My First Stumble

Social bookmarking websites are one of those things that I know I grasp only add that basic level. I do know though that they can be very powerful, especially after this last weekend.

Stumbled-upon Friday, I had my first stumble. I happened to look at my stats (just another exciting Friday night in my life!) and I saw huge spike in traffic.

When I look at the referrers I found a woman who'd stumbled an old post of mine. (This post in case you were curious). For the next 24 hours at my usual weekend traffic was doubled. I could have hugged this woman, I was that excited.

Social bookmarking is a great way to keep your favorite links organized and searchable not to mention give props to someone who wrote something that was enjoyable to you. So increasing knowledge and my own positive personal experience combined, I have seen the light. I heart social bookmarking! I've decided to finally get into this. For serious.

Any ideas as to why social bookmarking site I should start with? I find the "Stumble Upon" toolbar thing hasn't worked for me since I am on a couple different computers everyday…

Wednesday Writer Spotlight: Kristy at Master Your Card

For the next few Wednesdays, I'll be featuring writers I like and how they hone their craft, use the internet, get writing ideas from life, and rake in the dough.

Kristy is a twentysomething personal finance blogger who has been writing with Master Your Card since May of 2008. During her free time from blogging she works for a credit union in Austin, Texas where she helps clients manage their financial picture.

Though I haven't met Kristy in the real world, I can tell you from her posts and comments, we'd be great friends.

You're a contributor at Master Your Card. I've noticed a trend of other sites recently that are launching with multiple bloggers. How did you find out about Master Your Card and become part of it?

Well, Jonathan posted an ad over at Freelance Writing Gigs ( looking for a personal finance blogger. Because of my experience in banking, I figured it would be a good opportunity, so I applied. Initially there was another candidate that had applied and Jonathan was torn between the two of us, so we were both writing on a trial basis until Jonathan had an idea of who would be the best fit for the blog.

How do you work with the other contributors at Master Your Card? Do you work with them?

Masteryourcardlogo There is only Jonathan and myself at this point, though Jonathan has mentioned the possibility of another writer. He and I work independently of each other for the most part, but remain in constant contact for updates on various goings on with the blog. While Jonathan does write and comment on the blog, he handles the administrative stuff and is currently working on our 'ace in the hole,' as it were. He's got a few things in mind for the site that we're both pretty excited about. My job is to write content, keep up with comments, and generally be a presence in the blogosphere.

Do you get assigned topics by the site owner? I'm thinking the more people are involved in a blog the harder it may be to stay on message.

No, I pretty much have free rein to write about what I want to write about. I do ask Jonathan for his input and topics he'd like to see me discuss, but overall he's pretty good at letting me have creative control. He doesn't even do a lot of editing, which is nice. Occasionally I run out of things to talk about and he's always there with some ideas that prod me along and generate other ideas…he's awesome to work with.

How are bloggers like you compensated on these multi-blogger sites? You for example seem to post a ton and it wouldn't seem fair to get compensated the same amount as someone who posts less frequently.

Well, Jonathan and I have a payment arrangement that has changed somewhat since I started writing for him because my role has changed. But, this will vary from one blog to the next. I'm not sure how Jonathan came to his amount initially, but it was fair and I accepted. When we discussed the changes in my role, he asked for my input and I gave him an estimate based on an amount per word. So, it really depends on the writer and the employer as to how the compensation works.

I've asked this question of all the writers in the series. What is the craziest thing you've done to get a story right?

Hmmm. I don't really have anything witty to say here, lol. I'm not usually the "go crazy" type. If a story isn't working, it isn't working and I don't force the issue. This doesn't happen to me much in terms of writing for MYC; however, in my screenwriting this happens quite a bit. If I can't find the story, or make it work, I shelve it and give it some breathing room. I'll come back to it eventually, but I don't try to force it.

I know you do other freelancing work as well. Is it finance related?

I was invited to write with Wisebread, so I'll be sending over my first article probably sometime this weekend. But, for the most part MYC is currently the only freelancing I'm doing. I was working with a site called First 30 Days, which is neat because it helps walk people through the first 30 days of a change. I wrote for the finance channel and I think some of my work is still posted there. For the most part I stick with finance because it's what I know; however, I will occasionally venture out into different things. I've done some ghostwriting on all manner of topics from the mundane to the weird…I once wrote an article on how to solve a Rubik's cube, which was interesting as I've never actually solved one. I've also written some pretty risque "guides" that I won't go into detail on here, but that was a learning experience as well.

I may be interested in contributing to a site like Master Your Card so that I get to write a blog but the site wouldn't have to be my baby. How would I go about finding a gig like this? What general advice to you have to someone considering contributing to a blog like this?

If you're interested in writing for a blog, I'd start with FWG where I found Jonathan and MYC. But, you can also check Craigslist and for a listing of blogs seeking writers. As for general advice, I'd recommend keeping a running list of ideas. I know sometimes I get so busy with other things that I think of really good topics and then lose them in the hustle and bustle that is my day. I rely on Jonathan for those times with his great ideas. But sometimes you don't get as lucky as I have been with Jonathan there to offer ideas, so keep a running list. Add often. Other than that, try to make the writing fit you and not the other way around. If you look at the successful blogs out there, you'll notice that they're all pretty unique in their voice. Find yours early and let it shine in your work. When I first started writing with Master Your Card, I was pretty stiff because I was adjusting, but I think I've let my personality come out a little more and that's what draws people in. Sure, the content is important too, but the delivery makes all the difference.

Read Kristy's writing on the Master Your Card Blog or subscribe to the Master Your Card feed so you don't miss a thing.

Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Mark Laflamme…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Melanie Brooks…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Carrie Jones…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Rhea Cote-Robbins…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Tom Walsh…

Fun Friday: 25 Random Things About Me

It's going around the blogosphere and Facebook and since it's Friday and I'm zonked, I thought I'd go for it. For those of you who know me on Facebook, I've changed a few of these…

1. I own about ten cashmere sweaters and love and wear them all.
2. I never had a nightmare until after my father died. Now I do fairly regularly… and I hate it.
3. If I had one power, I wish I could help everyone I meet see their potential, myself included . Sounds corny but I honestly think people don’t understand what they are capable of doing. I feel like shaking people sometimes and saying “You are not stuck in your life!”
4. My thesis research looked at long chained fatty acids indicative of plant life in a sediment core from a lake in Russia. Believe it or not, this doesn't always come up in conversation.
5. If I could afford it, I’d have a massage and a therapy session every week.
6. I am so right handed I can barely drink a glass of water with my left hand.
7. I love vintage jewelry. Among my favorites are my great grandmother’s rhinestone earrings and my grandmother’s engagement ring.
8. My “Frenchness” is a key part of who I am, and the second I pull into the city limits of my hometown, my accent comes right back.
9. Being pleasant has gotten me further in my life then I ever thought possible, far more then any other quality or qualifications I have.
10. I have long ago embraced my imperfection and market it to people as endearing.
11. If I meet you and learn your birthday, I will look you up in my birthday “personology” dictionary and see if we’re going to get along.
12. People feel really comfortable talking to me and tell me a lot of secrets… then I forget them. That’s probably why they tell me!
13. My host mother in France taught me to cook Mediterranean cuisine, and I am ever grateful because it’s my favorite thing to make!
14. Sushi is my favorite thing to eat and I can eat a lot of it if the opportunity presents itself.
15. I have now reached a point in my life where there are some things I’d redo if I could…large parts of the last year included…
16. but since I can’t I won’t dwell on them…or will I?
17. I got a dog four days after I got my first full time job, and I’ve never regretted it. I knew I was a dog person.
18. As liberated as I am, I wish someone would want to marry me. I’d be fun to marry, right?
19. Someday, I hope to work from home, which is why I’m spending a lot of time and energy building this online business now.
20. I really like quotations and have them posted all around my apartment, sometimes in unexpected places.
21. If I was naturally skinny, I’d eat ice cream all day and never work out.
22. I may love technology but I keep my notes and my journals the old fashioned way.
23. My blog is about money/personal finance because when I took my latest job, I took a $8000 salary cut and had to learn to do without. I’m still learning!
24. I want to be famous.
25. My favorite color is hot pink.

MSN Money Welcome!

My blog friend J. asked some of us to send in random and crazy jobs we had.  And then it gets picked up by MSN Money! Wohoo!

So if you've clicked my link off of J's post, welcome to Breaking Even and I do hope you decide to stay awhile.

Would You Accept Free Stuff In Exchange For Giving A Review?

I have a new client who is a local restaurant owner and while we were meeting today, he offered me a free sandwich. At first, I was going to turn him down and politely drink my coffee but sitting there for over an hour and smelling all the good smells, I broke down.

"The Italian Job" is a restaurant favorite that has got high quality salami, roasted red peppers, fresh baked bread trucked in from a Boston bakery…I know enough with the temptation, right? I said yes to a sandwich that was both free and looked fantastic.

And you know what? It was fantastic. It may be among the best sandwiches I've ever had in my life.

This got me thinking about doing something to get something free and how common this actually is. Zagats sends you a free guide for a review, bloggers get paid for posts (not me but some bloggers do it for extra income), and publishers and record companies send out free stuff to the press to review all the time.

Now I'm not getting paid to say I like this sandwich, but was getting a free sandwich going to taint my review? I'd like to think that I'm impartial, as I have said unfavorable things about some books that have been sent to me to review on this blog. Hmm…

What do you think: If you walked by a restaurant and they were offering a free sandwich for a review, would you take it? And when you did write the review, would you feel like you had to say something good about it since it was a "free"?

Best Buy Update: Money Back For Being A Squeaky Wheel

I'm really a non-confrontational person. I don't like to use this blog to push a particular agenda (you know, besides be financially responsible and happy). And this is the last time (hopefully) I'll blog about my Best Buy fiasco.

After posing my blog about Best Buy (and peppering it with key words so search engines would pick it up), I got a reply from Gina, who works for Best Buy as some kind of internet relations person. She asked me to email her some information, which I did. This afternoon, my credit card was reimbursed for the game I didn't buy.

It was definitely some vindication but at the same time, I realized I wasn't upset about $31 so much as standing at customer service being accused of stealing. I felt my face getting red as I could see the girl didn't believe me. I think about the throngs of Christmas shoppers standing behind me, probably thinking I was trying to pull one over the girl waiting on me. I thought of how not wanting to yell or otherwise make a big deal got me no attention while an obnoxious blog post did. Mel who was with me during the questioned purchase even blogged about it.

It makes me wonder: if I didn't have a high search engine ranking and a blog, what could I have done? The standard routes (calling the store, then corporate, explaining in person to custmoer service, asking they review video) had gotten me no where. I think of those people who could find themselves in this exact same situation who couldn't stick it to the company. And that stinks.

All the more reason to buy locally and check reciepts carefully. And if that doesn't work, use the power of the internet to get the word out. I found it certainly worth being the squeaky wheel if only to have my dignity and my $30 back.

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