thI’ve written before about why online surveys can be worth the time. Making money by sharing your opinion sounds pretty good – especially compared to the times you shared your opinion and then had friends stop inviting you to parties.

In my upcoming book I note that while you won’t earn a full-time wage doing this, you’ll at least bring in some extra money and/or gift cards, and maybe even get some new products to test.

For example, I was paid to cook a taco dinner, try a new shampoo, use a new kind of mop, eat a new variety of chocolate chip cookie and join a focus group about doughnuts that earned me $60 for less than three hours’ worth of work (but which, unfortunately, left me obsessing about crullers).


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th(Recently a reader wrote to ask me to re-run this post. So I did. And a happy Throwback Thursday to you all.)

Yesterday I had the use of a car so I stopped at the Division of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license switched over. The clerk asked if I’d been licensed in Alaska previously, and was in fact able to find me in the system. Fill in form ABCXYZ, take the written test and you’re good to go.

Written test? Really? Couldn’t I be grandmothered in, based on the fact that I was once a licensed Alaska driver?

Nope. Moments later questions like “How much liability insurance is an Alaska driver required to carry?” were flashing before my eyes.

The answer is “$50,000/$100,000/$25,000.” Who knew? Not me, apparently, because I got four questions wrong and the testing system kicked me out.

I’ve been driving for 38 years and I flunked the blankety-blank written test. Still can’t quite believe that. The real surprise of the day, however, came from filling out the form.


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thSpring means rebirth, transformation and beauty. How about translating that kind of positive energy to your professional and/or personal life?

The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love and Lead,” by Dr. Donna Stoneham, might be just what you need to make this year your best ever.

Stoneham is a “transformational leadership expert” who’s spent three decades helping individuals, teams and entire organizations to “unleash their power to thrive.” She’s worked with non-profits and Fortune 1000 leaders alike to get to the bottom of the fears, negative beliefs or self-denigrating ideas that keep them from realizing their full potential.

That potential, by the way, can be happiness and peace — and you don’t have to be a captain of industry to take to heart the lessons from this book.


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StartbloggingI subscribe to several writing-focused newsletters whose authors sell courses, books and other products. Sometimes the newsletters include educational or thought-provoking facts, or links to free videos or webinars.

Mostly, though, they sell. Oh, do they sell.

A subject line like “three simple steps that helped John change his life” or “she halved her work hours and quadrupled her income” might lead you to think the newsletter contains valuable advice.

Sometimes it does. Generally speaking, though, the advice is “if you buy my product you can change your life, too.”

This is all smart marketing. I understand that. I just don’t know how/don’t much care to do it myself. My background in print journalism taught me to keep myself strictly out of the story. The new paradigm, however, is to promote one’s “brand,” if not one’s products.

Which brings me to last week’s giveaway.

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thI’ve taken a two-month contract job and my head, she is spinning. At 8 a.m. Monday I had my first conference with the editor and by 9 a.m. I had four assignments, all due within one week.

The articles are all based on insurance, a topic about which I know as much as any other freelance personal finance writer. Translation: I’ve spent a lot of time researching this week.

By the end of the first day I was utterly wrung out and wondering just what I’d done. The only thing that kept me going was the memories of my first day at The Chicago Tribune and the first few weeks at MSN Money. In both cases I felt completely at sea but I managed to survive, and to thrive.


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