Methods of saving money and bringing in some extra cash are everywhere. Some of them work just as well as the person on YouTube, TikTok, or facebook claim they work. Others do not work at all. Then there are those that do work, just not as seamlessly or quickly as you might expect or hope.
Getting a part-time job
Internet money gurus like to talk tough by “breaking” it to people that if they really need extra money, they are just going to have to get a second job, something part-time to serve as supplemental income. This is sound advice. If you go out and apply for jobs, accept the first offer you get, show up to work and do your job, all other things being equal, you will indeed make some more money.
Finding and securing that part-time job just isn’t as quick and easy as online money gurus would have you believe. Even in late 2022, while businesses lament that “nobody wants to work,” jobs are still not there for the asking. You still have to apply, wait for somebody to offer you an interview, and then get hired on.
When you finally get that job, it still has to fit into the rest of your life. This is not a matter of being lazy or unmotivated. If you are caring for children, caring for disabled, sick, or elderly family members, working a full-time job already, working another part-time job, and/or working on your career in the arts, even the most hard-working, dedicated, and energetic person might push themselves to the point of exhaustion, or learn that other parts of their lives conflict with the part-time job.
Before we ever gathered around our computer screens to watch financial gurus on YouTube, we had reality tv shows like “Extreme Couponing.” This show featured people who were so skilled at finding, clipping, and using coupons, they could walk into a grocery store, purchase hundreds of dollars worth of food, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, and pet products, and only pay a few dollars. Some even managed to get free cosmetics, services, and other luxuries free, or at least very cheap, by carefully pursuing and planning their coupon centered shopping trips.
Coupons have always been a way to save money. Careful use of coupons can help you avoid common traps like buying something that is still more expensive than a similar item, just because you have a coupon, or making a purchase just to use a coupon.
Making a project out of couponing can save a significant amount of money in the short-term. It is entirely possible to plan a single week of grocery shopping, a clothes or cosmetics shopping spree, or a one-time household purchase around the coupons and other discounts available to you, and get your items for much less than full price. You may even be able to get a few things free.
But coupons are designed to promote the brand or the store that issues them, not as an act of service to the consumer. They are only going to save you a few dollars on a consistent basis, unless you’re willing to devote the hours of a full-time job to gathering coupons and carrying out meticulously planned shopping trips.
Signing up with a direct sales company
Avon was free to sign up to sell, but I devoted about seven and a half hours of my time to work that was intended to do nothing but promote my Avon sales. This work earned me two mini skincare sets worth $38 combined, a lip balm worth $2, enough perfume samples to equal a bottle worth $25, and a makeup bag that was a welcome bonus from my upline, priced at $17 on its company’s website. As of the writing of this article, I also have $22.50 available on my account.
Had I managed to secure one of those part-time side jobs, that same amount of time would have earned me $90. ($12/hour take home). This means I broke even, plus came out $14.50 ahead.
This is a nice, easy way to get some great products free. But it has taken four and a half months, and as of the time of this posting, I still don’t have all of the items I signed up to sell Avon to earn. Since all I want are two eyeliners, a mascara, two lipsticks, two lip glosses, and some more perfume, I am sure I will eventually get everything free. But unless the company offers a sign up kit containing exactly what you were going to buy anyway, people order from you right away, and the commission equals or exceeds what you paid to sign up, getting free stuff for selling does not happen quickly.
Getting a part-time second job, couponing, and signing yourself up to sell for a direct selling company may not get you fast money. You still have to put in time and effort in some way. But each of these money saving methods can work, if you approach them realistically, and make sure the money saving or generating method you choose fits in well with your career and the rest of your life.
We all know the basics about avoiding danger on the internet by now. Most of us would not think of posing in front of the address sign in our front yard, posting the photo a public page, and tagging ourselves as located in our hometown. It is rare to find someone who would show a stranger a picture of their new credit card, or believe that new internet acquaintance who “just wanted to know what an identification card from your country looked like.”
But there are still common internet behaviors that can be dangerous, and many of them are something we have all done at one point in time. We do these things without thinking about the possible consequences until it may be too late.
Typing “Amen” or something similar on posts asking us if we believe in Jesus.
This warning is in no way meant to disparage Christians, or to discourage anyone from expressing their love for Jesus online. I am a Christian. I was saved in late September of 2016. I would be more than happy to share my testimony of what Jesus has done for me with anyone who wishes to hear it. But liking and commenting on memes asking me to declare my devotion to Jesus is not the way to do this. The people who create and initially post these are not true followers of Jesus. They are scammers. These posts are nothing more than “like farming” scams.
First, the scammer gathers likes and comments. Once they have hit their goal number, they then edit their original post, embedding malware that infects your computer and gives them access to your information. They may also sell your name and any other information on your page to other scammers.
Show your love for Jesus by sharing Bible verses, the livestream of your church service, or Christian memes on your own page.
Making a political statement by posting pictures of guns or gun collections, marijuana related products, or other attention getting, high value items
Those who support the legalization of cannabis derived products and those who hold a special fondness for the second amendment are often…not always…but often…on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But if they choose to post extensively about their interest/issue thoughtlessly, they open themselves up to the same problem. That is, announcing to anyone and everyone who sees the post that you have items in your home that are worth a lot of money.
If you must express your love for one or both of these things, or anything else that both draws attention and costs money, do it with memes, fundraisers, statuses, and pictures of you posing at events or in front of stores. Don’t post large, expensive collections of anything from inside your own house.
Revealing work, relationship, or health issues in space that is accessible to strangers
While this may not be dangerous in and of itself, it can certainly lead to danger. Nothing is going to happen if Jim Bob Jones the tenth from Battle Mountain, Nevada knows you have depression, can’t stand your boss, are tired of your wife’s overspending, or wish your friends would stop borrowing your car all the way out in Rutland, Vermont. But revealing vulnerabilities online and in public can catch the eye of dangerous people. And many of these people know precisely what to say to gain a stranger’s trust on the internet.
Post whatever you need to post wherever you need to post it, just remember what you shared and where. If you’ve been open about your struggles lately, and suddenly the perfect new friend appears, proceed with great caution.
Jumping in too quickly in online groups
Online groups can be a true blessing for many people. They can help you get support for an issue, find others who share your interests, sell your unwanted items, and learn new skills. They can also make your issues worse, introduce you to people who just add stress to your life, and get you scammed.
Anybody can start a group on social media about anything. The person moderating your support group for a recently discovered health problem could be a doctor at the top of their field, with specialization in treating your issue. Or they could be a freshman down at your local community college who first heard of the problem yesterday, when they were goofing around on YouTube to put off doing their math homework. Screening methods, moderation, and others’ reasons for joining can vary too. Join any group you want to join, but hang out for a while. Read a few posts, and make sure this is a group you would truly want to share things in before posting anything personal.
“Exposing” those who have done us wrong
Exposing companies, business owners, fellow artists, and others who have professionally or personally wronged us in some way often feels like we are doing something to serve our fellow musicians, actors, sculptors, photographers, writers, and other artists. And we certainly shouldn’t just keep quiet and let scammers and other shady types have at our community. But publicly telling off everyone connected with your every bad experience can be dangerous to your career.
Reserve “exposures” or “calling out” for those who are truly engaging in dishonest or unsafe practices on a regular basis. Indulging in an online rant against the manager of every venue where you had a less than stellar experience does not help your fellow artists. It scares us. We don’t want to work with you, and we don’t want to recommend you to our contacts who might hire you, because we’re afraid of the public shaming we’ll get if the slightest thing displeases you.
None of us are perfect online or offline. We are all going to post things we later realize we shouldn’t have shared, mindlessly click on things, and make comments we know we shouldn’t have bothered making. Just take a step back more often than not. The internet is indeed forever, and that post you just had to comment on, that meme you just had to like, or that opportunity to join or respond to something will probably be there tomorrow, or an hour from now, or ten minutes from now, after you’ve thought it through.
Content writers are everywhere and available to write about everything. You may see ads from people looking to hire a content writer to provide copy on anything from tires to mattresses to makeup to parenting and pet care and travel. The website you’re reading right now is a free service, online portfolio, and online office for a content writer whose niche is artists in and around Utica.
When you talk to someone who identifies themselves as a “content writer” it may feel a bit like being interviewed by a reporter. One is not a better writer, a more important job, or a better person than the other. But there are important differences between these two careers.
A reporter’s responsibility is to the public. A content writer’s responsibility is to whoever is paying them to provide the content.
A reporter’s job is to report the news accurately, or, if they are writing a feature, to present an accurate picture of the issue or situation. That’s it. Whether there are media outlets out there that actually do this, which ones they are, and which ones are the worst at violating this rule are matters for debate. But ideally, a reporter should be there to do nothing more than present the truth.
Content writers’ jobs vary according to their industry, or niche. If they’re writing for a science or health website, then their job, like the reporter’s, is to provide accurate, truthful information. If they’re writing for a company that sells lumber, their job is going to be to educate the public about the use of lumber, and to sell that company’s lumber. Either way, the owner of that website determines what the goal of the writing should be, and the content writer must meet that goal.
When a reporter reaches out to you and asks for an interview, you are a source. When a content writer interviews you, it is more of a collaboration.
Being interviewed by a reporter and a content writer may feel like the same situation, but your role is a bit different. A reporter is interviewing you because they are gathering information for the news story they are going to write. You are not their coworker. You are not their supervisor. You are there to provide information.
A content writer probably sees you a bit differently. In some cases, you are still there to provide information. If the writer for a mental health blog reaches out to you because they just started college and you have a Ph.D. in Psychology, they are looking for a source of information, just as a reporter writing a feature would do. But a content writer may also see you as someone they are working with. They might ask your opinion on the shape the article should take, show you pieces of it as they work, or allow you to insert a few pitches for your business into the piece.
There is no “on the record/off the record” when you work with a content writer. This is a real thing in the field of news writing.
If there is a reporter in a movie or tv show, at some point, somebody they’re interviewing is going to lean forward and whisper, “This is off the record.” Typically, the reporter gets an evil gleam in their eye, says “certainly,” and then reports what they said anyway.
The evil gleam and reporting it anyway is invented for the sake of conflict necessary to the fictional storyline. This is considered unethical behavior in the field of news reporting, and most reporters do not do this. They do, however, have the right to say, “I identified myself as a reporter, and anything you say to me in this interview will be considered on the record,” in response to “This is off the record.”
Most reporters still do not do this. In my ten plus years as a reporter, if someone said “This is off the record,” I put my pen down and politely chatted with them for a few minutes, or listened to them, then brought things back to the record by saying, “I have a few more questions for the article,” and waiting for them to agree to return to the record. If they said “This is off the record” before everything, I would ask them if there was something they could tell me on the record, for the article.
Still, once the reporter identifies themselves as a reporter, if they do not agree that something is “off the record,” they may use that information or insight for their work.
The whole concept of “on the record/off the record” isn’t going to be a part of the situation if you’re talking to a content writer. You are free to ask questions throughout the interview about what will and will not be included in the piece, tell them what you agree to have in there, and what you would rather they not use.
It is not appropriate to ask a reporter if you can approve their piece before they print or broadcast it. It may be appropriate to ask a content writer for final approval before the piece is used.
Looking back on my time as a reporter, I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody said, “You’re going to let me read that before you publish it, right?” I would be rich enough to just give my novels and arts content away now, and would never have to charge for anything. But the answer was always, “No.” A reporter may verify facts, dates, and other information with you during the interview, but their copy goes to their editor, then to print.
Content writers may allow you to look over the finished piece before it is submitted. It will depend on the conditions of their workplace or the assignment. If this is a concern for you, ask before you agree to the interview, and respect the answer. If the content writer says, “No,” and you feel you cannot participate if you do not get to approve the final copy, let them know you won’t be part of the project right away, rather than after the interview. It’s much better to bow out in the beginning and give them time to find someone else than to agree to talk to them anyway, then pressure them into giving you a copy once the article is finished.
It is not a reporter’s job to promote your band or your project or make you look good. A content writer may be there to provide promotional material for you.
When a reporter arrives to cover your reading, concert, show, or lecture, they are there to report what they saw and/or heard to the public. They are not there to help you sell your books, find your next gig, or improve your public image for your fans. Those are duties for your publicist and/or your manager or agent.
A content writer covering your work for a niche website may be doing a news style piece, or they may be there to promote you or your work. It is perfectly acceptable to ask a content writer about the piece they are working on, the website or other media where it will be published, and the purpose of the piece.
While there are differences between a reporter and a content writer, both are professional writers. Treat anyone who covers your event or career with courtesy and respect. Anyone who arrives at your event to cover your work should also behave respectfully toward you and your entire band, crew, and/or staff.
Tutors are great resources if you need to catch up, clarify, or supplement your learning. They can tailor subject matter to your learning style, break down concepts more than your classroom teacher, suggest resources you may find more useful to your particular goals and needs, and even help you when you’re advanced in the subject and need a new challenge. Tutoring may supplement your education whether you are in a class or self-taught. But there are a few things tutors do not, or at least should not, do.
Tutors are not there to do your academic work for you.
A tutor’s job is to teach you how to do the work in the class, not to complete the work for you. Never approach a tutor with a test or a quiz. This is no different than copying answers from someone else in class, or having a friend take your online test for you.
Your tutor is not your editor. They may suggest that you go over your paper and re-edit it for grammar, but it is not their job to sit there and fix all of your mistakes for you. They may suggest you add more detail on a certain subtopic. You still need to find and add that detail yourself.
They are not your research assistant. If you are struggling with research, your tutor will suggest places to find the sources you need. A tutor may go over your notes or your sources with you, and discuss the material. They will not compile a list of sources for you. Discussions with tutors are meant to generate ideas for your work. They are not discussing your topic with you so you can write down everything they say and insert it directly into your paper.
Unless the tutor is employed by the university or school, they do not have access to your syllabus, your teacher’s lectures, or your assignment instructions.
Taking a specific assignment to a tutor for help is perfectly acceptable. But if you are going to expect help on a specific assignment, you need to provide the directions, and any notes from your classroom instructor as well. An independent online tutor has no way of knowing that the person who teaches your English class offline at the community college in your hometown expects you to use at least four sources for each paper, or doesn’t want you to include a counter argument paragraph for this unit, unless you either provide them with a copy of your directions or notes, or tell them. Make sure they have this information at the beginning of your lesson. Showing up with a vague request, letting them help you for fifteen minutes, and then suddenly announcing that you need to complete the assignment according to certain requirements only wastes your time, the tutor’s time, and your money.
Tutoring is not childcare.
Childcare workers and tutors have completely different jobs. Your childcare provider or program may offer homework help or learning activities, and your tutor should provide a safe, healthy space for your child to learn, but the tutor is not there to save you a trip to the daycare center, or give you time to run errands or finish up at work. Tutoring is intended to meet needs related to academics and learning. Group activities, meals, snacks, exercise, and entertainment may be provided for your child through some tutoring programs, but this is not true of all of them. Always ask rather than assume.
Never leave your child alone at home in front of the computer with an online tutor, reasoning that the person will watch them. They can’t. The online tutor has no way to monitor anything they can’t see on the webcam, or step in during any situation that may come up offline in the house while you’re away. Your child will still be home alone.
Your tutor is not your therapist.
A good tutor will listen to your academic struggles in their subject, and help you work through solutions. It is absolutely appropriate to share frustrations with learning a new type of citation, or dealing with a classroom teacher who does not seem to care that nobody understands his lectures, or trying to learn a quickly evolving subject with an outdated textbook.
But the tutor is not there to provide mental health care, even if the tutor is a licensed mental health professional doing some tutoring in Psychology or Social Work on the side. If you know, or suspect, that a serious mental health problem is impacting your learning, make an appointment with a licensed mental health care provider who will accept you as a client of their therapy practice.
The tutor is not there to enhance your personal or social life.
Sometimes, friendships, even romantic relationships, develop between adult tutors and their adult students. As long as everyone directly impacted by the situation is an adult who fully consents to whatever type of relationship that may develop, it is nobody’s place to judge. This does not mean the tutor agreed to work with you because they really want to go out with you, flirt with you, adopt you as their new sibling, or fix you up with their best friend.
Behave as you would if you were hiring anyone else to provide a personal service. You wouldn’t just assume your hairdresser or the sales clerk who helped you find the right shoes to go with an outfit you bought would want to meet you for a drink or join your squad at the club tonight. Approach the tutor in the same way.
And just like any other service, it is perfectly reasonable to refuse to rehire a tutor, continue with a program, or even end a session immediately, if it is the tutor who is doing something unprofessional or making you feel uneasy in any way. It is also perfectly acceptable to politely refuse to rehire a tutor who just isn’t suited to your learning needs. Between local programs, individual tutors in our community, and online tutoring services, there are plenty of tutors to choose from. Don’t be afraid to search for the one that’s best for you.
Online tutoring is a service provided by Artist Cafe Utica. The site owner/writer does independent writing tutoring through the website “TutorMe.” This site functions like an Uber for online tutors. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the facebook post where you found the link to this article for more information or to arrange tutoring.
Adult students, and some parents visiting their child’s online or offline school, may see tutoring services offered through the school. Those who do not have tutoring offered through their own, or their child’s, school may know of an independent tutoring program offered locally or online. Finding tutoring is pretty easy. But everyone is not clear on what tutoring is meant to do, or when they or their child should look for a tutor.
Tutoring is appropriate for people who are bad at a subject or skill.
While this may not be the politically correct thing to say these days, the truth is that some people are flat out bad at certain subjects. This does not make anybody better or worse as an overall learner, and certainly not as a person, than anyone else. You might be a genius at both your music, and in your other career as an auto mechanic, but struggle to write the papers you need to write to pass the business classes you’re taking in preparation for owning your own garage someday. Or you could be gifted in academics overall, but just not great at math. Hiring a tutor in writing or math can help you over those hurdles.
When you don’t seem to learn the way your instructor teaches, a tutor can help.
You should be able to reach out to your instructor, and count on them to clarify concepts, break things down, discuss the material taught in class, or offer you general advice in their subject area. But there are times when, through no fault of yours or theirs, your learning needs and their teaching methods just don’t match up. Someone who is strictly a visual and hands-on learner is going to have some trouble in an offline lecture class. A student who learns best by listening to a lecture, reading, and taking notes may find themselves struggling to follow a teacher who uses a lot of visual aids in class. And while a good teacher will do anything they can to help you, they can’t redesign their entire class for you. A tutor will be able to take the concepts or facts you need to learn, and present them, or help you find resources that present them, in the ways that you learn best.
Hire a tutor when you seem to have missed something you were expected to know in class.
Tutors aren’t just for those times when you’re struggling to learn. A tutor can help when you arrive in class and realize there are things you simply haven’t learned. There might be a class most people in your school take before this one, even though it isn’t a prerequisite. A tutor can help catch you up on concepts “everyone” keeps referencing.
In some cases, your teacher may have designed the class with the assumption that everyone would know certain things, or have certain skills, on the first day. If it seems like the whole class falls into this category for you, it may be necessary to transfer to the class below it. But if it’s just a few ideas, concepts, or a set of facts or two, a tutor may be able to help catch you up.
Tutoring can be a way to turn things around if you did not work as hard as you should have in previous classes.
As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes the reason we’re struggling in school is our own attitude. If you skipped assignments, ignored your instructor’s lectures, tutorials, outreach, and other material, refused to participate in class discussions, didn’t bother studying for your exams, or just sat there and let everyone else do the work in a group project, your bad grade is indeed your own fault. There’s no getting around that. But there is a way to fix it. A tutor can help you catch up on all those concepts and skills you didn’t feel it was necessary to learn last year, or last term, or last week.
Tutors can help supplement your learning.
Deficiency in some form is the most common reason for hiring a tutor, but tutoring is not strictly for those who have fallen behind or struggle in a subject. A tutor can also supplement your learning when things are already going well. They can discuss the topic of your paper with you, offering insight and ideas you may not have thought of or heard about in class. A tutor may be able to recommend, or help you find, quality resources for additional learning in the topic of your course. They may even be able to help you jump ahead a bit, teaching you things you would learn in a more advanced version of the course you are taking.
Enrollment in a course is not necessary to hire a tutor.
In order to use tutoring services provided by a school, you will need to be a student, or the parent of a student, at that school. But an independent tutor may be a great resource for those who are largely self-taught. YouTube content creator Lindie Botes is a well-known polyglot. She has taught herself multiple languages, as a hobby. But even someone that devoted to language learning hires a tutor when she chooses a particularly challenging language. You may want to hire a tutor if you, or your child, is doing well in a subject but needs more of a challenge, or if you are teaching yourself, and think you could benefit from some input from an expert in the field.
Tutors can help focus, catch up, or enhance your learning. They can offer insights, input, or feedback you may not get in class. A session with a tutor may even spark an idea for a whole new project, or even a whole new direction in your studies.
Utica resident Ray “Pinky” Velazquez knows musical talent when he hears it. Velazquez began working in music in 1972, when he started DJing for the Impanema at 240 West 52nd street in New York City. He would later become the A&R Man and disco consultant for Vanguard Records from 1979-1984. During his time with Vanguard, Velazquez grew to be an expert in mixing records and scouting talent, and has signed R&B, Rap, Rock, Alternative, and Reggae acts, even working with a Rap group, “Spectrum City,” that would later become Public Enemy.
Today, Velazquez uses what he learned during his time as a DJ, mixer, and producer to help others. He is currently in talks with local businesses and organizations, mainly Phoenix Media.
“Cassandra Harris-Lockwood and I are trying to reach out to the community, to assist, lead, and inspire the youth,” he said, referring to what he describes as a process of building and putting ideas together with the owner, founder, and CEO of Phoenix Media. “Kids are dealing with violence in school, broken households. It’s a more challenging environment for the family. We want to make it better, to give youth and their families a little bit more of what they’re looking for, a little bit of hope.”
Velazquez offered a bit of guidance for young people…or people of any age..who feel called to the music business.
Define success for yourself
As with any other career field, people may have different goals in music. Most of us, from the most dedicated professional to the most casual hobbyist, would not turn down their favorite internationally known band’s paychecks, but being an international star is not truly the goal for everyone, and Velazquez stressed that it does not have to be.
Some people may truly feel called to work for international stardom. They may have a large income as a goal in life, or wish for a glamorous lifestyle. Others may be happier using their musical skill to entertain and inspire others in their region, or their local community. Some may want to teach. Others may want to promote other artists, or write songs for others, or be a part of technical components of music production.
“You have to ask, ‘What is right for me and my life?’ he said. “It may be money. It may be fame. But it may be something else.”
Be realistic about the music industry and your goals
Whether your goal in music is to make hit records for decades, open for your favorite band, have your favorite band open for you, play a local or regional club every weekend, or teach music at the high school, Velazquez noted that it is important to be realistic about the work it takes to become skilled in music, and about the music industry and the variety of circumstances that would have to fall in line to meet the goals you’ve set.
“The music business is a very large, very scary, very competitive business for a new musician,” he noted. “You have to understand the process. It’s never easy, never pretty the way people think it is. It takes about twenty-five years to be an overnight success.”
Velazquez added that this is true no matter how talented you might be. “The more talent you’re sharing, the more challenges you’re going to have,” he said. “ Use common sense. Make sure you’re ready for whatever challenges come up. Adjust your skills and keep moving. Try to enjoy the process. There is never a guarantee of anything.”
Educate yourself about your style or styles of music
Those whose goal in the music industry is to teach music at the college or university level will probably need an academic degree. Unless you have documented extraordinary achievement in music (like a grammy or past membership in a band that changed the entire field) you are going to need at least a Master’s degree to enter academia. Formal, academic education is not needed for most other goals. But that is far from the only type of music education.
“ Become serious about your craft. Read about and research your field,” Velazquez said. “If you’re going to play Reggae, learn about Bob Marley. Learn about his struggles, find out what he did to get into the music business. You have the God-given field of the internet. Look around. Absorb information.”
Seek mentors and collaborators with goals that are compatible with yours
Because the arts is such a competitive, constantly shifting, and difficult career cluster, it can be tempting to frantically approach anyone and everyone in the arts. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt to make connections with other artists in general, or to make learning all you can about the arts, or the music industry a part of your education, Velazquez emphasized the importance of working with those whose paths you would like to follow in your own career.
“Communicate with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish,” he said, noting that this does not mean you should spend all your time writing emails to rock stars if your goal is to achieve international fame, or that simply talking to a record producer or songwriter means you’re going to be one.
“You may not be able to talk to Elton John” he said. “But you may be able to connect with someone who worked on one of his albums, or who knows someone who works for the record label that records Elton John.”
Always remember the importance of music to the world
Despite the difficulties of the music business, Velazquez urges musicians and anyone else in the field to never give up. He encourages everyone to live life with hope, and to keep the impact their work has on the world in mind.
“Music creates an opportunity to express yourself,” he said. “It’s a connection to the universe that pulls people in like a magnet. People are alone. They’re looking deeper inside themselves to create meaning. Music does that.”
Velazquez further reminded those who are farther along in their music career to remember the importance of goals, education, mentorship, and service to others.
“If you have more experience, try to share that experience with those starting out,” he said. “Put out that hand that says, ‘I care about you. I believe in you. I’m willing to help you carve out that path. You have potential.’ Give back.”
Ray “Pinky” Velazquez is certainly giving back to the community in Utica. His insight into the impact of music on individuals and on community will be a blessing for any organization he works with, and any program he helps to develop. Be sure to keep reading Artist Cafe Utica, and The Utica Phoenix news magazine, and listening to Phoenix Radio: 95.5 FM: The Heat for current information about Velazquez’s local projects.
Photo courtesy of/property of Ray "Pinky" Velazquez
Getting a text from a wrong number is no big deal most of the time. Dialing a wrong number happens to pretty much everyone at some point. Your hands are sweaty, and your finger slips. Or it’s too dark or too bright and you can’t quite see your keypad. Or maybe somebody wrote a number down, and their handwriting is hard to read. The person apologizes, you accept their apology, and it’s forgotten. Sometimes, it’s slightly less pleasant than that. The person argues with you, refuses to believe they have the wrong number, or insists you’re somehow to blame for them not being able to reach the person they want. But a quick delete and block takes care of those situations.
At least that used to be all that was going on when someone accidentally texted your phone. Today, wrong number texts are part of an increasingly common scam.
The wrong number scam begins with a text that is clearly meant for somebody else’s phone. It might say, “Hey do you have time to do a haircut and perm today at 3?” when you are not a cosmetologist or in any way connected with the beauty industry, or “How much to have my brakes checked?” when cars are not your field. Sometimes, the person calls you by someone else’s name, or asks a personal question that is clearly not for you.
You respond with, “I’m sorry, but you have a wrong number,” delete the message, and go on about your day. The person texts you back. You check the phone, expecting them to have simply responded with “I’m sorry,” or “sorry, wrong number.” But this person seems to feel genuinely bad. They not only apologize, they tell you a little bit about their hectic day. You reply by noting that this does sound rough, but they shouldn’t worry, as they did not disrupt your work or interrupt anything important. You brush it off again, thinking that will surely be the end of it.
To your surprise, the person keeps talking to you. They seem like a genuinely nice person. They ask you who it is they bothered, inviting you to introduce yourself. You converse with them for a few minutes, figuring this is either just a stressed out, lonely person or somebody hoping to turn this into a harmless, but funny story for their friends.
Soon, your new friend is telling you all about their adventures investing in cryptocurrency. They would like to know if you would be interested in investing in cryptocurrency too, and are more than happy to help you.
At this point, it may still seem harmless. Even if you have no interest in ever investing in cryptocurrency, it might be interesting to learn a bit more about it, and hear of others’ experiences with something so many people are doing today. And if cryptocurrency is an interest of yours, this seems like a fun way to learn a little more before you do any investing of your own.
You keep in touch with your new friend, swapping casual, friendly messages. They are particularly interested in sharing their new passion, investing in cryptocurrency, with you.
But buried in their chatty “information,” and “coaching” will be their real goal. They will begin to insist that they can help you earn money through cryptocurrency. And you do not even have to do any work. Your new friend can get you started if you will just trust them with your account information. And of course, your account information is all they really wanted all along.
The “wrong number scam” is new, only widely reported in the press over the past year. But it is a blend of two “classic” scams. At its core, this is the same scam as the “fake charge scam,” where the scammer sends you an alert that there has been a charge to an account in your name, or suspicious activity on your account, and you need only to provide them with your account details so they can straighten everything out for you. It is also a “love scam,” in this case, a platonic friendship scam. Just as the scammer in the classic romantic love scam works to convince their target that they are someone who has fallen in love with them, the scammer in the wrong number scam attempts to make their intended victim believe they have made a new platonic friend.
There does not appear to be any malware or spyware attached to this scam, making it easy to completely prevent. When you receive a text from a wrong number, let the person know one time that they have dialed a wrong number. When they apologize, respond with “No problem,” and have no further contact with them. Delete and block any wrong numbers whose owners try to strike up a conversation with you. Don’t be swayed by any endearing or moving life stories the person may share. Platonic friendship scammers can copy and paste complete strangers’ facebook statuses, emails from computers they’ve hacked into, and other online communication just as easily as romance scammers can steal love letters and profile information.
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.