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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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.

Cool Project of the Day – Freelancing About Freelancing

What’s better than being a freelancer?

Being paid to write about being a freelancer.

andcoThat’s the gist of a new job I picked up a few weeks back working for the brilliant company ANDCO which is providing freelancers with a free app to serve as their Chief Operator for their freelance business.

The app uses technology and a real-life person at the other end to act as the personal assistant / accountant / whatever else you need for a freelancer – managing invoices, schedules, deadlines, etc. It’s all available through your smartphone and it’s a cool new development that really resonates with how far the freelancing game has come the last few years.

I’m helping out with the company blog, adding a  couple of pieces per week to appeal to fellow freelancers by identifying their pain points, suggesting solutions, and getting cool information about the field out there.

Check it out!

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.

 

Freelancing 101: Dealing With Jerks

We deal with all sorts of people as freelancers – quirky, kind, generous, thoughtful, ambitious, overzealous, naive, impressive; the list of types is as long as the list of adjectives in the dictionary.

Unfortunately, we occasionally also deal with jerks.

Recently, I was in contact with a potential client who needed  an article for his own client who hadn’t liked someone else’s first attempt. We spoke back and forth via email, we haggled over a price, and came to an arrangement. I asked for 50% upfront through Paypal, since it was our first time doing business and since I had just been burned for a large sum of money by an Upwork client who had flown the coop (more on that later). He paid it through his company’s bookkeeper and I went on my merry way, researching and writing to produce the piece, which I turned in the next day.

Like most freelancers, the two most important things to me in doing this line of work are 1) satisfied customers and 2) getting paid for my work. That’s why any work I turn in for any client, regardless of how long I’ve known them, includes some version of the sentence, “Let me know if you have any concerns or questions, I’m available via email, Skype, etc.” I want them to be satisfied before they pay me, so that hopefully one day they’ll seek me out again or recommend me to a colleague – pretty much the standard practice of every business that has ever existed.

I sent that message along with the piece, then  sent a follow-up email making sure he had gotten it and asking if he had any questions. I didn’t send the second invoice because I wanted to make sure the job was done.

His response came quickly back:

“I got it .. The client did not like it…Send the invoice I will get it paid. IDK where I will use it though.”

Well, that was a real wrinkle in the plan wasn’t it? And not the first time someone hasn’t liked my work. If you’re going to survive as a freelancer, you’re going to have to do some jobs over and sometimes your work isn’t going to be up to someone else’s standards. Clearly, my client was making overtures that he certainly didn’t feel like he owed me the rest of the money. I wrote back in an attempt to give him that out:

“XXXX, if you don’t want to pay me the other half, you can say that. We’re both professionals here, right?”

The smartest thing to do in this situation  is to let the client know that if they are unhappy, there are ways out. The client’s deadline had already passed, so there was no writing it over, but clearly he was upset. Offering him to call it quits without the second half of the payment seemed the most fair thing to do where he didn’t feel ripped off but I was still earning some compensation for the work I put in.

His response later that day:

“I dont mind paying it I was just letting you know the feedback from the client.”

No problem with that response whatsoever on my end. He was frustrated, he vented, now he’s saying he’s honoring his part of the contract. I responded that I would send the invoice along that day,  but it didn’t get paid. I emailed him the following Tuesday (June 2) to confirm he had received it. No response. I sent a similar email on June 9 and June 16 … no response.

Having already given the client an out, and getting a written confirmation that he would go ahead and pay the invoice, I felt this sudden silence was completely unprofessional, so I emailed the bookkeeper who I sent the invoices to, in order to query if she had received said invoice and if it would be paid.

To the surprise of no one, the client suddenly quit his vanishing act and emailed me back within a few hours of me emailing the woman at his company with the following:

“I cant pay for stuff I cant use. You over sold and way under delivered. If I could open a paypal claim I would.”

Total hostility and finger-pointing after 18 days of no communication, brought on I suspect by his being queried by a co-worker as to the state of the invoice. A 180-degree turn from his previous communications, and not only a refusal to pay, but a suggestion that he should contact Paypal about getting a refund for the first-half of the payment.

It’s times like these where it’s impossibly easy to write back viciously,  because digital communication can make us feel bullet-proof. Why does it matter how rude I am to this guy over the Internet? We don’t live in the same state, much less the same city, what’s he going to do about it?

It’s times like these where being a professional matters most. Because losing your cool or getting snippy can lead one client, even if he’s never going to use you again, to tell other potential clients about how unprofessional and rude you were. I could have demanded the money or given him a piece of my mind, but instead I went with:

XXXX,

Like I said on May 28, if you weren’t happy with the work, you didn’t have to pay the other half of the invoice.
to which you responded that same day,

“I dont mind paying it I was just letting you know the feedback from the client.”

Since that day, you haven’t written one word to me, despite frequent attempts on my part to make contact with you in multiple venues, until I contacted someone else in your company because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a hold of you.

Have the common professional courtesy to communicate with me like adults and resolve the problem like adults.

Sincerely, XXXXXXX”
I haven’t heard back from him since and don’t expect to. I’m still out my money and don’t expect to ever see it. But regardless of the outcome, knowing I handled myself professional from jump street to the end of this rocky relationship lets me rest easier and continue to grow my business sense with another lesson learned.

 

 

Freelancing in a Digital World … and I am a Digital, well, guy, but still

When I started Twin Miracles Editorial three years ago, most of the jobs I pursued were of the editing and proofreading variety. Why? Because we had two little babies at home, and my brain was better suited for being able to pick out comma splices and run-on sentences a lot better on less sleep than it was coming up with innovative leads, compelling copy, and majestic marketing pieces.

The Twin Miracles are now three years old which means a little more sleep for America’s No. 1 superhero, Freelancing Dad, and here lately more and more writing work has come my way, particularly in the form of creating copy and content for any number of digital technology sites as more and more people go into business for themselves as consultants, designers, and the like.

As little as two years ago, I probably couldn’t have told you jack squat about the advance of digital technology in business, but a random job copy editing for Australia’s Inside SAP (I miss working with you, Freya!) followed by a six-month stint as an editor for Techopedia opened up my eyes and got parts of my mind humming again that had previously only been used to measure out baby formula and try to remember who last pooped when.

Now the digital writing jobs are coming in fast and furious, and it’s a great time to be a freelancer as more people strike out to be their own bosses and run their own show, but still need help making it all sound sophisticated and smart to potential customers.

If you’re in the market for copy or content writing for your digital business, check out my services page for more information on what I’ve done and how it’s been received, or simply contact me at twinmiracleseditorial@gmail.com or on Skype at TMEditorial.

The Evolution of the Employee

employee graphicOne of my contacts on LinkedIn had this great looking graphic on their page today, and I felt like sharing it because it is a great reflection of Twin Miracles Editorial and the path I’ve been able to forge the last few years as a full-time freelancer.

  • Work anytime? Check, I’ve edited books from 9-to-5, and yes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m, too!
  • Work anywhere? Check, my house, the doctor’s office, Starbucks (yum!), waiting in lines, waiting at the DMV, sitting in my truck outside a McDonald’s that one time when our wireless was out at home …
  • Use any device? So far just my laptop and my wife’s desktop, but it’s good to know I could if I had to.
  • Focused on outputs? Yep, every project I do results in something being created – whether it’s a new version of something old, or completely original work. It’s very fulfilling.
  • Create my own ladder? Maybe the best part. Who’s the president of your company? Me. The CEO? Me again. The janitor? Well, also me, but hey at least I get paid the same salary as the owner!