and discuss your situation with a professional who can help. For a small fee, they can take the reins on your situation by:

  • Investigating your credit report to confirm its accuracy and completeness
  • Working with creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans or better terms
  • Disputing errors and eliminating inconsistencies on your report
  • Setting up a realistic budget and debt reduction plan
  • Guiding you through the challenges that will inevitably rise as you resolve your situation

So, the final tip is this: If you need help getting out of snowballing debt and getting yourself to the point that you can effectively manage it going forward, don’t hesitate. Get the help you need.

In modern America, completely avoiding debt is not only difficult, it’s potentially harmful. However, incurring debt without managing it effectively can be even worse. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to get a solid handle on debt and use it skillfully.

Source: crediful.com

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