Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Frustrations of Freelancing

There are two jobs that I lost under frustrating circumstances.

The first was typical. I bid on a job, someone sent me a private message asking me how quickly I could finish and then awarded the job to someone else before I got back to them. These are the most frustrating jobs, because (1) Guru's messaging system is quirky and (2) my response times are usually within the hour, but I do occasionally sleep and work on other projects. To lose a job simply because I received the message at 9:00 PM and did not respond until 7:00AM has me kicking myself. Usually, I am available until midnight.

The second is even more frustrating. Many times I have received messages that say something like, "Wow, I really like your profile, and your price is fine, but I am going with someone else on this." Grrr. Why? Why me? I did nothing wrong and I still didn't get the job. Sigh. The story of my luck.

I suppose I am happy the person contacted me - he said he hoped we could work together on a future project. The bad thing is that he closed the conversation, so I can't even respond. I also, don't necessarily believe he will choose me.

I once had a guy who kept sending me invitations to his projects, but when I applied he would never choose me. Why? I have no clue. Once I have applied a certain number of times to the same employer, I eventually mark them on my "do not apply" list and stop wasting my time. I am flattered you want to use me, but really I want to be chosen, not flattered.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Building a Website

Someone on LinkedIn was asking about building a low cost website where they could sell there books. This was the advice I gave:

You can register your own domain through Wordpress and Blogger - registering a domain is NOT purchasing it. You have to renew your registration or you lose your name. If you forget to reregister, you lose your name because there are giant domain purchasers who will scoop it up - then you have to buy it back from them, which is not cheap. Registering a domain is the only way to get a unique website name that is portable.

However, if you register a name through a free website builder (such as WordPress, Blogger, or one of the ones listed at the bottom of this post), it may or may not be portable depending on the host. (Some free hosts will actually register the name for you - in their name, so this is why many people want to do it separate from their website setup. However, not all of them are like this - read the fine print.) Many hosts will keep registering your name for you each year if you have given them a credit card to bill. GoDaddy (not recommended if you may eventually want to use a web developer), eNom.com, and Register.com are registries if you want to do it separately. (They should work with ICANN if they are legit. On average it costs $20ish per year, but some may have multi-year plans.)

I use Moonfruit: www.writetodreamreality.moonfruit.com because it is relatively easy to set up a shop with Paypal on Moonfruit and many websites want to charge you to do this. Obviously, since I my domain is umbrellaed under their name, I pay $0 and only have the small link in the upper right hand corner and the "Build your website through Moonfruit" at the bottom as far as ads go. The downside is that the instruction manual on how to set it up is long - and you want to download it for reference. Also, you have to update your website at least once every six months or you will lose it. Again, these were not problems for me. However, with CreateSpace, I would probably not need to sell on my website, because I could just link to my CreateSpace shop (which I do anyway on my landing page). If you just need a website that allows you to link to CreateSpace, you really wouldn't need something like Moonfruit.

Some people have trouble with Wordpress - to make a really nice website, you need to know HTML. I don't know what kind of shop you can set up on Blogger - my blogger websites are just blogs, but my website links to them and they link to my website.

Other notable and low-cost or free website builder/ hosts that allow you to have an onsite shopping area are: www.homestead.com (Paypal), http://jigsy.com/ (links to ebay), http://www.jimdo.com/, http://www.squarespace.com/ (if you are in the US), http://www.tripod.lycos.com/ (PayPal), http://www.webs.com/ (links to etsy), http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ (PayPal), http://yola.com, and http://www.zoho.com/sites/

Different Methods of Freelancing Part II

Now, since my website is out if I were trying to promote myself as a freelancer without Guru, I could use my blog to generate business. Posting quirky little tips to attract potential employers - but then I think we all agree that would drastically change the look of my blog(s). Two of my blogs are purely book promotion: The Lost Histories of Eden and The Inconvenient Series. So, those are both out - unlike my website, they get an expected amount of traffic. (Actually, I have no clue how much traffic my website gets... according to Alexa I am ranked 9,000ish- whatever that means?) Then there is my RSS News feed page. I created this blog for myself. I wanted a homepage where I could read all my favorite news feeds and not have ads or distracting garbage. I use the blog part solely to vent about news. Which brings me to this blog. (This blog is unranked with Alexa - after all who really wants to SEO when you are ranting...)

Technically, I should be using this to promote my freelance business, but really? As any of you who follow me know - this blog is FOR freelancers. It is for you to realize that yes, there are very strange employers out there, but there are also excellent ones I just finished working with one). There are things that work and there are things that don't work. It is for you to learn writing and self-publishing tips. And, yes, it is for me to vent about my toughest jobs. I am a writer - since I don't currently own a punching bag; I don't currently have time to go to the gym or even workout; and the pen is, after all, mightier than the sword, this is my place to get it all out of my system. Because goodness knows tomorrow I may wake up and find I am working for yet another person who requires a huge amount of patience on my part - or worse, could really do with some sort of mental evaluation. And yes, I spend plenty of time on my shrink's couch venting there, too. Thankfully, my shrink knows how to laugh with me about my experiences.

Anyway, if you click on the article, you will also find tongal a crowsourcing website that doesn't appeal to me because (1) it's primarily for freelancers who make videos and (2) you have to go to the trouble of coming up with an idea and selling it, but if you aren't chosen, you don't get paid. :( And then there was contently which is a portfolio hosting website. The only benefit contently offers over Guru is that bigger names would get to see it...

I'll be the first to admit, my way isn't the only way. It just works for me. Yeah, Guru has serious messaging and file upload problems, but I would have to arrange for offsite delivery with many of the other options, too. And yeah, I don't get credit - but as an art for art's sake writer, I don't necessarily want a byline on an advertisement or even an e-book I pushed out in two weeks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Different Methods of Freelancing Part I

I was recently contacted to do an interview about the different methods of freelancing. Guru is obviously my preferred method, and it is considered a bidding platform. Usually, when I talk about freelance websites on here, I talk about Guru or elance, or some of the other bidding platforms/ freelancer classified websites.

However, this particular article was about being a freelancer in general - and obviously there are numerous ways to go about doing this. Most people think my way - bidding on jobs - is just awful. I shudder when I think about freelancing their way, so I guess we are even.

For example, some people have websites with blogs and market themselves that way. Well, here's my website. As you can see, I use my website to sell my self-published books. To date, I have sold 0 books on my website (I would rather sell through Amazon, anyway, so I don't promote it much; in fact, most of the book links on my website take you directly to Amazon) and was propositioned for 1 freelance job. That particular freelance job stressed me out and I didn't take it. Why? They wanted my Social Security # (SS#).

Now if you work in the U.S., your employers need your SS# for the 1099 tax form they will have to fill out. How do freelancers working outside of Guru control who has their SS#? I have no clue. Call me paranoid, but if I can't (1) recognize the name of your company [I actually did recognize his company] (2) get confirmation from HR at your company that you work for them and are indeed authorized to hire me for said project [I confirmed he worked there, but no one called me back after I left a message about his hiring ability] AND (3) work directly through your HR department (because really, do you need to act as a middle man when my SS# is involved?), then sorry, I don't particularly want the job that badly.

Still, MANY freelancers hand employers their SS# every day. They apparently do it safely - probably by creating an EIN# with the IRS and using that instead. Yes, I have an EIN, but I had just received it, and really, he should have asked for that.

NOTE TO EMPLOYERS: ask freelancers for their EIN# and not their SS# (or even one or the other).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Writing Beliefs

My friend asked me why I don't try to get a job at the local newspaper. Obviously that kind of work would be more regular. However, I informed her that I don't have the myopic, cookie cutter views of our local paper. I think I would be instantly turned away, and if I were not, I would certainly be fired once I refuse to write articles that agreed with the limited views of the paper.

With freelancing I try to only take jobs that go along with what I believe. I don't write bologna. Yes, when I am desperate, I do take some copy writing jobs. (Copy writing is writing advertising copy - not to be confused with copy righting, which is registering your work with the government, or copy editing, which is just a fancy way of asking for line editing).

Now, I do research on the products I am writing about, I would refuse a job if it were truly selling something under the bridge, but there is always that edge of the playground tinge to the products. Do I truly believe one cream or one pill is going to keep me from showing signs of aging? That's a tough question. I certainly would like to believe it. I admit that I did go out and purchase facial care products after one round of beauty cream ad writing. But I didn't purchase their particular brand of aging cream because I didn't think looking younger was worth that price.

Needless to say, the two anti-aging creams I tried both turned my face more red than anything else, but I still use them occasionally - one of them did get rid of my acne (which was not an advertised benefit), but it made me smell like an old lady because it had so much fragrance in it.

My latest advertising job came by mistake. I was in one of those slight slumps where no one was hiring me, so I began to scrounge around the edges of the jobs I will accept. I didn't get hired and went on to take other jobs. Well, needless to say, two other freelancers did not finish the job in a timely manner. The guy asked if I would still be interested and I accepted.

This guy truly seems to believe in his product, and that is always something that encourages me. If the people making it believe in it, it must at least have some sort of positive placebo effect (at least that is what I reason). It was above board for the most part, I think one of the celebrities backing these types of products is a charlatan, but the product itself has the potential of improving the health of those taking it in some ways, at least.

There are some freelancers out there who are salesmen. They can sell themselves and they can sell any product, whether they believe in it or not. I am not a salesman, but I can at least write Infomercial style ads for products I somewhat believe in. I sometimes even find it fun. This particular job was not fun. It was tedious, but I finished it and hopefully can leave sales jobs to real salesmen for a long while.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are writers a dying breed?

You may think there are plenty of writers, and there are, but with all the online - "I'll write your essay for you" websites, what will the writer of tomorrow look like?

I agree with the next guy that making someone write an essay to get into college is dumb. No high school teaches the college level skills needed to be semi-successful especially when you are competing against essays written by college graduates and paid for by other potential students. The only essay that should be considered is the one that is a part of the SAT or any other college entrance exam. (Read: one that has been written after the student's identity is verified and under controlled circumstances.)

Guru does not allow school projects to be posted, but some people have found ways of getting around this (as you know by my last couple posts). For example, there was the guy who posted a project looking for an engineering paper. I thought the project looked a little suspicious, but the next one he posted was for a nursing paper. Okay, no engineer is going to need a nursing paper, so I thought this guy was legitimate. I applied to the next job, which was also on a medical topic, and that was how I discovered he was trying to have freelancers do college papers for students.

Anyway, if a freelancer is writing college entrance essays, basically they are allowing the rich (who can afford to pay freelancers) to get into college and discriminating against the poor (who may be better writers but will not be able to compete against a college graduate). How sad is that. Furthermore, they will be allowing a disproportionate number of cheaters into the college system. These cheaters, it can be expected, will continue to cheat throughout college and will never learn anything (like how to write for themselves).

So, my question is, when we get to that point - what happens when all the educated people (who had been covering for the uneducated but wealthy) die? Who will write papers then? What will happen to all that knowledge that did not get passed on to the next generation because they were too busy cheating to learn it?

Maybe that is the real reason all the empires of the past fell.

Friday, August 8, 2014

No, I won't do your schoolwork for you!

I have had two jobs in the past week that wanted me to do schoolwork for someone. One said they needed a political science paper "to make it presentable at a group function." Hmm, I got a totally jacked up undergraduate paper with instructor's notes (that primarily said the paper was jacked up - no thesis nor basic organization not to mention sentence structure, content, citations, etc.). Sorry, I really don't consider school to be a group function.

I mean really, I write at a post-graduate level. If I rewrite your completely disorganized undergrad paper (maybe even high school on this one - I hope the guy wasn't in college), do you think your professor isn't going to notice? Do you think he or she might not be a little suspicious as to how a person who could not even form a thesis sentence suddenly writes a publishable paper after receiving one page worth of notes?

Then, I had a graduate student looking for "tutoring." For the record, I do help graduate students edit and polish their theses and dissertations. Not everyone is a scribe. Few undergraduate degrees require more than two classes in writing. Therefore, I do not mind helping education majors, or IT majors, or even biology majors clean up their final work before they present it to an adviser. But I ONLY EDIT. I give advice to make it sound better - the student must write it and do the work/research. The student must know what he or she is doing.

So, I got a guy who wanted me to "tutor" him. First, he asked me to download all this garbage - including Skype and TeamViewer. Now, I don't Skype and TeamViewer is scary because it allows you to take control of someone else's computer (or vice versa). Needless to say, I didn't install that one. However, after downloading this, he contacted me asking if I could get him a paper because he didn't have the entire article - in 12 hours! I need a few days to get things from IU since they upgraded their computers and decided I could not longer have immediate access.

(I have been trying to think of whether it would be worth (a) going back to school for yet another degree and dumping even more money into the IU system or (b) applying for some menial job just so I can be "faculty" and get my immediate access back, but neither is all that tempting.) 
Well, the next morning, he was not asking for the paper, but he sent me all his work to analyze for him before his 3:00PM appointment. We are talking about reading through Java code to find mathematical errors that were "too advanced for him to do" and crunching about 30,000 or so numbers after I already told him I did not have a computer that could do that kind of work (you need Linux not Windows if you are interested in becoming a biostatistician). And by the way - he REALLY needed it because he hadn't brought anything to his adviser in two weeks.

Now, if I wanted to do all the work to get a Ph.D., I would just do option (a) and get the PhD in my name. Who would want to do the work for a degree so someone else can put their name on it? Sadly, there are people who do this. I have no idea why, though. Really, no amount of money would inspire me to do this for someone else. Especially since that someone else might be the nurse waiting on me in the ER or the Engineer who designed the bridge I am about to drive over. Yeah - those two school paper subjects were posted this week too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let the Buyer (or Freelance Employer) Beware! Part 2

Now, I was actually in contact with the next employer. But, as you probably know if you have been following me for any length of time, I am not a salesman. My work sells itself. If you don't like my work, don't hire me.

Now, for this particular job, I was listed in the top three on Guru. I was pretty sure I had underbid the top two, though because I offer long- and short- rates. My long-term rates (if you let me work your project into my schedule) are cheap. My short term rates are probably average for Guru (low for the professional world).

So, I waited... and waited... I needed the job ASAP to consider it a long-term job and still get it done on the employer's deadline. And, then the job went to someone else. This person claimed to have an MBA in English, but he has only had one other job on Guru and no feedback. Now, I initially thought, wow, he beats me. But then I decided to give it the bologna sausage (B.S.) test. Why? Because he claimed to be an award winning editor - while editing his college newspaper and working on his Masters.

The more in investigated, the more my suspicions rose - first he lists his GPA. In order to remain in any Master's program, you must get A's and B's, therefore listing your GPA is slightly redundant. Second, when I checked out the newspaper, he was not listed as editor-in-chief during any of the years he said he worked on it. Third, the award he said he received earning his Masters, is only given to juniors and seniors (read undergraduates).

He says he graduated in 2011. Presumably, this means he was a senior (cough, cough - assuming perhaps he was doing an accelerated program that gave him his B.A. and M.A. at once) in 2011. Now, he did not receive the award in 2011. I was able to find the name of the person who did. I was also able to find archives for the student newspaper where he worked - His name did not appear on any of the articles from 2006 until the present. The person who won in 2011 had several articles attributed to her.

So, I went back and looked at his profile again, and it suddenly became glaringly obvious that he did not even arrange the paragraphs in a logical order. He jumped from his graduation backward and forward to present day. He also repeated himself - perhaps he neglected to edit.

Freelancers (self-publishing authors/ traditional publishing authors)- don't lie. Someone like me who is a little more heartless could expose you. I could have named names in both my examples, but that is not my intent. Be honest - eventually you will lose if you aren't. I quickly rose above example #1 in rank and have never been close to him since. There is a reason. No matter how cheap nor how much he mixes sausage with bologna, my work will always stand above his because I am honest.

Employers - please check out the "facts" listed on freelancer profiles. I cannot tell you how many people post complaints about freelancers on the Answers page at Guru. Just within the past week, one company discovered that the freelancer they hired not only gave them a bad website design, but also had plagiarized their own website design from another site. All it takes is a little research to save you much lost time and money.