Ever been told that writing is a waste of time? I mean it’s fine to do it on the side, so long as you focus on more serious pursuits. Right?

That’s what I was told too and for years I believed it. As it turns out, that advice was a load of BS.

Now I know that creative writing is the single most useful skill I could have learnt.


Let me tell you the story of how I ended up writing for a living.


At the age of 18, I graduated from high school, with top grades which, according to the ranking-obsessed Australian university entrance system, would have let me into just about any degree in any university of my choice.

The day after the grades were announced I was in the supermarket with my Mum.

A teacher walked up to us to offer her congratulations.

She turned to me and said: “So what’s it going to be then Marianne? Medicine or Law?”

I shook my head, smiled, and said “neither. I’m going to do an Arts degree. I want to read novels”.

And that’s what I did.

Once at university I took a degree that let me pick and choose stuff I was interested in, creating my own education from a cornucopia (told you I was an English Lit major) of subjects: sociology, psychology, linguistics, film, English, history, and creative writing.

Creative writing was the biggest luxury in that list – it seemed a ridiculous addition to a degree, even for me. It wasn’t like I was going to become a published author or anything.

My friend’s mother warned me in all seriousness “if you were going to write a book you’d have done it by now”. I was 18 so I believed her.

No, I didn’t take creative writing classes out of some desire to write the definitive novel of our time. I just liked writing and wanted to get better at it. I figured it would be a relief from the more serious academic subjects on my schedule.

So I hunkered down, worked hard (again) and entered the university world head on.

4 years later, I graduated with a first class degree, top of my year, president of the debate society and (and this is the kicker) fully qualified to flip burgers for a living.

Turns out an Arts degree isn’t the top of the employability lists. Who’d have thought it?

For a while there I was regretting that decision to take creative writing classes when I could have used that time to use a real skill.


Of course this is not where the story ends. I promised you the story of how writing lead to a real living.

Let’s talk about that part next.


How reading novels can be your best career move


Fastforward a few years and I’d talked my way into a grown-up corporate career, and worked with some of the biggest name companies in the world (of course, I wasn’t writing for a living. There’s no money in writing, right?).

Then a few more years later, I found myself at the helm of a new business.

Suddenly I had to communicate to a whole new audience of people – most of whom didn’t even know who I was.

So I did the only thing I knew how.


I sat down, with a clean piece of paper, picked up a pen and started to write them a story.

Then I wrote another.

I wrote about them. I wrote about me. I wrote about people like us: about how it feels to be like us.

I said those things that all of us think, but that only a storyteller is allowed to say.

There were moments I thought “does anyone want to hear that? Can I really say that?” and every one of those moments were the most powerful stories.

Above all, I just wrote.


Now, my business is based on writing.

Every connection I have made, every client, every opportunity (and every cent) has come via my writing. Period.

The single most useful part of my education was the semester where I sat in that creative writing class, my favourite author in front of me taking a guest seminar.

She sat at the head of our round seminar table, short grey hair clipped to perfection. Pursing her lips at our boorish undergraduate attempts at prose:

“It’s not real”, she said, shaking her head, “your writing has to be real.”

“So you lost your bag on the bus and you were annoyed. What does that mean?

I want to hear about your red shoes, the ones with the scuff mark, that pinched your left heel. I want to hear that you were wearing then on the day you lost your bag on the bus.

I want to hear about how you were thinking more about the shoe and the scuff mark than the lost bag and how you wondered if you could go home and change before going to the police station to report your bag and how you knew that was messed up at the time but that’s just the way it was.

I want to hear about the imperfections of your experience, not the surface of the story.”


She was right. Read the best novels, or the most gripping magazine articles, or that blog post that stays with you, and you’ll see – it’s not the plot or ideas that connect with you, it’s the red shoes pinching your heel on a hot day.

That’s a lesson I use every day.


Here’s why:

Ever had that moment at a networking event, the one where you’ve just shaken hands with Pete, or Mark, or Roy  - whatever his name he’s the balding man in the checked shirt who always shows up to these things.

Anyway. You’re in the first minute of telling Roy what you do… and you already know he doesn’t care.

It’s uncomfortable – partly because you didn’t pee before walking in you’ve drunk too much tea and now you’re trapped for at least another 5 minutes in a conversation about accounts – but mostly it’s uncomfortable because you know Roy should care.

What you’re saying has value and if only he got your message then you could help each other.

But even though he is nodding with that polite half smile, you know he doesn’t care and he wishes he was speaking to someone else.

If you run a business, you need people to care.

If people don’t care what you do, people don’t show up, people don’t buy, and you don’t have a business.

This is the problem:

Roy doesn’t care about you

Sorry. Sure, he heard your tale of ‘this is what I do and who it helps and why it’s important’ but he didn’t have a reason to care. Here’s why:

  • You don’t get people to care by listing features of your service.
  • You don’t get people to care by explaining and preaching reasons this is important.
  • You don’t get people to care by speaking in business-speak platitudes.
  • You don’t get people to care because your business card border is a slightly darker shade of blue this time
  • You don’t get people to care by copying another person’s style and hoping ‘that works’.

You get people to care by sharing a story that they already care about.

A story about them.

The natural language of humans is ‘story’.

That’s what humans have done since we came down from the trees. Told stories.

If your business is going to rely on humans (and it will), then show them some respect and speak their language.

Speak the human language of stories – stories as real as that day you got on the bus with the scuffed red shoe and the pinched heel. This isn’t about writing the definitive novel of our time. It’s about you, where you are now, connecting with the people you need to reach.


Writing isn’t a waste of time

It’s the most powerful way to communicate the message you care about.

You don’t need a writing degree. You don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t need an expensive computer.

I know you want people to care about what you do, so forget sticking up ads or adjusting your logo or browsing competitors’ websites. Start with what matters: your people, and you, and the stories you have to share.

Make them real, make them true, make them full of the things you wanted to say to them… but never thought you were allowed to speak.

Above all, start writing.


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You read it right. I don’t have any desire to live unconventionally.

While we’re at it, I don’t have a desire to be a rebel, or a non-conformist.

I don’t think that every person in the world ‘should’ be self employed, I don’t think a travel-around-the-world lifestyle is intrinsically superior to all other options, and I don’t think that traipsing around the world with your business in a backpack is something ‘everyone’ will want to do.

And nor should they.

WTF Marianne, have aliens hijacked your brain?

Ok, It may seem odd that I’m saying this. After all aren’t I the one who wrote the book on creating a life without an office or a boss?

And what about the Free Range Humans tag line on the header above, about living life on your terms? Or that whole ‘live and work anywhere’ vibe we’ve got going, what with the way I live and work out of several countries a year and all that?

Confession: I’ve mulled over this post for the past month, and I’m still not sure it’s going to come out right. But I’m going to give it a go because there’s an important point within this.

You see we live in a society that encourages us to see things in black and white (“that person is conventional and that sucks and that person is unconventional and that’s great!”… or vice versa) but the grey areas, the nuances, the edges between the categories, that’s where real richness lies. This message is about the grey areas that get lost among the ‘live bold, write epic shit, break the rules!’ shouting that is taking over the blogosphere these days.

Sometimes it’s not about ‘are you a rebel or are you a slave’ it’s about something far more important: about the freedom for you to make decisions for yourself.

Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Compare these lines:


“Live an unconventional life”

“Break the rules”

“Be a rebel”


“Live life on your terms”

“Create your own rules”

“Be yourself”


At first the two groups seem sort of the same, right? The person who says “live unconventionally” seems to be the same as the one who says “live life on your terms”…  but what if, when you look more closely, the two are starkly different?

Breaking the rules and following the rules have one thing in common: in both cases, the rules define what you do.

For example, imagine you’re walking along a path and come to a fork with a sign that says “turn right”. If you’re following the rules you’d go right, if you’re breaking the rules, you’d go left (or at least: in a direction other than right).

But what if you just want to do things on your terms (ie: choose freely between options?)

When it comes to wider life decisions, what if you quite like a mainstream idea, but know ‘true rebels’ would rebel against it?

Do you have to apologise for your preference?

I’m hoping you’re saying “hell no, that would be stupid!”. Well you may be surprised to know that I’ve had several people say to me “I’m really looking forward to [insert decision here]… of course you wouldn’t like that, it’s too conventional”.

Huh? Since when did living life on your terms turn into “follow a specific set of rules that apparently define what is unconventional?”

It’s not just me either: I’ve seen a spate of conversations online where people who are living what looks, to the outside world, to be ‘life on their terms’ apologise for wanting to make changes that seem less ‘rebellious’.

How in the name of all things chocolatey can this be freedom? Seriously, are we now at the stage where people extolling the virtues of the ‘create a life of freedom’ movement feel they need to apologise for living life on their terms because it doesn’t fit into what their peers value?

Somewhere, somehow, the concept of ‘freedom’ has got warped. And I think it’s high time we took it back.

Let’s get specific here and talk about the big pin up topic of the freedom movement: full time travel.


“Travel the world full time” vs “Live and work anywhere”.


Look closely at those two lines: the former tells you what to do with your location freedom (travel full time!) while the former can be equally applied to working from your living room. 

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either.

Many people, who want to explore a life of travel, are going to love to have someone show them how to travel the world as a digital nomad, and that’s awesome if it helps you fulfill something that you have an inkling will be right for you.

That’s the point really:

What matters to me is that you choose the path that is right for you (and for those values/people that are important to you).

Saying “I’m going to figure out how to create a life where I can live/work anywhere!” opens up the way for you to define your lifestyle, your way. Where is your anywhere? What if it’s mostly your kitchen table/local café? Does that make you any less free range?

Hell no.

Let’s be clear here: if you stay in one place while yearning every day to be elsewhere, to be exploring, and you do this because you don’t know or believe in the options you can (with real work and commitment) create… yes, then I am going to be dead keen on you finding out that you can do this, to show you why there may even be advantages to this alternative, and doing everything in your power to explore how you can make it a real option for yourself.

But if you say “you know, I need more stability and consistency. Going away for a week/month/two months a year but mostly staying in one place: that’s my ultimate life and I’m creating it now” then I’ll be right there cheering you.

In fact, I’d say you are more of a Free Range Human than people who pack up and take off around the world because some bloggers they never met told them that’s what the cool kids are doing these days.


The difference is you are creating your life, not following a default.

I started Free Range Humans to be about creating freedom + living life as yourself (rather than cramming yourself in that box labeled “the person people tell me to be in order to be good enough”).

For many people yes that involves travel and work choices that may look unconventional to the outside world (hey it clearly does for me!) and that’s awesome. But daring to be yourself and living a life of freedom will not look the same for everyone.

In fact, some of my favourite ‘success stories’ are not necessarily the sexiest ‘look at the business I launched from a iphone in Peru’ stories (though are pretty darn cool)… some free range course grads of whom I am insanely proud and supportive are those who decided, after working with me and exploring their options, to stay in a job, because that was the best place for them at that time. Instead they focused their energy – and applied what they had learned – to change their lives in other ways, and really create life on their terms


Their terms.

Not mine.


That’s freedom. That’s success. Opening up possibilities, daring to come out as yourself.


Wait a sec Marianne, if that’s the case why did you write a book with the theme of quitting your job + becoming your own boss?


Simple: two reasons:


1. Going ‘free range’ (by which I mean creating your own career as your own boss, where you decide where and when you work and what you do with your days), is a brilliant vehicle for creating freedom: it’s an option that allows you to be the architect of your own life better than pretty much anything else I’ve seen. It’s the option that, more than any other, allows you to craft an option where you get paid to be yourself.

I am an advocate of the free range lifestyle simple because it’s the strongest option I’ve seen for creating your own rules and being you. The free rangers I know tend to be happier, on average, than people in jobs (and there’s research to support that).

So it’s an important option to have in your toolkit when considering how you’re going to create a life where you get to be you (and I’m proud of helping people make that happen). Which brings me to the next reason I focus on this:


2. Going free range is an option that most people either don’t know about or don’t really believe is open to them.

Think of what happens when most people think “I need a change from this job!”. The first thing they think of (aside from a really long vacation) is a career change to another job. And they quickly give up if they can’t see a job that gives them what they want (I write about this cycle in more detail in my book, so I won’t go on about it here).

Suffice to say: you can’t choose openly and freely between options if you don’t think you have any.


When you drop the idea of the only option being the default (having a job, staying in one place, waiting for retirement etc) then a lot more possibilities open up….


But that doesn’t mean you have to choose them. And if you do, it doesn’t mean that those choices have to look a certain way:


- Maybe you will decide to go free range, but mostly work within a team of people rather than focusing on your own brand.

- Maybe you’ll keep things fluid and change it up every few years (because the very idea of deciding on one thing for the rest of your life just isn’t you at all!)

- Maybe you will decide to be location independent, and for you that means having two bases you go between (one of which is your main home and in the other maybe you rent a place, which becomes beautifully familiar).

- Maybe you’ll do that full time travel thing after all (maybe by yourself or maybe with your child and partner).

- Or… maybe you’ll stay employed but change jobs, move to the other side of the world, overhaul your lifestyle to something you couldn’t even have imagined before, then meet someone special on a free range course and discover a whole new adventure (which may or may not involve finally getting around to putting some damn furniture in your flat. Not naming names – you know who you are! Love you both).


When you drop the idea of having to be a ‘rebel’ or having to have your life look a certain ‘unconventional’ way in order to have freedom… then even more possibilities open up.


Your decision may well end up looking unconventional to the outside world (mine certainly did!) but if you make that choice without the aim of ‘rebelling’ or ‘striking out against convention’ then I’ll put bets that you’ll be a darn sight happier than if you thought that only a certain type of life and work has value.

Defining your own life terms (beyond “rebel” or “non conformist”) means you have the door open to create new possibilities as your life evolves too. Best of all you get to create this as you (not as the person you’ve been told you should be).

To me, that is a true free range human.


Note for people who talk publicly about freedom: it’s time to walk the talk

If we people who advocate ‘live a life of freedom’ are going to speak out against the idea that being a senior executive/lawyer/doctor/other high status profession with the biggest house/car around is the only way of having a successful, valuable life… then we have to be equally prepared to speak up against the idea that travelling the world with your business in a backpack is the only life worth living.

Otherwise, freedom becomes another form of conformity, where the terms of ‘being a rebel’ are tightly defined, cliques form praising the most rebellious people, and freedom gets turned into something that bears little relation to living life as yourself.

Let’s reclaim freedom for what it was always meant to be: the freedom to choose between options, as yourself, and create life on your terms, whatever that means for you.


Lots of love,

Marianne x

PS: it’s hard to talk about grey areas with clarity, but I felt it was worth giving it a shot and opening up the discussion. I may end up writing more on this topic at some point, and for that I’d love your thoughts. Please leave any comments in the comments box below: what is freedom to you?

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Hello gorgeous.

I want you to know something. Yes, starting your own business is wonderful. You wake up when you want, work from where you want and never have to sit through a boring-ass ‘weekly planning meeting’ EVER AGAIN. Rocking.

However. This freedom does not come on a platter. You don’t wake up one and go ‘oh I seem to have stumbled on the perfect life. Ho ho. Tea and toast, Jeeves’.

(Because that’s totally what my mornings look like. Ahem)

So let’s take a down-and-dirty look at what really goes on in a fledgling business. This isn’t a negative article, it’s just the less sexy bits that get left out of the ‘how I made it stories’. I think you deserve to know it all so today I’m sharing these 9 truths with you.

The below is your psychic ball to know what’s up ahead so you can be ready to ride through this messy, beautiful journey and make your free range life happen. FOR REAL.

Let’s get to it:


1. The business you start with won’t be the one you end up with.

The first version of your idea will be wrong. People won’t want it, or you won’t want to do it. More than likely:

Your first website won’t be your last

Neither will your first brand name

And that’s a good thing.

Your business is a living creature, not a statue. Until you’re in the field it’s hard to know what it’s really like to live with, and when you get there you’ll soon learn what you need to change. Sometimes the answer is ‘almost everything’.

So don’t spend too much on that first logo.


2. You will want to quit

More than once you will think you have made a huge mistake even starting this.

You will think you were crazy for even contemplating that you could run a business.

You’ll think you’re an imposter.

That’s when you know you’re on to something good.


3. Your family and friends won’t get it

Start your business and more than likely:

Aunt Maude will think you made a mistake.

Your buddy Sam won’t hold back letting you know how many businesses fail.

Others in your life will be ‘supportive’ but never actually understand what you do.

Many will miss the days they could put you into a box and say “she’s a lawyer”.

At least some of your friendship groups will change.

Honey let’s get real here. What is more important: your happiness every day, or someone else’s mild discomfort at introducing you at weddings? Sticking with the friends who count or the ones who only empathise because you both hate what you do? Following the beige army’s footsteps or living your real life? (you only get the one, you know)

Isn’t escaping from a box that doesn’t fit precisely the reason you are here?


4. There’s no such thing as an overnight success

You will work your butt off to get your first 10 clients. They will be the hardest ones to get.

You might look at a successful person in your field and say “I want what they have… but without doing the graft that let them achieve that”. They will look back at you and say “good luck, and if you find that easy button let us know”.

What counts is DOING (smartly). You can learn all the strategies in the world but unless you DO them they are worth nothing.

The overnight successes out there?

I admit it, they were ‘made overnight’: over many, many nights of late toil. With coffee and the company of streetlights.

They wanted to quit, they thought they made a mistake but they kept going and going until one day someone said “hey you’re an overnight success, I wish I could be as lucky as you!” (you can be, by the way. Just do the above.)


5. Your number of Twitter followers doesn’t count

There are a lot of things you can buy to look like  a business: you can rent an office, get good business cards, have a nice website made up by a hot designer, and yes you can even ‘buy’ Twitter followers and Facebook fans.

There might be good reasons for you to do all of these things. I’m not judging. However. None of these are enough on their own. You can easily sit in your office with nice cards, 10,000 followers and a cutting edge website… with no clients and no money. A business ‘shell’ is not a business.

It is one thing to build something that looks like a business. It is another to build that moment of magic where people love what you do, get it, and hand you money to do it some more.

Know the difference.


6. No one owes you a paycheque

I once heard someone say “no one is buying my ebook. I wrote it and created a website but no one is buying. I put so much time and effort into it already, I shouldn’t have to put any more into promoting it!”

Yes, you should. You are not an employee.

No one owes you a paycheque. No one owes you their money. No one owes you their attention.

It’s up to you to make your offer worth their attention, worth their money and worth a paycheque.

Showing up to work is not enough.

The value you bring is not just the content or the service. A huge whack of your value is presenting what you offer so GET IT. Don’t set yourself up to be ignored as one of the shouting hordes, but create an environment so people WANT what you have on the table. Desperately. Enough to pay for it, now.

Learning how to sell is 50% of the journey (so don’t waste all your start up time on creating a product you have no idea how to communicate and waiting for a  paycheque). Instead, live in your clients’ heads. Learn how to show them the value of what you do so that they want it, really want it, and pay to prove it too.


7. It’s not all cocktail parties and CEO moments. 

In the early days you will do it all. Forget the glamour of ‘having your own business’. For the first few months that just means “I sweep the floors, as well as meet the clients”.

Later you can (and should) outsource the parts you don’t love. But if you outsource something before you understand it, you’ll find it slide to a halt all too soon.

The only way to understand something? Do it yourself, first time round. Keep notes on how you did it and the mistakes you made and what you learnt. Then pass it on. Of course, by then you’ll be taking control and acting like a free range human.

You will also be handy with a broom.


8. Your dream life does not come with your dream business

You’re not doing this just to ‘be an entrepreneur’ (you’d be reading another blog if you were).

You’re doing this for a reason: to build a life that you love. To spend time with the people and places that mean something to you. You have a vision of what you want to contribute to the world, of doing something that makes you come alive every day, and your business is your vehicle to get it.

Never lose sight of that. That groundwork, knowing what you’re in this for, is crucial.

If you just ‘build a business’ without considering ‘you’, then you’ll end up in a cage of your own making. This time there will be no boss to blame.

Getting free is a conscious decision, not a gift that comes with self employment or a job title.

More important than just “I have a business” is sticking true to what you want and crafting each element of your business to suit you and your life.

That takes guts.

You’re not building a business, you’re creating a life. And that, my dear, starts with you.


9. You wouldn’t give this up for the world

Once you get into the free range life, you’ll know two things

1) the above is true and

2) you wouldn’t give this up for the world.

The payoff of being your own boss is bigger than a paycheque.

I read some research recently showing that self employed humans are happier than employed humans, and it clicked instantly.

When you are self employed, you get validated every time someone likes you enough to hand over money and buy from you (when did you ever feel that praised by your boss?).You get to do every part of the business you want to (see that chicken logo at the top? I drew him, cause I wanted to). And you get to be YOU every day.

It’s like becoming a grown up for the first time.

You’ll get addicted to this life. And that’s when you know you’ve made it.


10. You get to make your own rules.

Hey you’re a free range human! Want to include 10 points when the article asks for 9? Do it. Like this :)

Seriously. I want you to know this honey: the hardest part is understanding, truly understanding, that you make up your own rules. And then grasping that opportunity with both hands.

With no boss to hold you back, and no boss to blame, it’s down to you to make magic happen on your own terms.

To me that is the most wonderful thing in the world.

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brooklyn rocket

* This is a guest post by William Gallagher *

If you phoned five friends and said you’re moving to New York to be a graffiti artist what would happen?

Hopefully at least one of your friends will be excited for you, but you know that at least four, probably all five, will try to talk you out of it.

They’re looking out for you, they care for you. But there’s a part of them, too, that reckons New York is a long away and they’ll never see you again. You can’t object to that, that’s lovely.

However there’s another piece to the puzzle: they don’t see you that way. You’re not the one who goes to New York, you’re not the artist. Not in their eyes.

So you can’t take their advice. You just can’t. If you did, you’d never do anything other than what you are doing now.

This happened when I was offered work as features editor on a magazine in London. Family and friends said I shouldn’t and they were right: it was a big move, lots of expense, I had no experience.

This is not a fairy tale story: I was the worst features editor they ever had. But I became the best one they ever had. So much so that when I wanted to risk going freelance and working for the BBC, it was friends on the magazine who were saying no, don’t do it (yes, this cycle will continue no matter where you get to).

I chose to move anyway and I got to work in news and drama. I still do. Those decisions are how I got to today and my perfect job where I work for myself writing books and Doctor Who radio plays for a living.

Now my family and friends see me as a writer, though I’m trying their patience by leaping off into a new public speaking career. This time they’re more willing to encourage me… but ultimately you are on your own.

Let’s be reasonable: if you jump off and become that graffiti artist in New York, will you end with a fairy tale and riches? Or do they have a point?

They do have a point. They always have a point, that’s one reason why negative advice is so powerful, so paralysing. Back then, when I was being “brave”, I had no one depending on me except for myself. Now I need to earn a certain amount to provide for my family. Does that mean I’ve stopped moving, stopped taking jumps? No.

Since then, I have learnt that it pays to jump but I’ve learnt to jump shorter distances now that I have more responsibilities. I’m taking smaller risks but I do many more of them, more often (you need the same amount of bravery for small jumps as for large ones. That’s especially true for the first one or if you only rarely take a risk).

The small jumps are what keep me going, stops me talking myself out of things and yet it ultimately has the same effect. The work I do today is nothing like the work I did three or four years ago: and that “certain amount” I need to earn now comes from ventures that were risks at the time.

The other difference to when I took my original jumps is that I have found someone who has never constrained me, never seen me as just one thing, and marrying her was life changing. (You can’t have her, she’s mine, hopefully forever, stop putting ideas in her head). I’m not so on my own now and I’ve got good at understanding what’s a valid concern vs what is wanting the familiar and the safe.

But I remember what it is like to be the only one who thinks you can do this.

Being the only one who thinks maybe you can do this is hard. It’s a horrible place to be because you also always have a bit of your friends in your soul: we all find reasons to stay where we are and we are all prone to falling for the perfect rosy answer.

It’s a horrible place but it is an exciting one and it’s somewhere only you can be. What I’ve got especially good at is looking for people who are doing what I want to do.

Find who is doing what you want and then soak up all you can from them. Their encouragement may balance out the discouragement you’re used to – but they’re also speaking from experience where your friends and family are not.

Find what you want to do, find the people who are doing it, then do it yourself.

And send a postcard home.


William Gallagher is a Doctor Who radio writer for the BBC, and has had over a million words published in newspapers and magazines. He has also written about task management software, project management + getting things done). His recent book, The Blank Screen shows you how to make the very most from your limited time, and fill that blank screen with your writing (available in the UK and USA/internationally). 

Time to stop doing it alone? Heck yes.

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Hop on the back of my scooter as I whizz you ‘virtually’ around Ubud: from wifi to people and places to go, see what it’s like living+working in this popular ‘digital nomad with laptop’ destination (listen out for the roosters in the background).

Ever wondered what a work day might look like when you’re living ‘location independent’ in Bali, working on your laptop? Find out for yourself in this 12 minute virtual video tour of my typical ‘free range work day’ around Ubud in Bali.

This is the first time I’ve shot a ‘regular day’ video  like this – it was a lot of fun to do and I hope you enjoy it too.

Marianne x

PS: BTW this was shot entirely on my iphone… with each part done in  one take. Yup, it’s the real deal, what you see is what you get. Including, er, my hair… what can I say, it’s rainy season :).

What I show you in this video is all about the Ubud you see on a work day with your laptop, going between a few wi-fi friendly humans and seeing others doing the same. But that’s just one part of Ubud life – if you come here don’t spend all your time hanging out in cafes! There’s lots more to Ubud and Bali than that – and that’s the part that free rangers explore on their non-work days (or afternoons ;)).


So you’re at an extended family wedding. It’s late in the day, the sun is going down, and for the first time that day you notice a man you don’t quite recognise. He’s the one wearing a shiny suit, with a terrible comb-over, necking leftover drinks in the corner.

Is he a distant cousin? guests whisper to one another. He’s got Uncle Rob’s nose don’t you think? Who is he?

Well, if this were Jo Over-Worked and Pat Under-Pricing’s wedding, then odds are, that possibly-a-cousin-in-a-wrinkled-suit sniffing the inside of used plastic cups?  The one who people are trying to pretend isn’t there?

Is the crappy business model.

Oh yes, I said it. Business Model. The two words most people try to ignore as it lurks in the corner necking the dregs of your drinks (setting the tone for the room, even though no one wants to admit it’s there).

But here’s the thing.

Your business model isn’t a blood relation.

It’s something you choose to let in the room, or you don’t.

Does yours fit you? If not, it might be time to politely show it the door.

I know, I know: business models are that thing that we sometimes avoid thinking about, but if you’re running your own thing then, whether you are aware of it or not, you have one (read on to find out!).

The thing is, if you don’t think about yours? It can easily spiral into the hidden killer of that free range career that started with so much potential.

One of the common ways this happens is with what I call the “neighborhood wino” business model

This is the way of doing things in your business that seems fun enough the start of the day…. but ends up pissing your income and time up the wall by nightfall.

Then, it does the same thing the next day. And the next week. Until both your time and income seem in short supply.

(In this model it’s not uncommon to end up being followed around by a small smelly dog that the client promised would be ‘no hassle’ (You love dogs! He’s cute!) but turned out to be a ball of fleas and neuroses who just chewed up your last dollar/pound/peso note).

Without a real clue what he’s doing, this sad, rootless business model bumbles around the same streets day in, day out, always needing more of his currency of choice (wine) but never really figuring out how to get a consistent source.

Voila. The neighbourhood wino business model. Like traipsing through your career with a giant hangover.

To be clear, I don’t want to belittle this for a minute. Not knowing how to leave the stuckness cycle is not a nice place to be. This message is about another way.

Because, I’ve got to be honest: NO ONE has ever come to me and said “I’d like to start my own business and I’d like the neighbourhood wino model, thanks!”

Freedom? Yes please. Wino business model? Not so much. This is not the place anyone wants to, or should, end up.

So how in the name of all things chocolatey does this happen to smart, well-intentioned own-bossers?

The truth is, there are several ways it can start (clichéd marketing that fails to speak your customers’ language being one…) but today I want to hone in on one of the most common wino-creation-moments, which is also one of the simplest to fix.

This one is all about numbers.

How to go from ‘great idea’ to this (and back up again)

Let’s look at the case of Charlie.

Charlie has her own business, run from her laptop at home. That side of it is all lovely, but she needs to sell 50 of her widgets/tickets/cat-pee-training sessions a month just to break even.

In reality it’s a stretch for Charlie to sell 5 or 10.

Charlie feels secret shame about where she is in her business. She can’t admit to her friends she is only selling 5 things a month, and living off some freelance work on the side… but the truth is she is: and even that is a stretch.

Worse, Charlie has been looking at other people with products like hers who price in the way she prices – why are their businesses working when hers is not?

This seems crazy, because the catch is, Charlie has people who LOVE what she does. She knows the problem in her case isn’t that her marketing is off the mark (it’s way better than many others, and it’s not like she’s sold nothing!). It’s also not that she’s selling something people don’t want (people are definitely buying this sort of thing elsewhere).

By now, Charlie is exhausted. She feels like a failure. She wonders if she should be doing this.

What should she do now?

Well, common wisdom might say Charlie just isn’t well known enough yet. Common wisdom might say she needs to put her all into increasing her numbers 10-fold (!) and until then, she has to just, well, wait it out and keep doing what she’s doing.

Nice in theory…  but this is why Mr Com N. Wisdom (and his chatty cousin, Mrs Evri Wan-Saez) went out of business.

Growing the numbers of people knowing you + wanting what you have to offer is darn important, of course it is… but the good news is that giant numbers are not a pre-requisite to a great full time free range income. Not with the right model. So let’s get realistic about your timeframe and your needs this decade:

A ten-fold growth is a big thing to wait for before you can even pay your bills without burning yourself out every week. (Did I mention Charlie hates selling? Well there’s that. She hates selling and has to sell to – once again  - 50 people a month. WTF? When did a business model that makes her have to constantly sell lots of low priced things connect with Charlie creating a life where she does what she loves?).

Here’s what I’d say to Charlie: if you have spare money to live off for a year or so? If you don’t need to make any real income from this for that period? Or if you have a growth plan that you’re kid-in-a-candy-shop excited about? (And that does not end in the words “and in 10 years time Google will buy us out for 10 million bitcoins!”)?

Awesome. Do it.

However… if you need to make this work sooner rather than later?

Then you need to work with what you have. And what Charlie has is a business model that’s not right for her.

So if you were Charlie? Taking aside possibilities about improving your marketing + attraction (which is a whole other blog post in itself), at this point you’d have two choices:

  1. Raise. Your. Damn. Prices. (in other words charge more for the same thing) or
  2. Change your business model so you don’t need to sell much in order to make what you need.

Let’s look at both of these:

1. Check your pricing (aka stop trying to be a supermarket, when you’re really a boutique).

Under-pricing… it’s insanely common. Which seems odd at first glance, doesn’t it? After all, why on earth would someone price too low to be able to live off what they do (without exhausting themselves in the process) ? Well, usually it’s that people don’t think they can price well.

Maybe someone else in their field can charge more, they say, but not them, not now.

The funny thing is this assumption is often not related to questions of quality. It’s often more a vague feeling that you are not “allowed” to price at (or above) market rate until you hit a magic level (such as being very well known in your market).

When you reach that point, common wisdom says, well then you will be “allowed” to charge well. Then people will let you.

Until then, common wisdom agrees you have to under price.

Once again – this is why “common wisdom” didn’t stay free range for very long. Under-pricing is a key killer of many potentially amazing businesses:

Because that theory? Has it the wrong way around.

Staying around won’t let you price well. Pricing well is what will let you stay around.

The local boutique doesn’t stay in business by competing on price with the large clothing retailer in the city. They simply don’t have the volume of customers to pull that off. Instead they grow their business on relationship and quality for a specific group of people who they really care about and who they can really serve.

Luckily, those elements are a pretty big deal, and are things that plenty of people buy on.

Which is perfect, because when you’re a boutique you don’t need ‘everyone’ to buy: you may just need a handful of committed people a month. Reckon you can get a handful of smart clients a month, a handful who care about things other than rock bottom price? You bet you can.

Plus, starting out with a boutique mindset holds you in good stead as you grow. Because the boutique owner never stops caring about quality.

So when you start out thinking small and caring about your people, you’ll keep that as you grow. Even if 4 years down the line you’ve got so big you have a team to help out? You’ll pass those people-matter values on to them. Most of all, because you both cared AND priced boutique style? You’ll have a chance of still being around in 4 years.

Which is where we started this in the first place. Are you playing a supermarket’s pricing game… with boutique customer numbers?

Dear free ranger,

Raise Your Damn Prices.

Sincerely, people who want you still around doing your thing this time next year.

2. Change what you sell (or change HOW you sell it)

For some people, raising prices alone isn’t enough.

A quick way of knowing if this is the case for you is to ask: how much would you need to raise your prices by?

In Charlie’s case, she needs 50 sales a month but has realized that 5 is more her speed. If nothing else shifted she would need a 10-times increase in price. If raising prices by a factor of 10 would result in her charging $100 for a pencil… then maybe she’d be better off with the second option which is:

Change your model.

Show that embarrassing wino cousin the door:

Instead of a lower value product to 50? Create a higher value product for 5 or 10 people. Then care the actual socks of those clients (hint: this is how people get the reputation to get to the bigger levels in the first place).

If you could do that for just 6 months, focusing on lower numbers for higher value/price… how much more would you learn?

How much more secure would you feel (without that pressure of sell all the things all the time!)?

And what a better position you’d be in, 6 months down the line, than the person who sat there insisting they had to sell a bunch each month and feeling like a failure every step of the way?

Because here’s the thing. Charlie is not a failure. She is darn good at what she does. She just has a terrible business model for the place she is in, in her business, here and now.

Where can you add the most value to the world? If it isn’t where you’ve been playing, move your game.

There’s a difference between stretching yourself… vs having your next month income rely on in-a-year’s-time customer numbers. So to be clear: I am not saying “don’t step out of your comfort zone” or “give up if you don’t have it all on a plate” – neither of these are free range thinking! In fact in your first year of business, you will be finding your feet and probably working more at the start than you would be down the line (this is true of anything new you move in to, isn’t it?). But even then this advice counts. Thinking like this, whether you make this change now or keep it up your sleeve? Might be one thing that makes that future happen faster than most people imagine possible.

While we talk a lot about choosing what you do, you know what’s equally important? How you do it. And from this moment on, know that that is in your control as much as anything else.


Marianne x


PS: These two examples might look like a case of too-small vs too-big… but in some ways they are exactly the same. Both of them take you away from the now, and both fail to honour your needs. Both of them take away your power to make thing work and hand it over to fate. If you’ve taken back your power from an office and a boss? I know you can take it back from a shoddy business model.

I’d love to hear from you: have you ever been in a position where you were working too hard for too little? What did you do to change that?

(Or if you are in that position now  – or just want to stay out of it in the future! – drop a comment below and tell me: what ONE thing from the above most resonated with you?)

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