Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lean Preparation

Because I work for myself, and I've always said that freelancing tends to be a "feast or famine" proposition, I am always looking for deals. You have to be a little frugal for those tight months. Luckily, the tight months have been fairly scarce the last few years in my business, but they do happen now and again. When you get hit with a 'short' month, and you have big bills, that can really hurt. I always look for things like cheap auto insurance, value items in grocery stores like 2 for 1s. However I can save a little, I feel good about. The biggest monthly bill I have at the moment is my car payment. Even that was a deal that I made sure was in an affordable range should times get lean. The few months that were a little light this year were still tough with that payment on the books, but I made it through.

No End to the Learning Experience in Freelancing

Another thing I love about freelancing is that I never stop learning new things. I suppose that's true in most areas of life, even other jobs, but I've had some jobs in the "real world" in the past that were just the same thing every day, and even when they were challenging, there wasn't much to learn or develop. With my freelancing I am always finding new things to do, learning how to do them, learning about subjects, finding new ways to present work. Just building websites is a constantly changing technology. There's no end to the new things there are to do and learn in freelance writing.

Variety is the Spice of Life

One thing that is really great about freelancing is that the work is so varied. On any given day I could be working on a report or sales page in the morning, getting a little bit of an eBook done in the afternoon, SEO articles or a medical resume in the evening, or any number of different writing jobs. I love the variety. One client, who I do a lot of work for, asked me if I liked doing the content work more than writing for my own websites, or sales pages. I had to say that while I enjoy doing my own websites, sales pages, and affiliate work, I do enjoy working for clients a little more, because it isn't always the same subject. My own work can be equally varied in style, but it's the same subjects. No matter what I do each day, however, one thing is for sure: I love my job!

Partner in Crime

Business has been so good this month, that I actually convinced my son to start working for me. I know he can do the work, because he worked for a content company with me several years ago. He got a little turned off by the experience, because the work was low-paying, and the owner of the company had to be chased for payment. It almost turned me off too. I'm glad it didn't completely, but my son was a little difficult to convince this time around. The difference was this time he'd be working for ME, and he knows how much I make at this. That, plus I don't "low-ball" for work, and I don't pay him a tenth of what I bid for either. I do take a small cut for being the one who brings in the work, and I always proof his copies, just in case, but he gets paid well, and he is actually happy about it. It's kind of fun having a partner in this, and it helps him out too.

Getting Paid Before Getting Paid

One thing that is difficult about working for yourself is that you don't have actual paychecks, or pay stubs. If you need a loan you have to cart in your income tax returns for proof of income. If you want payday advances... well, good luck with that. Payday advances come in handy when you're in a pinch, and I have several friends who have used the services. I always get a little ping of jealousy when they do that, and I know that I can't, because I don't actually have a "pay day" or regular pay schedule. On the other hand, I love my job, and make more at it than I would at any normal "day job" so I guess, the trade off is worth it.

Check Out a Great Freelancing Resource

If you freelancers out there haven't tried Elance yet... do it now! I have always avoided project bidding boards. It seemed like the providence of the low-balling bottom feeders. Most of the time that is about the size of it. Elance isn't really an exception in that there are definitely clients on there that expect miracles for peanuts, but it is definitely the exception in that there are plenty of clients who realize that good work is worth a decent pay rate. I just joined in early December and have already made more in one month than I have in a long time. I am building a great client base, and have several returning clients. The platform is very large, and intricate. It takes a little getting used to, but the learning curve is minimal. The fact that the workrooms, and "office" area are so involved gives you a lot of room to work efficiently. The biggest advantage to Elance is the escrow. Clients pay before work begins, and it is held in escrow. When the job is complete, the client releases the escrow. If there are disputes, Elance mediates. If no action is taken by the client, Elance automatically releases the escrow at the stipulated time. That takes a lot of the worry out of freelancing, no chasing down clients for payment.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wrestling Life Into Submission

Sometimes I feel like a professional wrestler. In the past, I've thought of it as a juggler, holding up all aspects of life at one time, juggling them so that nothing falls, and everything keeps moving. However, as I get older, I'm less of a juggler than I am a wrestler. I have to literally fight to keep things steady, and on course. Just as things seem to settle down, and I can release my grip, something happens to throw the entire thing up in the air again, and I have to wrestle it back into submission. I should wear wrestling headgear as an everyday uniform. Just last Monday my daughter convinced my husband that she needed us to come down to where she lives and visit because she missed family so much... that visit turned into driving her back up here to visit other friends she hadn't seen for some time. Now she's talking about moving back up here, which will mean changing my schedule, driving down and helping her move with the kids, getting them all settled in, and helping her with the kids while she works until she arranges sitting. It's not that I don't love seeing the grandkids, I do, but being a work at home person makes it hard to explain to people, especially relatives, that I am not 'home' and available to run errands, go shopping, or do chores for them while they work at a 'real' job.

Types of Bathroom Caulk

The type of caulk you choose to use for your bathroom tub enclosure needs to withstand a great deal of moisture, heat and, of course, water. The different types of caulk most often used as bathroom grout between tiles, wall panels and tub and shower enclosures have specific pros and cons. Caulk’s main purpose is to fill in gaps between tiles, walls and fixtures, or seal the seams of wall panels.

Silicone Caulk

The tub and shower surfaces in the bathroom are the areas that get the most direct water contact. Along with constant bombardment with water, the caulked areas in those zones also have to contend with a lot of moist heat that breads mold and mildew. The caulk used in these areas needs to be resilient, extremely water-proof, and also mold/mildew resistant. Silicone caulk is best for areas that are very prone to mold and mildew, or water damage. It is resilient and the most water-proof of all the types of caulk. One negative aspect of silicone caulk is it smells bad while being applied. Select silicone for bathroom projects only if the water contact is constant. Silicone caulk lasts up to thirty years.

Acrylic Caulk

Acrylic caulk is very popular in bathrooms because it dries to a shiny white, stays white and resists mold for long periods of time and throughout exposure to temperature changes. Acrylic caulk also accepts paint and blends in nicely along wall seams. Acrylic caulks do not last as long as silicone, but they are more pleasant to work with. Silicones have a strong odor while applying and drying. Acrylics are odorless. The acrylics dry faster than silicone, too. Acrylic caulk lasts up to ten years between applications.

Latex Caulk

Latex caulk is very resilient, easy to apply and lasts almost as long as silicone based caulk. Latex caulk is very popular for bathroom tub enclosure projects because it lasts up to twenty-five years before needing replacement. Latex caulk is very easy to handle, and if you make a mistake applying latex caulk it wipes clean with water and a towel. Latex caulk also has no odor during application or drying. Latex typically need re-application every twenty-five years. However, the one drawback to latex vs. acrylic caulk is that latex does not accept paint. Latex caulk is a good choice if your bathtub has a metal shower door surround as the latex caulk adheres to the metal surfaces well, and can take the temperature extremes of the bathroom.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Branson Adventure

Because I have relatives in the Missouri area, I've wanted to take a Branson Missouri vacation. I've even looked at homes for sale in the area. The opposite side of the lake of the Ozarks is as close as I've found, so far. The area is very popular, and homes in the Branson area are luxurious. Branson is home to so many wonderful entertainment venues. Besides the marvelous lake, something a boat lover like me is always on the lookout for, there are music and theater like Presley's Country Jubilee, Moon River Theater, Baldknobber's Jamboree Show, and of course, there's Silver Dollar City. Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure combined to make a wonderful experience for the whole family. The kids will love the dinosaur museum, and haunted house, and music and movie buffs will enjoy the Hollywood Wax Museum. All of these exhibits and events are just a small part of the many wonderful things to do in Branson, Missouri, and a vacation there is more than just fun, it's an adventure.

Skill Set Proof

One thing I found interesting on the elance site that I hadn't seen in past explorations of the platform is how they test skill levels. In the past, users would claim skills, but it was up to their future performance to determine if they really had those skills, or if they could produce portfolio examples of them. Some things aren't easy to prove in a portfolio, however, such as office skills, or blogging skills. I took four of their new 'tests' today, each was about 30 minutes in length (they are timed with a maximum of 20 to 40 minutes per test predetermined) and rated in the top 10% for creative writing (US non-fiction), creative writing (US fiction), office skills, and online article writing and blogging (US version). I like that a lot. I can take a test to help determine and prove my proclamation of proficiency. We'll see how, or if, clients accept that as proof, or not.

Luxurious Theater Seating

I recently downloaded a program that lets you design interior decorations and room designs. In it I created a 'theater room' and am hoping that Santa Claus is nice enough to provide some of the home theater furniture for it. We have the big TV, surround sound and other gadgets for the electronics portion of the theater, but not the comfortable seating. I'd also like a wall-to-wall rug again instead of the space rug. It helps the sound quality. The beautiful, plush, comfortable theater seating is nothing like you find in any cinema, at least that I've been through. It is elegant and luxurious, like you'd expect in any private mansion theater.

Hanging In There

This is the time of year that is really difficult for freelancers. Typically the amount of work available dries up, or at least slows down. I'm thankful that, so far, it isn't a 'dry up' year, but it is definitely a slow down year. So slow, in fact, that I am barely hanging on. I've always said that freelancing is feast or famine. I know that and make sure to remind myself all the time not to get used to the 'feast' times. It's easier said than done, however. Especially when the 'feast' times last a long time. In my case, I had two solid years of really good 'feast' and this severe drought is killing me. I even signed up for a bid for work place 'elance' (one of, if not 'the' biggest), and normally I do not advise those places. I'll take just about anything with a reasonable pay scale, though. I doubt much will come of the elance place, but when you are in a slump, you have to explore every option.