Tag Archive: blogging

When does it become too much?

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.  Shortly after posting about how I became a writer for the Stem Cell Network, I received two possible leads on other writing jobs.  One panned out, the other didn’t (as a freelancer – never count on a job until you actually get the first paycheque!) and as a result, I’ve been running around in circles trying to get things done!  Love it.

It is stressful at times when you’re sitting in front of the laptop, trying to find the words to link this paragraph with that paragraph – but it is also incredibly rewarding, at least for me, in ways that my previous jobs never did.  In the same way, I find my new career in programming rewarding.  There is just something about creating something new and watching it take shape that is incredibly satisfying.

But now I’m wondering if I should give up my part-time job in order to concentrate on writing.  It’s a casual job, so I can choose to take shifts or not, but I do try to work 2-3 times a month so that my skills are not forgotten.  I’m also a little hesitant to give up work just before returning to finish my last year of classes.


It is unresolved as of yet, but I remind myself that it is far better to have decisions about what I want to do with my time than not!  And also apologize for the lack of blogs  🙂


Getting started as a freelance writer

When I was younger, I loved to write. While other kids in my class took grammar and punctuation lessons, I took creative writing classes where we wrote stories and printed and bound them into proper books. I submitted poetry for publishing when I was in grade 6. In high school, I went to see Shakespeare in the park and attended writing festivals for young writers.

There’s a (somewhat rueful) saying amongst Canadian children of Asian immigrant parents – You have three career choices: engineering, medicine or accounting. School came easily to me and I had good grades, so my parents encouraged a science education (with the hope that I’d eventually go to med school). University came and went, and I ended up working in life sciences research, specifically in the biomedical research industry.

So how did I end up getting a job as a writer for a science magazine?

I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis at the age of 24 or 25. I knew I wanted to do something different, but I was being torn in a lot of different directions trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I could write, but I had nothing to show prospective employers.

Getting started with writing

I decided to submit a few pieces of writing to the local monthly newsletter of my professional organization. They were always desperately looking for submissions and it was a good way to get the writing juices flowing without any real risk. To my surprise, my pieces were well received and I even received compliments from several colleagues. I followed that up by submitting a longer article for the organization’s national magazine, which is read by several hundreds of people across the country. It was also well received!

Then I tried my luck at blogging and started up a science blog. It didn’t make any money but I was able to write about the things in science that actually interested me – big picture stuff, genomics, evolution, and ethics. I got on Twitter and met lots of other writers and like-minded people. I also volunteered to write for anyone who would let me have my own byline – event listings, music reviews, anything. It was during the height of my blog that I got lucky and caught a break.

Writing as a career ?

I have a reputation amongst my friends for always looking at the job boards and forwarding interesting jobs to people I knew. I like looking at job listings. I’m not sure why! I still do enjoy looking at them. One day, one of my friends forwarded a job posting to me. It was a advertisement for a “science blogger”. I applied, sent a few of my writing samples, and … I got the job! After a six month try-out, I’ve been writing for them regularly once a month.

For me, the key was simply persistence and a willingness to do something I loved – writing – simply for the because I enjoyed it.  I’m not saying that everyone who does something that they love will eventually make a living from it, or even make money from it.  Starving artists, musicians and actors all over the world would no doubt prove me wrong.  But you do yourself a disservice you don’t try at all.

Updates: Feb27-Mar5

Busy week here on the West Coast.  I’ve restarted a science blog I used to run.  What can I say, inflicting pain on myself in the pursuit of knowledge is an itch that just doesn’t go away.  

Meanwhile, Brian has been busy increasing his skill set in his side hobby of wine by taking the first course in a sommelier certification program.  One of our dreams is to one day own a small hobby winery in the Okanagan.  This course is the first of three!  Small steps…

  • Vancouver just got hit with a bit of a cold snap again with temperatures over the last two weeks frequently dropping below zero, though it has been getting warmer.  While some people might run to turn the heater on, I’ve been resisting.  Heating is expensive!  As Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme reminds us, it’s far cheaper and often more comfortable to simply layer up with a few pieces of extra clothing.
  • Ever since moving out on my own, I’ve changed apartments every 1-2 years to get cheaper rent.  This includes the condo that my bf and I own!  Why?  Because as long as I keep moving costs low (usually ~$150 for all) it saves me money.  Free From Broke points out that depending on your situation, moving costs, deposit, and other factors can really add up, making it less worthwhile to move.
  • This post from The Financial Blogger contains a great how-to for goal setting.  It’s a lot harder to rationalize cheating on your goals if you follow these steps.  Best of all, these “rules” for goal setting are applicable to any goal you might set in your life, not just the financial ones.

All for now – hope everyone’s weekend is amazing.

Meet my four jobs

I have four jobs. Thats right… four.  Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t work 80 hour weeks! Most of my jobs require very little effort and provide a much bigger return. Meet my four jobs:

My full time job

Currently I’m working as a software developer. This is the job that gets the basics done – One paycheck covers all of my bills plus some money for spending and saving and the other paycheck is used for retirement savings and upcoming tuition expenses.

I’m only going to have this job until May, at which point, I have to take my remaining classes. However, I have lined up a job which starts in May but is half-time, allowing me to take classes while I work. Since my living expenses are so low and since I will not have to save for tuition expenses any more, working half time will still pay for all my basics plus allow me to save a bit as well.

My part time job

I’m on the casual list at the hospital. 2-3 times a month, I’ll come in and work. I choose when I work and I don’t take more shifts than I feel like. And it pays $20/hour!  The main reason I keep this job is because of the flexibility and the high (for a part time job) pay.  If I ever need extra money, this is my go-to job.

It’s not related to my current field of computer science, which is why I will not use it to fund my cost of living while I am in classes. But since I can choose when I work, I will keep this job indefinitely.

I use this money to put extra payments towards my student loan, to save towards my next condo, and to save money for upcoming living expenses while I’m in school.

My contract job

I write for a scientific organization as a contract writer. Once a month, I write one blog for their website. It’s fun because I like to write, the topics are engaging, and it only takes me a few hours of concerted effort per article. It pays by the traditional per-word standard of freelance writing.

I use this money for luxuries – colouring my hair for example. I also put some of it aside for dividend investing and sometimes I’ll put some of it towards student loans as well.  I take a little bit out for spending.

My casual jobs

I write for a local music magazine website as a concert reviewer.  I don’t get paid, but I do get free concert tickets.  I haven’t had to buy concert tickets in ages.   For a bit of writing, usually half an hour to an hour, I get my entertainment for free and I get to express my opinion about music.  I often get more than one ticket as well, which makes for a free date night or a free outing with friends!   The value of the tickets range from $10 to $60 per ticket.

I also pick up mystery shopping jobs.   Often, these shops are for restaurants.  I get a set “allowance” and instructions on what type of foods I have to order.  For example, I might have to get one drink and one appetizer.  Whatever money I have left after paying for those items is my profit!  The value of the meals and drinks range from $20 to $70, and my profit usually ranges from a $5 to $20.  After my visit, I write a short report, which takes about one hour.  Again, for a bit of writing, I get more of my entertainment expenses covered for free.  Many of these visits even require you to have a dinner guest, which makes for another free date night!

It’s worth it!

The key thing to note is – most of those extra jobs serve a specific purpose. They are flexible, thus allowing me the opportunity to make more money when I need to. They provide me with entertainment for free, or opportunities to eat out for free. They allow me to write and to express my opinion. These are things I enjoy or value!

In the short term, my extra jobs let me minimize my spending requirements and save more for things like tuition and retirement. In the long term, my extra jobs are a buffer against an uncertain job market and unexpected life events.