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Archive of ‘Monique’ category

Monique’s July Challenge: Master of My Domain

VICTORY!

My July challenge was to decide on a new name for my freelance business and register the domain name.

And I did it!

It’s such a small thing but in reality, this took forever to accomplish. For the past seven years, my freelance biz went by Monique Elliot Media. For a while, I liked it: it’s a super simple name and super clear.

At least that’s what I thought.

It’s a pretty meh name for a freelance journalist and content creator’s small business. It reminded clients of my actual name, told them that I was a one-woman shop, and… then told them virtually nothing about the services I offer. “Media” is simply too broad. And kinda boring.

I had to admit it: I was one of the 71 per cent of Canadians who knew “not much” about domain names, according to a recent research by the Canadian Internet Regulation Authority (CIRA).

Well, no mo’ of that! The work I do is anything but boring! I’ve worked for startups, scale-ups, corporations, and government departments across five industries and counting.

Fresh Ideas, Fresh Content, Fresh Start

My challenge, which I chose to accept and then push to the back burner about 12 times, was to choose a name that defines my business, will grow alongside my services and skills, and suit my personality.

The most hilarious thing was that I came up with the perfect name nine months ago – I just didn’t know it. I was building a website as a short-lived online resume for a potential employer and used the hashtag #ContentChameleon to describe my services – I can write in a variety of “voices” to suit my clients’ needs.

I was going through old projects recently (okay, okay, I was doing a digital clean up and reorganizing old files. Who actually reminisces about past projects?) and found a screenshot of the site.

The Lightbulb Moment

It’s a total cliché (and, in my opinion, totally permissible alliteration) but the lightbulb went on: ChameleonContent.ca

Now, depending on when you read this, the website may or may not be fully up and running, which is why my placeholder site is a lifesaver in the meantime.

I spent literal days trying to decide on a name – something unique, that hadn’t already been registered, and didn’t cost crazy cash to buy. The most epic solution had also been chilling in plain sight: I went to CIRA.ca to purchase my domain name with a .ca ending.

I recently edited a series of articles for CIRA through my work with non-profit Startup Canada. The series profiled Canadian small business owners (SBOs) about how a .ca suffix improved their businesses online.

While I can’t believe it took me so long to finally complete this challenge, it doesn’t have to be the same for you. Check out CIRA’s free e-book about how to choose a domain name and some basic information about how to get started.

Mo’ Progress, Mo’ Hydration!

Now, my August challenge? Mo’ hydration!

I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet but Canadian summers are HOT.

I’ve been steadily increasing my water intake all summer (a telltale sign that someone doesn’t have A/C) and August promises to be extra hot and humid in Ottawa, despite all the rain we’ve been getting. So my goal is to drink three litres (just shy of a gallon) of water every day.

Why choose drinking water for this month’s challenge? August is World Water Month! Plus, I want to see if there is an actual difference in how I feel now compared to the end of the month. I feel like I’m on the verge of big changes, and it’s important to maintain basic health and wellness while going for epic changes professionally, mentally, and (obviously) physically.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

Monique’s June Challenge: The Branding Do-Over

I have been freelancing for more than seven years now. As a solopreneur, a one-woman shop, I’ve been hustling to grow my content creation skill sets and client base. It’s been a remarkable journey so far, recently culminating with one of my clients hiring me on full-time for four months.

But at the time of my onboarding, I faced a crossroads: my website needed rehosting and fresh content; my branding was getting a bit outdated; I needed a new headshot; my business cards had my Liverpool, UK, phone number on them (so I never gave them out); and countless other, little business-related to-dos. Yikes! This four-month contract was going to take up valuable rebrand time – especially as I also have a bridge job.

The timing wasn’t ideal, but I was so excited to work with my client. In my desire to develop new skills and work with a team, that the choice was clear. The rebrand would wait.

So as my contract came to an end in June, I knew what I wanted that month’s Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress challenge to be.

My June challenge was to completely overhaul my freelance branding – from the name of my business to creating a new website and launching everything fresh online.

This, sadly, did not happen.

I have this bad habit of taking on huge projects (when I’m already swamped) and pushing myself to the max in order to achieve my goals.

This month’s challenge was a prime example of this behaviour. There is one silver lining in failing miserably this June: I gained some clarity. I saw this habit from a different perspective and would like to think I’ve made mo’ progress as a result.

It’s simple, really.

Prioritize to get sh*t done.

At this point, I can just imagine some people’s faces who just read that line and scrunched up their face, thinking, “Well, duh!”

Totally fair. It does sound ridiculously obvious.

But you may be surprised to learn just how easy it is to lose focus. This can happen in a team environment, when you’re working on a tough project with many moving pieces and multiple deadlines, or even when you’re trying to figure out whether you really need to clean your kitchen or if you’re just procrastinating.

Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle got me through the past few months where I would spend between 8 – 19 hours working per day. I assigned my tasks as one of these four categories:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important but not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

REBRANDING

This is the best way to tackle a to-do list. And it’s unfortunately why I didn’t complete my challenge. I had to make some tough choices, but I’m standing by my decisions.

Though it’s not all bad news in June. I laid some groundwork by making some calls, getting quotes, and doing research (moving quickly enough so as to not get stuck in analysis paralysis!). I’m making progress, and that’s key.

I’m not committing to re-doing my challenge again this July, as there are other projects and responsibilities that need my attention, so I’ll start small to accomplish something big.

My July challenge is to (finally) decide on a new name for my freelance business and register the domain name. I’ll be hosting family for more than two weeks while I also keep working with my current clients, so it’s going to be a packed month!

And I’m so up for the challenge.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

 

Monique’s May Challenge: Solopreneur Scheduling

Shortly after I started freelancing, I decided to make a conscious effort to develop my content creation skills as well as my business skills. I declared that every Tuesday would be my Business Development (BD) day.

This was a fabulous decision. It also turned out to be much more challenging than I thought.

Every Tuesday, I would wake up with a huge mug of coffee, don my comfiest work-from-home attire, and settle into my workspace (which definitely changes depending on where I am in the world). I’d sit in my (typically) soft, cozy, work chair and sip away at my coffee, absorbing the delicious caffeine while devouring the hours of blog posts, YouTube videos, and freelance newsletters that I’d been craving all week.

Tuesday was a catch-up day for all the business-related content that I’d put off consuming that past week.

And I loved it.

But it wasn’t always possible to keep consistent. Sometimes I’d be out on assignment, interviewing people for feature profiles or covering events. Other times, I’d be on contract, working out of my clients’ offices for weeks or months at a time (this has happened often over the past seven years).

Business Development Tuesday (BDT) got pushed back to the evening, or crammed into a weekend morning. It didn’t always work out the way I’d planned, but I have always been committed to honing my craft and developing my business on my own terms. Despite my love of, and talent for, working with teams, I definitely have the mark of a solopreneur.

The BD challenges of a solopreneur life definitely resurfaced in May. My monthly challenge was to complete an online marketing course I had purchased in March from one of my freelance role models.

First of all… Yikes! That’s a long time to be hungry for some useful knowledge at your fingertips and not be able to dive in. Worst of all, it’s now June and the e-course is still not completed. Ugh! Not good.

The good news is, the real lesson here hasn’t been lost on me.

I’d noticed that for these past few weeks, I hadn’t been feeling in control of my own schedule – an odd, and rather uncomfortable feeling for me. It’s partly my personality twinned with my work ethic: I don’t stop until a project is done, especially if it’s on a tight deadline. That’s led to some (no exaggeration) 20 hour workdays, including 4 a.m. nights; both in my employer’s office and in my own workspace.

Since that project has been completed, I feel that my schedule is again mine to manage. And BDTs (or whatever day of the week I now choose) are back on my radar. Now, I have no doubt that course is going to be completed and I am so excited to finally get to the good stuff. It’s going to be a good month.

What’s something you do to keep developing your side hustlin’ skills or a way you invest in yourself to keep making either mo’ money or mo’ progress? Let us know on social! Follow Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress on Facebook, Insta, or Twitter, and let’s get to chattin’!

#Hustle

Monique 🙂

Monique’s July Challenge: Invoice Clients Within 24 Hours

Ah, invoicing: the bane of my freelancing existence. I really don’t enjoy it. It feels like boring busywork. I completed the project, isn’t that enough?

As a result, I put it off and ultimately wait for ages until I get paid for something I may have done two months ago.

My challenge for July was to invoice my clients within 24 hours of completing the project. Simple enough for the average person. I mean, who doesn’t like getting paid… and on time?! (I have fantastic clients who pay promptly.)

So here’s a shocker: I had a 90 per cent success rate with this challenge!

One of the greatest resources I used was the cloud invoicing and accounting platform, FreshBooks. *Sidenote: this is not an affiliate link. I just think every freelancer could benefit from this awesome resource.*

I signed up for FreshBooks in March and used up my free, 30-day trial, just kind of getting used to the platform while still sending out my PDF invoices made from Word directly to my editors and clients. My PDF system was cumbersome, difficult to keep track of, and, as you may have guessed, I got fed up with the process.

In May, I had completed eight projects for a client and did not bill them. I was swamped with other work and it felt unimportant because I knew the money was coming… eventually.

My next reporting project for that client was due in July, and all nine of those project invoices were sent within the hour of completion. I was all over this challenge!

Some projects were completed in-between my other jobs so I still got them sent within the 24 deadline, but a couple took about 72 hours for me to send the bill. Still, not too shabby! A marked improvement, that’s for sure.

The one moment that I’m most proud of is sending the invoice within minutes of completing a project. I’m so much better at navigating FreshBooks now and have become much more organized as a result. It’s one of the best tools that I now pay for every month. I’m definitely going to continue honing this awesome habit of getting paid on time.

It’s August and I’m taking these mindfulness habits to the next level!

My challenge is to check my main bank account balance twice per week. I’m following in my Sisterpack’s footsteps to simply be more aware of what goes in and goes out of my account on the regular. Knowledge is power. (Gotta love those cliches!)

Wish me luck! What money challenge have you tackled lately? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

-Monique

 

MONIQUE’S JUNE CHALLENGE: READ & REVIEW A FINANCE BOOK

This month I got to unleash my inner bookworm and devour a national finance bestseller. Debt-free Forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade is the sassy slap in the face most of us need when it comes to our finances. You may remember Gail from the 21-Day Interac Challenge Gabby and I completed in April.

Debt-free Forever is literally a step-by-step process about how to get clear on how much you owe and how much you spend. Gail breaks down this process into five chunks:

  1. Figuring out where you stand
  2. Making a plan
  3. Changing your habits
  4. Preparing for the future, and
  5. Staying on track

This is not the first finance book I’ve read, but it definitely stands out because there is so much personality to back up the content, making it almost too easy to breeze through instead of doing the challenges.

…But I went back and did them. For science! And your wallet.

1

Gail is like a stern aunt who knows better than you. She only talks to you with tough love because there are no money morons allowed in her family.

2

Thanks to that stern aunt, I actually now have six months’ worth of spreadsheets documenting how much I spent and on what.

Hold up. Yes, I did write “spreadsheets”.

3

The book focuses heavily on budgeting. Now, before you start rolling your eyes, I challenge you to track your expenses for at least a week, ideally one month. You’ll see what I mean. Your eyes will pop out of your head! A lot of financial experts like to go on and on about how much people spend on their daily coffee. I thought I was in the clear since I don’t really drink Starbucks.

Holy delusional.

I spend a lot of time working in my favourite cafe and realized that I spent more on both food and coffee there than I did on groceries for a few months in a row! That has definitely changed. It feels amazing to eat healthier (and more regularly) and save cash with a fuller belly now.

I won’t lie – it was a bit tedious to do some of the challenges, but so worth it. This is definitely a book for visual learners. You’ll get to see lots of examples of spreadsheets that are actually engaging and Gail challenges you to keep on top of your cash by using jars to hold your spending money for each category she breaks down.

Now, this is where some Millennials might have a bit of trouble – we’re the card-tapping, non-cash carrying, money-tracking-app generation. It’s all electronic to us except when it comes to paying cover!

Clearly, the jars did not work for me (but oh, how I tried).

That’s just one strategy offered but the real takeaway from this book is to actually know how much you spend and on what, and then putting it towards the right things, like paying off your most expensive debts ASAP. That means your biggest debts or the ones with the highest interest rates. (This tip was reinforced at our launch party by finance expert Shannon Lee Simmons.)

If credit card debt has got you down like our guest poster last week, Gail offers some sweet strategies for negotiating your debt. Gabby is about to haggle down some of her bills as her challenge this month, so we’ll keep you posted on how that goes!

Debt-free Forever covers just about all aspects of becoming debt-free, leaving you with positive money habits and more time for focus on making mo’ money and mo’ progress.

In that spirit, in July I’m going to make sure I send out all invoices for my freelance work within 24 hours of completing the project. That clears the space to focus on securing new contracts and completing current projects. It’s a little detail that makes a big difference.

…Kind of like knowing exactly how much you spend on coffee.

<3 Monique

 

MONIQUE’S MAY CHALLENGE: GETTING EXPERT ADVICE

My goal for the month of May was to book an appointment with a financial strategist to learn more about the best practises of being a freelancer. Somehow it’s just more comforting to know from an officially-certified person that, yes, I can expense those staples as an office supply, y’know?

Tax season is long behind us, but that doesn’t mean it’s vacation time for all financial planners and accountants. They are side-hustlin’ too.

I thought it would be easy-peasy to reach out to – and set up an appointment with – a financial strategist I’ve been excited to work with for a while now, but she’s been swamped with new financial courses she’s launching, so her team is in the process of helping me book a meeting with an equally awesome expert. Gotta love those referrals. I can’t wait to share what I learn!

In anticipation of the meeting-that-has-yet-to-happen, I did some research to see who would be the right fit for me, financial planner-wise. During this awesome financial journey I’ve been on with the Sisterpack this year, I’ve realized that no matter what your income, your savings, or your expenses, everyone needs to get their sh*t together when it comes to their cash flow.

While it’s fun to DIY some parts of your life (Pinterest, anyone?), creating an action plan and sticking to it is the best way to reduce stress and feel financially free!

Shannon Lee Simmons was our keynote speaker/interviewee at the Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress Launch Party in April, and damn, did she have some sweet advice! She hosts Money Awesomeness on Coral TV and, in my search for the best advisor for my needs, found her video about how to find the right financial planner for your personality and needs.

Check out her video below:

http://www.coraltv.ca/2013/07/08/money-awesomeness-how-to-find-the-right-financial-planner/

Remember to ask yourself those key questions to find the right financial planner for you!

Now that we’re into June (it’s summah time!) my monthly challenge is to read a finance book cover-to-cover and implement at least one new strategy. Get ready for a book review like you haven’t read before.

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Questions or comments? Y’all know you can comment below or find us on Instagram @momoneymoprogress or on Twitter @momoneymoprog 😉

– Monique

MONIQUE’S APRIL CHALLENGE: GOING CREDIT-FREE

I took the Interac 21 Day Credit-Free Challenge in April and put any credit spending on ice – literally.

OnIce

The idea behind the challenge is to only spend what you have in your bank account (y’know, what you can actually afford), start paying off any credit card debt, and learn new strategies for saving your cash!

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is the spokesperson – and your cheerleader – for this challenge. She’s a financial TV personality, acclaimed author, and columnist. I’m currently reading one of her books called, Debt-Free Forever. (I highly recommend it!)

For 21 days, my credit card stayed frozen in the freezer and I only got one confused text from my roommate! Not too shabby.

Now here’s the mysterious part of my monthly challenge: I was still able to use my credit card, and I did it without even realizing it until it was too late.

Can you figure out what happened?

The Internet happened.

I have an Amazon account, which is linked up to my credit card. When a friend launched her new ebook in mid-April, I really wanted to support her and buy a copy. I was able to make a purchase with my credit card still frozen in the tupperware container in another room. Whoops!

With a simple click of a button, I technically used my credit card but it was for a purchase that cost me $1.21 CAD and I can actually afford that. I was still living within my means.

The important lesson I learned from this challenge was that if you’re an avid online shopper with websites you visit regularly, that can be a major pitfall if you’re not mindful of how easy it is to spend your money.

Now I’m ready to change gears with my May challenge, which is to book an appointment with a financial strategist. I want to know what I don’t know that I don’t know (ya follow?) about freelancing and money management.

Be a goofball and freeze your credit card like me, and take the Interac 21 Day Credit-Free Challenge! Here’s the first video to get you started.

Share your frozen credit photos with the Sisterpack on Instagram @momoneymoprogress!

<3 Monique

 

 

MONIQUE’S MARCH CHALLENGE: INTERVIEW IN THE UK

My March challenge was to get an interview set up in a foreign country. Full stop.

I’m planning on moving to Liverpool, England next fall until about June 2016 (visa pending). My goal was to use part of the two weeks that I would be visiting Liverpool to lay the groundwork for employment so I would be able to supplement my freelance income while abroad.

The task seemed simple enough but, as I learned, preparation is everything. An interview didn’t happen and I didn’t get one set up while I was there. I knew I would only have a few days to execute the plan, as my entire reason for visiting was to spend time with my boyfriend, whom I hadn’t seen for five months before that.

James-Van-Der-Beek-Crying-On-Dawsons-Creek-Gif

I chose to prioritize my existing clients and work commitments before I left, leaving little time for resume rewriting and research. It wasn’t a negative experience however; this was an incredible learning experience.

While on the ground in the UK, I was able to get a solid understanding of the city in terms of next year’s living situation (accommodations, check!), city layout, and job opportunities. (I was also busy having waaaay too much fun dancing at the annual law ball, checking out a massive cathedral, getting lost by the docks, and having a pint with new friends at the Cavern Club!)

Best of all, I found the place where I will be spending most of my freelance time when I’ll be writing and editing: the local public library, which is a gorgeous, modern building that also houses some of the original works of William Shakespeare, among other greats.

So, I’m currently 0/2 for my challenges. Let’s turn this around!

My April challenge:
To earn more than I spend (and still enjoy life). No credit card. I’m reviewing my bank accounts every day to keep me on track and sending invoices on time. Let’s do this!

High fives and good vibes!
<3 Monique

MONIQUE’S FEBRUARY CHALLENGE: FREELANCING

At the end of January, when everyone was still flying high off the idea of New Year’s resolutions, the Sisterpack decided that each sister would take on a financial challenge – big or small – each month in 2015. (Errr, well… starting in February!) These goals could be anything to do with financial self-awareness, saving or spending habits, or developing creative side-hustle ideas! The possibilities are endless! (And so are the $$$)

My February challenge was to make – and save! – $500 from my freelancing work. Basically, I had to save $500 in one month from only one half of my income streams (I also work a steady part-time job that keeps the income flowin’ while I build my business).

I didn’t quite make the cut this month. I saved $100. Whoops.

Freelancing has been my “side hustle” since I graduated and I’ve been working Rise&GrindBitchesto make it my main income stream since I started.

Granted, I knew from the beginning that saving $500 would be a stretch since most of my freelancing work depends on the availability of work from clients, and how much time I dedicated to pitching and networking. But hey, #startsmallfinishBIG am I right?!

I set the $500 challenge after looking over what SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. It could be argued that I glossed over Achievable and Realistic, but sometimes you’ve just gotta aim really high!

While I didn’t achieve my goal (since, y’know, bills are a thing), I got assigned an article for a local newspaper I write for, edited content for a website redesign and, through networking, I gained an ebook editing and formatting project that will be worth more than $600 in the end. That’s almost $1,000 manifested in February after a slooow January. Woo hooooooo!!

2 Broke Girls - Max - Woot Woot

My real challenge, it seemed, was to simply make more money freelancing so that I could justify socking away a huge chunk of change. I learned so much about the value of negotiation and networking in February. (But that’s another post for another day 😉 )

My March challenge:

To get a job interview set up in a foreign country. I’m going to Liverpool, England for two weeks at the end of the month (it’s also where I plan to move next year!), so I’m laying the groundwork. Wish me luck!

High fives and good vibes!

<3 Monique

Resident Reporter + Chief Editor