Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting something on the calendar

I still prefer to use a Day-Timer for my calendaring.  Though I know things like Outlook and Google calendars can sync phone and computer, I like the ease of flipping open my little notebook and seeing a month at a glance instead of waiting for the computer screen to load and clicking around.

Because my schedule changes so frequently, and some days I have to check my calendar many times, I need quick access to upcoming business and social events. Auditions and callbacks pop up and require fast response.  Colleagues and friends may reschedule, or I might.  And sometimes more than once, depending on work conflicts that arise.   

This week I was on hold for a VO Monday morning, meaning the client was deciding between me and maybe one or two others, so I had to keep that time open.  Until I didn't get it.  Late Monday I got a check avail for another VO to record Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning the client has chosen a few people and wants to know our availability.  I pencilled those times in, but found out Tuesday afternoon that the project had been postponed and there'd likely be another check avail next week.  I hope I find out before it's too late to change a couple of routine doctor appointments and can avoid cancellation fees. 

And when it rains, it often pours.  A friend recently said after he'd booked a job, he couldn't do another the same day that paid a lot more.  Recently I missed out on a huge audition because the 5 minute slot they had for me was in the middle of a VO job.  I was only 4 blocks away, but they couldn't give me another time.  Once I had three on-camera auditions at three different an hour and 45 minutes.  Other days, no work or auditions.

There are just so many people who can control the timing of and have to coordinate every step of any given project...the client, the ad agency, a casting agency, the production team, even the location.  For example, I had a job at a store, and we could only film after it closed.

We never know when the phone will ring/emails will pop up...for auditions, callbacks, check avails, holds or new work.  Or when or if any of those will change.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Feelancers are often in waiting mode.  Our work flow is predicated on others wanting to hire us, and usually on their schedules, not ours.  We can’t know when the phone will ring or when opportunities will present themselves.  We can only control our output and how much waiting gets to us.

New assignments:  If I don’t have any, I take advantage of the lull by self-marketing, putting more irons in the fire, updating my marketing materials and learning more about ever-changing technology such as WordPress and Twitter.  I add to my list of products or services (more on that soon).  I network and catch up with colleagues/friends.  It can feel a bit decadent to have brunch or a long lunch on a work day, but also rewarding and relaxing.      

Quotes/submissions:  When I’m asked to quote for a job, I can’t know when I’ll hear back.  If I send a requested writing submission, only rarely does the editor/agent estimate response time.  I’m still waiting to hear about a submission from last April.  I sent a status check email early this month; the editor did reply.  And needs a few more'll be three weeks tomorrow. 

Being on ice:  Exciting yet frustrating.  You’re one of a couple or few people the client wants to hire, so you have to keep the shoot/recording date(s) completely open.  You don’t know when you’ll find out if you got booked or released.  If another opportunity arises, you can’t accept it without conferring with the icing client.

Additional information:  Sometimes we need additional information or answers to questions before we can move forward on a project.  For example, many VO jobs come without a pronunciation guide.  I send a list of terms with suggested pronunciations, but have to wait for them to reply.

Payment:  Sometimes takes three months, or longer.  I’m still waiting for payment for a VO job last August.  Because I don’t get paid until the agent does.  At least I’m not the one who has to do the collecting.   

Potential clients:  After a round of self-marketing, some contacts respond quickly.  They say they’ll keep my info on file or call with questions about rates/turnaround time, or even with a job.  Other times, there’s silence unless I follow up.      

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Benefit of the doubt?

Though somewhat skeptical by nature, I still want to believe people mean well and want to do the right thing.  That circumstances beyond our control- not intent to deceive- can impact timing and results.  Sometimes that belief is tested.

For example, a feelancer agrees to do a certain small project for a specified rate.  Due diligence shows the company is a legitimate business.  Often there’s also an element of trusting your gut.  Are there red flags to keep you from going forward?

 You do the work, there are no complaints or concerns raised or requests for revisions.  The client says the check is in the mail.  It doesn’t arrive.  You contact the client.  Excuses are made, the money is promised.  You don’t want to give up hope that the client is telling the truth about reasons for the delay.  You follow up in a timely manner and even send a self-addressed stamped envelope.  No reply.

Sure, you could’ve asked for a deposit up front.  But for a small job, it’s not always worth the effort. 

What now?  You could let it go, or spend more valuable time pursuing your money... say by posting the story on Yelp (or another review site), reporting the company/contact to the BBB or going to small claims court.   Only you can decide if it’s worth the time and effort to try to prove you’re right.  There’s no guarantee you’ll get paid.  Or should you endeavor to protect other vendors from a similar outcome?  Maybe this is the first time this has happened.  If it's happened before but no one reports it, the contact may continue down a less than truthful path.  

Will this be a lesson- make you less likely to trust the next person who says s/he’ll follow through on something, whether it’s business or personal?  If the client eventually makes good, would you trust him/her the next time or respectfully decline the work? 
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  Sometimes the pudding takes a long time to cook.  Other times, unless you do a chemical analysis, it can be difficult to know if the pudding contains the promised amount, variety and/or quality of contents.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Self-publish or not?

Many author friends and acquaintances have abandoned traditional publishing in favor of self-publishing.  Others do both.  Some are doing quite well, earning what I consider to be good money and making best-seller lists.  Others aren't.  Some already had name recognition.  Some make it sound so easy to do and succeed.

Yet there are many steps and tasks to complete before any self-pubbed release, including desigining your own cover to writing back cover copy to formatting to hiring an editor to uploading to setting the price...things traditional New York publishers and many smaller publishers do for the author so s/he can focus on promoting one book while writing the next.  I'm taking an online class and am getting a lot great information in one place.   

There are benefits to being in control, but also many costs, both in money and time.   The instructor hasn't said yet how much of both she's spent.  I'm not sure I want to wear other hats in addition to author, though I'm sure the process gets streamlined and easier as you put out more product.  On the other hand, I could get my manuscripts to readers when I chose.  Traditional publishers, in my experience, take a long time to read submissions (an editor who requested in April 2011 just wrote that it'd be a few more weeks before I heard) and can take a year or more to turn a manuscript into a published book.  The proof is in the sales numbers, but I still believe having, say, St. Martin's on my cover would have more caché than whatever name I could come up with. 
On the other hand, there are so many self-pubbed books out there already, how would I make mine stand out?  A few places review self-pubbed books, but many review sites want to see an established publisher's name on the spine.  RT Book Reviews , a premier trade publication, has a self-pub column but concentrates on traditional publishing. 

What's the definition of published nowadays?  I've heard if you sell 5,000 copies of a self-pubbed book the first year, that's considered good.  If you've self-pubbed, but only your mom and a few friends have bought your book(s), are you published just because you can read your work on your e-reader?   

Friday, January 04, 2013

Healthcare Cost- Take 2

Will new healthcare laws really help those who don't have insurance?  How about those, such as myself, who pay hundreds of dollars every month but still have high deductibles?  Those who have insurance, but often when we need something, it might not be covered at all, much less fully covered?

For example, an online chat with customer service confirmed that Aetna covers a "routine" colonoscopy at age 50.  They don't cover any pathology charges.  Who knows before taking the test if ours will be routine?  Whether there'll be additional charges, or how much they'll be? 

Also, Aetna won't cover the full cost of the prep my doctor chose. With it, patients drink a lot less bad-tasting liquid can choose among assorted clear liquids for most of it.  Apparently I'm fortunate that they'll even cover some...around 12%.  That leaves me paying appx. $83.  I can, but how many can't?  How many will have to endure additional suffering for this and other procedures because their insurance companies won't cover state of the art treatments or prescriptions?

I wonder how many of us feel like victims at times, little Davids or Davidas nearly helpless in the face of Goliath's rules handed down from on high that often don't serve those who are paying for service.  If we spend our time and make the effort to take on the insurance company, to question or appeal any decision or charge we don't agree with or understand, is victory worth it on principle, or do we have a chance of actually saving money?  Or do we just pay the bill?  Should we be grateful to have any coverage at all?