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.

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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!

The Day That Upwork Died

On June 21, 2016, despite protests from all corners, Upwork installed its new pricing scheme, which for every contract less than $500, jumped Upwork’s cut of a freelancer’s earnings from 10% to 20%, while at the same time introducing a 2.75% free for all clients who hire from Upwork.

 

upworkfailI’ve already extolled the highway robbery of Upwork’s move in a previous post, and I’m happy to report that a good number of my long-term clients have approached me via outside channels asking if we can find an alternate means of payment because THEY don’t want to pay the 2.75%! I’ve happily agreed, and it’s been serendipitous – no long lag times waiting on Upwork’s payment allocation; in most cases I’m submitting invoices one day and getting paid the next.

 

The announcement was made in late April and in my little corner of the freelance universe, the ripples were immediate. My Upwork-based earnings dropped 32% from April to May as my clients started suggesting we move our arrangements off the platform. From May to June, my Upwork-based earnings have dropped 62% – and I’m loving every minute of it, I’m on pace for my monthly numbers and I’m actually making more money, since Paypal takes around 2-3% instead of Upwork’s 10%.

 

And now, with apologies to Don McLean, a musical tribute to Upwork’s demise.

A long, long time ago

I can still remember when Upwork used to care about us,

And I knew my future was bright

Cuz I can edit and copywrite

And maybe make my clients happy for a while But Upwork, well, they sure got greedy,

20%? That sure seems needy.

Bad news in my email

A price change destined to fail.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about their foolish pride,
My clients and I are headed outside,
The day that Upwork died.

[Chorus:]
So bye bye to Upwork’s price bloat,
Hoped that Stephane would give in, but he needs a new boat,
And all the freelancers watch their dollars get stretched,
Singin’ man, we sure miss oDesk …
Man, we sure miss oDesk.

Now you can have your 20 percent,
But I’ve still got to pay the rent, so
It’s Paypal and Skype and other apps for me.
Do you believe you’re too big too fail?
That you could convince us through emails?
And town halls where you never answer real concerns?

Well, I know that you’re in love with money
Cause my clients told me something funny
Now you’re charging them extra dough?
Do you think we’re all that slow?

I am a father of twins with a beagle who bays,
A wife, a house, and bills to pay
But I won’t be robbed, still have my pride
And that’s why Upwork died.

[Chorus:]
So bye bye to Upwork’s price bloat,
Hoped that Stephane would give in, but he needs a new boat,
And all the freelancers watch their dollars get stretched,
Singin’ man, we sure miss oDesk …
Man, we sure miss oDesk.

The Adventures of Freelancing Dad: Back to the Office (temporarily)

Your favorite superhero, Freelancing Dad, had been enjoying his mild-mannered life as a full-time freelancer working for his home office when the phone call came in.

Commissioner Gordon? Lois Lane? The President?

superheroNo, it was the IT director of a pipe company I had ghost-written an article for a year ago with a new project; a HUGE project. It entailed software documentation and in-house work, meaning I’d have to wear shoes and maybe even fix my hair two days a week to go on-site and work at  a real, live cubicle for the first time in 2-1/2 years.

I took the job, how could I not? Guaranteed, steady income with flexibility built in is every freelancer’s dream, regardless of the fact that I had to drive 80 miles a day to get there and home again. For two months I spent every Tuesday and Thursday back in the corporate setting, typing documentation, interviewing people, and doing really cool stuff, like climbing on forklifts and seeing massive pipes bigger around than my car being lifted onto trucks.

Of course every job has its positives and negatives, and now that the job is two weeks in the past, Freelancing Dad has been able to compile this list of them.

On-Site Work Pros

  1. Free coffee! Honestly, this place had a Keurig station like every 50 feet. I tried to limit myself to 5 cups in a 6-hour shift.
  2. There were so many people there, everyone thought that I was a real employee and I got a piece of birthday cake one day in the break room. I felt like George Costanza when he just shows up at the job without really knowing if he works there or not.
  3. Interaction with real, live humans. I love my dogs to death, but they can’t truly commiserate on how bad my alma mater is sucking at football this year.
  4. One of the original family members of the company also is an artist who makes amazing structures out of used pipes and other materials and displays them on the property, including the stegosaurus in this post.

On-Site Work Cons

  1. Nobody understood what I was doing there, and when they guy who hired me would tell employees, “Nick is here to learn your job,” they would immediately think I was there to TAKE their job.
  2. The time they left me out in the yard by accident when it was 98 degrees. The yard isn’t like your backyard, it’s a yard with 5 million pipes in it and is roughly the size of a shopping mall.
  3. No time for a 10-minute nap. Apparently, that’s frowned upon in the actual business office.
  4. Houston rush-hour traffic. Hello my old friend, it’s not nice to see you again.

 

The Adventures of Freelancing Dad: 3-1/2 Days, 2 Daughters, 1 Stomach Flu, and About 25 Jobs

superheroIf you’ve ever read this blog or visited the About Us page, you probably know that Twin Miracles Editorial is so-named because of my lovely twin daughters, who are currently 3 years old. About a year after they were born, I decided to become a stay-at-home, full-time freelancing dad, to spend more time with them – time I was missing while working a corporate job and spending roughly 2-1/2 hours each on my commute.

For the most part, it’s been a wonderful, enlightening experience. But some things stand out as asking the question, “Why did I do this again?”

The last few days have been one such experience. Mrs. Twin Miracles Editorial is left out of town Wednesday afternoon for a professional conference and isn’t due back until Saturday afternoon, leaving your faithful Freelancing Dad largely in charge of said Miracles.

Here’s a look at some of the “highlights” of the past few days.

Wednesday

3:30 p.m. –  We drop Mrs. Twin Miracles Editorial off at her designated car pool rendezvous. About 90 seconds later, Twin A realizes she is not accompanying Mommy on said trip and starts crying.

5:00 p.m. – Twin A has been suffering from Poop on the Potty Fear and is holding one in. Freelancing Dad is moments away from a glycerine suppository when he goes to check on something in the office. He comes back to Twin A crying and a certain odor in the air. Well, at least I didn’t have to use the suppository.

Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. – Twin A confirms she did not take a nap at school by turning up her delirium to Warp Factor 8. This situation is not helped by the fact that we have a guy supposedly coming by the house at 6 p.m. to take care of a repair.

6:45 p.m. – The guy comes by at long last. Says it won’t take long. It does.

7:35 p.m. – The Twin Miracles are put to bed, despite the guy still being over.

9:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. – Freelancing Dad works at what economists call a rate of diminishing returns.

Thursday

7:30 p.m. – As we go to bed, Twin B mentions her tummy hurts. No big deal, she says it a lot.

12:15 a.m. – Freelancing Dad goes to bed after 4 hours of work and watching the Houston Rockets honor their 1994-1995 championship teams.

1:45 a.m. – Freelancing Dad is awoken by Twin B’s sobs of horror. He rushes to her room to find her tummy more than hurt, her tummy rejected everything she had eaten. All over her, all over her Frozen sheet, blanket, and pillow.

1:50 a.m. – 3:15 a.m. – Twin B is washed off and redressed, but can’t hold down anything, including water. She vomits at least 4 more times. Twin A wakes up, sees everyone up, and is ecstatic that play time has returned. She won’t go back to bed for a million Hello Kitty stickers at this point. Freelancing Dad puts both girls on Mommy’s bed to try and get them to sleep while the sheets and pillows and blankets are washed. Freelancing Dad sings “The Rainbow Connection” and Twin B dozes off while Twin A rolls around and turns the bed into her own personal bounce house.

3:30 a.m. – The Twin Miracles are back to sleep.

3:30 a.m. – 4:15 a.m. – Freelancing Dad stays up fretting about Twin B.

4:15 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.- Freelancing Dad gets the second and third hours of this three-hours of sleep.

Friday

9:50 a.m.- Time of Twin B’s doctor’s appointment.

10:43 a.m. – Time we actually saw the doctor.

10:45 a.m. – Time we left the doctor’s office after being told it was a stomach flu.

11:10 a.m. – Freelancing Dad’s first coffee product of the day.

12:15 p.m. – Freelancing Dad’s second coffee product of the day.

3:27 p.m. – Freelancing Dad’s third coffee product of the day.

7:35 p.m. – Moments after being put to sleep, Twin A roars “I WANT DADDY!” again and again until I go to check on her. “What’s wrong, Twin A?” I ask. “I’m fine,” she tells me.

8:12 p.m.- Twin A continues to sing song herself to sleep as Freelancing Dad vents in his WordPress blog read by (if he’s lucky) 8 people.

8:30 – ?? – Freelancing Dad’s 4th, 5th, 6th and possibly 7th coffee products of the day

 

 

A Beagle-Loving Freelancer’s Dream Job: Working with Snoopy

OK, technically I wasn’t working WITH Snoopy, I mean he didn’t call me on the phone, come over, or let me join the company softball team – Snoopy is an all-star shortstop if you didn’t know.

But my latest project with the very cool Manhattan branding firm Fuse Creative included proofing a script for MetLife’s new intranet roll-out, which meant lots of good looks and laughs provided by Charlie Brown’s #1 companion.

As the proud co-owner of 8-year-old long snout Regal Beagle, I was thrilled to be involved in a Beagle-centric project.

No word yet if I’ll get to ride in the blimp.

Stop Asking Me If I’m an Editing Ninja

I was invited to apply for an editing job a few days ago, and the first question asked was “Are you an editing ninja?”

Hmmmm.

I haven’t known a lot of ninjas in my days on earth, in fact, I can’t say I’ve ever met one. My best friend growing up once bought Chinese ninja throwing stars out of a catalog for $45, but the most they were ever used for was making holes in the wooden fence of his backyard.

I get the slang, despite being 40 years old, it means they’re looking for someone highly skilled and very effective. So why not just say that?

What I am is a professional editor, an objective editor, an editor who won’t sugarcoat his comments to stroke your coat, and an editor who will do everything in his power to make your work, no matter what it is, the very best it can be so that when it leaves my hands, I’m just as proud of it as you are.

Nunchucks not included.