Viewing category ‘Head hitting brick wall’

Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/

Who are your freelancing colleagues?

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing)

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When I worked in an office, I had colleagues. Coworkers. I had people I reported to and people with whom I collaborated and people who reported to me. There were good things about this and not-so-good things, and one of the things I enjoy about freelancing is that I more or less get to stand on my own merit in this job.

Let’s face it: everyone’s had a crazy boss or an offensive coworker or some other incarnation of a difficult office relationship, right? For me, the downside of losing regular social interaction and project help was vastly outweighed by removing the variables of Other People’s Stupid from my daily work life.

Now, for the most part, I get to pick my colleagues. And my work is diversified enough that if I find myself in a bad situation with someone—they are not as competent as I’d originally thought, or just grate on my nerves or whatever—I can extract myself from gigs if I don’t want to work with a particular individual and it doesn’t put me in a difficult spot. (I don’t know about you, but when I worked office jobs, I didn’t really have the freedom to just up and quit every time someone annoyed me.)
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How to (temporarily) hobble a writer

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Like talking but with more typing, Product review

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For years I have taken for granted having a career in which I can work from anywhere, at any time. Have laptop, will write! I have worked through the flu, through childcare crises, when my car was broken down, during blizzards, and through various and sundry physical ailments (at various degrees of misery, but I could still work). What a blessing, I have always thought, to have a job that did not depends on too many external factors. My husband has a recurrent foot ailment which often makes his long days of teaching (on his feet at the front of the classroom) extremely difficult. If there was something wrong with my foot, I would simply prop it up on the couch and keep typing.

But this month I have finally learned what it would take to make my job very, very difficult: Last week, I broke my hand. On the plus side, I broke my left hand, and I am right-handed. On the minus side, I broke my hand. I had to have surgery, and I am not expected to be back to full mobility for another six weeks at least. Even overlooking the pain and discomfort associated with my injury, I spend my days typing. I spend my days touch typing, with two hands. One of my hands is currently in a splint. Things have changed.
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Does your business have an emergency plan?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Head hitting brick wall, My boss is an idiot

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I am practically the neurotic poster child for being ready for anything when it comes to freelancing. I’ve been writing here for years about all of the things you need to take into consideration before going into business for yourself—everything from handling your taxes to having redundant computer backups to making sure your work is diversified enough that one client or one particular area of expertise can’t take your business down if there’s an economic downturn.

I dropped out of Girl Scouts, but that doesn’t mean I ever stopped loving Being Prepared. The truth is that I am given to anxiety, and knowing what to expect—or that you’re in a position to weather even the unexpected—is the best offense against that anxiety.

And it’s true that I have come through several disaster-level (smallish, but still) setbacks as I’ve plodded down this path, learning as I go. I’ve had the catastrophic hard drive failure without appropriate backups in place. I’ve had the IRS slap my knuckles before I turned over my finances to an accountant. I kept going even when layoffs were happening all around me (and sometimes even to me).

Today I want to tell you about two things emergency-prep things; one, I did just right. The other, I got all wrong.
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The case of the unpaid invoice

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing)

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We’ve all heard the horror stories about clients who don’t pay, of course. I’ve shaken my head more times than I count, as fellow freelancers recount for me how this client or that one owes them thousands of dollars for completed work.

I have a confession to make: I’ve always felt… well, a little smug listening to those stories. I’m not saying it’s ever okay for a client not to pay up as directed by their contractual obligation, you understand, but in listening to more than one story I thought to myself, “How on earth did she continue working for them without getting paid? Why didn’t she just say, ‘Until payment is current, I need to cease work on this project.’??” Non-payment—I thought—was quite possibly a result of a freelancer who wasn’t professional enough, assertive enough to push for payment in a timely manner.

Naturally that was practically an engraved invitation for karma to come bite me on the ass. I should’ve known better.
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Sometimes the posts write themselves

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing)

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You would think there would come a time when seriously misguided PR outreach would stop happening, but you would be wrong. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! No sooner does one crop of so-called professionals figure out that they’re being rightfully taunted, then another group steps in to take their place. It’s the circle of life, or something.

This is our cross to bear, as freelancers. There is always someone out there who figures we are just dying to work for them for free. I mean, that’s how you make a living, right? Giving away your hard work for the heck of it?

… no?

Honestly, most of the time I get this sort of “pitch” these days, I just delete the email. It takes time and energy to explain, over and over, why it’s insulting and ridiculous to be asked to work for no pay. So most of the time, I just let it go. For some reason, today I took the bait.
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I’ve got the legislation blues

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing)

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Ordinarily, I have nothing but good things to say about the ease with which one can set up a freelancing business and manage it in a fairly straightforward way. Heck, I’m the first to admit that I had no clue what I was doing when I started, years ago, but with the help of a competent accountant and a few other patient souls, it all worked out.

At this point, I have a registered LLC for my business, my business banking is squared away, and I even fill out the paperwork for my Occupational Tax Certificate every year just like I’m supposed to. It’s truly the yellow piece of paper that hangs on the wall of my office, stating that my county has given my permission to work here, that makes it all feel official… even though I’ve now been doing this for about seven years.

Anyway, all is generally well, but for whatever reason, Q1 this year has yielded multiple paperwork annoyances. I’m not saying that my particular state is worse than anywhere else, but lately it does kind of feel like Georgia is, shall we say, not the friendliest state towards small businesses. Ahem.

Allow me to demonstrate:
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Want advice? Don’t be dumb.

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Like talking but with more typing

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I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to do it again because it keeps coming up. And it’s possible that I’m just a curmudgeon (likely, even), but it’s also possible that our society has, by and large, just forgotten what it means to behave appropriately and professionally when requesting help. Either way, we’re going to visit this particular goat rodeo one more time.

Here’s the thing about asking someone for their time and/or wisdom: They’re doing you a favor. It is best to approach any request with that pertinent little factoid in mind.

Do you run up to strangers you’ve never met before and ask them to do things for you? I don’t. I would find it presumptuous unless I was experiencing an emergency and the request was for the kind of help that starts with “Please call 911.” The exception to this rule, of course, is that sometimes you run across someone virtually who you think may be able to offer you something no one else can, and then—although you don’t know each other—you may end up reaching out via email or phone to make a specific request or establish a connection… but at least when I do that, I go to great pains to 1) introduce myself, 2) make it clear why I wish to establish a connection, 3) offer a succinct explanation of what I’m seeking, and 4) thank the other person profusely for their time.

To me, this is just common sense. But… not everyone sees it that way.
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Money, money, money (this again?)

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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In the midst of the “most wonderful time of the year,” when we should all be trimming trees or menorahs (hey, I know people don’t trim menorahs) (nor do I believe everyone is Judeo-Christian) (just go with me here, okay?), another community uproar has broken out over freelance writers and payment.

Specifically, there’s been a lot of discussion generated by the announcement of REDBOOK’s new “Motherboard,” a panel of bloggers who will be writing for them free of charge.

There’s been so much chatter about this already, I’m not going to subject you to my own long-winded commentary on this. Plenty of people have already covered a lot of what I would say, probably with less flailing around than I would likely do. But if you haven’t been following along—or would like to make sure you see several different takes on it—let’s take a look.
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The weirdness in blog pitching just keeps getting weirder

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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To me there is probably no single more distasteful aspect of being a professional blogger than some of the weird proposals I receive in my email. Because naturally, making my living writing online, I would love to (take your pick of any or all of the following): write for you for free, let you publish your canned content on my site, advertise for you for free, highlight your product that no one cares about, tell my readers about a great opportunity that no one cares about, or otherwise just do whatever you—a complete stranger—ask of me because clearly I can’t generate content on my own.

Yeah.

Obviously not everyone is going to end up with an unbelievably entertaining story from every marketing disaster (see: The Bloggess’ recent adventure), but still, I think this recent encounter bears discussing, because I think it happens more often than we maybe realize. I know I only caught on at first completely by accident, and then did some digging.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
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Some girls never leave the locker room

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing)

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The truth is that part of what I love about freelancing is that it removes me from the day-to-day office politics inherent in most cube-farm situations. I’ve played that game, and I’m not terrible at it, but I do hate it. My inclination to be straightforward did not serve me particularly well when I was a young corporate drone; for whatever reason, there are situations where certain “important” people are allowed to get away with acting like Veruca Salt even in the most professional of settings, and those around the offender are expected to “play nice” at any cost.

I hate games like that. I’m much better suited to freelancing; I get to pick and choose my projects, and most of the time it’s just me and a client, without the need to collaborate with others. When I do find myself on a group project, most of the time I get to pick (or at the very least, review) the roster of the people with whom I’ll be working, and if for any reason it’s a difficult situation, chances are it’s a time-limited deal. If it isn’t, I can always choose to extricate myself without being jobless, because I’ve always got multiple jobs going at once.

Now. While it’s true that I’ve dealt with difficult clients before, and so far my most troublesome clients have all been male (not passing judgment on why that is, by the way, just stating my experience), recently I found myself in a collaborative situation where another woman in the group brought me right back to the 6th grade locker room.
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