Change your book title and boost sales …?

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Liz and Business books

Liz and her books. Photo by Simon Howes

I was setting up a post on my main blog introducing my two new books to the world and I thought it would be interesting to write a “making of” on this blog which is, after all, about my adventures in reading, WRITING and working from home … And the title of this piece explains it all, really – can tweaking your book titles change your sales profile? I’m sharing my experience of naming my books and tweaking those names … and what might have happened next …

Funny book titles equals higher sales? Hm.

My first book was called “Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment“. I realised there was a danger of people only reading the first part of the title and thinking it was a guide to empty nest syndrome or divorce, but it was my first book, so I could ‘leverage’ that and tell the world about my book. It was sufficiently differentiated from other books to do quite well, and I’ve had some lovely positive reviews (if the worst someone can say about your book is that it contains a few too many cardigans, then life isn’t too bad).

I wasn’t really planning on writing another self-help careers book … except I then put together a Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription, because people kept searching for that topic on my blog, and that has indeed done pretty well, given that it’s a small book, not a full-length one. And then I kept on blogging about how I was building my business and developing my career and it became apparent that I could put together another book, about increasing your income, saying no and planning your time, plus what I’d learned about blogging and social media. I wrote some new chapters for the book which were later summarised in blog posts, and I published “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” in early 2014.

I did some market research on this title, this way round (and yes, if you’ve clicked the links, you’ll notice that the titles aren’t quite the same now) and people generally thought it was a good and funny title, as well as thinking the idea of the book was useful, given that there are lots of books out there about starting out and not so many about what happens next. I asked friends and colleagues on Facebook and in person at networking events, and excitedly launched the book. At the same time, I launched an omnibus e-edition of the two together so people could get better value, and called that “Going it Alone at 40 AND Who are you Calling Mature? The Omnibus“, which was probably a mistake. Who was going to find THAT searching for business books?

Launch your book and watch it fly!

Or not. I’ll be honest, sales were not what I’d hoped for. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, including sending out review copies, and people have bought it and posted some good reviews. But not in the numbers I’d wished for.  Then I asked again, did anyone think there was anything wrong with the title? And I got lots of replies, some along the lines of the business area not being as large, but several saying that the title didn’t lead them to think about business, but about some kind of guide to growing old disgracefully. Oh. After some fulminating about there being subtitles and blue books with graphs on the cover not generally being the way to sell comedy books on ageing, I actually listened to the advice, realised that no one had a chance of finding the omnibus, and switched all the titles around.

Do your research and tread carefully

It’s been a week or so since I changed the titles around. I haven’t actually changed the book covers – yet. I considered it, but as my motto is “Do things carefully and don’t spend out unless you have to”, I thought I’d see if the change had an effect.

What did I do?

  • I changed the titles around on Amazon, and added a whole new title to the omnibus, so it’s now called “Your Guide to Starting and Building your Business“.
  • I remembered to change the titles on my business website’s publications page, and I took the opportunity to add to their SEO (search engine optimisation, AKA making sure that people can find your stuff) by adding sub-headings with the book titles.
  • I changed the titles on my book pages on this blog
  • I told people what I’d done and thanked them for their input
  • I wrote a blog post on my main blog introducing the books (with their new titles) to the world – it’s common practice to launch independent authors’ books once they’ve garnered a few sales and reviews) and made sure they were helped by the SEO of that site

What happened?

I sold more books. It’s anecdotal, obviously: there hasn’t been enough time to see whether this is a trend or a spike. I don’t think the sales were ‘support buys’, i.e. my friends feeling sorry for me and buying a copy to help out (I do massively appreciate that when it happens, and am chuffed at all sales, but that does sort of skew your sales statistics!), but so far I have had significantly more interest and sales.

What happens next for those book titles?

Well, for a start, I’m going to leave them that way around, as it obviously works.

I’m going to see how sales go through next month, and if they are good enough and I can see they’re going to pay their way, I will get the covers redesigned (including the covers for the print books)

And I’ll let you know!

Update – 20 days on and I’m redoing my book covers!

Update: 20 June. I’m pleased to report that as of 20 June I’ve sold copies of my books every day, and more copies of the renamed ones. Luckily, I get a nice report from Amazon about daily sales. I don’t think I’ve been talking about my books any more on social media than I usually do, so I’m putting it down to the new book titles.

Update – August 2014

Liz new books fbI ordered a new cover for the Omnibus e-book, and the two print books – and here they are. Doing that plus creating a dedicated books website has helped to build traffic and sales – but what started it all off was changing the titles! I’ve blogged a more detailed update here.

Paper is sometimes best

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Sometimes paper is best!

I was looking at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders website and musing about how I almost never do work on paper manuscripts (once in well over 500 jobs), and then the doorbell rang and my new to do list stationery had arrived … so that’s one thing where I do stick with paper.

Well, one of two things.

With my to do lists, I have flirted with Google Calendar / Tasks and I do put meetings, events and appointments like Skype chats or phone calls in there. But all through my working life, I have had a paper to do list, and, you know what? That’s what I like to have. I had been using one of my few Libro notepads to keep it, but I’ve now bought a special book – appointments on the left hand page and Things To Do Today (why is that capitalised when the name of the book is all lower case, though?) on the right. With tick boxes and everything. There is also room for notes, which is handy for those phone calls.

The other thing I keep on paper is my customer records. Not entirely: I keep a note of people’s pricing and other terms on their contact details in my gmail account. As I do work for people, I either create an invoice for that piece of work, including details of the time spent or word count, depending on how I invoice them, or add the project to their current monthly invoice But I have an A4 spiral bound book with a section for each major client and one for one-off/student clients.  This is where I note down the date, time, word count and charge for each job I do.

I like writing. I like pen and paper. I like using fountain pens with different colour inks. I might do all my editing, proofreading, writing and transcription on the computer, and I might have an online book review blog; I might even have a Kindle … but when it comes down to it, I read real books too (mostly, actually), write my book reviews in a nice notebook first, and keep paper records and to do lists.

You don’t have to do what is most up to date and modern. Everything doesn’t have to be In The Cloud. Do what you feel comfortable with!

The First Six Months

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Wow – the end of June on Saturday marked the end of my first six months running Libro full time, with no safety net of an office job (but plenty of safety nets in terms of savings and experience!).

I thought I should mark this in some way, so I’ve changed the photo on my Facebook page to give myself some flowers, and I’m writing this to review the past six months. Has it gone as expected? Has anything surprised me? Am I actually doing OK? Am I happier? Am I enjoying myself? What have I learned?

Has it gone as expected?

In a word: no!

But in a good way. Each time I dropped a day at the office job in 2011 I experienced a small “slump” where the work coming in, and the profit made, dipped a little, just for a month. So I expected a big drop, a fallow period, especially as I had Jury Service to contend with at the beginning of January.

In fact, to tell you the truth, I was quite looking forward to a little rest. I’d actually finished my library job on 12 December and had worked solidly since then, gaining a new client and working over Christmas, including through a cold! But … it didn’t happen. I had obviously gathered a good number of regular customers, and adding a new one into the roster made a big difference. Also, some of my regulars increased the work they sent to me, as I had told them I was more available now, and having more hours available to work made me able to, well, do more.

Basically, the work ramped up right away, and I’ve been working pretty well full-time hours ever since!

Did anything surprise me?

I have to admit that I’m a little surprised that I’m sitting here, working full time on my business, keeping busy and earning well.  I didn’t think I was going to FAIL as such, because I had planned everything out, and by the end of March I knew that I was earning enough to keep myself going. But I’m actually doing better than I’d expected, in terms of busy-ness and in terms of income.

I think I’ve surprised myself with my success – a few years ago, I could never have dreamed I’d be doing this! I’m not being smug about it and it has come with a LOT of hard work, and I should have had the faith in myself not to be surprised at this point …

Have I surprised anyone else, I wonder? Friends who’ve known me for years and newer business friends? I’d love to know!

Am I actually doing OK?

In terms of income, I’m happy to admit that I’m earning more than I have in any other job I’ve had (only a little more than the highest-paying one, but still). And now I’ve got through the double tax year and out the other side with my tax payments safely set aside, knowing what I owe and what I could take home, I am taking home enough to live on and to treat myself (and my patient friends who graciously accepted cheap / badly planned / cheap AND badly planned Christmas and Birthday presents for a few years). I’m not rolling in it, and I have turned into neither Richard Branson nor Mrs Thatcher, but I’m doing well enough to be happy with it.

In terms of clients, I have a fairly full roster of regular clients of various kinds, keeping my work varied, from editing non-fiction and fiction books to transcribing international conferences and journalists’ interviews to localising web and marketing text for all sorts of companies.  My website and blog are getting more hits every month, and I do like looking at those stats!

Physical health wise, I’m eating well and getting to the gym a lot more, walking to meet Matthew after work, etc. Mental health wise I am a lot less stressed and I thrive on working on my own but having virtual colleagues via social media and business contacts and friends via various networking groups. I also have more flexibility and time to see friends and spend time with family.

Another important thing for me is helping people and giving back. I’ve been able to put together some great resources for students, Word users and other small businesses – OK, they bring people to my website, but I also love being able to help people out. My Saturday freelance/small business chats are going well, with a year’s worth done so we’re onto a combo of updates and new interviews. I love being able to showcase other small businesses and share our stories with people thinking about making the leap into self-employment or business ownership. And I’ve been able to help out other businesses and groups at the Social Media Surgeries, etc., too.

Am I happy / enjoying it?

Yes, I am! I’m so much happier and relaxed than I was even before I was working part time and running the business part time. This kind of lifestyle really suits me, and I genuinely enjoy the work. It’s great to be able to use my abilities and stretch myself, and I love knowing I have those regular clients out there and hearing how they are getting on and interacting with people all around the world, from China to Canada.

Specifically related to the full-time aspect of it, I love the fact that I do have more time for other projects, reading, Matthew and friends now. It might not look like it sometimes, but I am working fewer hours compared to when I was employed and self-employed at the same time. And I’ll admit that it’s nice to have a bit of money after a few years of hard saving and being very frugal indeed.

What have I learned?

The most important lessons I’ve learned are …

  • Embrace new opportunities, whether that’s new kinds of client, new kinds of work, presenting at training days or whatever
  • Don’t worry if it goes a bit quiet: it will pick up again and I can use the time to recharge my batteries
  • I can do it – and I must trust in myself and my relationships with my clients that I can
  • Eat a lunch made of more than one food group before 2pm and go outside every day and all will stay reasonably well and healthy

Thank you!

I’d just like to put out a big thank you to …

  • My clients, regular and one-off
  • Those clients who have been able to give me references and recommend me on to new clients (some of you can’t do this owing to NDAs, I know!)
  • My readers of both my blogs – whether you comment or not
  • The people who have kindly shared posts on Facebook, retweeted on Twitter or even featured me on their own websites and blogs
  • My online friends who I’ve never met but are there for good times and bad
  • My patient friends – it’s much better now, isn’t it!
  • Matthew, for putting up with me, for embracing and celebrating someone who’s changed an awful lot since you met them 11 years ago, and for tech support, of course!

Here’s to the next six months … and onwards!

On Bank Holidays

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When you work in an office, Bank Holidays (or public holidays, or whatever you call them in your country) are really important. There’s lots of discussion about what you might do on the Bank Holiday, and what you did, afterwards. Lots of chat about “don’t forget not to come in on Monday”. People who have odd working schedules get upset or pleased about how Bank Holidays are treated in their pay and holiday schedules (if you don’t usually work on a Monday, do you still get an extra holiday, etc., etc.)

If you’re a freelancer or run your own business, especially if you work from home, alone, let me tell you that Bank Holidays disappear into the ether. They do not matter. They might as well not exist, except that a) there might be extra people around the house, startling you with their presence occasionally, and b) people might expect you to be free to do stuff.

I’m not sure if this is limited to people who, like me, have a lot of international clients whose public holidays are at different times to ours. But I bet anyone with a big project to complete doesn’t stop just because it’s Bank Holiday Monday. I’ve coped OK with this double one for the Jubilee, but the  early May one was a different story. Up the stairs I popped at 6 am, as usual. “See you at 8 for breakfast,” I cheerily called to M, as usual. “Eh? What?” I’d completely missed the memo that there was a Bank Holiday. Oh, because there are no memos when you work alone …

By the way, I have been known to check what day it is, or whether it’s morning or afternoon, when entering the gym, for example. I know which column I’m in on my Gantt chart, and I’m never startled by my deadlines, but I do hope that other home / lone workers are the same and I’m not starting to go a bit odd …

Liz Broomfield, Professional Editor and Writer

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Here’s me looking all professional (thanks again to the wonderful photographer, Adam Yosef).

The reason I’ve posted this? Well, I did my Self-Assessment Tax Return on Sunday.

Not only did I earn what I would consider to be a Living Wage with Libro last year (quadrupling my profit from 2010-2011), but I also didn’t lose as much of it to the tax man as I thought I would (see the posts on my main Libro blog about Payment On Account and on the outcome of my Tax Return).

So, I am able to support myself with my freelance work. I didn’t, to be honest, think I’d get to this point for a while. I’m not saying I’m rolling in money, but I’m certainly OK for the odd coffee out, and a holiday, although I’d be on a tight rein financially this year  (because of the double tax thing) if I hadn’t got some money saved up from when I was in full time employment.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m being smug or showing off about this. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I’ve worked very hard, but mainly I’m posting this to share with you that it is possible to do this, if you plan carefully, work hard and stick with it. I’m not a natural entrepreneur, and I’ve had pretty much a zero marketing budget; I’m lucky enough not to have too many business outgoings, but I am proving that it can be done.

First action for this financial year: take Matthew out for a slap-up meal (on me, not expenses!) to thank him for his patience and forbearance!

End of project … end of year

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Photo by Adam Yosef

I really like this photo of me at Birmingham Social Media Cafe and wanted a chance to use it somewhere – my friend, Adam, kindly took some photos for me as I had to submit one to the website of an event I’ve been invited to, and he got this one too. Me, in Libro colours, pouring tea.

Anyway – I’ve reached the end of a big, ongoing project transcribing conference sessions, a project that comes up fairly regularly and is great fun to do, but takes a lot of my time and energy. And I’ve come to the end of my financial year, which coincides with the UK financial year. So a time for reflecting and taking stock of things.

Peaks and troughs in work life

I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more relaxed about the quieter times in my business life. I used to get nervy, thinking it had all somehow, miraculously, “gone away” and I was going to end up destitute in a gutter. Now I know it goes in peaks and troughs. I know that most of my clients are regulars, that it would be rather odd if they all stopped sending me work at the same time, and that I will be as busy as anything really soon.

So I’m using this time to chill out a bit. I had a massive reading in bed session after breakfast today (and finished a book I’d been reading for AGES – watch out for reviews coming soon) and plan to do a lot more of that. Matthew is off for the University General Holidays and the rest of next week, and hopefully I’ll get some time to spend with him, even if we’re just lolling around the house watching telly. We are going to the park this afternoon (mainly to have a cuppa out).

Tax time … and Payment on Account time

It’s nearly Tax Self-Assessment time: hooray! I might post a bit more about this at some point (should I? What do you think?) but basically I discovered early on that you don’t have to do your tax return in a frenzy at the end of January, just before the deadline. You can do it as soon as you have all your stuff together. I used to have to wait for my P60 from the day job, but I have my P45 from December all ready and waiting. I’ve done my accounts, because I keep them up to date all year round and then just make sure I include everything I’ve invoiced up to the end of the year (this may change next year: I hope it does!) even if it hasn’t been paid yet. I just have to get my Statements of Interest from the banks (this makes me laugh: my two banks combined a year or so ago. They use the same computer systems; even their online systems are almost identical. But Lloyds TSB will print out your Statements of Interest there and then, whereas Halifax insist on posting them to you. One for each account) and then I’m ready to go.

I don’t do my Self-Assessment in April, just after the end of the financial year that it’s for, to be smug and feel clever. I do it because then I  know what I will have to pay the tax man by the end of January! I’d just far rather know what it involves. Then I can put that money away in a safe place, take the bit that’s left over and put it into my personal account (to, y’know, live on and all that) and start afresh.

This coming year I will start Paying On Account, which is a bit of a pain but all explained over on the main Libro blog. I don’t mind paying my taxes, but this does seem a bit mean, as I will basically have to give the tax man 30% of my income (income tax and national insurance) on all of my Libro income (I earned exactly the threshold in my day job), twice (because of the Payment on Account thing). So, although I’ve done better than I thought I would this year, I will only get to play with about 40% of it.

I am so glad that I saved up enough money to live on for a year while I was working full time, in anticipation of running the business and eventually needing to support myself. It is possible, even on a smallish wage, but it did mean that I had to be careful in 2009 and 2010 when I started the business and worked full time, saving up living money, 2011 when I was managing to live on my part time wages and not touch my Libro income, and now this year while I am just able to add a little bit to the living-on-money pot. It’s just about doable, but it’s a bit annoying, and doubly so for Matthew, who probably thought I’d be able to justify the odd holiday by now!

Looking on the bright side …

Anyway, I’ve got some time off, I have Matthew with me, will be seeing various friends and doing some good old rest, relaxation … and reading. Happy Easter, everyone!

A typical week … now

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A few months ago, when I was still working at the Library 21 hours per week, I wrote this post about a typical week, so that I remembered what it was like trying to manage the two. Now I’ve settled into some kind of routine working at Libro full time, I thought it was time to repeat the exercise. So here’s a “typical” week (if there is such a thing) these days …

Monday 19 March – got up just after 6, came up to the study, worked on this post then got down to finishing off proof-reading the third chapter of a PhD a client’s sending me in batches. I also put the finishing touches on a localisation I’d done for a big newish client – the client had answered some questions and I updated my “translation” on the software accordingly, signed the job off and added it to their monthly invoice. I had breakfast with M before he walked to work. I then did some admin to do with an event I’m speaking at in June, and settled down to a good session on another client’s PhD. It’s my exercise rest day, so I can get some good long working sessions in.  I had a good, healthy lunch and went for a walk up the High Street to pick up a few things: a real benefit of working from home is being able to pop out the shops at quieter times in the retail day (I’m also spending less, although I’m not sure how, as I’ve never been a big spender anyway) and lunch and day time trips out are a good, healthy habit since I sorted out my Homeworker’s Resolutions. Back home and I had a few little bits in from regulars before doing another localisation session followed by some more PhD. I popped out to meet M on his walk home then had a quiet evening, interspersed with the odd email from a client, dealt with on my Blackberry.

Tuesday 20 March – I had some work in during yesterday evening / overnight – three student essays, two of which are from people I’m taking through their Master’s course. Oh, the luxury: if this had been in the Old Days, I’d have been frantically working on my previous projects before starting these. I completed one and started another before breakfast: while putting the bibliography of the first one in alphabetical order, I was inspired to put together a blog post on how to do that, so I created the screen shots and a draft blog post for that before getting on with the next essay. After breakfast I responded to a few emails asking for price and service quotations before continuing with student essays. I went to the gym, booked in another job with a regular client which involved downloaded and learning some new software, and after lunch met an editing friend for a walk in the park and a chat about business – she’s someone I recommend academic enquirers on to when I’m too busy to take them on and we needed to discuss a few things, and it was nice to do that in the sunshine. Then back to my desk for another editing session for some regular clients. I then ended up struggling with some recalcitrant software which meant I got behind and had to spend some of the evening after dinner working.

Wednesday 21 March – up early as usual and a couple of hours of PhD editing before breakfast. I realised the table numbering in the thesis had gone awry so emailed the client with the options. After breakfast I published my blog post on adding Contents Pages to Word, publicised that and continued with the thesis. I popped down to the Post Office depot to pick up a parcel (I’m here almost constantly; how did it not get delivered?) and then up to the cafe for a regular “grown-ups’ homework club” / catch-up with a fellow freelancer and friend. It’s good to sound off about how things are going and chat about plans as well as just relaxing and seeing a human face. I set up a Facebook group to co-ordinate this a little while ago and it’s proved an excellent addition to my week. Came home and did a quick edit of a text translated from Chinese, and after lunch wrote a press release for a medical client. I worked some more on the PhD, went to the gym and did a little more after dinner. I explained why I’ve got to pay my tax twice next year to M (oh, the thrills! I’ve commissioned an article on Paying On Account from an accountant for the Libro blog). A good balance today although another evening spent away from “family time”.

Thursday 22 March – I worked on an academic article in the morning, including checking all the references were there (they weren’t) and tracking down the missing ones, as well as making sure everything conformed to the author guidelines set out by the journal the article was being written for. That was fun and a bit more challenging than some of my work. A few payments in (including a big one I’ve been waiting for anxiously, which achieved my targets for this month and next!) and I checked a press release for a regular before getting down to working in the Scrivener software for my author client – I’m helping her combine her articles into a book. She’s provided lots of guidance for me on what she wants, which is marvellous and very helpful! I also put a wash on – how lovely to be able to see the sun and get a wash done and out on the line: I’d have been in the office this time last year, looking at the sun and knowing it wasn’t drying anything on my line! I then walked in to the University (3 miles), got my hair cut and walked back again (3 miles) before doing a couple of hours of PhD work in the evening. I had commissioned a guest blog post on Tax Payment on Account from a great accountant I met recently, and was thrilled to have that come in to me by the end of the day; I’ll publish it the week after next once I’ve tidied up the formatting and written an introduction.

Friday 23 March – I’d had lots of requests to do projects in through the evening and, in fact, the night, so had to crack on: finished proof-reading an advert and localising some company communications before breakfast, then published a troublesome pair blog post, wrote an article about a man and his dentistry, localised some information on electric cars and finished the big thesis I’ve been working on all week. Phew! Another wash out on the line, lunch and then a couple of hours on some more chapters I’d had in from my other thesis client, before treating myself to an hour on my Iris Murdoch project in the cafe before meeting a contact to chat about some work she’d like me to do writing for her website. I went to the gym and was set to do some more work after dinner, but unfortunately a house-related mini-emergency took up the rest of the evening, leading me to cancel plans for Saturday afternoon. Nothing changes there, then …

Saturday 24 March – This is where it gets tough. A late evening and then disturbances related to neighbours in the night meant I had to drag myself upstairs to the study to try to complete the work I’d promised my client by mid-morning, which I should have got on with last night. I had at least written up my Saturday freelancer chat, so that was ready to just publish and promote before breakfast time. Fortunately, the first work project was continuing with a PhD I was fairly familiar with, so I could press on, knowing I was already aware of the writer’s style and common errors. If I’d been too tired to do it, I wouldn’t have, but I was just weary, and worked on it as well as I would normally do (maybe a little more slowly: I’m glad I charge by the word and not by the hour nowadays!). I finished that, sent off the chapters, worked on an issue of a magazine and put in a couple of hours on my author’s blog-to-book project: I did also go for a walk in the park and didn’t work after dinner time.

Sunday 25 March – Oh no: the clocks changed! I also found out I had a community meeting in the afternoon, so I didn’t get the lie-in I’d hoped for (but I couldn’t sacrifice my run). I finished my author’s work and started a new PhD chapter, did my run, had lunch, finished the PhD chapter and sent it off, then started a transcription project I have had in from my student proofreading company – 5 hours of lectures to type up for a student (!). I got on quite well, so not too much worrying about finishing it. I also had quite a long piece of work from one of my translator clients, which came in just as I sat down to watch the TV with Matthew …

Conclusions

It’s still a juggling act – between work, personal and social life and exercise. But it’s not between work, work, personal life and exercise, at least. Not having fixed, monolithic hours to go to the office makes things a lot easier, although it’s easier to cancel fixed items like networking meetings, which I really shouldn’t do. I still get tired, and I still work a few evenings, but if I work in the evening it’s often because I’ve done something in the day time: it’s rare for me to truly put in a 10-hour day! In terms of working hours, I did 40 billable hours this week, with perhaps another 7 or 8 admin hours. So that is actually about 6-7 hours more than before, although without the commuting time. Note that I’ve done 35, 18 and 36 hours in the other weeks this month: there is no such thing as a typical month.

I’m going to write about the general changes I’ve found in my life over the past three months in another post, but this should serve as a (n interesting?) contrast to my week “before”. It feels better … it’s definitely paying better, per hour and generally, and I’ll run this exercise again in another few months to see if anything’s changed or resolved.

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