January 1, 2010 marks a huge milestone for me. It will be my ten year anniversary of being self-employed in the online world we know as the Internet. My husband and I refer to the life-changing moment as “the day Brad brought the Internet home.” Allow me to explain.
I met my husband in January 1999. I knew about the Internet, but my computer was ancient and didn’t possess the necessary hardware to connect. I worked full time and was a single mother, so having Internet service was not a top priority.
One evening, Brad came over for dinner and brought his laptop computer. I remember thinking how cool it was that he had a computer he could carry around and get online by plugging it into a phone jack. I was very curious about his computer and how it worked and began poking around online. I’m pretty certain my addiction to the Internet occurred that night.
A few weeks later, Brad was coming over for dinner and I asked if he could “bring the Internet home.” He said, “Do you mean, bring my laptop, because I really can’t bring the Internet home. It’s way too big for me to put in my laptop bag.” It might be one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, but ten years later we still joke about it.
I became such a laptop-hog that Brad bought me a computer for Christmas that year. I was beyond miserable with my job and really wanted to venture out on my own, but didn’t know how. The Internet changed all that.
On January 1, 2000 I decided I was going to venture into the world of selling corporate gift baskets. I had many corporate contacts and was certain I could easily transition into my new role. Although there were bumps in the road, I began receiving orders and my business was picking up steam. Within six months, I had more clients than time and found myself working 60 to 70 hours a week.
My best friend, Pam, would often come over and help assemble gift baskets. The company she worked for was one of my biggest clients and she always had the best ideas for improving their gifts. Then tragedy struck.
In October 2002, Pam was diagnosed with leukemia. One day I went to visit her in the hospital and she suggested I create a line of gift baskets for people undergoing chemotherapy.
She had received several gift baskets which included scented candles and body lotions; all of which made her ill from the smell. Oftentimes, when people go through chemo, the slightest smell can be overpowering. Her recommendations were to include unscented, natural products.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to locate a variety of products. My friend became my official product tester. If she didn’t like the product, out it went. I ended up with some excess inventory and wasn’t sure how to get rid of it. It was through the Internet I discovered online auctions.
From there, I discovered I could build my own website. My friend and I decided to name the company Cancer Comfort. I purchased the domain and began researching how to build websites. Within a few weeks, I was in business and actually obtained a few orders the first month.
Pam suggested I add cancer resources to the website. She mentioned how cumbersome it had been for her to locate information online and how nice it would be if everything were located in one central place.
My research for cancer resources led me to a volunteer organization, Chemo Angels. This non-profit organization is a great program where volunteers “angel” a person undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
I submitted an application and was assigned to a 12-year old girl residing in Seattle. Sarah had been diagnosed with leukemia for the third time in six years and was preparing to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
I sent cards, letters, and small gifts, communicated with her via email and spoke to her via phone a few times. I developed a wonderful relationship with her mother. During one of our conversations she asked what I did for a living and I told her about Cancer Comfort gift baskets.
She suggested I add a line of gifts for children undergoing chemo and recommended using a backpack as the packaging. Reason being the children could place their IV bag inside the backpack; allowing them to be portable instead of confined to their bed during treatment.
At the time, Brad was involved in racing and responsible for obtaining sponsors. One day, I had the idea to obtain sponsors and donate backpacks filled with unscented products, toys, coloring books, blanket, and various comfort items to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Sarah was receiving treatment.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to locate enough sponsors to provide thirty backpacks. It took several months to coordinate the event, but once everything came together I was invited to fly to Seattle, meet Sarah and her family, and visit the hospital to deliver the gifts, which we had named “Sarah’s Gift”.
A few days later, I received a phone call telling me Sarah had passed away. I have never experienced such pain. Although I never met her, I was connected to her and her family and my heart ached for their loss.
I was invited to the memorial service and flew out to Seattle to meet the family in their darkest hour. The staff of Seattle Children’s Hospital was very gracious and I was allowed to meet a few of the children and personally hand them their backpack. It was a life-altering moment for me. None of this would have ever happened if it weren’t for the Internet.
A few months later, my best friend died. Try as I might, the gift baskets and website became emotionally draining and I decided to sell the business.
I spent the following two years weaving my way through social networking forums. I met some great people and had my eyes opened to the world of scammers. As much as I hate to admit it, I was sucked into a few multi-level marketing deals and a few dozen get-rich-quick schemes.
I discovered Associated Content in April 2005, but didn’t publish my first article for nearly a year. I had no “official” writing experience and certainly had no clue about search engine optimization or latent semantic indexing. All I knew was this place offered to pay me money for writing on any topic my heart desired.
I dipped my toe in the water and no one laughed at me or said my writing sucked. In fact, I was welcomed with open arms and encouraged to write more.
The forum provided additional writing resources and I began developing a portfolio of clients. That gave me the courage to write a book, which led to two more books, one of which was a cookbook.
The cookbook was such a big hit that I created a cooking blog. The blog is my heart and soul because it allows me to share my passion for cooking with anyone who is interested. I’m heading into my third year and in recent months have been contacted by brand name food manufacturers, cookbook authors, and magazine publishers offering to provide exclusive giveaways to my readers. None of this would have happened without the Internet.
Today, I engage in many types of freelance writing. I have ghostwritten two books and thousands of articles for people I have never met. I have created sales copy for multiple websites, along with PowerPoint presentations, press releases, and various marketing materials. I often barter my writing skills for things I need. That’s the beautiful thing about being a freelance writer – you aren’t restricted and can be as creative as you allow your mind to be.
After building websites, managing online stores, shipping product and sifting through the scammers of the online world, I decided writing is much more enjoyable and considerably less risky than any other business endeavor.
Although I have traveled many paths to arrive at my current destination, I am proud to reach my decade milestone. There have been many times when I was ready to throw in the towel and get a “real” job, but somehow managed to pull up my boot straps and keep moving forward. I knew in my heart, writing was my destiny.
To those of you reading this, I encourage you to follow your dreams and passions. It has not always been an easy road, but if I can do it anyone can do it. All you need to change your life is belief in yourself, passion in your heart, and Internet connection!