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..."
As wages remain low and prices go up, many are left to depend on tipping even more than before. While tipping is always optional and up to the audience member, customer or client, here is what to reasonably expect…and what to give when you are receiving a service in the course of your work.
You and your band are being paid to perform at an event.
The standard tip is $25 to $50 per band member. This tip is typically offered by the event’s host or coordinator. If you’re playing a wedding, for example, a member of the wedding party or the wedding coordinator will be most likely to offer you a tip.
There is an open mic at a local business, and you are a performer.
Don’t count on the money from the tip jar. Unless otherwise announced, the tip jar money is for the event’s host, not the performers. Tips for people who take the stage to read their novel or poem or play or sing a song are placed in a jar, basket, or case onstage. If you play an instrument, tips are customarily tossed into your instrument’s case. If someone chooses to tip, they will probably contribute between $5 and $10. Anyone who requests a song will probably add a few more dollars.
You’re performing online. Your audience is watching you via livestream.
The standard tip for an online performance is $10 minimum from each audience member. Fans who have been following your career, audience members who request a song via the chat function, and anyone else who simply wants to offer extra support may offer $20 or more.
The event is live and offstage. You are the D.J. or music program host.
Tipping the DJ at the rate of 10-15% of the total charge for the performance is customary. The person who hired you will offer the tip. Audience members may offer anywhere from $1 to $5, but that is typically done only when someone requests a song.
You arrive early for the open mic or gig, or hang around after your performance. You are seated in the dining area and a waiter serves you food or drink.
As with any other situation in which you sit down at a restaurant staffed by waiters, tip at least 20%. If the person went out of their way to provide excellent service, quickly bringing drinks for late- arriving band members, carrying trays around your guitar case, or doing anything else extra to accommodate you, increase the tip to 25% or more.
The rehearsal or writing session has taken up more time and energy than expected and you need to order food and/or drinks. You use a delivery app like Uber Eats, GrubHub, or DoorDash.
If the driver does nothing more than show up at the door with the correct order packaged neatly, you need to add a tip of 10% to 15% to your total bill. Delivery drivers who go out of their way for you, waiting at the door until the band finishes a song, bringing extra plates and utensils so orders can be shared, or walking up an especially steep hill to get to your rehearsal space should be tipped 20%-25%.
You are unable to drive yourself to the performance or rehearsal. Nobody is available to give you a ride. You depend on Uber or Lyft to get you there.
Rideshare drivers should be able to count on a tip of 15% to 20%. This is for the average safe, clean, pleasant ride. You may want to offer a slightly higher tip to the driver who helped load your instrument or other equipment into the car.
The band is taking a break and everyone is hungry. You run out and pick up the takeout order. When you get to the counter, there is a tip jar next to the cash register or order pickup window.
In the past, tipping was not expected at self-service windows. Today, a tip of 10% of the total bill is customary. While you are picking it up yourself, the tip is for the staff who carefully prepared and packed your order.
Writing this song (or poem, or novel) has absorbed so much of your focus this afternoon, you completely forgot you were supposed to run to the store and pick up some items you forgot the last time you went grocery shopping. And you have to do it fast because you need to be at a venue to perform this evening. At the store, a floor associate goes out of their way to help you gather the items quickly, and the cashier bags everything according to the room it belongs in to save you time.
Retail employees at “big box” stores are one of the few categories of service people you should not tip. They will certainly deserve it, especially if they have gone out of their way for you. But tipping them will likely get them reprimanded, if not fired. And don’t try to sneak them some cash when the manager isn’t looking. Large corporate retail stores have cameras all over the place. If the manager doesn’t see them, somebody else on staff certainly will.
Some appearance maintenance is in order before your next performance. You head to a salon for a cut, color, professional skincare service, or manicure or pedicure.
Tip professionals who help you look your best at least 25% of the total cost of the services. As with all other tipped work, if you asked for something that was especially difficult or time consuming, tip a bit more. This applies to time spent in consultation too. If your goal was to adopt an obscure retro style, and the stylist took extra time to scroll through multiple web searches on your phone with you, or if you weren’t sure what you wanted when you walked in, and they spent time helping you make a decision, show your appreciation with a higher tip.
When you are in a position to receive a tip, of course you will respond with grace and gratitude, regardless of the amount offered. When you are in the position to offer a tip, always err on the side of generosity. You are supporting your fellow artists and community members.
by Jess Szabo'
Originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
Resolutions almost always fail. Most of them are made more to go along with tradition than to make real, necessary changes. And they are rarely backed up by plans. Instead of making resolutions, why not try setting goals for 2022? By now, most of us have heard of the SMART method for setting goals. Created by consultant George T. Doran in 1981, this goal checklist began as a way to formulate goals in a corporate environment. Today, we can use his method to set goals for our art practice, second job, side hustle, or personal interests.
Specific goals are more likely to be reached.
One of the problems with resolutions is that they are often vague. “I want to improve my finances” doesn’t really offer anything to work toward. You could be talking about a complete overhaul of your budget, getting an entirely new job, and completely changing your lifestyle and spending habits. Or you could be talking about spending five minutes looking for dropped change and plastic bottles to redeem for dimes.
“My goal is to have an extra hundred dollars after paying all the bills each month,” or “This January, my goal is to rewrite the family budget to allow us to put $200 aside for our summer vacation in July,” are specific financial goals.
Measurable goals encourage you to keep going.
One of the easiest ways to give up on a goal is to lose sight of your progress. Making sure your progress can be measured is one way to keep yourself from losing track of where you are and how much further you need to go. Some goals are measured in an obvious way. If it’s my goal to save $500 in the first six months of the year, I’m going to measure my progress by how much money I have stashed. Other goals aren’t as easy to measure. If my goal is to sing onstage again by the end of July, how do I measure my progress? Will it be measured in the number of people I sing in front of offstage? Will it be measured in the number of songs I learn and rehearse enough to be comfortable performing them onstage? Am I going to set a number of hours to practice each week?
When a goal is achievable, we are less likely to give up out of frustration.
Making our goals achievable isn’t “politically correct” these days. We’re supposed to tell ourselves and each other that we can do anything as long as we put our minds to it, adopt the right attitude, and never give up. But this simply is not true. Everyone has their strengths, weaknesses, things they’re called to do for a living, things that they can do, but will only ever be hobbies, and things they’re terrible at. This includes people you admire, people who seem like they can do “everything,” me, the person next to you, and you.
We also have to take our family, finances, professional obligations, health, and other goals into consideration when setting goals.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dream, or set far reaching goals, just that they should be something we have the ability to do. Someone who has been playing guitar and singing professionally for twenty years, has been in bands, written songs, and played for live audiences could absolutely set a goal of making an album every other year. Their friend who just picked out their instrument yesterday is probably not going to be ready to be a professional musician in six weeks..
Keeping goals relevant helps us keep going by making the goal part of something already important to us.
Setting meaningless goals just because that’s what everybody else is talking about doing is a surefire way to fail completely. If the goal isn’t meaningful to us in some way, we are likely to honestly not care enough to put in the necessary work to achieve it.
Money saved toward splurging on a designer bag or coat is likely to be spent before it reaches the necessary amount if the saver does not truly enjoy wearing designer labels. Setting a goal to learn a language simply because your family insists it will help your job prospects is more likely to end in a pile of discarded books and software than language proficiency.
Time-specific goals, also called deadlines, prevent excuse making.
Vowing to learn to play the piano, make a new budget, get your house cleaned and painted, or finally get a professional wardrobe put together “someday” leaves an overly easy way out when you don’t do anything. Setting a deadline holds you accountable. If you set a goal to have the living room professionally cleaned and painted by the middle of June, you know you will feel a sense of failure if it’s August seventeenth and you’re still looking at the coffee stains on the carpet and the twenty year old paint on the walls. This wish to avoid that feeling will keep you motivated to keep saving money, clearing out clutter, getting estimates, moving furniture, or any other steps you need to take to achieve that goal.
Forget making new year’s resolutions. Have you set your 2022 goals yet?
by Jess Szabo
Originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
The “What really happens when you apply to 100 jobs” challenge ended with only 25 job applications, but a blessing nonetheless. Here are my final journal entries of the challenge:
Day 15: November 10
This morning I found out I didn’t get the artisanal cheese job. It does stand to reason, since I do not have years of specialty cheese experience.
On a serious note, I put in for another open position at <adult education provider> as a part-time adult literacy instructor., I applied for a very similar position at the beginning of this challenge, and this is one of the few jobs where I have to say, I don’t understand why they completely ignore me.
I don’t mean to sound narcissistic. Most jobs, I can see a reason why I got rejected. The entry level customer service job people don’t want somebody who, on paper, looks like they’re going to have a lot of chances to find something better and quit. A lot of those “writing coach” jobs require you to have a teaching certificate, it’s not just a “preferred” qualification. (I do not have one.) Others seem to want somebody who makes their living as a freelance writer. I barely make spending money as a freelance writer. But I would be almost perfect for a job as an adult literacy instructor. It’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past six and a half years already.
This application also marks the one quarter of the way finished with the challenge point. I have applied to 25 jobs. So far, all I’ve gotten were “interviews” from places that have a bot automatically schedule an interview anytime somebody applies, and one job offer…..for a temporary holiday cashier position at <big box store>.
November 11: Day 16: No activity
November 12: Day 17
Yesterday this challenge was inactive because there was nothing to do. The number of jobs I can even reasonably apply to is dwindling.
Last night, I did receive another one of those auto responses, this one from a place looking for someone to basically run the laundry service overnight in a nursing home. And the thing that stands out about it is the title, “Laundry Aide.” I’m noticing a lot of that…job titles that sound like one thing, but actually have the job requirements of a very different job.
November 13-15: Days 18-21
These three days can be summed up in one quick entry. Every time I check Indeed, there are fewer and fewer jobs I can even apply for, and the same jobs that I already applied for listed over and over again.
Day 22 November 16, 2021
This is the day the challenge ended. There were no more steady wage or salary paying jobs that I could even feasibly apply to, and I needed to find some side hustle, second job, or other income source.
December 22, 2021: How it ended
The “What really happens when you apply to 100 jobs challenge” ended on November 17, 2021, but the ending had begun to take shape around a week earlier.
Tutorme dot com looked like gig work. Looking over their site, it appeared that working for them meant you had the same job as someone who drives for Uber, delivers for UberEats, DoorDash, or GrubHub, or shops for Instacart. You just offer online tutoring instead of rides, restaurant meal delivery, or grocery shopping and delivery.
Something…the Holy Spirit…just kept telling me to apply anyway. At first, I resisted. I had to be misinterpreting the message. Making money tutoring online seemed impossible. That’s why I made that rule for the challenge. I kept picturing myself working all week and coming away with a dollar. But I just kept getting the message, that little voice that you know is coming from your own thoughts, but feels like a loving parent talking to you, uring me to “Go on…apply to work as a tutor for this company.”
When I prayed about it, I got an even stronger answer…yes…apply. That time, I listened, brought the challenge to a close, and applied for the gig work. By November 17, I was hired, set up, and ready to give the gig economy a shot after all.
I earned my first paycheck on November 26. It was $117.00. My second check on December 3 was for $93. On December 10, I earned $64. The following week, on December 17, I earned my final paycheck for my first full month, $45. I’m rounding of course, but my first month’s income from Tutorme was around $318. I went back just to earn some extra cash and am expecting a deposit today or tomorrow for $17.60. This brings my 2021 total to $336.27.
Earning more would have been possible, but I purposely put tutoring on hold for the year before I reached $400. Once you earn $400, you have to claim it on your taxes. And while I have no problem paying taxes, I am not at all prepared to file freelance income taxes for 2021. If you only have taxed wages, you can file for free at my income level. If you have freelance income, the fee is around $100. I will be fully prepared to pay that next year, when I tutor as a steady side hustle, but the end of 2021 was a trial period for me.
Looking at those numbers so far, online tutoring looks like a strong source of extra or supplemental income. It’s a way to bring in some money to pay that one bill that’s still left after you budget the income from your main source. That $336.27 could be somebody’s electric bill, grocery budget, or the amount they need to put aside for school expenses throughout the year or an emergency fund.
I would like to wish everyone a Blessed and Merry Christmas, and thank all of you for reading the “Library 315” section of Artist Cafe Utica throughout the year. I hope you come back for one last article of 2021, about setting goals for the new year, on December 31. In 2022, look for more about online tutoring, additional challenges, and more free content for and about Utica artists.
In part three of The Challenge that Failed in the Best Possible Way, we finish out the first two full weeks of my “What really happens when you apply to 100 jobs?” challenge.
Day 8 : November 3:
The jobs I can even reasonably apply to are dwindling. I didn’t even apply to any jobs today, and simply checked my applications and updated my list of jobs.
Day 9: November 4
The only job I could even apply for that would fit into the rules of this challenge is for a spa receptionist at the nearest casino. I would have to either arrange to use the Call a Bus service, or make one heck of a side income to honestly accept something like that, because it is something like a forty mile drive from me.
So far, I’m up to 17 jobs for the challenge. I have still only gotten an offer to work as a temporary cashier at <Big Box store>. I didn’t even get an interview on the two jobs that I would actually take as second teaching jobs.
Day 10: November 5
My day started with working my real job, teaching writing to adults online as an adjunct English instructor. But my day of this challenge started with a rejection letter from <well known cell phone company>.
One of the reasons I have trouble getting job offers from entry level jobs is because it looks like I have too many options. They want people who would appear to have no choice but to keep working for them. They want kids with no previous job history and no education they can take someplace else. They want adults who have never worked, and would have trouble getting another job for a very long time. They want retired people, because althrough they would have the skills and experience, there is still so much ageism in our society, once it’s clear that you retired from a career, it’s hard to get re-hired back into it.
My resume, with my graduate degree, more than a decade of experience in two fields, and an active multi faceted career in a third, looks like I can just go out there and get a desirable job anytime I want. That is clearly and obviously not true, as second teaching jobs do not even appear to be opening up right now, but that’s the way the corporate types who read my resume and cover letter see it.
The second notable moment of this challenge today was a rejection letter from one of the jobs I actually wanted. This is just an experiment to see what job hunting is really like, but I do also have my eye out for second teaching jobs, and this was one of them.
I also received a second “just for the challenge” job rejection. These are starting to sting.
Day 11: November 6
Today I made it through one fifth of the challenge, with my 20th job application. It was for a breakfast bar attendant at a nice hotel in town. They demand one year of restaurant experience. For a breakfast bar attendant. That would be the person who takes the empty self-serve pans back to the kitchen, puts the full ones out on the bar, and keeps the dining area the guests use clean. People with a year of restaurant experience can go get jobs as servers and actually make decent money through tips.
Day 12: November 7
It has been less than two weeks, I’m only up to 21 submitted job applications, and I am already running out of jobs I can reasonably apply for. I even applied for one yesterday and got immediately rejected, because I can’t tutor both English and math.
This is a similar problem to what everyone who applies to work at <national chain restaurant mentioned before> is going to encounter; they want somebody who can do the work of three jobs, for low pay.
November 8: Day 13
I just put in for a temporary holiday job cutting and wrapping cheese for< a specialty food store.> They actually asked me how many years experience I have working with specialty cheeses, and made me take a management skills test to finish the application.
This is becoming an absurd pattern.
November 9: Day 14
It must have been the cheese wrapping job application that wore me out enough to need a day off. Overall, this portion of the journal shows that the “all these jobs are available, people just don’t want to work,” claim is flimsy at best, and is in many cases, completely unfounded. The jobs are posted. They are not necessarily available to anyone and everyone who needs or wants to work.
Any job is going to have reasonable requirements. Anyone seeking to fill a position is going to need someone who meets the basic qualifications to do the job. Rejecting my application if I applied to work in a garage or for a home repair service would be completely reasonable. Not only do I have no skills or training in that area, I’m more than a little dense when it comes to that type of intelligence, and would have a difficult time learning how to repair appliances or work on cars in the first place, never mind reaching a professional level in it.
But the longer this challenge went on, the more it became clear that many employers are….well….asking people how many years of experience they have with fancy cheese.
On October 25 of this year, I began a social experiment. No letting the person in front of me decide what I eat for a day, ordering one item at every fast food place, or going to the worst rated business in my hometown. Instead, I challenged myself to see what happens when you apply to one hundred jobs in the post-quarantine, employers claiming “nobody wants to work” era.
The challenge, happily, ended when I got so bored with it, I decided to violate one of the rules and apply for one of those “gig economy.” jobs like Uber, DoorDash, GrubHub, and Instacart. Only without a car, all but Instacart Shopper is out for me, and they are not hiring.
Needing to stick strictly to online gig work, I put it to tutor for a website called “TutorMe,” which turned out to be a great opportunity for me to earn money doing some of the work I am called to do…teaching writing and related skills.
Here is just some of what happened up until the day I received the offer to work as an independent contractor through TutorMe:
To launch the challenge, I applied to six jobs. Two of them are in the literacy and writing teaching category, and are jobs I would love to work. The other four were jobs that may not involve work I feel called to do, but are jobs I could do, based on my eleven years and nine months of experience in customer service.
One, <Big Box store>, invited me to submit a virtual recorded interview. The interview offer came so quickly, it has to be an automatic response to anyone who applies. The position they would consider me for is an unspecified temporary holiday job.
To complete the interview, I had to watch a recorded interviewer ask a question, then record a video of myself answering it. Nothing…and I mean nothing…upsets me…makes me nervous…and flat out lowers my confidence more than having my picture taken or being filmed, and watching myself while it’s happening makes it ten times worse. I would literally rather go onstage in a swimsuit or other revealing outfit, give a speech to a large crowd, or take a test in my worst subject.
People think I’m being dramatic, displaying false modesty, or even teasing or playing around with them when I tell them this, and ask them not to take my picture, show me a picture of myself, film me, or make me look at myself on video. I am not. I have stopped speaking to people because they wouldn’t back off and leave me alone about videos and pictures.
To get through these five videos, I unfocused my eyes and intentionally sat in some weird lighting so I just looked like a blob to myself and didn’t have to actually look at a clear shot of me on video. Then I answered each question quickly and submitted my videos without playing them back.
The people watching them will probably think I’m high. And the only answers I could think of involved my six and a half years experience teaching adults and the ten years I spent as a reporter before transitioning to teaching. So even if they do realize I was just uncomfortable on camera, they’ll think I’m lying about not being a reporter anymore, and just assume I’m there undercover to break some big story. I expect my first rejection letter of the challenge within the next day or two.
Day 2: October 26, 2021
<Big box store> actually accepted that video interview. Honestly, it makes me wonder who they turned down. I have a phone interview scheduled for tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. I’ll be at work at my real salaried job, my teaching job, at that time, but it will be a good time to take a break. I should have most of my work done.
Right now, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do if they offer me a job.
Day 3: October 27,2021
On Wednesdays, I schedule semi-breaks. That is, I make sure my laptop is open and the university (where I have a salaried teaching job) webpage is on the screen at all times in case a student needs to speak to me during office hours, but I take a break from all the other work I’m doing at the time, such as grading, participating in the discussion board, writing lessons, or writing and sending outreach.
On most days, semi-break time is spent checking in on the freelance writing portion of my career, doing a quick chore, checking on Callie, checking the news, etc. Today, it was filled with a phone interview from <Big box store>
At first it seemed as though they weren’t interested in me because I didn’t have Saturday availability, but in the end, I was offered a temporary cashier and other front of store duties position. The next step was to send me authorization to carry out a “consumer report” on me. This means they want to check my credit history in addition to looking for a criminal background. They may also want to check my social media.
There’s really no need to waste the background check people’s time. Temporary cashier at <Big box store> is not a job I would take as a side gig. It would force me to rearrage my whole schedule only to end in about seven or eight weeks.
And then there’s the money. The pay is $15.00 per hour. According to the paycheck calculator website, Paycheck City, I would clear $715 per check if I worked 30 hours per week and got paid every other week. That only comes to $357.50 per week. And that’s before you deduct those expenses that are supposed to be “optional” that often are not. No, you don’t “have to” buy drinks on your break or lunch on your lunch period every day you work, but when it’s faster to go to the snack bar or deli than it is to dig your sack lunch out of the fridge in the break room….if somebody else hasn’t eaten it by the time you get there….you wind up doing that. I’d wind up taking an Uber to get there and home at least once per week. When it came down to it, I would be spending a lot of hours working at <Big box store> simply to enable myself to keep working at <Big box store>.
Come back next Friday to learn how the next few days of the challenge went…
As more and more people both search for jobs and quit jobs to become independent workers or entrepreneurs, we are forced to take a closer look at the world of work overall. Traditionally, work has been approached purely as an obligation in America. The attitude has been, “You take any honest work you’re offered, and you give your all to that work, no matter what. Work exists to earn a paycheck, not to please you.” Today’s culture tends to promote adopting the exact opposite view. “I don’t have to do anything unless I enjoy every minute of it. It’s all about me, and if something is not pleasing to me, I not only should, I am entitled to simply walk away.” But for most of us, reality is somewhere down the middle. We understand that bills must be paid, commitments and contracts must be honored, and even the best jobs have their unpleasant parts. But we also understand the harm that can come to us if a workplace is unsafe, exploitative, or otherwise abusive.
Abusive behavior in the workplace is often called “workplace bullying.” While we typically associate bullying with children and teens, it can exist among adults too, and the workplace is a common setting. Here are just a few more of the myths we hold on to about workplace bullying.
“Workplace bullying” is not real. It’s just a way for whiney, entitled people to get their way.
The term “workplace bullying” refers to a situation in which someone at work uses positions of power to intimidate, sabotage, humiliate, deceive, frighten, or control someone else at work. It does not include everything that happens at work that you might not like, or isolated incidents where a supervisor or colleague is less than pleasant. Some do misuse the term, but just because some people use a term incorrectly does not mean the real problem is nonexistent. People declare themselves “triggered” when they are in fact annoyed, upset, disgusted, saddened, discouraged, angered, sickened, irritated, or discouraged. While this can be unpleasant, it does not mean that people who suffer from PTSD due to extreme trauma do not experience flashbacks in response to certain stimuli (The correct usage of “triggering” and “triggered”.)
That coworker who insists upon holding loud personal conversations on the company phone, not caring who else has to do their work, is not a workplace bully. Neither is the office curmudgeon who is snarly and generally unpleasant to everyone. But if someone is positioning himself outside the door of one coworker hoping to sabotage the person’s business Zoom meeting with that phone call, or the supervisor makes a point of being warm and welcoming to everyone but curt and rude only to the two people who work under him, that is workplace bullying.
“Workplace bullying” is just a politically correct term for someone being an everyday jerk.
Workplace bullying goes deeper than simply working for or with your standard, everyday unpleasant individual. These people can certainly make you miserable, but the workplace bully engages in deliberate, targetted behavior designed to exert an inappropriate level of power over another person. While the workplace jerk may snap at everyone who says “Good Morning,” the workplace bully will make a point to only snap at a select few people, in view of a crowd of higher ups, just to watch the target slink away in embarrassment. The everyday jerk will do all he can to make sure he’s the center of attention in meetings and allow nobody else to be heard. The workplace bully only prevents her targets from participating, or hides the announcement from certain people to make them miss an important meeting.
If you just ignore the workplace bully, they will stop doing what they do, and leave their target alone.
Bullying is done so that the bully can feel powerful in some way. A bully who is ignored is more likely to step up their efforts to feel powerful at the expense of other people rather than accept being ignored and find something else to do. Ignoring the person, or at least ignoring the bullying behavior, may indeed be the best course of action. But it will not be a sure fix for the bullying. Nor will it solve the problems the bullying may cause.
Someone who regularly hides files and folders from a certain coworker in order to embarrass him in meetings will not likely stop if people just pretend they don't notice. The "charge" they're getting is coming from watching the target's embarrassment later, so neither confrontation nor making a point of pretending not to realize it was them is going to change their behavior.
The rest of the staff or other group can solve the problem by banding together against the bully.
This plotline makes an inspiring novel, play, or movie, but it almost never works out as seamlessly in real life as it does in a story. For this to be effective, absolutely everyone who comes in contact with the bully in a professional capacity would have to agree to a plan to cope with the bullying behavior, and do their part. But we all know real people don’t function that way. In real life, there is always going to be that person afraid to speak up and possibly become the next target, or get demoted or fired. There is always going to be that person who enjoys soaking up some of the limelight the bully gains when they abuse their targets. And there are always going to be people who simply do not care enough to do anything about it. Thinking the target only has to make everyone aware of the situation and ask for their support and assistance is nice, but naïve, idea.
The bully has low self-esteem. If you prop up their ego a bit more, they won’t need to bully anyone.
Author and San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Dr. Jeanne Twenge has written extensively about narcissism and bullying. Twenge often argues that narcissistic, bullying people do not need to learn to love themselves more. They need to learn respect for other people. Contrary to popular belief, bullies actually love themselves very much. They love themselves so much, in fact, that they think their need to feel powerful, admired, feared, or whatever charge they’re getting out of their bullying behavior, supersedes another person’s right to simply do his or her job or go about their day in peace.
All workplace bullying can do is make you feel bad. It can’t really hurt you or your job.
Being the target of a bully in any situation does much more than just give a target a bad day. Bullying worsens workplace stress. Excessive stress can play a factor in worsening heart issues, depression, anxiety, energy levels, and focus. It can make it difficult to impossible to complete the tasks of a job, leading to decreased productivity.
Workplaces that ignore or encourage workplace bullying can earn bad reputations among potential clients, employees, or contractors. This of course can lead to a shortage of people willing to supply the labor, services, or goods the company needs to function.
Although it is not as openly discussed as workplace issues such as low wages, unreasonable job requirements, lack of benefits, and sexual harassment, workplace bullying is a serious, but often misunderstood issue in today’s places of business.
While the common narrative seems to be that jobs are everywhere but nobody wants them, the suggestions for side gig work are the same things we’ve been reading and hearing over and over again for the past several years. Articles on job advice websites continue to recommend driving for Uber or Lyft, filling out surveys, and signing up to do things like walk dogs on Rover dot com or offer babysitting services via Care dot com. Almost none of the content is different. They just change the title of the article to suggest that these opportunities are going to take off in the coming year.
Finding a second salary or wage earning job that brings you as little stress as possible remains the most secure option for earning supplemental income to help with holiday expenses for the 2021 holiday season, or to reach a goal or have a little extra in the coming year. But the process of finding and securing these jobs has undergone some noticeable changes over the past year and a half.
Auto responses and interviews by bots are increasingly common.
Submitting a job application on indeed dot com often generates a congratulatory message letting the applicant know that the company is interested in moving forward with their application. While this would be great news during job searches of the past, today these messages arrive before anyone at the company would have time to even open someone’s cover letter with the click of their mouse, never mind read the cover letter and resume and make a decision. Rather than indicating interest in you as a potential employee, these responses let you know the person in charge of hiring is not at all interested in reading over your credentials. They want you to call, or in some cases, come into the place of business, as a first step in the hiring process, not the second or third.
Being asked to complete an online skills test in customer service or other skills related to the job, or being asked questions by a bot before scheduling an interview also seem to be used more and more by employers.
Job requirements have grown more demanding, even for entry level and other low wage jobs.
There is a meme circulating on Facebook titled “This is the problem.” The text consists of a copy of a job ad for a part-time, entry level position at a preschool. According to the ad, they are looking for someone to accept the responsibility of caring for and teaching a room full of very young children on their own for only ten dollars an hour. And the creator of the meme did not even select one of the more extreme help wanted ads out there. It is not uncommon to find job ads asking potential employees to combine the work of two or three jobs for a single minimum wage. One local ad, for a temporary job cutting and packaging a single item for holiday party trays and gift baskets, asked how many years of experience people had with that single item as a screening question.
Entitlement and “professional victimhood” seems to have gotten a promotion to management.
Entitlement and “professional victimhood,” has been a problem for many years. Kids are given participation trophies and awards for behaviors that would have once been considered common decency, and they grow up to be adults who expect raises and promotions at work simply for showing up at the office. People are raised to believe that nothing should ever displease, inconvenience, or upset them in any way, and they grow up to call the manager because a store clerk didn’t smile at them, or worse, call the police because somebody who doesn’t look, think, or live exactly like them has something they’ve come to believe should be theirs and theirs alone.
In today’s job market, many in charge of hiring have embraced this mentality wholeheartedly. Managers hang signs lamenting that “nobody wants to work” or they need patience and understaning because they are “short-staffed,” as though anyone jumping to take any job they offer is persecuting them. One hiring manager responded to an applicant’s marking themselves unavailable on Saturday not by taking on the responsibility of filling the job openings with people who can cover all shifts, but by begging the applicant to change their own schedule because they, the manager, really need someone to come in on Saturday.
Job seeking has always had its challenges, and finding work you can do in addition to the main work of your career can be especially difficult. Hopefully, knowing a bit about what to expect can help make that a little easier for those seeking work for the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
All professional artists do not have low incomes, but many do know what it’s like to struggle financially. If we do not personally have difficulty making ends meet, we probably know someone who does. In addition to the financial issues themselves, those who live on low incomes must also fight against myths about their finances and their lives overall.
Myth: People who are poor are only poor because they make bad choices when it comes to work and money.
Reality: The amount of money you have is the result of a wide variety of factors coming together. And while your own behavior does indeed play a large part, it does not alone determine your wealth. The amount of money your family of origin has, the place you were born, the time you were born, your physical and mental health, and the educational opportunities available to you are just some of the factors that determine your financial situation. Singlehandedly ruining your own finances is possible, but it’s certainly not the only way a person might be classified as “poor” in terms of financial resources.
Myth: People with low incomes do not work.
Reality: During the recent quarantine, we learned that we cannot survive without the people who stock grocery shelves, ring up our purchases at the grocery store, prepare our restaurant meals, and deliver everything to us. Most of these jobs are among the lowest paying in the country, despite demanding so much of those who work them. According to a November 21, 2020 article by Michael Sauter in USA Today, the middle class in New York begins at $30.797 per year. Someone working forty hours per week, for four weeks every month, and all twelve months per year in a $15.00 per hour job in customer service is going to earn $28,800. That means this person will work full time, and still not be able to earn a middle class income.
Myth: Poor people live lives of luxury provided by government programs and charity handouts.
Reality: While there are individuals who know how to “work the system” and use social programs in ways they were not intended to be used, it is both unfair and incorrect to assume that individuals who behave this way are representative of absolutely everyone who has ever used them. There are mid-level corporate employees earning upper middle class incomes who embezzle funds and cheat clients too, but that does not mean everyone you see working in these positions is doing so.
Myth: Those who complain about not having enough to live on are just entitled and narcissistic. They don’t want to work because they think they’re too good for all the available jobs out there.
Reality: There is a lot of narcissistic entitlement in our culture today. It is all about me and what I think and feel about everything, what’s most comfortable and convenient for me, all the time. Perhaps the most striking examples of this sense of entitlement are those who think that just because they own or manage a branch of a major corporation, they’re entitled to other peoples’ labor. They list jobs that would not allow a potential worker to pay their bills, but would also prevent them from working a second job to make ends meet. They then play the victim when people are not lined up around the block begging to work for them. Someone who has two months of living expenses in their savings account and no paying work is going to need to spend those two months treating finding work that will pay their bills as their full time job. If they took a job that required them to work full time, but only brought in a small portion of that amount, they wouldn’t have time to continue searching for a job they could actually afford to keep.
Myth: Poor people could solve all their money problems if they just learned to budget better.
Reality: Budgeting is important, but you can only budget the money you have. When someone’s income runs out before their most basic needs are met, no skill in budeting is going solve that problem. If you have $1,000 to live on every month, you can’t budget your way out of your landlord raising the rent to $1,200.
Myth: Financial freedom is available to everyone. The poor can just sign up to work in the gig economy and solve all their money problems.
Reality: People who work in the gig economy are selling their services. In order to make money, there has to be a market for those services. A poor person certainly could sign up to drive for Uber or Lyft, shop for Instacart, or deliver for DoorDash, if they had the means to own and maintain a car. But they would still have to get customers in order to make money. Gig work is an option for some people, but it is not a sure path out of financial difficulty.
These myths can make excellent material for our art work. Protagonists can struggle against them. Antagonists can perpetuate them. They can serve as the building blocks for an excellent short story, novel, play, or film. But they can only do damage when applied to real people who struggle to get by in the world.
As most of us practically moved to the internet over the past year and nine months, more and more painful truths about life online have become apparent. While the internet is a great place to do everything from errands, socializing, working, and going to school, there are some things that happen online that we struggle to see or at least to accept.
Money gurus who promise you can make thousands running an online business every month are just going to charge you money to tell you how they charge people money to learn how to run an online business.
Whether it’s “how to get started in real estate” or “how to earn a living as a freelance writer” or “how to sell physical products,” the people who make a living doing it online do not have some special secrets they can only teach you if you fork over your money. If their type of success is contingent upon buying a course, how did they manage to do it, when they were “broke”….and they’re always “broke”…when they started?
If you’re interested in a field, you can learn about it online and at the library for free, just like they did. If it is something that requires formal training, licensure, or a degree, spend your time and money on training programs and courses that lead to something tangible you can use in the field, like your license, certificate, or academic credential.
People whose online space is constantly covered with compliments, praise, and over-the-top words of encouragement are often receiving that treatment not because they’re genuinely liked, but because they attack anyone who displeases them in any way.
No matter how many psychological studies report comparing yourself to other people online is damaging to your mental health, we all still do it to some extent. It’s hard not to notice that Suzy Z. who used to sing at the ABC Club posted a video of herself singing in the bathroom and got two hundred likes and a request to come back to the club when it reopens, but your professionally made music video only got fifty likes and somebody asking if that was you they saw at Dollar Tree last Thursday.
But forget all that politically correct advice about your own journey and how unique and special you are. Take a deep dive into Suzy Z’s online presence. The last few times I’ve noticed a ‘Suzy Z” on my social media feed, a deeper look revealed behaviors such as telling anyone who pointed out an error in something they posted that they were no longer speaking to them, copying dialogue, with real names included, from confidential support groups to their public timeline and inviting friends to mock the person, and basically doing the online equivalent of taunting people and throwing a screaming fit.
Chances are, very few, if any, people are that dazzled by Suzy Z. They’re just afraid to speak to her unless it’s to tell her how wonderful she is, because they’ve seen what she does to others who have displeased her.
Job hunting groups, and many job boards, are near useless, and are often clogged with scams and people trying to promote their direct sales/multilevel marketing products and teams.
The website “Indeed” (www.indeed.com) seems to have every “help wanted” ad employers post online. If you’re looking for work at a college or university, add “Higher Ed Jobs” to your search resources. Nearly every other online job board is only going to have copies of a few of the same listings you already saw on these two sites. These listings are often old and randomly selected, designed to persuade you to sign up for a paid membership or click on pages owned by the same company more than to help you get a job.
Joining job hunting groups is often useless as well. Most job hunting groups are populated entirely by scammers and people trying to sign up others to their multilevel marketing companies.
Once you have exhausted the listings on Indeed (and possibly Higher Ed Jobs), you’re just going to have to resort to old fashioned job hunting methods like walking around town with your resume, networking, and checking the local papers.
Everybody who pours out their heart on the internet does not actually have the problems they talk about.
By now, we all know that a “catfish” is someone who pretends to be someone else entirely, or a fictionalized version of themselves, with the goal of tricking people into fake, usually romantic relationships. Some do it just to see how much they can mess with other people, most do it for money or gifts.
But “catfish” are not the only internet liars out there. Some people are displaying what psychologists refer to as “Munchaussen by Internet.” The term refers to “Munchaussen Syndrome” or “Munchaussen Syndrome by Proxy,” mental disorders in which the person induces, deliberately worsens, fakes, and/ or exaggerates illness or disability in themselves or another, the proxy. (Munchaussen Syndrome by Proxy is also a form of abuse). The primary goal is to create and maintain a self-image as a “patient,” or “caretaker,” and to gain the admiration, sympathy, and attention those things can bring. Money, benefits, and gifts may be a secondary goal.
In Munchaussen by Internet, the person fakes or exaggerates a mental or physical illness or disability online to receive this same attention and admiration, with a possible secondary goal of getting gifts or money.
Of course most people who share their troubles online are not faking things, but if the person appears to be either in crisis or miraculously improved every time someone else gets too much attention, uses their disability or illness as a weapon (You can’t criticize, argue, or disagree with me, I have this condition), or makes fantastic or contradictary claims, they may not be genuinely suffering.
Internet memes are easy for anyone to create, including people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
Just because something is posted on someone’s facebook or Instagram in a big font, with a colorful background and/or a picture, that does not make it true. It doesn’t even make it a logical, reasonable personal observation.
Consider the meme at the top of this article: Studies show businesses that hire writers make 30% more profit than those who allow their staff to do their writing.
Might want to hire me based on that, right? Who couldn’t use 30% more profit? But while I would certainly love the business….please don’t hire me based on that meme, because I made that statistic up. All I had to do was type in “free meme generator,” click on a site called “Canva” and sign up with my facebook account, and I now have the ability to create and post memes saying any false, self-serving thing I want. It took me all of a minute. If I really wanted to look and sound official, I could have done another draft in about ten more minutes, centering the text neatly, adding a picture, and claiming the studies were from any number of literacy or business organizations that would have no idea I was using their name….or a similar name….to promote my lies.
The internet is great. It is the setting for many blessings, and many of us would not have survived 2020 through early 2021 without it. Just remember that, like any large public gathering space, it can…and often is….used for less than honorable purposes.