Running Time: 27 minutes
Welcome to the 7th episode of The Art of Retouching Podcast. This time I will be talking about some of the pros and cons to freelancing. I touch upon why selling physical products is a bottomless pit of time. I go in depth about passive aggressive behavior, both giving, and receiving it. Lastly, I bring up various items that lead to a joyful time as a freelancer, and all the back end paperwork that goes along with it.
In This Episode:
- Some Pros and Cons to Freelance
- Product Sales Suck
- Passive Aggressive Behavior
- Joy and Boredom of Freelancing
Transcript: Podcast – Episode 007
There seem to be a few downsides to having your own studio freelance thing going on. One seems to be way too many computers and monitors and external drives. In my system here, I have a server, it is literally a server computer that is turned down and it does just that: it serves files. If you don’t have a computer that does that, oh, it’s amazing! You should try it some time. I love downloading TV shows and leaving them on there so we can go access those TV shows, like the Xbox on the television set. We just download the TV shows, go upstairs, turn on the Xbox that connects to the network, and we just watch the TV shows. No commercials, nothing, it’s fantastic.
On an extra note, it’s nice just having the music files as well, it’s automatic back ups every night, and whatever the set machine does, it does store the pictures, you know that there always will be an archive, I have all my server related files for the websites and stuff, those are all backed up all the time which is great, so again, if you haven’t, you should definitely consider doing that. For my estimation, having just a box on all the time – I think there are 2 hard drives in it, maybe 3, I don’t know – but I think the cost is approximately 14-15 USD a month, that is what I figured out, what it costs. This machine is older, so it doesn’t have these processor things, so it’s literally just a bare machine that just powers up and runs, but it's worth the investments. So I have that running, then I also have my PC that I had here, so that was running with its monitors, then I put in a Macintosh, that one has 2 monitors.
So basically I got 3 computers, 4 monitors, and these things seem to be on all the time. And I also have a couple of external drives here as well. While they could be internal, it is kind of nice that they are external, I mean, occasionally there is some value in that, but mostly they can be internal, it doesn’t matter. What does matter that they are sucking up electricity as well, with these computers and monitors going all the time. I’m just too afraid to find out what that electric cost is going to be, running all this equipment. And that’s a good chunk of the day, because this is in my own house, so I am the one on the hook being responsible of paying that bill.
The other drawback seems to be the heat. I have an air conditioner in the window, when I have my server and the PC and a monitor, it’s not that bad. The monitor on the server isn’t on, and I’m just working off of my single PC. But when I get this Mac going and the other computer is actually in use, and my sons’s been home from school, because it’s summertime, so he has been here with me, and he’s on a computer, I have 2 computers, and everything is just fired up and running in this small room, the ac is just cranking away, and it just can’t keep up with the amount of heat we are generating. At some point I had a fan blowing on the monitors, just to try and circulate the air around the room.
Now, when I have the air conditioner and the fan going, now I just added more electricity being drawn in order to do this work. These are things you disregard thinking about when you go working for someone else. You are just complaining about the gas that takes to get there. Which is certainly a valid complaint, when you figure the price of gas today. For me, to go to work every day, is approximately 10 dollars of gas. I realize it depends on where you live, the type of transportation, whatever, but for me it’s 10 dollars of gas if I was to go somewhere. So that is obviously a lot less – as I just said for an entire month – than a single machine can run for the whole month. A single machine can run on 15 dollars, so obviously 10 dollars for gas is a lot more than what I’m paying for electricity here. But keeping in mind that I got that air conditioner fired up and the fan going, and everything else, it is just added expenses. And these are the kind of things you have to think about if you are going to be a freelancer doing the stuff on your own. I have been having fun working from home, because I didn’t have that dreaded ‘Monday, I got to go to work again’ syndrome.
Well, that might be true, but I can definitely see this turning into something that stops being as fun as it is, and being a lot more than work, that I don’t want to go down to my own studio, where I otherwise enjoy going to. So what would really suck, if this turns out to be something that I dread doing, because now I really enjoy coming down here, and I don’t even mind the working when it’s time to work. I just need to work out a better schedule for the working, and while I’m on the topic of scheduling, I might touch down on the previous episode, but I definitely needed to get a notebook down here or another excel document system so I can keep track of time. Got the notebook, so I can just jot down my notes and time and things on each individual job as I’m going. And I have an excel document system so I can keep track of time. I got the notebook so I can just jot down my notes and my timing things on each individual job as I’m going. And then I also have an Excel document and I’m going to go back and I can edit and add time to. It sounds like double work but it’s really not that bad. It’s just nice to have one thing with the accurate notes and another thing with very concise notations that is easily accessed and you can just see everything in a nice, linear fashion in an Excel document. But the loose notes are always valuable so I like having both of them around all the time.
It has been a few weeks since I stopped doing the cellphone business and I have to tell you, my stress level has completely dropped. I don’t have nearly the same problems, complaints and hassles that I used to have and one of them was to be completely terrified of my cellphone. Oh, I hated the thing! So whenever it rang, I was like: ‘Oh no, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and deal with something else.’ Even if it was a good thing like a sale, it was still the matter of stopping what I was doing and deal with something else. And it was always just someone else’s problem.
Again, even if it was a good thing, their cellphone broke, so I had to deal with their problem. So this is got to be one warning: not selling products on a one-on-one basis. Setting up a store on the Internet is one thing, doing E-bay, that is kind of annoying, too. I don’t recommend that one either. That’s dealing with a lot of pictures and listings and shipping. Ah, man, I hated the shipping.
When I had to do that, it was just boxes and tape and labels and constantly having to go to the post office where I had postal workers that just didn’t care. It was especially worse when you couldn’t print those labels at home. But I completely digress. I’d like to thank for coming back as I went all these random thoughts on my own experiences of becoming a freelancer. For me it’s really about getting it out there, expressing my thoughts and opinions, even if nobody is listening. However, on your side, you are listening, you are interested, you can gain some insides on this from a different point of view. Maybe you thought about it, maybe you didn’t, but either way, you are entertained.
This might slightly be an obscure reference to you, but there is a guy named Henry Rollins. He has a band, which is surprisingly named the Rollins Band. It's hard core stuff that I would never ever listen to. It did however have one line from one song and I certainly don’t know what it is, but that one line has been stuck with me for many many years. He says: If you could see the you that I see, when I see you seeing me, you would see yourself so differently.
Basically all he is saying is: take a step back and evaluate yourself. I know that whenever I question my motives and what I’m doing, or how I come across to other people, I try very hard to take that step back to see how they would see me, how they would perceive my actions. Whether they are aggressive or hostile or welcoming or whatever the case is. I try very hard to listen to myself as I’m speaking, for example I go through a day being perfectly normal, until I have to talk to customer service, – it could be any customer service and it could be for any reason whatsoever – but I find that immediately I become frustrated with them because they start asking questions that don’t have anything relevant. Or otherwise start causing me headaches and hassles and aggravations, and I most especially hate people where I’m calling them up because I have a problem and they are asking me for my current information like emails or phone number or whatever. And it’s like: look, I got a problem, ask me the stuff after you solved my problem! Don’t ask me what my email is when you first got me on the phone, I just don’t care, I’ve got other things on my mind. After you made me happy, then ask me if you could update some of your system information. I guarantee you that I will be much more willing to help you, after you have helped me. After all, I was the one who has called you.
Pretty good example is a recent encounter with my bank. I needed to call them up over such nonsense, and the guy who is on the phone, asking me all this personal information, which just infuriated me because I just got off the phone with somebody else who didn’t ask me all those questions. That just tells me it’s just random information. That one guy is going to follow the procedure, the other guy isn’t, one is going to feel the situation, the other one is going to do what is written in the book. So anyway, I got very frustrated with them and I immediately take the defense stands. And I’m trying not to. Because I know that I’m not going to be making any friends by being aggressive. But sometimes those customer service people just absolutely annoy me. But anyway, that’s when I see it the most prominent, when I’m not being the nicest person. So if you find a new life, and not getting what you want or you don’t dare to manipulate people the way you think you want them to be, or dare I say, manipulate people into getting them to do what you want them to do.
I think it’s very important that you take that step back and see what you are doing and how it is being received by others. Because I guarantee you will find that you are really being the nicest person. This is why marriages fail and other relationships fail, because people are not communicating, they are not expressing themselves in a way that others want to receive it. This type of thing goes back to textbook salesmanship. Not those slimy car sales types, and I know it’s just a stereotype, but it’s an aggressive, condescending attitude that other people just don’t need.
I have brought that up in earlier episodes, where I’ve got people that made some comments to me, and rather than firing back another comment, I just try to approach in a way that they are not allowed to be that arrogant as they currently are. Kind of like doing it with a smile on your face, and yet reflecting something else. A very common practice. Would be as if I did something for someone and they say thank you, and you say: you’re welcome. Well, why are you saying: you’re welcome? What does that mean anyway?
It is just one of those insincere platitudes that people ignore on a day-to-day basis. Rather, if you took advantage of the situation and did something like them saying thank you, and you say: I know you would have done the same for me. Now, in that case you have actually taken them out of that stereotype dancer, that they would just ignore, and put them on the spot. You put them into a situation that is settle enough to go into the radar, but very conscious enough that they are going to think about it. ‘Would I have really done that for that person? Hm, I guess I am obligated to now, because he said it. Can you see what really just happened? You turned the table to that person.
So of course now I digressed from my original point or representing yourself to others, but the point of this is that you can either make this as a blow off statement, or you can make it as a statement that stands out as something that people are going to remember. Whether intentionally or unintentionally. But it’s making that conscious choice that is the most important. I know someone, who as soon as customer service answers the phone, he immediately says: I want to speak to a supervisor. That’s being aggressive and that’s being wrong. He hasn’t even begun to give this person an opportunity to solve the problem, he just immediately assumes that this person who answered the phone can’t possibly solve his problem and he demands to speak with a supervisor. He has begun that situation in an aggressive position. He might think that going out on a date while you assumed that the date went well, and the other person won’t call you back. It can be just the slightest, smallest thing that you said or did or reflected that caused them to be put off. So take a look at yourself from someone else’s point of view, or even through a mirror of yourself, and think that you will be happy that you did, because you will be able to learn from your own mistakes, and put yourself into a better position for the future to actually get what you want, to achieve what you want, and to get that success that you desire in your life.
Work itself has been coming in pretty stable lately. The problem seems to be all the back-end stuff. It’s kind of funny. I am allocating an entire day just to sit down and work. Just like I always did, just like everybody else does. Like I’m going to work from this time period to that time period. So let’s say, I’m getting up in the morning, I have a breakfast, I’m sitting down and I start to work let’s just say at 9 o’clock in the morning. I can plan to work until 5 o’clock.
Theoretically, I am getting an entire 8 hour workday. What really does seem to happen is I am keeping the timers going, generally more than one. For example one for the job that I am currently not working on, a second timer might be for background stuff that I’m working on, maybe just email activities and other general office related stuff. But what I’m finding is that in a course of an 8 hour day, the time I am actually working productively on a paying job, I suppose to sending out random emails, backtracking, and other things that are generally billable, I have a much smaller value that I can’t actually charge for, maybe I can, maybe I can’t. But the real suck of the day, seems like this bottomless pin of just background nonsense of sending out invoices, quoting jobs.
I mean, when you quote a job, you’re not being paid for, but it still going to take you half an hour to do a little bit of research, a little bit of planning, type up an email with response, and then actually get the information to the potential customer. That’s a half an hour out of your day it’s going to take. And you do that a couple of times, a couple of things like that. I sent out an invoice today, and that took a half an hour, sent out a quote today, that took a half an hour, background stuff, when you tell the computer to do something and it kind of goes off on its own and you are like: I can get up for a little bit or I can just sit here and do something else.
So the point of the matter is when I realized over the past few days in general, it just seems to be that I’m allocating this big block of time to get the work done, I’m only able to bill for 1-2-3 hours. It’s pretty crazy, I’m finding that only half of my day, let’s say 4 hours is actually billable. The other 4 hours seem to be taken up not only by background emails and stuff like I mentioned, but since I’m working in the office that happens to be in my home, I can go upstairs, I can see my son, I’m seeing my wife, I’m stopping for lunch, yesterday I stopped and I cooked out on the grill for lunch, I mean how often can you do that? And why shouldn’t I? That’s the whole point of doing this as a freelancer. But that 10-15 even 20 minutes of lunch or even allocate 30 minutes for lunch, that was easily blown away by turning on the grill, getting out the food, putting it all together, sitting out in the back yard, I was watching a little TV on a portable device, and I enjoyed myself. Then I put it all back together, then I broke it all down put the dishes in the sink, got back to work an hour-so later.
So what I’m finding is that my day isn’t quite what I had in mind. I can get up in the morning thinking that I’m going to work but that it is so not at all the case. It appears to me that this is much better off with a planned, dedicated timeframe. What I mean is that the past few weeks have been a little more chaotic than I would have expected out of a freelance work environment, I had gone out on a partial vacation, but I was still trying to do work. I had gone work partially in a studio and partially from my office, and it was broken time. It’s more productive time that I don’t have to spend that half an hour to drive to the studio and half an hour back each day, so I’m gaining an hour, where theoretically I can do some of this knock-off stuff. The reality of it is seems to be extending my workday. Meaning that I still have a certain amount of things that have to be concluded and achieved and ended with in order to meet deadlines. However, because of these extended break ups during the day, that’s extending my actual workday. And it is making me very tired. A good example of this would be today, I have worked for like 4 hours and personally, I do not like working 8 hours in one chunk. I don’t like it.
That’s why I don’t want to work a 9-5 type of job, because if I work 9-1 I am so ready to get out of there. What’s that? 10-11-12-1, that’s 4 hours. 4 hours and I’m burned, I don’t care anymore. Whatever I’m working on, I’m done. So I was so excited that today I worked for 4 hours I then spent another half an hour setting up the computer to run by itself in the background, as it processed out files, while I got up at last. And I went out for some 2 hours. I went for a walk with my family, we went to the store, we came back, I picked up where I left off, I did a little bit more work, set up the computer to process some more, and then I had dinner, with the family as well.
After dinner I set my son up to take a bath and then I came downstairs and I worked for a while more and in theory, it was 9 o’clock and I was wrapping up all my work so I could go on to other things that I want to do, but what ended up happening was spending another hour and a half doing background stuff that I’m never going to be paid for. Someone else wanted an extended invoice, so now I have to go back and revisit that, there was a question on files I uploaded to a server, so I had to go back and revisit that, so my workday, even though I haven’t worked for 12 hours, I have been at my desk for 12.5 hours at least. At least I have been here for 12.5 hours. Not physically, actually here, but at the very least mentally I have been here. When I get back I have to work on this, I have to work on that, and that’s just constant stuff. I mean, I’ve been busy in general, however, the time away is being spent with this constant from morning to night work, worrying about meeting deadlines, what has to get down before I go to bed tonight, or get it first thing in the morning.
So by the time it’s time for bed, I’m finishing up my work, hoping I got everything done, I go to bed, when I get up in the morning, I’m thrust right into the situation again. And I’m finding over the past week, at the very least, I haven’t done anything but hard core work. And that would be almost fine, except for the actual billable time is only about 20 hours or something like that. Granted. As a freelancer, you are setting a higher rate than you are as a steady employee, however, the added time, the mental hassle, the anguish, the jumping through hoops in order to meet everybody’s deadline, while working for my own studio, for my own office, it just seems to be a whole lot more than I bargained for. I’m not saying I want to change it and really go back into doing things the more traditional way of working all day, punching out and going home. Some people want that. I can most definitely see value in that. Because I’m working longer hours. Not necessarily more hours but longer hours.
A very good example was 2 days ago. I was supposed to get up and do work. But since there was no dooming deadlines, I just took the whole day off. I just didn’t feel like working. That's right there is the value of being a freelancer. When I was feeling – I don’t want to say sicker but I was just a bit under the weather, I didn’t care and I was just like whatever – so I worked on Sunday the next day, because that was a better fit for my time schedule, my wife has taken my son and they went out so I had the whole day to myself, which sounds great, but now I’m torn mentally where I had the whole day to myself. And I want to work on my own thing, can’t do it, got to work on work. I really like to work on some stuff around the house, but I can’t do it because now I have deadlines that I’m trying to meet. Anyway, it’s just a whole lot more than I ever bargained for and these are definitely things I should have thought about before I found myself in the situation. Again, I’m not looking to change it, I am perfectly content dealing with it, but these are things that are not necessarily planned by me.
I should have thought about a little bit before I put myself into the situation. Once again to straight my point, I was just sent an email about some files I sent. Rather than actually opening the file I sent and looking what was in there, I was presented with a question, asking me what was in there. I mean God forbid, the person actually read the email or opened the file to actually see what was in there. This just reinvests my time, my free time, my big smiley, happy to serve time, for something other than where that time should be allocated. Which is why you absolutely need to overcharge for everything. You need to overestimate your time for everything. I had recently given out a quote of time which was inflated by somebody else to give to the next customer. Well, certainly it was a good thing that they did that, because I went past my time, I went past their time, and now I’m apparently in my free time. Not that I expect this to be a bit time consuming, I’m just happy to have the job, the reality of it is, it’s going to be taking another 5 to 10 percent longer than I originally anticipated. So it’s just very important that you plan accordingly, you budget accordingly, and then you inflate those numbers because inevitably you are going to get burned.
I had recently read an article that had said whatever amount of time that you think you can get for a normal 9-5 paying job, you should take that amount and double it and that’s what you should charge as a freelancer. From my own experience, I think you should at least double it. Sometimes it feels you are giving out a quote that feels it is way too high, but I’ve got to tell you, you really need to do that anyway, because despite the fact that it seems too high, you end up getting burned at the end if you lowball your own price, so it is extremely important that you don’t throw back yourself into the corner, where you are responsible for hours worth of work what you have to give away for free on something that you barely bid on to begin with. Because if someone is not willing to pay the proper amount for that work that’s going to be done, your better off not accepting the job at all. Because you are just going to pull your hair out and waste your time.
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