Today I had a conversation with a graphic design client who, for the past several years, I have charged $20 per image. It is an example of how, merely by setting your own boundaries in a healthy place, you often don't have to filter other people out of your life, because they will do so for you. I refer to this as a "self-solving problem".
Hi Matt,
I leave for a conference in Israel on Wed, Sept 2. Have any time between now & then to upgrade some graphics?
-Clientname
Probably. It will depend on the nature of the upgrades. There are more demands on my time these days, so I will have to raise my rates somewhat, but it will still be proportional to the amount of time I expect it to take. What did you have in mind, specifically?
Hi Matt,
I find your response of raising your rates because of "more demands on your time”very disappointing. It sounds like you have taken on the attitude of big business (airlines)…meaning charge whatever the traffic will bear.
I am sorry, but this “attitude” is contrary to my thinking and I withdraw my request for your services.
This is why it's so valuable for me to put things out there from the outset, which will prevent going down a path that can only end poorly. In various areas of life, this could be "I don't take on new clients unless you pay me to have our first meeting", or it could be "I don't want to work more than 40 hours a week", or it could be "I'm not interested in monogamy and I have a vasectomy." Etc.

Unfortunately, not everyone who should self-select out of your life will do so. Some of them will stick around and complain about your boundaries, or exert other pressures.

There are two main categories of this, depending on the power imbalance. In one case, the person who wants to set boundaries is vulnerable to the pressuring party, as I was financially vulnerable when I originally met this client.

In the other case, the power imbalance is reversed. The pressuring party has too much to lose if the boundary-setting party asserts healthy boundaries. This is often expressed as a form of romantic love, in which the chemical attachment of bonding persists long after the problems of a relationship outweigh the benefits.

If you (as the boundary-setting party) have sufficient alternatives, and if the pressuring party has sufficient alternatives, they will filter themselves out of your life. Then the only way you will continue to have the wrong people in your life is if you fail to assert yourself calmly but firmly. Sometimes walking away is not failure-- it's success. You do not have to make every relationship work.

This is also why it's smart to empower other people with independence and alternatives. Seeking out power imbalances, or setting them up, generates more conflict than it resolves.
I almost certainly have a job, as an office clerk and phone liaison. I'll know by the end of the week. I'll have money for fuel, so you'll see more of me. After I've worked there a few months, my hours will go up from 40 to 54 hours a week. Then you'll see somewhat less of me.

(It's in Warren, so I'll have to move. Again. For the time being, I'm living out of a suitcase in Warren and only going home to Whitmore Lake on weekends. Whitmore Lake is an hour away, so that doesn't work. I have been browsing Ferndale/Royal Oak room-for-rent listings on Craigslist. I feel encouraged by the price ranges.)

This job is managing a huge number of outside contractors; i.e., people who have a tenuous relationship to us and do not necessarily have to do what we tell them to do. All we can do is replace them. Sound familiar? So, during the job interview, I described my experience with Penguicon. Keeping in touch with remote strangers who are never seen. Tracking when work is due, what is late, and when to replace someone. Motivating rather than nagging. Documenting processes. They were impressed, and said this is similar work.

You might be wondering now, "why did you spend a few years and a few thousand dollars to get a web development certificate with a 4.0 GPA?" That is only the first step of a journey. It was a good start, but job interviewers have made it clear to me that I'm still not qualified. I need to do a lot more personal learning, including:

1) Server administration from my laptop, so that I can install whichever additional technologies I want to learn.
2) Javascript libraries such as JQuery and YUI.
3) Python frameworks such as Django, and Ruby frameworks such as Ruby On Rails.
4) More about databases.
5) SASS. I would love to learn SASS.
6) How to inflict bloated, swiss-army-knife Content Management Systems. Hissssss. Actually, never mind this one.

A qualified portfolio should include a large number of web applications with polished interfaces and finished-looking designs. I would like at least one to have rich, responsive interaction, such as a game. I would like at least one to be a multi-user database-driven site. The thing is, each such project would take months of spare time. Frankly, I'm not the type who can become a hermit and emerge from my cave with a finished project in a short timespan. I like other humans too much. Other humans are the whole point of a project. Will I some day get a job as a creative or technical professional? In this economy, who knows. Perhaps in a few years. Or perhaps not-- perhaps it's only for hermits. Either way, I'm determined to learn. While I learn, I have to pay the bills, and it looks like my current job prospect is a perfectly pleasant and agreeable way to do that. I'm satisfied.
In my adult life, I have lacked health insurance almost as often as I have had it. Reading through the effects of last night's passing of insurance industry reform in the Washington Post, I discovered that it expands Medicaid to cover those who make $29,327 a year (for a family of four). That's more money than I've ever made. That might mean, had the Republicans not defeated similar insurance reform in the Clinton era, I would have had health insurance all this time.

I might be misinterpreting the phrase about a family of four-- it may be a stipulation of coverage. I don't know of any government incentives for the responsibility I have exercised with my reproductive system. It is its own reward. I have seen countless cases to convince me that reproductive irresponsibility carries with it more consequences than I would wish on anyone. So I'm not resentful.

Of course, here's hoping that by 2014 when this Medicaid expansion goes into effect, I will be making enough not to need it. But it's nice to know.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Don't think of it as spending your time doing artwork with your skills, in exchange for vague promises of future money that may not materialize. Think of it as getting in on the ground floor of a company! The graphics this artist created in response to that proposal? Completely hilarious. The email exchange detailed here may or may not be fictional, but is true-to-life.
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
Maybe some situations would be better without managers, but not necessarily Better Without Bosses. Most of us are better off if we look to "hire" a boss to do things that, frankly, most people are bad at, and don't want to do. A boss exists to reliably transform your work into your money, and take part of it for the service. This is better than doing a lot of work and getting little or nothing in return.

A boss task:Be your own boss but don't possess boss skills:
Figure out what people would pay for.Hope against hope that there is a market for your skills by themselves, not incorporated into some larger product.
Figure out who can do that work well and would actually get it done.Hire a freelancer who never actually completes the job; or squabble over whether the result is worth paying for.
Tell the world your work exists and persuade them to choose it.Have no clients.
Find out who has both the need and the money.Get clients who could only pay you a fraction of your rate.
Make the client pay what they owe.Spend time nagging for your invoices to be fulfilled, time that would be better spent using your skills to earn more money.

From the outside, these tasks look like magic, as if only certain mages can perform the incomprehensible rituals to channel the eldritch forces outside the ken of mortals. If you can do all that for yourself successfully, and not die of boredom, then you're better without bosses. If what you really want to do with your time is to do work and not worry about getting paid for it, "hire" a boss to provide you with that brokering service.
I've enjoyed living here, but John is moving out in a few months and so the time has come once again to find a new room to rent. It's become slightly more complicated by the fact that during the past twelve months (but not at any time which I can actually point to) R has moved in with me. I don't think it will make it all that much more complicated though.

I continue to want to rent a room that's really really cheap. I was told that a mortgage would probably cost the same as what I'm currently paying in rent; in fact, it was $50 to $100 a month more. I could possibly tighten my belt and accept that. But insurance, property tax and maintenance on top of that place house ownership ludicrously out of my reach.

My last livejournal announcement to this effect resulted in the lodgings I have today. Any more suggestions? I'd appreciate it!
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
I've been a loyal customer of Fictionwise for years, and am a big promoter of the science fiction short stories they sell as e-books. The short stories have no copy protection, but the novels are sold in secure formats such as Secure Palm Reader. I've always been leery of digital rights management, but hearing Karl Schroeder at last year's (2004) ConFusion describe his novel Permanence was what first tempted me to venture slowly into them. I found it ironic that this was a book about digital rights management being encoded with nanotags and micropayment radio frequencies into all the physical property in the society. For instance, if you stop paying royalties for the door on your house, the door stops opening for you. This has just happened to me with my secure e-books, and I do not plan to purchase secure digital formats in the foreseeable future. For that matter, I'm incapable of doing so now that I don't have credit cards. DRM apparently doesn't care for the business of those who pay on Fictionwise only with micropayments sent through Paypal.

At ConFusion I asked Robert Sawyer when he would be putting more work on Fictionwise, and he said he had just recently done so. I went home and bought several of his short stories (which are not DRM, they work just fine) and a Secure Palm Reader e-book, Hominids. Years ago I entered a credit card with Fictionwise, but I lost all my credit cards last year during my layoff. I only use Paypal online. When I downloaded Hominids and went to read it, the secure software on my Palm asked me for that old credit card number as copyright protection. I discovered that the old secure e-books such as Permanence are now asking me for it too because they're on a new device. But I cut up that old card and no longer have the number. I tried switching credit cards on my Fictionwise account but they submitted it to the credit card company-- despite the fact that I've already paid for my books-- and of course it was declined. I have no valid credit cards to use.

I own these books. I have paid for them. I am not willing to go out and buy a paper copy of Hominids now that I've already paid for it and can never read the one I paid for. I'm pissed. I don't know how it must feel to be an author. I don't blame them and I'm not in their shoes. But I know how it feels to be in my situation, and it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Cory Doctorow is a smart self-marketer-- he has positioned himself as the champion of my consumer rights. I'll go out and buy another paper copy of his free books (Eastern Standard Tribe, this time) tonight on my way to the M.O.F.O. meeting, just to reward Cory for pioneering with his own intellectual property. Lots of people write about the future-- Cory is creating it. I can't wait to meet him at Penguicon this year. Download his TOTALLY free Hugo-winning, Nebula-pre-nominated e-books and read them! Try before you buy!

November 2016

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