Top Ten Things I’m Highly Grateful For

Posted: January 28th, 2011

You know, I seem to find myself whining a lot… clients late on payment, damn coffee stain on my computer screen. Well, enough of that. Positivity is the key to enlightenment, and to keep from writing that nasty email for today.

10. Twitter: live proof that you’re not the only one goofing off at any point in time.

9. IE8 because, without it, I don’t think I’d have much work to do.

8. Due to the evolution of being able to give a summary of Moby Dick in 140 characters or less, emails have followed now suit.

7. Ditto for calls.

6. !important;

5. Mashable: Keeps you up-to-date on things you should keep up with but don’t really give a crap about.

4. I haven’t gone blind yet from holding the mouse too long.

3. Ending the work days watching a beautiful sunrise.

2. The best education I’ve ever had: mistakes.

1. Spending each and every day staring into a 1600 X 1200. Just as long as I’m still above ground that day.

A New Approach to Setting Goals… Forget the Goals

Posted: January 21st, 2011

Photo by BazaarBizarreSF (Flickr)

Photo by BazaarBizarreSF (Flickr)

Another January rolls around and it’s the same thing over again. Reflect on the previous year, figure out what you accomplished and what you didn’t quite get to yet. Then set some goals and see where those lead to.

Pretty much the same for years on end.

Of course it’s important to have a yearly audit of your own business and find ways to improve. That, however, usually happens without even realizing it. Call this trial and error with a bit of growing up.

Then there comes the list of goals…  somewhat completed by the end of the year. Unless you can say you gave your absolute best effort into trying to achieve every last one of them, though, it would be hard to call it a success. More like somewhat of a success.

But, in my opinion, that translates into somewhat of a successful person, not exactly something to inspire to.

Well, my approach changed. Actually it’s been changed for the last several months and results, which carried over into the new year, have been surprising. So what is it?

Take care of yourself physically. Sounds simple but that requires change which isn’t so easy. But we are looking for change, are we not?

My take is that if you are sitting at your desk behind a computer for numerous hours on end then you need to be alert, motivated and ready for the long haul of a day. You can call it training for a daily freelancing marathon if you will.

One thing I realized is that, no matter how you think your own work is routine, if you are not at your best physically, then there is no way you can accomplish everything you want to in a day. Hence the somewhat success that results.

By no means am I a health expert but ask yourself a few questions.

Are you getting too little rest (or too much)? See what a full 7 – 8 hours of sleep a day has on your productivity. Not a minute more or less. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day also cures the oversleeping blues.

Are you getting enough exercise? I don’t need to repeat here anything you haven’t already heard before. Get out… break out that dusty gym card, walk around the neighborhood or bike to the next city. Whatever it takes to break a sweat and make a habit out of it.

Are you eating healthy? OK, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I still followed a completely healthy diet but at least try swapping some of that junk food for fruits and veggies. You’d be surprised how much of an effect unhealthy eating has on your energy levels throughout the day and the positive effect natural foods have on them.

These may all sound simple but it takes some time to really believe in them and make a part of your lifestyle. But if the end result means your productivity goes up and a few more of those New Year’s resolutions get done this year, isn’t it worth it?

No Go For The Status Quo

Posted: January 12th, 2011

Image by Vipez (Flickr)

Image by Vipez (Flickr)

I was a bit disturbed this week after viewing some news that really hit close to home. As you may have already heard, a shooting occurred in Tucson, Arizona where six people were killed, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and a U.S. congresswoman shot in the head.

Tucson is where I grew up and graduated college, not to mention, I regularly frequented the Safeway store where the shooting occurred.

What further disturbed me was that I found out in the headlines… all the way out in Spain.

Now, I have a general dislike of the media (though, yes, I do need some news sources once in a while) and couldn’t help but attribute the shooting as a product of the media and some deranged young man whose switch suddenly flipped. I could go on and on about that but that’s not what this post is about.

I’ve thought a lot about it in the last few days but my real beef with the media is its extreme power in shaping our actions without us knowing whether we are really hearing the truth or some crap to get our attention. This especially hold true when it comes to our employment. In case you haven’t you heard:

“Job prospects remain grim for 2011″ – Chicago Tribune

“Unemployment rises to 9.8%” – Miami Herald

“Evergreen Solar to cut 800 jobs as it tries to compete with China” – Boston Globe

And my favorite…

“A Modest Proposal to Stimulate Employment and Fight Terrorism” – NYT

I’d be lying if I said I never always trusted the media because, at one point in my life, I’d get my daily dose of CNN “world” news and the then the local news at 10 PM. I still remember that “It’s ten o’ clock. Do you know where your children are?” in that eery voice as it comes on.

But these were the days when I believed it was hard to find a good job and maybe I should consider further education to expand my degree. If I remember correctly, around the begining of the last decade, the job market was requiring skills beyond a bachelor’s degree.

In other words, I followed the status quo right to the tee.

As I began my freelance career, it took a few years to realize not to believe everything I hear in the news, if anything at all. In fact, I can sum up all the news for you in two sentences. If the economy is going south, there’s no jobs. If it’s in a boom, it’s still hard to find a job in a crowded job market.

Complete bullshit.

I can sum up the REAL news you need to know in two sentences. If there was no work  available, there would be NO economy. There is an economy and, in fact, economies all over the world so work must be available.

Of course, it isn’t to say that work is that easy to get. It takes a lot of work and, pardon the expression, some balls to get the work you desire but it’s there for the taking.

Now it’s time to get to it… or sit back and wait for the news to come back on again.

Top Ten Reasons For a Freelancer to Expect a Lump of Coal From Santa Claus

Posted: December 23rd, 2010

Let’s see, were you a good little freelancer this year? Come on, fess up.

Yep, that’s what I thought. So here’s why Santa is making a special trip to a nearby pit mine for you.

10. You really needed something to heat your apartment with.

9. No worries… makes the perfect regift to a deadbeat client.

8. Make that a perfect weapon to use on the deadbeat client.

7. Oh, looks like that was actually a payment from the client.

6. Well, still more edible than a fruitcake from grandma.

5. You’ll be stoked to have the latest iPaperweight around.

4. Which doubles as a stress-relief tool to smash a computer screen with.

3. Might be a sign to finally stop cutting corners already.

2. Who cares… I just got a new Justin Bieber CD as a gift from Mom.

1. It’s not much different from what you get paid anyway.

Are You Still Doing One-Dimensional Freelancing?

Posted: December 9th, 2010

Photo By Marcus_JB (Flickr)

Photo By Marcus_JB (Flickr)

For many years, I’ve worked as a solo freelancer. It’s perfect. I set my own rules and do the work the way I want it to be done. Plus I wouldn’t have lasted this long if the work I have done wasn’t top-notch (sure, I take pride).

But during those eight years, I’ve come to realize a major limitation of being the soloist freelancer.

You’re really one-dimensional.

That’s not saying your skills don’t match up to your other counterparts in freelancing. You’re unique, have your own style and likely do a hell good job. Focusing only on your own work, however, gives you tunnel vision for what is really available for yourself to learn and accomplish.

In other words, it’s time to branch out and work with others.

Recently, I’ve had the fortune to team up with a good friend of mine, Juanjo (say hwan – ho), a graphic designer, and the result has been an absolutely fantastic working relationship. Ironically, we’ve worked together in the past and butted heads somewhat so my initial apprehension level was rather high.

Not to mention, taking on a partner-in-crime means losing some of the control you have on your own work and business. And we all know that control is the milk that is poured into our Wheaties every day.

It doesn’t matter if you believe your directional control is making you reach for the stars. Having  this manner of thought unfortunately keeps you one-dimensional and focused on only you. Maybe you are successful and sleep on a mattress full of greenbacks but there is always room to improve, right?

So what keeps us from being one-dimensioned? In a good working partnership, the whole is greater sum of its parts. Period. Imagine where that will take your business and quality of work you do.

Personally, I’ve always believed I was a good programmer, however, I’ve changed some of the ways I work as a programmer having recently teamed up with Juanjo. There is no reason this couldn’t be you whether you’re a writer, designer or whatever.

Just be sure to follow a few caveats.

Find someone you trust

This is obvious, but if there is any kind of second-guessing about whether or not you have trust in a work partner, then you don’t. Or you have trust issues. Trust has to be absolute and reciprocated.

You must share the same values

Having similar work and personal values is also needed if you want to avoid the typical head-butting that can affect partnerships. If your values align then it makes it so much easier to work for a common goal, creatively and financially.

It’s worthy to note that it is nearly impossible to partner up with someone with exactly the same values. Discussing any differences beforehand can eliminate any impending trouble down the road though.

Trust me. At some point, differences in values will rear their zombie head if they are not confronted prior.

Each partner must compliment each other

It should also go without saying that each partner must bring something unique to the table in order to succeed. If one does not have a skill set outside of the other or is typically carrying the load of the other, well, what’s the point then? One + one should not equal one.

You must let a partner do what he or she does best

In an effective partnership, each person does what he or she does best. No one likes to work with someone always over their shoulder so critique but don’t interfere. If you do like control over work, it takes a heavy effort to give it up in favor of letting a partner’s creative talents shine through.

This works both ways, too. A partner who is highly controlling isn’t likely to make things easy on you which is a sure sign to go another direction.

Friends don’t always make the best partners

I had the luck of having a friend that made a great partnership but this isn’t always the case. While friends are often the first people we always look to, if they don’t adhere to the above criteria, then the partnership will fail. In worst cases, even the friendship, too, so choose wisely.

* * *

Have you partnered up with anyone in freelancing? Do you believe you’re better off staying solo? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

A Thanksgiving Poem (That I Came Up With in 5 Minutes)

Posted: November 24th, 2010

Photo by Atmtx (Flickr)

Mmmm... Photo by Atmtx (Flickr)

Answering mails, launch a website
Mr. Turner wants a call back
Just another day at the grind
Before I hit the sack

Except this one is different
Can’t think of why
Maybe I’ll remember
After a Red Bull high

Hmmm, Twitter seems quiet
Possibly a clue
But my calls to support
Still have to go through

Well, 9PM, almost done
Those projects kicked my ass
Then it finally hits me
A day off at last!

Happy Thanksgiving (and your one day off)!

Top Ten Reasons Your PC Is on The Verge Of Calling It A Career

Posted: November 19th, 2010

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’ve used a Windows PC all my life. Sure, we like to make fun of it but often it is taken for granted for the workhorse that it is. It’s time we acknowledge its longtime use and give you some signs that it may be on its way to keeping that start button off for good.

10. Just can’t keep up anymore with those annoying little iPods.

9. Way exhausted from loading up all them heavy Photoshop files.

8. All those nasty viruses from porn site visits finally catching up with it.

7. Just had it with your grandparents using it whenever they come around.

6. Doesn’t quite share the same connection with your Twitter friends as you do.

5. That goes double for Facebook.

4. Been dying to show off for the past month that nifty blue screen.

3. It wasn’t like it didn’t notice you eagerly browsing around the Apple store.

2. Face it, they don’t make them today like they did those Windows 95 machines.

1. Going on a permanent defrag with Clippy Clippy.

Five Glorious Things That Will Keep You Freelancing Tomorrow, Maybe The Next Day

Posted: November 10th, 2010

Photo by Banlon1964 (Flickr)

Photo by Banlon1964 (Flickr)

Every day is a good day, right? Anyone?

There are many little joys to freelancing. Actually too many to even revel in them.

That fat check you got from Mr. Jones, spent a week later.

That week you finally took off because you were overworked… passed as if it were only a few hours.

A masterpiece of a project that gave you pride but not giving you the same feeling on a sort-of-blah-as-vanilla project being worked on now.

Then, of course, there are the so-called bad days. I’m not talking about Mondays or slaving away with bird flu and a bad back, but those days where the shit hits the fan and you see your career hit a breaking point.

Why? These stay in our memory forever as we look back on them like childhood memories saying to ourselves “boy was I reall that stupid.” Today, you can learn to do almost anything (actually more like learning to do something right) but there is only one way to really learn something.

The wrong way. Don’t tell me these are unfamiliar.

Month-To-Month Living

Many freelancers have jobs to back them up. Fraidy cats, I say. You never forget the experience of jumping in head first and blindfolded. Nor the wait until your head hits the bottom of that empty swimming pool.

Oh, such as the days where I used a decade-old laptop, worked in a dark room and ate hearty meals of beans day in and day out. Then the crumbs of work to earn those daily beans. Even charging clients in beans but, for a good client, an extra loaf of bread.

There is no greater joy, however, moving up to the can of tuna to accompany your meal.

Lesson: It gets better. It can only get better.

Getting Stiffed

It so happened that, years back, the first client I ever had offered me a great rate (better than beans) and all the work I could use at the time. I’ll admit, I did a half-ass job and was probably a quarter-ass skilled freelancer but work got done by golly.

Long story short, a lot of work and no beans make a freelancer hungry. Don’t sweat it. You’ll live to tell about it, albeit while suffering hunger along the way.

Lesson: Know whatever the hell it is you’re trying to do and don’t forget to collect the deposit.

Computer Crash(es)

Hmmm, computer isn’t booting up today. Restart (times 50) and we have… a blue screen. Dammit, you knew those strange choking sounds were the beginning of the end. Oh well, time to take the day off and hit up your friend to borrow that laptop. Problem solved.

Oh wait, there was still that project you were working on in there trapped on a useless hard drive.

Lesson: Backup. If you skip it, you won’t miss those lost photos pulled off the Victoria’s Secret website anyway.

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Being needy for projects is nothing new for anyone new to freelancing. Many projects equals a pretty hefty payday, if I’m correct. Taking on a request for a new, improved Twitter wannabe for big-budgeted Mr. Know-it-not isn’t quite the way to go though.

Sure, we all like to think we are the designer, developer and marketer all in one when all that can really be done is installing WordPress with a cheesy logo. Ambition eventaully comes to terms with ability and crashes back to earth.

Lesson: Before starting a project, stop counting your money as if it were in a big pile right in front of you. Count the hours you’ll spend on forums pleading for help instead.

Screwing Up

The granddaddy of all things that pervades freelancers. Right up there with shooting your friend in the face as the U.S. vice president. The bright side is that we’re neither flying airplanes nor have the doomsday button at out side (unless that is you’re fallback job). It’s only our clients’ businesses at stake.

Analyzing the situation brings thoughts of a coverup, escape plan or working like mad all night hoping it won’t be noticed the next day. Then realizing the best damage control is uncontrollable sobbing while offering an explanation.

Lesson: Just keep doing what you’re doing. You won’t mess this up this lesson.

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