My first job (without having a job)

I was awarded my first job! It’s a small job, just 12 hours of estimated work, but I landed it! I got the news last night and instantly told Nin’ta; we spent a few minutes just excitedly talking, and I decided a glass of wine was an order. Definitely a good feeling.

And today I began working on it, with more than a bit of nervousness. Fear, more honestly. The whole fear of others’ expectations, of not being able to complete the project well, of failure. And I wrote in my journal, “What if I can’t do it? What if I make a mistake?” Then, “I’ll make it right.” Because, at the end of the day, I’m going to make some mistakes. But having already decided that I’ll do what it takes to run this business well, to make things right and fair even if it costs me, I can forgive myself, and can be brave enough to move forward.

And I have. Even though there were some distractions today (I met up with a few new friends), I got in about 5 1/2 billable hours (4 1/2 on workview, and some other work that I’m hoping he’ll be willing to pay for, but it was off the computer), and I feel like I moved forward quite a lot. The basic design work is sketched out on paper, large amounts are modeled, and I’ve researched different materials.

Oh, and thinking of sketching, to get around the WorkView Tracker when doing non-computer-based work, I’ve set the computer camera on and pointed it at my sketchpad. That way, as the tracker takes screen shots I have evidence that can show that I’m working. I hope everything goes well with approval. Looks like my hours will go through next Monday, then I should be payed the following Friday. Just in time for the end of the month, like a real job — but without an office.



Another week begins

It’s Monday and I’m excited. That hasn’t happened at the beginning of a work week in a long, long time. Maybe the espresso is talking, but I feel like I have more energy now than when I started this morning. Something good is happening. 

First off, I took a full day yesterday to relax with my girl. Both last night and Saturday night we went out to see the lanterns being set off and joined in with the Loi Kratong festivities. Having time completely set aside from work makes me feel much more ready to go today. Plus, how can you say no to spending time celebrating a festival that looks like this?


Today had a bit of a slow start. I think I’ll need to spend a bit more time planning the evening before so that I don’t end up groggily stumbling (metaphorically) through the first hour of my work day. On the plus side, I did get in nearly a full day today with 9 hours of work time start to finish, even though quite a bit of it was spent resolving computer issues.

I found out that the SolidWorks version I so painstakingly installed last week doesn’t run very well on my computer. Easy, I thought. I’ll just go back and purchase an older version, I thought. It’ll be fine, I thought. I thought. Turns out, with Windows 8, no other version of SolidWorks will run. So, essentially, I flushed 700 baht away today on software CDs I can’t use. On the good side, I got extra RAM installed on my laptop, and at 8 gigs, SolidWorks is now running fine. Some waste will be inevitable.

So far I’ve heard back from 3 of the 15 clients I contacted. That’s not a great ratio, but I’ll reserve judgement until tomorrow morning; right now it’s only 7a.m. Monday morning in America, and I don’t think that the engineers there are getting up excitedly to review my bids after the weekend. I’ll know more tomorrow.


I’ve been using the gap time right now to re-model some of my previous projects so I can have something in my portfolio. Honestly, I wouldn’t hire me without anything in my portfolio, and I wouldn’t blame the clients if they feel the same. I’m about one and a half pieces into the portfolio; I figure 5-7 good pieces will do for now. 

Alright, I need to go find trouble to get into for the night.



Two days and fifteen bids later…

Yesterday I woke to exciting news: my country was verified on Elance and I was capable of submitting new bids. With my day mostly taken up with social activities, though, I only got a couple of hours to actually work. I need to figure out how to keep the balance between taking advantage of social opportunities and keeping boundaries around my work time. In any case, with the new time management blocking system and some motivation, I was able to send off all but one of the five bids I’d written. The fifth had already closed; c’est la vie.

I’m trying something out that may backfire. Instead of providing complete bids based on the information given, I’m sending out requests for more details, along with some highlights of applicable design and modeling experience. Most of the job descriptions are too vague for me to accurately bid, but I’m purposefully withholding the bid on all jibs for more than that. I want to get a conversation about the job going to help me stand out from the crowd through clear communication and insightful design questions that will demonstrate my knowledge. Once we’ve started talking, then I’ll give a price, and I’ll know whether it was the price or the initial proposal that failed when I don’t get jobs. I could end up turning off some clients this way, but the only way to find out is through trying, right?

So far I’ve heard back from two customers, which is not bad considering that yesterday I contacted only four. Today I’ve sent out another ten information requests and my mind’s eye is now cross-eyed. Since it’s the weekend I don’t expect I’ll hear anything back till Monday or Tuesday, but that doesn’t stop me from nervously and excitedly checking each incoming email in hopes that I’m getting closer to my goal of completing $300 of work this month.

I can’t really plan out next week the way I’d like to before the weekend, but my goal is to land jobs, and accomplish significant work on any that I’ve landed. If I don’t get many responses, then I’ll focus more on developing my portfolio with old design work, and also look at doing some interim teaching to keep bacon on my table.

Alright, the weekend is starting I five, four, three…

Weekend Beguns

Time to bid, or soon, I hope

Today I’ve run into yet another hitch. Oddly, knowing that I can expect this has lowered my stress; I know that from here on out there will be many roadblocks to overcome. My roadblock today is Elance not updating my country location after more than 48 hours with my scanned driver’s license and 12 hours with my scanned passport. But even though I couldn’t place any bids today, I still felt like I accomplished a lot.

I knew that today’s next step was bid proposal, but with the roadblock, I couldn’t. But just because I can’t submit the proposals, that didn’t mean I couldn’t write them and get ready for when the roadblock is removed. I spent the morning (here defined as 0930-1430) researching and writing five bids. Doing a little research on advice for proposals yielded little new information; mostly it was a case of having the courage to start. (However, there is some useful advice here and here.) The courage to try will be a recurring theme.

Another useful thing today was trying out the Pomodoro technique and setting goals for each half hour. Instead of spending an hour or two researching and tweaking proposals and getting distracted, by setting short goals, I was able to power through distractions, then relax and refresh for a few minutes. I definitely plan to use this technique more in the future; I can accredit most of my useful work today to that one time management technique.

Guru Box Co-Working Space -- for one
Guru Box Co-Working Space — for one

More from today… well, I tried out a new co-working space called Guru. Clean, open space with plenty of light, free coffee and, well, noone else working. I assume it’s new and just unknown. After a week of coffee shops, having reliable internet and not feeling like a freeloader was really nice. Next week I’ll be looking at a few more co-working spaces, too, hopefully to gain a few friends and more allies.

Alright, it’s late, I’m tired, and tomorrow will be another full day.

P.S. – no post yesterday due to a border run to Myanmar. 30 more days added, and a new country stamp in the passport. Good day.

Support, or, How alliances can make you a survivor

Today was a complete contrast to yesterday. I knocked off everything on my to-do list and retroactively completed the necessary part of yesterdays. And thanks goes to Lee.

Move quickly toward profitability
Move quickly toward profitability

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is what new companies use for testing ideas on their markets. While I’ve been busy setting up a website, researching multiple freelance sites for use, and spending (I kid you not) two hours creating a Favicon for my website, the thing I haven’t been doing is the actual work itself. I haven’t placed any bids. I haven’t won any contracts. I haven’t completed a project and gotten paid. And, to be successful, those are the things I actually have to do.

It’s not that I don’t want a kicking website with a great logo, but I was reminded today that those things can come later. Even video bids, as much as I think the idea is great, can come later. Right now I need to focus on landing, completing and being paid for my first job.

To-do lists -- done
To-do lists — done

In that vein today, and based on time spent on the different freelance sites, I decided to fully complete only one profile. If I want to I can later finish signing up for Odesk and Freelancer, but for now I’m only available on Elance. I’ll also postpone completing my website, working on it in free time until I actually think it will allow me to expand my business. Today I’ve browsed dozens of jobs on their boards and flagged about fifteen that I’ll bid on as soon as my account is verified.

All my work now will be streamlined into getting to the first paycheck, the validation I need to know that I can really earn a living with this business model. But now it’s 7:30, and it’s time for music and dancing. Buena noche.

Step one, where I am now
Step one, where I am now

Momma said

I realized today that with freelancing I’ve most likely signed up for a lot more days like this, days where you spend hours running into the same wall, unsure if you’ll be able to figure out a way through the barricade you’re facing. But I hope at least most of those days will end as this one just has, with a bit of success.

Today has been largely discouraging. Actually, only the afternoon was rough, but as often happens, it’s overshadowed the better morning. I’d picked up some software and just. Couldn’t. Get it. To work. It’s now almost 1 a.m., and I’ve finally gotten the install to work correctly.

Other parts of the day were better. I started a bit later than ideal, but I think that’s going to be a gradual adjustment. Going from English teacher hours to engineer hours will take a few weeks.

I’d mainly wanted to figure out my focus over the weekend, and after a bit of research, I know what to do: I’m going to focus on drafting, 3D technical modelling, and product design. Long term I’ll learn more about green production and focus the business in that direction, but today I have enough to start with.

I’ve written a business plan using the one-page form from The $100 Startup , a good resource for small businesses in general. And after a bit of research, I’ve also registered a new domain using SiteGround hosting. The service seems good and prompt so far, with live customer support guiding me through the initial stages of setup. Once I’ve got a basic site working I’ll post a link to my new business page.

Stormy days can have beautiful sunsets.


Getting started… slowly, slowly

Today is a half day, which is what I’ve planned for Saturdays. My basic plan is to work long days Monday through Friday, a short day on Saturday that frees Saturday evening, and take Sunday off. Each work day will start with some quick exercise and end with something enjoyable. Last night it was the Thai market on Chang Moi; Amp and I strolled through the rows of stalls selling all manner of amazing foods and fresh fruits enjoying the scents and the cool air.

Of course, with working longer hours, some personal tasks will be mixed in by necessity. But that’s okay. I’m not just here trying to build a freelance business; I’m building a freelance life.

Today I spent some morning time returning the scooter and looking for a new rental shop (I think Aya Service will be the choice, but I won’t be able to stop by there till tonight). I’ve also chosen a new way to track spending, downloading the MoneyWise app for my android phone. I’ve been using Mint, which is great for tracking my American accounts, but which doesn’t have an easily accessible feature for tracking cash.

My current financial goals for this month are to spend only 10,000 baht more (including a quick visa run and a month’s motorbike rental, which make things tighter) and to earn at least 5,000 baht online and/or through private teaching. For the foreseeable future I’ll be trying to keep my normal expenses to $600 dollars each month (about 18,000 baht). A typical benchmark for people living here is $500, but since I’m following a Paleo eating style, the price will go up a bit.

As far as work is concerned, I’ve been doing a bit of research on successful freelancing tips. This is what I’ve found that stood out most:

  • Make a business and marketing plan, set goals, check-in regularly
  • Create a unique reason for people to hire you
  • Be human, and be a partner for your human customers
  • Focus on the core of your business – don’t waste time with the extraneous
  • Spend time growing your business
  • Find allies
  • Stop waiting for someone to give you permission (from a unique marketing article, here )

I’m going to spend some time this weekend evaluating options for the freelance jobs I’ll focus on. I’ve completely expanded my resume today to include all the experience I have, and created a list of things that I actually feel excited enough about to really put in the hard work to pursue. Here I’m also considering the ideas of Cal Newport, particularly this: often, passion follows mastery. When deciding on a major life course to pursue, the question is not, “What am I most passionate about?” (which leads to confusion), but “What am I willing to dedicate myself to mastering?”

My next update will be on Monday, with a preliminary decision on where to dedicate my next efforts. Wish me luck.

Passion follows mastery -- but what am I willing to dedicate myself to?
Passion follows mastery — but what am I willing to dedicate myself to?

Day 1: some lessons learned

Alright, so hopefully this saves someone out there some trouble: if you’re creating a Freelancer profile, select all of your skills at once. I didn’t, and know I’m only able to select eight of the total of twenty. Such is life. As my friend Lee said, I’ll probably make a lot of mistakes while trying to create an independent income, and I need to fail often and make it through those failures as quickly as possible.

On a more encouraging note, I’ve found a couple of interesting leads on the Freelancer job boards. I might be able to create a solid income just doing product design and CAD/CAM which looks like a lot more fun than writing blog posts for someone else’s website at $0.50-$0.80 per page (not a typo – that’s how little the going rate is). With a little work, I think I could also begin bidding on the WordPress jobs and learn more about web development. Possibilities.

What happens next?

New City, New Work — No Job. New Adventure!

My new office
My new office

This is the first day of the work portion of a new grand experiment. I’m back to living the questions, done with mindlessly going along with an easy path.

My primary goal right now is to create a livable income independent of a job before the end of the year. Of course, livable here in Thailand is much more achievable: I need about $600 per month for a basic-yet-comfortable living.

I’ve just signed a six-month lease on a beautiful apartment with my girlfriend of two years. If things work out well for us here, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to re-sign the lease at the end of April for another year. For me to feel financially successful by April, I’ll need to be earning $1500 or more per month. That seems big right now, but knowing that others have done it in less than two months, I know it’s very feasible.

My new home
My new home

Other than that, I want to have a good time here. One of my best friends from college (university to you Brits) is here, and he’s introducing me to the freelancer social scene. I also want to get more fit and healthy… I guess that’s about it.

Thanks to for inspiration in living this freelance life in Chiang Mai and also to for an idea about how to measure the quality of your life: are you living all of your best self?

So, completely soft, that’s the goal for being here: I want to live more of myself.

My new yardsticks
My new yardsticks

Bringing it back…

Hello All,

I imagine very few of you will actually go back this far into the archives. But if you do, thanks.

This blog was actually started as a website, over three years ago, which I’ve since let lapse. I’ll be continuing my random musings here with a focus on travel and adventure, and the insights they inspire.

The quote at the top of the page comes from a longer paragraph in Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. It’s been an inspiration to me for a long time, helping me to be at peace with where and who I am, while at the same time learning and growing.

“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”


Christian W. BrownImage