Tag Archives: money

Simultaneously Penniless and Rich

By Jake Poinier
get rich writingIn response to my previous post, “Taxes Don’t Lie,” V.R. writes: “Won’t disagree with you on importance of metrics and measurements for the self-employed. As a freelancer myself, I had to go back and read the blog twice to make sure the entire context of your message could be categorized as ‘financial’ success. Of course it was and I calmed down. Had you attempted to speak to a ‘success’ in general, I was going to challenge your notion that the only measurements that matter are income, expenses and savings. I believe a lot of freelancers measure their success more unconventionally; perhaps by hours spent at work (or rather hours spent with their family), number of press mentions, awards and accolades, mental and physical health, number of countries visited — you know, the things that causes one to transition from corporate life to freelance life. The freelancers I know are simultaneously penniless and rich!”

V.R. wanted me to ensure that he got credit for that phrase — “simultaneously penniless and rich” — so credit is duly noted. (As it happens, it fits in with my philosophy that you should Write Like You’re Rich.) More important, his point expands nicely on what I was getting at: Measuring the financial health of your freelance business can be accomplished easily at tax time, but it’s by no means a comprehensive measurement of your overall success.

All that said, measuring success is highly individual — including those items V.R. enumerated above, and many others. The metric changes over the course of your freelance career — I don’t have the same goals as I did in 1999. Back then, it was pure survival, as the “penniless” part of the equation was all too true. Today, while I might be “rich” by third-world standards, my true wealth comes from the people, experiences and opportunities from freelancing that simply wouldn’t exist if I were still in the 9-5 corporate grind.

In the comments, what’s your favorite non-financial measure of success?

Jake Poinier can be found at DoctorFreelance.com or @DrFreelance.

iPad or Laptop for Back-to-School?

If you’re a parent, your freelance income has to cover a lot of school expenses for your children.  Here are some important considerations before you spend money on a tablet computer for your back-to-school offspring. These tips are courtesy of DealNews.com, who invited me to excerpt their full list, written by media editor Jeff Somogyi.

IPADGIRLWith summer already on its way out, your college-bound child is probably in the midst of asking for more and more money to buy the “essentials” they’ll need for dorm life in the upcoming school year. (FYI: A BMX bike is not an essential school requirement for anyone, except those attending BMX U.) It’s very likely that they’ve also mentioned needing a little device called the “iPad.” That may have gotten you wondering if, in this day-and-age, the iPad should be considered instead of a laptop for kids heading off to university.

And so, as the youngins are about to matriculate, they’ll come at you with all sorts of “reasons” why the iPad is a “valuable tool” for “learning.” Are you prepared to fight back? Are you armed with the knowledge you need to protect your dollars? You better be, because — as we’ll show you — the iPad just isn’t a suitable replacement for a laptop, in terms of meeting your student’s needs. Here are 10 good reasons why:

1. It’s expensive-ish

An iPad, at its most basic 16GB configuration with Wi-Fi connectivity starts at $399 — and that’s for last year’s model. The latest model, which is packed with a retina display and all sorts of extra goodies, starts at $499. The higher-end models (that include 64GB of storage and 3G connectivity) can burn a hole into you wallet in the shape of $829 … with additional per-month rates for data plans. Even at the cheaper end of the spectrum, we often find full-fledged laptops deals for about that price. Though the iPad 2 is close, it just doesn’t make monetary sense to buy an iPad instead of a laptop.

2. It’s not the best solution for note-taking or editing documents

A virtual keyboard doesn’t have any tactile feedback. This tech is fine for a quick text on your smartphone, but the iPad’s keyboard — which is a non-standard shape and size — is a bit more awkward. And say goodbye to touch-typing because your fingers will start drifting, and you’ll soon wind up with a page of gibberish.

Further, if you do manage to struggle your way through writing an entire term paper on the tablet, editing is another headache completely. Using your finger tip for fine placement of the cursor is next to impossible, and it’ll take you a few tries to land it where you need it. After several failed attempts, you’ll be wishing you had a laptop with a real keyboard and mouse.

3. It’s ultra-portable — and ultra-droppable

Taking a tablet everywhere means there’s a greater chance of dropping it anywhere, and breaking it. There will even be more of a chance that your kid will forget completely that it’s in their bag and, as kids will, fling their satchel across the room — only to be rewarded with a gut-wrenching *crack*, followed by a cold-sweat-inducing *tinkle* of broken screen glass. Just try forgetting you have a 5+ lb. laptop in your bag!

4. What makes it desirable to your teen is what makes it desirable to criminals

Your college kid wanting an iPad is second only to the desire of a criminal to steal one. It’s so light (see above) and small that it’s easy for a n’ere-do-well to quickly yoink and abscond. Sure, there are security locks you can use, just like the kind you can get for a laptop, but who — especially among the devil-may-care college-age set — really takes the time to actually use it instead of saying, “Pfft! It won’t happen to me?”

5. It’s too distracting: Games, apps, 4Gs, web-browsing, Twitter, and messaging beckon

The iTunes App Store boasts more than 500,000 apps — which is tantamount to over 500,000 distractions for your child, who’s supposed to be paying attention to his professor. (Well, 599,998 distractions and two dealnews apps! WINK!) Angry Birds, too, will be calling during those long lectures, we’re sure. But on the contrary, would anyone boot up DOOM or Minesweeper on a laptop in the middle of a lecture? Probably not. That’s a commitment that doesn’t allow them to lie to themselves that it’ll be “just for a minute.”

6. eTextbooks are a marvel, but there’s no secondary market

Your kid will probably make the argument that an iPad can display digital textbooks and, since the device is lighter than a stack of dead-tree tomes, you’d be saving the planet and them from years of backache and possibly a future addiction to painkillers / chiropractors. To this argument, you should tell them to wear their backpack over both shoulders, like one is supposed to, and they shouldn’t have a problem.

7. It’s meant for solo enjoyment, which means social seclusion

You want your kid to grow up to be a personable, extroverted, well-functioning member of polite society, right? So why would you give him a personal entertainment device that all-but-guarantees he’ll spend every moment of his free time with his nose pointed at a tiny screen, drowning out the revelry, camaraderie, and general good-times that are taking place around him?

Got an hour between classes? iPad. Waiting for the shuttle to campus? iPad. Yes, your child could seclude themselves with a laptop — but not in as many places. Let’s see them try walking down the street watching the latest The Walking Dead on their laptop! It’s too cumbersome and awkward. (Just like The Walking Dead.)

8. It’s essentially just a status symbol

Like any gadget, the iPad is a status symbol. Like any Apple gadget, it’s an expensive status symbol. It’s something we’ve been trained by society and lifestyle magazines to want, simply because it’s a luxury — and if we can be the first to have it, somehow, we “win.” To combat this, you can sit your kid down and, being very earnest, tell him that he doesn’t need things to be popular. Then explain to that laughing at you, when you’re trying to be serious, isn’t getting him closer to that iPad.

9. It’ll be old technology by the time you actually buy one

Apple is very consistent with its release schedule of devices. New models come out like clockwork, and our guess is that the iPad is not going to stray from this tried-and-true model. Specifically, an even newer version of the tablet is surely going to come out sometime in March or April.

That means the iPad your kid wants to own in August is already six months old and half-way through its lifecycle; what’s the point in buying this older model, when there’s a shiny new version on the horizon that your child will surely start eying greedily once it debuts?

10. They’ll probably want a laptop, too!

Yes. You heard that right. If you buy an iPad for your kid thinking, “Well, that’s that,” think again! Since there are situations in which a tablet just doesn’t cut it (see above), your child will come to realize that she definitely needs a full-fledged desktop or laptop (like the new MacBook Air, of course) for school, too. Whether it be for essay-writing, Internetting, game-playing, or entertainment-centering, you’re looking at a double-dose of device deployment. Never forget: There is no end to the amount of money a kid can or will ask for.

Share this with your circle of parents-on-a-budget, and enjoy the full article at DealNews.com.

You Can Do It for Love, You Can Do It for Money

I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m quick with the ax when it comes time to get rid of a challenging freelance client. Life’s too short to deal with people who make it more difficult.

But I recently ignored my rule and stuck with a high-paying client simply because, well, he was high-paying—and in retrospect, I’m very glad I did. For the first time, I was able to turn a challenging client into a loyal, lucrative one who’s manageable, if still somewhat high maintenance.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the tale. Challenge number one is that he’s overseas, so there’s a time-zone issue. Challenge number two is that his English isn’t very good, so we’ve had a variety of miscommunications. Challenge number three is that he’s very demanding, and needs stuff done RIGHT NOW or he freaks out. Challenge number four is that I often have to get to double-digit drafts before he’s satisfied.

Not the ideal, eh? But the fact was he pays great, so I stuck with it. Over the course of a few months, I was able to preemptively deal with every single one of those challenges:

  • Challenge 1: I make sure I check in with him at 7 a.m., and ask if he’ll be needing my attention that day, and if so, when. I check in on weekends if I know something important is on the line.
  • Challenge 2: I’ve learned to repeat back to him what he’s said for clarification, so there are fewer miscues. Like, “So, if I am understanding you correctly, you want me to revise Project B before writing Advertisement C. Is that right?”
  • Challenge 3: I know that I need to turn stuff around more quickly for him than for most clients, which is fine because he pays a premium. More important, I ask specifically what day/time he wants things—I don’t wait for the “WHERE’S THE PROJECT A OUTLINE????” email.
  • Challenge 4: I don’t care about how many revisions there are, and I don’t take it personally if he doesn’t like something. In fact, I’ll usually assume he’s going to hate it, and then be pleasantly surprised when he’s all hearts and flowers.

Would I want an entire roster of clients like this? Heck no! But the fact is that I’ve learned to tilt the love and money equation in my favor. And it’s going to make for a nicer summer vacation than I would have otherwise had.

Question: Have you ever stuck with a client from hell purely for monetary reasons? Were you able to make any progress in turning them into a better client? If so, how?

Jake Poinier answers freelancer questions at Dr. Freelance.

Managing Your Freelance Finances

freelance credit card damage control

by Joe Wallace

Earlier today I wrote a finance blog entry about the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, signed into law by President Obama. Some hail this as a victory for consumers because the act forbids predatory interest rate changes that were business as usual for some credit card companies in the past. Under the new law you could face an interest rate hike if you’re 60 days late on your credit card payments, but that rate hike must be cancelled out if you make on-time payments for six months.

Here’s the rub–the new laws don’t take effect until 2010. Between now and then you should pay strict attention to your credit card accounts because all sorts of shenanigans are likely depending on your credit card company. I fell victim to one credit card company’s dirty tricks–and this was long before the new law–simply because I made the wrong assumption.

I set up an automatic payment on a credit card bill designed to put me above the minimum payment while keeping my monthly budget reasonable. I set my payment date several days before the credit card bill was due. I set this all up, then forgot about it and let the payments roll.

What my credit card company did was to wait until a consistent pattern emerged–I never used my card and never paid anything but the automatic payment. Once the company was satisfied I wasn’t paying attention to my account, they simply switched up the payment due date so that my auto deduction was paid late instead of early. They charged me a $30 finance charge every month for late payments until I caught it.

Folks, this was no fly-by-night credit card company. This company is a very well-known name and advertises itself as being by veterans, for veterans, and working on behalf of vets like me.

Fat chance.

If you rely on credit cards to stay afloat during the tough times in your freelance career, now is an absolutely critical time to pay attention to your finances and those credit cards in particular. Don’t get taken in by the fun and games bound to happen between now and when Obama’s credit card reform bill takes effect. Watch those statements and changing terms like a hawk. You’ll be glad you did.

Five Years Later…

Angela Hoy is responsible for WritersWeekly.com, a site I visit quite often. As part of her services to writers, she offers a collection of articles on the freelance game available for bloggers to reprint on their own websites, gratis. I love the idea, but even though I prefer to write my own content, I can’t resist linking to Hoy’s great article on pay-by-click content sites.

Folks, this article is FIVE YEARS OLD. The scary thing is, it’s all still just as relevant today as it was the day it hit her website. This business model should have died the death ages ago, but the sad fact of the matter is–it’s OUR FAULT these sites still exist. And when I say that, I am talking about the writing community. None of these sites would be running today if there weren’t writers willing to work under such conditions. We’ve all done it in the early days of our career, and some of us still use such sites to our advantage in sneaky, underhanded ways never intended by the creators.

In fact, that’s the only thing that keeps some of them going, near as I can tell. Read Angela Hoy’s Article on How To Be A Starving Writer and marvel along with me that half a decade later, she’s still hitting the nail directly on the head. Angela, you rock, and shame on the rest of us for helping to keep this drivel alive and well. I know most noobs don’t know any better, but that’s not really the issue for me…read the article to get my drift.

Even More Warning Signs For Writers

I debated on whether to name this piece “Not Getting Paid, Part XIVXXIV”, or “Clown Company Part Deux” or some other clever, pithy title. In the end it boils down to the same thing; writer beware. Some regular readers of this blog have already noticed that of the two contributors here (Catherine L. Tully and yours truly,) I am the one who tends to post in a more reactionary style. Which is to say that when I am going through something particularly vexing as a writer, I tend to rant about it here. I try to stay professional about it, not naming names or giving traceable details.

Some might criticize me for doing this, saying that by not naming names I leave the door open for other writers to find the people I grouse about and become entangled in their shoddy business practices. To these readers I simply offer this; I haven’t got the money for a legal team.

That’s why I write about my experiences in the way I do–if you can spot the telltale signs of a clown company, a bad editor, a shoddy publishing house, you don’t NEED me to name names. You’ll be onto the game quickly enough and can steer clear of these buffoons for future reference. And warn all your friends.

And with that over-long intro, let’s get to my current gripes–er, advice.

Continue reading Even More Warning Signs For Writers