Viewing category ‘My boss is an idiot’

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/

Welcome to Slumpville! Population: Me

Categories: Maybe I can pencil in a nap, My boss is an idiot

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(Pictured here: Someone who is not me, but who appears to be experiencing a similar level of ennui.)

I’m in a slump. That’s not the same as having writer’s block, by the way—I don’t really believe in writer’s block—but it is, nonetheless, a rather unnerving state to be in. I feel uninspired. I’m tired. I’m lazy. I do a bare minimum of work and then… I sit around and think to myself, “I should be doing more work right now.”

This is not wholly unexpected. Summer was both busy and stressful (due to a variety of non-work reasons), and I pulled back from working so much because my kids needed me, and I needed a bit of a break. Now that everyone is back to school, I have more time. I feel like I should be feeling great.

Instead, I just want to take a nap.
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How often do you check your email?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, My boss is an idiot

4 Comments


They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I completely understand that. Heck, I’ve lived that. Back in the 90s, I made fun of people who had cell phones. “I never want to be that important,” I’d murmur to friends, watching blowhards conducting business transactions in the middle of the grocery store, shouting into their phones while the rest of us were just trying to find the best deal on breakfast cereal. “Who needs to have a phone with them everywhere? That’s just crazy.”

But then I had my first baby, and suddenly, a cell phone seemed like a good idea. You know—for emergencies. And then you know what happened after that, right? “Just for emergencies” became “well, as long as I’m in the car I’ll return some calls” became “you can reach me at absolutely any time at this number.” And then one day it was time to get a new cell phone and it was the weirdest thing—now you could actually check email on your phone if you wanted to. Huh. Well, that might be handy… you know, in case of emergency.

Down the slippery slope I went. By the time I got my first iPhone, I was freelancing. It was a business purchase; I would need to be reachable, even away from a computer, and while shuttling kids around to various things, it sure was handy to at least be able to catch up on email.
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The numbers game: Balancing worth, need and the long view

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

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Longtime readers know that every now and then I go on a little rampage about so-called professional freelancers who are willing to work for way less than a viable living wage, and how that impacts the field as a whole and can make it more difficult for those of us charging real rates to find employment. The truth of the matter is that I do believe in two cliches when it comes to this matter: First, that you get what you pay for, and second, that the cream has a tendency to rise.

In short: Yes, I wish everyone would work for reasonable pay, because it would make life easier for all of us, but I also believe that those of us who are true professionals justify our higher rates with quality work, and there will always be a market for that.

That said, there’s not too much of a problem as a seasoned professional when deciding whether or not to take a job that only pays $5/post (hint: hell no). But what about the job that pays just a little bit less than what you’re currently charging? What about the job that has the tendency to expand and fill more time, rendering the pay rate too low?

What about if you really need the money?
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The professional name game: Ladies, take note

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

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I got married—the first time—when I was a tender young whelp in grad school. I was very young. (And also very stupid, but that’s a topic for another post entirely.)

My advisor sat me down one day and asked me if I was planning to change my name. I was; I had no real attachment to my birth surname, and I knew I wanted to have children, and I wanted to have the same last name as my kids (it just seemed easier). To my surprise, my advisor counseled me (quite strongly) to reconsider. I’d already been published! I should keep my current name to avoid confusion! Not only that, he said, but if I changed my name I would regret it if I later got divorced, and that would make a real mess of my professional “paper trail” if I then decided to change back.

Like most of college professors, he was… smart, but a little odd. I remember laughing at him, because, Silly, I’m not going to get divorced! (Ah, youth!) I got married. I changed my name. Years passed. I had one child, then another. Everyone in our family had the same last name. Everything was fine.

And then we got divorced.
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Can freelancers ever afford to retire?

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

8 Comments


There are many, many things I do not miss from the years I spent in the corporate world. Anyone who’s read here for any length of time knows that I am very well-suited to solopreneurship; I enjoy the solitude in my office, I like setting my own hours, I’m (relatively) organized and motivated, and being my own boss has significantly reduced the amount of rage I feel on a daily basis. But… there are a few things I sometimes think about, wistfully.

Fortunately, I’m married to a guy with decent employer-provided health insurance. That’s helpful, because to get a comparable policy on my own would probably cost me a kidney. But I have to tell you, I have a big birthday coming up (it, um, starts with “none of your business” and ends with a zero), and I guess I’m feeling my own mortality. I miss having a 401k with an employer-contributed match. Because the truth is that when I worked for IBM and money magically appeared in my 401k (okay, it wasn’t magic, but I was young and impressionable) I never worried about retiring.

Now, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to afford to stop working.
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The dubious start of my career

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

4 Comments


Last week I asked y’all if there was something you’d like to hear about that I’ve not yet discussed, or that you’d like covered in more detail. To my surprise, the very first request came from Liz, who asked: “could you write a little about how you got started in freelancing? Like, the nuts and bolts of it - where did you find jobs, how did you get people to hire you, that kind of thing?”

My surprise doesn’t come from Liz asking, exactly, but more from the fact that apparently I’ve not talked about this before (or haven’t talked about it for a very long time). The catch-22 in nearly any profession is that you need experience to get hired, but you can’t get experience without a job. For a freelancer, it’s even harder, because there’s not exactly a plethora of “entry level freelancer” gigs out there for folks who want to make a go of solo work.

The truth is that my career as a freelance writer was launched in two simultaneous—but very different—ways, both of which happened simply because I went to my personal blog and basically announced that I was going to try to make a go of it as a freelancer.
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Salary compression: Not just for academics anymore

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

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If you or someone you love works in academia, chances are you’re no stranger to the term “salary compression.” It’s usually discussed in the context of tenure-track positions, and refers to the (typically, recession-driven) phenomenon where the gap between the lowest-paid, least-senior position and the highest-paid, most-senior position gets smaller and smaller as long-time employees aren’t given raises, but new employees are still offered “competitive” salaries (because otherwise, why would they accept the job?). Salary compression isn’t limited to academics, however.

With the economy being the way it’s been for the last few years, I—and many of my fellow freelancers—have often been heard to comment that we’re so lucky to still be working. So many people we know were laid off from salaried position, and fellow freelancers have lost contracts as cutbacks happened. Everyone was tightening their belts. No one (at least no one I know) was immune. And those of us who still had work were relieved and grateful and mostly decided not to make waves, because how stupid would you have to be to, say, ask for a raise when you were lucky to be working at all?

Well, the good news is that the economy seems to be recovering. Hooray! That’s a big relief all around. The bad news is that plenty of people who are quite good at contract and salary negotiations turn out to be really bad at contract and salary renegotiations. And I feel comfortable saying this because I happen to be one of those people.
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I forgot about the crash

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Maybe I can pencil in a nap, My boss is an idiot

5 Comments


I almost have to laugh at the things I conveniently forget even though I know better.

It’s like… childbirth, for example. Any woman who’s ever done it knows it’s excruciating. Worth it? Absolutely! But even the women who go all-natural and birth at home aren’t going to tell you that it doesn’t hurt, because it does. Still, the world is filled with women—myself among them—who voluntarily choose to go through childbirth again, ever after experiencing how traumatizing it can be. We just sort of forget. Or convince ourselves that the outcome is worth the pain. But I think our memories really do soften and fade and we convince ourselves it’s not that bad.

Kind of like how I’ll happily sit down and write out a conference primer, because, after all, I’ve been blogging professionally for half-a-dozen years, and I’ve attended a lot of conferences, and this stuff is old news to me, now, plus I tend to be extremely pragmatic so I’m good at boiling situations down to pros and cons.

I’m good at picking and choosing events to attend and events to skip. But somehow I managed to completely forget that every single time I travel for business I get sick when I come back.
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I justify things (so that you don’t have to)

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

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I am, by nature, a fairly frugal person. On the other hand, I’m not averse to spending money if I feel like it’s a good deal or completely “justified,” by which I mean that it’s easily categorized as “necessary.”

I find that the longer I work as a freelancer, the broader my definition of “necessary” tends to become, as regards purchases I believe are easily explained away as being necessary to my business. Ahem. This is not to say that they’re not business-related, or that I’m taking business deductions for non-qualifying expenses, but merely that the way I think about things has changed. Honestly, in some cases I don’t know if I’m stretching the truth a little or if yes, it’s true, these are things I really and truly should do/buy for the betterment of my business.

And so, I’m now going to take a deep breath and delve into my world of justification. You can come, too.
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How to handle your income taxes as a freelancer

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

6 Comments


Sometimes I feel like I talk about money here endlessly. I am extremely neurotic about money, so there’s an argument to be made here either that that renders me perfect for freelancing (I keep meticulous records! I never squander a large paycheck because I’m always worried about possibly not making enough the next month!) or that I must’ve been on drugs when I decided I could handle the financial uncertainty of working on a contract basis. Today we are not going to debate which one of those positions is more correct. (It’s too late, anyway; working for myself has completely ruined me for going back to a conventional office. Alas.)

Anyway! We’re coming up on tax time, and tax time is a very serious time in a freelancer’s life. You see, when a writer and a client love each other very much… oh, wait. That’s a different conversation. No, see, when you’re in business for yourself, your taxes are more complicated. Getting audited is also a lot more scary. (Um, I assume. Personally the idea of being audited at any time for any reason is enough to make my neurotic little heart constrict quite painfully.) Basically, taxes often seem terribly scary to the self-employed, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
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