TME Blog

An old Upwork vet gives Fiverr a go

When you get going as a freelancer, you’ll eventually hit a lull. Or two. Or seven. When work dries up, a natural reaction is to hunting for more, leaving your traditional venues behind and trying to get as much coverage for yourself as possible.

fiverr-logoWhen this happened to me during 2017, I took a suggestion to sign up for Fiverr. I submitted some of my work in hopes of joining their Pro program and filled out my profile and portfolio on their site. About a week later, my work picked up and I largely forgot about Fiverr until this past spring when I received a notification that I had qualified for their Pro program.

Upwork has been great to me and I’ve got many clients who have transitioned off there into a Paypal-based relationship with me. Still, we like to cover all our bases and I got on Fiverr to see what I could do. The learning curve was really steep for me. Preparing gigs and selling myself seemed inherently backwards after all my time spent scouring Upwork for jobs, crafting cover letters and getting myself a really strong rating and following.

I won’t lie, it took me more than 2 months before I finally got my Fiverr profile and gigs approved by a very helpful CSR, then another 3 weeks passed without anyone even sending me a message (other than spam) on the sight.

Finally, a breakthrough, a chance to interview an Israeli author and write a story about him. The process went smoothly over 48 hours and they loved the piece, which is what matters most.


Sometimes, you just have to turn the computer off

Summers can be tough on full-time freelancers because the peace and quiet you get used to during the day can vanish in a heartbeat and take a three-month vacation.

Such is the case for me with the Twin Miracles and my wife all out of school/work from late May to mid-August. My home office very quickly goes from Tranquility Base to the asteroid field that the Millenium Falcon flies through in The Empire Strikes Back.

That was the case Friday morning when my wife woke up barely able to talk with a miserable sore throat. That left the Twin Miracles under my direct supervision, and after taking about 2-1/2 hours to finish an article that would normally take me one, it was clear it was going to be one of those days.

So for once, I just embraced it. Friday day work would have to become Friday night work, and my gratefully put on my full-time fun dad hat. The Twin Miracles and I hit up McDonald’s for lunch, a local play place, and picked up a dessert pick-me-up for their mom on the way back home.

I took the laptop along for the ride, with dim hopes that the play place would offer wireless, but that was a no go as well, leading me to catch up on my mad skills in both Hearts and Solitaire while the girls played dress up, climbed towers, and emulated the best of the World Cup on a miniature pitch.

And now I’m working late on a Friday night, but truth be told, I work a lot of Friday nights.  Freelancing is all about flexibility, even if it’s flexing your family muscles not your professional skillset.

Noisli: My Favorite New Workspace App

imagesWhat is it about a coffee shop that makes it so much easier for me to focus on freelancing? Why can’t I get that level of concentration when I’m sitting in my home office with an unlimited amount of music at my fingertips?

I don’t know the science behind it, but I was able to bring the effect home recently after discovering Noisli. While writing a blog about the best apps to improve your productivity, I happened across Noisli, which provides you with a bevy of options of white noise to play on your device of choice. Sounds of rain, the ocean, my coffee shop, and about two dozen other choices are available on the free version.

I went with the coffee shop, as that’s one of my favorite places to hone in on article writing or any ind of editing. The effect was instantaneous, almost shockingly so. It was even better than Starbuck’s, which sometimes pipes eclectic music a bit too loud for my tastes. My computer began piping out the low buzz of conversation, cups clinking, drinks being made, and the occasional open-and-close of a door.

I focused in on almost immediately, with the only reminder that it was artificial noise a rather loud female laugh that pops up about every hour or so. The rest of the time, I was like a laser-beam, focused, on task, and most of all, really efficient and creative, which is kind of the point, right?

It’s not for everyday use, I’ve found, although I tend to trend towards non-vocal music when I’m working. The lone exception is my entire family’s current fixation with the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman,” but otherwise it’s a steady diet of Noisli, Star Wars soundtracks – “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi” are both getting heavy rotations, as well as some of Spotify’s custom “reading/studying” playlists.

If you can’t get focused at home, whether because your beagle is snoring too loud, the neighbor keeps using the weed eater, or the refrigerator won’t stop calling your name, give Noisii a try. This blog is not affiliated in anyway with Noisli, but if someone from Noisli is reading this and wants me to be their WordPress shill, just let me know I’m all about that passive income stream.

Celebrating 5 Years with Upwork

I had an email this morning from Upwork celebrating my 5-year anniversary as a working freelancer on the site. I took a look back on my epic list of complete contracts and sure enough, on January 16, 2013, I finished my  first-ever job for the website formerly known as ODesk.

Those were some humbler times for me, considering I had 17 years of professional experience under my belt, but was a novice online freelancer and thus taking jobs with salaries I hadn’t seen since high school, all for the motivation of that coveted first 5-star rating.

The job was writing 15 book reviews (300 words each) in 24 hours. The price was $27.78 ($25 of that to me). I got the job because I had read 5 of the books – all by J.R.R. Tolkien. The downside was that I hadn’t read the other 10 and thus winged those reviews based on listings on Amazon (back when it mainly sold books).

The 5-star rating was worth more than any monetary sum at that time, and the same generous client hired me seven more times over the next eight weeks, giving me a 5-star rating every time.

About a month later I got my first $100 contract. Two months later, I edited a spy thriller and got paid $500. Our girls, the twin miracles, had just turned 1 year old, we were paying out the nose for childcare every week, and I was gone from the house from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

We rolled the dice on me becoming a stay-at-home dad taking care of the babies during the day and freelancing at night. The first year was a bumpy ride, every one since has gotten better and better.

Today’s the kind of day where being a full-time freelancer is brilliant. My hometown of Houston is totally locked down with frigid temperatures and accumulating ice and snow. But I’m not losing any income today because I can work from anywhere. It’s a career I never thought I’d end up doing but boy am I happy to be here.

Beware the “SEO-Millars” Scam!

73924887_455685725I was invited to interview for a job on Upwork yesterday wanting a host of articles every day about all manner of things – entertainment, food, retail advertising, etc. I talked to a lady (I guess) on Skype who was offering $22/500-word article or 25 articles a week – a tidy $550 week.

As the conversation on, my “Danger, Will Robinson!” sensor began to flare as there was no mention of a contract, an agreement, even a website connected to the job. I asked the person at the other end where I could find their website or what the company was called and got the response “SEO-Millars”. I Googled that and found …. nothing. Now, if you know the Internet even a little bit you know that there’s something for every search on it.  I just made up the term “unicorn salad dressing” in my head and a ton of stuff came up.

I was now about 99% sure it was a scam and when I sent the empty Google search screenshot, the Skype contact told me they were partnered with and I should search that website for them. Naturally, Scripted has no search tool because it’s a business. I grabbed the contact’s info, sent it to Scripted’s service desk – which sent a nice response about an hour later stating they were working with Upwork on it – and blocked the party from sending me Skype and Upwork offers.

The moral of this story? The good offers are usually too good to be true. Do your due diligence on any high-volume job offer so you’re not left holding the bag.



I interviewed a guy who’s been married 74 years

200I’m doing a series of feature stories on residents of several senior living communities over the next couple of weeks and have decided to highlight some of the truly remarkable people I’ve been lucky enough to talk to.

James is from Dallas and is 94 years old. His wife is 93. He worked for Southwestern Bell for 40 years. When I asked him who his favorite Dallas Cowboy of all-time was, his answer was: “Whoever the guy is running the ball scoring touchdowns.”



Breaking Up is Hard to Do – When You’re a Freelancer

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a client if you’ve worked together for any reasonable length of time and success.

It’s counter-intuitive to leave someone who’s paying you for your services, because, it’s money! We make our living by finding clients who are willing to pay us for our services. It’s a hustle, a competition, and any other buzzword you want to slap on it. Cutting ties with someone who regularly exchanges their dollars for your sense (get it?) just feels wrong.

But when it becomes harder and harder to justify continuing the relationship, that means it’s past time to go. For me recently, it was a missed invoice payment that broke the camel’s back. I invoice once a month and the payment comes out on the 16th of the following month. Except that this time it didn’t, and with no advance warning, just a “Oh sorry” email the night it was due to be paid.

The promise of payment the next day became promise of the week after. Five long days went by without the intended money, making me very aware of how many late nights I had spent poring over jobs for this company to hit its deadlines, only to rewarded with “sorry…”

It wasn’t the first time this had been the case, but definitely the longest. When I contacted the founder to state my imminent departure he countered with an offer of more money .Now that just stinks, because it tells me you knows me you are aware I’m worth more…you just aren’t going to pay it.