Mridu Khullar Relph is a multiple award-winning freelance writer and journalist who divides her time between New Delhi, India and London, UK. She has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, and writes for The New York TimesTIME, CNN, ABC News (Australia), The IndependentGlobal Post, Parade.com, Ms., and the Christian Science Monitor, among others.

As a features writer, Mridu has contributed to several women’s and general-interest publications including various international editions of Elle, Marie Claire, Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Her work has been included in the books Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas (Harvard Business Review Press, May 2013), Voices of Alcoholism (LaChance Publishing, April 2008), and Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul 2 (HCI, June 2004).

In 2008-2009, Mridu spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Visiting Scholar. In November 2010, she was named Development Journalist of the Year at the Developing Asia Journalism Awards Forum in Tokyo. She has also been the recipient of the Silver Excel, a trade magazine award, from the Society of National Association Publications (USA).

Mridu writes the Culturally Incorrect blog for Psychology Today.

2015: The Year That Will Be

Happy 2015, everyone! (Honest show of hands now– who has a hangover today?)

Okay, we won’t talk about that. Let’s talk about something that will get your hungover brains straight into action instead– goals!

2015 goals

For a few years, I got on the bandwagon and started picking one word at the beginning of the year that I hoped would define that year for me. Every year—every single year without fail—the opposite of that word would end up defining it. If I picked prosperity, I’d have a bad financial year. The year I chose “growth,” I ended up stagnating massively in my writing.

I’m creative, not stupid. I’m totally not doing that again this year.

The thing is, though, that I don’t think one word can truly sum up all that’s going to go right and wrong in a year and as much as we might like to push our lives in set directions, things happen of their own accord, and we adjust. These aren’t all bad things. I hadn’t anticipated a move to London in 2014 because it’s something my husband hadn’t been keen to do and so we’d been looking at Dubai very seriously instead. Yet, London did happen (at the last minute, Sam moved in less than a week!) and I couldn’t be more thankful that it did because it is here that I have truly found my community, my friends, my place in the world. I feel, for the first time in my life, that this is a place where I just belong without having to explain who I am. I didn’t experience this in all my travels, including my year in the US, and it’s been an immensely welcome gift.

I knew that I would love London but that it would reignite my passions and bring to the surface parts of me that I thought I’d left behind in my twenties was not something I could have anticipated. I knew I would love it since it is in London that I first became a writer, but I didn’t think I’d fall in love with it (much to my husband’s dismay!)

My goal at the beginning of last year was to earn six figures and sure, I failed in that income goal, but to say that my year wasn’t a success would be wrong because as I sit here writing this, one day before Christmas, I feel like this year has given me the grounding and the community that I’ve been seeking for so long. It has given me hope and belief and friendship. It has given me a sense of my true identity and future. And there’s no universe in which all that could possibly be called a failure.

That said, of course it’s important to have concrete and measurable goals and this year, I’m going to share mine with you so that I can hold myself accountable and so that perhaps some of you can be inspired or motivated to come up with your own.

In the last quarter of 2014, I became very focused on having goals that were actionable and measurable and that I could look back on in a year and say “Yes, I did this,” or “No, I didn’t.” So here then, are my goals for the year, divided by my areas of interest as I currently see them.

Journalism

I’ve been saying for a while that my goal with my journalism is to only write stories that I either care about or that are really high-paying. I feel like I achieved this goal to a large extent in 2014. I just tallied up what I got paid for journalism this year and how many hours I spent on it, and my average comes out to $131 an hour. Not bad.  I’d like to continue along this path, perhaps taking that average to $150 or even $200 an hour. I’m also very keen to write more personal essays so that’s going to be something to do this year. I can’t control whether or not they sell, but I can control whether or not I write them.

Goal #1: Write and sell 52 articles (average $150 an hour)

Goal #2: Write 6 personal essays

Financial goal: $3,000 a month from journalism

Non-fiction Books

The Freelance Writer's Guide to Making $1,000 More This MonthFor many years, I kept talking about writing non-fiction books but not actually getting them done. I had at least a dozen almost-finished manuscripts that I was too chicken to bring out into the world. I even had a NYC agent with a very prestigious agency, as some of you might remember, and I eventually parted ways with him because traditional publishing, at least for me, involved a lot of sitting around and twiddling thumbs and that wasn’t something I was okay with. Plus, the contracts I saw were horrendous and I felt like I lacked control in many of the decisions that would revolve around my work. So, in 2014, I finally decided that self-publishing was the route for me, at least when it came to non-fiction since I already have an audience (or know how to build one).

Life is passing me by! I’m getting older. I’m done waiting.

Goal #3: Finish at least four more books

Goal #4: Publish at least four more books (one per quarter)

Financial goal: $1,000 a month from non-fiction books

Fiction

Heavens be thanked, three years after I first began, I finished the first draft of my first novel. And then I realized that while I really loved it and think it could have potential, it’s not really the work I want to be known for. It’s not quite as representative of my work as I’d like and may be a one-off that doesn’t seamlessly fit in with the rest of my writing.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this book since I do still love it and think it could do really well, but in the meantime, I decided that I had to get on with it. While I figure out what to do with that first novel, I started a second. This year, I want to finish that second one and then see where the process takes me.

Goal #5: Revisit novel #1 and decide what to do with it

Goal #6: Finish novel #2

Goal #7: Make an informed decision whether to go with traditional or indie publishing

Financial goal: No financial goal for fiction this year

The International Freelancer

I’ve been really crap at networking and forming relationships with other bloggers, but what I’ve done really well is formed relationships with my community (you guys). What that resulted in is a profitable first year for The International Freelancer, something I’m super thrilled about because our readership numbers, compared to many of the other writing websites out there, are pretty low. But now it’s time to grow even more. I haven’t, so far, done too many guest posts, as I may have mentioned before, because of this hangup I have about writing for free. But I think it might be worth exploring that in order to increase my readership and those low numbers.

I also want to do a lot more for the TIF audience that helps solves their problems. I want to bring in new voices and experiences and for that, I need to start reaching out to people a bit more. A very good friend of mine (whom I’ve adopted as an unofficial mentor) has been pushing me to consider public speaking, webinars, and more one-on-one time with my readers, so I’m considering all of those things, too. (Speaking appeals to me, webinars not so much, but part of growing is to push past that resistance, so who knows?)

Goal #8: 52 guest blog posts/media appearances, etc. (one a week)

Goal #9: Launch 2 new e-courses

Goal #10: Attend 4 events – conferences, meetups, whatever, it doesn’t matter

Goal #11: Take 12 people I can learn from out for coffee

Goal #12: Get 4 speaking engagements

Financial goal: $3,500 a month from The International Freelancer

 

Niche Website:

So how is it that The International Freelancer with 6,000 unique visits a month brings in $17,000 in revenue and the dreams website, with 70,000+ uniques brings in barely a thousand?

Simple answer: Passion.

I care about one more than I care about the other. No prizes for guessing which one. What the dreams website did for me was to show me that specialty sites can be profitable and it allowed me to experiment with different ways and learn the ins and outs of the process. However, it’s not a subject I truly care about so I find it difficult to find the time or inclination to work on it. Which is why 2015 has to be the year that I decide whether I’m going to put in the work to make it profitable or accept that it isn’t something that I want to pursue any more and that I’ve learned what I needed to and it’s time to let this go. I don’t know the answer to that question yet, and I plan to find out.

Goal #13: Either make the dreams website profitable ($1k a month) or put it up for sale

Financial goal: $1,000 a month from my niche website

 

I’d also like to be able to experiment with at least two new things this year. Podcasting keeps coming up as something to try, speaking is something I mentioned being of interest to me, and I’m also really intrigued by crowdsourcing models to see if it could be something that I could make work for me. But, as I said in my introduction, who knows what will come up over the next year, so I’m going to keep this flexible with the goal of trying at last one new thing, whatever it may be.

Goal #14: Try something new

 

You may have noticed that my financial goals add up to $8,500 a month. That’s intentional because, as I’ve said before, I want to start earning six figures a year and that is only possible if I’m consistently bringing in at least $8,300 a month, so I’m very mindful of that and keep trying to hit that number each month. I succeed every now and again but it’s not a monthly thing yet and so I’ve sort of mapped out how I intend for this to happen.

So that’s what’s on my mind at the beginning of this new year and these are my goals. Are they helpful for you in planning yours?

Leave me your thoughts in the comments and tell me what you’re planning to achieve in 2015 and how you’re going to ensure that you make it happen.

Happy 2015, everyone! Let’s make this the best one yet.

2014: The Year That Was

I had to go back to look at some of the posts from early-2014 to see where my head was and what was going on in my life because honestly, the last two or three years sort of feel like they’ve meshed together and become a big blur. There were starts and stops, lost voices and hospital visits, there was some heavy crap that we sailed through and some light stuff that perhaps we shoudn’t have obsessed over so much. There was a move to London and there’s been a (temporary) return to Delhi.

Mridu Khullar Relph family

2014 was a year of tremendous growth and change for my family, a lot of it that we wanted and some that we could have done without.

So much of my work life has been enmeshed in my personal life and vice versa and Sam and I both hit a low with journalism together, started a business together, shut it down together, and then flailed about together to find our own individual paths.

We both wrote books. We both found our way back into journalism.

I know I started 2014 on a bit of a mellow note, not knowing where I was headed or how. I wasn’t even sure I knew what I wanted any more. (Then January happened, one of the most profitable months of my entire career.)

I am very happy to say that this is no longer the case as we end the year. I know what I want and more importantly, I can see the path I need to take to get it. I’ve become very clear and focused about the results I aspire to and that in itself is half the battle won, if you ask me.

I’ll talk more about my specific focus for 2015 in a later post, but for now, here’s a quick wrap up of my year.

What Went Right

1. Sam got a high-paying job and we moved to London.

2. I started The International Freelancer website and made it profitable. (It earned almost $17,000 in its first year of operation, which I’m super thrilled about, obviously.)

3. I launched six e-courses.

4. 30 Days, 30 Queries became a huge success with 160+ students. Many have received acceptances from publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, CNN Travel, LA Times, Discover, GlobalPost, Vice.com, and many more.

5. The dreams website has 70,000 unique visitors a month and makes a small income every month.

6. I finished the first draft of my first novel. I have since started a second.

7. I wrote and published an e-book called The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month and it became an international Kindle bestseller. I’m working on a second book to be published in the first quarter of 2015.

8. While I was terrible at networking, I did learn to ask for help and I made two very good friends who have helped shape the way I think about my business and my writing. Towards the end of the year, I’ve become very confident and focused about achieving results and it is absolutely down to the help, the support, and the advice I’ve received from these two individuals, one a businessperson and the second a fellow freelancer. I consider it a hugely lucky break that I was able to first connect, and then become friends with these two people.

What Didn’t Go Quite as Right

1. I burned out completely and had a massive meltdown towards the middle of the year. Part of this was fueled by personal crap but some of it was definitely because I was overworked and haven’t still learned when to stop and take a break.

2. The four “Your First” courses didn’t do well at all. I created them because everyone kept asking me to create something for beginners so that they haven’t sold was surprising to me.

3. I didn’t hit my six-figure goal this year. In fact, I quit mid-way because of all that was going on in my life. That said, I now know exactly why I didn’t hit it and hope to rectify my mistakes going forward. (And also? I’m getting closer than I’ve ever been before so I do think I can do it next year.)

4. Two months after we spent a fortune to move to London, Sam lost his job. (He’s found another one since but it was a bit touch-and-go for a few months there.)

5. I lost the joy in writing, in journalism, in a lot of what I do. I did find it eventually but that was because of this blog (I love you guys!) and because I stepped away to think about who I am, what I want, and what I’m willing to do to get it (write corporate copy? No. Experiment with different forms of media? Yes.) I think a lot of what I want to do is risky and takes time to build up (websites, books, new ways of doing journalism) and it’s difficult to do those things when you’re constantly worried about putting food on the table.

6. I let go of that first novel. There’s a Stephen King quote about how there are two types of writers—one type of writer writes for himself/herself and the other writes for an audience. My first novel was all about writing for myself, and now that I think I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’m ready to move beyond it and start writing for an audience. I might revisit that novel in the future (I do really love it), but I’ve started working on the second one.

What Needs Working On

1. Our finances. We dipped into our savings and incurred some debt and all the moving, visas, etc, have left very little money in our bank and so we need to earn a lot more to fix that asap.

2. I continue to struggle a lot with writerly identity. There are so many things I want to do that I lose focus entirely. You don’t want to know about the pages and pages of notes I have about hundreds of ideas that will never come to fruition because I’ve come up with more. So I need to learn how to pick things and then bring a laser sharp focus to finishing them. I’ve had some help with this from one of my new friends I mentioned above and I feel like I’ve made good progress on this goal already.

3. Networking. I think it’s harder to network or build relationships for people like me who feel completely happy in their own little bubbles doing the work that we think matters. I have very good relationships with my readers, but relationships with other bloggers and successful journalists and authors are important as well and I know I need to be focusing a lot more on those and making a bit more of an effort to show my face at events, etc. I got a good talking to about this from someone I highly respect so I’ll definitely be looking at this more in 2015.

4. It’s been a really messy process but I think I know what I want out of my life and career, so now it’s just a matter of focusing on it and making it happen.

 

And that pretty much sums up my year. I think it’s helpful for me to know the broad issues I need to focus on fixing in 2015 so that I can take concrete steps towards creating the career of my dreams.

So tell me, have you done a wrap up of 2014 yet? What went right for you? What went wrong? And what do you hope to fix in the coming year?

On Crashing, Burning, and Finding Recovery

In November, I start a new session of 30 Days, 30 Queries, and once again, I’m jumping right in with my students.

A bit of backstory to tell you why. Last year, I burned out on journalism massively. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I was on the floor sobbing a day before a deadline for a major international newspaper having done all the research and interviews because I just could not write. I know now that many career journalists go through this (sometimes frequently) and the more successful you are, the harder you’re likely to crash because there’s this pressure to be someone and do something that you no longer feel you can. I know this now because I’ve talked to people who’ve experienced it, but because that’s who you are—our work tends to define us in this industry—you feel like if you can’t do what you’ve done all this while, then who are you?

Crashing, Burning, and Finding Recovery

I felt lost, and worse, I felt alone. Because no one talks about it. No one wants to talk about it. Everyone thinks they’re the only ones who have ever gone through something like this so it’s not really worth dedicating words to.

I used to understand it when more experienced writers said, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. You just write. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. They just do the work.” And as someone who writes at least 10,000 words a week, often more, can I just tell you, a plumber goes in, does the work, pulls up his pants (hopefully!) and is done. His entire identity and self worth isn’t wrapped up in a leaky pipe. Mine is.

I care about the issues I write about, the people whose stories I’m telling. When I write a novel, there are real issues I’m exploring, often those that I’ve experienced in one form or the other myself or through the people in my life. The leaky pipes I fix are very personal to me and so when they stop being personal, there’s an identity crisis bubbling over somewhere that will impact my work and my life.

I’m telling you this because many of you are on the path I’m on, some just a step behind me, and I want you to know that if you get here—and it’s likely, trust me—there is someone who has been there, who has experienced what you are experiencing, and who will talk about it with you if you need to. Help is just an e-mail away, but you have to be willing to take that first step. I wasn’t and I really really wish I had been because I experienced one of the worst depressions of my life last year and as someone who has suffered on and off from depression for 20+ years, that’s saying something.

What I did was simple: I stepped back entirely. I stopped pitching, I stopped writing, I stopped being a journalist for a while. It had financial consequences for my family (I was the sole wage earner when I crashed) and it’s been really hard for us. It’s meant that we’ve depleted our savings and gone into debt and that my (incredible, amazing, wonderful) husband has had to pick up the slack. It’s meant that we’ve had to work as a team, as a family, to consider what we want out of life and how we’re most likely to get it. None of the decisions have been easy, but they’ve been necessary.

It’s funny because in the four months we’ve been here in London, whenever someone has asked me what I do, I’ve almost always stopped short. I say I’m a journalist and hope they won’t ask more about it, but they obviously do (because they’re nice people) and I’ve frequently floundered. My entire identity seems to be wrapped up in that question and I’m learning how to separate the two.

I’ve given a few interviews now since I set up The International Freelancer and people look at my website or my work and tell me how impressed they are by me and all that I’ve achieved. All I’ve felt like in the last few months, however, is a big fat fucking failure and I feel like such a fraud when people say these things. I’m learning to deal with that, too. I’ve done some good work and I will do good work again.

Stepping back, however, despite the price we’ve paid, was much needed. You can’t go at breakneck speed for 12+ years, putting yourself in dangerous situations and telling difficult stories, and expect it not to have any impact on your mental health.

But last week, the clouds parted, the birds sang, and just like that, I felt ready to pitch and write again.

Okay, no, that’s not true. Two weeks ago, an editor e-mailed to ask me if I’d take on a $1-a-word assignment and very reluctantly I agreed because it was money that we needed, and I begrudgingly set to work on it only to find that I enjoyed it. I loved the work, the writing, the interviewing. There was joy in my days again. That thrill of finding just the right quote, that right angle, that right source—it was all back.

The crazy, obsessive, ranting, sending-25-queries-a-week part of me had resurfaced!

Now I feel like I’m ready to jump back in. I’m still continuing to focus on the other areas of my career (fiction, nonfiction books, and The International Freelancer) but I’m super thrilled to have the journo Mridu part of me back as well. I’ve missed her crazy antics.

30 Days, 30 Queries

And so, that brings me to the fact that I’m doing 30 Days, 30 Queries this month. Because when I do something, I go all in, right?

I tend to be a bit of a binge writer, though, so you might see zero queries one day and four the next. That’s just part of my process and the way I work. As long as I hit 30 queries by the end of the month, I’m cool with that.

I’d love for you to join me in this challenge as well. You can join the 30 Days, 30 Queries e-course (today’s the last day for sign-ups) or you can just do it on your own and keep your tally here with me. We’ll start on November 1.

 

World Domination. But First, a Hundred Copies.

I’m sure this won’t come as news to most of you, but I’m a very ambitious person and I know this stands in my way most of the time. My husband often has to stop me when I’m racing ahead at a hundred miles an hour and say, yes, yes, I know all about your plans for world domination, but what are your plans for this week?

I think if I could just learn somehow to focus on smaller goals, I’d probably get a lot more done. And as an extra bonus, I’d likely to be a lot happier.

I started noticing a strange thing happening when I joined Fizzle, an online entrepreneurship community last month (get a 4-week trial for $1 through my affiliate link if you’re interested in building an online business). I joined because I want The International Freelancer to become a thriving business and community and I wanted to learn how to do that quickly and efficiently. Fizzle has a section on their forums where everyone can post a personal progress report, a way to keep you accountable on a weekly basis. You set your goals, you announce them publically, and at the end of the week, everyone gets to see how you did.

I struggled a lot with what to put on mine initially because you know, I have a weekly 200-item to do list that to anyone other than me, seems excessive and highly unproductive. (I’m not saying it’s not, but I haven’t yet figured out a system for myself that works without it.)

Given that I couldn’t put my entire to-do list up on the forum, I decided to just start putting up five things weekly that I was resisting. And I found something in me changing. I wanted to do these things, of course, because I didn’t want to be embarrased and because there were people rooting for me, but having to decide what to focus on for the week was an exercise in itself. (What? You mean I can’t write a book, three articles, and seven blog posts in one week? Who knew?) And when I did finally narrow it down to five things and no more, they got done (well, mostly, because I’m having a secret affair with a 200-item to-do list on the side and sometimes that took priority).

I’m learning, slowly, to start keeping my expectations in check. I’ve just launched The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month, so it’s been a good time to practice what I’ve been thinking about. With this book, I’m not aiming to hit a bestseller list or sell 20,000 copies or any of that. I’m keeping it simple. Very simple. My first goal for this book is simply to get a hundred reviews. That’s it. Me being me, of course, I did immediately think about what I’d do after I’d achieved that goal, but I caught myself in time and decided to just let that question go for the time being. I don’t know what I’ll do at the point my book has 100 reviews because thinking about it is a waste of my time. I’ll decide when I get to that point, depending on how the book is doing and what people are saying. Maybe I’ll focus then on getting 1,000 sales, but who knows, by the time I have a hundred reviews, I might have made those sales already and need to consider a higher goal. Maybe I’ll find that people haven’t taken to it as well as I’d hoped so I need a different strategy. So no point focusing on that for now.

The fantastic thing about self publishing is that you have full control over every single part of the process. I could change pricing, change covers, try to market more, or use a different description in order to reach the bestseller list at any point in the life of the book. I was reading John Locke’s book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! the other day and I found it interesting that he had five ebooks out on Amazon before he started seeing any sort of proper sales (that is, more than 30 a month). So that’s really encouraging (even though he writes fiction and I’m focusing on nonfiction for now). I’m going to set small targets, meet them, and only then focus on the next.

So, target for now: 100 reviews.

I’ve started thinking smaller in terms of the rest of my career as well, which isn’t something that comes easily to me (world domination, yo!). But back when I was a newbie writer, without realizing it, I had small but very specific goals, even though they seemed ginormous at the time. Getting 50+ assignments in my first year was one. I achieved that; I got over a hundred. Breaking into The New York Times was one, which I also achieved. Writing for Time.com and then being able to have a spread in the magazine were both goals. (In fact, it was my goal to get my first assignment from TIME before my 26th birthday. I got it ON my 26th birthday.)

I’m starting to move away from income goals specifically, even though I aspire to earn six-figures (and more!) because there’s nothing I can check off the list in terms of what I’m doing to make that income happen. Send 30 queries a month, sure I can do that. Make $8,300 a month? There’s no way for me to guarantee that income in the business that I’m in. So while my goals are set so that they’ll aid in that $8,300 a month, the income in itself is not the goal. Does that make sense?

So with that said, I’ve started to look at goals for specific projects. What’s my goal, not for my entire career, but for this particular book? What would my stats look like for this book to have been a success for me?

It was hard for me to answer this question for The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month because well, like I said I’m ambitious. It’s difficult not to say, oh, 50,000 copies sold or bestseller or whatever. But it’s my first book in years, I don’t know what to expect going in, and I have nothing to compare or measure it with. So it’s going to involve pulling random numbers out of my ass. Also, I don’t want to give it a timeline. I don’t want to say 50,000 copies this year because if I fail to meet that goal, then I feel shit about myself. Instead, it’s a lifetime thing. At what point, now or 50 years from now, do I consider this book a success? What would it have gone out into the world and achieved?

So for this book, I’m going to say if it sells 10,000 copies over the course of its life, I will consider it a success. That’s it. The moment it hits that magic 10,000 downloaded number, I will declare the book done. (I may not stop working on marketing or promoting it, but my goal for it will have been achieved. Then, no matter how it does from that point forward, it’s still a success for me.)

So that’s how I’ve been thinking about goal setting lately. I’d love to know what you think and if any of this resonates with the way you set goals, achieve them, or consider them accomplished.

Post your thoughts in the comments. I’m very curious to hear what you think.

On Being Fearless. And Discovering That I’m Not.

This morning, I finally finished my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month. Finished as in written, edited, proofread, designed… done. Finished as in, shit, it’s done and it’s time to send it out into the world.

The book started as a free e-course just over a month ago (or was it less than a month ago, I can’t remember) and while I was writing the e-course, I thought it might make a good book. So I wrote it before I could talk myself out of it.

It’s scheduled for release on November 1, 2014 and I’m putting it out there so quickly after having even come up with the idea because I knew that if I sat on it too long, I’d talk myself out of it.

I’ve done that before. Far too many times.

Because, you know, I’m a creative person. I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake. Coming up with creative ways to talk myself out of things is part of my job description.

I used to think I was fearless but I’m beginning to see that I do fear. I don’t fear success (at least I don’t think that I do) and I don’t fear failure (been there, done that far too many times) but I do fear judgement.

This revelation, I have to admit, didn’t make me happy because I like to think that I don’t care what people think of me. But in retrospect, when I look back over to some of the decisions I’ve made, some of the paths I haven’t pursued, or some of the arguments I’ve gotten into online with trolls, a large part of it is defensiveness, the unwillingness to be judged by someone and be okay with that.

It’s going to take more than a blog post and the admission of the fact to cure me, but I guess acceptance can be considered a first step in my recovery.

How do you get over the idea that somewhere out there in the universe, there are people who don’t know you, who only know about a tiny sliver of your life from what you’ve put on social media, but who sit in judgement of you? After 12+ years as a journalist, I thought I had this bit sorted, but apparently not.

So tell me, what’s working for you?

(UPDATE: Now available to order. Check it out here!)

On Planning. And Writing. And Not Writing. And Writing Again.

I’m in the middle of a full-blown existential crisis at the moment. The chatter in my head goes something like this: 

I want to write a novel. Yes, that’s what I want to do with my life.

No, I need to focus on the money. I’m tired of stagnating, of writing one-off stories for people who don’t care.

I’m going to be a millionaire! That’s it. That’s my goal.

I’m going to create a bunch of websites that all make money and that’s where I need to redirect my focus.

I hate my career.

All I ever really wanted to do was write.

Maybe I should just concentrate on books. I love non-fiction, I love novels, I love old books, new books, all books really. Let me just jot down some ideas for a dozen.

I really should just write one. One. Finish the damn thing before moving on to the next.

I’m going to be a New York Times bestselling author.

I’m such a fucking failure.


Okay, I’m just going to go write something.

 

Please tell me this sounds familiar to you because otherwise I’m convinced I need to check in to the loony bin.

What does the chatter in your head sound like?

(P.S. I did pull myself together and map out a 5-year plan. I’ll share the details soon.)

Experiments in Writing, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship

It’s almost a bit strange to be writing on this blog again. I’ve spent the last two months actively moving things bit by bit over to The International Freelancer website (redirects are in place, so your bookmarks are fine!) and so it feels a bit like coming back home only to find that the furniture has been moved and the dog has pissed everywhere.

Uh, so anyway.

I wanted to talk a bit about why I started The International Freelancer, why I’ve come back to this space, and what I have in store for both the sites. And of course, what’s in it for you.

There are two reasons I decided it was time for The International Freelancer to have its own website. One, the blog started making money. It’s made an average of $1k a month since the beginning of this year and I decided that it was time I stopped looking at it as a blog and turned it into a business. It was just too big to fit under the umbrella of my personal portfolio anymore. Two, and more importantly, there’s so much more that I wanted to do with the blog that I couldn’t do if it continued living on this site, such as bringing in new voices and experiences, interviews with experts and editors, etc. I wanted The International Freelancer to be about more than just me and my career.

And that’s what brings me back to this blog, actually. A large number of you have written to me lately to tell me that you really miss my personal posts, the challenges I used to throw to myself (15 deadlines in 15 days during the last month of pregnancy!) and the insights I used to give into what was happening behind the scenes of my projects, etc. You know what?

I miss it, too.

If you want to learn about freelancing, how to make a living, etc., The International Freelancer is the place to find it all and I have so much planned for next year that I’m hoping will knock your socks off. But if you want to keep up with Mridu’s crazy antics, you can follow all that on this blog. I’ll be sharing details, specifics, and numbers with you about what’s working for me and what’s not. And I’ll be experimenting like crazy. So you can expect to hear about why my niche site is bringing in 70,000 unique visitors a month but still making no money, how many e-books I’ve sold over a month, and what exactly I’m doing to grow my numbers, build my brand, and increase my income. I’ll talk about my novel writing adventures, my experiments with Kickstarter, and my goals to combine entrepreneurship with creativity. I’ll write frequently about what I’m reading, what I’m learning, and how I’m learning it.

I’m bringing back more personal stuff like the 30 before 30 list (though I guess it’s now going to become the 40 before 40 list since I’m already 32! Shit!), monthly challenges (can I write 60,000 words this month?) and the swearing. Because I wouldn’t be who I am without the swearing.

If you want to know me as the person behind the businesses, the freelancer with the real failures and the over-ambitious, unachievable goals, this is where you’ll find all that.

There’s no schedule for now—I want to keep this fluid—but I usually have a LOT to say, so I’m guessing a minimum of once a week.

Like the idea? Tell me what you think and what crazy things you think I should get up to before the year end (keep it clean, people!)

And if you want to receive an e-mail every time I post a new blog entry, you can sign up to receive those here.

Talk to you again soon!

How to Finish a Big, Hairy, Monster of a Project

  1. Set small, realistic, achievable goals.
  2. Set out blocks of time to tackle it.
  3. Work on it every single day.
  4. Let go of your fear.

What’s the hairiest project on your to-do list today?

What My 19-Month-Old Son is Teaching Me About Business

Jude turned 19 months old this month and I’m amazed at how this tiny thing that was so dependent on me for pretty much everything has transformed into this beautiful and bratty person who has an opinion and a personality, and is now capable of making his choices and wishes pretty clear. He can’t talk yet (except for Mama and Dada), but he’s developed a sign language all of his own that even the dog understands. Amazing!

But as I watch this little person discover the world and increase his awareness of it, I find it increasingly obvious how many lessons there are to be learned from our children when it comes to businesses. Because children haven’t yet learned to fail, it makes them immune to defeat and disappointment. These are just some of the lessons I’ve been learning about business from my son’s exploration of the world. How many can you apply to your business today?

1. He practices. Almost obsessively.

When he was a baby, we bought Jude a bag of plastic balls that fit tightly into a cloth bag with a zipper on it. Until now, he’s been fascinated by the colored balls, but last month, he turned his attention to the bag. And the zipper. And the fact that he didn’t know how to open or close the bag because he couldn’t quite grasp the concept of this zipping thing. He brought the bag to me and pointed to the zip, so I taught him how to open and close it. For hours that evening, he sat in a corner trying to open it, then handing it to me. Then trying again and then handing to me. The next day, my husband showed him how to do it again and this time, because he’d been practicing, he managed to do it a lot quicker. By the evening, he knew how to open and close the bag.

None of us start out knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. But with enough practice, we can become experts. Whatever it is that you think you can’t do, take it bit by bit and practice. If you hate calling people, force yourself to make one phone call a day and see how you feel at the end of the month. I can promise you, you won’t hate it as much. And if you do? At least you tried and got it out of your system.

2. He learns how to do things correctly.

Like most children, Jude loves playing with drawers. We knew this fascination wasn’t going to go away and we also knew that telling him he wasn’t allowed would only make him want to open and shut them even more. So when he was about six or seven months old, we taught Jude the correct way of opening and closing drawers so that his fingers wouldn’t get caught in them. Almost every time someone comes over and sees him opening up the drawer to pull out the dog leash, for instance, we get a “Don’t let him do that!” style reaction, but he’s been opening that drawer for more than a year. He knows the proper way of doing it.

When you tell someone you’re starting a business or that you’re quitting your job to freelance, most people will react the way they do when our child opens up a drawer. But the fact is, risk is easily mitigated if you learn how to do things correctly. Business seems risky to most people, but it’s only risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. When you know the correct way to do things, they’re a lot less risky.

3. He fails repeatedly, but he’s never defeated.

So the thing about drawers is that sooner or later, you will get your fingers caught in them. I mean, I still do. It’s going to happen. And it happened last week, which is why I’m writing about it. But it’s the first time it happened in over a year of him being able to get his toys out for himself.

Failures are going to happen in your business, too, even if you know what you’re doing. That’s the nature of business, of life. You can’t prepare for all of them—some of them will suddenly hit you between the eyes when you least expect them to—but you can choose the way in which you’ll react to them. Expect failures. They will happen and there’s nothing you can do to change that fact.

4. He gets on with it.

So when Jude got his finger caught in the drawer, he cried. As you do. He sulked for about five minutes, and then, even though he had a swollen finger, he just went on as if nothing happened. Later, when my husband was about to go walk the dog, he pulled the drawer open and took out the leash for him.

Setbacks will happen, in life and in business. Stop obsessing about them and move on to the next thing.

So those are some of my takeaways from my son’s exploration of the world. What are some of the lessons you could learn from your children that apply to your business?