June 2021 is Pride Month for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. This year’s official theme is “The fight continues..”
Those who are heterosexual and cisgender (a shorthand way of saying you identify as, or know that you were created to be, the same gender you were assigned at birth), can show support by being allies to those who are LGBTQ. Here are just a few ways to show your support:
Recognize that in some parts of the world, and even in many communities in their own country, our LGBTQ friends and family members do not get to take their safety for granted as often as we do.
The first paragraph past the introduction of this article was intended to be a fun, lighthearted “here are some businesses you can support, since they support gay rights” list. When a search was performed for travel companies, the first results that came up were not a list of airlines with the most LGBTQ employees or extensive histories of donating to gay rights groups. The first results were links to gay owned travel companies, followed immediately by pages offering safety information for LGBTQ people who may wish to travel.
The travel website https://www.asherfergusson.com, offers a list of the 150 worst…and safest countries for LGBTQ people to visit. Published in 2021, the article warns against travel to Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Myanmar, and Barbados among others.
In the United States, nbc news was reporting that one in five hate crimes were anti-LGBTQ attacks as recently as 2018.
LGBTQ rights may have taken great strides in recent years, and society may have grown increasingly inclusive, but things are not completely equal yet.
Educate yourself on current threats to LGBTQ rights and take action when you can.
Another way to join the continuing fight is to keep aware of threats to LGBTQ rights throughout the country. The LGBTQ rights group The Human Rights Campaign offers a color coded map of the United States detailing which states have signed anti-LGBTQ bills into law, and which have introduced anti-LGBTQ bills. According to the map on June 2, 2021, threats to LGBTQ rights exist in forty-one states. Keep up to date and begin your research here: https://www.hrc.org/resources/state-maps/anti-lgbtq-bills-in-2021
When something comes up in your state, city, or county, take action. Attend meetings, marches, and information sessions. Vote for the bills and the candidates that support LGBTQ rights.
Respect individual comfort levels when curious about intimate details
Curiosity about people who differ from us in any way is normal and healthy. There is nothing wrong with wondering about things like surgeries and hormone therapies for transgender men and women, or how the private life of someone of a different orientation than you might unfold. But remember that just because someone is “out” about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, and/or transgender, that does not mean the person cares to divulge details about their medical history or intimate relationships.
We cisgender people are open about our gender identities. We present ourselves as we feel appropriate for our gender, refer to ourselves with the appropriate pronouns, and openly use bathrooms and other public spaces assigned to our gender. And heterosexual people never have to hide it that we’re attracted to members of the opposite sex. Yet our attitudes toward discussing body parts, intimate acts, and our medical history and needs varies from the person who will tell you all of that as casually as they’ll tell you if they prefer coffee or tea, to the person who keeps all of that strictly to themselves, and everywhere in between. Those in the LGBTQ community are no different. If you truly must know something, do some independent research.
Don’t engage in…or tolerate…snowflake behavior from the left or the right
Your LGBTQ family members and friends need you to understand that they may not feel…or be…safe going into neighborhoods where homophobic attacks have recently taken place, vote for candidates who will protect their rights, and respect their individuality when it comes to learning more about their lives. They don’t need you to scream at every other straight person who chuckled at a joke that played off a silly gay stereotype, or lecture everyone who purchases a Pride themed item that other peoples’ sexuality is not a marketing tool.
Demanding that all LGBTQ people adhere to the latest form of politically correct speech and behavior to avoid “participating in others’ oppression” is also unsupportive and unhelpful….to the LGBTQ individual and to everyone else.
This does not mean you should tolerate or ignore homophobia or transphobia. Just make sure to fight against policies and behaviors that truly impact others’ well-being rather than appointing yourself thought or speech police for everyone else.
The question “When’s my pride month?” is childish and self-centered. LGBTQ Pride month stems from the Stonewall riots, a time when patrons at a gay bar fought back against regular police raids on gay bars. This was just the last straw in a pattern of police and other attacks on people simply for being of a different orientation than the majority or being transgender. Instead of whining that you don’t have a pride month for being heterosexual and cisgender, try being thankful you don’t need one..…and thinking about those who do instead of yourself.
If you are a member of a group who experienced prejudice and discrimination for some other reason, you probably do have a pride movement. If you don’t, and it upsets you, start one. You can do all that and still allow your LGBTQ friends and family members to have their Pride month.
Join in the celebrations for Pride 2021
As of the writing of this article, on June 2, 2021, there have not been any Pride 2021 parades publicized for Utica. But for those who can travel to the city, Pride will be returning to Manhattan this month. Visit the official website at https://www.nycpride.org/events to keep up to date on the parade and other Pride month events. Those who cannot make it into the city may want to consider a small purchase or donation.
You may also want to attend a smaller local event. Wisk Baking Company (formerly Bite Bakery) has announced a drag Pride Brunch, scheduled for June 27,2021. Tickets are $40 per person and include a full breakfast and unlimited beverages. Visit them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wiskbakingcompanyutica for details and updates.
Wisk Bakery is also selling rainbow cake slices in honor of Pride month.
Artist Cafe Utica would like to wish all of our readers in the LGBTQ community a Happy Pride 2021. We stand with you this month and always.
Conventional wisdom in the arts suggests that we should take any and all projects or gigs that we can get. But there may be times when it would be a better decision to turn something down. Here are just a few signs you should turn down a project or a gig.
The gig or project falls far outside your professional field.
One easy place to cut down your workload a bit is to turn down those projects that have the least to do with the art forms you practice. Getting involved in several art forms is wonderful. It can help us see our work from a different perspective, generate new ideas, and introduce us to new people. Or it can wear us out until we don’t have the energy to do anything but flop over on the couch and binge watch Netflix.
There is nothing wrong with taking on gigs or projects outside your usual field, but if you need to cut down on your workload, the projects to turn down or put on hold might be those the farthest from your heart.
The work would make your schedule overwhelming.
This is not to suggest you should turn down everything that does not provide the perfect balance in your life, or sit around and wait for “ideal” opportunities. Most of us would never do anything if we waited for those times. But it is important to avoid overloading yourself with so many of the same type of project, you cease to do your best work on any of them.
Working on four novels at once, or insisting upon making an album and helping three friends with theirs, or focusing on your comedy routine while giving workshops for other comics may be too much all at once. It’s better to have one or two projects done well than four projects that fail because you wore yourself too thin.
The project is something you do not feel called to do right now.
This does not mean “Give up anything that isn’t fun.” It means turn down a project if you feel called to complete another one now. When faced with several projects you might work on, choose the one you believe to be the most beneficial to those who might see, hear, or read it. Choose the one that focuses on themes that keep weighing on your mind or coming up. Everything else may need to be pushed aside, or at least postponed.
The monetary costs outweigh the benefits.
Most artists don’t do what we do for the money, but there is often a point where something can simply be too expensive to fit into your life right now. Collaborations that require travel you won’t be reimbursed for, steady jobs that mean you will have to purchase a new wardrobe, and parts that require alterations to your appearance you cannot really afford may not be the right projects for you during financially lean times, even if they are something you would love to do.
The person or organization offering the work has a shaky reputation.
It would be naïve to think that what you hear “around town” about somebody is always true. Baseless and unfair rumors do get started, and everybody with an opinion is not knowledgeable about a situation. But if you consistently hear that this club does not pay musicians without a fight, or that art collective has a pattern of cancelling events or exhibits on a whim, and the information is coming from people who have worked with them in the past, it may mean the project isn’t worth your time.
Taking on the project would require deeper involvement in the group than you want or need right now.
No matter how many vlogs, blogs, podcasts, radio shows, and newspaper feature articles are produced to explain that an independent artist is not an employee, we all know that some projects require us to become part of a team. And if you need to be independent right now, or you need to have plenty of energy to focus on other projects, joining a club or collective, agreeing to a collaboration, or taking on a client known for regular gatherings and a “team” or “family” attitude is only going to cause stress and conflict down the road.
You are worn out, run down, or exhausted much of the time.
As much as artists love our work, we all get burned out sometimes. Everyone gets tired. We all need to rest. If you are coping with health issues, including stress and fatigue brought on by the current public health crisis, it is especially important to know when you may need to turn down the offer to collaborate on that album, join that online concert, write that article, or schedule that lecture.
Family and friends who are usually supportive seem hesitant or upset when you bring up the project.
This may be politically incorrect to say, but everybody who doesn’t jump up and down over every gig or project that comes your way is not a “hater,” or trying to discourage you from doing your best. Sometimes, people close to you can see things you may not be able to see, or think of things you may not be thinking of in your excitement over the offer. At the very least, ask the person why they think this is a bad idea before brushing them off.
Turning down a project or gig may feel scary at first. It’s common to wonder if nothing else might ever come along the first time you do it. But learning to focus our time, money, energy, and attention where it needs to go is a skill we all have to practice, in all fields, including the arts.
There are a lot of things we believe that are just not true. It is not against the law to cut a tag off of your pillow or say a prayer inside a public school building. Cutting your hair does not make it grow faster. Starbucks does not train their employees to mess up your name on your cup in order to trick you into advertising for them. These things can be used in our art work to make a character seem silly or gullible, or as a piece of dialogue that reveals the gullibility of others.
But there are other things we think are silly, just our imagination, or untrue that are actually reasonable and real. Creating a character or persona who doesn’t believe these six things will result in a very different song, story, play, film, poem, or routine. Use one or more in your next project, or just look them over and find out if you, or your friends, believe any of the misconceptions.
There is a legitimate reason for cashiers to verify if your cash is real for small purchases.
You’re out running errands, and suddenly feel too thirsty to wait until you get home. You already paid for your groceries, but want to grab a soda from the cooler before you go, using the cash you keep stashed in the back of your wallet to pay for it instead of swiping your debit card again. Before handing you back your drink and change, the clerk checks to make sure the bill from your wallet is not counterfeit.
“Come on,” you think to yourself. “ They’re just doing this to be difficult. If I knew how to counterfeit money, and I were willing to risk the jail time, I’d be treating myself to something a lot nicer than an extra soda to drink in the car on the way home.”
But there is a good reason for the clerk’s action. Counterfeiters often do make small purchases with fake money. This is done to get the cashier to give them back real money for their fake bill. If the counterfeiter “breaks” a phony fifty or hundred by pretending he has no other way to pay for a two or three dollar purchase, the clerk is going to hand him $47 or even $97 or $98 real dollars, along with the item, making that item…and the cash he gets back in change…free to him.
Your soda does taste better at McDonald’s.
There is plenty of soda in your fridge. You buy a bottle or two, or a case, from the grocery store every week or so and keep it on hand as a regular drink. Or maybe there’s no soda in your fridge, because you’re not much of a soda drinker. But unless you never touch the stuff, you probably order a soda when you go to McDonald’s. It just tastes especially fresh and flavorful there.
Some contend that it’s nothing more than the power of association. McDonald’s food is a treat for most of us. It’s a break from cooking and washing dishes if we go through the drive through on the way home, or a little treat from Door Dash or Uber Eats if we have it delivered. The soda tastes better because it’s part of your treat. But McDonald’s soda is slightly different than the soda you get anywhere else. The Coca-Cola company ships most of its syrups in plastic packaging. McDonald’s soda syrup is shipped to them in steel tanks. This impacts the flavor of the syrup. McDonald’s also keeps both the syrup and the water much colder than other restaurants before putting the products into the soda fountain, which maintains the carbonation longer.
Those flags for ridiculously small purchases on your debit or credit card are for your financial safety.
The reward points on a credit card can be redeemed for something you’ve been wanting, so you take out the card, promising yourself you will only make purchases totaling the amount of spare cash you have on hand, and will pay everything off before it generates interest. But soon after activating the card, you find such a good deal on the item, you forget about the points and stash the card in your desk drawer. Several weeks later, you decide to use the card after all, and make a small purchase at the mall an hour away from your hometown. The credit card company flags your account and stops the purchase.
Your reaction is similar to the one you had over the counterfeit cash screening. This seems ridiculous. You think credit card company employees simply don’t have enough to do and must be flagging things at random, just to keep busy. Surely they don’t think someone would go through the trouble and the risk to steal a credit card, only to get two CDs or a new set of pans for the kitchen at the mall.
Except that this is exactly what identity thieves do with stolen credit cards. The first purchase isn’t typically the high end designer wardrobes, massive video game collections, or trips to Vegas we think of when we picture identity theft. The thieves start by making one or two small purchases, both to see if the charge will go through, and to test whether or not you carefully monitor your statement.
Your hair does grow slightly faster in the summer.
When you said you needed yet another haircut or trim last summer, everyone probably brushed it off as you just wishing you could get out more, hoping that your salon would return to normal soon, boredom, or a combination of those factors. And they were likely right, though our hair does grow slightly faster in the summer. This is due to the peak of our hair’s growth cycle coinciding with the summer months. We are also usually a bit healthier in the summer. The summer of 2020 was of course different, but in most summers, we get out and get fresh air more. We walk places rather than drive more often, or we take walks. Picnics, barbecues, and events in city parks lower our stress level. Increased sunlight lifts our mood. None of this is directly related to hair, but we tend to have healthier hair when our overall health improves.
Binge watching tv shows actually can help reduce stress.
In the past, we watched tv shows once a week, on the day and time they aired. If we liked an old show, we might get to watch two or three episodes each night on a “classic tv” station. The opportunity to watch several episodes in a row only came up if a tv station held a “marathon” of a certain show. Once videocassettes and DVDs came along, we could often rent or even buy whole series and sit and watch them all day if we wished. But all of that took at least some effort. You had to go and buy the tapes or discs. Now, thanks to streaming services, the opportunity to watch multiple episodes of a show in a row is as easy as a click of the remote.
Psychologists and licensed professional counselors repeatedly warn that doing this excessively is not good for our mental health. We’re all seeing the detrimental effects isolation can have on us due to the current public health crisis, and making that even worse by spending entire days completely alone staring into a screen is not going to improve things. And of course it’s never good to sit around for days instead of getting exercise, stay up too late because you’re watching something, or skip showers and meals to watch tv. They note that “I was binge watching my show to relax,” has become an excuse for neglecting important details in your life.
But some experts note that, if done within reason, binge watching really can relieve stress. It does this by taking you out of the world for a while, allowing you to focus on a story instead of the news or your bills or whatever else is weighing on your mind. It can also improve your social life, especially now, when we’re all stuck at home, by giving you something to talk about with others.
Store employees who ask to see your receipt really do have to ask…just not for the reason you might think.
Though the practice has faded down in recent years, with many stores abandoning it altogether, we can all remember when certain big box stores featured “greeters” waiting to ask to see your receipt as you exited the store.
This can feel insulting, as though they’re treating you like a thief. It also seems to be a pointless waste of their time.
“I don’t steal,” you think. “But if I were going to steal something, I would destroy the packaging that set off the alarm and conceal the item, not parade past half the store’s employees with the packaged item sitting in my cart.” And you would be right. Somebody standing in the doorway reading your receipt for tissues, toothpaste, and a new throw pillow is not going to do anything to stop theft, except maybe send the message to would-be thieves that the employees are watching them.
But it is true that the employee is required to check, for reasons that have to do with them, not you. In most cases, the person tasked with checking receipts at the doorway of a store has the lowest level job in that store. They get paid the least, and get bossed around by everybody from the cashiers to the floor associates to the customer service managers who actually are their supervisors. While there is absolutely no reason for any store employee to raise their voice at you, block your path out of the store in any way, embarrass you, or treat you like you’re doing something wrong when you aren’t, the person needs to do something that constitutes “checking the receipt” in order to keep their job. And they are often being monitored by several other employees in the store.
Much of what we read, hear, or experience and think “that’s ridiculous,” actually is ridiculous. Healthy skepticism and critical thinking is a good thing, and is especially important at a time when believing wildly farfetched stories about serious issues backed up by nothing more than other people yelling …or posting..nonsense can be harmful to ourselves and others. But every once in a while, the absurd, silly, or useless turns out to have a legitimate reason behind it.
Articles describing behaviors that annoy doctors, waitstaff, retail workers, and people in other professions are plentiful. We know doctors hate it when you argue with them based on something you learned through an internet search last night. The person waiting on you at a restaurant does not want to be stopped to take a picture of you and your date. And “It didn’t ring up so it must be free” hasn’t been funny to cashiers in a very long time. But what about artists? We hate being left off lists of professions and careers. Here are some more behaviors guaranteed to displease the independent actor, guitar player, singer, poet, writer, photographer, or other artist you know.
Ask us what we do for our “real job.”
A person is a professional once they get paid to do something. If the person has been paid to produce their art work in any form, they are a professional artist and this is their real job. They may or may not have a second career, or a day job or side job to pay their bills. But the work they are doing is real work. If you are working with someone who has not yet been paid for work in the arts, but is working toward that goal, they should not be treated any differently than someone working to build a business in any other field.
Describe our work as “messing around.”
Artists do often say they’re “messing around” or “just playing around” when they experiment or try something out just for fun. That doesn’t mean their entire body of work is just “messing around.”
Refer to us as a “nonessential” worker.
The arts are essential in so many ways. Sometimes, they provide a way for issues in society to be discussed and worked through. They may provide a voice for those who feel they are not heard. Or maybe they simply offer an escape, a way to alleviate stress and enjoy yourself for a while. Artists created the last piece of music you listened to, the television shows you like to binge watch, the novels, short stories, and poems you like to read, and the comedy routines that make you laugh. If you hired a photographer to take your wedding, graduation, or anniversary photos, an artist is responsible for capturing those memories for you. Most people would agree that all of those things are essential to life.
Treat us like we’re a member of your staff.
Staff members are people who filled out a W-4 form and receive a steady wage or salary from you, regardless of the type of work they do. Anybody who is paid by the show, article, or other piece, and issued a 1099 tax form is an independent worker. While there certainly are jobs in the arts that pay steady wages or salaries, the comedian you hired to perform two sets at your company retreat isn’t working one of them. They are not there to help clear the tables, answer the phones, or go find out why your assistant isn’t back from break.
Act like you’re completely unaware of our presence.
We get it that you’re preoccupied at an event or gathering. It is especially difficult to manage anything offline now, as we all have the extra work of making sure to keep the number of people in the space at a certain percentage, keep everyone spread out, and make sure everything is sanitized and everyone is wearing a mask. But when the performer says, “How is everyone doing?” from the stage, or the person bringing their paintings into the gallery walks in and asks where they can place them, responding is still necessary.
Move our belongings around without telling us.
Guitars, makeup kits, laptops or tablets, costume bags, and other tools the artist may bring along should be left alone unless it is absolutely necessary to move them. If you need to move them, and the person is setting up or doing something else that can be interrupted, ask if it’s okay to move their stuff around. If they’re in the middle of a performance or out of the room, move the items quickly and carefully and let them know where and why you had to move them as soon as you get a chance.
Behave as if we couldn’t possibly have a schedule.
The stereotype of the artist who only works when “moved” or “inspired” and does nothing else all day has been around for decades. The relatively recent trend of promoting working from home in any field with photos of people lounging on the beach with their laptops didn’t help that. As with anyone else who makes their own work schedule, an artist may work only when inspired, or they may have their day scheduled down to the minute. They may also have second careers, side jobs, family obligations, or other life details that require a schedule. Ask if they can do something or when they’re available, don’t just assume they can meet with you at your convenience, including on Zoom.
Assume our other work is an entry-level customer service or retail job.
The “actors waiting tables” assumption is made a lot because the job and building a career as an actor do fit well together. An actor who secures employment at an upscale restaurant, when the place is open at full capacity, can earn the money they need to pay their basic expenses in just a few shifts, leaving the rest of their week open for classes, auditions, and the other tasks of an actor’s career.
That doesn’t mean everyone in the arts waits tables. An artist may have a second career that’s just as important as their career in the arts. Or they may have a steady job in the arts, such as owning or managing a store related to their art, teaching, working for a non-profit that promotes their art form, or working in the creative department of a company.
Give us job leads we never asked for.
For the longest time, I was the person to ask if you wanted to know who might be hiring in customer service, office work, and news reporting. I didn’t want or need a job in any of those areas, but so many people assumed I did, I got every lead in town. Some people would even greet me with “You want a job?” or “Hey, there’s an opening at…,” which was especially annoying when they interrupted my online writing teaching to do it. Artists who are looking for jobs and want your help finding them will let you know that, just like people in any other career field.
Ask us why we don’t live in Hollywood (or Nashville, or New York City or Paris)
Just like any other career field, artists have different goals. You may meet one actor whose goal is to teach Theater at a university in the area, and get regular parts in local stage productions, and another who wants to go to Hollywood and make it in studio films. One country musician may aspire to be as famous as Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean, while another may just enjoy local success. And even for those who do want to seek “fame and fortune,” moving to an expensive city simply because it’s the center of their art form isn’t always feasible due to finances, family situations, health, or other issues in their lives.
Act like our fee is a gift when you pay us.
Of course we know we should be grateful to be making money for doing work we love. Everybody should be grateful if they get to do the work they love, no matter what career cluster they may be in. That doesn’t make our fee or the price of a painting, book, or album something optional you gave us out of the goodness of your heart. Anytime anyone produces a good, or provides a service professionally, the money you give them in exchange for that is a price or a fee, not a present.
Getting any or all of these responses to our work can range from frustrating to downright demoralizing. What to do if you get them depends entirely on the situation. A snappy comeback to the social media troll who asked you when you were getting a real job might make them go find someplace else to waste their own time. The same response to the person who hired you to play a gig or write an article might not get such a desired result. But we can always use anything that happens to us to inspire our next project.
We have all heard the conventional wisdom when it comes to a career in the arts. Declare yourself an artist and identify yourself that way first. Make sure you have a second passion or strong side job to pay the bills. Don’t let rejections deter you from continuing in your art career. These all sound like the right thing to say, and they usually work out. Then there are those things “everyone” swears will hurt your career in the arts….but might actually help.
Getting random, non-arts related side jobs.
This is often advised against out of fear it will take time away from your art, but it can provide fuel for your projects.
Taking temporary jobs, getting side jobs on the side of your day job, and performing other money making tasks can generate ideas for your art work. You may decide to fictionalize a restaurant or store and use it as a setting in your next piece. Maybe that rude, frightening, or just plain odd customer will say something you can use for your next villain. You may overhear a conversation that sparks a new song, or see something you feel called to paint or draw.
You also get to keep the money from random jobs, so they provide some extra income as well. Having a little more money helps to reduce financial worries, and frees up even more energy for your creative work.
Getting a job that allows you to practice your art, but also provides a steady salary or wage.
People typically warn against this out of fear that your art work will be taken over by someone else. You’ll sell out. You’ll become a corporate drone. This could happen in some cases, but if you keep your focus on your overall goals as an artist, and make sure you’re doing something you believe in, it can enhance your art career.
My own career in the arts has three parts. I teach writing skills to adults online, write novels, and write and run Artist Cafe Utica, designed as both a resource/online space for other artists in Utica and a portfolio for me. The teaching job is what pays my basic expenses. I am on the faculty of a university and I earn a salary. Most of my teaching is done through creative writing. I wrote, and continue to revise and update, a short story about a character named “Ellie” and her classmates at a fictional university. When I first got the idea to try this, I hesitated. I was afraid I’d spend all my time on the Ellie story, and neglect the rest of my writing. I feared the students would find it ridiculous. As of the writing of this article, “Ellie” has provided plot ideas for two novels, and I’ve been nominated for a teaching award four times. A solid ninety percent of the compliments I receive from students are for Ellie, not for me….but…..that’s okay.
Having non-art interests and hobbies
If you’re an artist, much of your activity naturally centers around your art. This is true for anyone in any type of career.
It is also not uncommon for an artist’s hobbies and interests to be other forms of art. My second passion, along with creative writing, is music. My favorite hobby has always been singing. I also enjoy watching films, theater, and seeing and learning about paintings and sculptures.
Languages also fascinate me. While language is a building block of many forms of art, it is also a separate field. One can be an expert in linguistics, or speak multiple languages without being an artist.
Like taking on non-arts related side work, studying languages often generates ideas for my art work. It helps me understand the sounds and patterns of language better overall.
These three activities may have helped my arts career when I expected them to be detrimental, but there are a few other guidelines I no longer follow, because they resulted in a drain on time, energy, and money to devote to my art.
Taking any work that allows you to do anything even remotely related to your art.
Most of the time, I encourage everyone to take any opportunity they can to practice their art, but if the situation is unsafe, or if you are spending so much time and energy on one event or job that you’re neglecting other aspects of your career, there’s nothing wrong with turning something down or walking away from an opportunity.
Conventional wisdom dictates that a writer should take any writing job. If you’re really a poet, but someone wants you to write an email drip campaign for window cleaner, do it. Work as a reporter even though you have no interest in journalism and you’re a screeenwriter. Take that job writing ad copy, even though what you really want to do is write about rock bands for a magazine.
This remains solid advice if you are new to writing, but after earning a graduate degree in writing and working as a professional independent writer for more than a decade, I no longer accept any writing assignments that are not linked directly to the arts. It gives the wrong impression. Potential clients think I’m new to writing, or that I’m making a career change from the arts to their field.
Working only in a dedicated workspace
Those fortunate enough to have a studio, or an office in their home should absolutely take advantage of it. Setting aside a space as your workspace in a smaller home can be helpful too. Just don’t take it so far that you begin to think of that as the only place you can work.
“Set up an office, it will help you take yourself and your work seriously,” is great advice, but it is not completely necessary. As long as nothing in the environment distracts you continuously, you should be able to get work done in a variety of places.
Sometimes, a change of scene helps rather than hinders creativity. Getting out and working at your favorite coffeehouse, or working at a diner or in the library (once it is safe to do so again) can give you the jolt you need to come up with a new idea.
Working all hours
When we picture someone doing work they love, we think of them working around the clock, stopping only for things like meals, showers, and other obligations when they absolutely have to. We often think that a “true” artist wants to sing, write, dance, act, paint, or work on their act all the time, and feel guilty or neglectful when we get tired or temporarily bored with our work.
In reality, nobody is enthralled with their work every moment of every day. Everyone, artist or not, has tasks they don’t care for, or days when they just want to get done and go sprawl in front of a t.v. show marathon with a big helping of their favorite snack.
Rest is necessary. We all need that time to just relax, and we all need sleep.
We all cringe when someone hears a song or a poem, sees a play or film, or reads a short story or novel that we wrote and asks who every character is “supposed to be.” Even worse is when someone gets upset or angry with us because our character did something or said something, and the person just assumes we think the same way, or did the same thing.
In the past, I have gotten this reaction so often, I make an effort to ensure that any parents I mention are the exact opposite of my parents in every way, down to the smallest detail. Most of the mothers do not enjoy cooking or baking and are not skilled at it. My mother can make those cake sculptures you see on baking competition shows and singlehandedly cater dinners. The fathers tend to be frail, preppy or nerdy types. My own father is a tough retired police officer and outdoorsman. The mother in my first novel, “Lifting the Shadows,” was inspired by someone’s mother, but it was not my own.
All my fellow artists already know the rest of this, but it might be useful to share for the next time you get “Am I in your novel?” Or “Is the woman in your song supposed to be your sister?” from someone in your life.
Sometimes, real people are inserted directly into novels, songs, poems, or fictional screenplays. This may or may not mean anything else about the piece is true or actually happened.
I am a real person in a song. Lou Santacroce’s “The One Who Holds My Heart” was written for and about me, from his perspective. It was the best gift anyone could ever give me, an honor, and of course, it is now my absolute favorite song. Pieces written for and about someone in this way can be assumed to be completely genuine expressions of the way the actual artist sees a real subject.
The fiction genre known as “historical fiction” is another example of real people being inserted directly into creative works. Novelist T.C. Boyle is known for taking historical figures, turning them into characters, and then inventing people he imagines associating with them. While the characters may be loosely based on the historical figures, writers have absolute license to fictionalize anything they want to fictionalize. Research anything you wonder about, because there is absolutely no guarantee that it is historically accurate.
Real people might also be inserted directly into a work of art as part of the setting or as a minor character. This does not in any way suggest that the other characters are real, or that anything that happened to them actually occurred. If someone writes a novel about a crowd of Deadheads following the Grateful Dead on tour, and a character talks about something Jerry Garcia did, this in no way suggests that Jerry Garcia actually did anything like that. Again, be sure to research these types of details. The novelist could have taken nothing more from reality than Garcia’s name and the fact that he was the front man for The Grateful Dead.
Most artists use details from all over the place when we create. A character may have a few traits of someone real without “being” that person.
My novels feature thick women. Both Brenda and Heather have red or reddish hair. This of course can also describe me, but the characters are not me. The characters are similar because they are all part of the arts scene in and around Utica, and most of the people I’ve observed in the modern day arts scene in and around Utica either favor 60’s and 70s retro, 90’s retro, or geek chic style. I’ve got a dark haired rockabilly woman too, and a blonde woman who changes her style a few times before arriving at “geek chic.”
For the rest of the details, some of what happened was taken from things I experienced, and other details were based on everything from case studies and research to gossip I overheard while sitting in a diner drinking coffee or walking around a mall. Most artists write this way. Using one detail of a person in a character does not mean the entire character is based on that person.
Much of what you see in any type of creative writing is completely made up.
Jen Cross is the founder, as well as a writer and workshop facilitator at “Writing Ourselves Whole,” an organization offering writing groups and individual writing sessions and coaching for survivors of sexual trauma. Services are offered in the Bay area and online.
Jen offered workshops of varying themes to her classmates while in graduate school at Goddard College. I learned a lot from taking a few of them. Although the participants in both current and past workshops draw on real experiences, the method she uses demands that all work produced be assumed to be fiction. If the exercise focuses on writing about your reaction to a picture, other participants are still asked to refer to the work with words like “Your narrator” or “your characters,” rather than “you,” or “your friends.”
This is a good rule to follow when reading, watching or listening to anything presented as fiction. Even if you know the artist and the situation well, and are completely sure a character or plotline is taken directly from reality, you still have no way of knowing if thoughts and feelings were real, or were just the artist’s imaginings of what someone else might be thinking or feeling in that situation.
Those who are adamant that a character is them, or a song is about your first boss, or a play is about your cousin, are not likely to be swayed, but hopefully this helps soothe friends and family members worried that your novel, play, or song is "about them."
This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts, observations, and recommendations are my own. Nobody mentioned in this article necessarily supports or endorses the content.
We all skipped the crowded offline parties last night, or at least we should have. Those of us who had to head back to work in the morning likely skipped the alcohol as well. This year, I’ve decided to continue this new tradition of skipping useless New Year’s Eve/Day traditions and forgo the typical resolutions too. Instead, I am setting goals.
The difference between a resolution and a goal is practicality, focus, and perspective. Resolutions are often unreachable. The whole “new year, new me” thing we all get tired of after the millionth corporation uses it in their advertising is a good example. Unless you’re going to fake your own death, flee to a place you’ve never been before, and create a new identity, you are not likely to be a completely different person at the end of the year than you are today. Resolutions are focused on self praise. They’re all about “Look at me! Hey everybody! Look what great I’m going to do! Be sure to cheer me on!” Goals are typically focused on parts of your life’s mission. Resolutions set us up to beat ourselves up. When we look back, we either “kept our resolution” or we “failed.” Goals allow for progress and changes as we’re led to different things.
If you would like to join me in setting goals instead of making resolutions this year, here is a pattern for creating strong goals.
Set specific goals.
Goals that are too vague become nothing more than a way to sidestep accountability for doing little to nothing. If I say I want “more clients” for my arts writing business, I get to congratulate myself and slack off as soon as one person sponsors a single post for $20 and then disappears. A more specific, stronger goal would be, “I want my freelance writing business to serve at least three clients each month.”
A strong goal requires a result you can measure in some way.
Setting goals you can’t measure is another way of letting yourself off much too easy. Deciding to “learn Italian and Greek” was my goal last year. I cannot speak either of those languages today, because I did not set a specific goal. Technically, I did meet the stated goal, because I did learn a few words in Italian, and I learned a little bit about how to study Greek. But that was not what I meant when I set that goal, and we all know it. A firmer goal is, “Be able to watch an episode of a tv show in Italian and understand most of it by the end of the year and record a video or audio file of myself speaking Italian for ten minutes.” or “Be able to order my food in Greek by the end of the year.” I can measure those. I either understand the tv show, or I have to turn on the English subtitles. I will make it through a ten minute talk or I won’t. I’ll either have a nice chat with the people at the Greek restaurant and get my food, or they’ll have to ask me to switch to English.
Goals that are not attainable set you up for failure.
While the first two measures are designed to prevent us being too easy on ourselves, this one stops us from being too hard on ourselves. It would be perfectly reasonable for me to set a goal of singing in front of an audience again by the end of 2021. I started singing country and pop songs when I was three years old. I wanted to be a professional singer for my entire childhood, and have loved singing ever since. Most people who hear me sing tell me I have a good voice. But my voice is not great, and I haven’t really sung unless it was in a deliberately silly voice for a joke in about five years. Setting a goal of making my own album, having someone hire me to sing for two hours at my own concert, or singing an opera aria when I have a Blues, Country, and Pop voice and no training would only set me up for guaranteed failure.
Make sure you actually want or need to reach the goal.
Setting goals to do things you neither need nor want to do is another way to set yourself up for failure. It may sound good on social media to announce you’re going to gain or lose weight this year, but if you’re healthy and perfectly content with your body the way that it is, you’ll lose focus the minute all the encouraging comments fade away. In years past, I’ve been pressured to learn how to drive. It is something I can’t do that most adults can, but I would have no use for the knowledge of how to drive a car. Eye doctors tell me I have no depth perception, and both eye doctors and a retired police officer have told me this would make driving unsafe for me. There would be no need to learn to do something only to be reminded I’m medically restricted from it when I go to take the driving test. I would wind up with a learner’s permit, driving someone else around empty parking lots.
There should be some sort of time limit.
Putting time limits on goals helps maintain focus and motivation to work toward the goal. “By the end of 2021, I want to be able to record myself speaking Italian and Greek for five minutes,” is a goal with a time limit. I am likely to work toward those goals, knowing I don’t have forever to meet them. “I’d like to be able to speak Italian and Greek for ten minutes,” is a strong goal in terms of being measurable, but adding a time limit prevents me from putting off the work needed to achieve it.
Goals that can be broken down into smaller goals, or steps, are much more likely to be reached.
My goal, “I would like to have three clients per month in 2021,” is specific, measurable, attainable, something I want to do, and limited by time. Business blogs use the acronym SMART for “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely” to describe these guidelines. But I still run a strong risk of sitting around waiting for those clients to appear each month. My chances of success are much better if I break that down into, “Contact five potential clients each week,” or “complete a side hustle to raise the money to buy advertising by the end of the first week of each month.”
Remember Proverbs 16:3
The verse reads, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” (NIV). This does not mean all of your goals have to be directly related to church, and it certainly doesn’t mean you need to make a list of goals that sound like they came out of a bad, preachy movie. It means to pray as you are setting your goals, and to pray throughout the year, to make sure you are setting and going after goals in keeping with God’s plan for you. We all have a different mission here on earth. We are all made unique. A great goal for your friend, or your daughter, or your spouse, or the guy you sit next to on the bus to work may not be a relevant goal for your life. And even those of us who start out with righteous, relevant goals need to remain reminded that no matter what your goal, it is never okay to reach it through cheating, stealing, lying, or causing deliberate harm to other people.
Sometimes, it feels like our art is going nowhere. We write songs nobody listens to, books nobody reads, poems nobody wants to hear. Then, we log on to social media, and it looks like every other artist in town is taking off. Here are a few things to remember whenever you’re tempted to compare yourself unfavorably to others, or feel like you’re the only one struggling.
Bragging is increasingly common today.
Exagerating the obstacles you’ve overcome, your accomplishments, and your impact on others is common these days, in the arts and in every other field. We are even instructed to call it “positivity” or “focusing on the positive” instead of what it used to be called, “bragging.” Just because someone is on social media claiming they did something, or it got this reaction, that does not mean it’s true. Sometimes people brag because they have overinflated egos. Other times, they’re trying to make themselves feel better. Either way, they’re not giving you an accurate picture of what their life is really like.
Everyone who posts about their accomplishments and impact on social media is not bragging, but when it seems like everybody but you is taking off professionally, there’s a good chance a lot of people are overstating things a bit. Never let this make you think everybody but you is enjoying great success.
Most people focus on good things when posting about their lives on social media.
Even those who do not tend to brag or overinflate what they do will probably post only about the good things that happen to them.
Unless you are in a support group, it is almost considered poor social skills, or bad manners, to post about your troubles and obstacles on your social media page. The only exception seems to be when you have already overcome something, and can label the experience a “journey.”
Like bragging about how great everything is, this often stems from the political correctness gone haywire trend of everything being labeled “positive” and “negative,” with “negativitiy” being the worst thing you can be accused of putting out there.
Artists…and others…who don’t bow to social pressures may also avoid sharing their troubles online due to safety concerns. Predatory types often hunt for vulnerable people online. Letting them know you’re feeling overwhelmed with your career is like talking about all the expensive things you’re shopping for within earshot of a pickpocket.
Either way, this does not mean nobody else struggles, or has failed projects, or feels like giving up some days. It just means they aren’t announcing those moments to their online connections.
The majority of your fellow artists have day jobs or retirement income from day jobs just like you.
Every artist’s page looks like their life is devoted entirely to their art, and some people are indeed blessed to get to earn all of their income from their art practice. But most are not. Most artists either work or are retired from a day job they never or rarely mention in their art work on their online space for their art career.
Sometimes, we are blessed with a second career, and/or a day job that directly relates to our art practice. My regular monthly bills are paid with income from a job teaching basic writing skills to adults online. I even get to write stories to use in my teaching. But this was not always the case. We all have times when we just need to do what we can to pay the bills. Before I found my current job, I worked as a cashier and greeter at Walmart. I still thought of myself as a writer, but the only writing I ever did at work was putting a check mark or my initials on somebody’s receipt so the nasty customer service manager or other greeter would realize someone checked their purchases already and leave them alone.
Everyone feels like they’ll never make it sometimes.
Due to a lot of “new age” thought creeping into our everyday lives, many people have come to believe in the law of attraction without ever realizing it. In case you haven’t heard of this yet, the law of attraction teaches that people are like gods, and our energy and thoughts alone can shape and change the world. If you feel like a failure, you are a failure. If you feel like a great success, you are a great success. Whatever you think about is on its way, through the power of your own mind. This is of course nonsense. If the law of attraction were real, your whole life would change with normal shifts in mood.
Those people you look at and see only great success have felt just as discouraged as you have. They may even feel like that now, and are just forcing themselves to work through it. Or, as noted above, they may be hiding it for whatever reason. Feelings do not automatically create reality.
Failed projects can provide background material for successful ones.
Novels, poems, plays, albums, paintings and other forms of art do fail sometimes. So do recipes, experiments, research projects, construction projects, and everything else in every other field. Failure teaches us what not to do, so we can avoid that when we try again, but failed projects in the arts can also be dismantled and examined for pieces that will work for something else.
For a niche website, blog, or YouTube channel, “success” begins when at least ten per cent of your target audience follows you and ten per cent of that population actually interacts with your content. Using statistics on the percentage of people who are serious artists and the population of Utica, I set the target population of a website for artists in Utica at 1500. This means I would need 150 followers and about 15 readers for each article to be considered successful with my site. The first time I made a website for Utica artists, I had about six or seven people following the site, and two people reading what I posted on a good day. I was heartbroken. But I also learned that I needed to work harder on publicity, post only once per week, and invest in better business cards. The failed site also left me with an archive of articles nobody ever read. Many of those failed articles form the rough drafts for the ones you read here.
The arts often have unseen impact the artist never knows about.
One of the most encouraging stories from popular music centers around folk singer John Denver. After his divorce from first wife, Annie, Denver was reportedly planning to give up on music. His genre and style had fallen out of favor with pop music fans, and he had become known more for his lighter, sillier lyrics than his best work. Annie, is said to have encouraged him to keep going. Although she couldn’t tell him this, one of her clients in her therapy practice had changed her mind about killing herself after being touched by the simple sweetness and beauty of some of Denver’s songs.
While everybody’s art can’t literally save a life, you never know when that one person who needed inspiration, encouragement, or even just a few moments of enjoyment or fun might come across your work.
Keep going. Even if it looks like whatever you’re working on right now is doomed to sit on your shelf, keep working at it. You never know what might happen in the future.
by Lou Santacroce
(written in commemoration of multi-instrumentalist Milo Fine’s 40 years in music)
Chapter One of “Musicage,” a book consisting of conversations between John Cage and Joan Retallack is titled after one of his sayings: “Art is either a complaint or do something else” (which, admittedly, is his mesostic of something said/written by Jasper Johns). It strikes me that this is what every real artist has done thruought history, and what all true artists are doing today: registering a complaint. The art of the past survives because it represented a complaint about and against the prevailing and accepted art/trends/trendiness of that era’s status quo. That they are accepted as part of the artistic status quo in the present age is irrelevant to how they were perceived in their own day.
The amazing thing is that these rebels and revolutionaries of yore -- so revered today that they are presented to us as models which we must copy if we are to be considered artists by the blessing-bestowing, grant-granting establishment -- were never wholly accepted as artists in their own time. Rembrandt received a commission from a group of guild members who wanted to see themselves memorialized on canvas; they refused to pay him when he returned with a life-sized work depicting them in animated conversation, standing on the street after a meeting – i.e., as real people – rather than in the accepted portraiture mode: seated, expressionless and immobile as statues. Manet’s paintings – though they were routinely allowed into exhibitions -- were also routinely hung so high that people had difficulty seeing them. Cezanne’s early canvases were attacked by gallery patrons wielding umbrellas. Joyce’s publishers sold out the entire first printing of “Dubliners;” every copy was bought by a self-appointed guardian of literary morality who then burned the lot. “Ulysses” was banned in the US for 30 years. Early critics of bop accused Charlie Parker of playing out of tune and people are still shaking their fists at Cecil Taylor. These, of course, are old stories.
What is it about these artists’ refusal to knuckle under to the status quo that so angered those critics of bygone days, and continues to make the critics of today flush crimson? What is it about those who refused to crank out the “business art” that I’m forced to look at while waiting in my doctor’s office, or the music I’m forced to listen to while working out at the local gym, or the eye candy disguised as literature that I see workers devouring on their lunch breaks…what is it about those mavericks, those real artists, that causes critics temperatures to rise? Several things; for one, people get testy not because they are being deprived of their Thomas Kinkade, Winton Marsalis or Daniele Steele fixes – since those charlatans, and others like them, will always be there to sooth the delicate sensibilities of the people whom H.L. Menken dubbed “the herd” – but because every time the sound of a Charlie Parker or a John Coltrane or a Cecil Taylor or a Milo Fine reaches their ears, every time a Samuel Beckett or a Patricia Highsmith dances across their eyes, every time their point of view is disturbed by a Worhol or Lichtenstein, what comes with it is the haunting and irrational fear that that these sounds, words and images will drive the business art, the muzak and the eye candy lit from the marketplace. And irrational is, indeed, the word; as if, suddenly, Barnes and Noble were going to stock nothing but Beckett and Musil; Amazon were going only going to carry CD’s by Evan Parker and Morton Feldman ; Van Vliet (yes, I like his canvases, and not just because he used to be Captain Beefheart) reproductions were going to elbow big-eyed street waifs out of existence at the local arts & crafts store, and the consumers who, above all else, must have something simplistic to consume will have nothing at which to throw their money or bury their heads in so as to forget the banality of their miserable lives.
The critical herd panics even more, since most of them make their living by explaining the easily explained to people who desperately need permission to like or dislike something. How, after all, will they make their living trying to explain what they cannot comprehend? So, they write and speak the language of hysteria, as in (to use a ridiculous example) the wailing and gnashing of critical teeth over the advent of the Sex Pistols and the punk movement of the late 1970’s, as if John Lydon were truly the antichrist (remember how well that comparison worked when they tried it on Mick Jagger during the 1960’s?) who would bring all of music crashing down around us.
Second, the herd bears a seething and lingering resentment toward the above-mentioned artists and others like them, not because they merely bucked an existing system, but because – in many cases – they risked virtually everything to do so. Charlie Parker could have made a decent living wailing away in Jay McShann’s band (or Ellington’s; Duke made the offer) and Coltrane could have done the same by sticking with the early, “Favorite Things” version of his “sheets of sound” innovations (or, again, by joining Ellington). If Cecil Taylor had gone no further than his early work (say, the “Jumpin’ Punkins” period), he would have had a reputation similar to Lennie Tristano’s and would have lived a lot more comfortably through his middle years. And Milo Fine could have ended up as the mid-west's go-to drummer and spent a lot less time cleaning offices.
So, why didn’t they? Because there’s something more important than being comfortable. Art is more important than being comfortable; real art is, in itself, a form of discomfort; discomfort with the present tense, with the notion that this is the way it is and the way it shall, should and always be; and these beliefs, combined with the knowledge that it really IS worth sacrificing everything in order to take the next step, to register the complaint and to keep registering the complaint until SOMETHING begins to move, angers “the heard” like nothing you can imagine; the fact that SOMEONE had the guts to take that fateful, sometimes fatal step and THEY did not! You see, deep down, the herd knows and feels its collective cowardliness. They feel it every hour of every day as they perform mind-numbing tasks at soul-stealing jobs. It gnaws at them as they trudge from home, to work, to the bar, and back home to their oldies radio stations and Nostalgia TV channels (re-living the days when things were better HOW?); the knowledge that there is something better and the knowledge that they do not have the courage to reach out and try for it. Do they ever complain? Sure; they complain to their friends in the bar (complaints that always end in , “Ahhh, whaddaya gonna do?”), they complain to a TV set that runs the same piece of footage over and over (hey, it’s a 24 hour “news and information” channel; gotta fill that time SOME way) while disembodied commentators (always the same voices) make the same disembodied comments just before the commercial break. But, pass the bar? Dump the TV? Change the station? That’s not the type of complaining they’re made for. Too much risk, not enough guarantee of return. Hey: in the end, even Cage liked his apartment in New York City and his cottage in the country too much to complain too loudly.
So, to all of those REAL artists who still hold their hand to the flame: keep complaining. Complain stridently or complain softly, but keep registering those complaints.
Lou Santacroce is a singer-songwriter, music program host, novelist, and arts writer from Utica, New York. For more of his writing about the arts, visit the "Nonfiction Books About the Arts" section of this site. His music and novels are also available here at Artist Cafe Utica. Lou's current music program is "Masters of Jazz," heard exclusively on Phoenix Radio, 95.5 FM or streaming at www.955theheat.com every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Many of us have lost day jobs, or at least seen a reduction in our steady income. For some, this is an opportunity to focus more on our art work and our side hustles. This can mean needing to attract new customers or clients. While the majority of people who express interest in your art or in your side hustle genuinely respect and want your product or service, a dishonest client can derail the best career plan. Watch out for these anytime you are offered a project from a new client.
The client is vague about the project.
If someone told you they had “a job” for you, and you needed to come in and fill out a W-4, you would not immediately agree to be their employee. You don’t go to restaurants and ask the waiters to bring you “some food.” Yet independent artists regularly find themselves in trouble because they agreed to work on a project without learning the details beforehand. Before you agree to anything, ask for the title of the project, the goals of the project, and what your daily, weekly, or monthly work might entail. An answer such as, “I own a beauty salon with four chairs, and I need a painting of a woman’s face with a fun hairstyle at each chair, plus a mural of beauty supplies around the back wall. I already have sketches prepared. You could set your own hours, but it should take a total of forty to fifty and I need to have this done in four weeks”is a solid answer. Those terms might be unreasonable or not, depending on the specifics, but you still have a clear place to start. “I need some pictures in my salon,” is vague and leaves you open to the client changing the details on a whim.”
Putting things in writing is resisted.
Anyone I write for already has an agreement in writing. It’s here on Artist Cafe Utica under Services for Artists. Anyone I write for on a freelance basis must read and agree to those terms. If, like me, you’re too shy to approach people with contracts and agreements, then make one for everyone, post it on your site, and stick to it. Anyone who tries to talk you out of setting the terms in writing should be avoided. And if they try to brush you off or act like those terms don’t apply to them, don’t accept the project.
The work has little to nothing to do with your skills or interests.
If you’re a sculptor who always wanted to branch out into painting, or a singer who has been meaning to go back into acting and someone is willing to give you a chance on their project or show, that is wonderful. If you’re a guitar player in a band, and have a second career as a dog sitter and groomer, and someone wants you to serve as a nanny to their five kids, that is probably not a good match for you. Someone who wants to hire you for something completely outside of your field wants to hire you for reasons that have nothing to do with your abilities and work related attitudes. It could be another one of the old “creeper who hires people he or she finds attractive in order to hit on them” tales, or the person could see you as somebody easy to bully or scam or get rid of on a whim without a fuss.
Your client is flaky or irresponsible.
Ghost writing a book on the history of the local music scene might be a great project for a musician or writer. It isn’t so great if the person you’re writing for hasn’t shown up the last three times you scheduled a meeting to go over the outline.
Whenever I am not sure if the situation seems legitimate or not,I like to use a “three strikes” rule. The first time you miss a meeting, forget my check, or leave me alone in your office when watching the office is not part of the job…it’s forgiven and forgotten. Emergencies come up. People have bad days. The second time, I am going to take note that this seems to be a habit with you. The third time, it starts looking like a pattern and it’s time to tell you that you need to find someone else.
The client has an odd history of not being able to keep people for the project.
Some projects are meant to be done by one person, and then someone else. If I have a building that needs painted, I could reasonably hire one person to paint trim for me one summer, then hire somebody else the next time I need a touch up. The business may also be a small operation that can only afford to hire college students for a few months at a time between semesters, or has a program designed to help people get on their feet then move on. But if the project is something that should be long term, and they’ve gone through four people in the last three years, ask yourself why nobody seems to work out here.
You are expected to beg for work.
I once received a freelance writing job offer that should have been one big red flag. The woman hired me based on a few comments I made on a Facebook group. She wouldn’t tell me exactly what I would be writing until I agreed to work for her. No agreements were put into writing. Sometimes, I was expected to log in to her web site, wait for her to post a project, then join the many other people currently on the list in going, “I’ll take it! I’ll take it!” until she finally gave me one. Occasionally, she would post a project for a specific person in front of the whole group. I quickly caught on that she was giving people projects she knew somebody else would want. Another writer kept getting the arts writing. I kept receiving assignments related to marketing and business, even though many others described themselves as business writers. I suppose it comes as no surprise that I had to threaten to report the place in order to get the $150 they owed me for the small amount of work I stuck around for.
While it is impossible to know how any project is going to turn out, keeping the telltale signs of a bad deal in mind can help you avoid losing money, time, and energy that could have been spent on more worthwhile projects.