Technology to me, the internet in particular, is what shopping is to women. It’s why I use a browser online.
Over the last month I held 5 jobs, attended college classes, and lived in a van while balancing my yoga practice, some activist projects, and personal time. I spend a lot of my day online, so I searched for ways to make money while traveling in the van. Here’s how the web helped me become more productive during my downtime:
Wikipedia is like looking down: we all do it when we’re told not to. We’re not allowed to use it for any school or work project, yet it’s the top search result for pretty much anything. It occurred to me the best way to get an honest criticism of myself is to write about myself and post it to Wikipedia. They immediately rejected my article, calling me irrelevant.
This is unacceptable; I did some homework and found existing references on Wikipedia to Black Monday, the assault on Bank of America I orchestrated with Anonymous. I rewrote the blurbs, adding my name, and fixing the citations. My changes were rejected, but this time I was smarter. I noticed I was only rejected from the BofA page, but not the Timeline of events associated with Anonymous. Once again, Anon saved my life. I knew the editor was a BofA contractor, so I disputed my case and continued escalating it over a period of weeks until finally enough editors agreed with my logical reasoning…
Your mom’s irrelevant, Wikipedia…
Help A Reporter Out
If you’re an expert at anything (and by 20 you should be), create a profile on helpareporter.com and select categories that interest you. Journalists use this site when they want to find a source for a quote, to gather ideas, interview, etc for various small and large blogs and publications. Sometimes they’ll contact you based off your profile (so make it good). You’ll also get email updates 3x / day of what projects are available in which categories. I used the site to appear as a Force-Placed Insurance expert in blogs, the NY Times, and more.
This got my name and keywords published in reputable media organizations. From there, I had the clout to guest post on other blogs. I wrote a few free pieces for friends and aimed straight for the big leagues:
The Huffington Post
Getting on the Huffington Post is easier than it looks. The best parts about writing for them are the huge audience and helpful community. I found the staff (even the editors…and Jenny Churchill…my sworn enemy as a cat-lover…), readers, and creative talent to be positive, constructive, creative, friendly, etc.
The Huffington Post is a society within itself. You rise up in the ranks by doing more work. I started writing for them back in October. I was making my rounds contacting journalists writing about various mortgage, insurance, and business topics, when I was contacted by a Politics editor wanting content for their Off The Bus 2012 campaign coverage. My workload at school was picking up, so my first piece is so boring, even I don’t read it. It encouraged me to push the boundaries of my writing skills though. Once I developed a voice, I found each piece I wrote for the Huffington Post garnered more traffic for my personal blog than anything I could write on my personal blog.
Professional Freelance Writer
I wrote on my personal blog for free for nearly 2 years. I still haven’t made enough in ad revenue from it to meet Google’s minimum withdrawal limits. Blogging on HuffPo is free too, but at least I have a shot at a bigger audience here. It pulled me up the search ranks for Brian Penny, whether on my own or when associated with yoga, Anonymous, whistleblowing, Bank of America, and much more.
I was feeling blue one day when Ally woke me up about placing value on my time. I didn’t realize I reached the level I could legitimately do that as a writer. I scoured the net for freelance work and found my way to elance.com. I signed up for a free account, did some targeted searches, and within a week, I had 3 paid writing gigs, including one to hide an ad in a blog (which I decided to do as hilariously obvious as possible here). I’m officially a professional writer and have a legitimate voice in business, technology, yoga, fitness, and other media verticals. The breadth of my ability knows no bounds
I can finally progress as a whistleblower. No longer do I have to even think about my past. I said my piece. It’s written in history. I can focus on the skills I picked up as a professional interior painter, a van dweller, a yogi, a writer, and more. I know how to live happy with no money. I’m street smart and have connects in a lot of places. I live comfortably in a small space. I’m technologically savvy. I have no fear…because the more time passes, the more legitimate my voice becomes…and every new skill I pick up leads a breadcrumb trail back to my life from 2005-2011…in that shady corner of finance known as Force-Placed Insurance…
Stay tuned…because soon I’m headed to Miami…to converse with a world-renowned Yoga Goddess…and become grounded….
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company, Huffington Post, Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid.