Friday, November 25, 2011

Time well spent

December approaches, tolling the end of another year spent on this mortal coil (as Hamlet would say). Some of us will age well, remaining healthy, spry and active well into our later years. Others will be waylaid by medical issues that even today’s technology is unable to resolve satisfactorily, which can drain their energy and limit mobility.

We can’t know how long we have. So the older I get, the more I value my time. The more wasting and frittering it bothers me, because there are so many things I want to do and see. I want to make more room for fun without sacrificing productivity.

I’m finding ways to enjoy things that can be frustrating. If I have to wait in line, I can read a book on my phone. If I get stuck in traffic (driving home from the suburbs the day before Thanksgiving, the traffic report said from O’Hare to downtown was an hour and forty-five minutes!), I can listen to good music or call a friend. I can work on controlling my attitude and find something to appreciate about an otherwise not so pleasant situation.

A goal is to increase efficiency, so I’m keeping track of how long some tasks take to accomplish. For example, I can spend a good while coming up with exactly what I want to say in a business email. I might overthink each word and phrase. Plan: spend half the amount of time on each email. Savings: probably a couple of hours a week.

And while some activities are fun, perhaps if we evaluate how much time we spend on them, we might make room for things we like even more. Most of us enjoy browsing online, whether we’re partaking of social media, shopping, or looking for recipes or other information. But do you even know how long you spend trolling the Internet each day... how many hours is too many coming up with tweets, quips for or uploading pictures to Facebook? Plan: eliminate at minimum an hour a week. Savings: 52 hours a year.

Errands... from grocery shopping to dry cleaning.  Being Gainfully Uenmployed, I'm fortunate that I can often complete these tasks during the week or earlier in the day when stores aren't as crowded.  I almost always run more than one errand, and often complete them on my way somewhere else.  What can you do to get more done in fewer hours? 

We can’t control the passage of time. But often we can control what we do with it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is the check in the mail?

Most Gainfully Employed have the benefits of receiving a regular paycheck and seeing their year to date totals earned and deducted. They know who to contact if there are discrepancies. The Gainfully Unemployed freelancer can receive checks from numerous one time only and returning clients, which makes keeping track of received and accurate payments a challenge. We may accept various methods of payment: check, PayPal, etc. Usually we’re not paid on a regular basis, nor do we have automatic deposit. So we can’t know when income from certain jobs will arrive or keep track of what we've earned just by glancing at a single W-2.

I've created a many-column Excel chart listing all the jobs I've done, for who, what I'm supposed to get paid, when I do, etc.  I can tell at a glance how this year compares to last year, and who has or hasn't compensated me.

So far I’ve only had one client who hasn’t paid. If an independently acquired client doesn’t pay in a timely manner, we have to be our own collections department. I’m still trying to track the money down, but the voiceover for a TV commercial in another state, which I got from a trusted online site, was completed a few months ago. I know  it can take awhile for production companies to get paid by their clients, and they usually don't pay the talent until they are paid. This production company, however, didn't say they too were awaiting payment.

At one point, the client actually told me the check was in the mail. When days went by and I told him I still hadn't received it, he emailed that he'd check on the check.   

It's not easy to know how often to send reminders, or the appropriate tone to take as time passes.  Do I stick with something like, "Please remit at your earliest convenience," or get more demanding?

Will I get stiffed?  Time will tell.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A lesson in dressing & undressing

What you wear can be important. For example, many jobs require uniforms. And if you’re going to a wedding or an interview, you probably put some thought into your outfit and accessories and wouldn’t dream of wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt.

Often an actor is required to supply her own wardrobe, whether she’s a principal or an extra. This means choosing and bringing multiple options, including shoes and jewelry, either to a paid wardrobe fitting before the shoot or to the set. Many people use suitcases with wheels, but I try to fit what I need into a garment bag and a backpack.

Usually we’re told things such as: casual, nice casual, business casual, etc. And/or not to bring white, red, clothes with logos, items with large or bright patterns. A couple of times formal wear has been required. It’s interesting to see how people interpret these descriptors.

Occasionally auditioners provide additional wardrobe, such as a lab coat (which may or may not fit/be flattering). At a recent audition they provided a hat and mittens.

On set, clothes and hairstyle can make the man or woman. I was supposed to be a reporter on a TV series. But when the wardrobe people saw my nice business suit, they had me be a government official instead...a more featured role that resulted in several minutes of screen time. The woman originally cast had brought separates, no jackets with matching pants or skirts.

It probably didn’t hurt that I’d straightened my usually curly hair, which the hairstylist had taken more than half an hour to flatiron again (someone has decreed that no TV reporters should have curly hair. Flip through the channels and you’ll see. I’ve learned this rule also applies to movies/TV shows. To be a reporter in a major film, I’d slicked my hair into a low ponytail. That hair person also flatironed my hair...and put it back into a ponytail.) For period films, you have to be willing to cut or grow out your hair.

Sometimes there’s miscommunication about exactly what or how much to bring. Once I was told "upscale bar," and dressed accordingly. The hairstylist had painstakingly straightened my hair to a Vidal Sassoon commercial sheen. Someone on the crew came to take us to set and was fairly horrified. Because it was really a blue collar bar. The hair person smeared some greasy cream in my hair. We literally ran to the wardrobe truck, had clothes thrown at us and put them on as we ran to set.

Recently I did a print shoot where I changed clothes seven times in two hours. The challenge is to bring enough without having to schlep too much.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Frittering vs. Twittering?

These days it’s easier than ever to fritter away time and brain power on the Internet, from watching all sorts of videos, reading countless articles and keeping up with social media. We might think we’re busy, but what are we accomplishing? What are we learning?

Not that many years ago, we might have felt out of touch if we didn’t read the paper or watch the nightly news. Now we might feel out of the loop if we’re not up to speed on sites from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter. New options pop up frequently. How many do we need?

Cultural literacy used to consist of, for example, being familiar with classic literature and films. Now it might mean knowing who the latest YouTube sensations are. Why is the media so obsessed with topics such as the Kardashians...if they’re given that many column inches/minutes on the air, who and what are they pushing off the page/screen? How many of us can name all the siblings or know how long Kim was married before filing for divorce, but don’t how much they need to save for retirement?

Though I constantly hear about the value and importance of Twitter, my dabblings have proved confusing, and haven’t yet shown me why I need to be more active on it. At the same time, I wonder what I’m missing. I keep reading that to increase followers and achieve any results, a consistent presence is needed. How many tweets is too many, and how do you stay on top of tweeting, reading, following, retweeting, accompanying apps/tools, etc., and still get work done?  What's the tipping point for gaining useful knowledge, growing buisiness and social relationships, and time suck? 

For more information:
How many tweets should you do a day?

Better time your tweets.

How often should you tweet?

How many tweets is too many?