Thursday, September 30, 2010

Team Player

Freelancers usually work on our own, so we lack the camaraderie of an office environment and the opportunity to bounce ideas off or share tasks with co-workers. We get out and about to meet with clients, but often there’s a sense of being a guest rather than belonging.

We also have the freedom of not having to show up every day from 9 to 5. On the other hand, that freedom can lead some of us to distraction and/or lack of discipline and motivation. So sometimes freelancers and those who aspire to produce projects outside of their day jobs pair up to keep each other on track instead of spending hours trolling the Internet.

The challenge is to find someone whose style and approach meshes with yours, yet with whom there’s synergy. For example, I’m a morning person and so don’t feel as productive working at night. I like keeping to a schedule. I tend to work quickly and on one thing at a time.

I’m writing a non-fiction book with a friend. Neither of us could have done this particular project alone. I need her knowledge and training; she needs my writing, editing and life experience. But until recently, this was a side project for both of us. Since we didn’t have a corporate deadline, it’s been a long time in the making. We’d work in fits and spurts, then set it aside for a variety of reasons.

We work very well together, are great at figuring out who does what when and then (usually) meeting our goals. We're good at expressing our thoughts on next steps, what stays in and what needs to go. There's no boss who has the authority to give all the orders or underling obligated to do what she's told. The only frustration has been keeping track of the various drafts, which on occasion has resulted in me spending extra time re-editing and comparing documents to make sure I’ve caught all of the updates and changes.

Lately we’ve stepped up our efforts individually and as a team. Now we’re 75% done and can see the finish line. Others are involved and have spent their time and effort to help us, and we do have a deadline for completion. So the pressure is on…this “side project” is now (and finally) real.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No news is…?

Whether you’ve applied for a job, sent a requested writing submission, had an audition, entered a writing contest, or completed a job and want to know about feedback/revisions, you have to wait for a response. You’ve done all you can do. Now it’s up to the employer, editor/agent/casting person/judges, etc.

I find that waiting can be difficult and stressful. Why? Mabye because I have no control over what the response will be, or even when I'll get one. There’s no work left for that particular task, no obligation or pressure on my part, yet sometimes I have to make an effort to stop wondering when or if I’ll find out. I need to let any thoughts of that thing go so I can focus on current projects. So I can live in the present moment, and not think about all the possible “what if” futures. Many advise that life is about the journey, not the outcome. Hmmm.

I may never have closure on some irons I put in the fire; some agents/editors, for example, say they won’t respond unless they’re interested. And I don’t know when they’ll even get to my submission to make that determination. Usually the only ways I find out I didn’t book an acting gig is if I happen to hear through the grapevine that a friend got it or when the shoot date passes.

When there’s a promised time frame for a reply, letting go of waiting can be even harder. Because the closer the deadline gets without a response, the more you know one is on its way. I’m currently waiting to hear about something pretty big. Every time my phone makes the incoming email sound, I wonder if it’s the news. Yet I check with a bit of trepidation, wanting the answer to be in my inbox, yet at the same time not wanting to know…to keep the dream alive, the door open? Hope is definitely better than rejection. And it can be easier than good news, which in this case will require a lot of work and a lot of change--fun, exciting and scary at the same time.

Lo and behold, last night during a rehearsal break I saw an email from the person I’ve been waiting on bated breath to hear from. I steeled myself to read it…and found not an answer but a question. Whew. The waiting begins…again.

As they say, a watched pot never boils…good things come to those who wait…
Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal.
- I Ching

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When opportunity knocks, how do you answer?

Faithful readers know I’m a planner. I prefer to be prepared and finish projects ahead of schedule, and don’t like feeling rushed or pressured. Others choose to wait until the last minute to get their work done, frittering away what could have been productive hours, managing to meet deadlines only in the nick of time and often not getting as much other stuff done as they wanted to.

However, even for the organized and (usually) disciplined, there are those “when it rains, it pours” days when not only are anticipated projects due, others come in that are due at the same time. Of course I’m very happy to have additional opportunities, but for me cramming everything in at once is a challenge.

For example, I had a gig as an eccentric character in a corporate role playing game. Most of it was improv, so there wasn’t much to prepare. The info arrived after 7PM the night before, when I was singing at Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement gala (attended by appx. 600, including many legal luminaries). I also had an on camera TV commercial audition. That script also arrived after 5PM, and was long enough to require the use of an ear prompter. Laying down the copy is much easier than memorizing, but getting it right and getting comfortable with it takes some practice. The same day I was also filming a law firm video, which fortunately provided a teleprompter. I still had to review that script and prepare my character. Not to mention compile assorted wardrobe and show up on time to all events.

That morning I woke up to an email about a very interesting development with a co-authored non-fiction project. (Yea!) Which needed to be addressed ASAP…. Multi-tasking and being pulled in so many directions stresses me out, makes me think I won’t get everything done or if I do won’t get it done well. I decided I needed to stop for a minute, take several deep breaths and focus on appreciating all the fun and exciting developments.

Sometimes something very great happens to friends, yet they instantly think of possible negative outcomes instead of staying in the good news moment. For example, when they learn they’re a finalist in a major writing contest or on hold for a big acting project, instead of being happy they got that far, they’ll say they won’t win or get the job. I've done that, too. Maybe we’re just protecting ourselves from being hurt if we don’t get whatever that thing is.

I want to savor good news for as long as I can. Even if there are times when one exciting door opens, another possibility closes, or when opportunities don’t pan out.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Trust and Money

Freelancers set their own rates, constantly balancing the need to make money and get paid what we're worth (see: What are you worth ) against the need to be competitive. Clients then decide if they wish to pay from the quote or negotiate.

Sometimes I (and friends) choose to take less than we think a job should pay. Perhaps it's outside our wheelhouse, and we want the experience or something for our reel/portfolio. We may want to work for certain clients or industry professionals in the hope of getting future work. And if we don't take that low paying job, someone else will.

On the other hand, clients should trust that we're billing fairly and appropriately. I recently did an hourly VO job from home via an agent. When I sent in my voucher, they had to be confident I wasn't padding my in olden days, when a butcher might be accused of putting his thumb on the scale to add weight. Building a reputation for trustworthiness takes time.

We may offer volume rates for multiple projects or repeat business, or special rates for friends/acqaintances. An attorney I've known for years inquired about my freelance writing rates. I offered a lower rate based on our long acquaintance. He asked more billing questions than any client I've had thus far (so both of us were spending unpaid time responding), and wanted to know if I used a time tracking program (like attorneys do). I don't. Agents and other clients trust me, I assumed a friend would, too.

Employers can't know what an employee is doing every minute of every day. Is the person working diligently and to capacity, or getting the bare minumum done and frittering away hours taking long breaks or trolling the Internet? Unless clients/employers set up surveillance cameras (and then spend an awful lot of their time monitoring), how can they be sure if their time use expectations are being met? Trust. Professionalism.

But some people just aren't as trustworthy as others...which comes to light eventually (see: Liar, liar). If a reputation for trustworthiness has been tarnished or broken, if clients/employers have doubts because a worker turns in projects late or at the last minute, for example, there are always more freelancers in the sea.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

There are too many choices for consumers and yet not enough…the specific options each of us wants may not be available. Cereal aisles, for example, offer dozens of varieties. Even so, often the particular iteration I want isn’t there. (Jewel doesn’t have Frosted Mini-Wheats Cinnamon Streusel, but I happened to find it in a Treasure Island.)

We don’t have the time to shop every store to seek exactly what we're looking for. And sometimes, it doesn’t even exist. So we compromise.

I wanted a new smart phone. With all the fees and contract fine points, changing providers can be a pain and costly. And I’ve been happy with U.S. Cellular’s service…often more reliable than friends’ AT&T iPhones (one of their compromises). I’d hoped for a slide out keyboard, but the phones with that lacked other important features. I chose the brand new HTC Desire Android because of its large (3.7”) touch screen, lightning fast Internet, Flash (!), and number of and ease of downloading apps.

Scrolling through long Yahoo! Digest e-mails, checking in with Facebook and browsing websites is a breeze, both because of the touch screen and the pinch feature to resize text. There are 7 home screens, which offer a lot of customizing, and an easy way to access all apps. I have small fingers, so the touchscreen keyboard, when horizontal, is ok for typing.

However, I gave up what were, IMO, essential BlackBerry benefits: different notification sounds for each e-mail address, the ability to view all emails from all addresses at once, and instant delivery of messages. Apparently the vast majority of phones only offer one notification sound for texts and e-mails. Only calls can have different ring tones.

I’m surprised more people don't want to know, for example, if they just got a text or a voicemail message. I can’t be the only person who has different e-mail addresses serving different purposes, so some are more important to check frequently than others, like my work vs. my shopping address. Maybe most people are so phone obsessed they check no matter what’s incoming.

The Desire can check for new messages every 5 minutes, which I guess will be fast enough even for those “respond ASAP” auditions I often get. Also, the Desire is a little heavier, 4.76 ounces vs. 3.70, the battery drains much faster, and some tasks I perform frequently take an extra tap or two. The user manual, like many these days, isn’t all that helpful, so there may be features I’d like but can’t find or figure out. For example, the Desire screen is so sensitive, I sometimes tap things I didn’t want. If there’s a way to adjust that, like you can a mouse, I can’t find it.

In other areas of life, from jobs to relationships, we usually compromise. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to get exactly what you want.