A potential client discovered me via LinkedIn, and contacted me about a project. They wanted me to write a white paper-ish document. I use “ish” because it didn’t truly fit the definition of white paper, but was similar. It was in a field out of my usual wheelhouse, but a topic in which I was interested and could get up to speed quickly.
They had no interest in a
per-project rate for this; they wanted to pay per word.
I rarely do a per-word rate
anymore; per project makes much more sense for both the customer and for me.
When they quoted me the per word rate, it was considerably lower than what I use.
I told them that the per-word
rate was below my usual rate.
Them: It’s non-negotiable.
I already figured out I
wasn’t going to do this gig, but I wanted to get more information, just to
either prove or disprove my growing suspicions.
I asked them how much of the research they would provide, how much I would provide, and what sources or references they would point me toward. Some of the information/sites I knew were behind pay walls. What was the budget for that? From the creative brief, it would take somewhere between 12-20 hours of research, along with interviews and fact-checking, to complete the project, if I had to start from scratch.
The answer: None. I was
expected to handle all the research.
I then explained that it
made more sense to use a project rate quote than a per word quote.
The response: “We don’t pay
for research time. We only pay by the word.”
Me: I’m not paid for
Them: We don’t pay for
Me: Are you willing to provide the research?
Them: No. You’re
responsible for the research and fact-checking.
Me: But you don’t pay for
Them: That’s correct. We
only pay for the words written.
Me: I’m not the right fit
for the project.
Them: We don’t negotiate
Me: I understand. And I am
not the right fit for this project. Thank you for thinking of me. Goodbye.
Had I accepted this
project, I would have worked for less than half of my per-word rate AND put in
12-20 hours of unpaid research. AND paid for anything that was behind pay
In other words, it would
cost me money to work for them.
Research time is work
time. Finding trustworthy sources, hunting through archives, taking notes, making
sure one has the references correct, fact-checking. All of that takes time, and
that time is worth money.
Even if a client provides
research, one still has to read it and, in some cases, fact-check.
That takes time.
That time consists of
Project quotes make more
sense for a piece such as this. You can look at the creative brief, figure out
how long any research/reading/fact-checking is likely to take, figure in a
decent rate for writing the article, and come up with something that works for
both of you.
If the potential client’s
budget can’t encompass your project quote, you can negotiate scaling down the
scope to fit into the budget, or you can refuse the project.
“We don’t pay for research
time” is a huge red flag. It means the potential client expects free labor as
part of the contract, and is a good indication of future scope creep without
I’m regularly removing
myself from email lists, especially those that claim to be dedicated to causes,
because they spend words and our time bullying and shaming instead of inspiring.
“We’ve Been Emailing
This landed in my in-box a
few days ago. Yes, you have. I’m on your email list. Every time you send out a
blast, I’m on the list. Or, I should say, I WAS on the list. The headline of
this email alone was enough to make me unsubscribe.
If I haven’t done what you
want in response to your email, that is MY CHOICE. Especially if it’s sent from
a no-reply address.
An email is an enticement.
When it bullies, you’re doing it wrong.
Shaming me for not
donating to your cause every single day or every time you send me an email
guarantees that I will remove myself from your list and not EVER donate to your
cause, even if I believe in it.
I will find an
organization doing similar work that doesn’t fundraise through bullying or
Also, when every email,
every petition, every contact asks me to donate – even if it’s a small amount –
I’m outta there.
When I have the money to
spare, I donate it to causes in which I believe.
IF and WHEN I am in a position to make a regular pledge, I do so.
It’s not just nonprofits that do this. Several years ago, I received an email from a start-up business in an industry in which I spend time and money. The start=up asked if I wanted to receive emails about their new products. I said yes, put me on the list.
I received emails about the products — a little vague, but they were starting up. It wasn’t what I wanted or needed at the time, but I figured, as they came up with new products, there would be something, and I’d buy it when I saw it.
Instead, I got nasty emails, berating me for not buying their product, after asking to be on their email list.
Say what? Being on the email list means I learn about their products, with an eye to buying something that I want. Not buying something because it exists.
I unsubscribed and let them know why, using direct quotes from the nasty email. I got a response saying, “That’s not what we meant.” To which I responded, “But that is what you said. If you’re sending out words that don’t communicate what you mean, hire better writers.”
If every interaction is only an hysterical demand for cash, with a veiled threat underneath that I am a bad person or not committed to the cause if I don’t give all my money to whatever cause that is – that is a perversion of “call to action.” It’s bullying, plain and simple.
Since I do not cave in to
bullies who approach me in real life, why would I do so from a bullying email?
This is NOT a “Call to
A genuine “Call to Action”
sets out the case in positive terms – the goal, the steps planned to reach the
goal, what is needed for those steps, and how the recipient can participate in
It is done in a way that provides information, inspiration, and excitement in the reader. It makes the reader want to be part of whatever it is. Want to be part of the success. Because it incites a response that is excited and joyful, not a sense of shame. Or a response of, “X should not be happening. This organization is working to fix a bad situation, and I want to be part of the solution.”
Most importantly, it
entices and engages.
It gets the audience
excited about the goal, the purpose, the values, and the process of achieving
them. It inspires with “look what we can do when we work together toward this
goal. It’s amazing!”
It doesn’t use the “I’m so disappointed in you” or “you don’t really have a commitment to this cause, or you would do as I say.”
You cannot be an organization genuinely working for equity and justice (which means working on anti-bullying) if you use the tactics you supposedly fight against in order to raise money.
Bullying and shaming
tactics might gain a few conversions here and there, but sustained support
comes from engagement and making your funders feel like they are doing
something worthwhile because it makes a positive difference, not because you
are shaming them into it.
I’ve left several
nonprofits because, in our meetings, when I bring up unethical approaches or
accepting money from unethical sources, I’m told that it “doesn’t matter” how
they get the money or from whom.
I disagree. It matters. How
an organization fundraises and from whom they accept money tells the world a
great deal about the integrity and values held by that organization.
Especially after the last
six years, it matters.
If you want long-term
support, build positive partnerships. Invite, entice, engage. Include these
partners in the steps to reach the goal.
If you are constantly
falling short in your goals, it’s time to re-think your strategic plan.
Amongst the many pandemic
lessons we’ve learned about work, many of us have learned what work resonates
more with us, or which doesn’t. At times, we haven’t had much choice – we have
to take what work we can land in order to keep a roof over our heads. That’s
often exhausting, and it leaves little time or energy for pursuing the work
that is fulfilling as well as keeping you alive in a monetary sense.
Being versatile is always
positive. In spite of all the screaming about the importance of “niche” – the wider
your range of skills and interests, the wider the range of potential jobs. You’ll
notice that several of the self-styled job-coaching and marketing gurus have stopped
screaming “niche” and talked about “side hustle.” They don’t admit they were
wrong, or that life changes, or that people NEED to change. They simply change
their tunes and collect the cash.
I find “side hustle” a
revolting and insulting term. The minute someone uses “side hustle,” I look at
them differently and with suspicion.
There are two reasons for
The first is that no one
should HAVE to work more than one job in order to survive. The reality is that most
of us do work multiple jobs. Let’s stop this toxic myth that the necessity for
a “side hustle” is a good thing. Pay people a living wage, and make sure there’s
enough housing and food for everyone. That is absolutely achievable in this country,
with ethical leadership. Encouraging “side hustle” encourages yet more
low-paying jobs without benefits.
If you can’t afford to pay
a living wage, you don’t get to have employees. Do the damn work yourself.
The second reason I loathe
“side hustle” is that, to me, the “hustle” part of it doesn’t mean “extra work
and resourceful time management.” To me, the “hustle” means “fraud or swindle.”
So when someone talks about their “side hustle” I immediately associate it with
them feeling they must swindle because they aren’t being paid enough at their
Negative connotations all
around. People with different frames of reference will interpret the phrase
differently. But to me, it reads as “it’s okay for me to find a way to screw
you outside of my job to earn money, because my regular job doesn’t pay me
enough to survive.”
Work has to serve workers
better (and, by doing so, will serve both companies and society better).
But what if you are in a
job that IS paying you enough to survive, but you hate it? But you have a
passion for something else?
Then, absolutely, pursue
When I teach writing
workshops, and people ask me how they can “find” the time to write and become a
full-time writer, I tell them, “There will never BE time to write. You have to
MAKE time to write. If you want it badly enough, you find a way to do it. If
you want this to be your only job, you commit to it as though it is a second
job, until you’re in a position to make it your only job.”
It means you’ll be tired.
A lot. It means you’ll give up time on other things, and sometimes with other
people. It means you have to negotiate with those in your life, and decide how
important this second passion is in relation to those people. Some will compromise
with you and support you. Some will not, and then you have to decide whether or
not to keep them in your life.
It doesn’t have to be
writing – it can be any passion. How much do you love it? How much do you want
it to be your only job? Are you worried you will stop loving it if it becomes
your source of income?
Remember, though, that
loving your work does not mean you forfeit your right to get paid.
One of the most toxic
myths presented to and about creative people is that they “do it for love, not
money.” Those are not mutually exclusive, and it is a way for those who don’t
have the guts to follow their dreams to punish those who do.
Don’t buy into it.
The pandemic made us more
aware of our wants and needs. I hope, as we get vaccinated, and move into the
next phases of our lives (because it will not go back to the way it was), we
take some of those lessons and implement them, especially when it comes to
I already see companies
reverting back to toxic models, and, especially, recruiters doing so. It’s up
to the workers to refuse to be forced back into those negative patterns.
How do you move the
passionate work you do outside your normal job to become your only job?
Hard work, time, money,
Most of us, too many of
us, live paycheck to paycheck. So all those “experts” talking about “paying
yourself first” and “saving a year and a half’s worth of expenses” – they can
shove it right up the you-know-what because that is simply not a reality for
most of us.
You need to learn how to contain
and direct your energy. You still need to deliver high quality at the place
that pays you to survive, but you do not put all your energy there. You save energy
for your passion-work.
Biorhythms were a big deal back when I entered the work force. It’s considered a “pseudo-science” and therefore unreliable. But there are elements of that system that ring true. I am at my most creative early in the morning. That is when I do my first 1K of the day, when I write most of my fiction, or work on whatever project needs the most creative attention. Once that is done, I can then direct my energy to other projects, depending on contract deadlines and payment. But that early morning creative time is MINE, and I use it as I choose.
Other people work better late at night. Or in the afternoon. Play with it. Find your strongest time to do what you love, and then, slowly, steadily, rework your schedule so you can use that time. If you’re working 9-5, you may have to do your passion-work early in the morning or late at night, when it’s not your best time. You may have to work when you’re tired. Until you can convert your work schedule to fit your creative rhythms.
Don’t kill yourself with
it, but also, don’t give up. Do the work. Create a body of work. Increase your
And remember, that no one,
NO ONE will respect your work and your time unless YOU do, and unless you hold
Then, start exploring how
you can use that body of work and increased skill set to earn money. Build the
income from it.
If it’s in a field that has the possibilities of grants of other award funding – look into it, and apply for anything and everything for which you think are appropriate. Remember, no matter how many people apply for a grant, it’s always 50-50. Either you get it, or you don’t. Grants and other award funding can buy you time to focus on your passion-work. That time allows you to create more that then positions you better for your transition to doing it full-time. It is worth the time it takes to write the grants.
Once you’re earning steadily in this second, passion-work, enough to feel a little more secure, talk to your regular job about adjusted hours, reduced hours, remote work, or anything else that is appropriate, works for both of you, and lets you spend more time on this second work. If you’re in a benefitted job, negotiate to keep benefits.
As your passion-work becomes
more financially stable, you can cut back more on what was your “day job” until
you can leave. Or maybe you can work out an arrangement to do freelance work a
few times a month, so there’s still some money coming in, but now THAT is your
second job (and you don’t need to devote the time or energy to it that you
needed to give your passion-work in order to place that front and center).
Some of the work we must do
with this new administration is make sure that our health care is not tied to
our jobs. It keeps too many of us in toxic situations.
Again, in the faction of
those not wanting to pay a living wage, there are the shouts of “it’s all going
to be automated soon, you should be grateful” and “no one wants to do this work.”
So why aren’t the jobs “no one wants to do” the jobs being automated? They could be. A robot doesn’t care what the job is. The robot will do the job as programmed. So program them to “do the jobs no one wants” and keep people in the jobs that need to be human, and pay those humans a living wage.
There’s political work we need to do in order to break the toxic culture that too many grew up with couched as “solid work ethic” and there’s the work we need to do to move the work we love into the work that supports us on financial as well as emotional levels.
The great part of this is
that there are so many different passions and interests and skills that there
are plenty of passionate artists AND plenty of passionate accountants. We don’t
all love and want the same work, and that’s part of what makes it both possible
and positive to pursue the work we love.
What we have to change is the structure and strictures of work that only serve a small portion of those “in charge” – who are not the people doing the actual work. We do this on individual levels, by doing the actual work we love, and we do this at the ballot box. We do it by communicating with our elected officials.
It is the personification
of “Be the change you want in the world.”
How are you following your
passions? How do you plan to move them, so they support your life on both physical
and emotional levels?
When you’re a freelancer
and generate project contracts, it’s important to put in the scope and
parameters of a project to limit “scope creep” – where the client expands the
project, but doesn’t pay you for additional work, time, and expertise.
In early meetings:
— Discuss the scope;
–Make sure you have ONE person
with whom you’re dealing on the project (not working by committee);
— Make sure it’s clear
how many revisions are included in the initial quote, and how much overruns
–Set a schedule,
including when the client has to have material back to you with comments for
revisions or the next stage of the project;
— Put in a clause about
–Put in a clause about
change of direction or additional work being billed at X dollars per hour;
–Ask for a deposit up front,
and the balance paid within a specified time after you turn in the project. If
it’s a long project, have regular payments over the term of the project.
There’s negotiation, that’s
part of it. The first draft of any contract is the STARTING point of
negotiation. If you originate the contract, expect negotiation. That’s good
business. Know how far back you’re willing to negotiate BEFORE you send over
the contract. When you are offered a contract, read it over, and negotiate. If
the other side demands you sign a boilerplate, and says, “We don’t negotiate
contracts” – walk away. They are not an ethical company.
Once you’ve negotiated the
contract, WHEN the client starts the scope creep, the additional fees are
already in writing and signed.
However, more and more
companies are putting up listings for short-term projects, and it’s necessary
the analyze them the way one analyzes a real estate listing. All those jokes
about how landlords get away with sub-par rentals by using pretty words? True
for per-project or short-term calls.
For instance, let’s take a
look at listings for “content strategist” or “marketing strategist.” The
dictionary defines “strategist” as “a person skilled in planning action or
policy, especially in war or politics.”
If the employer/recruiter
used words to their true meaning, the “strategist” would come up with the plan,
which would then be implemented by the staff.
But that’s not what the job
Most of these “strategist”
listings say the most important element is strong writing skills. But then, BUT
THEN, they also want the strategist to have design skills, such as Photoshop or
That’s right. They’re
calling it a “strategist.” In actuality, instead of hiring a team comprised of
a terrific copywriter and a terrific graphic designer, they want to save money and
only hire one person.
Scroll down further. Look
at the rate – when they even bother to list it. I think it should be a law that
no description can be listed without the payment – none of this “based on
experience” or not listed. State what you’re offering.
Find the rate yet? Rub
your eyes, and look again. It’s not a dream. It really is that low.
The company wants ONE
person to do TWO skilled jobs, but is paying less than EITHER job should be
paid, and calling it a “strategist.”
Someone who is good at
planning and policy would laugh in their face and walk away.
Words matter. Read ALL the
words in your contract or your job description, understand them, and negotiate.
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.
We talked last year about
how every season, every month, every week, every day can be the chance to start
with a clean slate.
Traditionally, though, we tend to collectively do so at the beginning of the calendar year and the beginning of the school year. It gives a chance to ride that energy of possibility.
I’m in an online meditation group with Be Well Be Here on Thursday mornings, and one of the things she suggested on New Year’s Eve was, instead of getting bogged down in “resolutions” deciding to be “resolute.”
I like that.
So much happened last
year, both personally and on a larger scale. It helped clarify what I want and
need in my work and my career going forward, and I intend to implement those
shifts for the year.
I’m making a partial list
of that about which I will be resolute. So far it includes:
–Passion for my
profession does not mean I forfeit the right to earn a living at it;
–“No” is a complete
sentence and does not require embellishment;
–Unpaid labor should not
EVER be part of an interview process – that includes “making a video” for a
one-way interview, pitching article or content ideas in interviews, writing unpaid
“test” pieces, and unpaid “assessments.” I’ll take your tests or write your samples
– at a designated time, and for a specific fee, with a contract in place for it
and a deposit up front, like I do for any freelance piece. Anything else
indicates a toxic work culture in which I have no interest in participating.
I’ve talked about all of
these in the past months, both on various blogs and in discussions. Now, they
are part of my contract with myself, since I believe in walking my talk.
This works in tandem with what I’m doing on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site, which is less about making a list of things to check off this year, and more about tools and techniques for a more holistic work life that is in tandem with personal core integrity.
Life as we knew it
pre-pandemic is gone. While there are things to miss, it also brought
realizations about what didn’t work, and those elements can be changed and
improved so that work environments are healthier on multiple levels. When the
quality of our working lives improves, the quality of the work we do improves.
For decades, we were told
to keep our heads down and just do whatever we were told, and if we were what
was perceived as “good” and “dedicated” and “loyal” we would be rewarded. We
learned through experience that this is not true.
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.