Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How I'm Surviving the Recession

As you all know, I lost my primary client 6+ months ago. At the time, I figured my emergency fund had about 4-5 months of living expenses. Am I broke now? No. It's 6+ months on, and I still have about four months in cash reserves (yes, I have earned and received some money during this time). In addition, I have outstanding invoices with one client, and that will be a minor windfall when they pay up.

Here's how I've survived:

1. I've embraced a frugality previously unknown to me. I still go out with friends maybe once a week, but I used to go out more often than that. I stay at home more than I used to, and this is dull -- however, I tend to figure that leaving the house costs about $25 (bus fare, maybe buy a magazine/movie ticket/lunch/drink/etc). As such, I'm more judicious about going out. (Side note: I never want to live like this again -- it drives me nuts; I'm not one of those people who find extreme personal satisfaction in extreme frugality (no offense if you do -- I just prefer the lifestyle I had, and I don't consider that luxurious, in fact, it was fairly frugal to begin with)).

2. My Crock Pot. This was a gift from my mother, and I'm glad I asked for it. Not only am I eating healthier (I'm an expert at veggie soups), it's cheaper to buy veggies than processed foods. I do add chicken or ham to some soups (what would black bean soup be without ham??!), and I have a bag of Ikea meatballs that I sometimes add to soups when I'm reheating them, though this is the exception more than the norm. I'm not eating as much soup as I was a couple months ago, though I attribute that more to the weather finally warming up. I'm planning on experimenting with roasting a whole chicken soon, which while easy, is something I've never done before.

3. Cooking more. I generally spend about $30-40 on groceries each week. Considering it's easy to spend that much on a moderate dinner, that's not bad (for me). I've expanded the number of "go to" dishes I make, and I've taken more interest in the food I cook for myself (aside from the soup craze I've gone through). In addition, I've pretty much eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my eat-at-home diet, which is fabulous. I just wish I could find a great strawbery jam that doesn't have HFCS. (As a side note, those commercials that try to make you think it's ok to consumer HFCS are reeking of BS -- the prevalence of obesity in the US is eerily related to the inclusion of HFCS in US food.)

4. Diversifying my client list. I wrote about this earlier, and it's one of the smarter choices I'm making as positioning myself business-wise. I learned my lesson about having too much invested in one client, and that's a mistake I'm not planning to repeat.

5. Taking (almost) all jobs offered, even if they pay low. I know I've ranted about this in different places, and I'm sad I've had to resort to doing work for sub-par rates. However, I spoke with an agency a few months ago, and they told me pretty clearly that they wouldn't be able to find me work as a technical writer, because of the type and length of experience I have, and more importantly, that there is a glut of technical writers with much more experience than I have. So, I'm picking up non-writing clients. This is nice in its own way, because these are clients that I never visit (because they are in different states), so I can fit their work in as it suits my personal daily schedule. Because of this, when I land a local client and need to visit them, it shouldn't interfere with my virtual clients much.

Monday, April 27, 2009

For the Self-Employed: What I've Learned About Managing Client Lists

One thing I learned from losing my primary client back in October: create a stable of clients that you do work for. When I lost my primary client, I lost my income source. Yes, I had other clients, but their work is much, much more occasional (I've had a small project from one of them, since October, and another small project is coming my way soon). In limiting myself to one major client, I took the lazy way to managing my client list: I had a client that kept me fairly busy, and paid me well, so why did I need to worry about landing other clients to provide me with other, ongoing work?

A business owner I know commented, when he heard I'd lost my primary client, "we've all done that" and stated it was a learning lesson for business owners, and that most business owners he knew had made the same mistake early on. Though, I think this is one of those things that you have to experience yourself -- especially when you have a client that takes up so much time. I did occasionally look for other clients, and I did work on other projects for other clients, but I never specifically looked for work from a client that had more regular, ongoing work.

Now, I'm working on building a stable of clients. I'm now actively doing work for three different clients. Though, I might be losing the smallest of these clients, and another is kinda in hot water with me. Still though, because I'm working on building a client list that provides me with smaller projects, I'm protecting myself in the long-term. If I lose the smallest client, I still have two others; if I boot the hot water client, I still have the newest client.

The downside to this, is that I'm not yet making enough money to cover my basic monthly expenses. Though, that is also related to me having to take work that pays below (far below) what I'm accustomed to earning; this is just how the economy is, and I live in a city where there is a glut of technical writers and where it's nigh impossible for me to find a new technical writing client. To be clear, I'm not writing content now, I'm editing content. I enjoy editing, but it doesn't tend to pay as much as writing, and these clients just don't pay that much. However, I'm doing what I have to do to work on getting by, and right now, the only clients I can land are low-paying ones, so that's what I do -- low pay is better than no pay, and I also have the benefit of adding more direct editing experience to my resume, which will pay off in the future.

So, like investing, my new maxim for being self-employed is this: diversify. Not only will it provide you with variety, it will help keep you stable if you lose a client (or even if you don't have work from a client for a couple months).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

WaMu/Chase Bankers: Read the booklet!!

Today I received a booklet from Chase, outlining the changes to account rules, etc, for WaMu customers. Normally, I don't read these kinds of things, but I'm glad I read this one. A few items of interest:

1. Money market accounts now need a $1500 minimum balance to avoid monthly service fees;
2. There is now a "replacement fee" for cards. What I read didn't state what was covered and what wasn't (e.g. what about if the card is stolen? if the card wears out and the magnetic strip bites it?).

There are also a variety of other charges (e.g. "Non-ATM Cash Fee") that seem new. As far as I remember, the international transaction fee used to be 1.5% of the amount, and now it will be 3%. Hefty change, especially considering international conversions always seem to be done at a slightly higher rate anyway. It also looks like if you want to transfer money via an ATM (it doesn't specify whether in network or out, though presumably you can only do this in network (note: all my transfers are done online)), there is a fee for that.

Regarding the digital records they keep of cancelled checks, they clearly state that they reserve the right to discard the digital files at their own discretion, after an unstated period of time of their choosing. While I haven't actually written in a check in some time, I will need to get a copy of one check in particular. So if you have checks for things like rental/service/other deposits, certain types of payments that you need a paper trail of, then it behooves you to request copies of those now.

Even if you normally don't read these things, take the time to do so. There are tons of fee changes, and they will likely be unforgiving if you call them up in July protesting a fee that is outlined in this booklet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vacations

I need a vacation.

However, I'm still not working enough to cover my basic monthly expenses. In addition, I'm looking at losing the two active (though minor) clients I have right now.

Aside from all this, it's been six months (six!!) since I lost my primary client. I've sent out my resume hundreds of times, done some piecemeal work here and there, and gone on a few face-to-face interviews. It's tiring. I feel myself becoming cranky often (which is not pleasant for anyone). And I need a vacation.

Yet, how do I justify the cost of taking a vacation? Part of me says 'well, if you aren't fresh and enthusiastic, prospective clients will sense that and will send you packing' and part of me says 'so what's a couple hundred bucks on the credit card?' I also know that I need to leave town, not just take a break from the work hunt [like I did a couple months ago]. Wondering if that perfect client will post an ad online in the time I take off is just counterproductive. If I haven't found a new stable of clients by now, what difference will several days or a week make? And I've responded to ads from some 'perfect' clients...and not received responses. So...

In the end, I'll probably head to Victoria BC for a few days. It's quiet, it's pretty, and there's not a huge amount of things to do, so I don't feel guilty if I'm not gogogo each day. It's still hard to think about spending the money for a trip, even though the benefits are pretty clear.

If only I could fly to Mexico for a week or two...sigh.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Backup the Laptop (or Desktop)

This morning, my laptop showed a 'battery [something or other] or incompatible with your computer' error message. I clicked OK, and then my laptop just died.

Died.

I swore. I tried to call the store I bought it at (they're not open yet). I tried to remove the battery, but couldn't (sticky bugger) and I didn't want to force how I thought it should come out, and risk damaging it or the laptop.

Finally, I dug out my laptop documentation to verify just how to remove the battery, and with the help of a butterfly paper clip, I did. Thankfully, popping and reinstalling the battery did the trick and my laptop is working again. Though I do have battery-life problems, so I will be buying a new battery soon.

The moral of the story: backup your computer files. Now. Not tomorrow, not next week. I was ticked because changes to my novel weren't archived on my flash drive -- and my last backup was about three days ago...

I know it's easy to let time go by without archiving files, etc on an external drive, but do it.

Do it now.

(If you ever go through what I did this morning, you'll thank me.)

Now, I'm off to the first of two interviews today. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Only slightly MIA

I've been wanting to post, but this is one of those weeks that whooshes by and suddenly it's almost the end of the week. I'm still doing a little bit of work (hurrah!). It's not enough yet to cover my basic monthly expenses, but it helps take the edge off the emergency fund drain.

I also caught a particularly nasty 24 hour bug (food poisoning? flu? dunno...but suffice to say it was brutal), and I'm still reeling from being weakened so deeply, a day later.

One of my articles was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance this week, hosted over at Free Money Finance. Go and check out the plethora of great articles!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gaining Success

So, the agency lead didn't even result in an interview, and the short contract panned out (like I thought it would). However, I did interview with the potential long-term client, and I'm in the midst of doing a sample project (for pay), to see if I like it and I can do it well. It's not for technical writing. In fact, it's not a type of writing I'd ever really considered, though I feel I will do it well.

I've also had a ton of essays to proofread/edit, so I've had a nice little bit of busyness these last few days. This hasn't been yielding a ton of money, but for a couple hours of work a day, it's not shabby. More importantly, it's very nice in financial and psychological ways to have a bit of money coming in again.

In addition, it's nice to be working with (and potentially working with) ongoing clients. They are the best, and they are also the best for me right now, as I've been thinking a lot about living abroad for a little while. I've really been wanting to go back to Argentina, to the point I can viscerally remember what living there was like. If it goes well with the sample project I'm doing for the potential client, this is definitely something I am already considering.

So, things are starting to look up. I really hope it works out with this sample project, as it would be the beginning of a solid ongoing relationship with a new client. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Carnivals

Last week, one of my articles was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance, kindly hosted over at Broke Grad Student. The theme is the YouTube edition, and there are some clever videos included.

Go check it out!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Power of Changing Things Up

So, here is the result of (mostly) taking a week off my job search:

1. I'm a bit re-charged and raring to go;
2. I have plans for how I want to proceed (e.g. I need to start proactively contacting potential clients, instead of only reactively responding to ads).

Also, I have leads on:

1. A short project;
2. A 3-6/week contract job through an agency;
3. An ongoing relationship with a potential client.

Note that all three leads were the result of me responding to potential clients/the agency last week. One is a project with the guy whose backing fell through (though apparently he was able to get approval for a small starting project); the agency job I discovered through the daily email I get from Indeed; and the third is because I couldn't help myself responding to an ad on craigslist that would be small projects on an ongoing basis.

I also did actually do a little bit of work last week. I've been doing some work for a lady, and I edited and proofread a couple things last week. It doesn't pay much, but there is a lot to be said for receiving an email stating "I have this document for you to do" and then getting paid -- even if it is just a little amount. Also, the work is pretty easy and straightforward, and each project takes an hour or less.

I think the week "off" was quite successful. I feel like taking the week off attracted these things to me. Sort of like they always say when you're looking for someone to date, you'll find someone when you stop looking. I also feel like I've applied for work more selectively, instead of just blanketing my resume to postings which match my skills. Though, I'm not entirely confident that selectively applying for work in this economy is the best strategy...

So, I feel like I made headway in the work search, and I definitely made progress with my novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking the Week Off (Mostly) from Job Searching

So, after the particularly frustrating incident with the potential client, I vowed to take this week off from job searching. Too, I was already thinking about doing this. Four months of searching (yes, it's really been that long) is taking its toll on my energy and optimistism levels.

Mostly.

I receive an email every morning with job listings scraped from different sites, and today I saw one that isn't writing or editing related, but which is very similar to what I did back in the hi-tech days, so I'm thinking of applying. I know I could rock the job. It's also an FTE job...

Yesterday evening, I just couldn't help myself from briefly looking at the craigslist posts for my area (there were none that fit my skills).

Also, this morning I received a query from someone I queried, about writing an article for them. I said yes, asked them to clarify the content, and gave them an estimated delivery date (it's only 500 words, but it's a subject I have to research). I've also started doing a little bit of academic editing (it pays particularly low, but it's easy and it's a work self-esteem boost to see "I have a project, can you do it?" email in my inbox, and yesterday was the second project in a week).

It's been refreshing, though it's a weird change. I have to actively work on ignoring my drive to be constantly looking around the web for jobs and potential clients. Though, I am thinking about ways to expand my searching and how I want to move forward. I'm learning that even though I'm loathe to do sales, I need to step things up and start proactively contacting potential clients, instead of just responding to ads with the 100s of other writers and editors.

I've been spending time working on my novel, and that makes me happy. I've read of a lot of the genre I'm writing in, and I can see that my novel could make it, once all the rough spots are worked out -- and there are a lot of them -- and if I can find and agent and publisher (these are no easy feats, let me tell you). I participate in a couple of writing groups (one of which I lead) and they are invaluable in help keeping me on track and working.

So, it's weird to not be actively searching this week, though it's very refreshing and just what I needed after the new client falling through so spectacularly. We'd been having phone conversations and he'd been postponing meetings for upwards of three weeks, so that made it even more frustrating since I'd been led to believe the project was mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why I Love Government Agencies

Remember how I said maybe there would be unemployment benefits for unemployed people?

HAH!

I just called, and the woman on the other end of the phone went into stunned silence when I asked her about this. When she put me on hold and asked others about this, noone in the office knew anything about this. She was pretty stunned when I said yes, someone from your office *did* tell me this, a few weeks ago.

One hand not knowing what the other is doing? Someone trying to give me false hope? Who knows.

One thing that may be useful for other people though: if you last filed an unemployment claim as late as May 2006, you could be eligible for extended unemployment benefits. My last claim was January 2006 (this was right after my last stint working for someone else, and right before I went freelance), so I've missed it by a mere four months. Though, maybe it can help someone else out.

It's weird, not to mention extremely frustrating, when you get such varied information from government agencies, but there you go.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And Now...Back to the Drawing Board

So, I was excited to wake up this morning. Not because it's a holiday, but I had an interview scheduled, where I knew the client already wanted to hire me. When I'd mentioned a fee range during our last phone conversation, he didn't blanch or counter-offer. After a couple weeks of scheduling conflicts, it was looking good and ready to go.

Not so.

Friday, he met with his backers for the project, and they are postponing money for two months. Now, he won't have money to pay me until then. Though, he's said to get back in touch with him in a month (which I will -- I like his project and what I'd be doing).

[insert variety of colorful expletives in English and Spanish]

Friday, February 13, 2009

How Do You Transition to Working for Someone Else?

One thing that has caused me a great deal of grief and introspection recently, is this: what does it mean that I now have to seriously consider and pursue working for someone else, after working for myself for nearly three years?

Honestly, I've felt like admitting that I have to do this, and then pursue these types of job options, signifies a certain level of failure on my part. Several people I know have told me this isn't the case, though I take that with big grains of salt as most of them have not been self-employed. It's a huge psychological shift to have to even consider working for someone else when you don't want to. I know the people who've told me this isn't a sign of failure mean well, but since those people aren't self-employed, it doesn't feel like they really grasp the gravity of what I'm trying to convey.

At a base level, I do not want to work for a corporation again. I do not want to work for most companies. I certainly do not want to work 40 hours per week. Though, given the economy and the fierce competition for freelance jobs right now, I have to face this and do it. While I know that any FTE work I may take now isn't a lifetime contract, it still hurts and feels like a major psychological blow to be in this position.

As a business owner, I know that you have to do what needs to be done for your business. At the core of it, my business is me and I need to do what needs to be done so that I don't end up sleeping on my mom's couch. This means that while I am still pursuing freelance work, I am also starting to apply for agency and FTE work.

While I have enough cash on hand to last me a few more months, I don't want to go that far without working, because it would mean all my savings accounts would be decimated. In addition to my emergency fund, it would mean my travel, condo downpayment, and IRA funds would be nil. That isn't acceptable to me, both theoretically and psychologically.

Now, I'm sending off resumes for everything I feel my qualifications match, or almost match. I have five different versions of my resume, and multiple basic cover letters that I customize. I give good interviews and I have an impressive work history, so I feel confident in the possibility of persuading someone to give me something that is just beyond my skills or experience. Then again, I'm up against scores of people with the exact skills and experience and great resumes, so...

I feel a certain amount of optimism that I will be able to find work like what I've been doing the past few years. I certainly hope, with every fiber of my being, that I don't have to go back to administrative assistant work, if for no other reason that earning $12-15/hour feels like a major step backwards for me both professionally and monetarily. And those jobs are probably hard to come by, too...

In all, dealing with the psychological ramifications of being adrift as a freelancers are large and is difficult. It takes time to get past what you want to be doing, and accept what you have to do to survive and stay out of the soup kitchens or your mother's couch.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lifewise is not so Budget Wise

So, up until last month, I had Lifewise health insurance. It was inexpensive, and it suited my needs.

Last year, I was willing to accept a $30ish/month premium increase.

This year, I am not.

When I signed up for the insurance, it was $129/month. Now, they want ~$185/month. That's beyond my budget (especially considering my current lack of income), so I've let it lapse. I'm not thrilled to be without medical insurance, but I'm not prepared to pay that much for basic medical insurance (I don't have prescriptions, children, or plans for children, and I only go to the doctor when I'm sick with more than a basic cold).

However, I'm also skeptical when an insurance company blames the premium increase on people doing things like having MRIs instead of a basic x-ray, which the letter intimated worked just as well. Hello? I couldn't believe they seriously said that, but they did.

I've heard that there are some other inexpensive, basic plans out there. If you know of them (especially firsthand), please let me know. Last night, a friend told me about a couple places to check out [in the Seattle area], though I don't know of any national programs.

Carnivals and Fame

Last week, I participated in the Carnival of Money Stories over at Dividend Tree, and this week I have an article in the Carnival of Personal Finance over at Dollar Frugal.

In addition, yesterday I had a brief brush of fame as having Where Do You Draw the Line selected as one of the PF blog articles curated on the Wall Street Journal website.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Where Do You Draw the Line?

We all know it: the job market sucks right now. It doesn't matter if you're a freelancer like me, or if you're looking for full-time work.

Yet, in this bad job market, where do you draw the line? A few days ago, I responded to a craigslist ad from a woman looking for someone to redesign her [business] website. I responded, she responded back because she liked the samples I showed her, I sent her a quote, and she said it was more than she could afford. My quote was $800. She said she could only spend $300. I offered to cut my fee by 50% (!!), because it was a pretty straightforward job, and I could do it within 1-2 days. She never responded.

This has spawned a couple conversations with friends. Even at offering to do the job for $400, I was undervaluing my services and the skills needed to do this. However, part of me is still thinking "well, now I haven't earned anything, and I could have had that easy gig."

In general, it's a very bad practice to perform services for rates below what the average market rate. I know from talking to another of my website clients, and a professional web designer would've charged probably $2-3k. My skills aren't quite as developed as that, and like I told the woman: I don't design bells and whistles sites, and I don't charge those prices. Given what the job entailed, I feel my quote was fair. Also, I was prepared to negotiate a bit, just because that's how these things sometimes go.

Yet I can't stop thinking that she probably found someone to do the job for $300. Granted, that means she's getting a $300 website, and it's likely to severely reflect that.

Or is this just a sign of how competitive the market is for jobs, that people are willing to take pauper wages for highly skilled jobs?

Next week, I'm scheduled to meet with a potential client, who seems to have already hired me in his mind. We haven't discussed money yet, but now I'm wondering just how much I am willing to be flexible on my rate, given the competition that's out there. The job is not for writing, which means my hourly rate would be lower than what I normally bill. In addition, the client runs a pretty small operation, so I'm not sure what his budget allows for an editor/webmaster. Is it fair to myself to take a job at a sub-par rate, just as a placeholder until a better-paying client comes along? Part of me says no, and that doing this could lead to burned bridges. Part of me says yes, and believes that in this economy and job market, you do what you have to do, period.

I should remind you, that as a freelancer, I'm not eligible for unemployment benefits. I'm living off my emergency fund, and the fund is not everlasting.

This whole question applies to everyone looking for a job right now. Employers know they are in control and they have tons of qualified applicants. (Someone told me today about a story of a woman applying for a job as a receptionist, only to find out 1,000 people applied for the same job. Scary.) Because of all this, employers can offer lower wages and get away with it, because hey, if it's not enough for you, it's enough for someone else. The woman took down her website ad within a day, so presumably she did find someone willing to do it for $300.

I also wonder what I will do if I can't find (enough) freelance work in the next month or two. If I can't find writing or editing clients, what's left? I really don't want to end up doing adminstrative work through an agency, but if it really comes to that, then it comes to that.

So, where do you draw the line? Is there an hourly wage/salary you won't work for? Or are you starting to feel like me, in that any income is better than no income?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Carnivals and Such

Last week, I was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted over at The Credit Card blog; and the Carnival of Money Stories at The Sun Financial Diary.

Go check them out for roundups of great articles!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is *Now* a Good Time to (Wisely) Use Credit?

I've mentioned that I have a few more months worth of cash in my savings accounts. But after that? I'd be broke.

I don't own a car, or a house, and I'm single. Unless I tapped my old 401k or emaciated IRA, I'd have no money.

I'm starting to get some preliminary responses to my resume, but as of yet no contracts are signed and no projects initiated. In addition, it's a brutal job market.

My mother is very close to retirement age, and having issues with her job (she thinks they might be pussyfooting around trying to manage her out of her job). In addition to some other reasons for her, I don't feel I could count on her for much financial support.

So...I've been thinking about using my zero-balance credit card for some of my basic expenses: groceries, my storage unit, cell phone bill -- just the things I absolutely need each month. It would be a way to extend my cash a bit, and given that my credit card balance is at zero, I wouldn't be accruing much in interest, and I would have a tiny minimum payment.

I want to be clear that I would not use the credit card for things like going out to dinner, or buying anything non-essential.

I'm just trying to cover my butt, since I don't have a boyfriend/husband/family who could help me out.

What do you think?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just How Brutal the Job Market Is Right Now

I send out my resume, generally, 3-5 times each day. Sometimes double that.

Rarely do I receive responses...and I know this is not because I have a poor resume or insufficient experience. This is just because there are that many people responding for these jobs.

How many people? You might ask.

Consider this: early last Thursday morning, I sent a cover letter and resume for a freelance article writing gig. The ad had been posted around 7pm the night before. Last night I received an email asking for a writing sample on a specific topic. The email also mentioned that they received over 500 responses to their ad. They want to hire 4-5 writers, so that means 1% of the respondees will actually land the client.

This is what the freelance job market is like right now, and why I get ecstatic when I receive a response. It's rare to receive even a 'thank you for your response' or 'thanks for your interest but we chose someone else' email when you respond to online ads, unless it's an agency or FTE ad. In three months, I've received two of these emails, and both of those were in the last two weeks.

So, I wrote my mini-article last night and sent it off. I didn't want to wait until today, because I wanted it to be one of the earlier pieces they read so that it would have a higher chance of being read and remembered.

Today, I received an email asking for a formal online application, since I've passed the preliminary screening for another potential client. This, too, makes me ecstatic. It means that someone read my cover letter and read my resume. This is notable because I highly suspect that when a lot of resumes are received, the reviewer will find the first one that looks like it matches their needs and go with them. In fact, I sometimes suspect this is what happened with my first major client.

I was meant to have an interview with a potential client today (who during our phone chat said several times how "very impressed" he was with my resume), but he's ill and our meeting has to be postponed.

Freelancing is like this. You can send resumes so often that it seems like putting coins in a slot machine that never pays out, and then you become confused when you actually do receive a response (that has happened to me). Then, seemingly out of the blue people will start sending preliminary responses and then it really does appear that there is a glimmer of light and hope in the distance.

I'm not counting anything before it's happened, but I am starting to feel reassured that I can actually find quality freelancing work.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Self-Employment Choices (for me)

One of the things I've wondered, since I've been unemployed, is this: am I really doing all I can to find more freelancing gigs?

The answer, simply, is: no.

I'm not a sales person. The thought of cold calling is anathema to me.

I've also thought about pursuing more of the hobby-like income streams I've done this past year, namely basic website design and development and jewelry making. There's also pet-sitting. In addition, there are sites I could write articles for that would pay either small amounts or residual amounts based on article views. So sure, I could probably eke out a living spreading myself across small, low-paying, unreliable side jobs. Yet, I don't want to merely eke out a living.

None of these things will quickly earn me as much money as I'm accustomed to receiving each week. Certainly not without a lot of aggressive selling of myself (shudder) and legwork.

Now I know full well that jobs and clients aren't just going to magically appear and fall in my lap. If only! However, I know that building a new business(es) for things I have less formal training...well, let's just say that this economic climate would not make these things great ideas. In addition, the jewelry option requires a certain investment in materials, and I'd rather not get further into the financial hole [with jewelry making] than I already am.

Part of me wonders "if I just had more hustle..." would that make a difference. Sure, it probably would. But if I write articles for low or pay-per-view rates, and if I dabble in a little of this and a little of that, would I be compromising myself? I've started to think that I would.

Finally, I also won't work for significantly sub-market rates. I've seen ads that from companies that want a technical writer for $10/hour -- on contract, or people that want article writers for .02/word. Both of those are ridiculously, offensively low pay rates. I will write for basically free for this blog because I enjoy it, but I won't write for someone who won't recognize and pay for the value my writing.

As I've written, I really, truly would prefer to continue freelancing. However, I will likely end up doing agency work, or I may even end up signing on as a FTE somewhere. I don't want to live hand to mouth. Also, agency or FTE work will help me to quickly rebuild my savings coffers, and then cushion me when I go back to freelancing (because my freelancing days are by no means at an end...just looking at a temporary suspension).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Potential Help for Unemployed Freelancers

On a whim today, I called up the unemployment office to see if there was any special aid being given to unemployed freelancers. I've read several articles about the financial stimulus plans, and the $800+bln plan Obama has, and I've never seen anything about the self-employed. A cut in my payroll tax isn't going to help me a lot -- one, I'm not making any money; two, I'm not paying anyone.

Imagine my surprise when the lady at the UE office told me there is talk of aid for unemployed freelancers. Hurrah!! There isn't any kind of timeline or details available yet, and she had no idea when those might be available. She recommended checking back on their website. She also said those who've declared themselves on their taxes as self-employed would get letters if and when this aid is available.

So, while it's not great news (e.g. aid is available now), it's good news to know that us sole proprietors haven't been overlooked in financial aid packages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm Back...

Wow. I hadn't realized my last post was all the way back in November, and just how sporadic my posting was the couple months prior to that.

I can tell you that just prior to losing my primary client, I'd been exceptionally busy with them, and that consumed a great deal of time and energy. Post-losing my primary client, I fell in to a very dark hole. It was very depressing to lose that client, and I've not really worked since then. I did finish a website for one client, and build a small website for a roommate, but that's it.

In essence, I've not worked in over three months.

These three months have been mixed for me -- I thought something in my personal life was going to be something nice, and it was horrible instead. I'm not a fan of Christmas, and combining that with the personal horrible thing and being unemployed made for a lousy December. I had no interest in writing for this blog (though I have thought about this blog often), and I didn't want to write about any of the negative things I was feeling. Now that January is here, I'm feeling a bit more optimistic, though the freelance job market is currently quite grim. (I've decided that I need an agent/sales person to find work for me, since sales and cold calling just is not my forte.)

Now, I'm still looking for work, and am dealing with the prospect of having to take a full time job for a company, or work through an agency. This may not seem like such a big deal to some, but it is a HUGE deal for me. I've been thinking about how to explain this, and that will likely be its own blog post...so stay tuned.

The one good thing I can report, is that financially I'm ok for at least a little while longer. My emergency fund has gotten me far, and my other savings accounts (home, travel, IRA) are helping me through this, too. I'm also happy that a client who I billed on 2 December is finally paying me, and another occasional client will have a few days work for me later this month.

It's odd, because after fighting some insomnia a couple nights ago, I got up and looked at all my bank accounts and added up my available cash. Even after three months of not working, I could still pay off all my remaining credit card and student loan debt (mid-4 figures), and I would still have enough money for about two months. I was very surprised at that. I'm thankful for my current low (very low) living expenses.

So, I'm back. I think. I really have missed blogging, but like I said, I wasn't in a good frame of mind and I didn't want this blog to become a place reflecting the darkness I was feeling.

Oh, and did I mention I wrote a novel in November? I did. Seriously. I also started a writing group with other novelists, and that's been going very well and we're all editing our novels. So things are looking up. ;-)

Now, if I could just find some work!