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Rolling in the Deep(fake)

In this era of fake news, it’s almost a given that you’ve come across videos like Jon Snow apologizing for the rather underwhelming finale episode of Game of Thrones, Mark Zuckerberg boasting of being the owner of people’s stolen data, and Steven Buscemi attending the Golden Globes wearing what people remember as Tilda Swinton’s gown. These videos have been our exposure to deepfake, the 21st century equivalent to photoshopped pictures. These videos are possible through artificial intelligence that produces fake images of events that have never happened. Most deepfakes have become tools for personalities to be embarrassed and have their reputations ruined, with some becoming effective in “fooling” unsuspecting viewers and in millennial-speak, “canceling” personalities.

Given how gullible we have all become to these fake videos, we need to inform ourselves of them lest we are fine with being unresisting victims. How they are made, how to know the difference between real and deepfake graphics, what the consequences of deepfake are, and possible solutions are some things we need to know. After all, there will come a time when technology becomes more common and accessible to just about everyone. When this time comes, deepfake will not only victimize celebrities and world-renowned personalities but even ordinary citizens like you and I. You definitely wouldn’t want to be left scratching your head when you fall target to a deepfake item.

What do you need to make a deepfake?

As of the moment, it takes a lot to produce deepfake. A standard laptop or desktop PC won’t do. You need a high-end desktop armed with professional-grade graphic cards and storage capacity. After all, one deepfake video alone may need a least 40,000 high definition pictures of the person you would like to be put in the video. HD photos are huge files that cloud storage is actually preferred. Fast computing power is also a must, or you will end up taking a month just to come up with a video that’s two minutes long. You also need tools and apps, which cost according to the quality of their outputs.

Right now, it’s actually not difficult to make deepfake videos, thanks to free apps and programs that allow even ordinary people to make them. Cost-free source codes and machine-learning algorithms are abundant online, and the only things you need to make yourself a video are time and materials.

(Via: https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2020/05/17/features/deepfake-artificial-intelligence-pornography/20200517190700189.html)

 

Can you tell the difference?

Prior to 2019, when technology experts were asked how one can detect a deepfake, they will readily answer that it’s all in the eyes. Eyes in deepfake videos don’t naturally move, much less blink. After all, you can’t really see a lot of photos where a celebrity blinks or closes his or her eyes.  But then, deepfake technology is fast to provide solutions, so it was no sooner when the blinking weakness was revealed that a solution emerged.

It comes down to being super vigilant. Organizations can help by making sure employees undergo a thorough cybersecurity awareness programme that is updated frequently to inform them about the latest threats, and how to react.

(Via: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/how-to-spot-a-deepfake/)

 

Will deepfakes destroy the world?

Deepfakes are meant to embarrass, intimidate, and destabilize individuals. The best ones might send …

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Getting Financially Fit Even During a Lockdown

While our ancestors have braved pandemics before and we have also had our fair share of crises and dealing with them, I do not think the world has faced a disaster of this magnitude. The various ways we cope with the COVID-19 calamity are quite pragmatic, as this is the first time we are facing problems like this. There is no blanket, one-size-fits-all solution yet, so we try to manage the best we can.  But then, there may be suggestions on how we can secure our survival that we can all try and apply. Thousands are losing their means of income with mass layoffs happening daily. Businesses have contracted, with some deciding to shut off permanently.  We can try and extend a hand to everyone in need of help, but before we can do that, we need to look out for ourselves as well. After all, if we are not that strong ad secure financially, how can we help others?

Thus, with still months (and even years, according to some) to go before we adopt a “new normal”, let us assess ourselves and see whether we can be confident with our state of fiscal being. That way, we can ease mental stress, focus our energies on the more important things such as keeping physically healthy, and be our full selves so we can possibly have something to give other people. Here are some ways we can be assured of strong financial health during this COVID-19 crisis.

 

Try to scrap unnecessary expenses

As you may already be working from home for the past weeks, if not months, try to do an inventory of your expenses since the lockdown started. See which areas you can cut down and calculate how much you can save. Be detailed down to the last cent. Remember, you should already have been saving on gas and transportation costs since you haven’t been using your car anywhere. But then, you might already have been using your savings to buy something online or add to the grocery budget. Set aside these savings instead of funneling them on things you don’t necessarily need.

There are ways to boost your saving skills while you’re stuck at home, though, to get your finances looking a little healthier (even if only to blow everything you have on holidays, pub trips, and fast food the second this is all over).

(Via: https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/24/simple-ways-cut-spending-save-money-lockdown-12604973/)

 

Get reminded of how important an emergency fund is

Remember when you were encouraged to set aside a portion of your income so that you can have something “for a rainy day’? Well, that rainy day is the present, with people losing jobs and getting their salaries cut. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start as soon as possible. Three to six months of what you usually earn a month would be best practice for an emergency fund. And if you have this fund already, congratulations! Just make sure you don’t spend your emergency fund on frivolous and unnecessary things.

An emergency fund forms the basis of financial security in any household. Having one has become even more important in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In case you haven’t created one yet, you have little time to lose.

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What Will the New Normal Be Like?

We are indeed living in some of the most interesting times. There have been some events in the history of the human race that has changed the way we live, that is true, but these happenings took years to effect drastic changes. Wars raged on for years before affecting the entire world, whole continents used to be spared from medical pandemics. Now, COVID-19 has affected each and single country directly or indirectly. In a matter of weeks, the way we lived has changed. What is exciting and a bit scary is that months from now when we will eventually come out of our lockdowns and quarantines, there is a huge possibility that there will be no going back from the way we live only months ago.

The new normal as pundits have coined the period pos-COVID-19, will indeed be new and will be markedly different from how we used to do things in February. The COVD-19 pandemic is one for the history books – so devastatingly major that we humans may already define our lives as everything that happened pre-COVID and months from now, post-COVID. This can be both good and bad. The environment’s condition has improved, we now have a deeper appreciation for personal relationships, health has become a priority. But then, freedoms we used to take for granted such as mobility and assembly have been curtailed. The new normal does have pros and cons to it.

Our current lockdown situations are serving as a dry run for the major effects the COVID-19 will eventually impose on our lives after its reign. The question is, are you ready for this “new normal”? Here are some changes you need to be aware of now:

Commerce and the nature of work

Not only has this pandemic changed the nature of business and work, it has forced some of its facets to mature. COVID-19 has created a survival of the fittest scenario among commercial and work practices, and what remains will not only survive, but will compose what will be the “new normal.” And we realize that some of our pre-COVID habits are actually impractical and don’t make sense, so that’s good. After all, there’s really no need to constantly use the ATM and get cash, drive to a store to buy things, and use your cash to pay for your purchases when you can have anything delivered to your house. Why waste an hour of two to commute to work when you can finish everything at home and even extend your work hours for an hour or two?

So, perhaps the conversation that we should be having as a society isn’t about where we are going to work after the post-covid dust settles, it should be how we are going to work.

(Via: https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurelfarrer/2020/05/12/the-new-normal-isnt-remote-work-its-better/#3df35cd82405)

 

Healthcare gets the spotlight

Even before COVID-19 started wreaking havoc, the health sector has already been subject to huge structural pressures and undergoing rapid advances in technology. For one, the global population, particularly in Europe and East Asia is ageing, posing a major challenge to governments in ramping up efforts for elderly care and geriatric medicine. COVID-19 has been overwhelming healthcare facilities anew, not to mention presenting a new race for experts to produce a …

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Make Yourself In-Demand in a Post-COVID World With These Skills

If the death toll of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not giving you serious bouts of depression, here’s something scarier: For the past month, 10% of the US workforce, or close to 15 million people do not have jobs anymore, also thanks to the pandemic. As of the end of April, over 26 million people have looked into unemployment benefits, and the figure is not showing any signs of decline. This is millions of us who are struggling on multiple fronts: how to stay healthy, how to pay the bills, and how to keep sane with everything that’s going on.

With the job market at its rockiest in history, laid-off employees may want to use this lockdown period as an opportunity to reassess themselves in terms of their careers, what they really want to do as work, what their skills are, what the job market needs, and what skills they can develop to make themselves more “marketable” when the “new normal” kicks in.

The same goes for you, still working reader. You may be “secure” in your current job, but with the way the world economy is going, no one is dispensable. The business and commercial landscape is evolving, all the more because of the COVID-19 crisis. Demands from companies are changing, and if you plan to stick around in the employed sector of the economy, you need to keep your skillset updated to these demands. It doesn’t matter if you are “not so technical” and past your prime; if you want to stay employed, you have to reskill, upskill, and get your available skills in line with what the market needs.  What skills are these? Take note of these skills that you need to acquire as soon as possible:

 

Up your critical thinking and problem-solving skills

According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, the top soft skill that is absent among candidates according to 37% of employers is critical thinking and problem solving. The chance of someone with demonstrated problem solving and critical thinking skills getting hired is very high, as they are valued for providing options and solutions when companies face problems such as the current one everyone is facing.

Employers say they need a workforce fully equipped with skills beyond the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic to grow their businesses. These skills include critical thinking and problem solving, according to a 2010 Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association and others.

(Via: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/problem.pdf)

 

Up your social media and digital marketing skills

With the current lockdown forcing businesses to shift to methods that do not require physical contact and the near future most probably seen to continue with this, efforts to encourage consumers to buy things have also shifted to online and digital.  Thus, in-demand skills involve search engine marketing (marketing that will allow your business to shine in Google and other search engines), search engine optimization (marketing that will allow your online assets (website, social media) to be optimized so that your business will rank high on search engines), and email marketing.

While certain industries like Travel and Hospitality and Retail were hit very hard and it felt like they may take a while to restart, many other industries it

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Cache-Free Your Way to Device Spring Cleaning

Every time you browse a website for the first time, information from it is stored in temporary files, and these files are called cache.  Why is there cache, you ask? Isn’t this a little invasion of your privacy because your browser or gadget retains some information about the sites you have visited? Shouldn’t this be prohibited? Cache files, terrible as they may seem when it comes to your security, is helpful when it comes to your browsing speed. See, those temporary files allow you to load the website faster and directly the next time you visit it, leading to a more satisfying browsing experience from you since you don’t have to wait that long for the site to load. If cache files are not present, the browser would need to connect to the site’s server again for proper reloading.

But then, security is not the only downside to cache files, as helpful as they may be. They also slow down your apps and device systems since they use memory and RAM.  Besides, a good number of sites only get visited by a user once, so there is not really a necessity for the cache of these sites to be saved.  Now, the question is, is it a good habit to clear your device’s cache? The answer is yes, and regularly. Why?

You will not see all changes made to the webpage if you rely on the cache. If you frequent a website and are religious in clearing the cache memory of your device, the browser, or the app you are using will be alerted to fetch the webpage’s latest version all the time. Also, when you are using a device that other people may have access to, as mentioned earlier, the next user may get access to your information, as the cache can store information such as your payment modes (e.g., debit and credit card information) and log-in credentials. That’s an additional privacy threat!

So, how do you clear your cache? With a laptop, since most online activities are done through browsing, then clearing the cache of your web browser is the way to go. Otherwise, you can also clear the cache of your iDevice or Android device. Here’s how:

 

Remove your cache in Chrome

Personal laptops run on Chrome. I mean, who uses IE or Microsoft Edge on their personal laptops? To remove cache on your Chrome browser, here are the steps:

To clear the cache and cookies in Chrome, you’ll need to access the browser’s Settings menu. There are three different ways you can get here.

The first way is to click the three vertical dots icon in the top-right corner of the screen, hovering over “More Tools,” and then selecting “Clear Browsing Data.”

(Via: https://www.howtogeek.com/661729/how-to-clear-cache-and-cookies-in-chrome/)

 

Remove your cache in Firefox

Firefox is another popular browser. Here are the steps to remove cache when your browser of choice is Firefox:

Like all internet browsers, Firefox temporarily stores items (such as images) in a cache to help speed up browsing. If Firefox is your preferred browser of choice, you can choose to clear this cache manually by accessing your “Privacy & Security” tab in the browser preferences. Additionally, you can set up custom settings to clear …

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Getting Your Cloud Knowledge On This Lockdown

Since a majority of us are working from home these days and so many pundits are claiming that office work will never be the same again (or at least in the near future), cloud services have become an integral part of the “new normal.” With physical offices becoming passé, cloud storage has become the most suitable option for keeping data. Just months ago, storing data and online files for companies would automatically mean physical devices and in-house servers. But with offices currently located in the living room of a supervisor and a kitchen of a secretary, cloud servers have become a must for storage for various reasons. Accessibility and affordability are just some of the reasons why anyone should be knowledgeable about cloud drives.

For one, online document storage using a cloud is super user-friendly. All you need to do is drag and drop the files in the cloud storage and voila, your document has been “saved” or “uploaded”. You can now access it anywhere as long as you have an internet connection and a device. You can also share your document with your colleagues and teammates by simply giving those you want to have access to the document a link. They can then download the file from their end, thanks to the link you shared. Of course, another benefit of cloud storage is that your files will not be compromised if your gadgets or devices get damaged. Afraid of losing all your beach photos because your phone got wet? Are you in panic mode because you dropped your laptop day before an important meeting? Not to worry if you have tweaked your settings to automatically save everything on a cloud.

Let’s have a look at your options available for the best cloud storage and which expert users constantly recommend:

Microsoft OneDrive

While Google seems to always edge out Microsoft in terms of innovation with online products, the latter can boast of holding its own when it comes to cloud storage solutions. One huge advantage Microsoft OneDrive has over Google or any competition in this field is its seamlessness with other products in the MS Office suite, So, if you are a heavy Excel, Word, or PowerPoint user, then OneDrive is your best cloud storage option.

If you’re more interested in integrating online storage with Microsoft Office then OneDrive is the way to go.

(Via: https://www.pcworld.com/article/3510499/google-drive-vs-microsoft-onedrive.html)

 

Google One/Drive

The fact that so many people are on Gmail would be Google One/Drive’s main selling point. You can easily save attachments and everything you receive on your Gmail on your drive. Any attachments coming from you are also automatically saved on your Google Drive. How’s that for convenience? Moreover, Google is still rolling out some new features, assuring you and millions of its users that it is still on an innovation hot streak.

Google is rolling out a new “Privacy Screen” feature this week that will allow Google Drive users on iOS devices to use passcodes or biometric authentication to protect their files.

(Via: https://www.digitaltrends.com/news/google-drive-privacy-screen/)

 

Dropbox

Aside from Microsoft and Google, one early player in the cloud storage game is Dropbox. Because it is one of the earliest in the market, many users have grown loyal to the …

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Making Yourself Mentally Strong in a Crisis is Possible

We are living in tough times. While we started off thinking a lockdown is a novelty and having fun with it (Imagine not having to go to the office to work? How cool!), we have settled into the reality where people are away from each other, we are prohibited to gather, and we aren’t allowed to travel. Suddenly, this lockdown has become such a bore and hassle that we have forgotten the fun side of everything. Before, we considered what’s happening like a little inconvenience. After all, we are only asked to stay indoors as our contribution to the world overcoming this crisis. But then, everything has started to lose significance and meaning. What started as a fun and even ideal set-up for most of us working has become something that has affected our mental state, big time.

Since we can’t meet up with friends physically, we’ve lost our rhythm, we can’t blow off steam by engaging in outdoor activities, our stress and anxiety levels have gone haywire. We may be suffering from simple cabin fever, but then, there surely has to be something more to what we’re experiencing now.  What can we do to get back our “sanity”? How can we keep our heads together and come out thriving even when the COVID-19 crisis is through?

Build positive habits

Think of what your life will be like once the world shifts to the “new normal”. Would you still want to wake up at 10 in the morning and go through the rest of your day in pajamas and uncombed hair? Surely not! Continue good habits you’ve had prior to the lockdown, such as your early morning jog and a healthy breakfast after. You will have to tweak some elements of your habits like doing a home workout instead of a jog, but you get the idea. They say you form a habit after doing it for 21 days straight, so if you start developing one now, you should have enough time to make your system get used to it. Before you know it, you will keep on doing the activity without even thinking about it.

The thing is, habits are pretty important right now. They’re a big part of how able we are to cope. More than ever, we need to look after ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally.

(Via: https://www.tes.com/news/coronavirus-lockdown-wellbeing-4-ways-maintain-positive-habits)

Extend yourself

Nothing can set your head straight then feeling a sense of accomplishment because you have helped another human being. Doing something good for your community doesn’t require you to leave the corners of your home. Check out volunteering opportunities that would usually be posted on social media and see where your skills can take you in making a difference with other people’s lives.

It’s a rare win-win proposition in a bleak landscape: In helping other people get through this crisis, you can help yourself in equal measure. “It’s a way of reframing your existence,” says bioethicist Stephen Post, “getting out from the negative vortex and feeling free to do something that is meaningful.”

(Via: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/helping_others_can_help_you_cope_with_lockdown)

Unleash your creativity

Remember the days before the worldwide lockdowns when you thought about an art project and thinking maybe you can go ahead with it only if you had …

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Know Some Not-So-Good Points of VPNs

There have been a couple of circumstances when I encountered the term “VPN”. The first time was when I read about people downloading movies en masse in the late 2000s. “Experts” in the field of piracy then advised those who want to download stuff to use a VPN so that their identities can be masked and the authorities would not be able to trace their illegal activities. I had a friend forward to me a copy of a movie he downloaded illegally, and the quality was so poor that I didn’t bother finishing the film and waited for it to be released in theaters of my little ‘ol town. Suffice to say that first experience didn’t warm me up to this VPN thing everyone else seemed to be enamored.

The next time I heard of VPN was when I started playing Pokémon Go. One of my friends who also played the hottest game at that time had “caught” so many Pokémon, even those I only read of as available in other parts of the world. When I asked him how he got this monster that players can only catch in Japan when I know for certain that he hasn’t even taken a plane ride in his life, he nonchalantly replied, “VPN”. And so, I tried this VPN thing for myself. Apart from the game, I noticed my browsing speeds were at a snail’s pace.  Right there, I decided virtual private networks are not my thing.

If you are considering installing a VPN on any of your devices, take note that they also have a number of disadvantages. With all the hype you surely may have heard about VPNs, there are some things that may make your web experience not that pleasant. It is up to you to weigh the pros and cons, but for now, let’s look closer into the cons.

You will encounter issues in speed

As I remarked earlier, a VPN may decrease your internet speeds. As a VPN works hard to encrypt your network traffic that should result in your improved security and anonymity, it also will use more resources and may time more time. Thus, the introduction of some overhead can slow VPNs. You may find ideal VPN services that strike a balance between security and speed, but prepare to shell out some cash for that, because these services are paid.

There are many reasons for a slow VPN, starting from your device’s limited resources to the encryption method used and everything in between.

(Via: http://techgenix.com/slow-vpn/)

 

Your VPNs can stalk you

Some VPN service will give you access to their private servers to provide you with enhanced services such as improved speed and security, but at a price: your data. This can be hidden in their fine print when you agree to their services, and who has the time and patience to read the fine print? So you have to be aware that if you’re getting free private connection for cents, chances are high that they are tracking your activity.

VPNs that log your data may choose to do so for their own gain, like bad free VPNs, or they may be forced to log for other reasons, like some kind of restrictive country

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Why Not Take Advantage of a VPN?

Unless you’ve been stuck in the 1990s computer knowledge, you’ve surely encountered VPNs. Virtual Private Networks are private networks that exist because two (or more) locations need to be connected with each other so that it would appear and they would work like they are in the same network. For us non-technical people, when a VPN is created, people who have access to it can be far from each other and they can use it to access the network itself or another network (that be a public one). Businesses use VPNs so that their private networks can be more secure and so that remote employees, as in people who are not working near or are connected to the network in their office, can have access to company data that are hosted in those office networks. This benefit is highly popular nowadays, with lockdowns forcing employees all over the world to work from their homes.

For individual users, VPNs can be relied on if you want to be anonymous while you are browsing. VPNs are also known to do a good job in securing your data when you are using networks that have poor security, like free WiFi public networks. Thus, when it comes to assessing the pros and cons, you might get swayed that VPNs do provide more advantages than disadvantages. But then, if you are considering using one, you may need to really know what these pros are so that you can maximize its usage.

VPNs provide enhanced security

VPNs primarily encrypt all your network traffic, so its transmission through the network is very secure. Thus, when you are using an unsecured network like WiFi hotspots in malls, airports, and libraries, using a VPN can prevent eavesdroppers on that network you’re using from seeing your traffic and therefore they cannot steal confidential data stored in your devices such as your credit card information or passwords.

Along with being able to hide their IP address and location, users of VPNs also have their personal data hidden, thanks to some sort of encryption system.
(Via: https://www.information-age.com/how-vpn-improve-cyber-security-posture-123487910/)

VPNs allow you to bypass geo-restrictions

Do you get frustrated when YouTube doesn’t allow you to view the video you so want to watch because “it is not available in your region”? with a VPN, you can forget about these frustrations as a VPN gets all your network traffic through a tunnel, which makes it look like you are accessing the web from another location (the VPN’s), not your actual location. Thus, if you want access to sites that heavily put geo-restrictions on their content, a VPN can transform you into a ghost and give a free pass.

VPNs change the IP address a website sees and can fool them into thinking you’re from a different region or country. If successful, you’ll pay the price intended for that country, which can be less than the price for your real location.
(Via: https://www.choice.com.au/electronics-and-technology/internet/internet-privacy-and-safety/articles/bypass-geo-blocking)

VPNs allow you to download anonymously

Your ISP can put you on a watchlist if you are a heavy downloader because you are maximizing their service to inconvenient levels. When you use a VPN, your IP address can be masked, so you will appear as if you’re accessing sites and torrents …

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Stay Busy and Get Rich With Some Side Gigs This Lockdown

Two months into lockdown because of the coronavirus, most of us have may have already realized that spending the entire day watching TV shows on Netflix and playing video games can only be good for weeks or a month at most. Vegging out and doing very minimal stuff for days, a scenario most of us may have dreamt of before this pandemic broke, has already started to feel like a drag. We don’t have friends to support us with their physical presence, and there’s only too much “we’re with you in spirit” anyone of us can handle. But then, there are ways we can turn this downtime into something more productive.  Not that we’re encouraging you to be active or work yourself bone-tired every single day until the end of the lockdown period (although that’s another idea you might want to explore), but why not look into adding to your skillset and exploring side hustles during this time?

Securing a side gig or two is a great way to make yourself productive this lockdown period, not to mention get yourself extra income. With the world economy currently in very tumultuous waters, it doesn’t hurt to be in a secure financial disposition, something which income from side jobs can help you with. Not sure where to start? Here are some areas and skills you may want to look into.

Consider web development and design

There are so many opportunities available for skilled people in the field of web development and design nowadays. This is because the nature of web design and development work is predominantly online, which favors the current situation of remote work. You can develop and design a website everywhere, as long as you have a trusty device and a reliable internet connection. Get your skills in this lucrative sector by enrolling in online classes ASAP, and soon enough you can get jobs and earning a lot.

Web developers work independently as freelancers or with company teams to create websites. Depending on the job, these professionals may focus on front-end development, which involves designing sites and producing content, or back-end development, which involves writing code to make website features work.

(Via: https://www.computerscience.org/careers/web-developer/)

 

Sharpen your pens (or dust off your keyboard)

As everything, especially businesses, require an online presence nowadays, an endless amount of work is available for content writers who can fill blogs, websites, white papers, and social media accounts with content. If you have great grammar, can be interested or can stir up interest in just about anything, and can whip up blog posts, articles, and social media posts at a drop of a hat, then, there is a wide array of opportunities waiting for you. Get your keyboard (or your pen or typewriter if you’re old school) ready!

In fact, freelance blogging helped me go from earning $1,600 per month to earning more than $5,500 per month. This profession was my golden ticket to bigger and better opportunities.

(Via: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/16898/the-ultimate-side-hustle-14-ways-to-get-paid-to-write/)

 

Get your millennial game on by being a YouTuber

If you’re a good communicator and don’t shy away from the spotlight, why not develop your YouTube channel? With almost everybody staying home and not having a lot of choice but to entertain themselves …

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