How are your goals been going for 2009? I came across a website that I thought would be beneficial for all of the goal oriented people out there. It’s called Pledgehammer. Instead of just setting goals and forgetting about them, you now have the option of putting your money where your mouth is at. We were lucky to have Andrus Purde, the cofounder of Pledgehammer, answer a few questions and tell us about his website.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am an online marketer by profession, an avid reader, kitesurfer and traveler and a big believer in setting goals. I’m originally from Estonia but currently live and work in London.
Why did you start the website – Pledgehammer? How does it work? Why should people use Pledgehammer?
Pledgehammer, like many other things in this world, was started because of a personal need. I’d been writing down my various goals and resolutions for years but this wasn’t very systematic and I didn’t have a good way to keep track of the goals made in various times. There was no great eureka moment in creating Pledgehammer – myself and two co-founders just worked the original vague idea into its current shape.
How Pledgehammer works is very simple. You make a resolution, for example exercising regularly or taking up a new hobby, choose a deadline and a financial incentive. You can then share it friends and family to increase positive ‘peer pressure’, they can also cheer you on the site. Pledgehammer sends an email upon the deadline and (nicely) asks to donate money to charity if your resolution happened to fail. This way there is some good in failing pledges, too.
Pledgehammer doesn’t make anybody’s resolutions true, people do it themselves. What we provide is a simple way to write your goals down, make them easy-to-share and provide a financial incentive with a charitable touch. All of this will give some extra help that is much needed for sticking to a resolution.
What are some of the more outrageous pledges you’ve seen posted?
Most pledges are what you’d expect them to be from losing weight to paying back credit card debt to learning new languages. But there are indeed some resolutions I can only assume are jokes, like someone resolving to “choose one of my girlfriends”, “not be a dumbass” and “take better care of my tractor” by a certain date.
What future plans do you have for the website? Is either a Facebook or iPhone application in your future?
No man is an island, and the same goes for websites. We’re of course looking to improve usability and add features but perhaps more importantly we need to make Pledgehammer work on the facebooks, twitters, iphones and other platforms of this world.
I see that most of the charities are in the UK. Do you have any plans for charities in North America?
We’re actually looking for more charities in North America to work with. If you work for a charity there please do get in touch by emailing email@example.com
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Firstly I’d like to thank everyone that has made pledges so far and wish them good luck in sticking to them. And I’d like to tell anyone that has failed their New Year’s resolution already that it’s never too late to re-do your resolution and get back in the saddle. Why not start again today?
Again, I want to thank Andrus for his time. In the spirit of goal setting and giving to a charity, I’ve signed up to make a pledge at Pledgehammer.
I will run a marathon by the end of this year or I am giving $100 to Cancer Research UK. Check out my pledge here!
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I was fortunate enough to meet Miranda through a blogging organization. I had seen her profile through multiple social networks and was fascinated at how she seemed to be EVERYWHERE. You can find her at her blog, www.mirandamarquit.com. Let’s get to know Miranda Marquit!
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 29-year-old freelance writer and professional blogger. I’m a work at home mom (WAHM) with one son. I have a M.A. in Journalism from Syracuse University. I love that my work allows me to live in the back-end of Utah and still make money while my husband finishes school. In addition to blogging, I write a column for my local newspaper, report for PhysOrg.com and do a little editing. I’ve also contributed book chapters to different projects, and have done some work for Discover magazine (along with other print publications).
Q: Are you a full time blogger? How did you get into blogging and why?
Out of my about 30-hour workweek, nearly 20 hours are spent in a blog-related way. I began blogging nearly four years ago when Robyn Tippins, who does sleepyblogger.com and is the Community Manager for Yahoo! Developer Network, found me posting regularly on Associated Content in a desperate attempt to pay the rent. All of my fellow grads were working in magazines or newspapers, but I knew I wanted to stay home with my son — so I went the online route. And I had no idea what I was doing. Robyn told me that blogging would pay much better, and that I could do it professionally for companies looking to integrate blogs into their online campaigns. Turns out she was right. Along the way, I discovered that I love the editorial form known as the blog.
Q: You seem to be all over the Internet. Between stumbling other people’s articles to commenting, you seem to be everywhere. Do you think this web networking has contributed to your success as a blogger?
It’s funny you should mention that. I’ve had long-lost friends, trying to reconnect, say that I’m the easiest person for them to find. Sometimes I wonder if that is a good thing…Anyway, the blogosphere is a very karmic place. I find that more people want to visit my blog if I visit theirs, and contribute in some meaningful way — whether it is with a non-spam comment or some sort of social media vote. Web networking definitely plays a role. So many people have been introduced to me through social media — and I’ve found many gems through networking as well.
Q: Is there any other networking that you do to help your blogging business?
Q: What are some of your goals this year for your blogs?
What does every blogger want? Better stats! But really, I’d like to develop a more refined “voice” that speaks to the audiences I have for my blogs. And at some point I’d really like to do more with my personal blog and work on monetizing it. After all, when you write for someone else, you only have so much leeway to really be yourself.
Q: How do you keep coming up with material? I seem to struggle sometimes with coming up with different articles and I only have one blog.
One of the best ways to come up with material is to have a news reader. Every morning I see what it is going on in the world of finance and business. I have feeds from mainstream sources, as well as my favorite blogs. Additionally, I keep my eyes open for what’s going on in my life, and in the lives of those around me. In September 2007, my experience as a first-time homebuyer provided several posts for one of my mortgage blogs. If you are writing about something that applies to you, it is a little easier to find material.
Q: If someone was interested in blogging, what would be a few things you would suggest?
I suggest blogging about something you know. Additionally, take the time to find your own voice. Just copying someone else will leave you unsatisfied. Figure out what interests you, and then write about it authentically. Post regularly, and try to vary things up a bit, changing the length of posts and adding other media — images and video — to your blogs on occasion. And, of course, have fun with it.
Q: A lot of people are interested in blogging for the money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from blogging? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?
The first tip is to scale back your expectations. I’ve found, personally, that blogging for other people pays faster than trying to build your own blog from the ground up (although if you’re really good at your own blog, you can grow your earning potential through advertising and other means). Realistically, though, it is important to understand that you don’t make money overnight when blogging — no matter who you do it for. When first starting out, you’ll be lucky to get enough to cover your Internet costs. If you work for other people, you may find that, until you get a little experience, you will be paid as little as $3 to $5 per post — or less if it’s all based on traffic or revenue sharing. (Right now, I average about $18-$23 per post, plus traffic bonuses for some clients.)
E-mail: mirandamarquit [at] gmail.com
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Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009
We were fortunate enough to have Jeffrey tell us about his website, FairRepair.com.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: I grew up in Cleveland, OH and attended The Ohio State University. I
stayed in Columbus after graduating with a Business Degree and I’m
happily married to my wife Debbie and we have 2 boys, Alexander and
Andrew. While in college, the web was just starting to get popular and
I was fortunate enough to work for a local web design firm. Two years
after graduating college I left that design firm to work for myself
and I became a co-owner in a web development consulting firm. During
that time I was approached by a group of very experienced automotive
executives who asked me to become a partner and develop a sophisticated
car repair estimating system aimed at consumers. Having developed
several web applications for the automotive industry I was immediately
excited about the idea and saw a huge opportunity.
Q: How did FairRepair.com start and why did you start it?
A: Being in the automotive industry for 20+ years, friends and relatives
of our CEO would consistently ask him if the cost of repairs for their
vehicle was accurate. In 2004, with the growth of the web, he saw an
opportunity to empower consumers with this information.
Q: What are some of the benefits of using your service?
A: We knew, in order to be respected by consumers and the repair
industry, our estimates had to be accurate and exact. We decided
immediately that we needed to license our data from the most highly
respected source in the automotive repair industry, and we knew that
company was MOTOR Information Systems, a subsidiary of Hearst
Publishing. MOTOR’s OEM Parts and Labor database powers 2 of the
largest dealer management systems in the US as well as many of the
independent repair shops estimating software. A vast majority of
repair shops know the MOTOR brand and respect and base their estimates
on their data. We also license a repair shop database with over 50K
records that contains each shop’s labor rate updated within the last year.
Combining both databases we are able to produce exact pricing for a
repair estimate. A FairRepair.com estimate will show the OEM Part #,
current market price and the actual labor time for that repair. We
then take an average of the labor rates in that vicinity and generate
the estimate. No other competing company licenses the MOTOR database
nor our proprietary repair shop database.
As a consumer, if no one is willing to complete the repair work on
their vehicle for the estimate that we or any of our competitors
generate, where’s the value? FairRepair.com is proud to have repair
shops nationwide who not only agree to honor a customer’s
FairRepair.com estimate, they have also agreed to rebate back to the
customer the purchase price of our estimate. Repair shops are finding
that our service and their decision to honor our estimates is
generating them business. Just last week, PepBoys, which has 500+ repair
shops nationwide, agreed to honor and rebate back to the customer the
purchase price of a FairRepair.com estimate. Given their nationwide
footprint and the number of independent repair shops who’ve made the
same commitment to us, we’re able to provide to a majority of
customers a repair shop within 10 miles who will honor our estimate.
A: FairRepair.com is proud of our relationship with MOTOR Information
Systems and because of them, our customers and repair shops know and
respect where our Parts & Labor Repair originated from when generating
their estimate. FairRepair.com provides estimates that are exact, we do not use ranges to generate an estimate. Providing an estimate with ranges or guesses leads to customers being overcharged and it’s clear a FairRepair.com estimate eliminates this problem. We have a nationwide
database of repair shops who will honor our estimate when presented to
them and many of these repair shops have agreed to rebate back to our
mutual customer the cost of our estimate, essentially making our service free.
Q: There are a ton of different cars, different models, and different years. That seems like a ton of data. Is your website able to give an estimate on all mechanical repairs?
A: The Parts & Labor data that we license does allow us to give an estimate for any mechanical repair however we don’t intend to be everything to everyone. Some repairs are just too complicated to be accurate without an inspection from a certified mechanic, for example the rebuilding of an engine. That being said, we know what the 100 most popular repairs are and it is our initial goal to have 100% of those repairs available for every vehicle from 1984 on. Our system is not there yet, although we are adding new repairs to our system regularly.
Q: What future plans do you have for FairRepair.com?
A: We are developing a repair shop review/rater system so that our customers can make a more knowledgeable decision as to where they should take their vehicle for repairs. We are also developing a reverse auction system that would allow repair shops to bid on our customers estimates.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: We have been asked in the past if we have any monetary relationship
with the repair shops in our database and the answer is no. We are completely independent. It is free to add a repair shop to our directory whether a repair shop just wants to be listed or they agree to rebate back to the customer their purchase price. FairRepair.com does not receive any kickbacks from repair shops if our customer decides to use their services.
FairRepair.com greatly appreciates the opportunity to inform your readers of our service, I invite them to use our service the next time their vehicle needs a repair.
Photo by: Stevo Arnold
Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009
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This is an interview with William Spetrino. He is financially independent through through investing in dividends, being smart with his money, and doing right by others. You can read more about him on his Squidoo page or his blog.
Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Answer: In college I was an accountant who graduated at the bottom of my class. In finance we learned the efficient market theory which meant throwing darts was as important as analyzing stocks. In 1987 I was first introduced to Warren Buffett and tried to read as much as I could. In the absence of the internet gathering information was not easy. What you are able to learn now in a month it took me over 10 years to learn. In 1988 I started with sports memorabilia but the problem is most of profits went to pay for living expenses. DON’T quit your job until you have at least 1 year of living expenses. In 1993 I finally got started with 7000 dollars and it all took off from there and was a slow steady grind until 1998 when I realized the internet’s vast amount of information was able to speed up my learning process.
Question: You have stated you are financially independent. What does that mean to you?
Answer: Financial Independence is knowing that your annual dividend income EXCEEDS your total living expenses. More importantly if you build your dividend machine “properly” the income should double every 6-10 years which should more than keep pace with inflation
Question: I really like the idea of living off of dividends. What got you interested in dividend paying stocks? Also, why dividend paying stocks? Why not real estate or some other avenue that offers cash flow while preserving the capital asset?
Answer: In 1993 I bought the stock that is now Altria when it had its dividend yield of 5.75% and a low PE. That original investment 15 years ago with reinvested dividends will pay me about 60% in 2009 of the original amount invested. That got my attention. And then if you go on my squidoo lens http://www.squidoo.com/Creating-Dividend-machine you will see Jeremy Siegel’s study of the top performing stocks with reinvested dividends. Let me just add I bought Altria more than 10 years before I read his study, but reading it made see the power of it. Siegel also said that 97% of the Dow’s gain since 1900 was because of reinvested dividends and 3% was ‘appreciation”. That made a lot of sense to me. Real estate is something that is capital intensive, you need to involve attorneys, contractors and was the way I thought wealth was to be developed in the 80s and early 90’s. But as time went on I realized that buying stakes in companies like Altria, Coca Cola, Johnson and Johnson when they are PRICED RIGHT is the easiest way to financial independence.
Question: We’ve spoken on the phone a few times and stressed the power of networking. Can you share you experiences in networking and how that has gotten you where you are today?
Answer: Networking is summarized in my book Consume Consume and Consume More which has been sold in over 15 countries and is now starting its second printing. Check out the reviews http://www.atfreeforum.com/billyticketswin/viewtopic.php?t=17&start=0&mforum=billyticketswin. Whats ironic is the 2 people who have helped me along the way were people I tried to sell an insurance policy to. Thankfully BOTH of them remembered my words. If you ever need ANYTHING at all. Please call me. Both people who are opposite as can be helped provide two separate income streams which provided me the finances to build my dividend machine. Listen closely to this story. When I used to tell one of my old mentors that I was more interested in helping others than selling he asked me if I believed in our product and I said sure. He said then well if you aren’t sharing the product WHO are YOU helping? That made me realize that waiters, construction workers and everyone I came in contact with was fair game. However I do it differently. Most people try and “push” one thing. I build a network of “generous”, positive , competent people and then I expose products to them. THEY will decide what they want. Remember No one loves to be “sold” but everyone LOVES to buy.
Question: I know that you are not a broker and can’t offer financial advice, but are there any dividend paying stocks you would suggest people investigate?
Answer: Unlike a broker who has a vested interest in what and how often you buy I will recommend companies that you understand. Pepsi Coca Cola McDonalds Altria Proctor and Gamble etc. The KEY is what PRICE you get the stocks at. In my book which can be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org gives the EXACT formula and filters to tell you WHEN and WHAT to buy.
Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Answer: My book will teach you how to start with NOTHING and achieve financial independence by following each step that is SIMPLY stated. The book is less than 50 pages but is full with MEAT which took me 20 years and over 1000 articles and books worth of reading to amass. There is a case study from almost 4 years ago where I analyzed 5 stocks and the 2 stocks I “recommended” are BOTH up even though the stock market is down drastically in that time span. My blog is at www.billytickets.blogspot.com. Feel free to submit questions an we can see how many we can get to. Peace.
Squidoo Lens: http://www.squidoo.com/Creating-Dividend-machine
His Forum: http://www.atfreeforum.com
Photo by: Epicharmus
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1. Could you please tell us about yourselves?
We have been making handmade copper jewelry and gifts for almost 25 years. We have built our company from the ground up. We started with just a small table on the street, we had a retail store, we have participated in arts and crafts shows in Canada and the United States, exhibited at wholesale jewelry and gift shows and now we are online for the entire world! There is no overnight success in business; you need to build your business step by step on a solid foundation to ensure continued success.
2. You mentioned you are semi-retired, what all does that entail?
Ten years ago nothing was more important than building our wholesale handmade jewelry business, a legacy for our children. We spent night and day working, blinders on, seemingly unaware of the world around us. We focused on our goal so completely that there was no time for friends or family. We were on our own just trying to get everything done on schedule. All in all we were quite successful but something was missing.
One day we woke up and the enthusiasm was gone, we were tired of the stress of our dream. So we decided that the dream needed revising. After much conversation, not to mention a little too much wine, we came up with a new plan. We were going to change everything; we were going to begin living the life we always wanted.
We packed up the house and the kids and we moved to Turkey. At times it seems like a fairy tale! We live by the sea; we go for long walks and spend entire days at the beach. We take drives along the coast and the views take our breath away, it is a truly enchanted life; a dream come true!
We still work on the handmade jewelry business but we are a lot more relaxed about it. Now we are focused on our website and new designs for our handmade jewelry and unique gifts instead of the day to day running of the business. The wholesale jewelry business is now working for us instead of us being the slave of the business.
3. How long have you had your business, http://www.copperreflections.com/? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in maintaining your business?
We started our business almost 25 years ago, but have only been focusing on the website for the last eight months. When we made our first website a few years ago, we sat down with a website designer and he made the website just how we wanted it. We were busy with our wholesale handmade jewelry business and didn’t focus on the website, it was just there. We had invested money but not time to understand how to make the website work for us. It was like printing business cards before you know what you are going to sell, pointless.
In the last eight months we have devoted a great deal of time to learn about internet marketing and to develop our website. It takes a lot of time, but research is the key to success. Knowing your target market and creating a marketing strategy are very important. This is not an overnight process; it takes time to find out what works and doesn’t work. It is a work in progress; every day we learn something new and try to apply it to our situation.
Six months ago you couldn’t find our website unless you typed in our URL. Now we are in the top ten for several of our keyword phrases and seeing improvement every day for the more competitive phrases. Every day we get inquiries about our handmade jewelry and unique gift ideas.
4. How did you get started in your business? How do you plan to grow into the future?
My husband starting making jewelry and selling on the street, he had a 2’x4′ table in Gastown, a historical part of Vancouver, Canada. We’ve come a long way since then. We are very much looking toward the future. Being online is like having a store for the whole world! We have recently found a distributor for our handmade copper jewelry and gifts in Australia. We receive inquiries every day and hope to find distributors throughout Europe and the UK. The future is looking very bright.
5. Are most of your clients within Turkey or do you do a lot of your business overseas?
We just moved to Turkey about a year ago, we don’t sell our products in Turkey. We have been in business in Canada for about 25 years. Our customers are mostly in the United States and Canada, and our designs are fitted to that market. We sell to the top tourist attractions in Canada, like the CN Tower in Toronto, Butchart Gardens in Victoria and Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver. We have distributors in Canada and the US who sell wholesale to retail stores, 90% of our sales come from there.
6. You guys seem to have done very well considering you are under the age of 50. Do you have any tips for other up and coming entrepreneurs?
If you want to be happy, sell retail; a store, online or craft shows. If you want to make money, sell wholesale to the retail stores; it’s a lot more work but it has its own rewards.
Sometimes a successful wholesale jewelry business just sneaks up on you overwhelming your life. It took years to realize that one person cannot be responsible for everything. In any type of business you must delegate the work so that the business is working for you. Choose what you like to do and outsource what don’t enjoy. Life is a balance; work should not overshadow all other areas.
Take time to enjoy life: family, friends and especially your kids. Before you know it they grow up, make sure you are the most important influence in their lives, not someone on tv. They are depending on you to show them the way to be happy and successful in life. Don’t let them down, be there for them.
To find out more about Tony and Jen, please feel free to visit their blog:
or chat with them on twitter