TME Blog

Freelancing on Vacation is no Vacation

Freelancing-1024x681When you tell people you are a freelancer, way too many of them have that image in their brains of you in a hammock in a beach house watching the waves crash in some tropical paradise, drink in your hand idly typing on the laptop across your knees.

Yeah, right.

Freelancing is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, and it gives me a lot of opportunities that I never would have in the corporate world. Still, it is work, and not the kind of work where you can take a week off and still get the same paycheck like clockwork.

My wife, the Twin Miracles, and I just returned from our most ambitious family trip to date – one that I had hoped not to work on, but bills and such eventually made it a necessity.

So on our first full day there, I packed up the laptop in the backpack and headed off to find the hotel’s business center after the rest of the family was tucked in around 9:30 p.m. I walked the lobby three times before finally asking for directions, at which time I was told that the business center no longer existed, and had been turned into a place to buy tickets to a popular resort.

Instead, I was directed to find a comfortable spot in the lobby. After walking around a theme park all day long, I fell asleep after about 8 minutes on that couch.

I did literally the same thing the next night.

Our trip involved two different cities and the second hotel was a significant upgrade over the first, in large part because the business center actually existed. The wireless was deplorable and the thermostat seemed stuck on 83 degrees, but I got in a few hours of work.

The next night I dressed for the heat only to find the thermostat hovering around 66. After an hour of slowly turning into one of those sides of beefs that Rocky is always punching I went and asked the front desk about it. They had the controlling thermostat down low in their back office to stay awake apparently.

Our last night was at a third hotel near the airport we were flying out of, and when I went to that business center, it turned out to be two computers at a desk in a extraordinarily open area that included a fireplace, couches, a balcony, and, a bar. The bar had a live speaker pulsing out music and colors with no one to enjoy (save me). I tried to unplug the thing or turn it off for 10 minutes to no avail. I asked the bartender to do it for me and she told me she couldn’t until 10 p.m. in case customers came (it was 9:48 p.m. when she said this).

I had a big trial job ahead of me that night that I really wanted to nail to get the bigger contract so I put on my head phones figuring 12 minutes from now it would be peaceful.

Nope, at 9:57 p.m., not one but THREE people showed up for drinks, a pizza that appeared out of nowhere, and random conversations with the bartender. Suddenly I’d become the old man shaking my fist at the people having a BBQ in their backyard past dusk when the deed restriction clearly states you have to be quiet at sundown.

Happily, my Spotify drowned out the revelry, I nailed the trial job and we made it safely home the next night by 10 p.m., where my three favorite girls went off to Dreamland, and I went back to work.

Mission Impossible: Writing About Yourself

Mirror Who Am I WomanUnless you’re a narcissist or a massive lover of words (guilty), writing about yourself is one of the toughest things to do, whether you’re introducing yourself to a new set of employees or employers, redoing your LinkedIn page or resume, or simply crafting a 150-word bio for your company’s website.

A recent client of mine came to me for help with that final task. She was relatively new to a company (two years in), and all of her experience had been with a different firm in a different field. She felt like she didn’t stack up to the long, industry-specific bios of the company’s CEO and Vice-President.

The funny thing was, her LinkedIn page and my brief conversation with her were full of fantastic information. She had an amazing tool box of skills, 20 years of experience overall, and more than 12 as a top-level manager. After doing some research on her company, pulling out some adjectives that her coworkers were using, and running a few drafts, the bio nearly wrote itself.

I’ve actually struggled with writing about my own skills when I first got on Fiverr, which is a lot more of a “sell yourself” website than Upwork. At some point you have to stop worrying about people thinking you’ve got a big head and just unleash your skill set. As legendary baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”

Is there any job better than editing Sci-Fi?

giphyIn 13 days, the Twin Miracles Editorial family will be at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in Anaheim. We have a four-hour window during which time I am highly likely to hug every single costumed employee, droid, spaceship, and creature in the place. We’ve heard the wait time for Smuggler’s Run, the Millennium Falcon ride, is up to 90 minutes, but if we do get a chance to ride, I am absolutely going to turn in my chair to whomever is sitting behind me, relative or not, and tell them, “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!”

I saw Star Wars in the theater 7 times with my dad and brother in 1977 at the ripe old age of 3. It is the foundation of my love of all things Science Fiction that has only grown over the four decades since.  In the years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve been fortunate enough to edit a few science-fiction pieces for burgeoning authors, including one recently that had some great homages to Star Wars, Star Trek, the Terminator series, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Superman.

When you get to read the work of a smart new author who clearly has a passion for the genre, is there anything better than getting paid money to do it too?

 

Travel Hounds Unite for “2-1/2 Cents Worth a Million”

One of the things I miss most about print journalism is holding the physicalnico cover.jpg representation of all your hard work in your hands. True, paper fades over time, but seeing the articles, headlines, photos, and design of newspaper sections and magazines that I had produced always gave me an extra feeling of accomplishment that the digital world has never been able to replicate.

Thus, I was super pleased on Wednesday to find a package in the mailbox from Honolulu and a recent client of mine, author Nico Crouch. I spent the last few months of 2018 and the first of 2019 editing Nico’s two-volume Earth-wandering, surfing, and self-discovery novel “2-1/2 Cents Worth a Million.”  The book went on sale on Amazon two months ago and is clicking along with a very nice 4.1/5.0 rating to date.

acknowledgmentsNico was the best kind of author to work with – patient, transparent, and most of all willing to set ego and ownership aside to make the book better. We never had an argument, we had discussions where we agreed to either change things or leave them as is. I’ve edited more than 50 books in my 6+ years as a full-time freelancer, and that sort of author is a very rare bird.

 

Nico was generous enough to include me in his acknowledgments, autograph a copy of his book, and it hurtling across the Pacific Ocean to my house. My old print journalism brain is happy today.

A Freelancer’s Best Friend Returns to Form

There’s one member of our family who has been with me for an large number of iphone pictures 056freelance projects. He’s been there when I’ve created amazing work, when I’ve had writer’s block to the extreme, when I’ve been rolling in work, and when I’ve had uncomfortably long dry spells between work.

His name is Regal and he’s our family’s beloved first-born dog, an extraordinarily handsome, personable beagle that my wife brought into our marriage 10 years ago, and who will turn 13 in July.

The Beag (his more commonly-used name) is a 13-inch, tri-color, long-snouted beagle who never met a piece of meat or cheese he didn’t like, loves to have his floppy ears massaged, and, is the family’s loudest snorer, now that I finally started using a CPAP.

For many years, the Beag would sleep either underneath my writing desk and complain loudly if I bumped him with my feet, or just outside the office door so he is ready to assist, but also can keep an eye and an ear down the long hallway to see if anyone’s opening the backdoor or the refrigerator.

Sometime in 2014-2015, the Beag hurt his back and neck while playing with our other dog. He lost the ability to jump on the bed, he cried out if you touched him in sensitive spots or tried to pick him up, and he walked slowly everywhere. Eventually, he was given long-term pain meds that got him back to about 50% of his former rambunctious self, and we were relieved to at least have the pain managed.

Two weeks ago, he got an infection at the back of one of his paws and I took him in. The vet gave him a low-grade steroid as part of the treatment and mentioned it might help his pain some, and he could get a low-grade prescription if that was the case.

I didn’t much think of it at the time, but the past few days has been nothing short of a trip to the Fountain of Youth for him. We’ve seen him actually running again for the first time in five years. Yesterday, one of the Twin Miracles and I took him on a walk around the block and he was pulling on his harness enough that my daughter had to break into a trot a few times to keep up.

I can’t even begin to describe the effect his sudden improvement has had on us. I never thought I’d have a smile on my face getting up from my work desk 12 times a day to let a dog go outside to run, play, and bay.

 

New Client: Chore-ology

Using a housekeeping service is an amazing thing. My wife was using one when I first one_day_time_earlyharrington_-p_2015met her and I thought it was an unneeded luxury until that first Saturday I was the dusting everything including the top of the refrigerator because I’m tall like that.

My new clients Mat and Anastasia run a housekeeping and handyman service in Seattle and were putting together a new website and wanting lots of content. I pitched Mat on not only your standard “services and home page” but also a few blog entries that had some humor in them to set them apart from the rest of the pack. Because, let’s face it, nobody outside of Marge Simpson or Ann Landers wants to read a 500-word blog on vacuum cleaners.

They loved the idea and of course, writing with humor is right up my alley, so I went full-bore into it, churning out five blogs including “Great Moments in Cleaning History”, “An Appreciation of Dirt”, and “TV’s Greatest Housekeepers and Handymen.”

That last one was clearly showing my age, as if you’re under 35 you’ve only seen the Top 5 in action on Nick at Nite, led by #1 Dwayne Schneider from “One Day at a Time.”

Regardless, writing the blogs first let me write the rest of the stuff better than I would have thought possible, as keywords provided by the web designer combined with some research of the market made for some insights I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Moreover, the job came just days after a long-term client went dark for two weeks, so you have to love getting not just a new job, but a fantastic job when you’re in that sort of a lull.

The new website just went live, so a plug is still in order. Thanks, Mat!

Cool App of the Day: Spike Email

Full disclosure: I’ve written two blogs for the manufacturers of Spike email, including a spike-emailreview of it, but after trying it out for a week it’s become a part of my desktop.

Spike calls itself conversational email, and that term makes total sense. Your email conversations look like text messages, down to the “…” on the screen when the person you just emailed is emailing you back.

It’s a really clean look because it wipes out all the headers and signatures and messages from previous emails. You’re talking to the person and they’re talking back, that’s it.

I also love how quickly you can delete multiple messages. My bane on email is letting stuff sit in my inbox that should be in the trash, but I get so many messages a day they just fall back a few pages. Spike lets you search and destroy those emails all at once.

It’s got a ton of other features that I haven’t really explored yet, but it’s a great looking and handling software that was fun to write about and has been very efficient to use.