It’s no secret my life has been rocky over the past few years with domestic violence, homelessness, health issues and being a single parent.
What I have kept secret is that the past few months have been less than ideal. I don’t want to go into full details about all of it but it has rocked me and been a lot to process. I am terrible at asking for help. I like being the strong person in the room, the one who has overcome my obstacles and can help everyone else with whatever they need. Unfortunately, we can’t be that person all the time. Life throws curveballs and recently, it felt like my world was falling apart again but I have an amazing support network and somehow always manage to have the right people come into my life at the right time.
I have learnt so many lessons over the past few years, especially some coping strategies for when life doesn’t go as planned, as well as things to do to get back on track.
1.) Ask for help
I am hopeless at this. I keep everything inside until I am at breaking point. I struggle to ask, yet whenever I do I am inundated with the help I need.
Be clear about what help you need, be open to offers, trust your gut about who is offering the help and why (while most people are genuine, there are some who help because they want something in return) and be someone who helps others where possible.
Reach out to your community and ask for help.
I harp on about this a lot because it makes such a huge difference. With my current circumstances, I have found a few lessons I can be grateful for and the generosity of total strangers and my close family brought me to tears. No matter what the circumstances are, there is always something you can learn/an opportunity you can find or something good that can come from it.
3.) Take care of yourself
Another element I have not always been fantastic at and as a result, I have ended up in the hospital twice because I was paralysed in excruciating pain. And by excruciating, I mean, if you check the pain scale doctors use an 8 is childbirth, at 10 you pass out not because of blood loss but because the pain is so intense. Very few people ever experience this level of pain. I hit a 10 due to pain in my spine, I lost the function of my legs, went numb and battled to get better. I have had a cancer scare, struggled with mental health issues at some points in my life, my weight has gone up and down, the list goes on.
Often, when life is hard, we put ourselves last and everything else becomes harder, we get more stressed and end up taking longer to get back on our feet.
Take care of yourself by:
– Eating healthy. Don’t succumb to take away or junk food. Eat nutritious food and make sure you eat properly.
– Drink enough water. When you are dehydrated your body suffers and your mind can’t think as clearly. Drinking 2L or more a day will have a huge impact on your body and mind.
– Look and feel good. Get showered, get dressed fully, wear nice underwear, do your hair and makeup. These things might seem superficial, but so many people neglect this when they get stressed or depressed. Take care of yourself and how you look, it will give you a boost of confidence.
– Do something you love. Do a dance class, go out to dinner, hang out with friends, continue your hobby, read a book, whatever it is, do something you love!
4.) Pick an affirmation or quote
When I was homeless, robbed, broke and had left my abusive marriage, there were 3 quotes which helped me cope:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” ~ I can’t find the specific source, it was anon for me.
“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” ~ Seneca
I often repeated these to myself, especially the first one. My life and how it turns out is up to me. I am what I choose to become, what is happening in my life does not define me.
Find some quotes or affirmations that speak to you.
5.) Boost your confidence
When things aren’t going right, our confidence and sense of self-worth takes a hit. Think about what gives you a confidence boost and do it. If you need some ideas check out 20 ways to increase your confidence.
6.) Be Proactive
What can you do to take control of the situation and improve your life instead of letting your current situation control you? Work out a plan of action then follow through with it. You may need to tweak it as you go along but if you do nothing, things will either get worse or not change at all. Neither of those are good options. You can make the change you need.
What tips would you add?
One of the ways I have made money in the past few years has been through freelance writing. Freelance writing enabled me to earn money from home, rebuild my life and be there for my kids. Plus, I made more money writing in 1 hour than I would in a job. In this article I share some of my tips, plus a discount on my favourite writing course with a great Facebook group – Earn More Writing – 20% off until Mothers Day with the code SPRING2017
So how do you make money writing?
You can make money writing being a journalist, writing copy for ads, writing your own books, writing articles for other websites and more. The bulk of my writing came at first as articles and a book then it switched to be more advertising writing.
I started with blogging. I created a finance blog and started writing about my goals including ways to make and save money. I look back at my early work and cringe. I had no experience, no qualifications, hadn’t taken any courses and have since deleted many articles from my early days.
The more I wrote the better I got.
Then I was asked to write a book. Wiley, a publishing house, saw one of my articles and asked me to turn it into a book. This process taught me a lot about writing and I appreciated it (along with the advance and my book in bookstores), however, 6 years on I have changed, my writing has improved and I would do things differently.
Once the book was published, I started doing freelance writing. I could not find anything at the time on what rates I should charge, where to look for work (outside the work that was coming to me), professional networks or anything. I made ok money and hobbled along with the few regular gigs I had.
A few years later I finally had it down. I knew what my areas of expertise were, my writing style improved drastically, I worked out how to charge and what I wanted to do with writing.
What I wish I knew
Years, it took me years to work out how to make decent money writing. I wish I had a course at the very beginning like Holly’s. In the years since I started writing, I have taken various courses. I view them as an investment in myself and a shortcut. Instead of taking years to learn things myself, hours every week making mistakes, researching and struggling, I now select a course, do it and implement it into my business, thus saving me so much time and money as well as enabling me to make money faster.
When I started, I would have loved someone to say to me – here is where to get your dream clients, how to establish yourself as a blog and brand and basically everything you need to know.
Earn More Writing has 8 modules covering:
How to Establish a Blog and Brand
How to Build Your Portfolio and Pitch Clients
Defending Your Workday
Making the Transition from Broke Writing to Rich Writing
Finding (and Keeping) Your Dream Clients
Get More Work by Making Editors Happy
Taking Your Income into the Stratosphere
Get Rich Ghostwriting for CEOs (Standard & Pro Only)
Plus other bonuses and a great group.
Get it for 20% off only until Monday May 15th with code SPRING2017
Ever had someone tell you to cheer up, it’s not that bad? Or tell you so many other people have it worse, you should be happy/grateful?
We all have trials, whether they are big or small, the obstacles in our life can seem impossible and being told to cheer up or someone has it worse doesn’t help.
I have faced numerous obstacles in my life including domestic violence, homelessness as a single mother, parenting special needs kids, robbery of everything including my underwear, rape, Borderline Personality disorder, paralysis, a cancer scare and multiple surgeries, all within a few years (2012 to 2015). Yet, I have also turned those obstacles into opportunities and founded a company, became an international keynote speaker, won multiple awards including 3 Plutus awards and was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year. My obstacles turned my life around and one of the main reasons I was able to do that is gratitude. It’s on of the 10 tips and resources I used to go from homeless to CEO. You can download a free eBook with all 10 here.
Disclaimer: before we get into it, I have had mental health issues in my life and take mental health seriously. If you are depressed, have anxiety or feel you need help with your mental health, an attitude of gratitude is great BUT please see a doctor, speak to someone, use support lines if you need such as LifeLine on 13 11 14. I had a psychologist treat me for Borderline Personality disorder and there is no shame in getting help if you need it. Gratitude was one of the things that helped me a lot.
How can you be grateful when everything is falling apart?
Learning to be grateful in dire situations takes practice. Back in 2012, after leaving my abusive husband I was robbed of everything including my underwear. I was devastated. I felt violated, alone and scared. That night, before the police arrived I sat down and wrote why I could be grateful and looked for opportunities in the situation. You can find what I wrote on that night here.
I included things like we weren’t home, I have insurance, it was just stuff that was taken and I was grateful to have a clean slate as everything I owned which was stolen had connections to my marriage. Now I had nothing.
It didn’t change the situation but it changed how I felt.
If you are facing a bad situation, ask yourself:
– What are the positives that can come from this?
– What lesson do I need to learn from this?
– How can I turn this into an opportunity?
It didn’t change the fact I had been robbed. It did change how I felt about the situation. By choosing to be grateful and look for positives I was taking control of the situation and owning my experience instead of letting it control me.
How do you get into the habit of practising gratitude?
Being grateful, looking for opportunities and lessons in whatever situation you are facing is not going to be an automatic reaction overnight, it takes practice.
1.) Keep a gratitude diary
Make a daily habit of writing down at least 3 things you are grateful for every day. I had a gratitude diary I used for this purpose, but you could start each night with writing in your journal 3 things you are grateful for then documenting anything else you want.
2.) Ask yourself questions
Put the questions above (what are the positives that can come from this? What lesson do I need to learn from this? How can I turn this into an opportunity), in a note on your phone to refer to when needed. When something is happening and you need help, look at it, ask yourself those questions and write down your answers.
3.) Have positive discussions
When you talk with other people, instead of listing out all your problems or complaining about everything, discuss the good things in your life or if you do need to talk to someone about your problems, look for solutions as you do it. We all need someone to talk to and I am not saying don’t ask for help. Talk with whoever you need, look for solutions or ask them to help you look for solutions then take action. Don’t dwell on the negative.
Studies have shown the positive effects gratitude has on our health, career, relationships and life overall. In my life, when I have been consciously practising an attitude of gratitude, I have found it easier to find solutions to my problems, my personal life improves, I secure higher paying clients and get better work opportunities and more. My brain actively seeks out the solutions I want to the problems I face instead of focusing on the problem. As a result, my life improves.
When I am not focused on gratitude and I allow negative thoughts to consume me, I spiral down, things in my life don’t go the way I want/need and I find it difficult to dig myself out of the dark hole I end up in.
Do you practice an attitude of gratitude? What are you grateful for today?
*An attitude of gratitude should not be used to replace medication, your GP or specialist. If you feel the need to talk to someone or get further help make sure you reach out to places such as LifeLine (13 11 14) or BeyondBlue (1300 224 636) or make an appointment to see your doctor and get whatever help you need.
I get asked all the time how I did it. How did I go from homeless, single mother because of domestic violence to multiple international award-winning CEO?
It was not easy, there were many steps involved, it took time but I was determined. I have put together this guide which includes everything from attitude and mindset, ways to make money, budgeting, goal setting and more with links, resources, books I loved and anyone at any stage of their life can apply these tips to their life.
Dealing with Centrelink was possibly one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. When you get to the point where you need help from them you probably already have a number of stresses in your life such as job loss, relationship breakdown, health issues (physical or mental). It literally pushed me to the brink of suicide and I know I am not alone in those thoughts. If you have never had to deal with Centrelink, especially at a time of crisis, you won’t understand. It is not an easy process, many genuine claims get denied, over 20% of debts being issued are incorrect plus you usually wait on the phone over 1 hour if you’re lucky. You might also be cut off, or not be able to get through at all.
That sounds all doom and gloom. I’m not going to tell you I have a magic solution to make dealing with them easier. I do have some tips to make things go smoother, possibly get sorted sooner and have ample proof of what you have done so if you need to prove you don’t owe them money or that they were supposed to do something, you can and you can take it further if needed.
1.) Get a Centrelink notebook or file
Buy a notebook or create a file on your phone to record EVERYTHING you do with Centrelink. Every phone call including the time you rang, how long you are on hold, who you spoke to, what was discussed, the receipt/record number and how long the whole phone call from when you called to when you hung up was.
Do the same for every time you have to go into the office or deal with their employment agencies or they send you mail. Any contact with them, document it. My preference and recommendation is to upload everything to a DropBox folder (www.dropbox.com) it is free for up to 2G of storage.
So, document everything yourself, plus for anything they send you if it is sent through MyGov, download it and upload a copy to your Dropbox folder, plus if you want a hard copy, print one.
It might seem like overkill but I had them lose my divorce certificate 3 times, at one point they tried to tell me my second daughter was not mine (despite her being a few years old and registered since birth!) plus they lost numerous other forms I handed in. Cover yourself and document everything!
If you are uploading documents to MyGov or anything similar, you can screen record yourself doing it. This way, if it crashes or later doesn’t show up even through you uploaded it, you have proof you did it. If you have a Mac you can use QuickTimePlayer, click on File then select New Screen Recording and click to record. Upload this to your DropBox folder and keep a copy on your computer. Alternatively, you can use VLC which many computers come with.
2.) Dealing with Centrelink via phone
Try to remain calm. I know, it is next to impossible. However, Centrelink staff are people. They are also dealing with an outdated system which is so large and the call centre staff often aren’t experienced in what you need help with. The whole system needs an overhaul and they need better training. As with all government departments (in my experience), they don’t spend the money or fix things like this which would actually help, they spend it elsewhere, but that is a whole different article! Your anger/frustration should be at Centrelink/the government, not the person on the other end of the phone (despite how incompetent they may seem to you, it could be their first day).
As hard as it is, try to remain calm. Speak in an even tone (a happy one if you can muster it, I always got more help and even had staff call me back to help, which they technically weren’t supposed to do when I was cheerful and extremely grateful. It was not easy!)
If you have to call them, take a deep breath. Write down what you need to ask on a piece of paper so you have it in front of you. Take notes if you need to while speaking to them (for example, if you think of a question but need to hear the rest of whatever they are saying first and you don’t want to forget the question, scribble it quickly on paper and ask them to repeat anything you missed if you need).
Thank them for their help in a nice tone, even if you don’t feel like it. Be polite and appreciative even if you feel like you want to punch the phone, yell or scream. To be clear, while I tried to be positive and polite, I was not 100% successful at doing it but when I was, I got more help and things got sorted. In fact, they became super helpful and went out of their way to get back to me or assist as much as possible.
Here is how I did phone calls with Centrelink:
– Wrote down the questions I had/information I needed
– Called first thing in the morning as the wait time was not as long (in theory!)
– Took a deep breath
– When I called, I put my phone on speaker and had tasks I could complete while waiting (because we all know it will be at least an hour, if not 2 before you get through). This included folding clothes, ironing, cleaning the kitchen, responding to emails, applying for jobs etc. Anything that did not require noise so I could hear my phone when someone picked up.
– Be polite and upbeat if possible. I generally said something along the lines of “Hi xyz (whatever their name was), thanks so much for answering, you must be having a full on day! (or something similar, basically acknowledging their job can be hard and you sympathise with them).
Next, say “I was just wondering if you could please help me with ……?” (and ask your question). Be polite, ask them to repeat parts you don’t quite understand, speak calmly and slowly if you need to and ask them to slow down if you need.
Once you have the information you need, thank them for their time and get the receipt number for you personal records (more on keeping records in a minute). I often said “Oh, thanks so much, you really helped. Have a great day!” or similar. If they couldn’t help, ask to be transferred to someone else (again, do it politely, don’t demand and yell). Repeat the process until you get the information and help you need.
Once the call has finished, save all the details in a document and upload it to a dropbox folder so it is all in one place.
The wording is gushy but if said genuinely, they respond so much better than when we are frustrated. I used to try to get myself in a good headspace, not angry, tried to remind myself they are people and their job is hard, they are not doing the wrong thing, the government/Centrelink are the problem, not the person I am talking to.
2.) In Office
I dreaded going into the office. It was often busy, understaffed and half the time I got referred to the phones or self-service. My local office lost my paperwork 3 times so I ended up going to an office which was further away but they were way more helpful and got things processed.
Do not let this discourage you. Take a deep breath, remain calm and the staff are usually more helpful.
Before you go, be prepared. Have your details ready – any forms you need completed, have them ready. Have your reference number out or memorised and any extra paperwork your forms might need such as id, pay slips etc. I also packed a drink bottle, snack and something to do such as a book to read or my phone.
I found as soon as they opened was the best time to go. I arranged for someone else to take my kids to school and got in there immediately so I was one of the first in line. If you have a specific appointment, get there before the appointment time to make sure you don’t miss it.
If you are handing paperwork in, you might be able to do it immediately instead of having to speak to someone at a desk. Be clear about what you are there for and the first staff member can usually assist a little. This could save you a lot of time.
While you are waiting, if you have to go to the bathroom or anything, let them know and be as quick as possible. Be patient, listen for your name try to keep yourself occupied.
When you get to speak to someone at a desk, be clear, calm, polite and cooperative. From my experience, they are as frustrated as you with the system and quite limited with what they can do. Again, ask if you can record it. Document everything, take notes while you are there, get a receipt number for your records and note down the time and date you were there, what was said etc.
The Centrelink debt issues at the moment are a mess. 20% of the people who have been hit with debt do not owe it. That is a ridiculously high number. 1% is too many, but 20% is over the top and needs to be addressed!
If you get lumped with a Centrelink debt, first check your records to see if you do owe money or not. Next, ask them for all documentation on it and check it thoroughly.
If you do not owe the money, you can dispute it. They say it takes a few weeks, in my experience (which was before this debt fiasco) it took months, but eventually, it was sorted and I was back paid. It took a lot of back and forth, proof their records were wrong, proof I had provided accurate information and in the end, what got it reviewed is when I said I was going to the ombudsmen because dealing with them had made me suicidal. It should never, ever get to that point, but for many it does. You are dealing with them when you need help the most and debt can be the straw that breaks the camels back especially when you don’t actually owe money!
When dealing with them, be clear, be polite and know how much you can afford to repay if it ends up being you do have to repay because you were overpaid. Do not commit to more than you can afford, they have to take your circumstances into account. It is usually direct debited from your payments so you do not need to think about when or how to pay. They try to push for higher amounts to get it paid quicker. Do not agree to this. State what you can afford and they will eventually agree.
It is easy to get overpaid, for example, if you don’t notify them your circumstances changed such as how much rent you are paying if you got someone renting a room from you, if you partnered etc. Tell them asap everything so your payments can be adjusted accordingly. Keep accurate records of what you tell them and make sure your payments are updated so you do not get overpaid.
However, as I said, if you are one of the 20% lumped with debt you don’t owe, fight it!
5.) Report correctly
It is up to you to make sure you report everything correctly to accurately reflect your relationship status, how many kids you have, any employment or payments etc. Once you have lodged your forms, check to make sure the right information has been added to your file. I have lost count of the number of times my paperwork was put into the system inaccurately and I had to chase it up, get it changed and had the proof they put it in wrong as I had copies of the original forms.
6.) Keep accurate records yourself
Any form you have to give Centrelink, keep a copy for yourself. As mentioned above, keep a notebook or file on all interactions with Centrelink, all forms, all conversations and get record numbers for everything you do. This will help you immensely should anything bad happen and you need to dispute anything with them.
It is a lot of work keeping all the records, it will benefit you in the long run.
If you have issues with them which are not resolved and you have pushed for reviews, gone through the process and things are still not done correctly, you can report them to the ombudsmen here. It might seem useless and it will take a long time, but they have to respond and do something about it.
What tips do you have for dealing with Centrelink?
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It can be extremely difficult to work out exactly what Centrelink benefits you are entitled to, plus the other payments and assistance available such as rent assistance, health care or pension card, one-off supplements, no interest loans, payments for children and more. Here I have attempted to compile a list of the most common Centrelink payments and extras. Read through all of them as you never know which ones will apply to you and in some cases, you may be eligible for small annual supplements on top of your fortnightly payments.
To compare rates, you can use the Centrelink Rate Estimator as a guide and as a way to compare your circumstances. It is not definitive but definitely helps. Alternatively, there is the payment finder which steps you through questions to find out what you are eligible for.
Depending on your circumstances, for example, if you are leaving family and domestic violence, you may be entitled to a crisis payment.
General ‘pensions’ or income payments from Centrelink
Here are the main fortnightly benefits or income supplements/pensions I found on the Centrelink site. Each link has extra resources and possible payments at the bottom of it:
Age Pension: applies if you are 65 years or older plus are below the income and asset limits. If you are eligible for this you may also be eligible for the Age Pension Loan Scheme and other payments (see further down) such as rent assistance, mobility assistance, a seniors or Commonwealth seniors card and more.
Widow Allowance: for women born on or before 1 July, 1955 and have become widowed, divorced or separated after the age of 40 with no recent work experience and meet the income/asset requirements.
Disability Support Pension: is notoriously hard to get. It is for those age 16+ who meet requirements.
Sickness Allowance: is a temporary payment for those unable to work due to medical issues for a period of time between the ages of 22 and 65.
ABStudy: is a payment for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians who are enrolled in an approved course or undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship and not receiving other income support payments.
Austudy: for Australians aged 25+ who are studying.
Parenting Payment: can be paid to either partnered or single couples, depending on income and age of children.
NewStart: is payable to job seekers between the ages of 22 and 65, provided you meet certain requirements.
Parental Leave Pay: is financial support for up to 18 weeks to help working parents care for a newborn or recently adopted child.
Youth Allowance: is for 16 to 24-year-olds who are full-time students or apprentices, looking for work or sick.
Carer Payment: is paid to those caring for someone who is disabled. There are numerous other payments you may be eligible for here.
Remote or rural payments: if you are remote you may be eligible for Remote Area Allowance and if you have children might be eligible for the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme if your child cannot attend school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs. There are also payments for farmers and more assistance here.
Double Orphan Payment: helps with the costs of caring for orphaned children or children who are unable to be cared for by their parents.
Help for Visa holders: if you are in Australia on a visa, there are some payments available to you.
Supplements, one off payments and other benefits from Centrelink
Aside from the standard ‘pensions’, as in single or partnered parenting payment, carers payment, age pension, disability, Newstart etc, there are numerous other benefits you may be eligible for.
Rent assistance: if you rent or pay board, you may be eligible for a fortnightly payment to help with the cost of renting. If you own your own home, no assistance is available.
Family Tax Benefit: if you have children in your care you may be eligible for Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B.
Child Care Rebate and Benefit: these payments help with the cost of childcare and have limits, but can help significantly reduce the cost.
JET: is extra assistance for child care depending on your circumstances.
Carers Allowance: if you care for someone with higher needs, you may be eligible for the $124.70 fortnightly payment. For example, my daughters were diagnosed with an extreme learning disorder requiring a speech therapist and other treatment. I had to get their GP and 2 specialists (speech therapist and paediatrician) to fill in the forms then the payment was approved. It is not means tested.
Carers supplement: if you get the Carers Payment, Carers Allowance, Wife Pension, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Partner Service Pension with Carer Allowance or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Carer Service Pension, you may be eligible for a payment of up to $600 paid in July each year.
Low income family supplement: an annual $300 for eligible households.
Education Entry Payment: if you are on certain payments and start an approved course. The amount is $208, paid once a year.
Mobility Allowance: for those on disability, under certain circumstances.
Dad and Partner Pay: 2 weeks pay for dads or partners caring for a newborn or recently adopted child.
New Born Upfront Payment and NewBorn Supplement: this varies depending on your income and circumstances when you have a new born.
Pension Supplement: is paid to those on certain income support payments. It is between $35 and $65.10, depending on your circumstances.
Pensioner Concession Card/Health Care Card/Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: there are various cards which provide benefits depending on which payment you are on. A pension card offers the most discounts with things like registration, travel, electricity and more discounted or free, while a health care card often only offers reduced health care/medication. Check this post for a complete list of everything I know of you can be eligible for in terms of discounts and freebies. Not all apply to every card, it is worth asking each provider though and seeing if you are eligible. The post is a few years old and is being updated soon.
Student Start Up Loan: this loan is an interest-free loan for studying and you can get $1,035 twice a year, which must be repaid.
Child Dental Benefits: $1000 in dental assistance, under certain circumstances and for specific dental work like check-ups.
Continence Aids Payment: for anyone over 5 years of age with bowel and continence issues, under specific circumstances.
Stillborn Baby Payment: if you have a stillborn baby and earn under $60,000 you may be eligible.
Fares Allowance: a payment to help tertiary students travel to and from school.
Child Disability Assistance: an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each child in your care with a disability.
Catastrophic event/trauma/illness of a child under 7: if something happens such as a car accident, poisoning, cancer diagnosis etc. You may be eligible for up to $10,000.
Cleft lip or cleft palate: you may be eligible for assistance until you turn 28.
Energy Supplement: is paid automatically if you get an income payment, family tax benefit or are on a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program: if you are a woman who has had breast surgery you may be eligible for reimbursement.
Pharmaceutical Allowance: is paid with your regular income allowance.
Telephone Allowance: is paid quarterly to those receiving certain payments.
Utilities Allowance: applicable to those on disability support pension (and under 21 years old), partner allowance or widow allowance, it is paid automatically each quarter.
If I have missed any Centrelink payments, let me know. Each situation is different, this is designed as a guide to inform you of payments, supplements or extra assistance you might be eligible for and was correct at the time of being posted. As things change I will endeavour to update this page.
It’s my goal to help at least 1,000,000 Australians survive, thrive and where possible, get off Centrelink. I’ll be sharing weekly posts, as many resources as I can, plus the exact things I did to go from homeless on Centrelink as a single mum to multiple international award winning CEO, speaker, author and charity ambassador. If you’d like a monthly update with resources and tips around Centrelink and rebuilding your life, sign up to this newsletter.
You might also like:
Centrelink Tips – all the articles and resource I have to survive on Centrelink, make extra money and more.
I had the privilege of chatting with Bek from Unashamedly Creative, through her group Freelance Jungle (which you should join if you are a freelancer!). We discussed knowing and charging your worth, how I did it going from homeless to CEO, but surprisingly we also covered mental health as a freelancer and how depression has impacted my business.
It was a live interview, so I may have waffled in some parts, but you can check the recording out for yourself here. Also, I personally want to thank all those who asked questions, especially Mark. He asked some pretty brave stuff, especially about depression at the end of the recording and I am so grateful he did because mental health needs more awareness and the stigma needs to go. I am totally open in my response, how even as recently as 6 months ago I saw a psychologist and do whenever I feel the need, how I have been suicidal, right down to having the details planned a few years ago.
I do a lot of interviews, I talk a lot about my experience, but this interview is possibly one of my favourites, ever. It covers my love of creating a lifestyle for yourself, charging your worth, tips to back yourself, run your freelance business as well as domestic violence, homelessness and especially mental health.
Some of the key points, in my opinion, are below:
Why I got into freelancing
I left an abusive marriage, ended up homeless with my daughters, both of whom had learning disorders requiring extensive (and expensive) treatment. I fell into freelancing because a 9 to 5 job wasn’t possible in my situation. I had to support my daughters and myself. Freelancing provided flexible options both financially and with my lifestyle. This enabled me to afford the treatment for my daughters along with be there to provide extra assistance as needed and now they are above average when the original prognosis was they’d need help with tutoring etc for life.
Freelancing also enabled me to leave an abusive relationship and start over. It’s given me the lifestyle I love, I met my partner because of it and while it has it’s ups and downs, I can’t imagine ever not freelancing in some way, shape or form.
Where does my drive and motivation come from?
My daughters have been my motivation and the desire to improve our lives as well as ensure no one else goes through what we did are my drive for everything I do.
How do you price freelancing work?
I did research and checked what the going rates in my industry were then charged accordingly. I have more information on charging as a freelancer here.
I also shared a little formula to work out your ‘hourly’ rate. I cannot remember where I originally saw it and this isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea.
1.) Work out how much you want to earn a year. E.g. $100,000.
2.) Add superannuation, tax, business expenses such as site hosting, insurance, design, advertising, courses and events you want to participate in, self-care etc. This likely brings your $100,000 up to $150,000.
3.) Work out how many days you will be working, it’s not 365! Start with the 365 days in a year. Remove weekends (104 days), public holidays (11 in Australia), holidays (20 days if going for the 4-week standard) and sick leave (10 days is standard, however, all more if needed). This brings you down to 220 days.
4.) Work out how many hours a day you can actually work. Most mums I know have school hours only, this means 5.5 hours max (after school drop off and pick up) or 1,210 hours a year for the 220 days they can work.
5.) Divide $150,000 by 1,210 hours and you get $123.96 per hour. Let’s round that up to $125
6.) Charge accordingly! If you charge $200 for an article which takes you 1 hour to write, you are in front and that is great. If you are charging $200 for an article which takes you 3 hours to write, you are behind. However, if your goal is less or you can work more hours this changes.
Don’t charge hourly!
While I have just stepped you through a formula to charge hourly, I don’t recommend charging hourly. I create tailored packages which take into account how long I think it will take, cost of outsourcing aspects of a project if needed and a buffer in case things go wrong. On the odd occasion, I charge hourly and the above exercise is great for knowing what you need to be earning per day, per project etc.
How do you get over mental blocks of charging what you are worth and clients objections?
The capacity to charge what you are worth comes down to confidence (as well as skills, qualifications and experience to back it up). Work out why you lack confidence then formulate ways to increase your confidence levels. I have 20 tips for confidence here. One of my favourites is the superhero pose. If I am about to send a quote I feel nervous about, I stand tall, legs apart, hands on hips, shoulders back, take a few deep breaths, remind myself I am worth it then hit send. These body movements send confidence signals to my brain, automatically increasing confidence.
Next, if they want to work with you, they will pay your rates. Do not apologise, say sorry or use the word just. Be factual, back yourself and be clear on what you will and won’t do.
RUN!!!! If your gut is screaming at you that a client will be painful (especially if they want a discount/won’t pay your rates), run like the wind! Hightail it out of there. You are worth more!
What if you have a lean month and are super tempted to take lower rates?
I’ve been there. I was homeless, remember? You don’t get leaner than that! I have found every time I discounted my rates, I was not valued and the client was more work than they were worth.
Start saving asap. Take a percentage from each client and put it straight into savings. This way, when you have a lean month, you have savings to back yourself.
Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. I have found (and read in numerous psychology/human behaviour books), about how our mind works, the conscious with the subconscious. If you have a scarcity mindset and are fearful of not getting more income, your mind will only look for low income and will create what you fear. If you have an abundance mindset, telling yourself you have more than enough, your mind looks for better opportunities. This doesn’t mean you won’t get pitched crap, you will. You will be of the mindset you don’t need it and open yourself to what you really want.
Also, keep in mind, if you take on the lean clients, then when you get pitched a good client, you may not have the capacity to take on the work you truly deserve and get the income you want.
If you have a lean month, take care of the clients you have. Hustle like crazy, pitch everywhere possible, network, get involved in groups and provide value (don’t just pitch yourself), go to events, pitch online to anywhere you hear of or find looking for freelancers. If you have 5 hours a day and no clients, you have 5 hours to pitch! Be proactive when times are lean and focus on your goals.
There is so much more
We covered tips on leaving an abusive/unhealthy relationship. I have how to get the money to leave an abusive relationship here.
We discuss mental health, I share some of my Borderline Personality Disorder experience and what helps here.
I have articles on domestic violence (the scourge we are enabling covers a chunk of my personal experience, how to rebuild after leaving an abusive relationship and more on homelessness here.
I have business and marketing resources here.
I am open about my experiences in all areas of my life from mental health through to business, so feel free to ask me anything either in the comments below or via email (admin @ kylietravers.com.au) or via social (Facebook is the best platform to reach me).
I also offer one on one mentoring, do freelance writing, speaking at events and for groups, plus more if you want any of those services too. You can find them on my homepage or in the menu.
“Your doctor needs you to come in immediately about your blood test results.” – My doctors office.
This post focuses on changes I have made or am making in my life regarding health. I have had significant health scares in the past 18 months and major changes is happening. Due to the nature of what I do, I have had the fortune of being gifted some of the things needed to make these changes. Before being gifted them I was already researching and had made some selections. I mention specific products and my thoughts because these are what I am using. All opinions are my own.
As soon as I published a post on self-care the other day my doctors office called me to come in immediately about blood test results which it turned out had tested positive for blood clots. I was immediately sent for a CT scan because other health issues indicated the clots were in my lungs.
In the past 18 months I have had:
– Paralysis issues and they still don’t know why, it has been suggested I had Guillain-Barré syndrome, but not confirmed. I do have a bulged disc from when I was 15 and disc degeneration too.
– Cancer scare, specifically the cancer my mother died from. I now have annual surgery for this because I have a rare and controversial condition. Some medical experts say it’s classed as cancer, others do not. Either way, current treatment is surgery.
Female health issues which I won’t go too much into this as it has been ongoing for months and I see a specialist next month about it.
Allergic reactions to everything. About 5 weeks ago I started to get itchy on my arms and legs, it spread across my stomach but oddly has not effected anywhere underwear sits or my face. It got so itchy I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off. After 2 weeks of this, I developed some red dots down my arms, not raised or anything so I went to the dr. I was given cream and antihistamines. After 2 weeks I was still itchy, the red dots come and go, never being too severe or obvious, but I had issues breathing now to the point where if my breathing got heavier I would have a coughing fit and pain in my lungs. I assumed they were connected to allergies, my blood tests showed blood clot issues (hence the beginning of this post and the CT scan for clots in my lungs.)
Blood issues including being diagnosed with neutropenia (my body doesn’t create enough neutrophils, the white blood cells which fight infection) and yesterday blood clot issues. Good news = no lung clots. Bad news, my blood is messed up and they don’t know why.
Important steps for health
I know I have neglected many areas of my health and I know that part of how unhealthy I am is because of stress. I have worked to sell some parts of the company and reduce my workload this year. I’ve focused on getting financially healthy and reduced stress in some areas of my life. However, without facing my fears, anxiety and stress remains. In order to heal myself, we have made some changes in our home and I am working on the rest. I know what I need to do, I don’t always implement it and that is the issue for me. As with other goals, I have had the most success when I put it out there like this. So here is what I know needs to be done for a healthy body.
1.) Sleep in a bedroom that is an oasis
Until recently, I have been sleeping on a terrible mattress. We moved into a furnished apartment and the mattress is clearly the cheapest thing they could get. We tried mattress toppers for a while, but neither of us were sleeping well. A little over a month ago I was asked to try a new mattress and it has done wonders! My sleep isn’t perfect yet, part of that is due to other health issues, not the mattress. My sleeo has improved drastically though and both our bodies feel significantly better sleeping on a supportive mattress. I have the
I have the iGravity by Sensus from BedsOnline. It’s $999 delivered and it’s the best mattress I have ever had. I’ll do a full post on it properly later, but in a nutshell, because of my previous back issues my chiropractor recommended certain things in a mattress and when I sleep on a mattress that doesn’t have full support I end up in pain. The iGravity has firm support without being stiff as a board (which is how my partners mattress felt when we moved in together) and I highly recommend it.
We were already shopping around for a mattress and had tried quite a few. I have previously had a chiropractic mattress worth $5,000, however I prefer the iGravity to that one and it is one fifth of the price.
Plus, for me, since we couldn’t get rid of the previous mattress due to it being part of the furnishing for the apartment and not owned by us, we had to put my new iGravity mattress on top of the old one and it’s like sleeping on a high princess bed every night! My partner prefers to call it a fort bed. In my head, it’s a princess bed. My kids have said they want the exact same bed when they grow up!
I cannot wait until we are rid of the old mattress though and have only the iGravity on the bed. It will be the ideal height for me.
Aside from the perfect mattress, I have also got a bedspread I love (not pictured, I just bought it), threw out stuff we weren’t using, added a scent I like and have made it a room we can relax in. I am banning myself from working in there too. My bedroom needs to be an oasis for sleep.
2.) Throw away the scales
I have written about the 4-hour body and why weight is irrelevant because at 78kgs I have been a size 10 and a size 14. Even being similar weight and dress sizes my body shape has been different. Yet, when I step on the scales, if I have put on weight I feel awful. It’s completely psychological and often the weight fluctuation coincides with my period or it’s water weight and a few days later I am back to normal.
Instead of focusing on weight, I am focusing on fat percentage. I had a DEXA scan recently and will have another in March. A DEXA scan measures the fat percentage in your body and gives a more accurate account of your body compared to jumping on the scales.
The scales need to go. I started the year at 76.2kgs, my weight has gone up and down all year and I am sick of it. Health is my focus. Even with the weight fluctuations and weighing in at 81.6kg this morning, my actual body shape is better than before.
To be specific about my ‘size’ to compare properly later:
Fat percentage: 33.08%
Dress size: 12 (one average). This really depends on brands, summer vs winter lines etc. For example in JeansWest winter jeans I am 12, in their summer jeans, I am a 10. Cue clothing I am between a 12 to 14. Right now, I am going to say I am a 12.
3.) Regular exercise
With my lung issues, I am limited to certain exercises like swimming, gentle yoga etc. Prior to that I had started a simple gym routine which was making a difference.
For the next few weeks, I am away in Vietnam. Once I am back in Melbourne it will be swimming 3 times a week and yoga 3 times a week, minimum. As my health improves and my doctor gives the ok, I will go back to the gym routine I had which included cardio and weights.
4.) Reduce alcohol
I was raised Mormon and for a while after the church I didn’t drink. My partner likes to drink and my alcohol consumption has definitely increased. In general, I rarely drink. My drinking is low enough doctors put me down as a non-drinker. I don’t drink every week or even at every special occasion. I don’t think there is much benefit for me drinking
5.) Drinking 3L water a day
I drink a can or two of Pepsi Max a day lately and nowhere near enough water. I used to use an app to remind me to have a glass of water. It is incredible the health benefits that come from being properly hydrated. 3 Litres is my daily goal, especially once I start exercising properly.
I have mentioned the 4-hour body a few times on my site. I am moving away from it next year. I may need to do an elimination diet, work with an allergist and tweak things while my health is sorted.
The basics will be:
– No sugar
– No wheat
– No dairy
Everything else in moderation and a lot of trial and error to find what works best for my body.
Making health the goal
I know if I take care of my healthI will get back to a size I am comfortable with. I want to reiterate to myself consistently that I love myself, I have a strong body and I want to focus on my health, not my weight.
What are your health goals?
It was around this time 4 years ago my life pretty much fell to pieces. The abuse and threat on my life reached a level I never anticipated, my life spun out of control and I wondered if I would be able to pick up the pieces.
Now, I run a marketing company, I’m an international speaker, own multiple blogs (my favourite, after this one is The Thrifty Issue where I share ways to make and save money), I have won a variety of awards and been finalist for others including Young Australian of the Year. My life now is the opposite of what it was. I have a new partner who is incredible, my daughters and I are happy, we live in a city we love, we travel and have a lifestyle that seemed so far out of reach 4 years ago. It’s often surreal to me, despite how much work I put in to get my life to this point.
4 years ago I had separated from my husband. It spiraled out of control, he pulled a knife on me, assaulted me, stalked and harassed me. My daughters and I left the family home. Within 1 week I was robbed of everything including my underwear. A few weeks later I was raped in that home and we ended up homeless. It wasn’t the first time we had been homeless, the first time was Christmas/New Years 2009, when my daughters were 2 years old and 9 months old and we were living in a garage because I had left their dad at that time, unfortunately, in 2010 I got back together with him (which is common in abusive relationships) and in 2012 separate again. In 2013, we were bouncing around homes and scared of their dad. (You can read more about my homeless experience here).
How did I rebuild from nothing?
I had my daughters and giving up was not an option. I came extremely close to suicide a few times, ultimately, I needed to be an example for my daughters and create the life we wanted. If you need to leave an abusive relationship, I highly recommend reading this post – how to get the money to leave an abusive relationship to help you get started with planning to leave.
1.) Dealt with the now while focusing on the future
My needs for safety, schooling for my kids, counselling for all three of us, speech therapy for my daughters, income and the basics like a house, food, clothing etc. were all my first priority. However, if I focused only on my immediate needs, I was not going to be able to move past them.
I had a psychologist to help with the mental and emotional issues.
The police took out an AVO against my soon to be ex-husband to protect my daughters and I.
I made the school aware of the situation and gave them copies.
I applied to Centrelink and looked at what help I was eligible for (check out this list of discounts for healthcare and pension cards to get an idea.)
I secured a new home for us and moved to Canberra half way through 2013 so we could start over. (Check out how to create an unbeatable rental application to see exactly what I did.)
I ignored child support because I didn’t get it most of the time, so I learned to budget without it and if it ever came (like when he lodged a tax return and the tax department took it), then it was considered a bonus. I still don’t rely on it. (Read how to survive without child support).
I looked at extra ways to make money such as ideas in this post and the steps to take to set up a business or multiple streams of income.
I did what I could to improve and get a handle on my current situation. At the same time, I set goals and focused on the future I wanted.
I knew I wanted to move to Canberra, what sort of work I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to travel and that the only way I could have that life is if I worked hard for it. I created my 10 steps to success with goals system and worked my butt off.
2.) Daily affirmations
I had 3 quotes I lived by that I repeated to myself often:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” by Carl Jung
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” (unsure who said this)
“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” (A variation of one from Seneca)
When things got really hard, these helped a lot. It kept my mindset focused and helped me snap out of it when I got really depressed.
I kept a gratitude diary where I wrote in it three things every day I was grateful for, no matter how bad my day was. Being grateful for other things helped me see the good in my life even when it felt like I was drowning.
4.) Look for the lesson
On the night I was robbed, I sat down and wrote a list of things I could be grateful for about the robbery and within this list I looked for lessons. Once I realised how beneficial this was, I started applying it to every other part of my life.
I find it easier now to be grateful and find the lessons in things, something positive I can take from whatever negative situation is happening in my life. For example, last year I was paralysed for most of the year. This forced me to slow down and take stock of my life, a cancer scare forced me to look at my health and both of these things combined made my partner and I become close. I don’t ever wish to relive those experiences, but I can see the lessons and blessings from those experiences.
5.) Worked on my confidence
My ex husband eroded my confidence for years. I felt fat, ugly, worthless and while I had started to achieve things and my confidence had grown a little by the time I left him it took a long time for me to love myself. I still have days where I can hear his put downs in my head and I believe them, but they are few and far between. 20 ways to increase confidence has the things I did and still do to boost my confidence.
6.) Get help
Tell people you know and trust what is going on. Let them help you and access the services that are there to help. At times I was too proud to ask for help and it was detrimental to me. Other times I asked for help and got knocked back, but overall, when I did ask, I got the help I needed and reduced my own levels of stress as a result. Read how to ask for help and 10 tips to help you do everything.
7.) Read, read, read
I read every book I could get my hands on, mostly relating to self-help, psychology, business and real stories. Reading distracted me from my life, taught me things I could apply and I could take books anywhere. Reading a book is very different to browsing online.
8.) Know what you want
Along with the goals, I worked out my personal mission statement, created a vision board (and motivation wall), plus my core values. I had to know what I wanted and where I was going otherwise I would have simply drifted around and had no real structure or direction.
9.) Be kind to yourself and others
Leaving an abusive relationship and trying to rebuild your life is traumatic. I still have issues with my ex-husband. It’s not a quick process and you need to be gentle on yourself, help others to understand if they don’t, get rid of toxic people in your life and learn to love yourself. Do what is best for you and your children and don’t worry about what others think.
Do you have any advice for people who have or are leaving an abusive relationship?
Do you need to beat hundreds of applicants for the house you want to rent?
In some areas, the price of rent and competition for rental properties is fierce. When I left my abusive marriage and needed to get a place to rent, it was difficult. Numerous people turned up each time, I was relying mainly on the single parents pension from Centrelink, along with some self-employment income, child support was nonexistent, basically my finances looked terrible. Add to that no rental history because I had been a home owner (and at another time, homeless), I was a pretty poor applicant on paper when going up against families, or double income no kids couples.
I have one trick that has landed me a house to rent, every time and many agents have commented on it. In fact, when I was moving from Sydney to Canberra, I drove down on the day, inspected the house, gave the agent my file and beat numerous other applicants for a property in an area with a less than 1% vacancy rate.
Here’s what I do.
1. ) Speak to the agent
Before I go to a rental, I check the listing, download the application form if there is one then I call the agent If there was no application online I request one to be emailed to me. Whenever I have gone to the rental property to inspect with all the other potential applicants, the agent knows exactly who I am when I arrive because we have already spoken and it seems they mainly remember me over other applicants because I made them laugh.
2.) Have your application ready
I have the application filled out, I leave the lease term blank and discuss it with the agent. Some owners like 6 months, others 12. If you are willing to be flexible it is more appealing to both agents and landlords.
3.) Letter to the landlord
In my last 3 applications I included a letter to the landlord. In the first paragraph I state how I would like to rent their house, how I understand as a landlord they want someone who will take good care of the property and how I will be that someone.
In the next paragraph I outline the features of the home that make it suitable for my family and specifics of why I want to rent it.
Next, I talk about why I am a good tenant. I am clear that I am a single mum of 2 daughters, but I also work from home, I don’t smoke, I don’t have pets, I don’t drink or throw big parties etc.
The next paragraph is where I outline my income, although it looked small on paper I manage my money well and have other sources of income (which I outlined). I discuss how I keep my bills below average and how I source things for free. (I include copies of my bills to back this up, which I will discuss in a minute.)
My closing paragraph recaps why I love their property and how I will look after it.
4.) Create a file
With the application and letter in hand, I create a file. I get a folder or even a plastic sleeve to put in the following:
– My filled in application
– Letter to the landlord
– Photocopied id: Actually, I scan and print mine, front and back – my licence, debit card and Medicare card. I have previously photocopied them at the library when I couldn’t use my scanner.
– Electricity and gas bills: These are included to prove identification and because mine are lower than average it makes my overall financial situation look better. My water bills for 5 people living in a home were lower than your average one person household, the same for my electricity. This shows I am frugal and my expenses aren’t as high as others. If you need some frugality tips check out the complete list of things you can use y our pension/healthcare card for, along with my save money category which has all my money saving posts in it.
– All income documents: I included child support documentation even when I didn’t get it, carers allowance for my daughters (when I left my ex my daughters had severe expressive and receptive learning disorders requiring extensive help. This meant I was entitled to carers allowance for both of them), my self-employed income (I include my tax certificate to prove income plus a recent bank statement to show how much and where money comes from as that is higher than my tax shows due to deductions.) A statement or letter for each income source is included. (If you need ways to make money, check out ways to make money while living on Centrelink, 29 ways to make money travelling, even as a family and financial resources here. financial resources here.)
– Letter outlining income: I do this because I am self-employed and I receive income from my royalties, public speaking, financial mentoring, blog advertising and more. I list the various incomes, how much I get for each and how often on average. If I worked for a wage I wouldn’t bother about doing this letter.
I put all of these papers together in a folder and label it – Kylie Travers xx address (whatever the address of the property is).
With this in hand, when I go to apply it’s easy. I look at the house and leave my application with the agent on the day. It’s easy for them because everything is ready to go and in order. Time is money – this saves them time and it means they just hand a file to the landlord as well, making it easier on everyone.
Most agents tell me they have never seen anyone so organized and prepared with their application which made my application strong already. With the application for the Canberra home the agent even gave me his card in case I wanted to look at the property again over the weekend. He also said I should know Monday, but that file, with an *extra offer I included made my application very strong. And if the managing agent didn’t ring me Monday (he was not managing that property, but doing a favor for another agent), then to call him.
One final thing – when I look at rental properties I dress in business attire. Looking like a professional makes me stand out. I know at each open home I have been to I have been the only one dressed this way and the agents tend to talk to me for longer. The agents are the ones who recommend you to the landlord so building a rapport, looking professional and being friendly really helps.
What are your tips for securing a rental?*The extra offer was more than 2 weeks advance rent. I always offer this, but am never taken up on the offer. It gets their interest though, because it proves I can save and am in control of my finances. Testimonials
A version of this post originally appeared on my old site. Some of the comments from others who implemented my steps were:
“Hi Kylie, I just wanted to thank you. Thank you thank you thank you!!.
I read this post when you write it and filed it away in my mind for future reference.
Last week I needed to move, quite unexpectatedly and urgently. I am a single mum, studying, with 4 kids. I didn’t think anyone would rent to me.
I followed your post, put in an awesome application, outlining why I was the best tennent, including financials to prove I was capable and course enrolment details and a goal timeline outlining my plans for employment within the next 3 months.
Application went in Friday. I got a call Saturday to say the property was all mine and they were impressed with my application.
So thank you. Without this post I would have put in a standard application and probably still be looking and getting quite stressed about it all!
and this from Elise
“Lol your file sounds like my file. My agents practically kissed my feet when they asked for an up to date rates notice and I pointed out that the reason I only had one from last July is because it was paid up a year and a half in advance back then and I won’t get another one till this July. I think that cinched it for me as we got the first property we applied for too”