The Monday Hangover No. 2

Posted: January 6th, 2009

#2 – Are You Scared Yet?

While I’m really not at all surprised, I am quite fascinated how the universal topic of conversation is now… wait, can you guess it? Yep, the E-C-O-N-O-M-Y. I mean, it doesn’t just come up while chatting with your mates. It comes up in EVERY conversation including your parents, neighbors, clerks and any other human with a pulse. We as humans have to interact and there’s nothing like common ground to do so. I don’t think we realize what we’re doing in the process keeping the economy as the central theme though.

How many times a day do you worry about your job now?

How often do you just worry, worry, worry now?

We seem to all look down on this as a major crisis happening in our lives. I won’t sit here and tell you hasn’t been for many. It’s likely you may be facing a layoff if it hasn’t happened to you yet. Of course, there are those who lost a whole lot more than their jobs. Give thanks if the only thing you face is no job in the future.

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Around the Horn

Posted: November 28th, 2008

  • From Freelance UK: Freelance graphic designer Andrew Chipperfield explains a typical client we should all be aware of: “Then came the turning point for me. He asked to meet up to discuss some bigger opportunities he might have for me. So i went to meet him, as it turned out, at his shop. I turned up to see his £80,000 LandRover with personalised number plate, and a few people working for him. At that point, I decided to get the meeting over and done with, and that I wouldn’t be doing any more work for him. I didn’t want to work with someone who blatantly lied to me.”
  • From Kate Lorenz interviewing freelancer Ryan Saale on trying out freelancing part time: “A lot of people don’t want to commit full-time skills to a part-time or temporary gig. In this economy though, it can allow you to not only try on a job for size, but to also improve your skills, impress a potential long-term employer and network like crazy with people in your chosen industry,” she says. “Instead of nervously waiting for the right full-time career, you can potentially make something better happen in the short term.”
  • Here’s how I earned my riches as a freelancer… so can you!
  • Still squinting while reading this?
  • I can’t deny the fact that self-employment has its perks. Some of these perks are the guilty pleasures that make you say “I’ll never go back to that 9 to 5″, whenever you see an interesting full-time position on one of those job boards.

The Monday Hangover

Posted: November 24th, 2008

#1 – What Really Keeps Us Back

As a freelancer, there will for sure be times where you’re left thinking ‘How can I do better?’ but continue on to do the same things as always. The goal is to keep growing… and to increase your income in the process. I have fallen into this train of thought many times and finally realized what trully can better yourself, or hold you back: the people you work with and the clients you work for.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll lump both clients and coworkers together since this applies equally to both. All can be categorized into one of three categories:

1. Trustworthy and reliable – Both you and them are on the same page. Expectations are high as far as meeting deadlines, no delay in communication, payments are received on time. Basically a problem-free relationship.

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Top Ten Greatest Promises By Clients

Posted: November 18th, 2008

Sometimes you can use a little laughter as a freelancer. What better way than to hear the heartfelt promises of your most beloved clients. We bring you the best of the best.

10. “That check will be good in a couple of weeks.”

9. “If you can do this, there’s more work for you in the future.”

8. “There’s only a couple changes I need.”

7. “We can’t pay you much now, but we’ll have more money later.”

6. “I’ll find someone to do the same for only half as much!”

5. “We may even offer you a position later on.”

4. “I’ll tell all my friends about you.”

3. “Can you do [you task here] for free to see how you work? If it’s good, we’ll hire you.”

2. “I’ll have your payment tomorrow.”

1. “That estimate sounds great! Let me get back to you on that.”

What Does Freedom (At Work) Really Mean?

Posted: November 5th, 2008

I remember all the way back when I was sixteen years old, I had at the time a job which I thought had the greatest freedom that a job could possibly have. To an extent it still holds true to me today. You see, I worked in a rather rundown cheesesteak shop (without a sign I might add) inside a large shopping mall. The pay was borderline free for my employers here but I had it made.

I worked alone most times, made myself a sandwich when I felt like it, called my friends, gave free food to my friends once in a while and cut out early nearly every day I worked. Don’t tell mom but I even drank beers from next door in the back room. I probably would have worked there for free if they would have inevitably fired me (which they didn’t).

Although this wouldn’t fly in today’s place of employement (that sandwich shop did close down by the way) we still have an idea of what kind of freedoms are ideal for us in the workplace. Can you picture a drunk tank where you can clock in and sleep until you sober up? How about just coming in whenever you feel like it, having a two hour lunch or having a beer while you’re at a meeting?

It would seem our perception of freedom in the workplace is derived from wanting to skirt the rules our so-called superiors set for their employees which is true in a sense. Workplace freedom is, however, the desire to break free from the CONTROL that our employers have to place on us in order to for us conform and do our jobs.

Though I hate to use political references, you can view this employer control as a kind of socialism where your freedoms (to come in late, drunk, etc.) are suppressed for the productivity of the whole, which is the company. The downside to this is that it is totally necessary for a company to survive. OK, maybe there are exceptions like the Google campus, but we all can’t work there, can we?

Then there are the freelancers who would be the democratic adversary to the “socialist” company. A freelancer’s freedom, however, isn’t what you’d expect. Sure, you can expect to sleep in and wake up hungover once in while but what you would actually consider freedom in the workplace actually becomes a distraction to the freelancer.

Control for a freelancer is not placed in the hands of another but within himself. It is ironic that this complete control often drives new freelancers to quit and go back to their jobs. After all, YOU have to look for your own work, manage your own business and make sure you are making ends meet and then some so you can continue. This is all on top of the actual work you do. This added responsibility often drives people to quit freelancing or to not even start at all.

The truth is freelancing does have it’s learning curve and there are certainly going to be times where what you are earning will become an issue. The way to deal with that control, however, is to use it to your advantage. In other words, learn the ropes, take your punches and keep on rolling. I’ll admit that it’s easier said than done but when the end of that learning comes near you won’t regret it. Only then you’ll see what freedom at work really is.

Freelancing For Dummies: Just Ask Me

Posted: October 25th, 2008

I’ve been a freelancer for a little over five years now and I’ve finally come to a point where I am really taking time to evaluate my business to see how I can improve…  which is more or less thinking about how to earn more money. My primary conclusion: I could be doing A LOT better.

I know a lot of people would kill to be in the position I’m in working without a boss and making a good living out of it (though I won’t give it out here). I could easily sit back, continue my routine as usual and cash those checks at the end of the month. At least that’s what we are molded to do in the J-O-B.

Well, this is freelance and you get the green light to do whatever the hell you want. To grow in your freelance career, though, it’s a pretty good idea to break your routine, no matter how comfortable you are in it, and do a self-evaluation. After five years, I guess it would be a good time to give myself a performance review.

To my own relief, I found I was doing a lot of important things right. Not surprisingly though, I was doing a lot of things wrong, too. What was interesting to me was that nearly all of the things I do right had to do with my work ethic, working habits and good instincts. All of the things that I was doing wrong, however, was strictly business related. I’m sure I’m not the only freelancer in the same boat so I’ll go ahead and outline the major ones here. Who knows, maybe someone else can learn from this.

The Rights

First of all, I pride myself in the work I do. And it gets done when I say it will get done. Period. My reputation developed as a hard worker who could solve problems and I’ve done that since day one. I wouldn’t say people were lining up at my door to hire me for projects (I’m a web programmer), but most of my work were from referrals and I’m contracted full time for a small company which provides very steady work.

Next, I take care of my clients. If something goes wrong, I fix it. If I make a mistake, I fess up to it and fix it as soon as possible. Also communication is key, never leaving a client in the dark about anything. These are also things I pride myself on. Given that I have never met most of my clients face to face, any way I can build trust works in my favor. That’s not a hard one to learn.

Last, I manage my projects in a way where I have no down time. No downtime = steady stream of income. This took me a while to become a habit but I developed a sense to always plan ahead even when your current situation looks great. I try to have at at least two projects to work on simultaneously and in slow times I’m always working on one. It’s as simple as looking for more work while your working. It should always be a part of your routine.

The Wrongs

Finances – I am pretty good about spending. Don’t spend more than you earn and save when you can. Check. An example of the bad is that I had to pay the IRS a $200 fine for not paying my quarterly taxes. Taxes have always been a nightmare since I didn’t save receipts or track business spending. If you have your own business these should be a priority! Needless to say, I’m still looking in the trash for those receipts.

Marketing – My business has been primarily on referrals, but I’ve never actually marketed myself to attract new clients. I realized that this hurt me by not getting those clients willing to pay a premium for my service since I do have quite a portfolio. You can guess that equals a smaller check at the end of the month.

Branding – This relates to the above but I also haven’t branded my business. I’m just Johnny that does web programming. With a nice portfolio and putting a name to your services, however, you have half your marketing already done for you. The rest is just letting those in need of your service know you exist.

. . .

During my years as a freelancer I’ve always come across advice through the occasional web page and friends who are also freelancers. I never really noticed that much of that advice has gone between the ears.  Maybe it’s time to take notice… or essentially leave a bunch of cash on the table for someone else.

The Revolution Will Not Add You As A MySpace Friend

Posted: October 19th, 2008

I hate to admit it, but I think I’m stuck as a part of the product that evolution has brought about our world. In other words, I’m glued to a 19″ flatscreen for a good chunk of the day… every day. On one hand, I’m employed, earn a living and can keep in touch with friends rather easily (I’m residing in Spain). I look into the flatscreen, type a few keystrokes and checks come in the mail on time every month. What a concept, huh?

Though I do not take for granted my means of supporting myself, I do loathe my dependancy on computers to the point where I notice it and try to somehow break free of the habit. Think about it… what’t the first thing you do when you wake in the morning? Check email? News? ESPN? Yep, I’m guilty of all of those.

I got rid of my TV long ago just for this reason. To take up other “creative” outlets such as reading, learning Catalan and mastering my flamenco guitar. The sad news (or pathetic) is none of which has been realized. The reality is that just the internet has taken the reins of occupying my free time. I have no idea of why the NBA draft intrigues me 2000 miles away and without actually having seen an NBA basketball game in six years.

For starters, I’ve decided to take control and start writing, as you can see. Quite ironic since it still keeps me in front of the flatscreen but, hey, a start is a start. It’s funny, but I do notice a change in my way of thinking and I am slightly more motivated to tackle those previously mentioned outlets. One thing and one day at a time I have to keep telling myself.

One thing is that I’m very lucky to live in a rather large city (Barcelona) that isn’t modern, by American (or MySpace) standards anyway. People here communicate face to face. Not through some rented website message board. Blackberries are still common, but amongst the yuppies. The “hip” community looks down on it though as if it were a tool of the devil. The most popular of advanced technology around these parts is blasting reggaeton mp3’s from a cell phone. It’s rather cheesy but luckily, for the sake of maintaining human interaction, it hasn’t progressed a whole lot further.

I am also glad to say I haven’t given in to all that MySpace or Facebook crap that I keep hearing about. I have amused myself and visited some of my friends pages, albeit anonymously. There’s no way to respond to them without creating an account myself but I’m still not selling myself out to those quite yet. My local friends around the hood in Barcelona hang around one of the fifty bars within a rock throw’s distance of my flat. Now that I like though it already opened a new can of worms which I won’t get into here.

Which now brings me to my point… I’m a freelancer and proud of it. We are a breed that sets ourselves apart from all the rest who are managed and kept on a short leash for the most part. OK, I hear those jobs at Google and pretty much whatever tech mega company aren’t so bad. I have my freedom though. The freedom to fuck off when I feel like it. The freedom to work a 50 hour week if I’m in the mood.

That freedom comes with the freedom to do something creative or good for mankind on your downtime. I’m checking up on the NBA draft on my downtime so I might as well be back giving tech support and hawking software at my old cubical job.

From here on out, I promise to be creative on my downtime. I’ll check a score or two for sure but if you see this article in an archive of hundreds of articles then that means I lived up to that promise. Check me on it if you will.

Top Ten Freelance Habits You Might Need To Ditch Eventually

Posted: October 13th, 2008

Hey, we’re freelancers. Cut us a little slack, we’re not alll perfect. If you find yourself giggling at any of these, though, maybe its time to update those upcoming New Year’s resolutions.

10. Windows 98 was from a decade ago. Get with the program.

9. Taxes… did April 15th pass already?

8. Cut back to maybe one instant message program to chat with friends.

7. Internet porn is not considered working. Unless of course you work for internet porn.

6. Work over the internet? Why aren’t you working out of the Bahamas?

5. Ever heard of the sun? You’re allowed to leave the house to look at it on occasion.

4. Even though you can, a freelancer should not make it to EVERY happy hour.

3. You work at home. Your shower is right there. Use it!

2. Working out a Starbucks is no longer cool if you want to pick up chicks (or dudes).

1. No more bong rips before starting your day.

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