freelancing lies part 2 (or, sometimes you have to hide the truth to get the job)

Freelancing can turn you into a liar. Case in point: This week I had to omit the truth from a client who was checking on my status on a project not due for a month and wanting what I’ve worked on so far.

woman sitting on chair while leaning on laptop
                             what I’m doing                                                       Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
                                         

I told him I’d do my best to get him what I have so far but that I have another editing project with a very short deadline that I’m focused on currently, which is true. Typically I wouldn’t have mentioned the other editing job for fear of looking like I’m too busy to work on his assignment, but I did so to let him know that I have another short-term responsibility I’m working his project around and will definitely be able to meet his January deadline.

What I omitted, however–and would never have been able to say–are that I also hold down two part-time jobs; it’s the holidays and my birthday week; and I have four kids, a soon-to-be-son-in-law, a husband, four siblings, and friends to shop for; there are two work Christmas gatherings approaching, Christmas Day dinner to host, and many other obligations to attend to. Had I mentioned any of those things, even one, I would look unprofessional and would probably never hear from him again, because in the fickle freelancing world, I am expendable and the next independent contractor is just around the corner.

The fact that the editor even asked for part of the project isn’t fair at all. The project isn’t due until January–nearly four weeks away–and I was never told I’d have to turn in partial sections of the book along the way when I took the assignment. Of course, the editor asked kindly about the progress and if it was possible to send back sections already worked on, but what was implied was that he really wants something. Now.

I am, if nothing else, excellent with time management. No matter how busy I am (see the above list), I never go over deadline or fail to get everything done. I never turned in late assignments in school and I haven’t in my career either.

But the editor’s asking for what I’ve finished thus far threw me for a loop. I have a system of how I approach a project, especially one this ginormous (over eight hundred pages). I tend to do a once-over and then go back and double-check my work. Now, since I plan to turn in something to him tomorrow, I had to stop my forward progress and do a reverse take, double-checking what I’ve already worked on.

I had every right to tell him on Friday that I will turn in the entire book on January 4, as agreed upon, but instead I e-mailed him back saying that I’d be happy (another lie) to give him what I’ve done thus far. I didn’t mention that I’d be working both days on the weekend, eight hours each day, to get him what he wants, not needs, so he isn’t stuck with this massive project landing back on his desk in the new year.

woman standing on brown wooden plank
                                what I’d like to be doing                                                                              Photo by Kilian M on Pexels.com

 

                                                                 

It’s unfortunate, but when you freelance, you can never avoid working when other obligations are pulling you away from your desk. You can’t shut down the desktop, close the blinds, turn off the light, and lock the door behind you, saying goodnight to the janitor and tipping your hat to the lobby security worker at the end of the day. If you have work, you must work, no matter the circumstances, whether it means working until 11 p.m. after getting off from your day job or both days on the weekend. The show must go on and the work must get done.

It’s the holidays and my birthday week, to boot, but I am rushing to get out my project due on Thursday for another editor and now this one by tomorrow while trying to do a bang-up job along the way so I will be called upon again to handle similar projects. And I’m doing all this while working five days a week at two part-time jobs. Oh, and did I mention the holiday obligations that I have?

As I said, I’m nothing if not a good time manager, but in the freelancing world, time is always never enough.

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
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.

librarySo, 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.

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.

i found a job (but i’m missing the old one)

I started a new part-time job on Monday. Compared to the last library I worked at, this one will be much, much slower paced. The location is terrific–just thirteen minutes from home on surface streets (or I could take a freeway south one exit)–the pay is decent (as in 1.5 times better per hour than the last place), there are fewer hours to commit to each week and one fewer day to show up, I have all Sundays and most Saturdays off, and the director is quite nice.

So why am I missing and yearning to be at the old place?

It’s the people. I had friends there, people whom I was really close to and people who were casual friends to chat up on occasion. Some people I avoided, but most people I enjoyed being around. I like being busy too, as in busy the entire time I am at work. Sitting behind a desk most of the time in the new job will be quite a change.

I just learned that a position has opened up in the old place. And I’m contemplating applying. I know which hours will be available, and some wouldn’t work with my current schedule, but I’m wondering if some of my buddies would switch shifts to accommodate my return. Then I wonder if I’m being crazy. Is going back there really such a good idea? Will they even have me? I was a really good worker, but I am a bit opinionated and am one to speak up for myself. Would I be willing to work weekends and nights again? Is being around my work friends really that desirable? Some of the physical work was a bit much for me with my autoimmune disease. Am I ready to go back to the aches and pains?boom

My freelance work has diminished a lot lately. If I had been this slow last year, I never would have quit. Taking the new job will help to keep me occupied and provide income,  but it won’t bring me back to what I was earning. Should I make the move to return to the old place?

Stay tuned.

 

i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

what i did today while i wasn’t working (or, how bored can one get?)

bored

It’s going on three and a half months since I left my part-time job to go back to freelancing “full-time.” Anyone who solely freelances will understand my use of quotation marks. For those with a regular workload, allow me to explain. People who freelance either can’t come close to working full-time because there’s not enough work, even when having more than one source of income, or they’re flooded with work from different sources and are putting in hours equivalent to two full-time jobs.

How I Spent My Day

So what am I doing while I’m in a deep rut in freelancing and having no part-time job to scoot off to a few days a week? Let’s explore my day thus far, shall we?

  1. I got up around 7 a.m.
  2. I ate my breakfast and fed the dog, giving him a shot of insulin before cleaning up the breakfast dishes.
  3. I got showered and dressed.
  4. I sat at my desk, looking for work online, both freelance and part-time. This took approximately 1.37 hours.
  5. Took the dog for a walk around the block. Picked up the yard (because said dog rarely considers going when we’re out walking).
  6. I went back to my desk to look for more work. Did a deep dive into reading reviews on job sites for a position I’m contemplating submitting my resume to.
  7. Realized this ad runs nationwide on the company’s website and there are probably 6 bazillion applicants already. Do I throw myself into the pile? Probably will. It’s a so-called full-time work-from-home sitch, which probably means full-time on occasion. (I know how it works.)
  8. Watched a YouTube video of a husband-and-wife team painting a couple pieces of furniture, because apparently people can make a buttload of money doing this. (For reals?) Thought about how the unphotogenic husband, a doughy Casper of a guy, should maybe consider not being in the videos. The wife too, for that matter.
  9. Took out an unpainted framed chalkboard I picked up at 50 percent off at Michael’s two days ago and decided to paint the frame black and then white before distressing. Because point number 8.
  10. Thought I’d throw out my dog’s old food he no longer eats and fill the ginormous container with the food he currently eats.
  11. Vacuumed the area.
  12. While I was unloading multi-pound bags, I thought I’d pour my twenty-pounder of Jasmine rice into plastic containers . . . and did so.
  13. Ate lunch while re-watching last night’s This Is Us episode. I knew I’d nodded off during it, but when watching again, I realized the nodding off was actually stage three REM sleep throughout forty-eight minutes of the one-hour show.
  14. Sitting on the sofa, I realized I should wash the slipcover, so I threw that in the machine with a few pillow covers and throws.
  15. Vacuumed the area.
  16. Went back to my computer to print out a shipping label for something I need to return to Old Navy. Packaged the item and put the package near the front door to go out with tomorrow’s mail.

Being Bored

It’s now 2 p.m. I’m sitting back at my desk and I’m wondering how is it that people don’t work.

I was at a baby shower on Saturday talking to an old friend who’s only held occasional part-time jobs over the years and hasn’t worked in maybe five years. She has no kids at home. When I told her I was already looking for work after leaving a job in December, she said one word: “Why?”

I told her I’m kind of bored and, I guess, unhappy too. She said she has so much to do, and I get that. There are plenty of productive ways to keep order in a house and a life that don’t involve a paycheck. But I’ve realized over the years that I’m happiest when I’m doing work and making money.  Maybe it comes from that feeling of being behind in income and saving for retirement while I raised four kids over a great span of years. Or maybe it comes from even before that, when I lived at home. Having a job was my one way of getting out of the oftentimes chaotic household I grew up in. For once, I was able to earn a little on my own and have some freedom.

Same Time Last Year

I think back to this time last year when I was painting my kitchen cabinets. I did it over a span of five weeks, taking down a few doors and drawers and painting them and the boxes before moving on to another section. Last fall, I tore out the stinky living room carpet one section at a time and hauled it out to the patio before patching the floor and then laying down planks. I cannot believe I did those things while holding down a part-time job outside the house and working freelance from home while also doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and bill-paying as well. So, yes, I can handle a household project or two, but I’m still bored if there’s little more to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably KonMari the heck out of one closet that’s brimming with paperwork and stuff we never use, but right now I’m going online again to find some work. It’s obvious I’m not happy if I’m not feeling productive, and to me being productive is both working around the house and working for money. We all want to be happy after all.