freelance vs. part-time work (or, which gives me more free time?)

I cleaned my entire fridge this morning. Yep, I took out everything shelf by shelf and wiped down every surface.

What’s so amazing about that? It’s because I don’t go in to my part-time job until 3 p.m. today. If I were freelancing, I’d have been at my desk by 8 a.m., tapping the refresh button every thirty seconds, looking for work, finding none or little, and having turned, say, $20 an hour into about $7.50, when accounting for all the time I’d have spent seeking and not finding.

design desk display eyewear
life as a freelancer                (Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com)

Until last December, I had a part-time library job that supplemented my busy freelance career–my main work–giving me a place to go to to get out of the house too. I had felt a little trapped freelancing, especially after all my kids were almost out of high school and driving on their own. No longer did I need to be tethered to my home and the minivan, shuttling one to soccer, the other to swim, and the other to a friend’s house. I also had lost the companionship of my own friends, many of whom were my kids’ friends’ parents, as their children aged and they took on outside work. But my freelance career kept me busy all day long too, sometimes morning till night, every season, even on holidays. If there was work available, I’d be at my desk, my neck and eyes hurting from the strain.

I enjoyed the part-time library job, but the pay was low and the commute was too far to make four and sometimes five times a week. Plus, there was a shift in management and things began to change. Add on top of that the sudden aches and pains I began to have as my Hashimoto’s set in, and it made quitting a pretty simple, necessary decision.

But no sooner had I left that job than my freelance career started to fizzle. A career in freelance proofreading and copyediting was something I’d had for thirty years, long before the gig economy became a thing.  I had settled into two decent jobs over the years, one for a publisher and the other for a financial company.

The work was fairly steady for the financial company, with extreme peaks every few months. The publisher had me busy twice a year for several weeks at a time. It seemed, though, as the publisher added on new freelancers, I was being called on less and less, having to contact the editors for work and oftentimes getting little if anything. And the financial company, whose editors we U.S. freelancers work with are based in the Philippines, finally got savvy and decided to give a greater proportion of work to the Philippines-based workers, who undoubtedly make considerably less than the Americans. I have been with the company for ten years and it has kept me quite busy until now. I had a feeling, though, that once the Philippine (and then India-based) contingent became better at their jobs (and they do good work, I might add), we U.S. freelancers would see less and less work.

And so it goes. I missed my library work anyway, so I kept applying to jobs with the city and county library systems, as well as with an occasional other source. In June, I was hired at a health-care district library for a couple handful of hours per week and then, finally, I was called from the city. I now work a dozen hours at a nearby branch.

bookcase books bookshelves hallway
                                  in the library                                               (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

So, here I am, at 10:30 a.m. typing out a post instead of digging in to a book or cleaning up transcripts or, more likely, tapping the refresh button. There are times I don’t like having to leave my house (I work five days a week and two days in a row until 8 p.m., for instance), and I do dread trying to make appointments around my new hours, but so far it’s working out OK. I know that if my freelance career gets back on track or if one of the part-time jobs becomes too burdensome, I can always quit something. For now, though, it’s nice to have hours I can commit to and consistent paychecks, even though my per-hour rate isn’t so great.

I think I’ll remake my home office while my editing work is slow, maybe one day using it consistently again. In the meantime, though, I will enjoy not having to sit and wait for work.

So freelance or part-time? So far, part-time is giving me more free time.

my first grocery delivery (or, i could get used to this)

I just placed my first grocery delivery order, and I could get very, very used to this concept.

grocery cart with item
I didn’t have to do this today           (Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com)

 

I’ve been laid up for the past week. Six days ago I had hand surgery, and two days after that I came down with the absolute worst stomach bug of my entire life. I will spare readers the gory details, but let me say when I was done using the bathroom, a Civil War battlefield would have looked more pleasing.

The violent episodes lasted a good twelve hours straight, with no feeling of that semi-relief one usually gets in between. I contracted the illness from my son, who came down with it just an hour or so after my husband and I returned from my surgery with a fast-food dinner. I’d had my favorite sandwich of all, an original chicken; my currently pescatarian husband had fish; and we picked up a whopper of a burger for the twenty-year-old. About a half hour after eating, my son became sick. He was so bad, my husband took him to the ER, where he was given an anti-nausea drug, morphine for the pain he was experiencing in his back, and then an IV drip when he wasn’t getting any better.

Thinking it was food poisoning and that food poisoning wasn’t contagious, I didn’t worry too much as I helped him the next day, my dominant hand in a cast and all. Then without warning and with about a half dozen chicken wings in my belly, my body got to experience the nasty virus for itself. Needless to say, it ranks as one of the worst weeks of my life.

Being unable to fend for myself, which is just awful for a perfectionist who runs the household, I had to have my older son make quick runs to the pharmacy and the store for me. When I thought of more things we needed when he wasn’t here, I asked my husband to get a few items yesterday. My husband can do many things well. He’s a hard worker, he is a good friend, he keeps the yard up, and he is conscientious, but he doesn’t run many of the household errands. Therefore, the list I gave him got a bit tweaked, shall we say? Coconut milk came home as coconut water (yuck), medical tape came home as the impossible-to-tear type (I have one hand here. Come on), and a rotisserie chicken was substituted with overpriced, gluten-free-bread-crusted shrimp. What? But I’m used to disappointment.

So, this morning, knowing I had to place an order for a mega bag of dog food from Target, I added on a few grocery items: actual coconut milk (for the curry I envision making sometime this week, when I magically get better and feel like eating), a loaf of sourdough bread that isn’t falling apart (as my husband informed me yesterday of the one loaf I’d purchased ten days ago), fresh vegetables, a pack of extra large bandages to cover my wound, Gatorade, and a few other items.

My order was placed around 8:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. drop-off. I received a cheery text when the food was purchased and loaded into the shopper’s vehicle and she was on her way. Within ten minutes, the bags were unloaded and placed on my doorstep. I grabbed the few items and put them away. It was by far the easiest grocery shopping experience of my lifetime. I love you, Internet! I love you, Target! I love you, first person to think this was a great idea!

Will I grocery shop online again? By golly, yes! I may even try my local grocery stores or Amazon, though I was pleased with the promptness and service of Target, and the fact that I could also add on a few non-grocery items that the shopper could grab as well. The delivery fee, because I didn’t spend a certain amount, was a bit steep (about $10). I thought it was worth it, though, given the time I would have wasted going to the store and the gas money to get there and back. Plus, I’m still very under the weather.

Science and technology can’t do everything. They certainly can’t free us from pain, illness, and suffering, but they can deliver our groceries when we’re in need. My hat’s off to that.

are today’s parents selfless or selfish? (or, why are so many parents taking kids to adult venues these days?)

Who could avoid the story all over the news a few months back of prominent parents buying their kids’ entrances into elite universities, some going as far as bribing school officials, having others take their kids’ standardized exams, and lying on applications by superimposing images of their children’s faces on student athletes’ bodies? Society felt they were part of a trend of helicopter parents risking their own careers and lifestyles to get the very best of everything for their children. Some called them selfless.

But another trend in parenting is also prominent these days: taking kids along to rock concerts, brewpubs, tony restaurants, and R-rated movies, to name a few,  for no other reason than because Mom and Dad want to go. Several theater chains, including AMC, have implemented a “no 6 after 6” policy, meaning no children under age six will be admitted to R-rated movies after 6 p.m. even when accompanied by an adult. Regal enforces the same rule but without a time limit. Is it because six- and seven-year-olds are so  much more mature than kids five and younger? Oh, no. It’s not that. The rule was instituted to make the movie-going experience better for the adults in the theater, presumably to keep them buying tickets. kids in theater

So, don’t worry, Mom. As long as they’re at least in the first grade, Kaedan and Jaelyn can sit right there next to you when Bruce Willis’s guns are blazing, scar-faced Chucky is tormenting children, and that hunky actor drops his drawers.

And if you want to take your three-month-old to a concert or next Sunday’s 49ers game, you’re in luck! Baby Banz makes noise-cancelling headphones for every tot.

My husband and I were at a brewery last night, meeting up with friends who knew one of the band members performing in the live show. The music was pretty tame, mostly ’80s tunes, and the concert was outdoors, so the noise wasn’t deafening. Still, it was nighttime and beer was flowing. My friend, looking at the three-, four-, and five-year-olds playing on the ground nearby, turned to me and said, “Did you ever bring your kids with you to a place like this?”

I told her, “Nope, just like you, I never left the house from the time I had baby number one until the last one was about in middle school. Plus, the kids wouldn’t be welcome. It’s a different world these days.”

And indeed it is. The only socializing we did with other adults occurred while cheering on our kids from the sidelines of soccer games and swim meets. We would hash out our lives since the week before while ripping into Frito-Lay snacks and cut-up oranges and cracking open an ice-cold Aquafina.

If a team banquet happened to be at a restaurant, we might have a margarita or a Blue Moon with our meal, but that wasn’t until our kids were well into high school and the younger littles were left at home (supervised, of course).

So what’s changed? Families are smaller, for one. Taking a kid or two to Ruth’s Chris in the Prius is about as expensive as it was herding the family of six into the minivan and off to the Ponderosa. And with the constant exposure to the world’s events and pop culture through social media these days, our kids are growing up sooner. Nowadays, the f-word can be heard and adult behavior can be witnessed on the TV screen any time of day. Add to that the fact that current culture has become less childcentric, it is no surprise to see kids digging into a lobster tail and a juicy steak, swaying to tunes at an Elton John concert, or staring at Keanu at John Wick: Chapter 3

As long as the kids are well-loved, supervised, and taken home at a reasonable hour, their being at the brewpub or the restaurant shouldn’t matter to other people. Toting a toddler to Lambeau Field, even with headphones, isn’t the worst thing a parent could do (unless it’s minus-twenty degrees).

Who knows? Maybe parents have it right these days in not sacrificing their lifestyles for their children. Still, the maxim of kids being seen and not heard has taken on a whole new meaning these days.

 

konmari in reverse (or, when is it collecting and not hoarding?)

I began to embrace the KonMari method of decluttering back in the winter, after reading one of Marie Kondo’s books and watching her brief but uber-popular Netflix series Tidying Up.

baskets clean color cotton
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I learned to fold like a pro, transforming my sloppy T-shirts, pants, and underwear drawers into happy, organized things of beauty. Gone were piles of shirts of all sizes, shapes, and colors smothering one another. In their place are uniform rows of items folded the exact same way. Now when I open my T-shirt drawers (one for short-sleeved tops and the other for long- and three-quarter-sleeved shirts) I can spy with my little eye everything I own.

I also attacked my closet and kept what sparked joy, of course, and discarded what didn’t. I KonMari-ed my bookshelves too and finally freed myself of all those small-type, yellowed paperbacks from college lit classes that I just “knew” I’d read again and again but never did. Goodbye, Sister Carrie. So long, Madame Bovary. And take David Copperfield with you too, please.

I attempted to free the house of DVDs as well, but this is one category I’m stuck on as I visualize my future grandkids popping in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or any one of the Harry Potter series. I have no grandchildren yet, and all my own kids are no longer that. So the DVDs from their childhood sit idle on the shelves these days, except, of course, at the holidays, when  Charlie Brown and Linus as well as the Grinch come to life once again.

As for the adult DVDs, there are a handful I’ll watch again and again. Sleepless in Seattle, Dan in Real Life, and Steel Magnolias come to mind. But since I love these films as much as I do, of course I’ve purchased digital copies from Amazon, making them accessible anytime on every electronic device imaginable.

So why then do I hang on to the DVDs? I could argue that the boxes’ art and descriptions are as cherished as the films themselves, kind of like album covers of old. Or I could say that they don’t take up much space at all since they’re so thin. Okay, these are reasonable arguments for hanging on to the greats, but what about all the rest?

And more importantly, why am I adding to the collection?dvds

That’s right. Since quitting my library job in December, where thousands of DVDs were at my fingertips, I have been going to thrift stores and book sales at neighborhood libraries and purchasing not only books I’ll likely never read, but DVDs too, many of which I have already seen or, like the books, will never take advantage of. But there are some movies that I was very fond of in the past and hadn’t seen in so long that I just had to have a copy. I’ve watched a few. Roxanne, for one, was as good as I remember it; Say Anything, not so much.

My daughter who tends to be more like her dad in the clutter department suggested I purchase the movies, watch them, and re-donate. What a great, practical idea! If only I could. I’m afraid once the Terminator has entered the building, there’s not much I can do to make him leave. I’ve thought of reselling my DVDs on Craigslist or eBay or etsy, and I may do this with the duplicates because–woe is me–there have been times I’ve purchased a second copy of a movie I had just bought a few weeks back, not recalling whether I had it!

Anyway, they are slim, they’re good for a couple hours of entertainment, and they’re cheap. Some things, Marie Kondo will agree, are worth keeping because they spark joy again and again.

Poll: If you were stuck on a desert island, assuming there was electricity and plenty of shade and popcorn, which movies would you bring with you (chances are I have them on my shelves)?

 

putting a pet down (or, how life will never be the same)

Jack loved Christmas. Jack

Every year just after Thanksgiving, I make multiple trips out to the garage to bring in items to decorate the house. I start with a four-foot artificial tree for the family room, set up my village of homes, shops, and a church, and then get to wrapping the stair rails in garland. That’s the part of Christmas Jack loved most, the garland.

I don’t know why, none of us could figure it out, but he loved to lick and try to eat the artificial garland that wrapped around the lowest posts of the stair rail. He was a character like that, and that’s what we loved about him.

Yesterday, I had to make the awful, but necessary, decision to put Jack down. He was diagnosed with oral cancer (most likely squamous cell carcinoma) in May after I brought him in because of a swollen face, a terrible odor, and excessive drooling. His doctor wasn’t in, but he saw another and she had to deliver the news. She gave him a steroid shot and sent us home with a pill to be diluted with water and used as a wash for the open sore, a liquid medicine for the infection, and another bottle of buprenorphine for pain.

At first, he did well on the meds. The antibiotic took away the infection, the wash worked for a while, and we continued refilling the pain medicine to keep him comfortable. There were times when he looked almost normal–which if you’ve ever gone through the end of life with pets (and even humans) you’ll have noticed a second wind of sorts, when you falsely are led to believe all is well again. The facial swelling reduced and he moved from sitting atop a wing-back chair near the open window to sitting next to me on the couch every evening as I read or watched TV. He’d eat his dry food and his wet, and I’d treat him with his favorites, Temptations.

But then things took a turn for the worse–the inevitable, I’m afraid. He stopped eating his crunchy dry food, which he loved and which the doctors were surprised he even continued to eat because of his condition, and would hop off the couch and meow for his wet food a couple times a day. While eating, he’d turn his head from side to side to try to find a comfortable place in his mouth to masticate the already mashed food. It got to the point the last couple days that he couldn’t even manage his wet food, though. Sometimes, after meowing for a meal, he would walk over to his food bowl and just look at it, even if I stuck in a few Temptations, and then walk away.

But he was hungry, so a couple times, including right before I made the call, he tried eating and whether the food became lodged in the wound or he stuck himself with a tooth, I’m not sure, but he’d literally scream in discomfort and run around at full speed as if to run from the pain or dislodge the food. Yesterday, as I witnessed this, which alarmed our golden retriever and Jack’s best friend, and saw his mouth full of blood, I knew just what to do.

Jack could no longer eat without being in excruciating pain. If he could no longer get nourishment, he would starve to death, and he was beginning to show signs of this. I called his doctor’s office, but with his doc being out of town, I ended up calling the emergency vet. I then let my youngest son know. He started on his way home, and I texted my husband, who also decided to leave work. I sent a text to both daughters and then my older son, who was probably closest to Jack, especially when he was younger, calling Jack his dog. My older daughter was nearby and came over too.

We took him in and Jack went peacefully at age sixteen.

Life will never be the same around here, especially at Christmastime. When I hang the garland this year, I’ll also hang a picture of Jack on it. Jack loved Christmas, and we loved Jack.

the icebox challenge (or, trying to make use of what we already have)

Americans waste nearly a pound of food a day, and I’m here to prove it.

Nearly every week, I throw out bananas that have gone black, oranges that have gone green, and reusable containers filled with leftovers that, by the looks of them, I’d rather not use again.

Take a look at my fridge right now (trying not to judge my housekeeping skills):fridge

It’s brimming with food.

Sure, I could argue that I don’t have that much space and the bulky broccoli heads and sourdough loaves take up a lot of room, let alone the family pack of chicken thighs. But truth be told, I have too much food. And some of it will be tossed.

As a way to remedy this, I plan to use up what I have before I buy more. That’s right. I’m going to see how far the asparagus (at least the fresh bunch I picked up Saturday and not the one tucked in the back of the veggie drawer), milk, butter, and fruit can go before I spend more to replace them. You see, because of recent circumstances, I may need to stretch the budget.

Today my husband told his employer that he wants to cut his hours and, along with cutting his hours, his pay. He’s stressed out and wants to pursue another occupation. I thought I was OK with this until he did it and it became a reality. This was the one year in his entire thirty-year career that he’s made what he’s worth. And now he’s not.

To make matters worse, my work and pay have been dramatically cut this year, none of it my doing. My freelance work is in the tank. I’ve had nothing for two months’ straight from one client and nothing but a four-hundred-dollar project from the other. I apply all the time to various companies, but it’s a cut-throat world out there, and one job ad posted on the Internet can warrant hundreds if not thousands of applicants, especially in a national search. I work a part-time job, but all I can get are 10.5 hours a week. Try living on that. I could barely make a car payment on that kind of money.

I look for jobs–and apply–all the time in town, too, not just remotely. But it’s so hard to get a fish on the hook. I’ll be lucky to find something in six months (that’s how long it took to get the 10-hour-a-week job I currently have). On top of it, one of my four adult kids is recently unemployed and another is woefully underemployed. It’s ruthless out there.

So there is now a financial incentive to cut back on food shopping. I plan to do my part to keep expenses down. I’ll use up what we have, getting creative when I need to. I also plan to cut cable and take on one of the streaming services instead. I may cancel the newspaper as well, although it gives me great joy. Still, if I cut it, I’d probably be lured back with some good incentives. We have old cars (nothing even in the 2010s vintage), so selling a car isn’t going to help. In fact, we could use a newer car. They all have well over 100,000 miles–one has over 220,000! (Yes, it’s a Toyota.)

I have a gym membership, but it’s free because my son is an employee, so eliminating that won’t help. We eat out a few times a month and it’s usually just to get fish tacos or Thai food (the greatest bargain ever), but that will have to go. Add big birthday dinners to the list. No  more treating the entire family of seven adults to a meal, which can run up to a couple hundred dollars. It’ll be a bargain movie and a slice of pizza from now on. I’m looking into doing more crafting with my time and maybe opening an etsy shop if I can make enough product to sell, but supplies cost money and storage isn’t plentiful in our house, where my two adult sons also live.

The thing is, I have a history of scrimping and saving. This past year I finally was able to loosen my belt and flop back on the couch a bit more, arms and legs spread eagle and a look of contentment on my face. Now it’s pants fully tightened and nose to the grindstone as I try once again to make ends meet. The fridge is my first attempt.

freelancing lies (is it really possible to make it work all the time?)

My freelance work has nearly dried up. I’ve been freelancing for more than thirty years, but it was nearly ten years ago that I knew this type of work could help support the family. At that time, I began working with a large financial information network and got some pretty steady transcript work. famine

The job sufficed for nine years, with there being peaks of extreme volumes of work interspersed with months of slower volumes that dissolved to just a trickle for a few weeks, but there was always something to do–not every day, but I still earned something, even if it was just forty dollars a week. This steadier income was a great addition to my other freelance assignments too, which were fewer and farther between.

Upgrade after upgrade that this big company made to its software resulted in the latest iteration, which allows the company to block certain freelancers, giving the great majority of the work to a handpicked few, many of whom are in third world nations, where the operations reside. As of mid- to late May–so over a month–I have had zero work from a company that has files available. (I’ve figured out a workaround to see what is up for proofing but still can’t access it.)

So here I am, experiencing yet another hurdle of freelancing: when the client decides to shut you out instead of you being able to cherry-pick your clients.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Freelancing is a fickle environment. You can have the greatest relationship with a client, but for whatever reason–they want to save money, they have new freelancers they want to acclimate,  they decide to use former employees or interns–you can lose clients and money very, very fast.

There’s a reason auto financiers and mortgage companies request proof of three years of a freelancer’s income instead of just checking last year’s tax statements, as they do with people drawing regular paychecks. The reason is there’s no such thing as a regular paycheck for a consultant. I actually had pretty steady income for a few years in a row, but then one of the publishers I was with for decades went bankrupt, fewer books were put in print, fewer people were needed to edit those books. Bam! The door got shut on a very long relationship.

Another client I picked up a few years ago by seeing an ad on its website and requesting and passing a test hasn’t sent me one single book this year so far–and we’re halfway through the year! If I get something late this summer for the fall books I will jump for joy. But I’m not counting on it.

Today, I came across a 2014 article on FlexJobs, a company that promotes freelance work (and whose jobs have never, ever panned out for me in over a decade of searching the site as a member and not). The article titled “6 Lies About Freelancing, And the Truth,” by Jessica Howington, sets out the “misconceptions” of freelancing and purports to give the “facts,” to which I say “Phewy!”

Those of us who’ve lived the life know the facts, which are exactly as laid out as falsehoods in the article:

  1. “It’s always feast or famine.” Unless you’re contracting for a company and taking on the work of someone the company would typically employ (with none of the perks of being an employee, like benefits and a sliding pay scale, of course), the work is going to be sporadic. My industry, publishing, has two seasons, spring and fall, and that’s when 90 percent of the work comes in. So, yes, I either am sweating to get through multiple assignments or I’m twiddling my thumbs and writing blog posts.feast
  2. “You’ll always have to juggle multiple clients.” Again, if you’re a lucky soul doing the work of a regular employee (and, again, without any of the benefits), you won’t be juggling multiple clients. For the 92.7 percent of the rest of us, we will.
  3. “People freelance only out of necessity.” I honestly don’t know anyone who would choose to pay for their own non-company-sponsored health care plan, have zero paid vacation and sick days a year, have no retirement plan, work while their kids are having a noisy play date in the room off your office/dining room/bedroom, stop working to pick up the other kid from school, have no one to chat up around the water cooler, and. . . . You get the picture. But the FlexJobs article swears that people freelance “mostly for better flexibility and more freedom.” I don’t know about you, but I am not loving the freedom and flexibility of not having enough money to take a vacation.
  4. “You need to have your own business.” The article claims that basic business skills like dealing with taxes, legalities, and contracts are only for those running “actual business, ” not “independent contractors, moonlighters, and temporary workers.” Hah! I’m an independent contractor and I for damn sure have to do my own taxes, sign my own contracts, and keep track of my own expenses, as does anyone who makes money as a non-employee. What crap.
  5. “Finding clients is always a battle.” Hell yeah! It is a constant battle. Clients aren’t seeking you out unless you go on those sites that make freelancers humiliate themselves by bidding against each other so the client can take the lowest bidder. Another crock of crap.
  6. “Clients treat you badly.” According to the article (and thank you so much for reminding us of this), “Clients are going to treat you fairly and will do so based on your abilities. . . . If you treat your clients well and are willing to work at the relationship, you’ll find yourself with several repeat clients.” News flash, Ms. Howington, I have done nothing but be professional as a freelancer and do great work, but, guess what, I’m still without work. Freelancers can lose work on a whim, so please stop filling people’s heads that this is a chosen work relationship. Most people do it out of necessity, as in they are raising kids and have to be present or they lost their job and need some income.

Again, the lies we are told as freelancers are the truths we experience.