Ink-Dipped Advice: Pieces of Teachers

“Everyone wants a piece of the teacher, but you don’t get that piece until years later.”

That quote is attributed to author Kate Green by Natalie Goldberg in her book LONG QUIET HIGHWAY, which I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time.

That quote reverberates with me. I remember many teachers from my life. Far too often, I didn’t realize the gifts they gave me until years after.

My fifth grade teacher, who bought me a set of Rudyard Kipling at a yard sale because she knew I loved to read the classics; My sixth grade teacher, who let me read and write far off the reservation, and encouraged me to write stories during class time, even during lectures. Who taught me I could spit out a first draft any way I wanted, but then I had to shape it in order to present it to the world. My band teacher in high school, who knew I loved to write, and suggested I write articles about the high school band, orchestra, and chorus for the local newspapers (my first professional published byline).

In college, I was lucky to have a fantastic teacher who was also my advisor. At a competitive school like NYU Film School, that was vital. I’ve stayed in touch with him over the years, and even got together with him when I visited NYC a few years back. I’ve also kept in touch with one of my screenwriting professors from NYU. The two of them helped me get back on track when I got unfocused, especially when I put other people’s work ahead of my own.

I think they were both surprised when I went into theatre instead of film as my career, but were interested in how I looped what I learned in their classes to the rest of my theatre and writing life.

When I teach, students come away with handouts and workbooks (I am the Queen of Handouts – the bins I haul into a conference workshop cause eyes to widen and backs to groan).

I’m a strict teacher and don’t put up with excuses or not writing. I make it clear that during the scope of the class, things are strict, and then, AFTER the class is over, they get to keep what works and toss the rest. I see many of my students toss quite a bit initially, and then slowly work their way back to what we did, in their own time.

Either way is great. You find your process by trying many different things, not staying in a rut, taking chances, and building your skills with every piece you write.

I am deeply grateful to my teachers. Even the ones I didn’t agree with gave me something important. And I’m still realizing the pieces, and will continue, my entire life, as long as I pay attention.

Who are your most memorable teachers? Is there anyone with whom you kept in touch?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Social Media Expansion

Social media is a great tool as long as you use it rather than it using you. But that’s a different conversation!

We’re so used to Facebook and Twitter that we forget there are other types of social media out there, and perhaps some of them might be a better platform for your work.

I have grown increasingly frustrated with Facebook lately. I don’t know which will happen first — that they decide I did something against their ever-changing policy, which is set up to hurt small businesses and individual authors in favor of mega corporations — or that I get so frustrated I delete my account and all my pages.

I spend too much time on Twitter, but I use Twitter for different things. Most of my political activism is via Twitter — when I’m not writing or in the offices working with my duly elected officials on many levels. Some of them appreciate it. Some of them are sick of me. Too bad for them.

But I also use Twitter to hang out and explore other interests and connect with people in arts of all disciplines, and all over the world. Many more conversations and inspirations begun on Twitter have translated well to actual life than on Facebook.

I’ve also landed some of my highest paid gigs on Twitter — and many of them have been BECAUSE I’m socially and politically active. So when someone tells you that standing up for what you believe in on Twitter will kill your chances for a job, tell them where to stuff it. If a job doesn’t want you  because you take your responsibilities as a citizen, as part of the social contract, seriously — it’s not a place you want to work.

In any case, I’ve been exploring other social media platforms, and I’m sharing what I’m learning. I use “learning” because it is and will be an on-going process.

In addition to my own social media needs, I often handle social media platforms for my freelance clients (I’m about to expand my social media package). I often try out the platform myself and then can recommend or not to a client.

This is by no means a complete list, and, as I explore new/other social media platforms, I will add them in future posts.

Linked In — I hate it. I’ve used it to track down a few people, but for my own use, it doesn’t work.

Alignable — I work on it for one of my freelance clients. I don’t think we utilize its full value. I like the idea of connecting with local businesses and recommending each other — I don’t know how effectively we’re putting it into practice. I do not have my own account on them yet, and may not.

Instagram — some of my more visually-based clients use it and like it. I don’t personally use it, because I don’t yet have a plan where it’s worth it for me. Also, it’s too tied in to Facebook for my taste. It’s only done via a phone app, and I resent being forced to interact that way, without the option for computer use.

Tumblr — I’m still getting the hang of it. I use it personally, and am starting to like it more. I use it for several clients. They feel they “should” be on it; none of them are in love with it.

Ello — I love it, for me personally. I love being around creatives who are working on their crafts. I don’t see it as a marketing platform; I see it more as we’re inspiring each other and learning from each other. It’s a relief after all the ad-centric stuff that’s going on.

Vero — I’ve had so much trouble with this platform, I’m ready to give up on it. I’d heard good things about it. But if I have trouble, my clients who are less tech-savvy than I am won’t be able to do it. I also resent I can only do it from my phone. I don’t want to live my whole life via apps. Their support people have been as nice as can be, but it’s going on a week and the problem isn’t solved yet. And the problem is basic sign-up.  Not impressed.

Triberr — just signed up. It looks interesting. I have discovered some blogs I like a lot that I might not have otherwise found. I hope I will be able to make actual connections, and it’s not just about clicking and moving a post on.

I’m about to experiment with Mix (which used to be StumbleUpon), About. me and Fuel My Blog. I had several questions for the last on that list, and have not yet heard back, so we’ll see.

As far as online portfolios, I like Contently, but that’s different than social media. I will probably do a separate post about that down the road.

I will report back when I have something worthwhile to say.

I hope you’re all taking the Labor Holiday — you’re earning it!

 

Ink-Dipped Advice: Don’t Settle! Multiple Skills Deserve Higher Pay

 

In local job listings, I’ve noticed an infuriating trend: ads for part-time jobs, without benefits, that expect the employee to be the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the marketing/communications director, and the general administrative assistant. They want computer skills, graphic design skills, web development skills, photography/social media skills, writing skills, customer service skills, and accounting/QuickBooks capacity. For minimum wage.

No.

I touched on this in an earlier post.

Value your skills. Research each of these skills. What is the range of pay in your area for this type of work?  Graphic design usually starts around $60/hour. Basic bookkeeping is anywhere from $35 and up. Web development/IT skills range anywhere from $85 to $150, marketing writing can be anywhere from $35 to over $100, photography is usually close to $100.

So when someone posts an ad asking for ALL those skills, figure out how much that person should offer. Figure out what to ask.

Some places post all of this in the ad with the lowest allowed hourly minimum wage.

Skip them, unless you’re in a position to need interim dollars to keep a roof over your head.

Some listings will have percentages of time they believe each task takes up: 20% bookkeeping, 40% receptionist, 30% marketing, etc.

First of all, make sure it adds up to 100, and not some higher number. Because if  it’s more than 100, they need more than a bookkeeper.

Second, figure out how much the job should actually pay for all those skills. In a 40 hour work week, how many hours does each percentage break down? How much should each of those skills be paid? That’s your baseline figure for the bottom of the rate.

If these percentages and the ad have been written by a so-called “HR” person in the company, it’s not going to be accurate. The person with whom you’re working most directly will have the real knowledge.

If the ad does not list how much a chunk each skill is projected to take (because it’s never going to be accurate. Human beings works at different rates; business ebbs and flows), ask. 

If the money doesn’t align with what you want and should be paid for the multitude of skills, move on.

But I’m a freelancer, you say. Why would I even read these ads?

First, because it’s always good to see what employers think they can get away with. There’s a hue and cry that there are so many jobs out there that “can’t” be filled. That’s simply not true. Employers don’t want to pay for the skills employees have honed over the years, and they don’t want to pay people to do what they’re good at. They’d rather pay poorly for people who can do one thing decently and six things poorly than hire more than one person to do what they do well. Or pay one multi-skilled person fairly and give benefits.

They claim they “can’t.” The reality is that they won’t. There’s a difference. If they broke the job down appropriately and paid fairly, the business would prosper. But they are stuck in poverty consciousness and that’s what they extend to their workers, and it spirals downwards. It infects a region like a monetary cancer.

Because businesses talk to each other, at networking events, at dinners, during golf games. If one guy gets away with paying crap for a job encompassing 16 different skills that are usually paid at market rate, all his friends will do the same. 

And the cancer spreads.

Second, as a freelancer, if you find the company interesting and exciting, it is sometimes worth it to approach them with a proposal to work as an independent contractor or consultant.  Point out how your skill will earn them money if they hire you in as a freelancer, rather than unrealistically bundling it into an general assistant job.

They’re not paying benefits anyway. It doesn’t hurt them.

Don’t work for minimum wage; charge your rate.  Hold your boundaries — you are not an employee. Maybe you’ll do some hours on site; maybe it’s remote. Spell it all out in your contract. You are paid for meetings. You know I believe on being paid for phone time. If they insist you are on site, travel time counts.

You have to be better at what you do than anyone they have on staff — but not only is it a better situation for both of you, but, by doing well, you are teaching the employers that freelancers with specific skills are worth the money.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t “niche.” I have areas of specialized knowledge, and I can learn about anything else that interest me quickly in order to write about it. But I consider myself a Renaissance Writer (not a Generalist). 

So why am I against listings for a variety of skills?

Because it’s about not paying a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. It’s about getting as much as possible for crap wages.

Most jobs with such listings aren’t worth courting as an independent contractor or consultant. But, every once in awhile, some of them are. Once in awhile, you find a small business that is committed to walking a positive talk. That is a case where they might not be able to pay much; but they are willing to pay fairly. They will temper what they ask for to the bounds of the budget. They want to be treated fairly, so they treat others fairly.

These businesses usually grow. It’s exciting to be a part of that growth. Finding the one business that is worth working with counters the 250 crap ads you combed through, looking for that one.

Value your skills. Know your value. Study the market. Craft your pitch. Create partnerships and working relationships that work for everyone.