Sick of the Hype?

Sensationalism is everywhere and it's hard to know what's real, anymore. The economy is tanking, the marketing noise is deafening, and you just don't know what tomorrow will hold. This site is dedicated to a no-hype retelling of what's working for me in real estate, business, and life. Welcome.

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Emily is available for speaking appearances and flat-rate consulting on the topics of personal finance and real estate. Please fill in the Contact Form for more information.
Jul
25

An Inspired Evening

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It’s 10:30 at night on a Saturday, and you might be wondering why I am taking this time to update my blog…

Truth be told it’s been a while, an embarrassingly long time, in fact, since I updated.

The good news is that it has been a very busy and productive several months. The real estate agent business has really taken off with Redfin and they’ve been keeping me hopping on lots of showings every week.

I get paid by the job, and it’s a lot of fun to get out of the house and into adult company, especially on these lovely long summer days.

Baby Blake

Baby Blake

Baby Blake, the love of my life, is already 14 months old. He is walking and has lots of teeth, and is learning to walk backwards and sit down on a step or low seat.

The real thing that I’ve been working on, though, is setting up a system of websites (product-based blogs) and getting them to rank online. I’m already starting to make money, but I don’t want to go into too much detail about it here until I have something serious and exciting to share.

I am, of course, taking time to enjoy the wonderful warm summer days.

I have four affirmations with posters I illustrated up on my wall:

1) I enjoy every moment. – This keeps me present and focused on the day (today) that composes my life and creates my reality (not yesterday or tomorrow). This keeps my from worrying or kicking myself too much.

2) I enjoy heating healthful and life-extending foods. – After reading some crazy but thought-provoking books like THE RAW FOOD DIET, I recently read THE CHINA STUDY which said – NOT what I wanted to hear, btw – that a vegan plant-based diet is optimal for our health and can prevent and even reverse lots of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I love my ice cream, butter, cheese and eggs, but I am currently practicing vegan cooking at home and vegetarian dining when I go out to eat. It’s really not that hard – there’s plenty of good stuff, but I feel like I could be doing a lot more with the fruits and vegetables. I also worry about making sure that Blake – a growing boy – gets the proper nutrition he needs. So, I am going to talk to nutritionist next month to see if she corroborates the findings in THE CHINA STUDY and whether she has any recommendations on the best diet to eat for health (rather than for gustatory satisfaction).

3) I am a wonderful wife and mother. – This is to remind me that people and my relationships are what it’s all about at the end of the day. As much as I get wrapped up in and excited by my various business projects, there are people around me who need me, want me and love me and it’s important that I be there for them in an exciting and life-affirming way.

4) I make $4,000/month. – That is my current monthly income goal as a part-time stay-at-home Mom. I chose that number because it is enough to meet all our household expenses should something happen to affect Ben’s job.

Commercial Real Estate Update

Although the economy is starting to have a negative impact on some of the Mom-and-Pop tenants in our shopping center, we are still getting good returns from that property as well as our other El Paso, TX holdings.

34501 Quincy, LLC should be signing a lease with a tenant and an option with a potential buyer soon. We still have room for a couple more investors, but with these great improvements on the project, we’re finally starting to see some of the blue sky we’ve been expecting the last couple of months.

Good Reads

Although I feel like I hardly ever have time to read these days, I’ve been enjoying some library books by Og Mandino. Recently read the Secrets for Success and Happiness as well as the Return of the Ragpicker and am currently working on the Spellbinder’s Gift. Although I was sad to hear he died shortly after completing Secrets For Success And Happiness – a journal that spans several years – I felt like I got to know him more through that writing than many of his others, although the are all simple, straightforward and inspiring. Reading them is like sitting down with a beloved grandparent who knows how to tell a good story, and who also teaches and models good old-fashioned values. Would have liked to have heard him speak live.

Family Visits

We just had my grandfather and family in town last week. He is a real estate developer out in Milwaukee. He has done quite well through the years, although is currently looking to liquidate some condos that he built that got caught in the down-turning market. Asked me for advice on lease-optioning them. I’m flattered!

Developing is a good business if you’ve got the cash. Otherwise, can be risking to do on spec. Have to know what part of the cycle your in and what you’re going to do if the market changes.

The Real Wealth Company

My partner Rob Powell and I are making slow and steady progress on The Real Wealth Company website. We’re building content and search-engine rankings. The look and feel is currently very Rob-esque. I am working on influencing him to make it more Emily-esque, but we’ll see where it comes down.

We put together a cool free video series on How To Get Started In Commercial Real Estate for our subscribers. In case it isn’t clear, put your email in the box on the top right to subscribe and get the 5-part video series.

Okay, well, I think my husband conked out in bed a while ago while I was putting Blake to sleep. I’m going to go check on him and call it a night here. Hope you are well, and I enjoyed getting back into writing my blog for fun, rather than writing about affiliate products which I have to “develop” an interest in when I go into those lines of work.

I will keep you posted on my blog profits as that project continues in the next 6 months or so…

Til then,

Emily

Categories : Uncategorized
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Apr
15

Do You Know How To Twitter?

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I know I’m shamefully late to the party, but I am finally up and running with Twitter.com

You can follow me at http://twitter.com/ecressey.

I’ve actually been on twitter for a while now, but I didn’t really “get” it or use it before.

Now, I’ve installed tweetdeck.com which integrates twitter with facebook and leaves me logged in all the time… and I’ve seen what other people tweet about, so I think I’m finally starting to get it.

If you are interested in twitter, but haven’t figured it out yet. There is a great free twitter tutorial here.

The basics are easy, just create an account, post some short messages and start following people you know.

You can start with me… twitter.com/ecressey.

Have a great day!

Emily

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Apr
04

Tax Time – Do you understand your tax return?

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Whoa – I was amazed to see that my husband and I were getting a giant tax refund this year.  Good as it feels to get that nice check from the government, mathematically it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to get a lot of money back.  You’ve just loaned that money, interest free to the government for a year.

This year, though, that rate of return definitely beats out the performance of my portfolio in the stock market… wonder if I should think of it as diversification?

Part of the reason our refund was so big is that we had a baby this year and my husband didn’t adjust his withholding at work.  Also, we have a number of real estate investments in our portfolio, and we have the ability to write off the “depreciation” on these because I am a full time real estate professional.  That’s a special tax status that lets you have unlimited depreciation loss, rather than capping the loss at $25,000 each year.

The more involved in real estate and business you get, the more opportunities you have to save money on your taxes.  However, you’ll also be getting more and more complicated tax returns to fill out.

I discovered a few years ago that I could not efficiently and accurately complete my own tax returns and I started using a CPA which was a great decision for me.  They do it much faster and cheaper than I could do it myself.  That’s another form of leverage, freeing up my time to focus on revenue generating activities.

If you’ve started using a tax preparation software or other tax professional to prepare your taxes, it’s still important to review your return.  It would have been easy for me to skip to the bottom line, see I wasn’t going to have to write a check for my taxes, and sign and mail my returns after my accountant sent them back to me.

 

Instead, I decided to sit down and review them and I found several items I had questions about.  Whether you find errors and inaccuracies, or just notice items that show you’re saving money or have the opportunity to pay less tax, it’s important to know what you’re doing with your finances, and your annual tax filing is a good time to sit down and review things when the numbers are all in one place.

Look at how much you’re spending on taxes, medical insurance, interest on your home mortgage, and your retirement savings.  These are some of our biggest expenses and it’s good to know where the money’s going.

Financial reviews more often are even better, but at tax time, they are a must!

Today I am working on systematizing my online businesses and getting some leverage behind me.

The websites I’m currently using to make money include:

  • TheRealWealthBlog.com which focuses on commercial real estate investing for beginners
  • I also have my dog website, which is nicely optimized for adsense income and selling an ebook on how to knit dog sweaters.
  • Currently, I am also working the pre-launch of a small business marketing site, and getting some great content up there.  This site will focus on online and offline marketing for small business owners like real estate agents, accountants, attorneys, MLM representatives, etc.
  • Fourth, I am testing a new affiliate marketing model called “bum” marketing, which doesn’t demand a website because your online presence is composed of multiple articles and affiliate links posted on authority sites, such as squidoo.com and usfreeads.com.  I am starting to have some initial results with my first test campaign.  It is always the most time consuming to learn and implement a new process the first time through.  I will report on the outcome in the future, if it is successful.  You can see a sample of one of my “sales pages” here: Frontline Pet Meds.

Now that I am a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have “endless” time to be a lone-ranger do-it-yourselfer.  It makes sense to outsource certain things like creating short articles to post on social networking sites like ezinearticles.com and digg.com, etc.  When you can have articles made for $5 each, it’s really a no-brainer.  I am also using an article posting service to help me generate backlinks to my pages that will help me generate higher search engine rankings.

That frees up more of my time for stuff like taking care of my 10-month old baby and coordinating the development of my website special offers, affiliate partners and products, traffic-generation strategies, and my real estate investing activities.

So, that’s your behind-the-scenes peak for today.  What are you working on?  Any tips you can share that have helped you become more productive or profitable?

Categories : Starting A Business
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…However, I’m still not sure I want to dip my toe in the water…

First, a disclaimer – I am not currently involved in any MLM or network marketing businesses, but as I have blogged about MLM businesses before, I am fascinated with them.

Yes, I have become mesmerized because a friend of mine is making $650,000/year in her business, after only about 3 years.  Those kinds of numbers just catch your attention.

I have been actively trying to follow along with the new releases of “network marketing” gurus like Ann Sieg (The Renegade Network Marketer), Mike Dillard (Building on a Budget) and Mike Klingler (Merge Marketing).  At first I had a little bit of trouble following their product launches as I do not speak the “language” of network marketing yet, and am still a little stumped by the “business opportunity” side of network marketing — what are you selling, anyway?

However, I think I have finally begun to put the pieces together and am starting to understand the network marketing business opportunity.

Just for a little background information – MLM or multi-level marketing companies sell all sorts of products, usually something consumable like vitamins or juice, makeup, etc. that are generally paid for on a recurring monthly basis.  Clients buy these products… my question has always been – do they get a good value.  My fear is that a lot of MLM products are overpriced because of having to pay the distributors who sell them.

Distributors are sales reps for BOTH the products AND the business opportunity to become a sales rep.  “If you love our juice, buy it.  If you love it a LOT, you can make money selling it!”

The part I find questionable is that MLM seems to attract a lot of people who DON’T love the juice, who don’t even care about the juice at all, they just want to sell the business opportunity.

And, that’s a “rub” because most people who TRY the business opportunity fail.  We all know the odds are stacked against small business owners, but it would seem that they are even MORE against MLMers… probably because most people who “start” the business opportunity do so with unrealistic expectations of what it will take to build a successful business.

The usual network marketing business plan is:

  • Pay an upfront cost $30-$3,000 for the opportunity, franchise or job (however you want to look at it)
  • Pay a monthly residual fee so you can get an Autoshipment of the product (You believe in the product don’t you?)
  • Sell the product to people who will benefit from it (hard since they’ve never heard of it, and it is often pricey compared to other sources of similar products)
  • Start pitching the business opportunity to people you meet at networking meetings, trade shows, conventions, at the gym, etc.
  • Expect very few of the people you talk to, to want to start the business.  Expect most of those who start to quit.  You are only looking for a few “business builders” who can actually take the business to a successful level.
  • While you are new in the business, you can impress your prospects with the income figures of those in your “upline.” 

 

It seems like a great plan from the business’s standpoint, because they get a bunch of would-be salesmen consuming the product on auto-ship and sharing it with their family and friends.  However, it puts many people in the awkward position of pitching to their family and friends or developing a second job as a salesman hunting down would-be opportunity seekers to pitch the business model to.

My complaint is the perception (AM I WRONG HERE? – COMMENT FEEDBACK APPRECIATED!) that the products DO NOT stand alone and without your sister-in-law twisting your arm you’d never buy them.  The other side of that coin is, maybe Coca-Cola wouldn’t stand alone if advertisers didn’t spend an arm-and-a-leg selling it to you.  It’s not nutritious, they have a huge profit margin, and yet people are jumping all over themselves to buy it because it’s well marketed.

As an economist, I think it’s important to remember that people buy things of their own free will.

I think the parts that I find awkward about the MLM business model are:

  • When people pressure family and friends to buy things that they don’t really want
  • When people pressure family and friends to join a business opportunity that they’re not prepared to implement well

Clearly, there seems to be a problem with “pushy” sales people in MLM because they are not well trained, don’t have good manners, are short on real business prospects, or are desperate to recoup the money they’re investing in the business.

I guess I don’t like to pressure or be pressured.  And I don’t approve of the use of mis-leading or deceptive business practices.  Maybe I just need to sit down and read something that lays it all out, instead of getting the verbal sales pitch that seems to hide the ball.

I guess the other part that sometimes feels icky is the idea that the MLM compensation plan sets you up to be MORE rewarded for pitching the business opportunity than the product.  It seems like MLM is never about the product.  I suppose that doesn’t mean that they’re not good products but just that it benefits the company more when you sell the business opportunity.

Whew – this is getting long, but I am really feeling the gears clicking into place as I go through this, so thanks for humoring me. :)

So, where is all this going?

My sense is that Ann Sieg and the other “new wave” of network marketers are taking the MLM world away from “The 3 Foot Rule” of pitching everyone you run into, and instead using “attraction marketing” which is their word for “being found on the internet” to bring targeted traffic into their sales funnel.

How are they doing this?

Good old fashioned SEO.

By using search engine optimization and posting on free sites like Facebook, YouTube, Squidoo, Twitter, etc. they are able to capture attention, build credibility amongst people looking for information on MLM business opportunities, and drive traffic to blogs and squeeze pages so they can build a list and follow up.

With this list of “MLM” prospects, they can sell generic “How To Be Better At Your MLM” programs (people selling this made all the money in Amway/Quickstar, you know…) as a generic front-end money builder, and then use their MLM opportunity as a back-end sales pitch.

The nice part about this model, is that it is easy to teach and duplicate, so the new MLMers can turn around and create their own blogs, websites, and social bookmarking pages to hunt for their own “opportunity” leads.

 

The new revolution in MLM is taking it from a door-to-door sales and cold-calling type of business, to an automated online business. 

It’s the same thing that a lot of other businesses have done in the last few years.  Now it’s just easier for “the little guy” to get up and running on the web, so it is a more DUPLICATABLE (hot word in network marketing) as a business model.

In fact, for many who dislike the pressuring and rejection that comes with the old MLM model (and who doesn’t!), this is a MORE duplicable model than the old one.  True, it takes plenty of time to implement, but that’s the case for any business.

It’s funny that I finally get this because I have been involved in AFFILIATE marketing online for years.  That’s where I build a website about dog gifts, recommend a blue collar and give you a link to buy it on.  If you buy through my link, I get a 10% commission on your purchase.  That seems very easy and straight forward.

The difference is, most affiliate marketing programs only go 1-2 levels deep.  They are NOT MLMs for that reason.  They also do not require money to join or remain a part of.  This keeps the focus on the product, and not on selling the business opportunity.

The new MLM model has just taken this standard Internet Marketing model, and changed out the back-end product to be an MLM business opportunity, instead of a dog collar.

To me, that makes sense.

I hope this has been as informative to read as it has been for me to write. 

I’d love to get your comments and feedback below, as this has a lot of interesting topics swirling around in my mind.

 

Thanks!

Emily

Categories : Starting A Business
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About Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate investor and licensed real estate agent living in Seattle, Washington. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with an Economics degree from UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Tarheels!) her focus has been on building business for cash flow and investing in real estate for wealth. If you have questions about real estate investing, personal finance, or would like some flat-rate, affordable advice on one of these topics. Please fill in the Contact form.