These days, Marginal Boundaries is a joint venture between myself and Cristina. It wasn’t always so. When I first arrived in Cancun in September of 2010, before the brand was even launched, I was a solo traveler, fresh out of an almost nine year relationship that ended badly. I spent my first few months in a haze of tequila, weed and the embraces of all the hedonism that the tourist part of Cancun is known for.
Eventually, I made my way back to working; a contract from Lea and Jonathan over at Location Independent to draft a Cancun travel guide presented itself (ultimately it never saw the light of day but turned into my first Live Like a Local immersion guide), along with about $12,000 dollars in contracts from three long-term clients, and I pulled myself out of the fog and back into my work.
The next couple of months (December of 2010 and January of 2011) were spent working 10 – 12 hours a day out of my apartment and then in the evenings I would head to a little cafe just down the street from where I would hole up for my nightly editing sessions. There, I would sit for another three to four hours while editing the work from earlier in the day and shoot it off to my clients. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that after several months of frequenting the cafe that I found myself drawn to the girl who was always serving my tea and softly smiling when I would fumble through my fledgling Spanish mumbling thank-yous and beyond.
But this isn’t a story about love on the road. At least not in full. Rather, this is a tale of how one person’s life can change dramatically, and the power The Internet, social media and passive income have for allowing a person to completely reverse their fortunes and provide a life previously only dreamed of. This is Cristina’s story.
In The Beginning…
Up until the point Cris and I got involved, she had been toiling away at low-income jobs in Mexico, mostly in the service industry but also helping out at a power plant as an assistant and helping her mother with the family restaurant in the town where she grew up. Mostly, she was getting by on 500 to 600 USD per month of income while working 60 to 80 hours per week.
For those who don’t want to be bothered with the math, that’s a wage from between $1.50 per hour up to $2.50 per hour. Far less than the typical waiters/waitresses and servers in the United States who bitch about making $3 an hour and how 20 percent tips should be mandatory. Which they shouldn’t; your employer is responsible for your wage, not the customer. But we’ve already covered that in the post on Tipping Etiquette Around The World.
Our first year together, she didn’t really understand anything that I was doing to make money. The writing part and selling books she understood, but the whole “social media and blogger with a following” was totally foreign. She didn’t have a Facebook account and the only thing she knew about the platform was that’s where some of her friends would go to chat and send photos to one another or stay in touch with family.
She didn’t have a laptop. Or a smart phone. And while part of the issue was simply my inability (at the time) to properly explain what it was that I did with my then-limited Spanish and her basic English, the other part was that it was simply so foreign to her what it was that I did for a living that it just didn’t really make sense at first. Use Facebook to make money? Huh?
By the end of the first year I had begun suggesting that sh consider changing her career. I was (and still do when I accept contracts) making €85 an hour minimum with my work for Complete Writing Solutions, and after a year of her hanging out at the house in between her work sessions watching me wrap up blog posts and contracts or post things on social media before heading out to a movie, she began to “see the light”.
I offered to buy her a laptop. Several times. She refused, claiming that she wouldn’t feel right if I gave her a leg up. Admittedly, I was frustrated, but she’s an independent woman so I agreed to let her do it on her own time. She busted her ass for the next year, working a crap job I personally hated, working 70-80 hours a week for a mere $500 USD in salary, and she saved every penny she could before finally buying herself a laptop at the end of 2012.
I really hated her job. We actually had a few heated discussions about it, because I could have paid for a laptop for her with a few hours of work on contract or use book sales from Marginal Boundaries. She once worked three weeks without a single day off during the Christmas/New Years season of 2011/2012, literally busting 12-14 hour shifts and then being asked to do doubles, close and then open, all for a mere $1.50 per hour.
I was furious, not at her, but at the working conditions I had to watch my beloved suffer through, and I really, really wanted her to quit and just start working with me because I already knew the power of the Internet and had been using it for several years.
But you have to understand. From her perspective it was something so new, so foreign, that she was admittedly scared to commit to it. And rightfully so. It’s like the baby bird being shoved out of the nest. It’s fly or die, little birdie. In this case she had the safety net of my own experience to back her up, and I would never have let her fail.
But imagine being in her position; for 10 years you’ve only known one reality, and then someone comes along and challenges everything you’ve ever believed in and shows you a completely new way of thinking/living…and then asks you to join them on the journey. Would you have the courage to commit? Could you completely change your life and your beliefs based upon the advice of a single individual?
From there, she began to dabble. She started a Facebook account. We started having two to three hour training sessions a couple of times per week when she had free time, talking to her about anchor texts, backlinks, linking in emails above and beyond simply copy/pasting things, got her a Google+ account going, and started showing her the ropes.
Then, when my brother committed suicide in December and I decided to move forward with the Destination Freedom brand boot camps, she had the opportunity to go beyond simply dabbling and begin actually using the things I had been teaching her in terms of Google research, online classes and social media.
Commitment: The Power of Belief
In February of 2013 she quit her job and started working with me helping me manage Marginal Boundaries, the brand boot camps, teaching the Spanish classes and organizing things, translate articles, and some Spanish language social media. She made around $1,500 per month for the first brand boot camp; in essence, she tripled her salary and effectively cut her working hours down to four to six a day (30 a week basically) down from 70-80 a week.
When we finished up the first boot camp, she decided she wanted to do graphic design as a freelancer apart from the brand boot camps so she could have her own independent income. We got her a copy of Photoshop and she then proceeded to spend 4-6 hours a day all summer (minus some time visiting her family), EVERY SINGLE DAY, going through YouTube tutorials and working Fiverr gigs for practice and a portfolio, making $10 to $20 an hour.
Then, last month, she launched Designs By Cristina and her apartment-finder service here in Cancun and within a week she lined up $800 worth of work…work that only took her about six hours to complete. Just this past week she has since completed work on several other clients doing eBooks and logo designs. On top of which, she has her Viajes Con Cristina YouTube series which has been gaining followers of her own and traction as she builds up her own reputation.
Now, we have another brand boot camp starting in November. She has her own design work coming in. She’s helping with Spanish social media, and she’s helping us line up local clients with our private advertising service here in Cancun and The Riviera Maya. She’s on track to break 2.5k per month. Maybe even 3k per month by the end of the year if her design work keeps increasing as it has been. And that’s all since quitting her job in February, where she went from a mere $500 a month working six days a week.
Now, granted, she had a lot of help along the way from myself and other bloggers along the way throughout the course of 2013. Which, by the way, is the benefit of finding a mentor and surrounding yourself with other successful people; the “five people rule” is something I also am passionately blogging about on a regular basis.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn
It’s what we do with our boot camps and surrounding our students with the guest speakers/teachers, such as Wandering Earl in the spring, along with my buddy Ismael from the Pro Web Group who is a full-time developer and entrepreneur who has bought gold in the Congo to resell in Canada and engines in Japan to repair and resell in Canada; this winter we have Jets Like Taxis in residence for three months, Sofie from Wonderful Wanderings guest speaking at some point, Justin from The Lotus and Artichoke (he of two successful Kickstarter campaigns) showing up for a visit along the way with the family, and more.
Could she have done it on her own? Absolutely. It might have taken her longer, but once you make up your mind, once you make that switch, once you DEDICATE, there’s NOTHING you cannot achieve.
The hardest part for me with Cris was sitting here for a year waiting for her to save up enough to buy her laptop. I could have bought her one with a few hours’ worth of work, but she flat-out refused. She wanted to do it on her own, not accept a handout.
THAT, in my opinion, is a true fucking tale of dedication, sacrifice and the willingness to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to change her reality…working six days, 70-80 hours a week on a 500 dollar a month salary and saving every penny to buy a laptop to change her life.
If she can do it…ANYONE can do it. And she is only now at the beginning of her journey. I can’t imagine where she’s going to be in three, four or five years from now with her career. Amazing, beautiful, crazy unlimited possibilities as a result of making a simple decision to change her perception, and thus change her reality.
Unlimited human potential. Everyone has it, but it’s up to each individual to choose whether or not they tap into that potential and create their own reality.
Are you up for the challenge? Do you have what it takes to make your dreams come true? Are you willing to work as hard as she did, put everything on the line and commit completely?
“He who is good at making excuses is rarely good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin