One of my favorite parts
of the business is working with creatives across disciplines honing their artist
or vision statements. It gives me a chance to experience their passion for
their work, and help them shape it into an active, engaging piece that can be
used in grant applications, cover letters, on websites, in bios, in media kits,
How do you get there?
Especially if your interests and work have a wide range?
That’s right. Remember the
kind of fun you had as a child, playing, without pressure to do or be anything
Remember what excites you
about your work. What makes you passionate about.
Write, or make a collage,
or draw, or take a walk and mutter to yourself.
Remember the wonderful
projects you worked on in the past, and what appealed to you about them.
Think ahead, to the kind
of work you see in your future, what drives you there, what electrifies and
astonishes you about it.
Is there a thread, a
theme, that runs through it?
Much of my work is built
around themes of loyalty to loved ones, breaking out of conformity/expectation
boxes, and creating family, by choice as much as blood. The most exciting projects
I worked on (even if I wasn’t a creator) have also contained those themes. It’s
the type of work I’m drawn to when it’s created by others, and those are themes
that keep coming up in my own work, in different ways.
Working on a theatre production
is creating a family of choice, even for a limited time, and that’s where I
spent the bulk of my professional career.
Once you recognize your
themes, threads, and what stimulates you, look for active words to describe them.
The key here is “active.”
Avoid, or edit out
passive. Phrases like “had been done” and “was hoping to achieve” derail you.
You “did” and you “achieved.”
Keep your sentences short,
active, and full of life.
Instead of using adverbs,
use verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
The reader should
experience your excitement with you as they’re reading. They should feel like
you are in the room with them, in conversation. The words you choose vibrate
Keep the ego out, but the
action in. Show, in active terms, what you’ve done and what you dream, while
keeping out the narcissism.
Remember, too, that your
artist/vision statement is a living part of you and your work. It grows and
changes, as you do. It’s a roadmap, not a prison.
Revisit it often. Update,
shape, hone. Reveal your love, show your soul.
The creativity you use in
your statement both supports and informs the creativity in your work.
Last week’s #RemoteChat was built around what we do in 4- hour time blocks, and writer Paula Hendrickson had a great question that got me thinking about how my own process has evolved.
I mentioned how vital it
is for me to do my first 1K of the day early in the morning. Most often, it’s
fiction, either whatever novel I’m drafting, or a play. That is my prime
creative time (the time itself is getting earlier and earlier, and sometimes it
winds up being what is, for other people, the middle of the night).
If I get to the desk (I often
draft in longhand rather than on the computer for the first draft) right after
I’ve had my first cup of coffee and fed the cats, but before I do anything else
in the day, my brain is in prime creative mode. I usually write 1000 words in
about an hour to an hour and a half, which is not a pace I can maintain the
rest of the day. (These are first draft words – revisions are a different process
and take a different amount of time).
Hendrickson asked, “Don’t you find
it hard to end the creative writing part of your day and switch to work mode?”
I used to, years ago, but while I worked in theatre, I trained
myself to work in creative blocks so I could create up to and around the time I
needed to spend in the theatre. That translates well to my current almost-all
remote writing life.
Flow, Flexibility, Working at Peak Creativity
I try to keep my work frame as holistic as possible, because I try to approach everything as creative. It’s all work, even though novel and playwrighting tap different facets than writing a marketing email blast to launch a product, or a press release for a non-profit, or a speech for a corporate event.
When I’m really in the flow of whatever that early morning project
is, in the best of all possible worlds, I would keep going until I’m written
out on it for the day.
But the reality is that I often have deadlines on other projects, meetings or interviews or keeping up with admin or specific research scheduled, and I can’t just keep writing all day on one project. I have to move back and forth between them.
Writing 1-1.5K first thing (on a strong flow morning, it’s closer to 2 or 2.5K) launches me creatively. No matter what else happens, I have that 1K written, and it’s 1K more than I had the day before. Also, 1 or 1.5K usually brings me to a good stopping point where I need to take a breath. Not only does it move that particular project forward, it puts me in a good creative mindset for the rest of my day. It’s a warm-up, like stretches for an athlete or scales for a singer. It warms up m brain and my creative engine.
After that 1K is done, I do my morning yoga/meditation practice,
shower, eat breakfast, etc. Then I go to my desk and start my “workday.”
At the end of the previous workday, I spent a few minutes running
through, in my head, what needs to be done the next day. I used to write detailed
To Do lists, but I started resenting them, so now I keep them in my head. I
check my calendar (I keep a detailed calendar with project deadlines in
different colors and meetings).
Time Zones, Interruptions, Creative Saboteurs
Sometimes my official workday starts very early. I’ve had
instances where I needed to give a presentation to an audience in the EU when
it was about 5 AM my time. That’s the exception, not the rule. In most cases,
no matter what the time zone, there are enough overlapping work hours if we
need to be in real-time contact. Most of what I do can be asynchronous.
One of the reasons I had already cut back on my on-site work
pre-pandemic was because there are certain people who can’t stand to see others
productively working. I’ve talked about how deconstructive “multi-tasking” is
in earlier posts. One can handle a variety of projects on a variety of
deadlines by focusing on what needs to be focused on and having uninterrupted worktime.
The projects take less time to complete, and the quality of the work is higher.
No one needs to stare at me as I write. No one needs to “just pop in” while I’m working. Don’t interrupt me. Shoot me an email. I’ll respond. I only accept phone calls by appointment, and, if I’m on a Zoom call, I turn my phone off.
The pandemic changed the landscape of the workday for me, and made it even more important to have flexibility, and not have to be tied to the computer or the office for 8 consecutive hours. Essential businesses and healthcare have specific hours set aside for specific age groups. I need a certain level of flexibility in my day to deal with them.
When I approach my official workday, I know what needs to be done within the time frame of that specific day, whether it’s a completed project or a step in a project. After decades of doing this work, I have a good idea of how much time each step takes.
Appointments have specific times, but I don’t break down my
blocks into 15-minute or 30-minute intervals. I give each block breathing room.
From Theatre and Writing Life to Writing Life
When I lived worked full time on Broadway, shows were at night, and on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday matinees. Monday was dark day, my day off (although I often spent Mondays day playing on whatever television show shot in New York). But, as anyone who works in theatre knows, the work isn’t JUST the show. There are special events and prep work during the day. I usually did one or two daywork sessions on my own show, and one or two daywork sessions on a different show, because you want to stay fresh in people’s minds. That way, when your show ends, you have relationships and can move to other shows.
On a matinee day, my daywork started at 9 or 10 AM, I worked two
shows, and was often home after 11 PM. Later, if we went out for a drink or to
see another show or listen to music. On a “regular” show day, I might have daywork
starting at 1, and then the show at night. Or I might not have to be at the
theatre until an hour and a half before the evening show.
I still got up early in the morning to write.
I didn’t have word quotas at that time. It was all dictated by how much I could get done within the specific hours for that day. Early on, I felt frustrated and like I flailed.
As far as I was concerned, I worked two full-time jobs.
Although, anyone who works professionally in theatre will tell you that theatre
demands more than a full-time job.
I rarely wrote when I got home from the theatre, although if I had
a deadline, I sucked it up and wrote until three or four in the morning. I
found it harder to switch out of theatre headspace into writing headspace than
the other way around. I was better off going to bed around 1 or 2 AM, getting
up at 6, and hitting the desk.
On days where I didn’t have to be at the theatre until 1, I
could let it flow all morning. On days when I had to be at the theatre for an
evening show, I trained myself to turn off the writing spigot at 4:30, so I
could transition from writing headspace to theatre headspace, eat dinner,
It was difficult at first (lots of setting timers or alarm
clocks). Rather Pavlovian. But, doing it regularly, it became a habit.
It became a habit that serves me well now.
I found that I could stop writing on one project and let it simmer in my unconscious while I consciously worked on something else (be it a different piece of writing or the show). When I finished the project in focus, or the part of it I could do, it receded to percolate, and the other project moved to the forefront again — with progress made while it percolated. I could dive back into it because my unconscious was working on it while my conscious mind worked on the project in front of me. Neither project suffered. I could flow back and forth, and let the creative energy of each project feed the other, even when the details were different.
Once I started my transition out of full-time theatre work into
part-time theatre (as a swing), it was harder to get things done writing-wise
and structure my freelance day.
National Novel Writing Month helped me with the structure and
flow. The early morning writing sessions worked because then I didn’t worry
about that day’s word count all day. NaNoWriMo got me into the rhythm of 1-2K/day
as a regular flow, and I’ve found that serves me well now.
The official start of my workday starts with emails. I try not
to get bogged down in them, and I try to keep up with them. I look through them,
delete what doesn’t need attention, answer what does, organize anything that
has to do with a current project.
The next practical block consists of the morning social
media rounds. I have personal and business social media accounts, and I run
social media accounts for clients. I visit all of those, one at a time; see
what needs to be answered; post a response or a piece of content (if it hasn’t
been scheduled), etc. I try not to get bogged down, although sometimes I do.
Running through my own SM accounts first means I feel the pressure of the
client accounts, and stay aware of time.
I do have one client who has a particular block of hours
dedicated to their work each week. In that case, during those blocks, I handle
all of their work – direct response emails, creating ads and email blasts, positing
new content, research, audience engagement expansion, etc., during those
designated hours. That is a self-contained block of time. Although the actual
hours might vary per day, when I’m in that client’s block for the day, that
client’s variety of work has my full attention.
For the clients for whom I schedule social media posts, I set
one or two blocks of finite hours once or twice a month per client for social
media scheduling. I plan the
content/images for each post in one set of practical blocks, then upload/schedule
on platforms such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer, etc. in other practical
I do a practical block or two in the afternoon, usually right
after lunch and at the end of the workday, mostly focused on email, in case
something needs my immediate attention before I end my workday. I do another round
of the social media accounts in the afternoon, in case anything needs response.
I used to schedule a big block of time on Fridays for admin
work. That became overwhelming, so I now do admin amidst the Practical Blocks,
and a late morning/early afternoon short admin session on Fridays, so Mondays
aren’t so overwhelming.
After the SM rounds in the morning, it’s time to get down to morning
creative work. Maybe it’s an interview. Maybe it’s a Zoom call. Maybe I’m creating
an email blast, Maybe I’m taking the information from different interviews and
putting them into my article. Maybe I’m writing a press release, or working on
an artist statement or client’s business brochure.
These are flow blocks. I have a basic idea of how much
time each task takes, with flexibility for unexpected obstacles (computer
updates, the need to get back to a source for clarification, etc.) I don’t have
hard-and-fast hours set aside; I let the work ebb and flow as it needs. When I’m
finished with a project, or a section of a project, I’ll stand up and stretch
for a few minutes, check email/SM, clear my head for the next project.
Whatever I’m working on at the time is the most important item
in my world at that moment, and everything else is blocked out of the conscious
mind. Doing so allows me to give full attention and creativity, with a higher
rate of productivity and a higher quality of work.
At the same time, various creative projects that are percolating are humming at the back of my brain, waiting for their turn, but not distracting me. As I stated above, they are progressing during that percolation time, even when they are not front and center in my attention.
There’s a big difference between juggling multiple projects,
with complete focus as needed, and being constantly interrupted in the name of “multi-tasking”
that doesn’t let you get anything done well.
Afternoons, after lunch, I prefer to do editing work or
research. It uses different creative synapses than the writing. I draft
stronger work in the morning; my editing eye is better in the afternoon. Whenever
possible, that’s how I arrange my flow. If I need to have another writing block later
in the day, I do so. It boils down to contract deadlines and pay rate.
Reading is usually scheduled in the afternoon. Afternoons and
evenings are when I usually work on the books I review, or the contest entries
when I’m a judge, or research materials/background for various projects.
Some days, the flow is strong on a particular project, or that’s
the only project that needs my full attention, and then I’ll flow with it all
Breaks, Hydration, Meals
I tend to push through for too many hours without a break and exhaust myself. Sitting for too long causes physical pain, eye strain, and emotional mush.
I’m in the process of training myself to take breaks.
Flowing with the blocks combined with listening to my body helps.
When my back starts to hurt, or I get a headache, I stop. Often, I notice the physical
discomfort as I’m finishing a block. When it dovetails nicely, I take a break
to stretch or get something fresh to drink. I might do a few yoga asanas, to
counteract a specific tension.
I usually hop on social media for a few minutes. I’ve spent much
more time on social media during the pandemic, and I’m starting to scale back
on it. It is an important part of my work – even the personal account has a lot
to do with my writing work – but I don’t want it to overwhelm the work.
The best boundary I set is to take a real lunch break. So often,
when I worked hybrid and was only onsite with a client for a few hours here or
there, I skipped lunch or ate at my desk. Working remotely, I make sure I take
a genuine lunch break, in a different room than my home office. I cook, I play
with the cats, I might read something for pleasure.
When at all possible, after lunch, or after the next Practical
Block, I take some time on the acupressure mat, about 20-40 minutes. That helps
unravel knots from sitting at the computer, I can rest my eyes, I can clear my
mind and re-focus for the afternoon. That break makes my afternoon far more
productive and run more smoothly.
End of Day
A genuine end of day is important. I have a set time when I stop
interacting with clients (unless it’s an emergency). I might stay at my desk a
little past that time, to wind something up, but client contact stops until the
following business day.
When I’m done, I shut everything down, and walk away from it.
We started having cocktail hour when we moved to Cape Cod, to a
house with a lovely deck. It’s a nice transition time after the workday and before
I start cooking dinner. There’s not always alcohol involved; it might be a
Shirley Temple or white-cranberry peach juice in a festive glass. As the
pandemic stretches on, I find myself drinking less alcohol.
But having a firm end of day means I have the chance to refuel,
mentally and physically, for the following day. It is an investment in the next
I try to have one day a week where I’m not online at all. No
social media, no internet muddling, no phone calls, no television. I might
listen to music, but that’s it. I call it my “Day of Disconnect.” It’s vital to
keeping the creative flow.
I let that fall by the wayside during the pandemic, because we
were constantly living in crisis mode. I plan to start re-instating it in the coming
Talking in terms of blocks and flow sounds contradictory, but in years of trying different techniques to point my best creative energy to specific projects, I find it works. If I make too many lists or break down my time into assigning every minute a task, it looks pretty on the page, but it sabotages my work energy.
It’s a constantly evolving
process. What works well now might need adjustment in three months or six
months or a year. That keeps creativity fresh. Try new tools and techniques,
and see what makes sense in your particular situation.
I’ve talked about productivity too often in this post. But we have to remember that pandemic productivity is different than non-pandemic productivity. We are under enormous daily strains. Businesses are opening too soon, and too many companies are pushing too hard for increased productivity (at higher rates for lower pay than pre-pandemic) while we’re still trying to survive a worldwide trauma. More than 500,000 people are dead in the US alone. We’re not being allowed to process, to grieve, or to find a path to healing. Healing itself will take years. Surviving is a victory. Re-defining productivity, work culture, and demands are all a process we need to participate in so that there is a sustainable future.
Hello, February! January
seemed like it was about 27 months long. February is supposed to be a short
month. We’ll see.
There are plenty tired old
chestnuts in interview situations that need to be retired. Some are illegal,
some are toxic, some are racist or misogynist or ageist, some are ableist, and
many have nothing to do with the job and nothing to do with “getting to know
One of these questions is “Where
do you see yourself in five years?”
That’s a question your
high school guidance counselor asks when they’re helping you prepare your
college applications. It’s the kind of question that might come up, in a
different format, with co-workers at the bar (in the years where we could
actually go to a bar with co-workers without worrying it would, quite
literally, kill us). It’s the kind of question you ask yourself on retreat,
when you are trying to avoid or recover from burnout.
But in a professional interview
That question was dumb in
1985. After 2020, it’s even worse. It shows that the company asking has learned
nothing from the pandemic. It sends up a big red flag.
You can type the question
into an internet search engine and get a bunch of advice from corporate-leaning
“experts” on how to answer it with vague softballs that don’t “threaten” the
person interviewing you.
I tried those placating
responses a few times, and the experience made me want to vomit. I was not
being true to myself, to my core integrity. That’s no way to start a new
There is a more direct
Generally, as soon as I
hear the question, I mentally cross that company off as an organization for a
potential working relationship, and try to end the conversation as smoothly and
pleasantly as possible.
I start flippantly. “That
depends on whether or not you hire me.”
This is met with shocked
silence, and then nervous laughter. Usually, some stuttering and backpedaling
occurs. I let the interviewer twist in the wind for a few beats – after all,
this was a “gotcha” question, with malicious intent (every “gotcha” question is
designed with malicious intent), and my subtext makes that clear.
After a few beats of the
interviewer flailing, I add, “Seriously, wherever I land, five years from now,
I will be working with smart people who are passionate about what they do.”
They can decide if I mean
their company or not.
It is a 100% genuine
answer. I seek out opportunities to work
with smart people who are passionate about what they do. Some of those work
relationships are long-term, some are short-term, and some are on-and-off. When
I’m seeking new opportunities, everything else builds on that foundation.
It’s often the end of the
year that finds us tidying things up so that we are ready to start fresh. That
includes email boxes, files, websites, portfolios, and the like.
Keeping our professional files
up to date is a bit like housecleaning. It needs regular attention, the same
way we need to dust, vacuum, do dishes, handle the laundry, and clean the
Part of the professional
tidying-up is more than keeping track of what we’d done over the past few
months; it’s about deciding where we want to go.
Look at your portfolio samples. Do you need to swap out older pieces for newer ones? Or do you have pieces that are older, but are more in line with the type of work you’re currently pitching, and it makes sense to put them back in?
Look at your bio information, your “about” page, profiles on various websites and social media handles. Does anything need to be updated? Do your blog sites or websites need freshening up, with a new template or a redesign?
Do you choose to use
photos? If so, does it need an update?
I firmly believe that what
I look like has nothing to do with the quality of my work. My work is public,
my life is private. It’s not salacious or controversial, but it is MINE, and I
get to choose which aspects I share, how I share them, and with whom. Also, because
I publish under multiple names AND work as a ghostwriter, I use icons in place
of photographs. The whole “oh, but it makes it more PERSONAL, so I know who I’m
dealing with” is, in my mind, a crock. All you need to know is the quality of
the WORK. If we decide to interact on a personal level, that’s apart from the
Also, that reasoning is usually thrown around by people who’ve never had to deal with stalkers. Forcing someone to use a photo on a public site could be a death sentence. If a person chooses not to be a public figure, they have the right not to have their photos splashed all over unless they are actively trying to harm someone else.
As you do your tidying up,
–What kind of work do I
want to do in the coming months?
–What new skills do I
want to learn?
–Where can I stretch and
find new, interesting developments?
–How do I want to integrate
what I’ve learned in the past few months?
–What do I want to remove
from the roster, whether it’s temporary or permanent, to make room?
Remember that these
decisions can and will change as your career grows and changes. That’s
positive. Make the decision that serves you best for this next cycle, and then reassess,
and make new decisions for the one after that.
You’ll know when it’s time
Listen to your intuition.
Intuition, at its best, combines facts, potential, and the inner knowing of
what is best for you. It combines the integrated information between your head,
your heart, and your gut.
What kind of tidying up
are you doing in the next few weeks?
One-way interviews have become more common during the virtual interview process of pandemic. “Send us a three-minute introductory video.” My response to that is, “Are you high, sweetie?”
First of all, any
interview is a two-way street, or you are the WRONG place for me. I’m
interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing me.
A one-way interview is a
waste of the interviewee’s time.
I am not an actor. I do
not make audition tapes and perform for you.
I am a writer. I’ll write the scripts for the spokespeople in your video spots to rehearse and perform.
But I am not performing in
order to “earn” an actual conversation with someone in the company.
As someone who worked in
production, let me break down what it means, in terms of time, production,
labor, and cost to do a three-minute video:
—Script. You need to know what you’re saying, even for (especially for) an introductory video. When I started writing short corporate script videos, that paid per finished scripted minute, it was $85-110/hour. Now, it’s more likely to be $200-$300/hour. Right there, it’s a loss from $255-$600. Figure that includes 2 rounds of revisions, possibly more as you rehearse. How fast do you write? How many hours will it take you to come up with 3 minutes of material? If you’re used to corporate video shoots or short shoots, probably 3-4 hours. If not, it could take three or four times that.
—Location. Where will you shoot it? Inside? Outside? We’re in a pandemic, so your options are limited. Hopefully, you won’t have to pay a location fee (if you don’t use your own premises, but there’s still the time and decision involved). On the low side, it’s another $100 .
—Set. How will you decorate your surroundings? Even if the video is head-and-shoulders, what kind of chair will you sit in? How much does the camera take in? You’ll need to set decorate your workspace. Is part of the interview showing them your remote work set-up? On the low end, that’s $125/hour. Figure 2 hours to set up the space the way you want it. That’s $250.
–-Props. Again, even if you’re doing a head-and-shoulders at the desk, or standing, shooting on your phone, you may need props. A pen? A notebook? You want them to see your tech? Figure at least one hour at $100.
—Lighting. Good lighting is vital to a decent video. Figure $50/hour. Once you get the set, props, costume, make-up in place, you’ll need to light it, shoot tests, and relight. Remember that, unless you’re blocking out daylight, as the sun moves, it affects your video. Figure 4 hours or $200.
—Wardrobe. What will you wear on camera? You need something that doesn’t wash you out, isn’t too busy or distracting, and makes you both look and feel good. If it feels uncomfortable, your body will react, and the camera will read it. A wardrobe/stylist is about $120/hour. Figure 2 hours of deciding what to wear and how to accessorize, and at least an hour of prepping the clothes – steaming, ironing. Alterations are an additional time at an additional fee. Do you have to buy something for the video? That’s another cost. But it’s at least 3 hours at $120/hour or $360.
—Makeup/Hair. Again, you’ll need to play with it in the lighting, with the wardrobe and do tests.
Non-union can start as low
as $25/hour. A good one will cost you a good deal more than that. You’re
probably non-union. Figure an hour to play with makeup and hair to decide what
you want, and then an hour to actually do it. Again, you’ll need to shoot tests,
but we’ll get to that later. Figure $100.
—Sound. Does your recording device have decent sound? Is it tinny or does it sound like you? Do you have to unplug anything that runs in the background, shut doors, muffle anything? Chances are you can’t/won’t need to edit the sound or add Foley. Sound techs start around $20/hour and go up from there, depending on skill level and specialty. Give yourself an hour to play with your options. $20.
—Rehearsal. You’ll need time to rehearse, revise, memorize. Actor fees can start as low as $50/hour and sky’s the limit. Figure 4-6 hours rehearsal time, so $200-$300. You are your own actor/spokesperson for your brand.
—Test shoots. You’ll need to shoot test footage for the look, the sound, and shoot some of the rehearsals. If you really have your act together, two hours at $50/hour, for $100. That’s lowballing A LOT, because you’re putting together all the elements you worked on.
—The actual shoot. When I production managed film, we broke it down by 1/8 of a page for the schedule. For feature film production, one hoped to get through 2 pages per day. When I worked one-hour drama television production, it’s much faster. It’s broken down the same way, but you usually need to get through 7-10 pages per day. You’ll need multiple takes, and you’ll need to look at the takes and make adjustments for other takes. Give yourself 3 hours. Since you’re wearing all the hats, and you did all the prep, and should be in good shape, figure $250/hour for 3 hours, or $750. You think three hours sounds crazy for a three-minute video, but it’s less time than you’ll probably need. You’ll note I haven’t listed a director’s fee in this set-up. If you’re lucky enough to have someone to act as your director, that’s another fee, but I’m assuming you’ll go director-less. Since this is more of an audition tape.
–-Editing. Are you going to edit the video? Do you have the editing software? Do you have editing skills/experience. Direct Images Interactive talks about how a 2-minute video takes about 34 editing hours, and can cost between $3400 and $4250. If you don’t have a bunch of cuts because the entire interview is done in single takes and you don’t edit sounds or effects, dubbing, or adding music, but just shaving a few seconds here and there or adding filtering, figure 10 hours or $1000.
In order to make your “quick,
3-minute intro” you’ve put in the equivalent of:
40 hours (a full work week)
$3435 – $3520 unpaid physical
We haven’t even gotten into the unpaid emotional labor involved.
All your work HAS value and needs to be valued. This attitude of “well, everyone has a YouTube Channel” and “everyone is slapping up videos” — no. Putting together a production is skilled work with many aspects, all of which have a price tag and deserve to be valued. In the age of COVID, there are many more one-person production teams. Again, ALL of the elements must be valued.
Even if the job pays
$60K/year, you’ve put in the equivalent of nearly 2 weeks’ worth of salary to
submit something that will never be reimbursed, and where you don’t get to have
a conversation/ask questions/get a sense if this is a place you want to be.
“Make an introductory video”
robs you of $3500 worth of billable hours with zero promise of return. For a
job that is unlikely to have any video production involved in it.
Because if it WAS a video
production job – they’d look at your reel, and not expect you to create
something “introductory” for them without pay.
Because professionals should not demand unpaid labor, especially not as part of the interview process.
Basically, you’re being asked to audition like an actor, but without the benefits an actor gets from making an audition tape. And yes, plenty of actors spend this much time, money, and effort on audition tapes. Which is a form of unpaid labor inherent in the acting profession, and can lead to a labor conversation on a different post.
Beverlyboy.com, which deals in professional video services, suggests figuring $1500 to $10,000 PER FINISHED MINUTE for a video. A three-minute video would cost $4500-$30,000. Yes, it’s for something polished with a professional crew. They have a great breakdown, and show some terrific examples of their work.
“But it’s not professional,
it’s just an introductory video.”
If it looks like crap, you won’t go any further in the process. Even if you’re doing it yourself, you’re wearing all the hats. Every job you undertake to put together the video needs to be costed out and deserves payment.
If you like the idea of an introductory interview/audition tape, now you know what you need to create one that’s unique to YOU, not a particular job. Put it on your website. You do it once, and then use the link to send potential clients/employers to it. But it is about YOU — not specific to any given company.
If you start your
relationship with a new-to-you company by doing this kind of work for free, it
does not bode well for your future relationship. You’ve already said you are
willing to be overworked and underpaid (not paid) for maybe-someday getting
rewarded. Which doesn’t happen.
Don’t do it. When you see the demand for a one-way video interview in the job description, click away. It’s not worth it. The real test they’re giving you is to see if you’re willing to let them take advantage of you.
It’s that time of year
again, where we look back and evaluate the year.
The whole pandemic has been
a time of daily re-evaluation and re-assessment. But now, it’s time to sit
down, with pen and paper, and be honest with yourself.
–What worked? What didn’t?
–Where did you feel you
had no choices?
–What can you do to open
–What do you need to get
–What do you want and
need moving forward?
In addition to all this practicality, you need to take some time to dream. This year taught us we can make all the strategic plans, all the three-year/five-year/ten-year plans the “experts” tell us we need – and then we have to throw them out when the unexpected comes our way.
Perhaps it’s because so
many people are unemployed, so many employers are feeling smug. Or perhaps the
HR departments simply don’t care any more. But there’s an unfortunate trend in
expecting talented candidates to return to a company again and again to beg for
Yet companies complain there
aren’t enough talented/skilled workers out there, which is simply not true.
Companies are driving them away during the initial screening process – a longer
post on this is in the works.
One of the most annoying paragraphs
HR sends out to potential candidates is the “keep checking our careers page and
apply to us again.”
YOU are supposed to be
Human Resources. That means, if you do your job well (and yes, I’ve worked in
human resources, so I actually know how to do this job and have done this job),
your mission is to find talented people whose skills will lift the company to
the next level. If you get more talent than openings, you court those you can’t
hire in the moment, so when there’s an opening, you already have relationships
with skilled workers and can bring them in.
You HAVE the candidate’s
resume, work samples, references. Chances are, you’ve spoken to them a few
times. In preliminary interviews.
Now, it is YOUR job to remember them, remember their talents, keep in touch or respond pleasantly if they choose to keep in touch with you, and YOU contact THEM when there’s an opening. Not expect them to start at the beginning of the process again.
That doesn’t mean you don’t
post the job again and perhaps find even more skilled talent out there who wasn’t
available/didn’t hear about it/weren’t looking the first time around.
If you are actually in
HUMAN Resources, and not just trying to fill a compliant body into a company
slot, you’re constantly trying to find great talent for a company in which you
believe. When you find it, even if you can’t hire that individual at that
moment, you make sure you keep track of them so you can hire them the next time
or two down the road.
You DON’T expect a
talented, skilled candidate to wait around refreshing your page once a week and
beg for another chance. A truly talented, skilled candidate will move on to a
company – and an HR department – who actually values the resources that make
them a good HUMAN investment for the company.
Skill and talent are
ALWAYS in demand.
Don’t lose the best candidates because you can’t be bothered to keep track of talent. No company is that busy and has that much talent knocking on the door that they can’t keep in touch with great candidates. If you don’t have a system that works well to do so, then change your system.
Better yet, create a new
one, patent it, sell it, and train others to use it.
Remember the HUMAN in “human
If you don’t treat your
talent well, no matter what the field, the talent will gravitate to those who
I realized that last week’s
post was more tied to the piece I’m working on about how employers are driving
away the skilled workers they claim they want than actually about re-shaping my
I’ve re-shaped my career
often. I’ve made my living in the arts since I was 18. Sure, I took temp jobs
and office jobs in between, and even earned rent a few times betting the horses
out at Aqueduct. But the bulk of it was in the arts, and the arts were always
Any job outside the arts
ONLY served to get me through until I had another job inside the arts that paid
me enough to live. Then I quit the other job.
If the job got in the way
of the career, the job was eliminated when I got a good career opportunity.
A PAID opportunity.
NOT an “exposure”
Remember, people die of
exposure. Insist on the cash.
I started in lighting, for
theatre and rock and roll. I wanted to work more closely with actors, so I
moved into stage management.
From stage management, I
moved into wardrobe (so I wasn’t on call 24/7 and could have a life and keep
writing – through all of this, I always wrote).
I stayed, happily, in
wardrobe, working my way up to Broadway, until I started aging out of the physical
demands and decided I wanted to leave while I still loved it. I watched too
many people age in the jobs, afraid to leave, in pain, unhappy, and bitter. I
didn’t want to be one of them.
I moved away from New York
to a place I’d always loved. Unfortunately, it’s a place that supports the arts
in name only. They love it when
prominent artists come in to visit and do special programs and have second
homes here; they don’t believe artists in their community deserve a living wage
to do what they do.
I took a job that I
thought would be a dream job, but turned out to be a two-year nightmare, with a
boss that loved to sabotage anything I did and daily told me that “something”
was wrong with me. Because anyone who disagreed with her must have “something”
wrong with them.
Still, when I was fired
from that job (technically, the position was “eliminated”), I was devastated. I’ve
only recently realized how deep the psychological damage is. The boss tried to
break me; she didn’t succeed, but it will take a long time before the wounds
are just scars.
I went back to a local
theatre for a quick summer gig – bad situation in a lot of respects, and
woefully underpaid, but still worth it.
Then, I worked to rebuild
what I wanted and needed from my career, focusing more on business and
marketing writing, which I enjoy. I love to work with people in different
fields who are smart and passionate about what they do, and I love to
communicate that passion to engage a larger audience. I find it joyful.
All of this time, I was
still meeting contract deadlines on books, writing new books, switching
publishers, attending and/or teaching at conferences, writing plays, writing
radio plays, and so forth and so on.
I found some local
clients, and did a mix of onsite and remote work, although, writing-wise, I
firmly believe the writer does not need to be in someone else’s office. Many were one-and-done, some because that’s
all they needed; others because they balked at paying, insisted I work onsite,
but would not provide me with a professional working environment. A laptop on a
board set over two overturned oil drums is not an acceptable desk.
I spent more and more time
with clients farther afield. I put a lot of miles on my car, driving for
in-person meetings all over New England as I pitched across the country and the
world. Interestingly enough, it was easier to land international remote clients
when I lived in NYC than where I live now. Part of that is the current
political situation, because more and more international companies don’t want to
work with Americans right now. I worked
with a mix of profit and non-profits. I worked with solopreneurs and artists.
Still writing novels, plays, radio plays. I took the bus into Boston more
I was actually willing to
set up a regular commuting situation into Boston, even though it meant being up
by 4:30 in the morning to be on a 6:15 bus and not getting home until 10 or 11
at night. Boston is only 65 miles from here, but the commute can take anywhere
from 2 to 5 hours in each direction, depending on traffic.
On the bus, I could write
my 1000 words a day, and read the books I was sent for review. I couldn’t do
much more than that, but the clients who paid appropriately for my skills were
in Boston, not where I am.
I was at that turning point
earlier this spring – ready to commit to ridiculously long commuting hours for
at least the next year or two.
Then, the pandemic hit,
and we were on Stay-At-Home order. Let me make this clear – people are dancing
around talking saying how we were in “quarantine” – we were NOT. Here in MA, it
was a stay-at-home order. Yes, offices and stores and libraries and museums and
performance venues and schools were closed. But we were not quarantined, and
there was no enforcement. We were encouraged to only grocery shop once every 14
days, but we weren’t FORCED so to do. There was (and is) a mask mandate in the
state, which too many people ignored, and more and more are failing to fulfil.
The positive part of the
pandemic was that, for those of us who already worked remotely, at least a good
portion of the time, and for those who prefer it, it proved that working
remotely is viable for many “office” jobs.
Now that they’re forcing
us back out, without a plan, to Die For Our Employers, those of us who can work
well remotely and got a lot of push-back for it are re-shaping our careers so
to do. We’re supported and encouraged by those who have worked remotely
full-time for years.
It means I can re-shape my
career yet again. I am more productive, more creative, and more focused in my
home office. I have it set up for maximum benefit, in a way NO office in this
area has ever served. (I admit, I’ve had some pretty sweet offices in both New York
and San Francisco).
It also means I can live
anywhere I choose, as long as there’s a good internet connection – and one I
When I worked on Broadway,
I had to live in a commutable distance from Broadway in order to work there. When
I moved, it was a conscious choice to move beyond a commutable distance, because
I knew I wouldn’t really give it up unless I couldn’t physically get there.
I’m also looking at
different types of work.
I’m not a graphic
designer, although I can put together ads and social media posts. I work WITH graphic
designers well. So when I see a listing that tries to give the position a fancy
title, but really wants to save money by hiring one person to do two or more
jobs at less than that one person should earn, I skip it.
I’ve managed plenty of
teams – I’ve been a wardrobe supervisor, I’ve been a production manager in both
theatre and film. I can manage a full production, so managing a content calendar
and other writers is cake.
But I don’t necessarily want
I want to write stuff.
Given the right circumstances, environment, team, and, most importantly, PAY – yes, I’d be a manager. But a lot of different factors would be involved. There are theatres, arts organizations, and museums for which I’d be willing to work onsite, once it’s safe so to do. It won’t be safe for a good long while, especially with the way the numbers are going up.
I’m more cautious about working
for non-profits. When I worked in NY and SF, I often temped or even long-term
temped at non-profits. They were run like businesses and understood that you
pay for the skills you need.
Here? The constant dirge
is “you should be honored we demand you to work for free.”
Some positions that I
would have thought were fun and interesting and exciting even a year ago no
longer grab me. They contain elements on which I no longer want to spend time.
That’s nothing against the companies – they need what they need. But it means
companies to whom I would have sent an LOI or a proposal packet even a year ago
are no longer on my list.
I grappled with this for a
few months. I felt that I was failing, that I was “less than” or that I was
Then, I realized most of
that was the voice of the toxic ex-boss still running a subscript in my
People grow and change,
and so do their careers.
It’s not a failure.
It’s a natural process.
Growing and changing is a
positive, not a negative.
It doesn’t mean you have
to start in the mailroom and wind up as an executive. It means you add skills
and credentials and experience, take that, and CHOOSE what and where you go
Yes, there’s an element of
privilege in that choice, and our current government wants to make sure we have
NO choices and are the peasants to their feudal lords. Which is another reason
we need to get out the vote and overthrow these dictators-in-training.
But deciding to take one’s
career in a different direction is not a failure.
It means you are integrating
all of what you’ve done, learned, and experienced, and turning it into something
wonderful. It doesn’t have to conform to someone else’s agenda or convenience.
It means you’ve outgrown where you are and it’s time to move on.
It also means that when
you find that next career situation, you are more productive and engaged, which
is better for both you and your employer.
One would think/hope
companies would be excited to find enthusiastic, engaged workers rather than someone
who just shows up every day.
You look at your life and
decide what you want and need. Work is such a large part of our lives that how
and what and where we work factors in a great deal.
Maybe you can’t change
your situation today. But you can start figuring out what you want and need, do
some research, and take small steps regularly.
Yes, I’m back. I’m still
working on the article about how companies are driving away skilled workers,
even as they scream they can’t find them. But I didn’t want to be off this blog
for too long, and there’s something else I’ve been grappling with and coming to
terms with over the past weeks that I decided to share.
I noticed, as I research
companies with whom I might like to work, that I’m drawn to different areas
that I was eight or nine months ago.
More and more often, the
title of the job turns me off. I don’t even need to read the description. Or, I
get about two paragraphs in and say, “Nope. This isn’t for me” then click away
and move on.
When a company genuinely
captures my attention, whatever positions they claim to look for, I dig into
the research, find the right person, and send an LOI, telling them why I think
I’d be a good choice for their company, either for a particular project, or in
In the past couple of
years, I’d moved away from that, but now I’m going back to it.
The layers between the
people one would actually work with have become more convoluted. Notice I say “work
with” and not “work for”. That is deliberate. I’m not at the start of my
career. I am interested in “working with” even when I technically have a boss.
The issue of layers is especially
deep when third party recruiters are involved, which is something I go into the
other article I’m working on for this space. I have to say, all of the third
party recruiters I’ve encountered in the past ten years have been a waste of
space, and have certainly wasted my time (and therefore, I’m sure, the company’s
time). As I track the listings for companies using third party recruiters for
the past year or so, I notice they fill a job, and then a few short months
later, they’re looking again to fill the same job. I suppose that keeps recruiters
in business, but it doesn’t do the client companies much good.
As I noted above, I’m
looking for something different now than I even was at the top of the pandemic.
I’m more focused, and less flexible. Part of this is due to a recalibration of
what I want and need out of my work; part of this is that I am not twenty
begging for my first job, but someone with decades of experience and skills. I
no longer have an interest in working FOR a company that does not value either
of those, by underpaying me or by trying to shove me into a position that’s more
about work no one else wants to do than about my skills.
The SEO keywords used in
the position descriptions are just as likely to turn me away from a company as
engage my interest.
(This article turns out to
be tied to the one I’m still working on, about companies driving away skilled
But even when the descriptions
are accurate and the company is interesting, there are roles in companies that
no longer interest me, even though they used to.
In the past, if I was
interested in a company, I was willing to take on tasks out of my wheelhouse in
order to expand my skills, or do something that’s uncomfortable if they agreed
it was temporary. Of course, it never is; once you take on more than your job,
it becomes your job. But if I overall liked and respected the company’s mission
and vision, especially if it was a nonprofit, I was more likely to accept a
broader range of tasks.
That is no longer true.
I know what I want my tasks
within a role to encompass. If the company is trying to cut corners by hiring
one person with strong skills in one area, but minimal skills along a wide
range of areas instead of multiple skilled individuals, that position – and that
company – is no longer a good fit. Because let’s face it, most companies WON’T
train, no matter what they promise. They expect you to figure it out on your
own without additional compensation. Usually on your own time.
At twenty-three, it was an
interesting challenge, especially if I thought I had a future with the company.
In theatre jobs, I was always willing to
take on more, because I knew the theatre was my career, and I would progress. I
did. I made it to Broadway.
In non-profit work, I
often took on extra tasks because everyone was working flat out more hours for
less pay. But after awhile, there’s burnout. Resentment builds, no matter how
committed one is to the mission, because that way of working is unsustainable.
Boundaries need to be set
going in, by both parties, held, and respected. Most managers will keep
assigning as many tasks as they can get away with, no matter what you agreed
upon when you started.
As a freelancer, it’s
often easier to hold and set boundaries. I have a contract that spells out boundaries,
payments, etc. When scope creep threatens, I can point to the contract and say,
“Sure, I’ll take that on; this is how much it’s going to cost.” I can also say,
“That’s not part of the agreement, no.”
But as I’ve been
researching a putting together LOIs and pitch letters to companies these last
months, I’ve noticed what keywords turn me off instantly, or, as I read a description,
I realize, “no, that’s not for me.”
At first, I was worried
that I narrowed my options. I could hear the toxic reprimands we’ve all had at
times: “You need to be a team player” or “Where’s your commitment to the company?”
or “You need to take this on right now to get us through this rough patch” or “How
can you succeed if you won’t do what’s needed?” or “Your job is to make me look
Notice all of these are
demands. None of them are questions to negotiate or navigate new needs as a company
grows and changes.
They’re about guilt and
manipulation rather than problem-solving, which is unsustainable.
I’ve since made peace with it. Trusting my gut
has always been the best choice. I’ve paid for it every time I let myself “logic”
a way out of what my gut told me.
As a professional, I’ve
grown in skills, knowledge, experience, over a wide range of topics. Some of
those skills I enjoy using; others were hard-won and are painful to implement.
Why would I make choices that increase my pain load instead of choices that
make it exciting to get up in the morning and get to work?
We all hit periods where we
have to take whatever’s offered in order to keep a roof over our heads and food
on the table. But we keep growing, searching, changing for what is better for
us and for our situations.
It is okay to discover
that what worked for you five years, ten years ago, or even ten weeks ago, no
longer does. That knowledge gives you a foundation to make new discoveries and
make decisions based on what makes your life better.
Liz Ryan, at the Human Workplace, emphasizes how we are the CEOs of our own companies. That’s so important to both remember and to implement. Right-to-work means companies have made the choice their workers aren’t worth loyalty. So workers need to make the choices that serve their lives best.
How have you found what
you want and need from your work evolving over the past months?
Freelancers talk a lot
about “scope creep.” That’s when a project starts with one set of parameters,
and they keep expanding.
One of the joyful parts of
creative collaboration is how a project grows and changes. When you’re writing
a musical, it’s one thing – you have a development process, you’re being paid
for the changes along the way, and your goal at the end is to have a viable
musical where people walk out of the theatre humming the tunes, buy the CD, and
sing it in the shower for the foreseeable future.
To get there, you need the
project to grow and change.
But the “scope” and the
vision are there from the beginning, and is covered by your contract.
There – the contract. That’s
how you control scope creep.
I’m seeing more and more job descriptions stating “tasks will be added as needed” or “this description in no way encompasses all the tasks the job entails.”
Why aren’t companies being
upfront about what they want in the position?
The first is that the
person who wrote the description has no idea what the job actually entails, which
The second is that the company
wants the option of dumping whatever they want into the position whenever they
want, without additional compensation. Which is not acceptable.
As a freelancer, you have
the protection of your contract. Because, as freelancers, who set our own hours
and meet deadlines, we work on contract (or letter of agreement), which gives
us protections that a salaried employee often does not have.
Your contract can protect
you from scope creep.
Your contract will grow
and change as your business does.
After your initial
conversation with a new client, when you are setting terms, take some time and
think about the parameters of the project as discussed, potential direction for
“scope creep” and how much each direction will cost. Then, put those
possibilities into the contract.
For example, I have a
clause in the contract that states I include two rounds of revisions in the
scope of the project; additional revisions are at an hourly rate.
When I receive the second
round of revisions, I send a reminder that this is the second round of
revisions, and anything beyond that will be at the hourly fee.
Often, far too often, I
get this response: “Oh, this isn’t really a ‘revision.’ It’s just a few tweaks.”
No, it’s a revision.
Changes are revisions. I have had clients where I actually put the definitions
of “revision” and “tweak” in the contract.
Dates and Turnaround Times
I put in turnaround times
for revisions, too. If I hit my deadline to turn in material (and I do), the
party on the other end needs to get back to me in X amount of time with any
revisions. Projects can’t drag on interminably, so a series of dates within the
contract is vital:
–Deposit is due on X date
–When deposit clears, I
start the project
–I get my first portion
done on Y date
are back to me by Z date
–My next revision is due
on L date
–Response is due on M
–Final work is due on N
–Acceptance or additional
requests for changes is due on O date
–final payment is due on
–late payments are
changed with R fee, cumulative every 30 days (I start late payments at 20% of
Longer projects may have
payments broken up over three, four, or even five dates. If payment doesn’t
arrive on the date, work stops on the project until payment arrives.
“This is business, not
personal” works both ways. Far too many companies expect you to take their
business personally as far as emotional investment at higher stakes than they
do, but if they default on payment or otherwise treat you poorly, it’s “just
Works both ways.
Change of Direction
I also have a clause in my
contract about “change of direction.” If a project changes direction from our
initial agreement (and the parameters are listed in the contract), I have a
clause that lists the fee. Sometimes it is necessary to come up with a new
agreement, if the change of direction is going to change turnaround dates and deadlines.
Late Fees/Rush Fees
I have a clause for late
fees. Late fees (more than 30 days after original due date) are at 20% of the
project fee, cumulative. Which means if it’s 60 days late, it’s the original
fee + 20% + the total of that.
Rush fees are for work
turned around in less than three business days start at $35, depending on the
project’s complexity, and whether I can move other work around or just have to
stay up extra hours and push through.
I do make an exception on
rush fees for script coverage, because industry protocol is often one or two-day
When the Client
Provides the Contract
In some cases, the client
provides the contract, read it over. Negotiate changes. Remember that the first
contract either side offers is the start of the negotiation. So yes, when I
provide a client, often I will hear back on points the client wants to
negotiate. I can decide if I want to change the contract to meet their request,
meet them halfway, or walk away.
A client who offers a
contract needs to expect negotiation on changes. If they won’t budge, decide if
what they demand is worth it to you or walk away. Many magazines won’t negotiate
their contracts for freelance writers, so again, you have to make the decision
if having the byline in that particular publication is worth any aggravation caused
by the contract.
What About Job
As we’ve discussed over
the past weeks and months, the pandemic is changing the way we work, which can
be an improvement. We, as the people actually doing the work, have to make sure
that we help shape new work styles.
I’ve seen an array of
articles in publications such as THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, BLOOMBERG, and FORBES
pushing the negative aspects of remote work. Remember, these businesses are
trying to protect their standard way of working, and how they see their bottom
line affected. Far too many companies have useless middle managers who try to
micro-manage and terrorize their “teams”.
There’s plenty of work
that does not need to be done in someone else’s office with the countless
interruptions and managers “checking up” on you every five minutes. I know I am
far more productive in my home office. I need large blocks of uninterrupted
time to be my most creative. I have set up my office to support the peak of my
There’s not a cubicle on
the planet that could provide conditions even close.
If you are looking for a job
as a salaried employee, you still have the right to negotiate. For decades,
companies have pushed the toxic narrative that they get to decide everything
and employees have no say in it.
Remember: companies need
employees to do the work. Otherwise, their useless middle managers, or maybe
even some executives, would have to do the work their damn selves.
They push the “if you don’t
take this, we’ll hire someone else.”
Don’t be afraid of AI,
either. That’s another narrative they push – that soon, jobs will be replaced
There are plenty of jobs
that could and should be replaced by AI, especially repetitive ones. That frees
creative human beings to learn new skills, to find their passions, and to do
and create work that no robot could ever come up with.
With all the wonderful resources such as Coursera and FutureLearn and other online learning opportunities, people can try out different arenas and find their passions.
Yes, you might have to
accept a drudge job in the interim to pay the rent and bills. But make sure it’s
When I made the commitment
to a life in the theatre, I took temp office jobs as a way to keep a roof over
my head between shows. But I stuck to my commitment that, if a corporate job
got in the way of a paid theatre job, I ALWAYS quit the corporate job. Even
knowing the theatre job was transient. That made it possible for me to work my
way up to a career on Broadway.
If I’d stayed in a
corporate job out of fear, I would have always been a “wanna be.”
Instead, I DID.
So, when you are in
negotiations for a job, make a complete job description part of it.
You can choose not to
answer ads that include language indicated scope creep. Or, early in the interview
process, you can ask for more definition.
The other thing you can do
is ask for a contract, rather than being an at-will employee.
There was an article on
line (I’m not sure if it was BLOOMBERG, I think it was, or FORBES) touting
hiring freelancers as the wave of the future, because then companies don’t have
to pay for office space, health insurance, or benefits and can save money.
What they neglect to explore in the article is that savvy freelancers, with the level of skill many of these companies are looking for, will charge enough to cover those expenses.
And savvy freelancers work
on contract, which means they’re not “at will” and can’t be just let go any old
time the company feels like it. There’s usually a clause in the contract about
how to end the work relationship if it doesn’t work out.
If there’s room for scope
creep in the job description – negotiate it.
If the job description says
you have to have certain computer hardware or software or phone or any other
equipment – either the company pays for it/provides it and it is exclusive to
the work you do for that company, or the company provides you a kit fee that
covers the wear and tear on your own equipment.
If the job description
demands that you have “reliable transportation” or a driver’s license – sweetly
ask what kind of car they provide.
Negotiations aren’t just
We will talk about that in
a future post.
How do you control scope
creep? What points do your contracts over?