How I sold my house by pinterest stalkingA few years ago when we decided to move onto a sailboat and travel, we put our house up for sale. Knowing that the real estate market was still struggling to crawl it’s way back out of the hole created by the crash of 2008, we understood it might be on the market for awhile, but we had hopes that we’d sell sooner than later because we had a great corner lot in an up-and-coming neighborhood where beautiful new homes were being built, raising the property values throughout the neighborhood. We were also just minutes away from downtown Nashville and Vanderbilt University, so the location couldn’t be beat.

Well, our high hopes slowly started to dwindle because although we got a lot of showings, we went almost a year without a single offer. Not even an insulting one. We got discouraged, thinking we’d never sell the house and get our boat, until one day, the heavens opened up and the angels threw me a bone… in the form of a pizza receipt.

But first let me back up a little.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Stalk Alone

My guy was out of town on business, so I had asked my best friend Laura, who lives in Atlanta, if she wanted to come up for a weekend visit. She promptly agreed and drove up, where we commenced to baking cookies, painting our toenails, spreading out our crap everywhere, and basically having an adult slumber party.

Saturday morning, as luck would have it, I get a call from our real estate agent asking if she can show the house that afternoon. WHAT?

I was tempted to tell the agent it was not a good time, as I had a guest in town, but Laura, being the awesome friend she is, offered to help me get the house in ship shape for the showing. We then went to grab lunch at a nearby Mexican joint while the house was being shown. After some time had passed, we returned and as we walked in the door, Laura reached down to pick something off the floor.

“Here – I think you dropped this”, she said.

I opened it up and saw that it was a pizza receipt. But it wasn’t mine. Upon further inspection, I realized that it was a pizza receipt from a place in Gary, Indiana and that there was a girl’s name on it.

Laura and I immediately looked at each other with the same evil twinkle in our eyes and said at the same time, “Let’s stalk her!”

Now, by stalking, I don’t mean the get-you-served-with-a-restraining-order kind. In fact, we had previously coined a term for what we were about to do, and it’s called stearning. You see, stearning is when you stalk someone in order to learn more about them, but without malicious intent. Get it? Stalking + Learning = Stearning.

In fact, to go even further back for a minute, Laura and I became best friends because I had stearned her on Myspace (remember those days?) after having sneaking suspicions that the guy I was seeing was also seeing her. After a witty email exchange back and forth with her to compare notes, the suspicions were confirmed so we both ditched the guy and became fast friends.

Some call it stalking, I call it love.

Now back to the pizza receipt. We sat at the dining room table, promptly opened my laptop and Googled the name on the receipt, followed by “Gary, Indiana”. One of the first results was this girl’s Facebook page, which we clicked on. Of course, since I wasn’t her friend, I wasn’t able to see much because her profile was set to private, but her profile pic showed a cute girl who looked to be in her mid-twenties. I clicked on her “photos” tab, and saw that she had been tagged in some wedding photos. HER wedding. Awww… she was a newlywed! How sweet. They must be relocating to Nashville.

Laura and I then began profiling her (we should have been detectives), establishing her personality based on a few photos and very little other information on Facebook. She wore little (if any) makeup, and was very naturally pretty. She also dressed fashionably, without being too trendy, yet made it look effortless. Basically she was the sort of girl we all secretly envy.

She had style.

She had class.

But most importantly… she had a Pinterest page.

Bingo! We opened up her page, and one of the first boards we see was called DREAM HOUSE. I click on the board and a quick glance at her pins nearly rendered us speechless (not an easy feat) until Laura matter-of-factly said, “Dude – they’re going to buy your house.”

You see, her Pinterest pins revealed a style that was so similar to our house that it wasn’t even funny. Her dream kitchen? An open design with soft blue-grey walls and shelves in lieu of cabinets. A rustic looking wood table sat in the middle of the room. Very minimal, very clean. As Laura looked around our kitchen, she pointed out the similarities to the girl’s Pinterest photos. Our kitchen had slate-blue walls, with open shelves, and we were sitting at a table that my honey had handcrafted from reclaimed wood.

That’s when we came up with a plan. Since we have extensive experience in the field of female psychology, and based on the findings via our Pinterest stalking session, Laura and I knew that this girl likely loved the house. How could she not, with the similarities in our decor and design tastes, along with the beautiful landscaping, complete with a lovely dogwood tree and a gorgeous Japanese maple? We just knew that we would either receive an offer from them, or a request for a second showing.

How Pinterest Stalking Can Sell Your House

Laura returned home to Atlanta the following day and sure enough, about a week later, I got a call from our real estate agent requesting an appointment for a second showing.  I casually asked if it was the same people who had been there the weekend prior and she said yes.

GAME ON.

I called Laura and excitedly told her that our predictions had been right, and we agreed that my job was now to “casually” stage the house to look exactly like her Pinterest pins. You know, do it in such a way that it’s not blatantly obvious. but also not too subtle… kind of like when you wear just enough makeup to make it look like you’re not wearing makeup.

I openKitchen - Pinterest stalking - saving to sailed her Pinterest page again and saw that in her dream kitchen photos, there was a white bowl of oranges sitting in the middle of the wooden table. What did I do? You’re damn right I put a white bowl of oranges on our table! One of her pins showed a bedroom that had a vase of flowers along with some perfectly stacked books on the nightstand, so our nightstand now had a vase of fresh tulips, and some books stacked just so. A few details here and there, and I was ready. I told a friend of mine who is a real estate agent about what I had done and he just shook his head saying, “Oh, you are so bad. And you are an absolute genius.”

It was genius. In fact, it was so genius that in less than 24 hours, they made an offer, and three weeks later, the fresh, young new bride from Gary, Indiana with a knack for style and an eye for sensible minimalism became the proud owner of her Pinterest dream home.

Side Income Summary - July thru Sept 2014Wow – I’ve been a slacker on the extra income posts! Sorry about that. I’m going to blame it on the fact that we’ve been at Spring Cove Marina, spending time at the huge pool that has a poolside bar where you can just charge drinks to your account. You know, so you don’t have to worry about carrying cash. How utterly convenient! And the bartenders are so attentive… you don’t even have to get out of the pool. They just notice that you look hot (as in sweaty… not sexy), and casually yell over, “Your cup is almost empty. Want me to bring you over another Orange Crush?”

“Hell no, you weirdo. What do you think I am, an alcoholic?”   “Yes, please.”

So basically, we tried to do some relaxing this summer, and I blame my decline in side income over the summer to the rum punches, but glad I had at least some side income to pay for them all.

Niche Site Update

One of the niche sites I created (actually the first one) has been getting more traffic than ever, but it’s not resulting in much of an income stream, as I thought it would. I had set it up for Adsense, but I’m finding out that people just don’t really click on ads – at least not my ads – very often, so that’s a bummer. I have it set up for some affiliate sales, but I’m not seeing much progress in that department, either, so I may try to sell the site on Flippa or some other website flipping service. I know I won’t get much out of it, but now I’m trying to focus more on streamlining my income streams rather than a shotgun blast in several directions.

I have another niche site that I’m really proud of – although it hasn’t generated any income yet, it’s in a highly profitable niche, and I want to do a little more optimizing before I decide whether or not to pull the plug on it. You see, the niche sites were great for awhile, but now Google is penalizing low quality niche sites that don’t contain much value to the reader, which are only put up to generate revenue. This site, however, has the potential to become an authority type site, and is a high quality site. It’s for a high priced item, so the commissions would be great. The main thing I need to do is some search engine optimization because it’s not very high ranking on Google yet. I also need to write some more articles for it. The drawback is that it’s in the tech industry, which is always changing, so you have to stay on top of it, and it can be daunting to try to write for. At some point, I hope to be able to reveal the niche, but for now, I’m going to keep it on the down low.

Extra Income

Now, for the extra income summary. I’ve broken down the totals by month and the below is my side income only. It does not count the income I make from my job, nor the honey’s book sales, music sales or his freelance income. This is strictly my side income – I show this so that others can see examples of how they can make money on the side and to know that it is possible to make at least a few hundred extra bucks or more a month, which can be very helpful! I mean, who couldn’t use another $500 or so a month?

Extra Income Summary – July 2014

Web Design Work: $160
Sales/Commissions: $427
Affiliate Income: $28.69
Adsense: $24.61
Writing Gigs: $0
TOTAL: $630.30 (up $178.03 from previous month) 

Extra Income Summary – August 2014

So here are the totals for June. The below is my side income only. It does not count the income I make from my job, nor the book sales or the honey’s freelance income.

Web Design Work: $0
Sales/Commissions: $385
Affiliate Income: $3.79
Adsense: $17.10
Writing Gigs: $0
TOTAL: $405.89 (down $224.41 from previous month)

Extra Income Summary – September 2014

Web Design Work: $0
Sales/Commissions: $153
Affiliate Income: $9.27
Adsense: $10.25
Writing Gigs: $0
TOTAL: $172.52  (down $233.37 from previous month)

I’m hoping to build my side income back up starting this month. The honey leaves in a week for a 2 week boat delivery down to the BVI’s – which means that I’ll have plenty of alone time to try to write, get some website building gigs, and hopefully get that kitty built back up!

In the meantime, I’m also building a site at no charge for a family member who has an awesome side business and just needed an extra push to help her get to the next level. I’ll reveal it on here once it’s done because it’s such a great idea and I hope that the website comes out as good as I think it will.

Do any of you have any unique side businesses that you do that you’d like to share? I’d love to interview some of you – just email me via the contact page!

And last, but not least, I plan to renegotiate my salary this week at my full-time job. Surprisingly, I’ve never asked for a raise in my life (never really had to) but now it’s time to put on my big girl panties and ask for what I’m worth. Have any of you ever successfully negotiated a 5-figure increase in salary? Any tips?

Well, that’s it for now – I’ve gotta get back to that 4 letter word I always talk about.

No, not wine, silly. WORK!

Cheers!

5 Ways To Earn Money With A BlogI get a lot of emails from readers who want to find out more about how to earn money with a blog – many of them are fellow cruisers or travel bloggers who are understandably looking for ways to make money doing something they are already doing anyway – blogging about their travels.

The truth is, I don’t make a lot of money directly from blogging per se, but I definitely make extra money as an indirect result of my blogging. I’ve gotten a few writing gigs and web design gigs from people who have come across my blog, which is awesome because it supports my wine habit.

No doubt there are many bloggers who are making a full time income from their blogs, but don’t let anyone try to tell you that it’s easy. It’s not.

I would not recommend starting a blog just as a means to try to make money. Blogging takes a lot of work, time and effort to do it effectively, and although making extra money with your blog is an added bonus, to be a successful blogger, in my opinion, you must write sincerely for your audience, building trust while also building a network of readers. The more readers you have, the more potential to make money with your blog.

That being said, here are 5 ways you can make money with a blog or website.

Adsense

This is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think about making money using your website. How it works is you create an Adsense account, and once your account is set up, you simply create a new ad unit. You can select between many variables such as ad size, ad type (text or image), and you can even set up channels that allow you to target certain keywords or advertisers.

I’ve had some luck with Adsense personally, but not a huge amount, as you can see in my past side income posts. I may try to switch some things around in order to maximize my earning potential, but I think a big reason for the lackluster earnings is that people have become blind to Adsense ads because they are everywhere.F

Either way, as long as it’s done properly, there is still potential for making money using Adsense, especially if you get a lot of traffic.

Affiliate Income

Affiliate income is one way that you can earn money with a blog or website. Your success depends on a lot of things, including what your website or blog is about.  Affiliate income comes when you link to a product and if someone purchases that product via your link, you get a commission on the sale.

There are many ways this can be done, but the basic concept is that when you sign up as an affiliate for a company or product, they give you a url with a certain code that is unique to you. When you use link to a product using that url, that’s how the advertiser know if the purchase was made through you.

Some advertisers don’t require that the user purchase that specific product, either. For example, if you’re an Amazon affiliate, and let’s say you link to a particular book that you enjoyed and want to share with your audience. The user clicks on the link and doesn’t particularly want to buy that book, but Amazon is chock full of other awesome products and let’s say they buy something else. You still get commission on the sale, because Amazon recognizes that the reason they likely made the sale in the first place was because you directed someone to their site. It’s kind of a “referral fee” if you will.

Some sites even take it a step further, and have a cookie that will run for 7 days or even 30 days. If someone goes to their website via your link but is kind of on the fence and doesn’t buy anything, but a couple of weeks later decides that yes, they do want to make a purchase after all, you still get commission, even if they went to the site directly the next time and not via your url, because the advertiser still sees that cookie with your unique code on there.

Make sense?

It’s always good to read the fine print to see what the terms are as an affiliate, but like I said above, there’s a lot of potential to earn money with this method. More to come on this in a future post.

Sell Ad Space

Your blog or website may be a prime candidate for advertisers, and who says you have to go through Adsense to reach them? Lots of bloggers I know have a few slots on their sidebar that they rent directly to advertisers, usually on a monthly basis.

I once purchased ad space from a real popular blogger at a really affordable rate of $13/month for a 300 x 300 ad that I created myself. It helped me reach a lot of potential customers that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached, and it definitely made me more than I paid for the space.

Let’s say you have a blog on travel – you may want to reach out to companies who create products made for vacationers. Have a really favorite carry-on bag that packs a lot but still fits under an airline seat? Call or email the company and see if they’d like to invest in ad space with you!

Be prepared to show them your numbers – this is typically something you don’t really want to pursue until you have a good bit of traffic, but you can set your ad slots at a really affordable rate that advertisers may not be able to say no to.

You also want to know your demographic. If you go this route, it’s imperative that you have your Google Analytics data, complete with specific demographic info to present to your advertisers. If you show them that you run your blog or website as a business, they will take you more seriously and be more inclined to advertise with you.

And remember – be sure that when pitching these potential advertisers, be sure to let them know what value you can provide them by their advertising on your site. These advertisers don’t care about your blog – they just want to know that you can offer them something – in other words, that you can help them make money, so target your potential advertisers wisely.

Sponsors

Some bloggers also get sponsors for their blogs, just like a sports team! If you have really high quality material with good traffic, it might be worth it to pursue sponsorship opportunities with companies that you really believe in.

I once contacted my favorite beachwear company and asked if they would like to sponsor our first year of sailing. They declined a monetary sponsorship, but they did agree to send me 8 new swimsuits from their yet-to-be-released swimwear line  if I agreed to include some pics in some of my posts.

They didn’t even require that I actively promote them – simply post a few shots with a caption saying “Swimsuit by such and such company”. It was great!

Paid Reviews

One popular way that bloggers earn money  is to do a paid review. It’s pretty simple. You contact a company and ask them if they would be interested in sending you a product to review on your blog. In return, you get to keep the product (in most cases), and in some cases, the company will pay you a small amount for the review as well.

I had a friend who was a popular mommy blogger who didn’t even have to pursue companies. They came to her begging her to review their products. This was great, because she actually got to be selective and choose only the products that she really felt she would like (or already did like). This gave her credibility with her readers because they trusted her judgement.

This is definitely something that you do want to be selective about. You don’t want to write rave reviews for a crappy product just for a few bucks. After awhile, your readers will catch on and they won’t value anything you say, and your website income as well as your readership will go down. One blogger I know does paid reviews, but if she doesn’t like a product, she won’t do a review at all. Rather than bash it online, she sends the product back to the company and lets them know why she opted not to review it and what she didn’t like about the product.

Keep it real.

Donations (Bonus Method)

Bonus way to earn money with a blog here. You don’t see this too often with many blogs, but I do see it quite a bit in sailing and travel blogs. In this case, you simply display a PayPal donation button somewhere on your blog (usually in the sidebar) and if someone likes what you write and appreciates the time that goes into it, they can donate whatever they want.

Chances are, it won’t be much, and you likely won’t be supporting yourself on donations, but a few bucks here and there can buy dinner or a box of wine to reward yourself for all the hard work!

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is possible to earn money with a blog – it can take time, and it may not be much at first, but once you know your options, you can start dialing them in and seeing what works best for you. Then you can target your traffic appropriately and work on your search engine optimization (SEO) to grow your blog traffic.

More Traffic = More $$$!

So one day I’m surfing online per my usual nightly routine, browsing Pinterest boards (since I live on a boat, Pinterest is as close to shopping as I get sometimes), and I see this article touting the benefits of “No Poo”.

I was intrigued, so I read more about it and decided I had to try it for myself to see if the claims were true. If they were, it would not only save me money, but it would save water, not to mention space in the head, and I would also be healthier as a result.

The No Poo Movement

No Poo? No Problem!Now before you go and think that I’m talking about toilet bizness, let me just stop you right there. I mean I know I talk a lot of crap on here, but this time, I’m not talking crap. What I mean by “No Poo” is no shampoo.

Yep. I’ve stopped washing my hair.

(All you ladies can cringe and eeeewwww and crinkle your noses… don’t worry, I did at first).

You see, without getting into too many details and science (because who came here for a science lesson? Not you!), your head produces natural oils to protect your scalp and hair. Most commercial shampoos have detergents and chemicals in them that strip the natural oils from your scalp, causing your body to produce more oil to compensate for the loss of oil, and thus begins a vicious cycle. You shampoo to get rid of the excess oil, which causes your body to produce even more excess oil.

So what happens when you stop washing your hair?

Well, first let me clarify that you do still wash your hair… kind of. But instead of using shampoo, you use baking soda and vinegar. But not at the same time because making a volcano on your head would be totally ridiculous! (Besides, I tried it and it doesn’t work very well.)

The baking soda cleans, and the apple cider vinegar conditions.

At first your head will continue to produce oil at the levels that it had been and since you’re not washing those oils out, apparently your head will look like you tried to make a salad up there.

But if you wait, and if you stick it out, one day you’ll wake up and your head will no longer look like you rolled around in fry grease. Instead, it will be shiny and soft and unfrizzy.

At least that’s what they told me.

The No Poo Test

I figured the transition period would probably be easier for me than most people because since moving onto a boat, the amount of time between shampoos had gradually increased for me. I went from washing my hair every day (or every other day) when living on land, to washing about every 4-5 days after 2 years of living on a boat. Call me crazy, call me lazy, or call me a water saving hippie and you’ll probably be right on all counts. I figured since I was only washing my hair 1-2 times a week anyway, maybe my head wouldn’t be all screwy with the change.

I was right.

The transition was seamless for me. My scalp never looked or felt oily after going no poo. After about 7 days my head did get a little itchy, but I just washed with a little baking soda and it cleared up immediately.

The Results Are In

Ok, so it’s now been 6 weeks since I stopped using shampoo on my hair, and my hair truly does look and feel healthier than ever. It feels stronger, it’s shinier, no longer frizzy (and I have some natural curls), and I love the results. My honey says my hair has never looked better, and my sister said that it felt softer than she’s ever felt it.

I will say that I’m not crazy about the apple cider vinegar part of it. For some reason, when I first put it on my hair and before rinsing, my hair feels really brittle. It’s not, but it definitely feels weird. That feeling goes away once you rinse it out.

There are also other benefits of going no poo.

  • Saves money
  • No toxic chemicals
  • Use less water
  • 2 bottles (shampoo/conditioner) per month x 12 months = 24 fewer plastic bottles per year in our landfills and our oceans
  • No longer need to use frizz-taming products

Will I continue to not use shampoo forever? I don’t really know. I honestly LOVE the way my hair feels and looks, but I do miss the nice smell of some shampoos and as silly as it sounds, I miss the lather. I will say that if I ever do go back to using a shampoo on my hair, it will be completely made of natural products. No more chemicals for this girl. I’m doing some research as to the best options, but for now, I love not poo-ing.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you about how I save hundreds of dollars a year by cutting my own hair!

Peace, love and hair grease!

June Income Summary - Niche Site ExperimentJuly is here – that means summer is almost over and it’s already time to start thinking about what the hell we’re going to do in the fall.

We love spending the winter in South Florida – I mean, come on, who wouldn’t? But truth be told, we’re tired of doing the same thing each year. Winter in Fort Lauderdale, Summer on the Chesapeake. It’s becoming redundant, and the whole reason we moved onto a boat was so that we could see new places and go wherever we want.

Unfortunately, the “wherever we want” part is the tough one because I’m still tied to my computer for 8 hours a day, and that’s just with my day job… so hopping off to the Bahamas, or down to Belize or Panama is just not doable yet. But I’m stressing the yet.

I’m slowly but surely planning my exit strategy from the full-time job, and in all honesty, if I were to just quit tomorrow, I could possibly supplement a good part the lost income pretty quickly because I’d have so much more free time to dedicate to creating other income streams, but until I get to a certain point in my side income, it’s no sleep ’til Brooklyn, so to speak.

Niche Site Experiment

Speaking of other income streams, I’ve been experimenting with niche sites as an income stream. If you don’t know what a niche site is, well, I’ll be talking more about it in the next post, and in more posts to come.

I created my own niche site in January, and had no idea what I was doing, really, but it ended up still being ok, because it has taught me more than I ever knew about things like SEO optimization, Adsense, and affiliate income.

Since that first site, I’ve started a couple more, and while I admit that I haven’t made much money off of them yet, they are slowly becoming more profitable. They are now ranking high in Google, and there’s definitely an upswing because my Adsense revenue in June was 15x higher than it was in May! That’s a 1500% increase in one month!

I’m also learning about buying websites and flipping them – although I’m not there yet (you gotta have the money to spare), there are smart ways to do this, but there’s more to it than just finding what you believe to be a marketable domain name and listing it for sale or using it for your own PDN, or Private Domain Network. I’ll post more on that later once I have some experience with it.

Extra Income Summary – June

So here are the totals for June. The below is my side income only. It does not count the income I make from my job, nor the book sales or the honey’s freelance income.

Web Design Work: $185
Sales/Commissions: $210.80
Affiliate Income: $27.43
Adsense: $59.04
Writing Gigs: $0
TOTAL: $452.27

While I’m not breaking any records this month, I am proud of the Adsense increase, because that was all my doing. Tweaking something here, getting better SEO here, and so on…

My affiliate income was also better than last month, and that is due largely to the niche sites as well.

My sales/commissions were higher, but I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to web design jobs which definitely pay a little more than the other stuff, although they take up so much more time. One site that I designed that I’m extremely proud of is for an artist/painter based out of Newfoundland. You can check out her site at TaraBryan.com.

I also updated the website for my jewelry shop, Maggie & Milly. I’ll be adding more product, but I’m thrilled with the new design, and grateful to my friend Jessica at MJsailing.com for her contribution… aka the smokin’ hot bikini shot you see on the front page.

Maggie and Milly - Website Screenshot - jewelry inspired by the sea

Speaking of bikinis, I better put down my wine and get some beauty sleep so I don’t look so haggard in my bikini this weekend for the Fourth of July celebration.

Peace out, y’all!

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