Welcome to our new series, “The ways of words.” In this series, we examine a popular word or phrase you may want to use…or avoid…when creating novels, poems, songs, or other written art.
Everyone has a word or phrase, or several, that get on their nerves. Adding “And go!” to the end of online requests for information or ideas puts a lot of people off of trying to provide the information. The word “moist” is widely hated. Beginning sentences with “So” can be irritating and distracting to some. I’ve always found “boundaries” and “shaming” annoying, but I loathe “positive/positivity” and “negative/negativity” to the point that I have tuned out conversations, speeches, and sermons that contained them and refused to support a business because I saw them in their advertising.
The term “self-care” is quickly becoming a hated one for many people. This does not mean you can’t use it in your work or promotional materials, but it is beginning to have an effect on the audience that may be the opposite of what you would hope for. There are a few reasons this may be happening.
Everything is “self-care” these days.
When the phrase “self-care” first seemed to be everywhere, it was a less snobbish sounding synonym for “pampering.” “Self-care” meant “relaxing beauty rituals,” like scented bubble baths, beauty masks that cooled or warmed your skin while improving it in some way, and special hair treatments you only did once a week. Then people began to use it in place of any form of “relaxing” or “taking a break.” Having a drink, having a cigar, eating a candy bar, taking a nap, or ordering takeout because you lacked the energy to cook were all “self-care.” Next, some social media influencers decided “self-care” was anything you did that in any way benefited you, even if it was something unpleasant, so making yourself scrub your toilet and pay your bills and go outside and shovel the driveway in winter were all “self-care” too. Many people who recoil from it are simply tired of hearing it.
“Self-care” appears to be a way to demand praise for doing ordinary things.
Our culture encourages us to demand praise and admiration for some pretty awful things these days. One popular social media meme proudly proclaims that going forward, the poster will be doing what is right for them and nobody else. The comments are always full of praise and encouragement, even though the person basically just announced they no longer care what impact their actions have on other people.
Announcing you are “practicing self-care” is another behavior deemed worthy of praise today, and since everything can be self-care, it demands praise for everything. People announce they’re doing “self-care” by giving themselves a clean home to live in, proceed to tell their social media contacts about vacuuming, dusting, and sanitizing their kitchen and bathroom, and we’re supposed to congratulate them. Never mind that these are nothing more than ordinary household chores most people do every week. “Practicing self-care today…no work…just relaxing and spending time with my family” receives a round of “you deserve it!” and “put yourself first!” from friends who forget we used to just call that “taking a day off.”
People get worn out jumping up and down over others’ every move just because they labeled it “self-care” before announcing it, and in many cases, bragging about it.
Multilevel marketing companies have latched on to the term.
Even when the term itself does not bother someone, it can put people off of your product, business, website, or anything else you are working to promote because of its growing association with mlms. Companies selling useless, sometimes even dangerous, diet powders, bars, and pills promote the products as “self-care” as another term for “tending to your physical health.” It can even be a bit of a shield from liability for these corporations. They can’t promote their energy or weight loss or mood boosting shakes with specific health claims, but they can call it all “self-care” and send the message customers are doing something for their health in a more roundabout way.
Others try to recapture one of the earlier meanings, the face masks and bubble baths definition, by selling cosmetics customers could easily purchase for half the price, insisting theirs are an investment in “self-care.” Of course, those same customers could purchase similar products at a much lower price point and call it anything they wanted, but the mlm counts on customers associating their products with a noble devotion to our own well-being. Those trying to avoid mlms are keeping an eye out for this particular hook to help them weed out the products and services that come with an “opportunity” to ruin your finances and alienate your family, friends, and business associates.
As with most words that work our nerves, whether or not to use “self-care” depends on the effect you want to have on your audience. If you’re writing a piece about a multilevel marketing company, “self-care” is a buzzword among them these days. A character who feels entitled to praise for everything will probably label many behaviors “self-care.” But it may not generate warm feelings in a reader….or draw people to the business you run as a second career…much longer.
Most of us spend time on the internet these days, and anyone who spends any time in a vast public space is bound to encounter whispers, gossip, rumors, and myths at some point. But some of those myths seem to take hold more than others. Here are just a few of the internet myths we still seem to think are true.
Starting a blog or a channel on YouTube or TikTok is a sure path to a lucrative side hustle.
As recently as July 6, 2021, YouTuber money and finance channels were still listing blogging and YouTube channels as side hustles you can start as early as your teens to generate passive income for years to come. While it clearly worked for them, this is still a myth, because earning a large passive income through these methods is not a sure path, but is relatively rare. For every David Dobrik or Faze Rug, there are ten or twenty people with similarly themed channels who never earned much, if any money.
Until the channel or blog has been running steadily for a year to a year and a half, it is impossible to tell how it will perform overall. Once that growth period is up, a general picture of the content’s popularity will begin to emerge, but subscribers and readers and/or viewers will still continue to come and go.
With any type of online content creation, you can expect about ten per cent of your target audience to follow you, and ten per cent of that to actually interact with you by reading your blog articles and watching your videos. This alone means your content has to target an enormous population to gain the attention needed to generate ad revenue, and that still doesn’t guarantee it will catch on and make any money.
This is not to say you can’t, or shouldn’t, use these avenues in your work. Just be aware that “start a blog or YouTube channel” is only a lucrative side hustle if you deliberately and carefully build it into a far-reaching side business, and even then it will take a lot of time to build.
Millionaires all have seven streams of income.
This one is semi-true… sort of. Millionaires do indeed make a great deal of their money through a variety of investments. These various methods of investing are counted in the seven streams. It becomes a myth when we start believing that all millionaires got their money this way, and that everyone who works to establish seven streams of income is going to become a millionaire.
Wealth depends on a variety of factors, some entirely within our control, some a mixture of our choices and things we cannot control, and some entirely outside of our control. People who inherit millions certainly do not need, or necessarily have, seven income streams, and have received their money through absolutely no hard work of their own. A person who has not inherited money, but whose parents can afford to send them to private schools with high admission rates to Ivy League or other top schools can make the choice to squander those opportunities or to take advantage of them, but their proximity to wealth and opportunity alone makes it much easier to forge a path that ends in millions of dollars than someone whose family can barely afford to keep them fed and clean.
The “seven streams” claim becomes even more muddled when people latch onto it to promote dubious financial advice. Multilevel marketing companies often tout selling and recruiting for their companies as an “income stream” to be included in your seven. And while there may be no harm in signing up for some of these companies in order to earn discounts on a product you like or the occasional small amount of extra cash, almost nobody ever earns even as much as they would putting in the same amount of time and effort at a minimum wage job, and most people wind up losing money.
You can learn anything simply by searching for it online.
Like the “seven streams” myth, this one is sprinkled with a few grains of truth. You can certainly do a lot of resesarch on any topic online. If you want to learn how to make traditional Greek or Indian food, there will be blogs, full websites, YouTube videos, and podcasts containing recipes, demonstrations, and tips from those who have made this type of food their entire lives. If you want to learn about skateboarding or hunting or hockey, the history of the sport, video demonstrations, and sound advice will be plentiful online.
And so will a lot of utter nonsense you should never have believed, posted by people who didn’t bother to actually learn about the topic before declaring themselves an “expert.” In the earlier days of the internet, it was easy to tell the difference between a solid, carefully created and maintained website run by an expert in their field and the page of a hobbyist who simply liked to talk about their favorite topic, whether they knew anything about it or not.
Professional pages cost money to have built and run, and had the sleek, book-like appearance of most webpages we see online today. Those with only a personal interest in the topic used “geocities” pages, with garish, cartoon like backgrounds and fonts, or later, the free version of Google’s “blogger” function, with similarly distinctive blocky layouts and bright colors. Today, anybody….from a person with extensive academic credentials, decades of job experience, and/or years of serious personal research on a topic all the way down to someone who saw a Lifetime movie about it last night and decided they had something to say…can create a professional looking online presence.
There are many things you can learn quite a lot about via personal searches on the internet, but in most cases, you have to be willing to go further than repeated searches, to published books, print journals, and talking to or signing up for classes taught by actual experts in the field, at least to learn enough about your topic to tell solid online information from personal musings when you return to the internet for further study.
It is perfectly acceptable to use any word that sounds like another word when spoken, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just playing “grammar police.”
Your personal social media pages are indeed your own space, and nobody can stop you from saying anything you want any way you want to say it. But it does make a poor impression when, despite English being your first language, and an education above elementary school indicated in your personal details, you still appear not to understand that “your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction for “you are” or that there is a difference between the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re” or “our” and “are.”
You may still not care, arguing that everyone on your page finds you so clever or lovable, they would never think to do anything but overlook your grammatical “quirks.” Just keep in mind that should you apply for a job, or use your social media page to promote your career, potential employers or clients can and do look people up on social media, and they’re certainly not going to think it’s cute that the person they are considering hiring to communicate with their clients or provide written content for them is likely to send out memos that read, “Your the best client we ever had. They’re is no one like you. You make are days better!”
Even if you carefully limit your social media to family and friends, this type of incorrect word use can become a habit that carries over to professional communication. Again, if you insist upon using the wrong words, and putting down everyone who finds this annoying and always uses the right ones as overly fussy, go right ahead. Just remember to at least use the correct ones for work.
And one that’s finally fading….Working from home using the internet is an easy, no stress way to make fast money.
During the height of the pandemic, those who did not lose their jobs often found them shifted from on-site work to work from home positions. They quickly learned that working online is not easier than working on-site, there are just trade-offs in pros and cons.
Avoiding the cost and hassle of a commute is a favorite perk of working from home. It is also great to be able to complete little chores, such as putting on a load of laundry, walking the dog, washing the dishes, or checking the mail on your break instead of having to wait until your lunch hour to come home and do it. Many save money on food and drinks, as they do not need to go out for coffee or lunch, or purchase portable versions of snacks or meals to take to work. And even if you still get dressed for work because you continue to be seen on Zoom, or you just need to be dressed to focus, clothing costs are often reduced simply because there is so much less social pressure to always have a new or nicer handbag or outfit to keep up with others in the office.
On the other side, jobs done from home are pretty much the same jobs as the ones done from an office or other dedicated space in terms of prestige, pay, and benefits. And they come with their own set of challenges. The isolation is not good for our mental health. At-home workers may avoid the commute, but workers in more traditional settings do not have to maintain a professional environment while neighbors’ kids run screaming through the building or someone decides to throw an afternoon party next door.
The internet is a vast public space, and as in all large spaces, you encounter a variety of people, with widely varying motives, skills, and preparation for whatever they might be doing. The key is not to cease use, or even reduce use of the internet, but to use it wisely.
For many artists working in a small city, frugality is necessary. We often need to find the least expensive ways to meet our basic needs and get the things we want, if we can. This can be especially necessary for musicians, who have the added expenses of instruments and other equipment. But there are times when being frugal goes much too far for anyone.
Money saving measures cause you to risk serious health issues.
We have all resorted to canned soup, frozen pizza, one dollar frozen dinners, or boxed mac and cheese as a main dish to save money from time to time. Some of us do the “hoodie or sweater that is not part of our outfit kept on inside the house” trick instead of turning up the heat on chilly days, take the occasional shower with the last dredges of shampoo or body wash rinsed from the bottle with half a container of water, or put up with annoying chips and cracks in cell phone screens to save on the cost of repair or replacement.
These measures are very different than not eating anything or only eating junk foods, resorting to shivering or sweating profusely to save money on the utility bills, not tending to personal hygiene at all, or getting shards in your fingers from your broken phone screen. If your cost saving measure is causing you to get sick more often than usual, feel hungry, or cause injury, it’s time to give it up.
Dumpster diving and picking up discarded items left on the curb can also be dangerous. Even if you find something that looks pristine, there may be mold or insects embedded in furniture, or a package of food or cosmetics might have small holes in it. You also have no way of knowing what your items came into contact with inside the trash.
Your behavior takes advantage of someone else.
Both “Extreme Cheapskates” and “So Freakin’ Cheap,” reality shows spotlighting extremely frugal individuals and families, feature people who pull the “free ice cream for dessert” trick. They walk into a small, locally owned ice cream parlor that does not have a posted limit on samples, and ask to sample multiple flavors until they are full. When the clerk asks them what they would like to order, they brush them off and walk out the door.
Never do this, with ice cream or any other food. Consuming excessive amounts of samples decreases the business’ inventory while bringing them no income in return. It unnecessarily wastes the clerk’s time, and forces them to do extra work, as twenty tiny scoops are harder to serve than one full one. And eventually, it will ruin things for future customers, as store owners often limit, or even completely eliminate free samples when they see someone pulling this stunt. This can result in critical reviews that impact the business overall.
Experiences and memories are being taken over by bargain seeking.
The whole point of being frugal is to be able to save yourself some money while continuing to reach your goals and live the life you want. If you’re making yourself or your loved ones miserable instead, the frugality has gone too far.
Opting for a budget hotel because your family or friends plan to spend as much of your vacation as possible on the beach anyway is a great way to save money. Booking that same hotel after you and your spouse or best friends saved up for year just to have a weekend at a luxury hotel is ruining things for the sake of a buck. Having your daughter’s graduation party at the spacious home of beloved relative or family friend rather than renting space is fine. Begging family members you barely know or communicate with to host the party simply because they have a big back yard is only going to cause resentment from all involved.
Trying too hard to be frugal is actually costing you more money overall.
Coupon use can be a great money saving tool, or it can cost you money. Using coupons, including per cent of purchase rebate sites like Rakuten, and discount deal sites such as Groupon, only truly save you money if you buy the items you were planning to buy before you found the deal and nothing else. Buying anything else just to activate a coupon or rebate is likely to cost you more money overall. Driving all over town to find the store where an item is a dollar or two cheaper with a coupon than the prices in your usual store increases the amount of money you need to spend on gas or on paying for cabs or rideshare services. That increase is probably bigger than the savings on the item.
Insisting upon doing things yourself when you lack the skill, patience, or materials to do a good job also falls into this category. It costs a lot less to just go to a salon and have your hair colored than it does to color your hair at home, mess up, and then go to a salon for repairative treatments and corrective color. Home repairs cost more when someone has to come in and fix damage you did trying to learn to do them yourself online instead of calling a professional. And attempting to dye or embellish clothing, drapes, or other textiles when you do not know how typically results in needing to completely replace the item.
“Money saving” is beginning to approach “stealing.”
Technically, shoving a wad of sauce or ketchup packets into your takeout bag when you’ve only purchased one meal isn’t stealing. Those packets are there free for the customers, and you are a customer. But it’s not exactly honest either. While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a few more than you wound up needing and using them later, those little packets of ketchup and sauce are not there to save you $2.00 or $3.00 for the bottle at the grocery store.
Regardless of your opinion about multilevel marketing, network marketing, or direct sales companies, approaching someone who sells for them and pretending to be a potential customer only to get free samples is dishonest. Yes, you probably could keep yourself supplied with lip gloss or moisturizer for free if you asked every Mary Kay, Avon, Jafra, and Arbonne representative in your area for samples, and eat plenty of free meals by tagging along to Pampered Chefs or Tupperware parties to fill up on the demo meals and snacks with no intention of buying. That doesn’t mean you should do it.
Saving money is a great goal, but only if you are truly saving money, and if you are not making that money more important than your own health and well-being, or the health and well-being of others.
One of the first questions people ask when they see Artist Cafe Utica is, “Do you make money doing this?”
Tiny niche sites do not have the ability to pull in the often astonishing amount of advertising revenue brought it by the internet’s most famous bloggers and vloggers. Sites with large potential audiences can earn ad revenue directly from their site or channel. Small niche sites typically do not draw in enough traffic.
A site or channel’s potential audience is measured by taking ten per cent of the target population. That’s the number of people you can reasonably expect to follow you. You then take ten per cent of that to get the number you can reasonably expect to actually interact with you, that is, read your articles, watch your videos, and make purchases from your site. Using statistics on the percentage of artists in the United States and the population of Utica, this site’s potential audience is around 1,500 people. This means 150 people following and 15 people reading each article would be a great success. But advertisers would not see it this way.
Programs like Google Adsense and sites like YouTube monetize people producing content aimed at an entire generation of Americans, or other groups with numbers in the millions like “Stay at home parents,” or “everyone in the United States who likes to save money.”
Sites with much smaller target populations may not draw the direct advertising dollars, but there are ways to monetize tiny channels and pages.
Online portfolio/product or service sales space
The writing, music, or other artwork on a small channel or site serves as a portfolio for potential customers or clients. Pieces or services are also typically for sale.
The articles in “Library 315” serve a dual purpose. They are free articles for readers, but they also serve as samples of the kind of writing I can do for potential clients. . A reader decides they want an article for their newspaper, blog, or other website, or that they want something they can submit to newspapers or blogs as a press release. I write the article to their specifications, under the terms detailed on the site. Once the project is finished, the client pays my fee.
Site visitors can also purchase one of my novels through Artist Cafe Utica.
A small page or channel’s content is sponsored in the exact same way a big channel or site’s content is sponsored. Someone pays to have the site owner insert some type of product or business promotion into the post.
The main difference between sponsorships on tiny niche sites and those for ones with much larger audiences is the income potential. YouTube stars like Ryland Adams and David Dobrik design content for entire generations of Americans. Their subscriber counts are in the millions, and their work often becomes “trending,” which means their viewer counts far surpass the expected one per cent of that for each video. But even if they only get ten per cent of their four to eighteen million subscribers watching a video, the content is seen by an enormous audience. This means it is worth the investment for a major corporation to pay them tens of thousands of dollars simply to mention their company in a single video.
A site the size of Artist Cafe Utica can do the same thing, on a much smaller scale. My fee to mention your business, service, product, or organization of your choice in a single article is $25.
Niche YouTube channels and websites also have the option to seek sponsorship for the project as a whole. Sites like Patreon and GoFundMe allow an artist’s supporters to pay them a certain amount of money either one time or on a monthly basis, as a way to pay the artist for any free content they might offer, show support for their career, and basically “tip” them for producing their art.
Artist Cafe Utica has space reserved on Patreon so that nobody else can raise money under the site’s name, but there are currently no ways to become a patron of, or sponsor the site as a whole. Should you create your own niche site and decide to add a site sponsorship or patronage income stream, both Patreon and GoFundMe are free and easy to set up to receive payments.
Income generating research/experiments
Most of the more common social experiments cost money. If you want to write a review of Burger King’s new menu item, you’re going to have to go to Burger King and buy it. If you want to do a haul video featuring items from a local store, you have to spend some money there first.
Other experiments, or research for articles or videos, can actually make money. YouTuber Ryan Trahan has successfully increased his cash in “Turn $.01 into $1,000” experiments. Trahan generously donated the profits from his latest version of this experiment to a fan. Others have conducted similar experiments, and both used the process as content for their channel and kept any cash they generated.
Tiny niche sites and channels may not generate millions, but they can grow into great resources for your career, your finances, and the people your content aims to serve.