December 2012 - Posts - Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger
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December 2012 - Posts

  • Self-Publishing Smarts

    by Heather Seggel

    Everyone's an author these days­. The urge to put your thoughts in print no longer requires an agent or publisher, just a manuscript and internet connection. From e-books to print-on -demand services, there's a glut of new material being produced daily. If you want to join the fray, here are a few ways to keep your costs down while boosting your potential audience.

    First and by far most importantly, have a truly well-written manuscript. If you're going to pay to have a novel printed, first pay someone to proofread it no less than two times. Many of these books are sent out for review as finished products, but are full of misspelled words and run-on sentences. If you want people to read your work, make it easy for them to do so. Don't trust yourself to find every mistake. Pay a college student to proof it, and ask friends to review it and mark it up as well. Then fix the trouble spots. Now you've got a manuscript.

    Are you absolutely set on printing? There are many good services out there, from Trafford and iUniverse to Lulu or Authorhouse, and it's worth shopping around to find the best terms to fit your needs and budget, but consider publishing electronically, too. You upload and format your work, make it available for sale or free, and if it sells, the distributor takes a small cut. This is good for your wallet and the environment. Many of the books people publish as trade paperbacks are 50 pages or less in length and could be easily read on an iPad, Kindle, or computer screen. Why waste paper? I've published two e-books with Smashwords and found the experience to be, if not profitable, both challenging and fun.

    Whether you go for print or electronic publishing, know that people truly do judge books by their covers. If the art is blurry or the text is hard to read, you come across as amateurish. If there's a description of the book on the back cover and it's full of sentence fragments and misspellings, that's a big STOP sign to a potential reader. If you know anyone with graphic design skills, ask them for help once you know the specs required by the publisher you've chosen. Or steal my no-cost, no-brainer technique: Just write the title and your name in clean, bold type on a solid color background. It's plain, but at least it doesn't count against you.

    Assuming you've got a well written, thoroughly edited book to your credit, now you need to put yourself in front of readers. Send a press release to your local papers and see if you can schedule a reading locally, but also look at the type of book you've written. If it's a cookbook, get in touch with local markets and gourmet shops. Local history books have a place in bookstores, but also contact the museums and businesses that emphasize regional products. Keep finding angles that deviate from the expected and you'll find your audience.

    The boom in self-publishing shows no sign of slowing down, which means you're in good company but also competing for readers. Polish your work and plan a marketing strategy before you start the presses and you'll be better positioned to succeed.

    Heather Seggel is a freelance writer, book reviewer, and the author of 7 Gateways to Self-Published Success (7gateways.weebly.com/). She lives and works in Ukiah, CA.

  • Auto Options

    by David Wood

    A vehicle is a major purchase for any household, and some people take the plunge and buy a new car thinking it will be a good investment. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case unless the vehicle becomes a collectable antique. For most cars, once that vehicle is five years old, it has automatically lost 75 percent of its value. Not very comforting to the bank account.

    Additionally, that smiling car salesperson will offer you optional features that could either turn into a real investment or something that means nothing if you later sell the car.

    Vehicle options are a gamble for most consumers because for most of us, the choice of an additional feature is based on what we want, not based on things that will retain their value. Manufacturers have also learned the best way to sell additional options is by packaging them together, so you'll get a few things you want and a few that are meaningless to you.

    Which options are worth the money? Research says that power windows, power locks, power seats, cruise control, and air conditioning zones such as for backseat occupants are options that have been found to hold their value and help when you sell or trade-in the car.

    Other smart investments are leather seats, tilt steering, and rear entertainment systems for a potential buyer with children. However, you could probably save money on the rear entertainment system if you buy an aftermarket product.

    Another aftermarket item that will be offered by a dealer is a navigation system. You're typically better off purchasing a portable GPS system that allows you to move the device from one vehicle to another. A device installed by the manufacturer or dealer of the vehicle is expensive, and if it breaks down, that means an automatic trip back to the dealer for repair.

    The options where you will lose are likely the extras offered by your dealer, usually right when they are making the sale. Rust proofing, paint sealer, and fabric protector are favorite ways for the dealer to make a serious profit, all which adds to the total financed cost of the car and are a waste of money.

    Be careful that the dealer doesn't charge you for "window etching," a service that can cost hundreds of dollars but one that you could do yourself for less than $30. Window etching imprints your vehicle identification number on a window. This allegedly will help in case your vehicle is stolen, but is useless if a thief breaks that specific window. If you want the window etched, by a do-it-yourself kit.

    Many items that were once considered "options" are becoming more standard in vehicles, such as power windows and power locks. Your job is to know exactly what you want before you enter the doors of a dealership because once you are under the spell of an experienced salesperson, you can easily be taken for a ride.

    David Wood is an investigative reporter with CarComplaints.com, an automotive complaint resource that uses graphs to show defect patterns, based on complaint data submitted by visitors to the site.

  • How to Get Paid to Take Surveys Online

    by Aliya Martin

    For a company to be successful, it should understand what its customer base needs and desires. The best way to do this is through market research. And one of the most effective ways of conducting such research is having your customer base take surveys. Today, many companies are willing to pay people to respond to their online surveys. So, in today’s economic climate, a whole new avenue of supplemental income has opened up. So, how do you make the most and get paid to take surveys online?

    How Online Paid Surveys Work

    The process of participating in paid online surveys is fairly simple. All you need to do is register with a paid survey site and complete their formalities, such as providing information regarding yourself. You will then begin receiving emails each time they need someone with your type of profile to respond to a survey. A typical email invitation to participate will include information regarding how long the survey will take, how you will be paid for your time, and a link to the said survey. On an average, a survey takes about 15-20 minutes.

    Benefits of Online Surveys

    Here are some of the primary benefits that you stand to gain when you sign up to participate in online paid surveys:

    • You get either paid in cash, merchandize, sweepstakes entries, gift cards and much more.

    • You also get cash rewards for participation, either via Paypal or through a check.

    • You don’t need to take every survey you are invited for and can choose the ones that interest you.

    • You don’t need to waste any time searching for surveys to participate in. By registering at several sites, you regularly receive invitations right in your inbox.

    • You get to influence the direction a new product or service takes.

    • You can set your own schedule, so that taking surveys does not interfere with your job or family life.

    • You get a sneak peek into products and services before they hit the market.

    • You might even get to see and rate television commercials and movie trailers!

    How to Get Paid to Take Online Surveys

    The payment for participation will vary from site to site and of course from survey to survey. Here are some useful tips to help you make the most money when you choose to get paid to take surveys online:

    • Sign up with multiple sites - The best thing to do to increase your chances of getting paid more often is to register with anywhere between 10 and 20 sites. However, do your research first and ensure that the sites you sign up with are credible ones with a good track record of payments. There are hundreds of such sites that advertize online. It is up to you to ensure that you don’t fall for scams or fraudulent sites.

    • Keep your profile updated - Check your profile details on a regular basis and ensure that you add or remove information depending on changes in your personal and professional life. This way you will ensure that you fit into the right category of respondents for surveys.

    • Respond to invitations quickly - Given the number of people vying to get paid for surveys, you need to be prompt in your response to invites. Anyone can register to participate in online surveys. And when the barrier to entry is so low, competition is bound to be high.

    • Avoid scams - The best way to do this is to conduct thorough research regarding each site that you wish to sign up for. Reviews from previous users can provide a lot of information regarding the validity of the site. A little bit of time invested in the beginning can reap huge rewards for you in the long run. If the site asks you for a membership fee, it is in all likelihood a scam. Also, beware of sites that ask for your social security or credit card number or that lacks a privacy policy.

    • Set your schedule - Given that most survey sites pay about a dollar for each survey you take, you will need to set aside time during the week to respond to as many surveys as you can to be able to make a substantial amount of money. Although each survey won’t take too long, it is advisable to set aside time rather than diving into the experience without preparation.

    • Spot a legit company - One thing that a credible survey site will do is ask you to fill in their application form. They will then review your application and send mail to the email address specified by you. Credible sites will also be upfront with their payment options, schedules, and methods.

    So now that you know how to get paid for surveys, go ahead and do your research. You can now supplement your income with a small but valuable luxury budget!

    Aliya Martin writes Survey Spencer, a resource for those looking to learn how to get paid to take surveys. You can learn more about how he does it in this step-by-step guide. The site is also a clearinghouse for legitimate ways to make money online, including freelance graphic design work and selling photography online.

  • Five Tips to Maximize Productivity in Your Daily Life

    by Alexa

    Ever have those days when you just get in a funk? You feel like there is so much to be done that you don’t even know where to start. Everybody has those days. Sometimes those days turn into weeks and the next thing you know you are in an unproductive, unmotivated rut. Feeling as though there will never be enough time for you to do what you want and need to do

    Rest assured, you will never be able to do everything, but you are perfectly capable of getting the most important things done and the result is an increased sense of confidence and self-fulfillment. Follow these five tips and you will drastically improve your productivity.

    1. Start with the Most Important Tasks. This first step is crucial, because face it, you are not a superhero. There are only 24 hours in each day and you have to decide what task you will dedicate your time to. For example at work, what activity is most important? What boosts your overall quality of work and makes you feel accomplished for the day? At home, what needs to be done or who do you need to spend time with? Do you have a kid struggling in school? Then make helping your child with homework one of your musts.

    2. Make Your List. We have already established that there is only so much time in a day. That is why the most important things need to make it to your list. Write down the five most important things you need to do for the day. Keep your list at a minimum. The last thing you want to do is overload yourself with busy work. Remember, you are here to accomplish the important stuff.

    3. Execute Your Plan. Once you have your list complete it’s time to make your game plan. Go after those tasks you have on that list and don’t stop until you’ve wiped them all out. Once you finish something, cross it off that list. It’s an amazing feeling when you know that you have accomplished everything you had set out to do for the day.

    4. Know Your Limits. Nobody is perfect. We all have days where we just want to give up. Give yourself a break every now and then, but never give up. Remember you are only one person, you are capable of great things but you cannot do everything.

    5. Rinse and Repeat. Make your list making, priority tackling, and goal accomplishing an everyday habit. After a couple days of following the list you will get in a groove and your productivity will spike. You will realize that you are capable of getting all the important things in life done with time to spare.

    It’s not rocket science, nor is it break through time management skills. But by simply focusing on the most important tasks on hand, you will be getting things done that actually benefit you. You are the one living your life. You decide what’s important and then you set out to do it. Following these five easy steps will make your life more productive and leave you feeling like a better person.

    Alexa is a newly single mother to two beautiful little girls. She chronicles her journey as a single mother trying to make it big on Single Moms Income.

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