Over the past three years, more and more people have gone independent, or freelance, but many…if not most…people in the arts have worked independently for a large part of their careers. In celebration of Artist Cafe Utica’s return to freelance/independent writing services, here are a few reminders for those outside the arts, who are looking to hire an independent writer or other artist.
Provide them with enough details of the work you want them to do.
Writers need to know what type of piece you need written, when you need it, and if there is anything they should be sure to mention or avoid mentioning. If you commission a painting, the artist needs to know if subject, color, size, materials, or style matters to you. Musicians need dates, times, proper names and current locations of venues. Of course these are all common sense details. Just don’t forget to include them in your messaging to the person. You may think “everybody” knows you sold your place on A street and bought that new place on “Y” street, or that your office is decorated with paintings of upstate New York, but the person you’re talking to may not have heard.
Respond to follow-up texts, calls, and emails seeking more information graciously. The artist is not trying to bother you, they are trying to make sure they have enough information to provide you with the item or content they have agreed to create for you.
Respect terms presented on their professional website or stated when they agree to the work.
An independent artist is in business for themselves. They may be an individual, but their career is their business. Treat it as such. If you were to hire someone to do repairs on your house or car, and their webpage or their paperwork included terms of service, you would honor those or go elsewhere. If you use the services of someone who has signed up to sell Avon or Arbonne, or you ride with Uber or order your dinner from DoorDash, you abide by the terms of that service when it comes to prices, returns, coupons, and free gifts. An artist’s terms of service should be treated the same way.
Don’t just assume they’re going to work for free because they love what they do.
An artist who wants to work for you for free will let you know. They’ll offer you free work, or post it on their website or social media that they’re doing something for free. If they have a price listed, or you talk to them and agree on a price, pay that price. You wouldn’t tell an independent sales person that you won’t be paying for the products you ordered because they use them and love them too. You wouldn’t refuse to pay a math or science tutor because the person’s main job has been teaching junior high math for thirty years and they clearly love their work.
Pay for what you order
If you ordered standard work, something the artist would do in a normal course of work day or week, you only need to pay the stated or agreed upon fee for the service or item.
When the artist has to put out money they would not have otherwise spent to provide the work, you need to reimburse them for that expense, or provide a way for them to access whatever you need free of charge. If you ask them to review a film that is only available on a paid streaming service or in movie theaters, they need your login details or you need to buy them a ticket to the movie. If you ask for a review of services at a new spa in town, you and the writer need to agree to the services you want reviewed, and you have to pay for them to have those services. These are not gifts or bonuses. These are your business expenses for the project you want done.
This only applies to expenses that are absolutely necessary in order for the artist to complete your project. If you order an article about a coffeehouse for your food blog, including a review of the coffee, you would have to pay for my coffee. If you ask me to interview the owner and write about the history of the place and I just want a coffee when I get there, you do not have to pay for that.
Keep communication professional
There is no need to send a formal business letter to a musician you’ve known as a friend for years. You can probably just ask them if they can perform in normal conversations, unless they ask for written confirmation for their business records. A meeting is probably not necessary if you want a writer to produce some evergreen content for your webpage that can be described via email.
This does not mean anything goes when messaging the person’s professional page. An artist’s professional page is not the place to hit on them, send them unsolicited personal advice, or spam them with constant requests to do things that have nothing to do with their art.
This extends to in-person communication and the event or other work time as well. When an artist shows up to a venue to find the manager too drunk to communicate with them, gets verbal abuse or bullying from someone who has hired them to produce written content, or encounters some other unpleasant personal behavior, they are much less likely to work with that person again, and will probably warn others away as well. It is in your interest to treat artists with respect if you want the arts to continue to be a part of your business.
Support your favorite local artists, whether you can afford to spend money or not
Booking them for paid gigs or readings, buying their albums, books, or paintings, and supporting them via fundraising sites such as Patreon are of course appreciated by local artists. But if you would like to hire someone in the arts but you just cannot afford that right now, support them anyway.
Free activities such as sharing gig announcements, liking webpages and facebook pages and groups, and spreading the word about their work verbally are also big boosts.
Remember that the arts are essential
During the recent quarantine, those who were tempted to brush music, literature, poetry, paintings, photography, sculpting, and other art forms off as just “hobbies” or “people doing what they felt like” or “just for fun” learned how much they depend on the arts to cope with difficult situations, to celebrate happy times, and to impact social justice. Never forget that the arts are an essential part of our lives.
Author's note: Anyone who takes a copy of this article for their professional webpage has my permission to add the name of their band, studio, or their own name, and an invitation to contact them to arrange a gig or other work to the end of the article. Please feel free to add a sentence, or a paragraph or two along the lines of "Band A, a local classic rock band, is back on the road and available..." or "To gain your own skills in painting, sign up for lessons at studio B..."
Tragedies seem to be on the rise this summer. And while there are a lot of people out there doing all they can to help, there are always those who will use a tragedy to run a scam.
“Heartstrings” scams are scams that prey on their targets’ compassion, kindness and/or sense of justice. The scammer presents him or herself as someone who has suffered some type of tragedy or injustice. Faking cancer…in themselves or in a child or a spouse… is a common ploy. Some heartstrings scammers fake disabilities, or pretend to be someone who has recently survived domestic violence or natural disaster. They may set up a fund to help pay for treatment or therapy, or ask for items for a new home or baby that does not exist. The funds of course, go right in the scammer’s pocket. The items typically wind up sold for cash.
Get a free gaming console while helping a grief-stricken parent
You’re on social media, browsing your favorite marketplace, yard sale, and swap meet groups. The ads range from reasonable, professional posts by people flipping items as a side hustle, to blurbs from people trying to get rid of single items or announcing offline yard sales, to those ridiculous offers from people who expect others to pay near retail price for an item that is clearly used. But then, you notice this one:
“My son died of cancer last week,” the post reads. “He was only six years old. I bought him a PS5. He never got to open it. I want to gift it to someone that needs it. It hurts my heart just to look at it.”
Even if you have no desire to own a Playstation or any other video game equipment, you feel like reaching out to this person, who is being so generous in the midst of their own unimaginable tragedy. They could have just dropped the PS5 off at their local thrift store, but they want to bless someone else. At the very least, you want to send a message of support and condolence.
Resist the urge, no matter how moving the story. There is no grieving parent. This is just another round of a particularly tasteless, cold-hearted “heartstrings scam” that has been in play for at least two years. The small child who died of cancer is just one variation. Sometimes, the son was in college, died in a car accident on the way home, and never got to open his gift. In other versions, it’s a daughter who was killed on the way home. Only the PS5 that the grieving parent cannot bear to look at remains the same.
Anyone who reaches out offering to take the PS5 that is causing the parent so much heartbreak is promised the gaming device, but asked to send a small amount of money to cover the cost of shipping. Once the money is sent, the scam is successful. The victim never gets the PS5, and they never get their shipping costs refunded.
Help Ukrainian refugees
The war in Ukraine is not the lead story anymore, but it is still on your mind. You probably know someone from Ukraine, or someone who has family and friends living there. You know the people in Ukraine are still under attack by Putin and his forces. You’ve been thinking of ways to help, perhaps talking about doing something with some friends.
Shortly after a post or chat about Ukraine, you get an email that looks like it came from a well-known charity organization, reminding you that they are still collecting donations for the people there. This must be a sign that you are meant to help right now.
It isn’t. Today’s scammers have the means and the dedication to create pages that look identical to the webpages of established charity organizations. They can duplicate logos, information, even the exact wording of the real organization’s website.
Never donate through an email, text message, or social media message you have received. If you feel called to help the people of Ukraine this summer, your best option is to donate through an established, local organization like your church or the nearest chapter of a national or international charity. If you prefer to donate online, go directly to the official website of the organization you want your donation to go through.
Help your loved one, who is on the phone begging for your help.
When you first see the phone number of your family member or old friend on your screen, you’re happy to hear from them. But the call is not because they want to catch up or have some happy news to share. Your loved one is in trouble. They need you to send them some money to get them out of a scary, dangerous, or otherwise unsurmountable situation right away. You are tempted to send them money, after all, this is them. The call is from their phone.
Hang up anyway. Hang up, and call your loved one directly to ask them if they just called you. This may be a “vishing” scam. The term “vishing” comes from combining “voice over internet protocol” and “phishing.”
This is the classic “grandparents scam,” in which the scammer pretends to be someone’s grandchild in trouble. In previous versions of the scam, the call would come from a strange number, with the “grandchild” ready with an excuse as to why they’re calling from somebody else’s phone. This more sophisticated version uses the ability to spoof numbers to make it appear that the call is coming from the phone of a loved one.
It may be tempting to think, “as long as some people get help, I don’t care if I get scammed once in a while.” And that is a kind and loving approach, but it does not truly help anyone. If you have $100, you feel called to use it to bless someone in need, and $50 of it goes to a scammer, those people who are truly in need still have that same need. They never got the resources that lost $50 would have provided. The goal is of course to keep yourself from being scammed, but also to prevent scammers from diverting funds that should have gone to fill a true need. And sometimes, a single extra moment of caution is all it takes to make sure the funds you use to bless others actually bless them.
Online learning became a necessity over the past two years, as it was not safe to gather in a classroom offline. Some people did well. Others had difficulty coping, and struggled to succeed. Anyone can force themselves to make it through an online course, but some people are better suited to online learning than others. The information below is directed at adult learners. Children and teens have unique academic, social, and emotional needs. If you are unsure about the correct learning environment for your child, speak to their current teacher or another expert in child psychology and learning before making decisions for them.
Online learning is best for people who are able to work with little to no direction from others.
Some people need a pre-set plan, direct supervision, and a lot of direction from a supervisor or manager to do well at a job. Others are able to start from the beginning of a project, plan the work, and create their own schedule. Neither of these types are “good” or “bad” at learning or anything else. They are just different personalities that react differently to variations in their environment.
In an online course, you will likely have due dates and deadlines set for you. Lessons will be pre-made. The work of each day, however, will be entirely up to you. Nobody will be expecting you to show up in a classroom every Monday night at 7 p.m. You will need to go over your schedule and decide for yourself whether or not Monday is a school day, and which hours are school time. And you will have to be disciplined and focused enough to stick to the decision you made.
Students who are comfortable working alone, but not in complete isolation, are best suited to online learning.
Virtual classrooms are not always as isolated as some people make them out to be. You will interact with other students and with your teacher. In-person interactions are not eliminated, but may be replaced with chats and meetings via Zoom, discussion boards, email exchanges, instant messenger exchanges, and other forms of online communication we are all familiar with from other parts of life.
But you will not be able to sit in a room full of people. You may not even be able to arrange to sit in a room full of people by gathering together with other online students. Zoom meetings, phone calls, listening to recorded lectures, and watching videos might disrupt others’ learning. You are going to need to spend at least some time physically alone in a room.
Those who express themselves better in writing than by speaking may prefer online learning.
There are opportunities to talk to people when you are an online student. Some instructors welcome, or even encourage, phone calls from students. You may be assigned group projects that require you to call or hold Zoom meetings with your classmates. In some classes, the instructor will even hold an in-person lecture or class that is traditional in every way, except that it is done through Zoom.
But in many cases, you are going to be asked to communicate with your teacher and your fellow students through writing. Much of the discussion in class is done through discussion boards. Email and messenger systems hosted by the school are common ways to talk to your instructor and your fellow students.
Those who consider their words carefully before they speak are better suited to online learning than those with a tendency to blurt or speak first and ponder what they said later.
The opposite should be true. Online classrooms should be the perfect place for that person who can always be counted on to say what others are thinking but are too afraid to announce. If they’re on a discussion board, they have to type and can’t just blurt things out.
What some do not realize is that many discussion board comments cannot be edited, and instant messenger messages cannot be erased. If you are talking to the class over Zoom, it is likely being recorded, and made available to anyone who wants to listen to it until the class closes. This makes what you say, gaffes and all, much more permanent than offline, in-person speech. If I say something rude, embarrassing, or otherwise inappropriate in room 203 of the nearest traditional university on Monday at ten, there will be no record of it, and half the class may forget it happened in a month or less. If I post that same thing on the unit 3 discussion board in my online class, it’s there until the class closes.
Taking a class online is best for those who are comfortable online, but do not already “live” there.
The person whose whole life revolves around the internet, the one who is always reading their facebook page, enjoys posting every detail of their life, and knows more about their favorite YouTubers than they know about their actual friends may seem like the ideal online learner. Some may indeed find an online class a natural extension of what they already do all day. Others may struggle, as the lure of their facebook, instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and wherever else they go online all day may prove too much of a distraction.
Online learning may help those who need to save some money
There are no truly cheap accredited colleges or quality training programs around anymore. Everything costs money, and school is no exception. Online classes just tend to be slightly cheaper than their offline versions. Even if the tuition and required materials cost the same, taking a class online saves you the cost of travel to and from campus, eliminates the need to buy meals or drinks between classes, and can lessen spending due to social pressure, such as buying new school clothes or meeting for snacks or drinks after class.
Online learning is not for everyone. But it can be an option for those whose personality and/or or life circumstances make it suitable. Before signing up for an online course, consider whether your unique traits and needs make it the right learning environment for you.
You were called to a new career path, or to advance in your current one. Part of that journey requires going back to school. You carefully chose your program. Books and materials have been purchased. Time and space for school has been carved out of your life. Things were going great. But now there’s a problem. Something has gone wrong that is messing up your school work schedule. You are tempted to panic, beg your instructor for special treatment just this once, quit school, or cry. Don’t. There is a solution to many of the issues faced by adult learners.
You go to school online, or you go to school offline, but need to do internet research, and you lost internet service.
The best way to solve the “no internet” problem is by planning ahead of time. Always have at least three solutions to the “there is no internet” problem available to you. Making sure you have a phone with a tetherable modem is essential if you’re going to depend on the internet for school or work. In the case of your home or workplace internet going down, your phone can act as a temporary second modem. Use that tetherable modem as your “Plan B.” You might want to arrange with a family member or friend to use their wifi first as your Plan C.. Should their wifi be unavailable, perhaps plan D will be to use the wifi at the library or other public place.
If the problem appears to lie with the school’s system rather than your own service, contact tech support immediately. This can be frustrating, as you may wind up talking to someone who has only been trained to respond to key words from a script, and does not truly understand what you are saying. But every ticket, every email, and every call serves as a report of the problem, and they can and should fix campus wide technical problems as quickly as possible.
There is a genuine emergency in your life.
Some emergencies are of course so serious, you truly cannot complete the work of your class. In those situations, it may be best to take a leave of absence and return to your studies when you can. But in situations where an emergency occurs that will not necessitate leaving school for a while can best be dealt with by making an emergency plan before you start school.
Your emergency plan will start with your schedule. Let’s say Monday and Tuesday are your main school days. You get off work at 2 p.m. on those days, your classes are online, and your schedule is up to you. You have set 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. as your academic work time. Add an emergency plan on to that. It can be something like, “If I am unable to complete my work on these days, I will get caught up the following Sunday before the assignment is due” and set time aside for that.
The worst course of action would be to wait until your work is due, and then message your teacher using the emergency situation as an excuse. You may want to let your instructor know of your situation, but frame your message as seeking guidance on what to do in that situation, not as a demand for an extension or other special treatment. When students do this, an instructor’s first thought is often, “This student lost their job/broke their finger/had to take their friend to the hospital/had to go out and do side work to pay a bill…..but it didn’t bother them enough to mention it until the moment their homework was due?” Even if you do honestly think an extension or makeup test or assignment is your only option, letting the teacher know you did all you can to deal with a genuine situation is always better than simply sending an excuse.
You look over some work, and you do not understand the assignment.
Anytime you are not clear on the work you are supposed to do for any reason, reach out to your instructor early. Be honest. Tell the teacher exactly what you don’t understand, and ask them for help.
Some students are afraid of “bothering” their instructor. Don’t be. Teaching you the material in the class is your teacher’s job. They’re the expert in the field, and they’re the one being paid to help you learn more about it.
Using classmates’ work as your sample and guide is a common mistake when faced with this issue. It will be tempting to just look around or ask around and see what everyone else is doing, but it will likely turn out to be a bad idea. Your classmates are great resources when you want to have a discussion on the topics of the class, or when you want to know how a member of the general public might respond to your work. Their work may give you ideas on what to do going forward. But they might also be as confused as you are when it comes to the work of the class.
You did everything right, including asking the teacher your questions early, and they brushed you off and told you to go look it up on the internet, or go find a tutor.
Look it up on the internet. Go find a tutor. And do everything you can not to take any more classes with this instructor.
Your instructor can be thought of like a project consultant and supervisor at a paying job. Sometimes you get great ones, who are there with the goal of helping everyone meet the goals set for the project. Other times, you get good enough ones, there to lay out the requirements and rules and write evaluations (or grades), but not available for much else. And sometimes you get people who make you wonder why they took the job if actually doing the work makes them so miserable they can’t even bring themselves to do it.
Someone in class is harassing or threatening you, or doing something else that prevents you from completing your course.
In most college classes, you are going to encounter a wide variety of people. There will be people who differ from you in life experience, religious or spiritual beliefs, age, political affiliation, sexual orientation, goals for the class, and just plain attitude and personality.
You are there to learn and to strengthen skills, not to police other people for political correctness, whether that be left wing PC or right wing PC or just some general weird detail we all like to jump on each other for these days. Somebody disagreeing with you, seeing the world differently than you do, having different goals, or just plain not liking you is not harassment or a threat, and it is not stopping you from learning.
Stand up to people who are just run of the mill, everyday jerks. Don’t let a classmate talk over you, “correct” everything you say, or talk to you in a condescending tone. You have just as much right to be there as they do.
This is of course all very different from threatening or harassing behavior. If someone is threatening any type of harm to you, other students, staff, the school in general, or anyone else…say something right away. Take the instructor aside after class, or instant message them immediately in an online course, and let them know what’s going on.
These are just a few of the issues you may face as an adult learner. Look for future articles for solutions on failed research projects, lack of needed source material, and other academic problems…and their solutions.
Artist Cafe Utica has always been a website for and about Utica artists, and it always will serve that purpose. There are just a few changes effective July, 2022.
What changes were made?
Previously, Artist Cafe Utica had three functions. It was a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and any other local artists who wished to add links to their work to the site. It was a place for local artists to get free content for their website, blog, social media page, magazine, or other publication. And it was a point of contact to arrange custom researched and written work done by the site owner on a freelance basis.
Only the custom work option has been eliminated. Artist Cafe Utica is still a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and other local artists. It is still the place to find free content for your online or print publication or space.
Why did you eliminate the custom work option?
There was not enough interest in the service. The income from freelance writing only averaged out to $72 per month for the first seven months of the year, with nobody expressing any interest in purchasing any content in the coming months. Work that pays out at $42-$72 per month isn’t lucrative enough to keep doing with today’s prices.
Offering custom freelance writing work in addition to hosting the free library of articles for local artists also seemed to generate a bit of confusion. In one instance a few years ago, someone contacted me for writing services, refused to order anything, and then sent me a text message “firing” me from the staff job I had never taken. More than one person has mistaken me for a staff writer of a publication I freelanced for, and sent me materials to be submitted to the publication, or not understood that I was writing a feature for a client and not for my own website. I found myself spending more time clarifying that I was a freelance writer offering services to clients than I spent actually writing material for people.
Does this mean your work will no longer be seen anywhere but on Artist Cafe Utica?
For the most part, yes. I do have one long-standing project that will continue. Each month, I write a column for Phoenix Media called “The Heat Beat.” It is a joint project between Phoenix Radio and the news magazine, “The Utica Phoenix.” They have been outstanding clients, and are a sister organization to For the Good, Inc, a non-profit that hosts numerous worthwhile programs that greatly benefit the community. This will be the only custom writing that I do going forward. Everything else will be posted to the “Library” section of Artist Cafe Utica, offered free of charge to anyone who would like the content.
What if someone wants an article about a certain topic?
Readers are more than welcome to request topics. A local artist could always request a topic, and then help themselves to a free copy of that feature once it’s posted. This works out in their favor, because something that would have cost them $125 can now be obtained for free.
How will you make money, if you’re not going to sell articles anymore?
The income from my independent writing, both fiction writing and nonfiction writing for and about Utica artists, was never my main source of income. In addition to being a novelist and arts writer, I am also a writing teacher. My regular pay from teaching writing goes into the savings account I use to pay myself each month, and cover my basic expenses. Income from my own writing has always been my spending money. And there are still two income streams open for that.
Copies of my self-published novels are still available through Artist Cafe Utica. I earn 70% of the purchase price whenever someone buys an ebook or paperback copy of one of my novels.
There is also a tip jar available. If you read and enjoy the free articles in our library, post a link to an article on your social media page, or take some content to use in your publication or on your website, consider leaving a tip by clicking on the link to the “Go Fund Me” page and making a contribution.
Were there any other changes made?
The Avon page was taken down. I am still an Avon representative. It is a great company offering outstanding products. Avon sales didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the site. Of course, artists can buy Avon. But it did not fall into the same category as “novels, music, and more for and about Utica artists” when everything else…including the “more” was some form of art and/or writing about the arts.
Will you be adding any other services?
At this time, there are no plans to offer additional services. Artist Cafe Utica will serve as a place to purchase novels, music, and more from local artists, and a place to obtain free content for any publication or website owned or managed by a Utica area artist.
Conventional work wisdom says that the best way to find work is to network. Searching ads, sending out applications and resumes, and walking into businesses to talk to the manager may yield desired results for some people, but the best way to find the work you’re looking for is to reach out to people you know who are in a position to hire you, and people who might be connected to those people. This makes the cloning work scam particularly lucrative for scammers,
The con begins with a classic case of facebook account cloning, sometimes called spoofing. We have all gotten the non-work version of this scam. Somebody on our friends list appears to send us a message, but when we open it, all they have to say to us is “Is this you?” or “Look at this video I found of you!” with a link we can click on. These messages are not from the person they appear to be from. The scammer has stolen their profile photo, their name, and any other details they can copy, and created a second account that they control. Clicking on the link opens your computer up to the scammer’s malware, allowing them access to your financial accounts and other personal information.
To run the work scam, the scammer does the same thing with a local facebook account, only instead of sending messages to the person’s friends, they post a job ad in local groups. A recent ad circulating around the Utica area offers the opportunity to work from home doing data entry for $25 per hour. Group members are asked to private message the account for more details.
Once you send a message inquiring about the job, you receive the following reply:
“This is an online and work from home job the working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice,the pay is $25 per hour training is $15 per hour and you will be getting payed weekly via direct deposit or credit card top up and the maximum amount you can work a week is 40 hours. I believe working from home will not be a problem for you ?”
Notice that although the account appears to be someone in your community working in a data entry job, the grammar, spelling, and word choice are incorrect and awkward. It is also noteworthy that the company can only pay you in ways that require you to give them your banking and/or credit card information.
Once you assure them that working from home will not be a problem for you, they say, “Okay good. Job Description & Responsibilities. Data entry is all about speed, accuracy, and attention to detail. You enters information into computer databases for effective record keeping. Daily responsibilities include: Organizing files and collecting data to be entered into the computer and appropriate software entering. I'm sure you can handle all this as a Data. Entry clerk ?”
Again, they are recruiting for a job that requires accuracy and attention to detail, yet their dialogue is barely readable, and contains mistakes and strange phrasing, even in that short message.
Further messages include pressure to download their preferred private messenger app from the Google store, so that you can communicate with the hiring manager.
At this point, it may still be tempting to convince yourself that this is genuine. After all, you do give your direct deposit information to any job that offers direct deposit once you’re hired. And many Americans who speak English as their native language do have poor written communication skills these days. Seeing posts that say “Your doing great!” instead of the correct “You’re doing great!” or “What are there hours?” instead of “What are their hours?” is far from uncommon. And we use “positive” and “negative” to refer to anything that pleases or displeases us on any level.
But even a person who forgets basic grammar and uses the same two words for everything can understand and answer a direct question in their native language, especially when the question is one they would likely hear and be expected to answer on a regular basis. There is no reason why a fully functioning, native English speaking adult whose job involves recruiting others to work for their company would not be able to understand and answer the question, “What is a typical work day like for you?” The person you are talking to when responding to these ads cannot do that.
“They like to see an had working and fast people,” was the first answer I received to that question. I asked it again, using slightly different phrasing. The answer was, “I work 30hrs week.” When I tried a third time, they said, “You can work as hours you want to in a day Once you start the interview you will understand everything”
“But what is a day of work like for you as an employee?” I asked.
“I work from Monday til Friday,” the scammer said.
“Can you describe a typical workday?” I then asked.
“I don’t no the kind of job that is available right now When you start your interview you will be good,” said the scammer.
Before blocking them, I tossed out a couple of silly questions and statements, just to see if they could even follow a conversation. The scammer I talked to can pick up on a few words. They asked if I was only focused on the money when I asked if I could earn millions of dollars, responding, “Are you looking after the money or.” I assured them that no, I also wanted a job that would allow me enough time to teach my dog to drive. They said, “Your dog to drive Wow I don’t know dog also drive car.”
This is clearly not really someone working for a company that demands anything fast and accurate, unless you count quickly collecting the credit card and bank account information of their scam victims.
In order to learn the details of the scam, I interacted with this account even more than I should have. The best response is to simply report any of these “looking for people to do data entry at home” job ads to the group administrator right away. And if you happen to know the person whose name, photo, and other details are being used, let them know what’s going on.
When looking at job ads on social media, respond only to those posted by an established local business or a well-known professional. Make sure the content makes sense, such as a hairdresser posting that they have space for another stylist, or a hotel seeking a desk clerk. If they offer an application on Indeed dot com or through their website, or provide email or phone contact information, use it rather than sending everything in social media messaging.
If you must communicate with a prospective employer or client through social media, spend enough time chatting with them to determine that you are communicating with the person presented. Never give out your banking information or any other sensitive information until you have been given and completed a W-4 form, or signed an independent contractor agreement, with an established company. Taking extra steps may seem like a hassle, especially when you need work right away, but it would take a lot more time and energy to deal with identity theft or a drained bank account.
When you’re in high school, or college if you go the traditional route of enrolling right out of high school, living on campus, and taking all in-person classes, school can feel like the world. Whether that’s a good experience or a bad one depends on your school and your place in it, but either way, it can feel like your whole life.
Going to college after age twenty-five, going to college online, and/or going to college part-time while we also focus on our family, paid work, music gigs, acting, or writing can feel like a completely different world. And like traditional college and its urban legends, nontraditional college comes with its own set of myths and misconceptions.
Note: for the purpose of this article, the term “adult education” will be used to refer to any of the nontraditional situations described above. It is a common term used to differentiate nontraditional students from more traditional higher education situations, and is in no way meant to imply that a student who is eighteen or over, taking all of their classes offline, and living on or computing daily to campus is not an adult.
Myth: It’s going to be you and a bunch of eighteen year-olds who have never done anything but attend high school.
Reality: This may turn out to be true at some schools. However, people are increasingly delaying college, going back to college to prepare for second careers, or taking other, less traditional routes to their degree. If you do not want to feel like the only person who did not head off to college right after high school and then settle into your permanent career, it is entirely possible to narrow your list of prospective schools down to those with a high percentage of students who fall into similar categories as you. According to the U.S. News and World Report online rankings for 2022, Peirce College in Philadelphia, UMass Global, and our own Empire State College right here in New York boast a student body that is over 80% “aged twenty-five and older.”
Myth: The instructor is going to expect you to know more about the subject because you’re older, or you’re “out in the world” more
Reality: Most instructors expect students to enter the class at the level of expertise and skill one would expect of anyone taking the class. Anyone who doesn’t is being unfair. Regardless of the subject, everyone was a beginner at some point, and that includes adults studying that subject for the first time. You will not be expected to have any skills or insight anyone else taking the class would not be expected to have.
Myth: You will never really be a part of campus life.
Reality: Like the issue of feeling surrounded by people barely out of high school, this one seems to be less of a problem as nontraditional students become more and more the norm. Where once you might visit a university webpage and find “Young Democrats,” or “Young Republicans,” as the only offerings for those interested in politics, “College Democrats (or Republicans)” groups are increasingly common. Groups for people of specific ethnic backgrounds, general interests, and career interests welcome all students. Many schools even have distinct groups for students who do not reside on campus or are otherwise “nontraditional.”
Myth: You are going to be your instructor’s equal, especially if you’re close in age or older than them.
Reality: Your instructor is the person teaching the class and you are the student, regardless of your age, life experience, or any other details about either of you. If you truly know more than the teacher, you need to drop the class and take one at a much higher level. Other details about your life do not matter in class. An instructor with an earned doctorate is still “Dr.” and his or her last name. Those teaching with a Master’s degree, or who hold a terminal Master’s degree are “Mr,” “Ms.” or “Mrs.” (or whatever they introduce themselves using) and their last name, unless they ask the class to call them by their first name. And regardless of your age, past education, or professional experience, it is best to ask the teacher what they wish to be called if they do not let you know in the syllabus or other introductory materials.
Myth: The instructor is going to offer you special treatment because of your age, employment status, or family status.
Reality: This myth began circulating around the internet as early as 2009, and took hold thanks to a now defunct “college advice” website boasting more than one rather questionable gem. Never assume that you are going to be graded more leniently, allowed to turn things in late, or given extra time on a test simply because you have a job, kids, a spouse, a house full of pets, or bills to pay. Each instructor’s policy on late work, grading, and other class issues may vary, but they will apply to everyone, not just you.
Myth: Your instructor will have a degree, or at least some training in adult education and will be especially attuned to the needs of adult education students.
Reality: This particular myth has been put forth by a certain well-known online university that offers doctorate degrees in adult education. Visitors to the “chat with us” area of their website are urged to enroll right away, and the line “Yeah, in order to teach at a college you pretty much need a doctorate in Adult Education” is one they have used. This is neither true, nor is it a tactic used by all schools that offer this degree, because it simply is not true. Your instructor will have an advanced degree, at least a Master’s degree, in their field.
Myth: College teachers have to announce they treat everyone the same. If I take them aside and have a little chat with them, they’ll give me an extension when I have to work an extra shift that week or take my kids to practice.
Reality: Approaching anyone supervising any of your work, whether paid or academic, with a reason why you deserve special treatment is making an excuse. Some instructors happily accept excuses. Others accept none. But either way, what you’re doing is nothing more than making an excuse. And that is not a good habit to develop in college…or at work.
If you’re headed back to school, or thinking of going back to school at an age that feels older than everyone else, or you feel like you’ve had more or different life experiences than most college students and won’t be able to relate to anyone else, don’t let those fears discourage you. Higher education is more friendly to those who didn’t take the traditional route than ever.
While the traditional path to college is still full-time, on campus, and directly out of high school, more and more people are going a different route. People are getting degrees after they have been in the military, worked in a professional field for a time, raised a family, or coped with a long illness. Many people are returning for second and third degrees in order to make a career change. College can happen online or offline, or a bit of both. It’s not all dorm rooms and frat parties anymore.
Here are some tips…from someone who teaches nontraditional students online…for anyone who is off to school online, after age twenty-five, or after first going down any other path but the one straight to campus after high school.
Set up space for school.
The best place for nontraditional college students to take online classes, study, and complete their homework would be in a comfortable shared space. Renting a classroom or conference room with a group of other students and making that “school” for you would be ideal. Of course, that also ranges from impractical to downright impossible for most people. So come as close to that as you can. If you have a home office or studio, use that space as your school space. If you have a desk in your room or in a shared home office, use that. And if you have none of those things, set up a temporary school space. Designate your chair at the kitchen table your “school spot” anytime your laptop is open or the mug from the school store is sitting there.
Schedule school time.
Colleges and universities that offer you the opportunity to “learn at your own pace” and “work on your own time” mean that you get to decide when school time will take place, not that you get to do your work and hand it in when you feel like it. Begin each unit of study with a careful noting of due dates, and plan your work around that plus the rest of your life, including your own learning style.
Some people learn best and get the most done when they do a lot of work at once. Others need to work in shorter, more frequent sessions. Academic work time will likely need to be scheduled around paid work, family obligations, and other activities. But schedule it. It’s too easy to forget to do an assignment when you decide to just “do it when you have a chance.”
Get started…and ask questions…early.
Read the first assignment, including any resources, notes, samples, guides, or supplemental material, on the first day. Start assigned readings that day. If you have a project to plan, get started on it on the first day of school. This will give you a time cushion if something goes wrong. If you need to cancel a day of scheduled school work, a piece of a project gets misplaced, you’re having trouble getting a book you really need, or you don’t understand the assignment and need to email the teacher and wait for a reply, you’ll be ahead and able to relax and work through the difficulty without sacrificing your grade, or any other part of your life.
Wearing yourself out will not benefit your studies. Give yourself breaks and time off.
Going to college is supposed to be time consuming. It’s supposed to be hard. If your admissions counselor talked you into enrolling by promising you can earn your degree by glancing at your phone while your toenail polish dries at the salon, you are at a bad school. You will be tired. You will have added stress. But this does not mean you need to live logged in to your school website or your online research materials, never leave the local library, or miss your best friend’s wedding to write a paper.
Breaks should be scheduled into each school session. And days…or at least half days off should be scheduled for important life events. You might also want to schedule a day off of school work just to rest once in a while.
Tailor your work to the rest of your life as much as possible.
Sometimes, you are just going to have to complete projects you don’t feel like completing. This is going to be true whether you are in school or doing paid or volunteer work. But it is always more encouraging to work on something you care about. Choose a topic you’re passionate about anytime you are assigned a paper, presentation, speech, or other project on the topic of your choice. You may even want to design a project that can be used in your current professional life.
Avoid excuses and pity plays.
Excuses today come in a wide variety. The classics are still around., “My dog ate my homework, often updated to “The computer ate my homework” today. There’s always that time in the semester when it’s apparently dangerous to know someone who goes to your school, as everyone’s friends and family members seem to die, go to the hospital, or fall seriously ill at once. And then there’s the contemporary version, where the excuse-maker attempts to give everything a politically correct spin. They’re “just letting the teacher know the work will be late because communication is important,” or “They’re going to be handing in the next assignment when they can get around to it, because they’re ‘doing self-care.”Don’t use any of them. Spend the time you were planning to use to write out that excuse to write out the questions you have about the coursework that’s preventing you from being able to get things done on time instead.
Keep track of large projects you complete for classes.
If you’re old enough to go to college, you’re probably a little too old to hang your work up on the fridge, but don’t just recycle or delete everything either. Keep papers and projects you do particularly well on. You might be able to use some of the same material, or the same research, in future classes. (Make sure this is okay with the new teacher first of course.) Even if you never get to use the work again in school, it might give you something to discuss with a hiring manager at a job interview when they ask what you have done in your new field, or want to talk about your studies.
Going off to college isn’t going to be the same as it would have been in your late teens. If this is a second degree, things won’t be the same as they were the first time. But with some planning, and some useful attitudes and approaches, they can be even better.
by Jess Szabo' (novelist, arts writer, and writing teacher)
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
Summer is travel season for many of us. Utica area artists, particularly musicians and other performing artists, may be heading out on the road to perform at festivals and events in other cities, while those of us who only work locally might be on our way to conferences, workshops, or other business trips for our second job or day job. And although everything is far from affordable right now, there must be at least a few of us who just plain need a vacation.
One group of people who are sadly not taking a vacation are scammers. They remain hard at work, and focused on our professional and personal travel plans. Here are just a few of the travel scams on the rise for summer 2022, and how to spot them.
The rental of your scammer’s dreams.
One of the most basic scams out there involves tricking people into paying money for something that does not exist. The scam unfolds as you might expect. You’re looking for a place to stay, and come across the perfect hotel, lodge, cabin, or suite. You quickly message the person offering the rental, send them your money, and cross “find a place to stay” off your list. Everything goes according to plan. Everything goes according to plan until you drive up to the place, hoping to put your stuff away and rest for a bit before exploring your destination. The address you were given turns out to belong to an empty lot, or a Walmart, or a complete stranger’s house or the back alley behind a garage. Calls, texts, and other messages to the person you rented from go unanswered. Your money is gone, and you have nowhere to stay.
Anyone traveling to someplace completely unfamiliar may want to visit a local travel agent with expertise in booking travel and arranging lodging. If you are going someplace you are reasonably familiar with, such as a neighboring state or a city you have visited in the past, refuse to book travel anywhere but a reputable travel website. No legitimate renter is ever going to ask you to leave an established site like Travelocity, Expedia, or AirBnB dot com and make a payment someplace else.
Carefully check reviews before you book. A place that has no reviews may be a fake listing that was recently posted. While nobody has the time to read through multiple pages of reviews, take the time to read a few, noting not just problems, but word choice. Beware of multiple reviews that use the same words or phrases. They were likely written by the scammers themselves.
Finally, take a close look at the photos. Pictures that are grainy, out of focus, or of odd things such as corners and blank walls were likely taken at a random spot. Scan the pictures for details that do not match the listed location. If you aren't sure if there are palm trees where you're headed, or if that chain restaurant in the background exists in that city, do some online research or talk to a trusted friend who knows the area.
The interesting story that paid off…for a scammer.
While most scammers have embraced technology, there are still those who run old-fashioned, in person scams. The situation begins with something that looks like it will just be one of those everyday mishaps or misunderstandings that make for an interesting story to tell once you get back home. Someone spills something on you, and insists upon helping you clean your shirt or your bag. Or they bump into you and feel so terrible about it, they begin apologizing so profusely, it draws a crowd. Maybe they stopped you mid stroll down the street, talked you into signing their petition, and made such a scene about donating to the cause, you gave them some money just to get away.
None of these scenarios are coincidences. These are all common tactics scammers use to separate distracted travelers from their money. Avoid or leave the situation quickly. If someone bumps you and/or spills on you, say “It’s okay,” and move away from them before they can reach your bag or your pocket. Walk away from people pressuring you to sign a petition. If it turns out to be a real cause, you can learn more about it and show your support from the safety of your own room or at home.
The “help” that helps themselves to your banking information.
This one is not strictly a travel scam. As I sat in my own kitchen doing the research for the article you are reading right now, I received a text message from scammers pretending they were trying to help me. The text was allegedly from Amazon. They wanted to let me know my card was charged $495.99 for a VIZIO 60” Class V Series 4K LED Smart TV. The note assured me that they knew it was “not me” and they wanted me to contact them.
Sitting calmly in my kitchen, working on the arts writing portion of my writing work, I was able to instantly realize that this was a scam. Amazon does not send text messages from random numbers because they think my latest order wasn’t placed by me. But scammers are not counting on calm. They hope the recipient of the text will be distracted, panic, call the number, and provide the “helper” with the credit card number so the charge can be canceled. And we are often distracted when we are on a trip.
Fight back against this scam while traveling by taking a moment, no matter how rushed or distracted you might be. Never hurriedly click on any numbers in a strange text. Delete it immediately.
The bonus view of the strip that costs you a “bonus” for the scammer.
Las Vegas is a dream vacation spot for many. Some like the lure of the chance they might come back with a fortune. Others enjoy the glamorous image the city holds in the popular imagination. And still others just like the buffets, lights, and room service. Those who truly love Vegas love most or all of the above.
One way to put a damper on a Vegas vacation is getting drawn into the Vegas taxi scam. This one can be hard to spot, because the scammer is a legitimate taxi driver, who really is going to take you where you want to go. They are just going to offer to ‘show you the strip” before they do it, greatly increasing, sometimes doubling your fare.
Never announce that you want to see the strip or cannot wait to visit the strip. And don’t fall for what appears to be friendly chatter about where you’re from and how well you know Vegas. The cab driver isn’t trying to befriend you. They’re trying to find out how easy it might be to pull the scam. People who seem exhausted and/or unfamiliar with the city are the easiest targets, because they are likely not paying close attention to the route, and may be unaware that the drive down the strip is a waste of their money.
Refusing the ride will not cause you to miss out on the strip. Walking the strip is easy, and it is free.
Avoiding Vegas will not guarantee avoiding this scam. Unethical cab drivers in all cities can pull the same trick by promising to show you any famous nearby landmark. Always request the shortest route to your destination, no matter where you travel.
Whether you’re headed to an out of town gig, a business meeting, or finally going on vacation, look out for yourself, and each other.
. “Nobody wants to work,” is a familiar refrain from hiring managers. “There are all these jobs available, but nobody wants to work.”
In reality, the problem is not that nobody wants to work. Plenty of people want to work.. They just cannot afford to devote so much time to a low-paying job with few to no benefits that they can neither pay their bills nor search for a better job. If the paycheck you’re offering me is gone before I make it down the list of the bills I have to pay each month, but I’ve been working so long I can barely walk to my couch to collapse never mind go on a hunt for a better job, I simply cannot work for you, whether I want to work or not.
Job ads that ask the applicant to agree to do the work of multiple positions, keep themselves available to the company at all times, and accept pay that would only cover their expenses if they were about fifteen years old and just needed to save up for prom are standard anymore. But some ads have requirements that are so absurd, it’s like the higher ups don’t even want employees, just another excuse to whine. Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect the ridiculous.
Please be prepared to step through the screen at a moment’s notice
A tutoring company we shall call “Tutory Tutors” is looking for someone to work a variety of shifts. Their focus is on business and engineering, but they’re looking for someone to enlighten and inspire the next generation, because they want certified and experienced elementary and middle school teachers to join their staff. Reasonable so far, at least in today’s job market. Someone who has gone through the rigorous educational and testing requirements needed to become a teacher, and has put in their time student teaching and building their own teaching career should be a bit too far along on that path to do work that has traditionally been done by people who haven’t even finished college yet, but that simply isn’t the way things work today.
But “Tutory Tutors” isn’t done. They would also like their tutors to have CPR certification. The tutoring is done online.
We trust you with our students’ academic futures online…but not with your own resume.
Online teaching makes up a large part of my career as a writer. I am an Online Adjunct English Instructor at a university that offers classes online. In order to get my job, I first filled out the application on their personnel website, complete with my resume and references. Someone from the school then called me on the phone and conducted an interview. Once I received an offer, I was asked to verify my identity by submitting to a background check and stopping in at the County Clerk’s office in the town where I lived to have them notarize a paper verifying that the person who had applied and accepted the job was indeed the person they were presenting themselves to be. This was all perfectly reasonable. I got everything done quickly, and seven years later, I still work there. But I have still never even visited the main campus. It would be nice to tour my own workplace, but it would be a long and expensive trip, and it is not at all necessary. Everything is done online.
Another school, in a different state, posted an ad for an identical job recently. There is just one difference. In order to be considered for this online adjunct teaching job, one that is actually possible to work for several years without getting near the place offline, you have to bring your resume into the office in person. While all schools are not corporations, they have certainly taken a lesson in absurdity from “big business” here.
Work for us and we might not pay you…but we will sure appreciate it!
Artist Cafe Utica serves as a place for local artists to get free content once per week, and as my online office as a content writer. My niche is tiny. I only write for artists in and around Utica. Most content writers have much larger niches, marketing their work throughout the country or even internationally. This can be lucrative if your niche is a high demand, high paying field like tech or business, and if you are careful and selective about the clients you choose to work with. Or you can take on anyone with the word “writing” in their ad or profile as your client, and wind up with the content mill that posted this job ad:
“We focus on college students. We are having US-based articles, Knowledge-based, we do job reviews of US, and we are also having knowledge based articles, we are having book reviews articles, company's review, job descriptions, puns and we also have the articles for swot analysis, mission statements of companies, etc.”
And here are the “perks”: stipend up to $50 to $100 for 40,000 words per month…with extra payment for extra work, including a bonus upon completion of your three-month “internship.” Most blog articles are around 800 words. This breaks down to being offered the chance at $1-$2 per article, for around 50 articles per month. But don’t worry about only being offered the mere possibility of a dollar or two a day. You also get a certificate of completion and a certificate of appreciation.
Most job hunters will agree that the search is frustrating, even demoralizing. Hiring managers and CEOs commonly complain that they can’t find workers, then make it impossible for anyone to qualify for or keep the jobs they offer. But some job ads go beyond the impossible…all the way to the absurd.