Sunday, March 9, 2014

Elance, a freelancer's blackhole?

Several years ago I turned to freelancing online because I was out of work. I needed cash and I was willing to work to peanuts.

Lucky for me there was a lot of opportunity in writing web content then. The pay was low, but not ridiculously low. For someone with some skill, it was possible to make $15/hour pretty easily.

A large part of my income back then came through Elance. Within a month of joining Elance I made more than $1200 just on that site alone. I worked my tail off for it but it wasn't a struggle to find work.

When I finally got back to my real job, I put my Elance life behind me. I walked away from my account and a terrible project where the client was completely unreasonable. Was that professional of me? No. I'm not proud of it but given the situation I was in at the time, I had little choice.

A few weeks ago, I decided to get back to Elance to supplement my income. I thought I'd start a new profile and rebuild my business. Just like that, right...just a few painful weeks of taking low pay to build references and then back to business.

Right? Um, nope.

After 3 weeks on Elance and bidding on several projects, I won a single bid for $20 for 3 articles on electronic cigarettes. As soon as I won the bid, Elance delisted the project because the subject matter violated their TOS.

What I'm running into on Elance is intense competition. Most projects appear to have 20-30 proposals from freelancers whose profiles carry positive reviews or freelancers from third world countries willing to make $0.50 per 100 words.

Curious about other online freelancing sites, I began exploring Fiverr and Freelancer and it's been interesting.

Freelancer is very much the same situation as Elance. There is a ton of competition and very low pay for quality content. In order to get positive reviews for your profile you have to be willing to take projects for content mills making what comes out to about $2/hour.

That's INSANE!

Fiverr on the other hand has been a more positive experience. I've made $52 (assuming that the funds will clear) and have built some positive mojo for future work. While the pay isn't fantastic right now, there is room on the site to grow if I achieve enough sales to unlock the ability to add "gig extras" to my listed projects.

Fiverr will not be a full time opportunity for me but it is worthwhile so far.

Re-learning this online writing market has been quite a challenge. A lot has changed. I've learned over the last couple weeks to redirect my efforts away from Elance and Freelancer and expand my efforts on sites like Fiverr where there is a bit more freedom to market yourself.

I've also identified a few opportunities to follow up on. My plan between now and the end of March will be to resurrect my writing opportunities with Examiner and Demand Media Studios and look into a couple of opportunities that I haven't tried yet, Slice the Pie, Independent Writers and Triple Curve.

I'll report back on how things go later in the month. In the meantime, if you'd like to share any experiences with these or other online writing opportunities, please comment!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Love or money?

Last year I met a wonderful man. He’s kind, humble and hard-working. He treats me like a queen. I love and appreciate him for who he is and don’t ever want to imagine being with anyone else.

I am completely madly in love with him and would marry this man in a heartbeat if he were to feel the same way.

Everything between us is great except one problem. This one problem is like that cliché giant pink elephant in the room -- gaudy, overpowering, completely obvious, utterly immobile. I’m unhappy.

It’s not my man. It’s my life. I am completely, utterly unhappy with what I’m doing with my life. I am mentally, spiritually and professionally unfulfilled in my current job.

I manage product compliance and safety for a major consumer brand. It pays well but it’s a corporate dead end job in the company I’m with. I spend my days arguing over whether to spend $200 testing a product that the company’s going to make millions on.

I spend my days telling marketing folks that certain products are really bad ideas and then I deal with the aftermath of what happens when something goes wrong -- for example, when someone’s kid chokes on a product that should have been designed to be safe.

I get to be the sole voice of a moral constant in an organization whose sole existence is predicated on maximizing profits. It’s stressful and frustrating and ugly.

To make things worse, most of the team that I work on suffers from clique mentality. Oftentimes my work day is characterized by purposeful exclusion, catty behavior and backstabbing. It’s so unnecessarily miserable.

When it comes to my work life, I am completely and utterly drowning in unhappiness.

So get a new job right? Well, not really. What I do is very specialized. It pays very well, but it’s very specialized. Jobs in this field require working for huge organizations -- big box retailers, consumer brands, government agencies, etc.

Here’s where we get to the crux of the matter…this week I was at the biggest industry conference for my field. During the conference, attendees have an opportunity to engage in a job matching program. I entered my name into the pot thinking I might make a couple connections and maybe find an Ohio-based company interested in talking to me.

I was not prepared for what happened next.

Within moments of emailing the organizer of this program, I received emails and phone calls from 3 HUGE companies all interested in discussing their open positions with me. By the next day I had 3 more huge companies asking me to consider their open positions.

So what’s the problem? Every one of these opportunities require relocation, either across the country or across the world.

After sitting down with a couple of companies to discuss open opportunities, I wasn’t feeling very tempted to relocate. They were good opportunities but not “wow opportunities”.

Then, I sat down with the last 2 companies on the list. They completely blew me away. The opportunities they were presenting me with were amazing and I had a great rapport with the hiring directors. One of them had me so excited I was ready to get to work. Absolutely, utterly amazing.

Both of these positions would involve a significant pay increase, better titles and more opportunity for advancement. Career-wise I’d be insane not to jump on one of them.

Life-wise, however, I’d be facing a crossroads with the man that I love. He is in his dream job. He’s not going to leave the Cleveland area. He will not pursue a long distance relationship. He told me that if I accepted one of these positions, I would be ending our relationship.

On top of these relocation opportunities, two smaller, closer opportunities have come up as potentials. One involves traveling the other is a very long commute.

Astonishingly, he basically said the same thing about these jobs -- he can’t deal with me traveling all the time and if I have to commute long distance, we’re not going to be able to have a relationship.

Let’s put some perspective on this - he’s a police officer. He’s very black and white. He knows that I earn more and he feels like he can’t compete with my career (his words). He’s not willing to think of possibilities outside of yes/no or here/there and he’s not able to conceptualize a middle road. He is THE quintessential example of how a cop thinks and behaves.

He’s also a commitment-phobe. He hasn’t even dropped the “L” word and we do not live together. We do not have any plans to move in together and he’s not going to propose to me.

I love him. Even if he can’t say it, I know he loves me. He treats me better than any man ever has. He may be stubborn but he’s perfect and sweet and gentle. I don’t want to lose him.

I also don’t want to be miserable and I don’t want to leave my career to stagnate in a corporate dead end where I’m now sitting every day.

I don’t know what to do.

I know what I want. I want him to come with me to some new, amazing place. I want to make a life with him. I want us to both be happy and fulfilled, together.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bucket List Progress: Quit Smoking

Drum roll please....I am tobacco-free for 18 months! Hip hip hooray!!!

Being a non-smoker feels freakin' awesome!

How did I do it? A combination of electronic cigarettes and determination. I really wasn't easy, but it was so worth it.

e-Cigs helped just enough to take the edge off. They didn't completely take away the urges but they helped.

After 4 to 6 weeks of the e-cig, I weaned myself off it. Then, every time I thought of smoking I did 10 pushups or went for a run or ate natural popcorn. I forced myself to think about replacing cigarette smoking with a healthier behavior.

More than a year later, I can't imagine going back to smoking. The idea of paying someone to kill me is repugnant. I can't stand the way it smells. I LOVE that when I run I'm not held back by my lungs.

Life without smoking is freedom. I am never, ever going back. Bucket List Item #28 complete!!