Ink-Dipped Advice

Ink-Dipped Advice: Creativity is A Business

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Every few weeks, there’s a flare-up about how getting paid for one’s work in the arts is “selling out” and that “real” artists in whatever the discipline should “do it for love, not money.”

Love doesn’t pay the rent or keep food on the table.

Then there are those who “invite” artists to participate in their project, for “exposure.”

As a good friend of mine once said, “People die of exposure. Give me the cash.”

This type of “artists don’t deserve to be paid” or “get a real job” or “art should be free and accessible to everyone, so artists shouldn’t want payment” bullies tend to fall into two camps. One camp is made up of the faction who has no problem profiting off art, but doesn’t want to pay the artist. The other camp is those who “would” make art “if they had time” or “if there was any money in it” or if they weren’t “such a perfectionist” or don’t have the courage to face the necessary rejection involved in being a working artist and therefore don’t believe anyone else should get paid for it.

Art should be accessible to everyone. Our souls require it. But that doesn’t mean artists should starve while corporations profit.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Loving my job does not mean I forfeit the right to get paid. Money and art are not mutually exclusive.

The fact that I consider it my profession doesn’t lessen my commitment. If anything, it strengthens it.

Creativity is a thriving business. Yes. A business. People make money at it. Broadway’s profit in the 2021 season was $845, 414, 945. Broadway is still recovering from Covid. Revenue in the 2018-19 season hit the record $1.829 BILLION. (Figures from, who get it from the Broadway League). According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film industry pulled in $21.3 BILLION dollars in 2021. According to, the global art market transactions added up to $65.1 BILLION dollars in 2021. The traditional publishing industry, according to AAP StatShot/, made $1.1 BILLION. The museum industry, which offers programs and artists across disciplines, made $15.4 BILLION dollars in 2021. According to the BBC, the music industry took in $25.9 BILLION dollars. According to the Arts Action Fund, here in my home state of Massachusetts, the arts and cultural sector portion of the state’s overall economy in 2019, pre-pandemic, was $25.5 BILLION dollars. That’s how much the arts brought in, as far as revenue, to the state.

Most of these figures are lower than pre-pandemic. There are also regional theatres, who are at various tiers, and have to re-think sustainable business practices as they re-open post-pandemic, small and independent publishers, the dance industry, and all the other art forms not listed.

SOMEONE is making money. And too many make money off the myth that in order to be an artist, the creator must starve. That is a myth sustained to exploit creators.

It SHOULD be the creators who profit, and, in disciplines that need tech and editors and other support people, everyone involved should be paid a living wage.

The attitude that artists sell out when they are paid for their work while those who underpay and overwork artists make sums of money that could solve world poverty is destructive.

Creativity IS a business.

Artists should not starve, do not deserve to starve, deserve to be paid a living wage for their work, and royalties/residuals on work that continues to bring in revenue, and should not have to work jobs outside of their profession to survive. The same way the plumber, the doctor, the lawyer does not have to work in jobs outside of their profession to survive.

Artists also need to stop allowing non-artists to condescend and patronize that they are “flakey artists” and don’t have the capacity for business. Artists are capable of creating, solving problems, fixing things, stretching budgets, and repurposing the most mundane objects to transform them into creations of beauty. Artists are able to stimulate, provoke, engage, enchant, and connect on an intimate level, challenging their audiences to a greater understanding of humanity and complexity.

Which is why artists are a threat to small-minded, authoritarian-leaning, exploitative control freaks.

The first step artists need to take is to believe in their own value. Each artist’s voice is unique in the world, and each voice has something of use and purpose.

Once artists know their own value, then they can learn how to position it in the marketplace.

Another thing artists need to do is to set the boundary, and dig into the fact that “No” is a complete sentence.

Every potential project needs to fit criteria unique to each artist:

–Does it encourage growth in the artist?

–Does it encourage engagement with its audience?

–How does it fit into the overall body of the artist’s work?

–What bridge does this build, in terms of new audiences and opportunities?

–What sacrifice does it require on behalf of the artist’s investment of time, creativity, relationships? In other words, will the project be worth it? While not everything can be calculated in financial terms, those need to be part of the equation. Should an artist choose to do something without financial compensation, there must be other compensations beyond “exposure” and “you should be grateful I’m asking you to work for free.” There’s no rule about never working for free, unless an individual chooses to live by that rule. But make sure that working without financial compensation has benefits beyond being told it should make you feel good.

–What support systems does this project require? How will they be put in place? How much of the emotional labor is the artist’s, and where are there systems, organizations, and other personnel who can help?

–What other opportunities must be missed in order to accept this one?

Individuals will have different lists of needs, but creating that list for oneself, and then making sure that a new project/opportunity weighs in more positively than negatively against the individual list will allow better working situations, more creativity, and stronger building blocks.

There are times relationships will be lost. Jealousy, envy, pettiness, sabotage, disrespect, and rejection are all part of an artist’s life. How the individual chooses to handle each instance have a lot of to do with how an artist builds a career.

As far as business-related skills, arts advocacy organizations are likely to offer workshops on the business skills needed to support one’s life in the arts. Assets for Artists, in the area where I now live, offers free professional development workshops for artists covering business and finance. Creative Capital offers workshops for managing the business side of one’s career. Spend some time researching, and find out what’s available in your area.

Artists are capable of critical thinking, or they wouldn’t be able to create. These critical thinking skills can be useful in figuring out how to apply business skills in the arts. For instance, I recently read Laura Eigel’s VALUES FIRST: HOW KNOWING YOUR CORE BELIEFS CAN GET YOU THE CAREER AND LIFE YOU WANT. It’s geared toward corporate leaders. Yet there were techniques and exercises and suggestions that are useful in arts-related situations.

Break that mythological barrier that artists “can’t” understand business because they’re too flighty, and that those skilled in business lack creativity. I’m grateful for the art of the accountant – those accountants have a passion for what they do, so I don’t have to. I can learn the basics of keeping my financials in good shape, and then turn it over to a  professional who loves their job (AND IS PAID FOR IT, and no one ever questions that an accountant should be paid). I know when to bring in someone with more skills than mine, and that’s part of the business of art, too. Bring in the right people to do the work.

People are human. They make mistakes. Hopefully they learn, and they try to do better going forward, and demonstrate that effort through positive action and words. The arts teach us about facets of human experience we might not have, and might not yet understand. That is part of makes it both wonderful and dangerous.

Remember: individuals within corporate entities that have clout in the industry are making huge sums of money. Many of those individuals make huge sums of money while trying to pay the creators and craftspeople less for each project, while they continue to make higher profits.

The Trickle-Down Economy has always been a myth to keep people overworked and underpaid, in order to keep them under control, desperate, and helpless. Art is a way to navigate through and learn how to create a better world through beauty, empathy, understanding, bearing witness to injustice, and daring to dream a better world. It makes sense that those making the most money want to sell the anti-artist myths as broadly as possible, to keep control.

Don’t let them.

The first step to creating that better world is knowing your own value in it, and not letting anyone undervalue you, on emotional or financial levels.

Summer Hours

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Hopefully, everyone who celebrates Memorial Day Weekend had a lovely one, and there are bank holiday weekends for everyone else either just passed or quickly coming up!

That brings up the question of “summer hours.”

When I worked in theatre, there was no such thing, unless I was working on a particular summer season, where the work intensified, rather than rolled back.

When I worked for a publishing company, most people took off by 12 or 1 PM on Fridays (many took the Hampton Jitney out). Support staff/admin people usually stayed until 3 or so, and there were early happy hours all over the city.

As a freelancer, I spent far too many years overworking. And summer hours weren’t an option.

I intend to change that.

In the Women Write Change group, the concept of “summer hours” came up. Some are taking Fridays off. Others take Mondays off from client work to do other writing projects. When I worked in theatre, Monday was usually the dark day, so Mondays feel more natural to me, but my inbox is usually quite stuffed from not looking at email over the weekend.

I’ve found my brain naturally checking out by about noon on Fridays since mid-winter.

I live on the second floor of a restored historic house in a small city in the Berkshires. There’s no air conditioning in the building, and it can get HOT in the summer. The ceiling fans and other fans help, but it gets hot.

Something I started doing last summer was taking longer mid-day breaks, which has evolved into the whole Taking Longer Lunch Breaks that I talked about on this site a few weeks back. I made like a European and took a big chunk of the afternoon off, and then, when it cooled down, worked in the evenings.

This summer, I’m going to try a mix of things. I plan to work longer hours, taking the Midday Heat Break as necessary, from Mondays through Thursdays, so that I can stop client work by noon on most Fridays. There’s flexibility in this, because if I take a day off midweek for whatever reason, I may have to work through Friday and into the weekend.

That’s one of the things I love about the freelance life – as long as I meet my deadline, I choose which hours to work on which projects.

There’s a lovely lake about ¾ of a mile from the house, and I intend to spend a good portion of sunny days there. Chances are I won’t drag the laptop up there, but I may take the Kindle or the tablet up and do some work lakeside. Writing in longhand is also an option, as is editing on hard copy.

That is the plan. However, we all know the best plans going awry, and all that.

I will let you know how it goes. Are you making adjustments for your summer schedule? What are they? How do you decide your summer hours?

Concepts of Time

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At this point in the game, I shouldn’t be surprised when, during an initial conversation with a prospective client, said individual tells me how long something “should” take to write, and that’s why they want to pay per hour instead of per project. “Oh, if you’re a fast writer, you can do X amount of words in X amount of time and can earn a lot of money.”

This is often said by non-writers who think that writing isn’t ‘real’ work. “I’d to it if I had the time.” No, sweetie, you wouldn’t, because you couldn’t come up with something that would hit and reel in your target market. That’s why you have to hire someone to do it. What you’re telling your freelancer “only” takes X amount of time is something you’ve been trying to get done for ten or fifteen times longer than that, and that’s why you’re hiring someone to actually get it done. These clients are the same clients who don’t pay for research time or percolation time. And don’t like to pay per word.

So many factors play into how much “time” a piece takes to write. Those include the tangibles, such as:

–how much research is provided

–how much research I need to do

–interview time

–fact checking time

–any meetings required in the process

–the actual writing time

Add into that:

–computer/internet issues

–unexpected interruptions

–natural energy fluctuations in the day

Layer on top of that:

–percolation time needed for the piece to take shape

–outlining (if necessary/appropriate)

–the several revisions necessary before sharing a draft with a client


Each of these elements takes a different amount of time, depending on the project. That’s true even with systems in place and tools to streamline. The same basic tasks can take different amounts of time on different days.

Clients who understand that they can’t discern how long it “takes” to write something (other than setting project deadlines) also understand that the service for which they pay isn’t JUST the final words on paper or screen; it’s the creativity that goes into those words. It’s the created worlds that engage and expand the audience.

To find the right words to create that enchantment takes a different amount of time for each project.

Setting reasonable project deadlines for drafts and deliverables makes sense, and is necessary for both freelancer and client. A client stating that it takes X amount of time to write X words is not.

Enter into partnerships with clients who understand that creativity is what makes the deliverables actually. . .deliver.

(Note: this should have posted yesterday, May 18, and failed to post. Apologies).

What Tools Work For You?

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Organization is one of the most important aspects of a thriving freelance life. If you’re constantly dropping balls on projects, pretty soon there won’t be any balls left to drop, because clients will find others who are capable of follow-through.

Online tools always fail me. When a client wants to work using an online platform, I will adapt (unless it’s Trello, a platform I loathe). But I also have my own tools that aren’t dependent on an app or a third party.

I keep client folders on the computer (backed up) and I have hard copies of necessary information.

I have project boards when it makes sense for a project, combining visuals and catalyst phrases, so I can look up at it, drop back into the project and pick up where I left off.

For novels and series, etc., I have outlines and series bibles and tracking sheets (and I teach courses on how to set those up and put together a submission system, so it doesn’t take hours to put together the pieces of a project). I also keep “project bins” of all the research materials, so I have them in one spot. At publication, I return the books to the shelves, and the files to the cabinets.

I keep a notebook and pen in my glove compartment, and usually have one in either my purse or my tote bag. I do use note-taking apps on occasion, like Evernote or Keep, but the act of writing it down in longhand makes it stick in my brain better.

Zoom is a favorite tool, as long as it’s not overused (and yes, I limit the amount of meetings I book in any given week). One of my cats, Charlotte, adores Zoom and is convinced the entire purpose of this tool is for people all over the world to see her and tell her she is pretty.

I used to use Skype a good deal, especially when I was working with actors in the UK; they were in the rehearasal room, I was at my desk, and we collaborated. But then I started having issues with Skype not recongizing my log-in, and demanding access to all my contacts, so I’ve switched everything over to Zoom.

The To-Do List no longer works for me. Instead of helping me see what I’ve accomplished and making me feel good about the day, I start to resent it and feel restricted by it. I have my calendar, with different projects in different colors, so I know where I am on any given project on any given day at a glance. Hard copy calendars are also useful, because the box for each day is a finite space, and if that space is full, it means I’m taking on too much, and I need to adjust. It’s too easy to overfill an electronic calendar.

I have my pitch logs and submission logs, so I know what pieces are out where, with whom I’ve pitched ideas, where it needs follow-up, where something needs to be invoiced, where something was rejected and needs to go to a different market. Those are list logs, rather than spreadsheets. Again, if a client likes spreadsheets, I’m fine with that. For my own purposes, list logs work better.

One of the most important lists I keep is what I jokingly refer to as “The List.” It’s a list of companies who demand unpaid labor as part of the interview process, or as a condition of consideration for an interview. Whether it’s an assessment or an unpaid sample or the demand to “make an introductory video” (I talk about the actual cost of that here), unpaid labor as part of the interview process is no longer acceptable to me. Read my samples. Or pay me for my time, if your reading comprehension is so feeble you can’t figure out how my skills translate. As far as a one-way video introduction/interview goes, no, thank you. An interview is a two-way process, a conversation, not an audtion.

I’m not at the beginning of my career, paying dues, racking up credits to prove anything. It’s all there.

You want me to take tests? I have a contract for that, with payment terms. Otherwise, it’s a good indication we are not the right fit, and it’s best we both move on.

And if a company demands something like Myers-Briggs or DISC or anything along those lines? Absolutely not. I am a multi-faceted individual and I will not be stuffed into someone else’s box. For me, companies that demand such tests are a big red flag. If they feel the need to limit and sort their employees into “types” it is, for me, a toxic work environment. And if they feel they have to put their employees through that kind of psychological testing, it’s an indication that they are attracting the types of people with whom I would not work well.

The list grows regularly, although it’s not as long as it would have been, had I started it pre-pandemic. Some companies have learned that there’s no need for this type of “testing” and if they want experienced, qualified personnel, those individuals find plenty of work without that demeaning unpaid “testing” process.

Companies who actually have a positive “work culture” will pay for tests and samples. Or have hiring managers with strong reading comprehension to read samples and see how the skills apply to the company’s needs. They understand that professionals deserve to be compensated for their time, and the company is not doing the individual a favor by demanding a test as part of the interview process.

I admit I do like to try new tools when they come on the market.  Because there’s always room to integrate something cool and useful. But too many of these tools are built to limit, when I believe creativity is and needs to be limitless.

What tools do you find useful? Useless? Do you keep track of companies who make demands that don’t fit into your work ethic?

The Longer Lunch Break

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Taking a longer lunch break has been a terrific decision.

I started doing so after last summer’s move, mostly because of the heat. Mid-day was terribly hot, and I don’t have air conditioning in my home office (or anywhere else in this home). Even with the ceiling fan on, sometimes I couldn’t think straight.

I took a longer lunch break. Instead of forcing myself back to the desk to be unproductive, I spent more time on the acupressure mat, or reading on the porch or the balcony. Or reading or writing something not related to the workday, just noodling with ideas or reading about something that caught my fancy.

When it cooled down for me to think straight again, I went back to the desk and worked later into the evening before stopping for the day. Or went back for another work session after dinner, if it was a very long, hot afternoon.

I adjusted back in the fall and winter, but found that I burned out by mid-afternoon.

So I’ve started taking a longer lunch break, no matter what the weather. After years of rushed lunches, or half hour breaks or eating at the desk, or unpaid lunch time, I’m taking at least an hour, often an hour and a half to two hours. This is not errand time. Errand time is separate. This is rejuvenation time.

Sometimes I sit in the rocking chair in my reading corner, reading something that has nothing to do with work. Or I’ll lie on the acupressure mat. Or I’ll sit on the front porch or the balcony, with a book, or a notebook to noodle around with daydreams, or just look out at the mountains.

When I return to work, I am refreshed, and have a more focused, productive, and creative afternoon.

This is a European-style attitude, and they know what they’re talking about.

When I skim job listings and see a full-time position only pays “37.5” hours, or that the workday is 9 hours because of the lunch break, I don’t even bother to send an LOI anymore. I hope those days are over for me.

I will take a long lunch break. I will come back refreshed. And it will be about the quality of the work, not the quantity of the hours at the desk.

How do you spend your lunch breaks?

Spring Refreshers

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It’s spring.

Well, sort of. Here in the Berkshires, we have 60 degrees one day and snow the next. But there’s a potential for spring.

Spring motivates a desire to clean house and freshen things up. As you do this to your physical space, don’t forget to do that to your virtual space, too. What should you do and how?


Visit your websites as though you were a stranger. Read through every page and take notes. Does the content make you want to hire this individual?

If the answer is no on any of the pages, rewrite the content on the site so that, if you were a stranger looking for someone in your field to hire, you would hire. . .you.

Take out passive language, and make it active and engaging.

Update clips, samples, portfolio pieces, rates, and the scope of your services. As our careers grow and change, we want to focus on different services at different times. Update your website to reflect that.

Are there visuals you want to add? Is there information that’s no longer relevant and you can take off? Anything you remove should be saved in a file on your computer or a flash drive, in case you need to refer to it, or put it back on.

Is your contact info updated? If you have a sign-up for any goods, services, or a newsletter, does the link work? It’s time to fix all of those.

Is it time for a website redesign? Is that something you can do yourself, or something you want to hire out? Take time to think about what you want and how you want to communicate it. But spring is a good time to refresh.

Clip File/Portfolio/Samples

Hopefully, as you’ve created new work these past months, you’ve kept samples as hard copies in your clip file, and also saved or created digital copies that you can use on your website, your online portfolio, or Google Drive.

If you haven’t, now is the time to catch up. I keep several hard copies in a file folder in my filing cabinet. I also keep digital files (PDF and .doc, where appropriate) on my hard drive, my flash drive, and my backup drive, so I can use them as needed.

I check my online portfolio to see if I need to add, remove, or rearrange my samples.


At this point in the game, I have a Master CV that is about 30 pages long. It is for me, not something sent out.

From that, I’ve crafted my Freelance Resume, my Theatre Resume, and my Writing Resume, which are relevant to my work. There is some overlap between these resumes, but each is geared toward the type of work in its name.

When I moved last summer, I updated all my resumes. It’s time to take another look and do it again, especially since I’m entering a grant cycle.

What do I need to add? What’s old enough it can fall off? What’s old, be relevant and stays on?

I have a version in .doc format and one in PDF. The PDF is the one I send out.

Social Media

This is a good time to clean up social media accounts. I’m not a muter; I’m either all in with people’s facets of personality, or all out. I either follow for everything, or unfollow and/or block.

I cleaned up my Twitter feed a few weeks ago, and it was wonderful. I could have actual conversations again, and I promised myself to do this more often.

Clean up feeds/followers/posts. Decide what you want the accounts to achieve. I have a personal Twitter where you take me as I am, or bye. I have a business Twitter that’s more focused on business writing, but not to the exclusion of my integrity. 

In spite of knowing better, I have several Facebook pages for the different series I write. I have a LinkedIn account for business only.

My Instagram account is for fun. Not much book promotion; no business. It focuses on cooking, gardens, cats, travel. There have been a lot of creepy accounts showing up lately on that feed, which I’ve steadily blocked, but it’s giving me pause as to whether or not I want to remain on the platform.

Cleaning up my Pinterest pages will be a long process, probably pushed off until summer, because it’s got too many tangents right now, and I’m not using it to its full potential.


Are there any memberships, professional organizations, or other groups in which you participate? Do you need to renew any of them? Drop out of any of them? Recalibrate your relationship with any of them? Put aside a few hours to go through all the paperwork and make those decisions.

Artist Statements/Bios

If you work in the arts and apply for jobs and/or grants, you need an artist statement. It’s a good idea to revise it at least once a year (or twice a year). As your work evolves, your need to communicate how your vision evolves.

No matter what your profession, a good bio is a must. You submit it with guest blog posts, speaking engagements, conference presentations, etc.

I try to keep three versions up to date: one at 50 words, one at 100 words, and one at 250 words. I often have to tweak the versions to align with a specific usage.

Time Now Saves Time Later

Making the time to do this cleanup now will save you time and aggravation later, as opportunities arise and you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Go forth and clean!

Work Placement Flow

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One of the things many of us realized, when forced to work remotely, is that our energy levels don’t always fit into the hours we are told to work. We also realized how much time is wasted in a commute, and how much time is frittered away at the office.

If someone prefers to work in the office, by all means, they should be able so to do.

But for those of us who are more productive, efficient, and focused working from home, we should also be able so to do.

Between the pandemic, the move, trying to get back on my feet after the multiple surgeries, and the fact that I am now older than I ever expected to be, my energy flows differently.

In order to do the best work for my clients within the deadline parameters, I found I need to adjust how and when I work, so that when I work, it’s high quality. Being a freelancer helps with that, because as a freelancer, I decide which hours I work on which projects.

(As an aside, let me emphasize again that being a “full-time freelancer” means you are putting in full-time hours for a variety of clients, and those hours are when YOU chose. If you are “full-time freelancing” for a single company, it means you allow them to take advantage of you, by making you work fulltime hours without benefits).

Back to the topic: I do my best creative work early in the day. I do my best critical work later in the day.

That means that I do my first 1K of the day on fiction or scripts as early as I can hit the desk. It means if I’m writing an article or a blog post or creating copy, most of the time, I will write it in the morning, and revise it later in the day.

If I’m stuck in morning meetings with clients, that means I don’t create until the following day. If I’m pushed to create same day, it’s going to have to be massively reworked the next day. If the material from the meeting is left to percolate while I do other tasks, I can create the next morning, and it needs much less revision.

I try to limit meetings anyway, to a small number per week (and if the slots are filled by the time you want a meeting, you get pushed to next week). Work isn’t done in meetings; it gets done in spite of meetings.

Afternoons are best for revisions. It’s creative, but it’s a different kind of creativity. Can I write in the afternoons? Yes, especially if it’s been a creative morning on other writing, or on research that fuels the creation. But, in general, the critical portion of my mind steps forward in the afternoon. I am more likely to catch the overused phrase, the typo, the incorrect name. Shaping, honing, sharpening works better for me in the afternoons.  If critical reading with comments need to happen, it’s better for me to do them in the afternoon. Or I’ll read and take notes, and then write it up and fact-check the next day.

Different days have different demands, so I don’t force myself into a strict schedule. But I’ve noticed, over the past months, what types of work happen more easily and more creatively in which time periods. I adjust my schedule as much as possible to accommodate that.

Because when I’m working, I want it to be high quality. I don’t want to be resisting because it’s something that my brain veers away from at that point. I want to place the work when the energy is best suited to it, and still get it done on time and on budget.

By allowing myself to flow more, I get more done, and at a higher quality.

For me, that also means not having a detailed “To Do” list. I know loosely where I need to be on what each day, each week, each month. Instead of deciding that from 9-9:15 I will work on X, and from 9:15-9:30, I will work on Y, I decide I’ll start with X. X is going well, and hits the stopping point, so I stand up, make another cup of tea, and flow to Y. Y sputtered a bit, but I got what I needed to for this point in the process, so I can put it aside to percolate, and then work on Z, which I didn’t even plan to get done.

On the other hand, if I’d boxed myself in starting X at 9 and finishing at 9:15, I would have stared at it resentfully until 9:12, and then, by 10, I’d have had something done, but wouldn’t be happy with it.

It wasn’t always that way; in earlier days, I could drop down into whatever project was next on the list, pound it out within the time frame, and move on to the next until I fell off the chair from exhaustion. But I’m older, hopefully wiser, and not willing to work myself into the ground like that anymore. It doesn’t create better work. It’s more likely to create burnout.

Everyone has a different process, and processes evolve as we do. If strict schedules work for you, by all means, create one and stick to it. But, if you’ve been struggling and feeling chained lately, try placement flow, and see if that helps you focus and keeps you engaged and energized.

Invited to Apply

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A few weeks ago, I got a flurry of emails with the subject header “You are invited to apply”.

I was confused.

None of them came directly from companies, although some of the companies mentioned were companies to whom I’d sent LOIs in the past.

All of these emails were from job listing sites, such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

I keep an eye on job listings, even while I pitch companies directly. It’s good business to know who is hiring for what, and to see which jobs keep coming up with a high turnover (big red flag about the company).

During the Stay-at-home order of the pandemic, and prepping for last year’s move, I also had used these job sites, looking for work that would inform where we’d end up, if there was something worth giving up freelancing (there wasn’t).

In other words, these listing sites have my information.

But the “invite to apply” had little to do with the kind of work I do, or that I want to do.

Why is that?

Because it’s a computer looking for keywords in the resume, not a person trying to match a company and an individual. Because it has nothing to do with anyone’s skills, and everything to do with algorithms. It has nothing to do with either the potential employer or the job candidate.

If you listen to the ads these listing sites post on, for instance, radio, they talk about how they “find” candidates for the employer within a day, rather than the candidates finding the job listing. It’s not about a smart HR person working for the site looking through those signed up and finding good candidates. It’s a poorly designed AI bot looking for SEO words in the resume, and encouraging the candidate to apply.

No, thanks. If a company is interested in the resume forwarded by a site or a recruiter, then the company can set up an initial conversation, so we can see if it’s worth going further. If YOU are courting ME, don’t tell me to fill out a bunch of unnecessary online questions which are already answered, should you read my resume or look at my portfolio samples. All you are doing is wasting my time to up your numbers. And you are not doing the company any good with your “found” candidates.

I am a copy/content/script writer, not a truck driver. And yet, the AI “invites me to apply” as a truck driver. Because I have a certificate in sustainability on my resume. It’s there because I pitch to environmental organizations to write copy for them. I’m not taking it off to please a poorly designed bot.

So when you see “Invite to Apply”, I suggest the delete button post-haste.

Talk Money Early

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With all the chest-beating and wailing hiring managers and recruiters are doing about this so-called “labor shortage” too many of them are still stubborn about not talking money early in the process.

Salary/fee/hourly should be in the job posting and/or description.

A range is better than nothing, but specifics are better.

As a job hunter, if you see a posting without any mention of money, it’s a good indication that they will try to lowball you in the hiring process. If it’s marked “DOE” (which means “depending on experience), that’s also a sign they hope to lowball candidates, since they will move the “experience” goalpost to give themselves the best break.

Instead of complaining about such listings, skip them. Don’t even bother to apply. The job will not pay anywhere close to what it should for the required skills. If it did, the company would be happy to list the payment.

If there’s a way so to do, let the listing site know that you’re skipping a listing because payment is not defined.

Something else all of us should do, whether we are happily ensconced in salaried jobs, entrepreneurial freelancers, or anywhere in between, is to write letters to both our state’s labor secretary and the US Secretary of Labor (currently Marty Walsh, for whom I have a high regard). Request that it become a requirement of any job posting to list salary/fee/payment. Follow up every few months. When you have meet-and-greet sessions with your elected officials, bring it up.

Beyond needing the monetary compensation listed in the job description, it should be one of the first things discussed, either in the interview scheduling or in the FIRST interview.

Far too often, a recruiter has wanted to schedule a meeting, and, when I’ve asked what the compensation for the position is, I’m told, “I don’t know.”

Why don’t you know? Why doesn’t the company TRUST you with that information? You can’t get the best candidates for the position without talking money.

To which I reply, “Please find out and get back to me and then we can talk about moving forward.”

Far too often, money is ignored not just in first interviews, but over a series of interviews. Too often, the interviewer becomes defensive when money is brought up. “If you really were interested in the job, you wouldn’t want to talk money yet.”

Um, sweetheart, one of the reasons I’m interested or not interested in the job is the money. This is how I make my living. I don’t worry about compensation for volunteer work. But when it is my profession, the money matters. As I’ve said when I’m told I should be “grateful” to work without compensation, “I chooose my volunteer work. You are not on that list.”

If you get a response trying to guilt you for wanting to find out if they’re willing to pay for your skills, the best thing to do is to end the interview immediately, citing that this is obviously not a good fit. The subtext is, of course, “and you can’t afford me.”

“Oh, we never talk money until we make an offer.”

This is a reminder that the offer is the START of the financial negotiations. The offer is made, and the candidate weighs if that makes sense in terms of all the different factors different people have to consider when accepting any job: money, skills, time, work environment, how it affects other portions of life, etc. If the offer is acceptable and the benefits package (where appropriate) work, by all means, get it all in writing and accept. Otherwise, counteroffer.

Again, a company that is insulted by a counteroffer is a big red flag.

Professionals understand that both sides want certain things, and both sides need to be willing to compromise on certain things.

The earlier in the process money is discussed, the smoother the entire interview process will flow. If you know the money doesn’t meet your needs, and it’s unlikely the rest of the elements of the job will make up for it, you can bow out gracefully early, and save everyone time and frustration. If the salary range is acceptable and the interview process goes well, there’s room to discuss where in the range works for both parties.

Recruiters need to be honest with both candidates and clients. I’ve sat in far too many interviews, where, through the conversation, the client and I discovered that the recruiter had told each of us what they thought we wanted to hear instead of telling me the truth about the job parameters and the client the truth about the kind of position for which I was looking. Too often, I’ve been thrown at clients, going on the job description detailed by the recruiter, only to find it was vastly different from what the person interviewing me needed – and was something in which I had no interest.

In freelance/consulting situations, money should come up early, and usually does. Whether it’s part of the initial conversation of “how can I help you in your business needs?” that leads to “this is my project rate” or a breakdown of what different portions of the projects will cost, or the hourly rate, talking money early decides whether or not you can work together. If the client is unsure, you can say, “What is your projected budget for this project?” and then, if it’s too low for your rates, suggest ways to tighten the scope of the project so that it works for both of you. And then write up a detailed contract, to prevent scope creep. Or part ways, perhaps making a referral (unless their budget is so small, none of your contacts can take it on, either).

Companies should be delighted to talk money early. Everyone’s time and energy are then better served, and the interview process is more about finding the right candidate instead of the cheapest labor.

LOIs and Pitches

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Hello from sunny/windy/stormy Berkshires! We’re finally getting winter weather, and I’m grateful to be a remote worker.

If you read my daily personal blog, Ink in My Coffee, which talks about the intersection of work and life, you will see that I talk about pitches and LOIs frequently (although I never have as many out as I wish I had).

Several people have asked me the difference. Isn’t an LOI a kind of a pitch?

They are different tools with different uses. Below, I share my definitions, and how I create and use each.

LOI: Letter of Introduction

My LOIs are similar to cover letters sent with resumes because they are a way to introduce me to a company with whom I haven’t yet worked. Sometimes, I see a company that interests me on a job listing site. I might not want the job described, but if I do more research, like the company, and think we might work well together, I will create an LOI, and send it to the appropriate person in the company, along with the most relevant of my resumes and appropriate portfolio materials.

If I’m only sending portfolio links, the links are in the letter, not as an attachment.

I use similar principles for an LOI as I do to send a query letter to an agent or editor. I start with the hook to engage them and keep them reading the letter.

I have a paragraph stating what I have to offer, why it’s unique, how it fits their vision/needs, and why I am the best person to create it. I’m letting them know I see the need they’ve voiced, or something about the company excites me, and I believe I bring something worthwhile to the table.

I add in links to portfolio and/or other samples.

I have a paragraph stating that I do not provide free labor as part of an interview process. Any tests/samples, etc. that are project or company specific have a separate contract and payment.

Many marketing people will be horrified that I have this in the initial letter. They will advise that it’s a turnoff to the company.

That’s the point.

A company that demands or expects unpaid labor as part of the interview process is not a company with whom I want to work. It’s not about charming them or talking them around: either they act with integrity from the beginning, or we both move on. I’d rather save us the time and mutual frustration up front.

I re-iterate in the final paragraph that I work remotely and work asynchronously. While I’m open to overlapping hours and a small percentage of meetings, a company who demands availability for all of their business hours is not a true remote-positive company. Again, we are unlikely to be a good match.

I thank them for their time and consideration, and sign off, with the appropriate website under my signature line.

I follow up two to three weeks later by email. If it’s a company with whom I want to pursue a relationship, I add them to my quarterly marketing post card list that goes out by snail mail.

Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn’t. Either way is fine. At least I made the effort and I learned about the company. Depending on the tone of the response, I keep in touch sporadically, by email and/or postcard. Sometimes it takes months, or even a year or more to land an assignment. It’s often worth it.

Company needs change. A lot about the LOI is reminding them you exist at a time they need your skills.

An LOI says, “This is who I am, these are my skills, this is how I can make things better/easier for your company.”


For me, a pitch is much more specific, and geared to a particular project. I’ll pitch an editor at a publication for whom I want to work, with two or three article ideas, rather than send an LOI.

I’ll pitch conferences with workshop or panel ideas.

I’ll pitch corporations with workshop or seminar ideas. Pre-pandemic, I offered a series of onsite workshops for companies to train their in-house staffs on writing and marketing techniques, especially in how to use techniques that aren’t usually used in business to communicate the message more clearly and with more integrity. They were either half day or full day sessions.

I’m adapting them so they can be offered online or in-person or as a hybrid, and learning how I can make them more inclusively accessible. The more accessibility there is to the workshops, the better it serves the employees, which means they can use what they learn, and integrate it into their own work.

And, of course, I am The Queen of Handouts. Take a workshop or seminar with me, and you walk away with a stack of material to which you can refer to whenever you want.

Pitches are more project-focused, where LOIs are more long-term focused.

How do you craft LOIs and pitches? What elements do you find work best?