Category Archives: Snark

Average?


Interesting Opinion column in the New York Times today. In his column, Average Is Over, Thomas L. Friedman states:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

Well, for some  it’s over. But for some of us, average never got started. Average never even existed.

When I was a child, my parents drilled it into my head: You won’t get anywhere in life doing just the minimum. If you want to succeed in life, you have to give at least 110%.

(You see, to my parents, 100% WAS the minimum.)

They never explained why, and I never asked. It was just an accepted fact in my house.

Of course, it didn’t take me long to find out why this was a requirement.

I learned two lessons in life very early: You can’t be black and average and you can’t be female and average and expect to get anywhere in life.

And if you were both, well, you’d best get used to having to be awesome.

Yes, I had to be awesome to be seen as average. I had to be spectacular to be good and I had to be damn near perfect to be awesome.

Every. Damn. Day.

The pressure isn’t as great now as it was, because now I’m somewhat established, but that’s not a work ethic that just evaporates. It’s as much a part of me as breathing and writing. I don’t think I could half-ass something if I wanted to. Average isn’t in me, because I could never allow it.

So, it rankles me a bit that some people who have gone through life being average are crying foul that just won’t cut it anymore.

To them, a question: What was it like?

What was it like to just do the bare minimum in college and still get a decent job?

What was it like to just do just slightly above the minimum required, and still get promoted?

What was it like to write mediocre content, but still land private clients or plum assignments?

I’d really like to know, because I’ve never had a chance to experience it. Cuz, you see..

While you were busy skipping class, getting Cs on tests and partying, I was studying. Cuz I needed at least a B to match your C if I was going to get recommendations from teachers and advisors.

While you were working an extra 15 minutes a week, and going home to your family, I was working 10 extra hours a week, and going home too tired to deal with mine. And we got promoted on the same day.

While you were writing crap, our supervisor was giving me your work to correct, but you still got the credit. And the accolades. And the bonus.

So, now that you have to do what I did, you want to whine about it? Seriously?

Boo frickin’ hoo.

It will take some adjustment, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to adapt. Just like, now that you can’t be average anymore, I’ll have to adjust my game as well.

The difference is, I’m used to it. Catch me if you can.

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Good vs. Bad Clients


One of my goals for 2012 was to have a better class of clients. I don’t just mean better paying clients, I mean clients who have a passion for their business like I do for mine. My other business has that built in — people request a piece of jewelry, I create it, they’re happy, they pay me and then I’m happy because I made something beautiful, and I got paid to do it.

I wanted that same feeling to carry over to my writing business as well, so that’s why I set out to get new clients. So far, so good. I’ve got 4 good clients, and I’m working on adding more daily. But there are still some bad clients in the bunch, and that annoys me.

So, what’s a bad client? Well, that’s really a personal assessment, but for me, a bad client:

* is a client who cannot tell you what it is they want. Some can’t tell you what it is they do. Seriously.

*is a client who promises to have info. to you on Tuesday, but doesn’t get around to sending it to you until Friday. Gives no explanation, but still wants the completed project the following Monday.

*is a client who balks at your rate.

*is a client who never pays on time. Once or twice is one thing, but consistently late payments is never a good thing.

*is a client that accuses you of stealing or outsourcing your work.

Now, granted, I have a lot less of these clients now than I did, say a year ago, but I still have a couple and I am taking steps to divorce myself from them. I have finally learned that I don’t need bad clients to be successful. I can hold out for the good clients. The clients that remind me why I’m in this business. The clients who make me want to stay in this business.

So, if you’ve got bad clients, keep looking for the good ones. Trust me, you’ll know ’em when you find ’em.

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Get Involved!


In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is going to be a big day for the Internet. Wikipedia, Readdit, and other pretty popular sites are gonna go black for 24 hours to protest SOPA/PIPA.

Don’t know what that is? Read about it here and here.

(Hope you did that quickly, since they were Wikipedia pages. Ha ha.)

Seriously — read about it here. And check out a video about it here.

I don’t do censorship in ANY sense — when the KKK wanted to protest in my hometown, I was all for it, because it meant I could stand across the street and heckle them.  Westboro Baptist Church? Let ’em protest and hope a house or one of those frozen blocks of airplane waste fall on their heads. If they are allowed to say what they want, then that means I’m still allowed to as well, and you all know how I love to express myself.

In short (yeah, I know too late, but stay with me!), SOPA and PIPA are censorship and blacklisting. I’m not for either of those things. And you shouldn’t be either!

So, thanks to WordPress, who is also a participant in the Blackout, The Classic Quill will be taking part in the formal protest. From 8am to 8pm tomorrow, you will be greeted with a message instead of some snarky remark from me. You’ll live, and I promise to come back with some extra snarky goodness tomorrow night!

Til then, if you can find a way to participate, you should, because this involves all of us, and we should all stand up for our Internet freedoms.

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It Could Be Worse


So, today has been a struggle writing-wise for me today. I’ve just not been “into it”, and have only accomplished a fraction of what I needed to get done today.

But that’s okay, cuz ya know, sometimes it happens. Sometimes the words just won’t flow. The ideas are stuck…just out of the reach of your fingertips. It’s frustrating, but sometimes it’s part of this life. Not every word you write will be brilliant. Sometimes the things you write will be utter rubbish.

But no matter how bad a writing day you’re having, someone else is having a worse day. And for the really unfortunate, some of the greatest writing guffaws actually make it to print. So, in honor of a lousy writing day, and in the hopes of a better one tomorrow, I offer you “When Headlines Go Wrong” aka “Hey, things could be worse, this could have been YOUR headline.

And because I want to retain my “Snarky” attitude, I’ve included comments. Cuz, that’s how I roll.

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter (Wait…how does THAT work? Was a seance involved?)

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says  (Other than the plane crashing, I can’t imagine what else could have gone wrong…)

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers  (Wow…I guess a ticket just doesn’t cut it any more…)

Miners Refuse to Work after Death (So much for RIP…)
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant (And what happens if they fail…or succeed?)
War Dims Hope for Peace (Yeah, that’s usually how it works…)
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile  (Nothing like a good dose of stating the obvious!)
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures (Uh huh…)
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide (Nah, it was the Masque of the Red Death)
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges (Next time, try cement!)
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge (I got nothing for this other than *groan*)
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group (Big Macs for everyone!)
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft (Well, they shouldn’t have pulled his finger!)
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks (Yeah, but they’re quick, crafty and hard to kill…)
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half  (Well, that’s one way to decrease the dropout rate…)
Chainsaw Massacre all over again! (Wait — it happened before?)
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors (Next – legislation requiring all hospital ceilings be at least 7’1″.)
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead (So, did that increase or decrease the occupancy?)

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Due Diligence


[Note: I know this is supposed to be my response to my blog post yesterday, but I want to address this particular issue right now, and interestingly enough, it does still carry the yesterday’s issue forward. I’ll explain my reasoning for why our industry works for peanuts tomorrow.]

Dear Client Whose Name I Shall Never Utter Again:

I got your email yesterday. No, not the one where you promise me payment “shortly” for the fifth time. Uh, no, not the one where you want me to work for you –again–although you still haven’t paid me for my last three jobs (I ignored that email, I’m sure you’ll understand why in a moment). I’m referring to the third and final email I received from you — you know, the one where you accused me of stealing someone else’s work. Remember that one?

—–Changing gears here a bit. I’ll come back to the letter at the end——-

To their credit, they didn’t come right out and accuse me of it — they blamed it on Copyscape and how my two articles showed “significant matches” to content already on the web. I guess they figured I’d become fearful and not fire off a response. And they were right — almost. I decided I would make this a teachable moment.

And they are the student.

You see, I have a Copyscape account too. I think all writers should have an account with a plagiarism checking service. It’s a good way to check your own work for duplicate content, and to be sure no one else is stealing from you. I mean, accidents do happen, and sometimes we do write something that is too similar to something we’ve read. It happens.

So, I ran the “offending” articles through Copyscape, thinking, ya know, maybe I did subconsciously duplicate content. Sure enough, article #1 showed substantial hits. Like 20 of them. So I started clicking through all the duplicates…

Let me stop here and backtrack a bit. The article was about a rule the FCC put in place to deal with debt collection agencies. In my article, I quoted the rule, with a “the FCC, in a recent ruling[ ….]The rule states:” lead-in for the quote. At the bottom of the article, I provided the source for the quote. Introduction, quote, source. With me? Good.

So, I’m looking at the sites where I supposedly lifted this content..and I notice four things:

1. No lead in sentence.

2. No quotation marks around the quote. It’s written as if the person wrote the rule himself.

3. No source citation.

4. None of the sites are the source I used.

And this was the same for 20 DIFFERENT SITES.

So, all these sites include this quote, without acknowledging it as a quote and from where it came…but I’M the one who plagiarized.

Eh…no. I think that’s backwards. And when I checked the second article — same issue. A quote I used tripped the plag flag.

Now here’s the teachable moment, folks. Just because a plagiarism checker picks up something, that does NOT mean the article is plagiarized. You have to compare what the checker picks up with the document being scanned, and determine if it truly is duplicate content or not. Copyscape doesn’t care if the text is in quotation marks. It doesn’t care if there was a attributive sentence or phrase leading up to the text in question, and it doesn’t care if the text is sourced at the bottom of the article. It sees the words and kicks them out. YOU have to verify whether it’s plagiarism or not. That’s your job. And you didn’t do it, because if you had, you would have seen that my work was properly quoted and attributed, and you wouldn’t have needed to send me an insulting email.

And since you didn’t do your due diligence, you end up reading a post like this from a pissed off writer who just got accused of committing the worst crime in our industry.

You also end up getting dropped as a client. I’m not working for you any more. You’re small potatoes and slow-paying small potatoes at that. Go find some other writer to try and screw over. I’m done with you.

 

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My Path…


is being laid out in front of me. I have felt like I has headed toward someplace for the last several years, and being that I’m a rather Zen person, I allowed myself to just go with the flow (for the most part). But I think my path as led me to the door I am supposed to open and walk through. It might mean the closing other other doors, but I really think I am where I am supposed to be, doing the things I’m supposed to do.

I’ve picked up skills that I really had no reason to learn, considering my career path, but they were of interest to me, and the opportunity was there, so I took it. Those skills led me to other interesting avenues and now I find I spend a lot of time using those skills, which I didn’t even think I needed at first. More to the point, no only do I use them, I enjoy using them. And since I made a point of stating here that my goal is to work smarter and be an expert, I believe it is time for me to practice what I preach.

I know this all sounds cryptic, but for those of you who have been around awhile, you know how I am. When everything is ready to be revealed, I’ll reveal it. I’m really only writing this because…well…because. LOL

As soon as I am ready to make the big reveal, you all will be the first people I tell.

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An Open Letter To Freelancers


To My Fellow Freelancers,

I know it’s tough out there. We’re all out there, competing for the same clients, trying to make a decent wage. We all want people to appreciate our craft and it is only fair that we are paid a decent wage for our talent.

So why, praytell, do some of you choose to, for the lack of a better phrase, screw us over?

Now, some of you know exactly what I am talking about, while others are probably clueless. So for you poor, clueless wonders out there (Bless your hearts!), here is some advice from someone who’s been fighting the good fight as a freelancer for many many years.

Piece of Advice #1: $1 for 500 words is not good money. It’s not even money. When you see a proposal or ad for a writer with this kind of rate, you should ignore it and move on. You don’t apply for it, and you DEFINITELY don’t compete with others for the “privilege”. There are better gigs out there.

Piece of Advice #2: Get a portion up front. Yes, I know many potential “clients” don’t like to pay deposits, but I bet they don’t work for free, so why should you? Taking on a project without an upfront payment is, like it or not, WORKING FOR FREE and you need to stop doing it. Now.

Piece of Advice #3: If a client places a bid and the pay range is $20 – $30 per hour, do not, I repeat, DO NOT place a bid for $16, $17, $18, $19 or even $19.99. If they are willing to pay a minimum of $20, LET THEM. They’re supposed to. Our work has value — stop diminishing it.

Piece of Advice #3.5 Did I mention that $1 for 500 words is NOT good money? I did? Well, it deserves to be repeated. Matter of fact, one more time: $1 FOR 500 WORDS IS NOT GOOD MONEY.

Piece of Advice #4: Writing for content mills and just content mills does not make you a freelance writer. Freelancers don’t just write for one place — they write for many places, and many freelancers write in several genres. Saying you’re a freelancer because you write for DMS is like claiming to be a seamstress because you hemmed a pair of pants. The seasoned people are going to ask the same thing, “Okay, so you did that. What else ya got? What else have you done?”

[Note — the above is not meant to sound harsh, but seriously, if you really REALLY want to be taken seriously as a freelance writer, you need to pursue other avenues. Otherwise, you do look like a one-trick pony.]

See, here’s the thing that many of you in the freelancing world do not seem to understand: We will be paid what WE determine is fair. The reason our pay is less than a fry cook at McDonalds is because we have ALLOWED our craft to be devalued. Yeah, we can blame global competition, and it is true it is hard to compete with someone for whom $50 is a week’s wages — but that cannot prevent us from demanding that we be paid what we are worth. And to best way to make our demand is by refusing to work for the pennies clients are offering.

So, please, the next time you’re applying for gigs and you are tempted to agree to create blog posts for $0.005 a post, stop and think: does this seem fair? Is it really worth it? Then walk away.

Or could do like I do: shoot the poster a message such as this:

Hello~

I recently came across your ad on __________. I have to say, I found your payment terms insulting to both me and my craft. Writing is not an easy profession — to become merely proficient takes time and practice, and for you to want to pay me less than a truck stop busboy in return for my experience is laughable. Please reconsider your payment arrangement, or consider going to said truck stop and hiring the bus boy to do your writing for you. Any writer with an ounce of pride in his craft is not going to consider your offer. 

Regards,

A Talented Writer Looking Elsewhere.

I hope you will consider my humble and sincere request.

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Just To Reiterate…


For the last couple of hours, I have been reading posts in a clients’ forum. Many of you will know of whom I am referring. Those that don’t, keep reading anyway, because, well, just keep reading. 🙂

Anyhoo…today I’m reading such nuggets of wisdom like:

“The Internet is dead for writers. There is no longer money to be made writing on the Internet.”

“Blogs are dead. You can’t make money writing on or for a blog.”

“Content mills are dead. You won’t be able to make money writing for content mills.”

And from a previous day, “Generalists are dead. You can’t make money as a generalist writer.”

Hum…

So, what, I’m supposed to pick a topic and go door-to-door and ask to write about it for the business? Are you saying I HAVE to return to print media?

Oh, wait — “Print media is dying. Soon you won’t be able to make money writing for print publications.

Uh huh…

Do you all know how utterly idiotic you sound? You are basically saying that soon SOON…a writer will not be able to make a living…ANYWHERE, ANYHOW.

Really?

C’mon folks, enough with the doom and gloom. As long as there are people who need to say things, but don’t know how to say them, writers will have work.

As long as things need to be sold, writers will have work.

As long as people continue to read, writers will have work.

(OK — so that last one if kinda iffy, but I still stand by the statement, for now.)

But my point is, just because the genre is changing and just because the format is evolving, this does not mean writers are going to go the way of the dinosaur. Sure, there will be businesses who decide they can “do it better, since, really, how hard can writing be? I did get a B- in English in high school after all,”…

But the savvy business owner quickly comes to his senses and hires a professional to fix what he created.

Now, yes, this does mean that as writers, you might have to develop a new skill set, but hey, researching and learning new things and writing about them is a large part of what you do as a writer anyway, so this truly should not be a daunting task.

Especially if you’re…*gasp* a generalist. (Or a generalist with a specialist bent.)

So, folks, don’t put down your pens or close your word processing software just yet. We aren’t going anywhere!

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It’s Time


Taking a break from my usual writing-related posts to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ll return to more writer-friendly banter tomorrow, but for now…

In the midst of Occupy Fill-In-the-Blank-with-the-location-of-your-choice-here, Tea Party rhetoric, and general politicizing, one thing still stands out to me: Everything is still a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Herman Cain is better than Mitt Romney, but both are better than President Obama. The Republicans are out to destroy the Democrats. Progressives are subversives out to overthrow the government.

Stop. Just. Stop.

When will we learn that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. None of it. The political affiliation has noting to do with any of this.

This is a Us vs. Them issue, and the “Thems” belong to both parties.

The US is US. The average American who expects their elected officials to do what we sent them to DC to do.

Take a look around, people. Are ANY of them doing that? Any?

Name one. Please. Think about it. I’ll wait.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The American people have been sold a pack of lies. Doesn’t matter what political wrapper it’s in. It’s all rotten underneath the pretty foil used to sell it to us. We’ve been had. Plain and simple.

And if you don’t think they aren’t sitting in their respective war rooms laughing their asses off at us, you’re deluded.

Wake up people. Stop letting them divide us. As a friend posted earlier on her blog, we cannot in good conscience leave the politics to the politicians.

Every day, millions of Americans sit down with their checkbook and pile of bills and figure out who gets paid and who gets to wait til next payday. We don’t have the benefit of printing more money or creating a new credit card from thin air. We have to make do with what we have. We make it work, because we don’t have a choice.

And yet, our government, who has no problem sticking their hand in my wallet every April, cannot manage this feat.

And spare me the well, the Democrats/well the Republican crap. That’s not even the issue.

Our elected officials have probably never had to live within reasonable means either in their entire lives or it was so long ago, they forget how. Face it, you can’t be broke and run for political office.

So, we have a bunch of people who have never had to balance a budget, trying to balance the biggest budget in the world. Yeah, makes perfect sense.

I say we ban all attorneys (who are notoriously bad with money!), and people who have amassed wealth from holding public office. I think only bookkeepers and people who have had to live within their means for the past 10 years or more should be sent to Washington. Why we thought a bunch of rich, privileged individuals could come together to represent us was a good idea, I do not understand. But obviously its not working.

So, I propose a third party. Call it the Real Party. The candidates are REAL people, with REAL issues and a REAL grasp on what life in America is really like.

Because this is no longer a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It’s a REAL one.

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Not Doing the Work For You…


Remember yesterday I mentioned that one of my clients was scaling back and there was pandemonium and rioting in the virtual streets of that client’s writers forum?

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly how I described it, but I should have…

Anyway, so now, some of the panic is wearing off and people are asking, “So where can I write now?” A few people are throwing out some ideas of places that are hiring others, but the vast majority (well, the majority that is responding to the posts. The vast majority of those reading the posts are keeping their mouths shut), are saying things such as “Google it.”

This is causing some a great deal of stress. Know what I say to that?

Dude, pick a new profession. If you can’t use Google to find work on the ‘net for WRITERS then maybe you should do something else. Like basket weaving. Or professional badminton. Anything but writing.

As I said in my last post, as writers we are expected to be able to research and write with authority. See, it’s the research part that’s important here. If you can’t (and I’m throwing out a bone here) type “write for us”, “needs writers” or “freelancers wanted” into a search engine and follow the links? How in the hell did you manage to write any article for anyone?

So, let’s just call it what it is: you want people who have spent hours upon HOURS searching for writing opportunities to just hand you that research because you asked for it.

Really? REALLY?

This ain’t The Waterboy. I’m not Coach Klein, and you ain’t Coach Beaulieu. I ain’t handing you my playbook (though I did have those pumps in several colors in the 90s…)

But I digress. If I did the work to find the leads to get me the jobs so I wasn’t in full-blown panic when I got the dreaded “We’re cutting back so maybe you should go with Plan B for your income needs.”, then you can too. Google IS your friend. So is Bing, and Yahoo and any other search engine that gets the job done for you.

So, go forth and be the good little researcher and writer I know you can be. And if you choose not to, that’s fine. That’s one less person in the freelancing pool.

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