Research Time IS Work Time

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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 research?

Them: We don’t pay for research.

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 research?

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 rates.

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 walls.

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 billable hours.

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 compensation.

Value your time. Charge appropriately.

Ink-Dipped Advice: Inspire, Rather than Bully

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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 You Non-Stop”

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 shaming.

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 Action.”

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 successful accomplishment.

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.

But whatever you do, engage rather than bully.

Ink-Dipped Advice: Moving Your Passion to the Center of Your Work Life

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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 that.

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 central job.

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 it.

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 work.

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, patience.

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 skills.

And remember, that no one, NO ONE will respect your work and your time unless YOU do, and unless you hold firm boundaries.

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?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Words Matter, Especially in Scope and Job Descriptions

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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 will cost;

–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 late fees;

–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.”

PLANNING.

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 entails.

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 InDesign.

Say what?

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.

It will save you a lot of pain down the road.

Ink-Dipped Advice: Interview Questions We Hate: “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

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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 you.”

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 situation? Inappropriate.

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 working relationship.

There is a more direct approach.

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.

Anything less wastes all our time.

Clean Slate

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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 time to build something new and healthier.

What will you be resolute about this year?

Assess, Recalibrate, Plan

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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 options?

–What do you need to get rid of?

–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.

I’m going to use the questions on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site to help me plan.

We need to be versatile, flexible, resourceful, creative.

All those are positive skills.

Now that we’ve discovered we’re far more capable than we realized, we need to decide how we’re going to use these skills moving forward that best serve OUR vision for our lives.

I’m Not Begging You For work

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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 work.

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.”

No, honey.

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 resources.”

If you don’t treat your talent well, no matter what the field, the talent will gravitate to those who do.

Ink-Dipped Advice: Positive Career Re-Shaping

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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 career.

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 my focus.

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” opportunity,

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 often.

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 can afford.

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 write.

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 to.

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.”

Um, no.

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 being lazy.

Then, I realized most of that was the voice of the toxic ex-boss still running a subscript in my subconscious.

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 next.

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.

Small steps lead to big change.

That’s a good thing.

How have you re-shaped your career?