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Anonymity and building my personal brand

A few bloggers have written posts about anonymity in blogging. I’ve decided to jump on board because it is something I’ve been thinking about for the past little while. Unlike many PF bloggers, however, blogging is very much tied to my career.

A background 

I admit I’m fairly elusive on my blog. I haven’t given you guys many details on who I really am or what I do aside from the fact that I’m in communications full time. I know you’ve all been dying to know more, so here goes. Out of university, I was an economics/accounting major (nerd alert!) and went into the field full time for 1.5 years. I knew pretty quickly that I needed a change. I decided to go into communications after finding a college postgraduate program that seemed really interesting, had a great reputation, and also seemed to have great career prospects. Since completing the program, I’ve been interning for the past year and gaining as much experience as I can.

…But something is missing. Those of us in communications know that personal branding is key. I had a go at this last summer after starting my first internship, and started a personal wellness blog. This was short lived, so I guess I really didn’t care about personal wellness. Let’s face it folks, I haven’t exercised in ages and I often eat junk food like it’s my job. I am no authority on being healthy. The thing is, that blog was public. I had decent readership only because my 400+ friends on Facebook were being blitzed with all my new posts. My personal Twitter was also linked to it. I was easy to find and I guess I had started to develop a personal brand.

Upon the death of that blog, I started this one. I knew it was a topic I had immense interest in, as I was vigourously paying off my debt and reading tons of PF blogs. I decided to remain anonymous because I didn’t want all my friends to know that I was broke. I mean after all, I was 27 and half my friends were married and saving for houses or buying their own places while I was in debt.

Personal branding

Flash forward to today. I have a super famous blog with millions of followers. Ok, not true BUT I’ve found a niche that I like and everyday I’m surprised that people actually read me. I try to write regularly and I’ve been trying to engage more on Twitter. In short, I’m building a personal brand. But what good is this brand if no one even knows who I am? Am I really building a brand if I’m simply a nameless, faceless online caricature? I mean no disrespect to all the other anonymous bloggers out there because I completely get why you (and I!) do it. In my case, however, I just think that the work I put into running my blog should be linked to my personal brand.

Anonymous me!

Career progression

Why do I care about my personal brand? Two words: career progression. Ever since switching fields, I’ve known that I have to work twice as hard. It’s a competitive field with arguably little-to-no barriers to entry. The experience I gain through internships is key, but so is my personal brand. I know this because I interviewed for a job with a PR agency that happens to be a fantastic employer. In passing, I mentioned my blog and the interviewer was intrigued and wanted to see the blog. I voluntarily divulged the information because I wanted her to see that I was actively writing about something that interested me and could effectively utilize social media to engage with readers. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job, but they were nice enough to remember me and called me in for another interview. This time I also mentioned my ‘alter ego’ and the fact that you’ll find me tweeting more through that than through my personal Twitter. Sure enough, he had looked up my personal Twitter prior to the meeting. I’m glad I mentioned it because to the unknowing eye, my ‘real life’ brand is fairly stagnant: little Twitter activity and no blog. Why hide the fact that I do in fact have an active online identity?

When I say career progression, I also mean freelance opportunities. I will soon be published on a popular blog and I recently redid the content for the entire website of the company I currently work for, including blog posts. I would love to link my blog to all this content!

Conclusions?

Sorry guys! Haven’t come to any. These are just the thoughts running through my over-active little mind. In terms of relationships with other bloggers, I know that some of us can’t take each other seriously when there is no real identity attached. And I’ll admit I do feel a more personal connection to a blogger when I know their name and face. Going back to the very reason I decided to be anonymous, I’m no longer in debt – YAY. I don’t do spending or net worth updates like some bloggers do, and I most certainly wouldn’t with everyone I know reading my blog. So do I really have anything to hide anymore?

Is personal branding important in your line of work? If you’re anonymous, have you thought of ‘coming out’?

LF on being cheap

It has been discussed time and time again, but recently it has been bugging me: being cheap.  Here in the PF community, I like to think we’re a frugal bunch – not a cheap bunch. This is why it bugs me when people can’t make the distinction and plague society with their flat-out cheapness. Wtf?

Just don’t.

…on going out to eat

At the restaurant where I waitress on weekends, there is a young family of four that comes in every Saturday. I always get stuck with this group and I hate them for a few reasons:

  • Our receipts have a survey link at the bottom that you can fill out for a free appetizer on your next visit. This is fine and a great way to enjoy a free app, but they do it EVERY SINGLE VISIT. The point of the survey is for us to assess the quality of our food, service, etc. Having the same people critique the same food and the same service every week does us no benefit beyond the first, I don’t know, 100 times? This is purely exploitative of the system, I think.
  • They order three waters and one pop. The pop is bottomless. Enough said?
  • They order one kid’s meal for TWO KIDS. The kid’s meal is tiny. Why are they making the poor kids share one?
  • The woman works for the same chain of restaurants so she uses her discount card, which gives her 20% off. Of course this is fine as that’s what it’s meant to be used for. But between exploiting the survey and using a discount card, a meal that would easily be $45 ends up being $25.

I don’t know about you, but when I use any sort of discount at a restaurant (coupon, group deal, etc.) I make sure to tip on the entire amount. I think it’s embarrassing to go into a restaurant, exploit every type of discount, and tip a whopping $4 for a table of 4. I understand that some people don’t have an abundance of disposable income, but if I don’t feel like I can afford to go out and enjoy a meal, then I don’t go out and enjoy a meal.

Of course after working in a restaurant for two years, I can write a whole blog post on cheapness in restaurants but I’ll leave it at that for now!

…on shopping

I love me a good sale!

I know a few people that do this, but to me buying a dress and wearing it to a party and returning it the next day is cheap.

A coworker of mine told me that her mother uses appliances from department stores until they’re completely worn down and then exchanges them for new ones. She gets away with it. This is cheap.

Bargain hunting (even if it takes you hours!) is frugal. It doesn’t involve wasting people’s time, scamming the system, or generally being a burden to the world in order to save a few bucks.

…on being social

Going to a potluck and bringing a bag of chips when everyone else has made extravagant salads, dips, pastas, etc. is cheap. There is nothing wrong with bringing snacks but I try to ensure that the price will roughly match what everyone else is bringing (i.e. a bag of chips with a homemade taco dip…yum!)

Going to a potluck and bringing nothing. Ummm! Cheap and awkward.

Allowing a friend to cover a meal and never reciprocating. Cheap.

I invited a friend of mine over for dinner and she insisted on contributing to groceries. I did not allow this because to me, inviting someone over for dinner means I’m treating him or her to dinner. Allowing her to bring groceries would have been cheap in my opinion!

Overall, I think the distinction between cheap and frugal is tact. I am all for going on a coffee date instead of a dinner date to be frugal. I am all for waiting for a dress to go on sale before buying it. I use group buy coupons. I walk instead of taking a bus or cab. None of these activities are exploitative or tactless. They don’t make a mockery of the system and they aren’t disrespectful to the people you care about. That’s where I draw the line.

Where do you draw the line between cheap and frugal? Do you have any cheapo stories? I’d love to know!

Finding balance

Life is hectic. Right now, I’m working two jobs, trying to update my skills in order to make myself more marketable, volunteering for a not-for-profit, trying to keep up with blogging, and looking for a job as my current job is not permanent. I’d also like to do some reading and for once, not the guilty pleasure kind – the kind I refuse to call ‘self help.’ I currently have Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ sitting on my desk beckoning me. Will it be life-changing? Will it be eye-opening? I really don’t know, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’m sure my schedule doesn’t phase most of the PF bloggers out there. I can think of a few offhand that have equally busy schedules and manage to do it all. I can’t pretend to understand how it happens short of having a few clones doing all their biddings. I’ve been exhausting myself these past few weeks by thinking and thinking about all the things I need to get done and how I’m going to do it and am I going to burn out and are there enough hours in the day/month/year/lifetime. Should I become Martha Stewart and sleep 4 hours per night?

How will I find balance?

Make a schedule. There are a few things I want/need to do right now, including working from 9-5 plus weekends and usually one weeknight. Those hours are a given and I need to work around them. This leaves me with 4 weeknights. I can study the computer programs I would like to learn during 3 of those nights and leave one night for relaxing. That’s where the balance comes in!

Set goals. You’ll hear it time and time again, but setting real, measurable goals is effective.  I found that with job searching, I was most productive when I told myself I’d apply to at least one job a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but with each application taking so long to tailor, it’s easy to procrastinate and go days without applying to a single job. Saying I’ll apply to at least one job a day is less daunting than just saying I’ll apply to tons, and also very achievable.

Take mini-vacations. You may not be in a place where you can take real vacations. For me, it’s financial constraints I’ve placed on myself as well as the whole not having vacation time thing. At the same time, however, I don’t really want to burn out. For me, taking a weekend off once every so often is important. This summer, I’ll be going to a friend’s cottage for a long weekend. Long enough (and inexpensive enough!) to satisfy my need to get away and take a break from the daily grind!

Stop wasting time. Spending hours finding out way too much about people I don’t really know on Facebook is probably not the best usage of my time not to mention creepy as f(*&. I need to stop…right…now. Wait, let me just stare at my friend’s friend’s sister’s vacation pics first. Oooh Hawaii!

Stay positive. Every type of wisdom from ancient to new-age comes down to one basic concept: positivity. You get back what you give to the universe. You’ll have good days and bad days but when it comes down to it, it really will be okay. Focus on your immediate goals and make them achievable. Sometimes it is that simple.

I am by no means an expert on finding balance (obviously), so I’m hoping these tips will help both you and I cope with stressful situations. At the end of the day, I know I’m lucky to have had the opportunities that I’ve had and that if I keep trying, more will come to me. For now, I’m going to follow Dory’s advice:

And that’s the truth. On a completely different note, I just found this online and it has completed my life. You’re welcome.

Have a great weekend!

LF

How will going from red to black affect my blog?

Gail Vaz-Oxlade would be so proud of me. I went from (reckless Princess) slightly spendy to downright frugal and showed my debt who’s boss. I must say, being debt-free for the first time in my adult life feels great.

Woot!

That being said, I feel like I’ve harped on my debt for long enough and inadvertently turned this blog into a Dear Diary of sorts. As a result, I feel like I’m not relating to readers as well as I should be and I’d like to change that by talking less about me, me, me and more about topics that affect everyone. But of course infused with a bit of me, me, me. 😉

Unlike some of the bloggers I love reading, I haven’t shown a true commitment to the art. I blog when I want to, and sometimes it’s pretty sporadic. I don’t think this is going to fly if I want to become a legit blogger so I’m going to have to stick to some sort of schedule as well. I’m also not so into the monthly goals and spending reports, etc. but I think that’s okay! In all honestly, I’m not sure what this blog will evolve into. Maybe it will become part PF, part life, and part everything in between. Maybe it won’t even be PF at all. Right now I’m just going to stop worrying and let it grow organically.

Will I ever be a big time blogger with thousands of readers? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not. That’s okay too. Right now I’m just happy to have my own little corner of the internet where I can say what I want and connect with great people.

I know this is a bit of a random post but I just wanted to give you guys a quick update. Hope you’re all enjoying the summer!

May goals

Hope everyone is having a great start to their weekend! I sure am. I just attended a fantastic Red Hot Chili Peppers concert here in Toronto. If anyone is able to see them on their tour this year, you’re in for a real treat! This concert actually got me thinking about a few things I would like to do over the next few weeks.

Rediscover the music I love

This one stems directly from the concert. As the band played songs I knew and loved, I realized just how little I actually take the time to listen to music. Even on the subway I usually opt for a book or the Economist. Growing up I loved listening to Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac and of course RHCP to name a few. Under the Bridge still moves me every time. Led Zeppelin IV is still my favourite album and it’s sadly collecting dust in my room.

Tweet more

When I say tweet more, I mean from my blog account. I’ve noticed that tweeting is a great way to engage with other bloggers/readers and it still isn’t something I’ve put into practice. With that I urge you, kind readers, to take a look at that Twitter sidebar riiight to the right of your screen and please follow me 🙂 I’m attempting to tweet more but with all of two followers (thanks Modest Money!) I’m doing the equivalent of having a conversation with myself. Please follow me before I become that crazy lady babbling to herself on the street!

Set a real budget

I have a blog-fession to make. I haven’t been following any sort of real budget this year *gasp*. It has worked out okay and I’ve (almost) reached my target debt payoff date but now that all my money will be mine again, it is more crucial than ever that I keep on track with new savings goals.

Sidenote: YAY I finally get to start saving!

Read more

Right now I’m reading the second Hunger Games book and I’m sorry Hunger Games lovers who may love all the book, but I kind of despise this one. Why has Katniss become so tortured and annoying? When did this become Twilight? I’m only about a third of the way through so I am hoping it gets better. I would like to read two more novels this month as well.

There you have it. Simple and perfectly attainable goals, no?

What are your goals for May? What are your thoughts on the second Hunger Games book? What are you doing this weekend? Share share share!

Spending habits that make me say ‘waaa?’

There are a few things that people spend money on that make me scratch my head. Also, I like lists.

Top spending habits that make me say ‘wtf?’

Bottled water

People, it comes from a tap. Abundantly. For free.

Okay okay, perhaps you come from somewhere that doesn’t have great tap water but here in TO and I’m sure where you’re from, it’s pretty decent.

Waxing

Boys, you can scroll down (or prepare to cringe) riiight around now. Paying astronomical amounts to rip hair off myself is absolutely silly to me because I can go to the drugstore, pick up a bottle of Nad’s or Alexandria and do it myself in all of 10 minutes. I remember my roommate getting a horrible wax job at a fancy salon back in university. I ended up busting out my bottle of wax and giving her a live tutorial of how to do it yourself.

High-end mascara

Out of curiosity, I’ve paid about $30 for Diorshow mascara. I thought it was great but I’m pretty sure if you gave me a bottle of Maybelline and slapped a Dior sticker on it, I’d think it was pretty great too (read: psychological!). A ton of people swear by the Maybelline stuff and its something like $8. There is no way any mascara is going to actually lengthen or miraculously twirl your lashes so grab the cheap stuff and go!

Tea

I love tea as much as the next uppity tea drinker. But unless I’m having a ‘coffee date’ (I don’t drink coffee so I grab tea), I don’t see the point of buying a tea when I can drop a bag into water. Water, bag, insert. Tea!

Designer clothing

Uhhh, enough said. I’ve been a sucker for this in the past but no more. NO MORE.

So, that’s my piece. What say you about things that are a total waste of money? Please share!

Negativity killed the cat

Warning: Philosophical rant ahead.

This post can best be embodied by the following quote:

Of course on the show How I Met Your Mother this is meant to be whimsical, but I really believe there is some much truth to it. Oftentimes in our everyday lives, we let things get to us. Whether it be our jobs, our love lives or our money situation. I say this because it is something I’ve caught myself doing lately during my job hunt even though every ounce of me knows I should stay positive.

I always think back to a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad , but thinking makes it so.

It’s true, right? Everything just is what it is and we assign emotions to it. Example: Stepping into a puddle and ruining your shoes. In the right mind frame you shrug and move on. At least it gives you an excuse to buy new shoes! In the wrong mind frame this is quite possibly the most catastrophic thing that has ever happened to you, why do you have the worst luck, your week is ruined, yadda yadda. One simple event can be viewed on opposite ends of the spectrum.

What’s my point?

When you’re down and out, convince yourself to be happy. Just do it. Here are some of the ways I’ve been trying to alter my perspective based on various circumstances:

Gloom and doom: I get paid next to nothing and I’ve been on contract for a year. I can’t find a full time job. My life suck. Why won’t someone cut me a break?

Snap out of it: I’ve maintained employment all year meaning no gaps in my resume and I’m building new skills! I may not have a permanent position secured just yet but the perfect job may be just around the corner. I’m excited about this prospect.

Gloom and doom: I’m broke and I have debt coming out my ears. This is so stressful, how will I ever get out of it?

Snap out of it: Being in the hole has built character. I’m learning great money habits that will stay with me long past the end of my debt. In a weird, twisted sort of way, the whole getting out of debt challenge is kind of fun – especially when you have a great blogging community to connect with.

Everyone has rough patches and it’s our internal reaction that makes the difference between sinking and swimming. Why not turn a failure into an opportunity? When things aren’t going our way, why not be excited about what may be in store tomorrow?

Scarlett says it best. Now I just have to start practicing what I preach…

LF