Rogue Ink

July 8, 2008

The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:41 am
Tags: , ,

Budgets suck. Budgets tell you that you don’t have enough money to do that, but you do have enough money to do this other thing, that you really don’t want to do, but which is smart to invest in for the future or whatall. Budgets are like the parent who told you no, you couldn’t have that toy you wanted when you were a kid, and refused to say why, just ‘because’. Except now you know why, and the reason is: you’re broke. Budgets are not, shall we say, harbringers of joy.

However. In order to figure out how much money you want your business to make, you have to figure out how much money you need. This is generally called budgeting, but since we have established that budgeting sucks, we shall call it ‘dinglefrapping,’ since our version is going to be more fun. Spoiler: Count Dracula is involved. Yes, I know. I’m excited too.

The Basic Dinglefrapp

The basic dinglefrapp includes all the obvious things – food, shelter, health, transportation, and that ever-important category of ‘miscellany’. ‘Miscellany’ is for all the stuff you forget you need until you really need it, like toothpicks or cotton balls or single-malt Irish whiskey (yes, they make single-malt Irish whiskey, and yes, you really need some. No, it’s not better than the best Scottish ones, but it is damned good. Yes, this parenthesis has gone on a little too long. No, I don’t know why).

The basic dinglefrapp is not difficult to figure out. You have your bills. Add them up. Round upwards, not downwards, because you will always spend more money than you meant to. Since I’m a single gal living on my own, my expenses may be less than yours. I am sure you will be able to adjust. My basic dinglefrapp breaks down about like so (rounding up because I hear math is easier when everything ends in zeroes. This may explain why my inclination is always to have no money. It is the ultimate zero, the lack of money.)

Rent and utilities: $900
Loan repayments: $400
Food: $150
Health insurance: $130
Gas: $40 (gotta love no commute)
Miscellany: $150

Don’t ask what’s in miscellany. I honestly don’t know. I just know the money is gone at the end of the month. It could be cotton balls and whatall, but what’s more likely is that it’s my tribute to the Queen of the Moths or something. I fork over the cash, she doesn’t send her brethren to eat me in the night. This seems more reasonable, especially since I know perfectly well I don’t have any cotton balls.

My Basic Dinglefrapp: $1,800 monthly. Cool. Now let’s shake it up.

Dinglefrapp Plus

Aw yeah. Dinglefrapp Plus don’t play. Or rather, it do. Dinglefrapp Plus is all about the non-necessities.

You also need money for books, for entertainment, for vacations, for random moments of stupidity, for eating out, for the random sock puppet you just have to have, for ice cream on a summer night, for the glass slippers you’ll need for the ball you might get invited to, for the impromptu surgery you’ll need to get the glass out of your feet when you smash them, which you will the very second you forget they’re made out of glass and the laws of physics always work against you and your fairytale recreations.

Make the budget for the lifestyle of your dreams. If I had my druthers, I would spend $100 a week on books, and this is not an exaggeration. I want druthers bad. What are druthers? They sound amazing. If, in the lifestyle of your dreams, you went to the movies once a week, by all that is holy, stick that in the dinglefrapp. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes buying a 1985 Aston Martin, go ahead and budget some monthly cash for that. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes getting sunk in a bathtub full of porridge while the cast of Spring Awakening serenades you, I regret to inform you that you are insane and should probably commit yourself forthwith.

But dinglefrapp for it anyway. You never know.

Harold’s Law

Many of you will be automatically discounting the Dinglefrapp Plus about now. “Look,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good, but I don’t need to put anything in my dinglefrapp that is not essential because I am scared that I will not get the bills paid if I do not just focus on getting the important things taken care of. I’ll skip going out to the movies. I’m fine. Really, Dinglefrapp Basic is fine with me.”

I do not know how you can bring yourself to doubt an institution called the Dinglefrapp Plus, but since the dissent has been making itself known, I shall rebut. I had a perfectly reasonable goal of $1,800 a month. Perfectly doable. Why am I tacking a bunch of extra stuff on there to eff it all up?

Because of Harold’s Law, my friends. Harold’s Law will get you.

Harold’s Law is similar to Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time. Harold’s Law states that any stated goal will be missed by just the hairsbreadth necessary to make you think that were you a better man, you would have attained it. (Harold was kind of a bastard. He got his head flushed a lot in grade school.)

Now, I have circumnavigated Murphy’s Law many a time, because one of its sub-components is that anything you anticipate going wrong is not the thing that will happen. My strategy for overcoming Murphy’s Law is to worry constantly about all of the worst things that could happen and completely neglect to worry about the trivial ones. This leaves Murphy’s Law no option but to make something fairly minor go wrong, which I then fix easily with my mighty skill and come out looking a dashing rogue indeed.

Harold’s Law also has a loophole, and it is essential to understanding the logic behind the Dinglefrapp Plus. Harold’s Law states that you will fail to miss your goal by a hairsbreadth, no matter what that goal might be. If your goal is $1,800, you will fail to hit it. You will only make $1,700. If your goal is $5,000, you will fail to hit that goal too, but only by a hairsbreadth. You may only make $4,700. And wouldn’t that be a damned shame?

Huge Unrealistic Goals.

If the triviality of adding a bunch of fun stuff to your budget is simply beyond you, set yourself a huge unrealistic goal. A big expenditure. A down payment on a new house, six months’ worth of vacation expenses, a candelabra from the original Count Dracula castle. Make it a real one, make it something you badly need, make it something you thought you might begin saving for some time way in the future. The future is here, and it has a Huge Unrealistic Goal squatting in the middle of it.

My personal Huge Unrealistic Goal for the next six months is a valiant attempt to get out of debt. I want to pay off all of my student loans. They total about $18,000. I just tacked on an extra $3,000 to my monthly goal. Take that, Harold’s Law. The rogue ain’t playin’.

Some of you will already have Huge Unrealistic Goals by sheer dint of having more responsibilities than I do. You may have spouses, children or really spoiled houseplants (seriously, they don’t need the designer fertilizer. You realize it’s not actually unicorn dung, right?) and thusly your entire life is already a Huge Unrealistic Goal, and you really don’t have the energy to contemplate adding anything more to it.

Do it anyway. Add a Demi-Size Unrealistic Goal. Maybe it’s an extra couple hundred toward starting that restaurant you’ve always dreamed of where all the dishes are composed of gummi candy. Maybe it’s your kids’ college fund. Add it on there. Seriously. You need it. Here’s why.

Shoot for Absurdity. When You Miss, You Might Wind Up in Functional. Well, You Won’t, but You’ll Have More Fun Than the Other Bastards Who Missed and Didn’t Try for Absurd.

Give yourself a higher goal than you need. Your Huge Unrealistic Goal is there to fail. It is okay if it fails. That is its purpose. The entire point of your Huge Unrealistic Goal is to circumnavigate Harold’s Law. The dream may not happen, but you will always eat, and you will always pay your rent on time, and the houseplants will rejoice in unicorn dung.

The Demon of Complacency

When your goal is only $1,800 a month, you can justify all kinds of things. A nice way to break down how much you need to make is by dividing that monthly sum up by the day. You need to make $50 a day. No problem, right? Hell, that’s Californian minimum wage. You could make $50 a day serving up decaf venti soy no-foam half-shot cinnamon two-shot vanilla lattes at Starbucks. And you’re a professional, right? No biggie for you to make a couple hundred a day. So you might as well take today off and go to the turtle races, and make $100 tomorrow instead.

I can make $1,800 a month without trying too hard. That’s two to three clients a month with mid-to-low sized projects, and that is doable. It is also a ticket to Complacentville, and we do not advocate that sort of thing. The great rogues of history would have sneezed, yea, sneezed upon such a paltry sum. It is not worthy of roguishness. Set yourself a huge goal, a worthy goal. A scary goal. I’m shooting for something more like $5,000 a month. I can’t make that easily. I have get my day started earlier, got to work hard. No time for Complacentville when the Huge Unrealistic Goal is calling you home to Awesometown.

Your goal has to freak you out a little bit. It should get your heart moving in the morning like opening your eyes to a marionette with one of those weirdly creepy Victorian masks for a face. If you open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you think of is, “Fuck. How’m I going to make $300 today,” I guarantee you that you will get out of bed just a little bit faster than you would otherwise. Unless that marionette was dangling right above your face. You’d probably get up pretty quick for that.

The Daily Desperation.

Peter Bowerman, author of the excellent Well-Fed Writer books, said he put up a piece of paper over his desk. He started with his goal number. We’ll take mine – $30,000 in the next six months. Then he made a list, like so:

$30,000 in six months
$5,000 per month
$1,153.85 per week
$230.77 per workday
Where’s the $230.77 coming from today?

His was much more impressive, since somehow he managed to get his math down to the point where his final number was a nice round $200. I don’t know how he did that. Clearly Bowerman can do math. The point stands, though. When you’re sitting in front of your computer and you don’t have any work lined up, that number is motivational. It’s not an absurd number, but it’s enough to freak you out. Get the blood moving. Shake up your sanity. (I just figured out where my Miscellany money goes. It goes to stock up on sanity. You can get a six-pack of sanity at Costco for $49.95. Very reasonable.)

That’s a fair amount of money per day. Makes you a little desperate, a little panicky, but in a good way, in a controlled way, in a way that suggests you could fix this problem if you could just figure out whether it’s the red or the black wire that gets you blown to smithereens. And you can fix the problem. The red wire is doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself. The black wire is getting some business. Which one of them is going to save you? (Note: if you cannot figure that one out, kindly do not be the person who will save us in the event that someone leaves a careless bomb lying about an important building in which I reside. Please leave that task up to people better suited for it, like Bruce Willis. Thank you for your attention regarding this matter.)

We’re going to talk about how to apply your newfound Unrealistically Huge money needs to your rates tomorrow. Tune in.

Subscribe. More Money Talks on the way.

July 7, 2008

Introducing The Money Talks

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 1:33 am
Tags: , , ,

There are a few things that are considered off-limits for social conversation. Politics, sex, and religion for a start, though the lesser-known impolite topics include the possible carnage four velociraptors could wreak on a hospital ward, the precise shade of red in someone’s blush (comparisons to a slab of raw liver are thought to be particularly offensive and can actually get you beheaded in certain African provinces), and keychain collections.

Now, if you’re very clever, the heading of this post tipped you off to the conversation taboo we’re going to be dissecting. I will give you a hint: it is not introductions, or talking. Both of those are actually considered wise to use in a social situation, especially in tandem. Very difficult to introduce someone by blinking rapidly in Morse code.

The Money Talks

Rogues laugh in the face of social taboos. Usually we just do it for a lark, but this shunning has purpose, yea, and reason too. Don’t get used to it; we think those damned monkey assassins put something in our chai again.

The Money Talks are going to be a week-long series on the dollars behind running a freelance business. We will use real numbers and set real goals. We will not shun away from stating actual dollar figures, as is usual, because the Rogue has noted that blogs that attempt to discuss money without actually, you know, discussing money, generally succeed in providing no useful information to new freelancers other than the sole thing they already knew, which is: You’re on your own, kid.

The Rogue reasons that most freelancers have figured that bit out, and are just looking for a useful equation to help them along. We can do that. The Money Talks will attempt to help new freelancers (and old ones) figure out how much money they should be making, how much they should be charging, and what to do with the money once you’ve earned it. We will try not to get too off-topic so as to be easy to follow along. We cannot promise there will be no ninja jokes, though. We are hilarious, after all.

The Money Talks shall be held at The Lusty Weevil, the official pub at which the Rogue spins out these regular rants of demi-relevance. Pints all round are on the house for all participants. Debate is welcome; trolls will be shot on sight. Cupcakes are also welcome, but they better have real frosting.

The Reason for The Money Talks

Money is a topic frequently raised by bloggers – freelancers, writers, marketing folk – anyone and everyone who could offer useful information on money has blogged about it. Most of the time they’re not useful, and I’ve figured out why this is. They’re too damned polite.

Politeness keeps most bloggers from actually discussing numbers. (I don’t usually discuss numbers either, but it is out of fear of the numbers themselves. Mathematicians are going to bring the apocalypse, you mark my words.) Most blog posts on money go something like this: I can’t really tell you how much I make, or how much I charge, or how I figured it out. Politeness has bound me, and I don’t want to tell you about my finances, and besides, it’s all based on the individual. I learned the hard way, so should you. Tra-la!

They don’t do this out of unkindness. They do it out of fear. Most freelancers I’ve met are actually pretty happy with how much they make and how they arrived at their numbers. They’re not willing to share how they did their calculations because they fear that someone else, some evil internet person out there, will descend upon them and say, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, those rates are too low, and it’s unprofessional to suggest otherwise. Also, your business is a sham and I heard that you keep Care Bears hostage in your pantry. You bastard.” Then their blog would be the subject of much misdirected anger, involving pitchforks and townsfolk, and all because they made the enormous mistake of discussing money.

I have considered the possibility of the townsfolk and pitchforks actually appearing, and I find it is a valid threat. However, seeing as my home is more or less an arsenal of medieval weaponry, I feel it is worth the risk. I shall go forth into the tempest, bare my little roguish soul, and take my chances with the beast.

(I like how you all tried to hold me back there. Very touching, that. You’re probably going to forget my birthday too.)

Never fear, my denizens. I shall take precautions. Here they are.

Precautionary Measures for the Money Talks

We’re going to be discussing my theoretical income. This income may actually become my real income at some point in the future, all going according to plan. Not discussing real numbers is what we do when we’re ashamed to admit our income or would prefer that others not judge us on it. I intend to circumnavigate this by being just revolutionary enough to discuss my actual ambitions, and just ashamed enough to not admit what precisely the gap is between those ambitions and my current income. It is a fine line, and I walk it like an Olympic gymnast, my friends.

So when we discuss how to calculate your financial goals tomorrow (yes, tomorrow, this is a long post already), we will be discussing my personal financial goals. They will be real. They will involve numbers. You are free to change those numbers according to your personal goals, capabilities, and religion (ooh, looky there, I mentioned religion too. Taboos are going out the window today).

In order to calculate my personal financial goals, I will be using actual numbers from my personal budget. They’ll include things like my rent, my food budget, and how much I spend regularly on meerschaum pipes (yes, this is a big enough expenditure that it warrants mention in a budget. You can substitute whatever you like in this category, no matter how weird. That’s me working for you. You’re welcome). These are numbers which should surprise no one and that I’m more than happy to put forward. They’ll also (hopefully) make my calculations for a proposed income pretty darn accurate, and then I’ll have blogged and balanced my budget, and we call that multitasking.

Yes, I’m using you as an excuse to calibrate my finances. I’m sorry if that makes you feel dirty and wronged. I will try to be funny while I do it, if that makes you feel any better, but I will totally still be using you.

Things I shall not be discussing are how much money I made last year, or last month, or this week, or ever. The past is in the past, people. That’s why they call it that. We look forward to the future, where the money is. At least, that’s what the leprechaun told me.

Remember How I Told You Rogue Ink Wasn’t a Business Blog?

It is also not a formal ball. We are not at a long table with the King fore and the Queen aft. There is no china on the table and there are no gold-rimmed wineglasses. It is not sixteenth-century Versailles and there will not be courtly dancing later, and I note an extraordinary absence of pompadours. There is no reason we should confine ourselves to discussions that would be appropriate in those circumstances, especially when breaking those rules could give our fellow freelancers a leg-up on a difficult project. We are the denizens of the Lusty Weevil, people, and we say it with pride. We are a rowdy crew and there is no limit to what can be talked about over a pint of Guiness and a game of pool.

Propriety is dead at the Lusty Weevil, denizens. Join us tomorrow for The Money Talks.

If you subscribe, I’ll tell you how much I spend on kumquats.

June 17, 2008

Your Copywriter. Now In ‘Attractive.’

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:35 am
Tags: , ,

Way back when, I promised you guys more gender/race relations. Remember? Remember how I said I’d talk about it the next day? Well, I lied to you. Kindly keep in mind that the proprietor of the Lusty Weevil is, in fact, a rogue, so lies are to be expected and encouraged. But today I got into a talk with some other female freelancers about being, you know, us, and whether we’ve really come all that far from the olden days, when people still said things like ‘olden’ and we would have been auto-delegated to positions as secretaries and . . . um. Secretaries, I guess. They didn’t have that many choices, did they? That must have been boring as hell.

The Assumption Shift

The Assumption Shift is powerful to behold. For purposes of this discussion, you need to know that I am fairly young and, as they say, easy on the eyes. I won’t be giving any supermodels a run for their money or anything, but let us not beat around the bush here. I’m a good-looking girl. If I had not been aware of this before business interactions began, I would assuredly have become so right quick, because the Assumption Shift begins with – shockingly enough – an Assumption.

The Assumption is based on appearance. I’m an attractive young woman, consulting on a copywriting gig. The Assumption has usually been that I am in this meeting because I am an attractive young woman, and not because I am a professional copywriter. Initial introductions have garnered all kinds of fun reactions to the Assumption. One older executive woman actually rolled her eyes when I walked in the room, while another up-and-coming young gentleman came out with what was undeniably a pick-up line. At the outset of a business meeting. Awkward.

So it’s fortunate that in today’s day and age, there is the Shift.

The Shift is based on personality and communication. Usually, the Shift takes approximately five minutes. Those are a slightly painful five minutes in certain instances, when the Assumption is particularly strong, because those are the minutes in which I have been talked down to, flirted with, and quite frankly insulted. However, by the time those five minutes are up and I have shown none of the reactions that would be typical of the aforementioned Assumption, the Shift occurs. Which is when everyone who was following the Assumption quite suddenly becomes embarrassed. And it serves them right. The rest of the meeting tends to be quite enjoyable. We rogues are not above gloating.

Why Does the Shift Happen?

I am a professional. I can speak eloquently and intelligently about any number of topics, and I am a wily enough rogue that I can generally maneuver my way through a meeting gracefully even if I missed some nuance or technical term. I can make a recommendation for good copy or marketing strategy and stand by it, and I don’t feel the need to apologize for myself for giving a reasoned opinion even if someone senior to me at the meeting disagrees. I don’t say ‘like’ every third word, I don’t have an overenthusiastic bubbly voice, I know when and how to use the word ‘whom’, and I will beat you with a stick if you say the word ‘irregardless’. I am not to be trifled with.

I don’t feel the need to over-emphasize these qualities. The only way to contend with the Assumption is to have another one lying in wait. My Assumption is that I will be treated as a professional, because this is the 21st century, and I am damned good at what I do, and these people have no earthly reason to doubt me. My Assumption is pretty powerful, because it has actual logic behind it. Theirs doesn’t. If asked why she rolled my eyes when I walked in the door, that senior executive could not have given one good reason. “Because she’s pretty” would not have flown. She doesn’t have a reason behind her Assumption. I do. I win.

Why Doesn’t the Shift Happen?

There are a great many people who never manage the Shift, and I get why that still happens. It usually has to do with the fact that none of the abovementioned tenants of the Assumption Shift has anything to do with actual ability. Teenybopper of the Tabloids herownself could be at a business meeting, and for all we know, Tabloid Teenybopper is a mean coder. We don’t know. And we never will. Because she looks, sounds, and acts like Tabloid Teenybopper. Ability has absolutely nothing to do with the Assumption Shift.

I am not suggesting that you are Tabloid Teenybopper. (Although if you are, my readers are not quite the demographic I had in mind). However, I’ve met any number of women who are extremely good at what they do, who cannot get the Assumption Shift because they never got over it. Those first five minutes completely stunned them. They are good at what they do, they were asked to consult, and yet, they are not being treated as professionals. Why?

It throws them. They start to doubt. They don’t stick behind what they’re saying, or they overdo it and insist on what they’re saying, even when, as we all learned somewhere in the School of Things You Never Really Want to Be True, the customer is always right. Even when he’s wrong. The loser. Ability never figures into this equation, only the way they are perceived. Sadly, they can’t act naturally in the face of the Assumption. They start to change.

They allow the way people treat them to form the way they actually behave, and that is not good. You can make people do anything if you treat them as though they’re likely to do it. True for anyone, but particularly true if you’re already feeling vulnerable. I have had people clucking like chickens in front of me, just by saying they seem like the sort of people that would.

The Power of the Assumption

Seriously. Try this on anyone you like. Ask them to do something outrageous. Ask them to crawl on their hands and knees across the floor of a busy mall store. Ask them to burp loudly in front of a group of strangers. Ask them to recite the alphabet backwards to the tune of Bonny Portmore. Ask them blithely, casually, as though you had no doubt that they would do this insane thing. Most of them will do it. To the ones who don’t, just look at them as though bewildered and a little hurt and say, your voice faintly sad,

“Wow. You’ve really changed.”

A strange thing will happen. You will see a look cross their face. This is the look of delving into one’s personal history, to see if one really was ever the type of person to burp at the hot-dog guy. Even if they still don’t do it, you have seen the magic of the Assumption at work. They questioned it. They questioned themselves. They questioned whether they would do something completely idiotic, and further, whether they were the sort of person that did frankly idiotic things for no reason.

The power of the Assumption is Doubt.

So How Far Have We Come Again?

Pretty far, according to my parents’ generation. Used to be that the Assumption would hold for a much longer time. We’re more aware now, as a society, that this Assumption is unfounded. People used to actually believe, in a scientific, logical way, that women were inferior to men. They had research. It was common knowledge. So those Assumptions had reasons. Really stupid ones. But reasons. They felt secure in those Assumptions, and they never went away.

Today, people don’t have that excuse. We all know we’re all equal here. The Assumption is a leftover, and it will go away eventually. I hope. Women used to never be able to escape the Assumption. It hung around like a bad smell, or a devoted trapeze artist. Now, it’s five minutes. Not bad. Maybe in another fifty years, it’ll be gone. We have to hope.

Not Just for Women

Crystal of the Big Bright Bulb has had the same experience, except that she has the double whammy of being both female and black. For her, the trump card wasn’t speaking well, but a degree. (The whole story’s in the comments of My Useless College Education, back here somewhere.) I’m going to quote her at length here.

I’ve done the potential-job-candidate-walk-around and been introduced by my degree, not my experience, “This is Crystal, she has a degree in Architecture from Virginia Tech.” And 85% of the time hearing that sentence changed people’s body language. Notably. Who knows what the hand-shaker thought they were looking at, but it required a visible reset.

A little further down, there was this gem of an Out-of-Context conversation, which makes me want to shake people, but serves to prove my point.

Interviewers, new supervisors, co-workers, new customers and clients, and most (though not all) of the strangers of my professional life responded like they thought I was a dunce and were pleasantly (or not so pleasantly) surprised to find I wasn’t.

My favorite was overhearing a new supervisor say to a crony, “Well, Crystal is just terrific. I mean, I hired her because she was black, and come to find she actually knows what she’s doing and does a great job.” Lovely.

Lovely, indeed. Racist, sexist, all the same beast. It’s an Assumption. And you know what they say about Assuming.

That’s right. They say it’s dumb.

The Magic Key

There is one. Humor. Laugh at it. Seriously.

Crystal does. I do. Getting upset about it just makes your day worse. Laughing at it makes you feel better, and it makes the guy who assumed look like an idiot. Imagine this.

Assuming Dude: “Well, I’m sure a pretty little thing like you doesn’t really care about this technical stuff.”

That is not a made-up comment. That happened to me once. Here’s what I could have done.

Me: “No, I do care! I am perfectly capable, really I am.”

Here’s what I did.

Me: (Incredulous look and a peal of laughter that actually brought tears to my eyes. I was doubled up. People were staring. Assuming guy was embarrassed as shit, which he should have been.) “People still SAY that? A pretty little thing like me?” (More laughter.) “Oh, my. That just made my day. That’s hilarious. You were explaining the technical stuff to me, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to get distracted.” (Small chuckle.) “Pretty little thing. Heh.”

And you know what? He shut up and explained it.

Which is what I assumed he would do, in the first place. When I asked.

Subscribe. I assume you will.

June 4, 2008

Broken Baby Bird Necks, or Business Launching

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:25 am

I spent a lot of money last month. I spent it on a lot of valuable things. Shelter. Food. Carhartt’s. Caramel apples. And my business.

There are two phases in starting a new business. Phase One  is where a lot of us get trapped forever. We’re planning to launch. We buy business cards and a website and perhaps a marketing guru. If we’re really crazy, we get distracted by all the possible things we could buy for our business and decide we couldn’t possibly begin our launch until we have custom-made curtains for the office with our face appliquéd on the side.

Now, the money-spending phase is a legitimate phase. We are all online these days (no, really, look around you. Hi, you’re online). If you want people to take you seriously as a professional, it is wise to have a website. I’m not saying you can’t do it the other way, because you can, and I did, and I am currently, right now, but I am aware of the sadness of this situation. Because here’s what happens every time I’m in a room with other legitimate businesspeople and someone asks what it is that I do.

“Aren’t you a delightful young woman!” exclaims a fortysomething woman who runs the local business bureau.

“I am, I am! I am a delightful young woman! I am smart and talented and a very good writer! You know people who need delightfully smart and talented writers, don’t you, don’t you?” say I, playing hard to get, as I often do.

“Why, yes, I do. What’s your website, dear?”

“Ah. Well. You see . . . ”

It gets a bit awkward after that.

So. The website is valuable. The business cards are valuable because they let people carry around the name of the website (handy). The marketing guru is valuable because she can tell me to stop at buying business cards and the website and make sure I don’t embarrass myself in the execution of either of those things. She also tells me how to execute Phase Two.

Phase Two, paging Phase Two.

I have not yet gotten to Phase Two. It is with great shame that I tell you this. I realize some of you already know it, and I would like to congratulate you. Now be quiet.

Phase Two is the actual launch of the business. For those of you keeping track (and I intend to have you all poisoned later, never fear), the business was supposed to launch a month ago. Those of you still keeping track (and poison is too good for you lot) will note that this launch has not precisely happened so much as it has, in fact, not. Here’s why.

Phase One is the easy phase.

Spending money is easy. Earning money to spend is less so, but the delightful thing about spending money is that it is delivered over to another person, whose job it then becomes to please you. There are many wonderful things about this, but I need only mention that magical phrase ‘the customer is always right’, and remind you of the many times it has been used against me in my life, to let you know this is a bewitching phase in which to be.

It feels active, too. It feels decisive and firm. I, King of All That I See, have spent MONEY upon a Thing, and thence it shall be done. So went my decree. I was quite pleased with it. The problem is, I was wrong. Because in order to spend your money on the right thing, you have to know what the right thing is, and you have to know what to do with it when it arrives.

Website, for example. I’ve had the website for ages. Remember the supremely cool banner? Harry is a tiny god in human form. In fact, we have decided that he is the Lord of the Underworld in my personal pantheon. Yes, I have a pantheon. That is not the point. The point is that my website has been sitting empty of text for quite awhile, because I do not know what to do with it.

Well. I do. And that’s rather the problem.

I have to fill it with copy. Phase Two is marketing and promoting. Phase Two is sending out the call. Phase Two is put up or shut up time, and this may have something to do with why I’m all riled up. Phase Two involves putting all my newly acquired stuff to work. I have to go to my networking events with my business cards, and people will then go to my site, and they will see it, and if I have screwed it up royally, they will know all about it.

Phase Two means putting yourself on the line. It is more labor intensive than the first phase, and more personal, because it no longer involves objects being successful. It involves you, yourself, being successful. I don’t know what side of the banana tree you swing on, but for me, if I can get objects to endure things instead of me, I am all for it. But I can’t. That’s not what Phase Two is.

Phase Two is brutal.

The thing about Phase Two is you have to just hold your nose and jump. If you can manage it, get someone else to push you in. Then you won’t be able to stop it, and you’ll be grateful to the friend for making you do something scary but rewarding. You know, the way birds who shove their babies out of the nest so they’ll fly. Or break their necks on the sidewalk. I mean. Wait. WHAT?

Yes, that’s right. There is a chance that I will break my metaphorical neck on the sidewalk. I may do all my marketing stuff and get no new clients and misspell things in my press release (as you know I am in the habit of doing) and say unkind things about the Queen of England on my blog (oh, NO. What have I done?). There is a chance it won’t work. It is a real chance, and it does not go away by not recognizing it. Trust me. I tried.

The thing is, if I fly, I get to fly. And then James will be jealous of me. And really, isn’t that worth the risk? Isn’t that worth any risk? I think so.

Subscribe. Tomorrow I get wings. And, with any luck, cojones.

June 2, 2008

That’s Not In My Job Description.

Filed under: Copywriting,Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 8:45 am
Tags: ,

I was writing up the copy for my website (yes, James, I really was) and wrote up a quick list of the services that I provide. These, in case you feel like hiring me this morning, include writing marketing, promotional, and informational copy, editing, rewriting, and a little special something I like to call marketing strategy lite, which is a bonus. Basically, if you’re about to do something really dumb with your marketing, I will tell you. It’s common courtesy. I wouldn’t let you walk out of the bathroom with toilet paper dangling from your fly either. I’m just awesome that way. Which got me to thinking about extras.

Why I Should Never Ask Other People’s Opinion.

I ran the copy by a few people, and every one of them wanted me to add in a service or two that I’d done for them above and beyond the copywriter’s call. Transcription. SEO. Public relations. And I have done all of these things from time to time for certain clients, because I like my clients, and I’m willing to dabble in just about anything if a) they’ll pay me for it and b) I feel I can get some reasonable results out of my attempt.

I won’t be advertising those services on my site, though, because I know what happens next.

They’re going to multiply. Not like bunny rabbits, oh no. Like amoeba. Like big globby all-encompassing goo that sucks up my time and my life and eventually the entire world, because as we all know, every apocalypse begins with me in some way, shape or form.

Begin with a fairly basic service. Copywriting. Excellent. Then people want to know if I do certain kinds of copywriting (yes, I do, and no, I don’t know what you need yet, but if it involves the written word, I will write it). THEN they want to know if I do things that are RELATED to copywriting (yes, I do, because I like my clients and I will generally try to make them happy). And THEN they want to know if I will do things that are related to THINGS that are related to copy, and it is here that I put my foot down. Firmly. Upon a large beetle.

Math is the Language of the Devil.

I am not certain who told my clients about this snowballing effect, but they all seem to believe heartily in its existence. A copywriter who can weave SEO keywords into her copy can surely also figure out what those SEO words should be. This is true, but only to a certain extent. Good SEO analysis involves more than a Wordtracker subscription, and I know it. I know it involves knowing about whatever algorithm Google is using this week and which keywords people are spending money on and analyzing the value of incorporating other keywords that aren’t worth as much into your copy, and I will tell you right now that THE SECOND SOMETHING STARTS TO BE MATH, I HEREBY RESIGN. I do my taxes under duress. I dislike counting my change jar. I cannot, and you do not want me to, analyze an algorithm to determine optimal keywords.

But if you will tell me which ones some savvy math guy has figured out are the best for you, I will craft copy around them all the live-long day. Singing merrily and flinging pennies about.

Awesomeness Has Reasonable Limits

Do not pretend you can do things that you simply cannot do. When a client insists that they’d really like me to come up with the SEO keywords, I will, but it will be with the fair warning that I am using common sense, not math, to arrive at my conclusions. Most of my clients are just fine with that, but I will never claim to be an SEO expert, and I will never claim to offer the service, any more than I will claim to be a professional sword swallower. Would I try to swallow a sword for a reasonable fee? Sure, why not. Just so’s no one expects it not to end in tears.

I know that we all get ashamed of admitting when we don’t know how to do something. A client asked me the other day if I did graphic design as well, and even though I am not personally to be trusted with art supplies in any form, including a piece of chalk and a sidewalk, I felt a little sad to say no. I cannot explain this. I think it has to do with the hero complex. If a client wanted to know if I practiced law as well as wrote copy, I would probably also feel a little ashamed, even though he has no reason to assume that I do either of those things. Writers are not designers. You can tell, because they’re spelled differently. Sometimes people are BOTH, and those people are very cool people, but the one does not automatically imply the other.

Some professions do this, and I think they’re screwing it up for the rest of us. Actors and waiters come to mind.

You can bend over backwards a little bit for your customers. Like a good morning stretch, the kind that cracks your back with that perfect little pop. But only Cirque de Soleil performers can bend all the way back and touch their foreheads to the backs of their knees, because guess what?

That’s THEIR job description.

Subscribe. I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t.

May 27, 2008

Commuting is the Mind-Killer

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:22 am
Tags: ,

You may have noticed I took a long vacation this weekend. I sincerely hope that’s all right with everyone, because my father’s ribs are not to be trifled with. Not his personal ribs, per se, because I realize we have a problem with possessives here. There’s nothing terribly exciting about my father’s personal ribs. They’re not some sort of melodic human xylophone or anything. But the pork ribs he cooks on the barbecue are extremely exciting in that they are mighty tasty, and they deserved my full and undivided attention this weekend, and so that is what I gave them.

Meanwhile, I found out something that I once knew, and had forgotten, because I have lived within walking distance of my job for some years now.

Commuting is wretched.

I used to have an hour-long commute, each way, and the commute on the way back was sometimes closer to two hours, if my boss managed to come up with some last-minute task for me, which he often did, because he was an evil old man and he lived two minutes from the office. If I could get out the door at exactly five o’clock, I only had to wait behind the few people that worked in close proximity to the bridge. If I got out the door at oh, five-ten, I and all the other suckers whose bosses came up with last-minute tasks for them would convene together, and we would all wait, seething and cursing and breathing exhaust fumes. It was a five-mile long gridlock of boss-hating and hallucinating revenge. Many of us could be seen drawing diagrams on our car windows in soap of how, when, and with what diabolical tools these bosses would meet their ultimate demise.

I have a bit of trivia for you: people who drive Hummers fantasize about using some truly obscene torture devices on their bosses. Word to the wise.

Anyway, commuting sucks, and I have a couple of reasons why.

The hour before arriving and the hour before leaving don’t exist.

This is even before you check the news, your email, and the blogs you like. Even before THAT hour, there’s the hour spent recovering from commuting. This is not a joke. You are in a bad mood. Nobody likes to be trapped in a car moving forward inch by microscopic inch and listening to morning talk radio. If you have a CD player in the car, you’ve probably forgotten to trade it out for a new CD, and have been listening to the same one for the last year or so. You probably liked the CD when you first got it, but you don’t anymore, and you can’t decide if it’s better to listen to that or hear some poor sucker get prank-called into admitting he’s cheating on his girlfriend. You decide on silence instead, and spend the time chanting “I hate work” over and over. By the time you get to the office, you are not fit for human socialization. You need a little time. More specifically, you need an hour. You need to recover for exactly the same amount of time you spent in a commute, because that is how you erase Hell. In equal proportions. Satan is very methodical in that way.

The hour before you get into the car is lost because you are anticipating fearfully how long the commute will be, trying to figure out how to dodge the boss who gives you the last-minute task, and wondering if you could possibly get home just five minutes before you usually do so as to have time to change shoes before meeting friends for a burrito, because yours hurt, and you might actually not be able to evade the boss, come to think of it, because the shoes are not stealthy so much as they are clicky and presence-announcing. You contemplate sneaking out of the office barefoot, and what impact that might have on your career if you were to be caught. That extra five minutes might be worth the risk.

Two hours of work time, down the drain. You might as well come in an hour later, skip the commute, and be able to get down to business. Same thing for leaving. I would have happily worked my tail off if it would have meant sailing home ahead of all the other commuters.

The cost of transportation is high.

I had forgotten about this. I used to go through a tank of gas at least once a week, if not every three days, and that was in a fairly fuel-efficient car. I’m currently driving one of my parent’s cars, an old Buick, and its mileage is lousy, but I’m only driving fifteen minutes over to a cafe and back, and I’ve had to fill the tank twice in the last week. Eighty bucks, for the privilege of not working at home.

Now, I command a fairly good hourly wage these days, but it sickens me to think that when I was working for a fairly low hourly wage, I was sinking about a day’s worth of pay every week into commuting. That’s correct. I lost a fifth of my salary for the privilege of having a job. That is lousy. If your job is far away, it had better be paying you VERY well. If not, I know some guys in Hummers you should hire to do some negotiating for you.

One word. Cops.

I’m not saying I speed, or take U-turns, or drive on the sidewalk when cars won’t move. I will say, however, that people are known to attempt any and all means to get themselves out of the car just a little bit sooner, and cops are waiting to catch you.

By ‘cops’ I include meter maids, and here’s the real clincher. If your office doesn’t have parking (and many do not) suddenly it’s your responsibility to either guard a meter with your life, move your car from one parking zone to another to remain within their 2-hour limit, or pay for parking in a parking garage. Note: parking in parking garages is an excellent way to get things stolen out of your car. Why? Because all the cops are out on the street, writing tickets to U-turners and people who didn’t put their seatbelts on because they were mad at their boss and just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge.

Cars are awesome. Commuting is horrible.

The number-one reason I hate commuting is that it takes something that should be glorious – driving – and makes it dirty and evil and just wrong. Forcing an activity automatically makes it cruel and unjust. It sullies it forever. I couldn’t even LOOK at my car for hours after a commute. The poor guy was wondering what on earth it had done wrong (this was before Billy Markham, this particular car was named Sparky, and he was on loan from an ex-boyfriend).

“Why?” he seemed to say. “Why have you forsaken me? Did we not used to take curves too fast and parallel park in impossibly small spaces and race truck drivers through Nevada together? Why did you drag me through two hours of stop-and-go traffic with other, inferior cars and their masters and then abandon me here on the curb, keening over my own inadequately exercised pistons? Why would you do that to me?”

And I had to turn my head away in shame. We all did what we had to do. Those were hard times, before freelancing. I wasn’t good to that car, and I wasn’t proud of it, but it was the job I had, and nobody had told me yet that there were better ways to live. I’m sorry, Sparky. Maybe one day you can forgive me.

Billy Markham never had to commute. It’s why he loves me, why he’s joyous and free and never gazes off into the distance looking depressed and resigned, the way Sparky did. It’s why he got a surname, too, because that’s the other evil of commuting. Sparky never had a surname because there was no chance he’d ever pass it on. You can’t propogate the species sitting in gridlock. Commuting will be the death of us all.

Subscribe. Join the non-commuting revolution.

May 21, 2008

My House. In the Middle of My Street.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Writing — Tei @ 5:42 am
Tags: ,

I didn’t used to have a house.

I was a wandering sort of rogue. I lived in half a dozen cities in less than four years, and even when I was theoretically settled (you know, going to college and all) I would drop everything for a road trip every two months or so. And by ‘every two months’ we mean ‘biweekly’. I used to cruise around in the car just to PRETEND I was going somewhere, even when I had a test the next day and there was no way in hell I could even drive from Chicago to Cleveland (a short jaunt, really).

I moved to Boulder, Colorado temporarily to help out a friend of mine who was having her second baby. I used to visit her in Boulder a lot when I was in Chicago (that was about a normal one-day sixteen-hour hop for me), and I loved Boulder, and why I didn’t move there before is beyond everyone, including me. I decided to stay after she and her husband and their passel of children moved back to California. It may have had something to do with the incredible plethora of attractive snowboarder/philosophers. I mean, just possibly. Also the breweries. There are a lot of them, and their joint creed is deliciousness.

So I found a house.

Actually, I found a duplex, but since my neighbor’s entrance is way over on the other side and he actually has a different street address than I do (as in, mine is Grove Street, his is 16th Street), I just pretend he doesn’t exist. I have the front of the house anyway, which makes it better.

I like my house. It is big and roomy and has lots of windows and plants growing about it, and it is walking distance from everything. It is painted a pretty shade of green and has an attic with no apparent entrance (I am not making this up) and a friendly ghost (I might be making that up a little but I had VERY strange dreams the first night I was there, and they involved levitation, so what’s your conclusion? That’s what I thought).

Settling down is a new sensation for me. Usually I’m thrilled to be elsewhere for awhile. I like novelty. I like visiting. I like intruding upon friends and strangers and seeing what’s up with them. I never expected to want to settle down with a house but here I am, happily monogamous to a single place, and now I can’t get back there, and it saddens me.

I am not a social creature.

There are many, many ways in which I am not your typical female, and this is one of them. Women are supposed to get off on communities and interactions and discussions and compassionate goings-on. Not me. I like all of those things in moderation, but if I don’t have at least half the day entirely to myself and my own devices, I start looking around for things to break. Crockery. Hearts. Small buildings. You know.

I was one of those teenagers that didn’t want to interact with the family and I never got over it. It was actually a problem before then. As a kid, my mother was certain something was wrong with me because I never wanted to play with the other kids. I was a nose-in-a-book girl, and it took a long time before everyone realized I just liked it that way. As an adult, my closest two girlfriends are very accommodating to this quirk. I have actually had both of them take one look at my crazed stare and insist that I go on a walk. For four hours. Or so. Until you stop feeling homicidal.

They’re great. My Tara actually did this to me WHILE WE WERE PLANNING HER WEDDING. That is how intense that crazed gotta-be-alone look is. Even soon-to-be-brides know what’s up. We’ve all decided I’m not allowed to have children. It would be a survival of the fittest game – who can run away from Mommy the farthest so that she doesn’t kill them in a maddened blood-wrath. They could make a reality show out of it.

I’m not living alone right now. What’s worse, I’m living with my family.

While I was sitting here, right now, writing this post? My brother came in and tried to make conversation (I’m typing in his room since Daddy kicked me out of the office so he could watch TV shows on Hulu), and then my dad came around behind him and tried to offer me the office back, and I frankly want to go out and kill everyone in the world right now, just to keep them from talking to me while I’m writing. When the keys are making that happy sound? The voices of angelic children singing hosannas would be in disharmony with that happy sound. The voices of my beloved family are causing me to involuntarily sprout iron fingernails with which to wrench their tongues from their sockets.

I love them. Really I do. But I want my goddamn quiet house back. It never tries to talk to me. Even the GHOST shuts up when I’m writing. It’s a very considerate ghost. I think it used to be a writer, too.

Moral of the Story

1. It’s important to have a place where you can accomplish things.

2. Find that place.

3. Then never leave it.

This is good advice, from me to you. You don’t want to see the blood-wrath. It ain’t pretty.

Not Related At All

Akismet recently caught a spam mail entitled, “How to Weigh Weed.” Now, I did NOT click on it, because I know better than to encourage the beast, but I was mightily curious, let me tell you. Do you weigh weed differently than you weigh, say, jelly beans? The things you MISS when you skip the secondary intoxicants, I’m telling you. I don’t even know street names anymore for any of this stuff. I used to. I used to have CRED, people. But I was faking it.

Subscribe. I’m homesick.

May 20, 2008

Lousy Boss, or How I Starved a Kitten

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:39 am
Tags: , ,

I promised you guys more race relations today, but I’m going to fail you. I figure we’re being a tad gloomy about the Lusty Weevil these days, so I’m writing you a post in my own favorite pub in my old hometown, Albany’s The Pub, drinking a pint at one of the wood tables and discussing my inadequacies as a boss.

As it turns out, I’m a lousy boss.

Allow me to first define ‘boss’. ‘Boss’ usually means ‘clients’. They’re not your real boss. They can’t really tell you what to do. By and large, though, they’re responsible for your paycheck, and they are in charge of the current project, so you do in fact answer to them. Their only differentiation from a normal boss is that they are not responsible for your health insurance. Though they should be. I’m pretty sure the ulcers I have are their fault.

I just became a boss/client myself. Not my usual state of affairs. I actually cannot remember having ever personally hired a freelancer for my own project before. I say this so that as this story unfolds, you will not immediately think, “That asshole,” but rather, “That poor, misguided, inexperienced soul. Oh, well, she’ll learn.”

I’ve hired a couple of people recently to do all the things that I personally do not know how to do. Well. Not all the things. It is not within my economic means to hire someone to do impressionist painting for me. Or make Brazilian-style roasted meats. Or perform the entire works of Shakespeare in an ongoing festival in my living room. We have limited the hires to those things that I do not know how to do business-wise, and unfortunately, due to budget constraints, ‘run a business’ was not something I could afford to hire someone to do.

Which is probably how I wound up being a lousy boss. I’m pretty sure if I had hired someone to be the business-runner for me, he or she would have been a pretty good boss. I, however, suck at it.

Here’s how I found out I was a lousy boss.

My web guys sort of plaintively/firmly got in touch with me the other day. I do not know how they managed to be both plaintive and firm, but that is why I hired them. They are damned good at paradox, and that is good for rogues. The gist of the email, and I am both paraphrasing and exaggerating, was, “Dude. You have disappeared off the face of the earth and though the total of expenses is normally due upon project completion, that is sort of contingent on you continuing to finish the project. Please stop being the Invisible Rogue and pay us. Also, if you wanted to, you know, finish your website, you might find that beneficial on a personal level. Just saying.”

I have sent these letters before. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you haven’t been paid and/or when your client isn’t finishing the project. You’re supposed to send a nice, courteous wake-up call. They are usually to perfectly nice clients, who I know bear me no actual malice and who probably are completely unaware that there is a problem on my end. My letters usually have the following subtext:

“Um, hi. If you don’t pay me, I can’t eat anything other than oatmeal for the next week. FEED ME, SEYMOUR!”

I try not to sound quite that desperate, but my point is I know this problem. This is the problem of having a lousy boss. These are the clients who delay the project indefinitely, who want weird changes, who disappear entirely for weeks so that no work can be done, and who neglect to realize that there is no overhead company paying a salary. The client does not realize (or, in the Alternate Universe of Dipwads, does not care) that your personal welfare depends on this project being completed. No project finish = no rent money. That simple.

I’m that guy. Oh, gods, I’m THAT guy. How did I come to be that guy?

How did I come to be a lousy boss?

I don’t know how to set aside time to do things for myself. I know how to do things for clients. I am the best goddamn Gal Friday in the business. I will break my back to make sure what I deliver is to the client’s liking, that it’s delivered on time, and that it accomplishes what they need.

All of that takes some serious time and energy. Whatever’s left of my time goes to my projects. By the time I’ve finished my clients’ projects, though, I am usually not thinking, “Sweet! I’ll work MORE, but for ME. That sounds like twelve kinds of awesome smothered in special sauce and triple-baked with cheese!”

I am usually thinking, “Sweet. It’s done. Maybe I’ll go see Iron Man for the third time.”

And that’s all fine and dandy when I am the only person working on a project for me. But when I have other people working on a project for me, it bodes well to think of them as another kind of client. I don’t owe them work, but I do owe them the courtesy of remembering that they are now suffering a lousy boss. Unlike the many other times that I have encountered the lousy boss, I have the power to do something about this particular one. Namely, I can stop being lousy.

The consequences of being a lousy boss are dire. It may already be too late.

The second I got the email (which, by the way, was infinitely more courteous than my summarized counterpart above) I realized that I was being a complete loser, and I immediately coughed up the remaining portion of the payment. As a result, I got a quick thank-you from the designer, which included the following sentence:

“Thanks. Now my cats will get to eat this week.”

Yes. That’s right. My lousiness was so extraordinarily lousy that it STARVED KITTENS.

Do not be a lousy boss. The kittens deserve to live.

Subscribe. More guilt trips tomorrow.

May 18, 2008

Well played, Julian Bond

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Well Played — Tei @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

I told myself I was going to write on this blog every day. I made a pledge, in fact. A solemn vow. Which I have hereby broken, and none of you will be surprised to learn it was all my mother’s fault. Well. And my brother’s.

You see, he had the audacity to graduate today. Yes, I KNOW. Most inconsiderate of him. And mom’s a sucker for ceremonies, so my sister and I flew out, and my family and I have been sitting all morning on the National Mall (which, by the by, is the most idiotic name for the center of the DC monuments that I personally can conceive of. I realize all other malls took their cues from the National Mall, and I don’t care. Now that the word ‘mall’ generally connotes Forever 21 and those really nasty and yet somehow irresistible cinnamon rolls, I feel that perhaps the plaza in which you are flanked by the White House and the Washington Monument should have a better name. ‘Plaza’ would, in fact, do nicely.

Actually, considering the current occupant of the White House, perhaps ‘Mall’ is in fact appropriate.

Never mind. Forget what I just said.

Anyway. My brother had his convocation on the National Mall this morning, and I couldn’t see him at all because the gardeners who tend the stretch of grassy lawn in the middle of the National Mall did not see fit to equip it with stadium seating. Also, it was raining, so umbrellas sort of obscured the view. But if the ‘visual’ people were on strike that day, the ‘audio’ people were in fine fettle. Those microphones expanded above and beyond their prefix. I could hear everything in slightly more volume than I generally use on my iPod while listening to a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy‘. I could not, in fact, focus on the book I brought, foreseeing the problem of lawn = no stadium seating in advance. Which is how I came to be listening to the current President of the NAACP, Julian Bond.

Julian Bond gave one of the best speeches I personally have ever heard.

I say this as an avid follower of the current election (yes, I too have a crush on Obama). I used to be a theater geek, and theater geeks hear a lot of excellent speeches, because oratory is what we do. This guy was amazing. He was powerfully compelling, he dropped a couple of well-placed unexpected jokes, which are the best kind. Stealth funny is perfect for speeches.

He clearly had an agenda that had driven him for most of his life (when he was first elected to the Senate, they wouldn’t let him come serve, to which I say BOO to the 1965 Georgia legislators). He has an amazing history of civil rights advocacy, including being a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and work in the Senate for the state of Georgia. His grandfather was a slave, and his great-grandmother was a slaveowner’s mistress. This man stood up in front of an immense crowd of people and declared his grandfather’s bastard status, and for that I commend him, particularly since he had a point.

He called upon the generations of his family and the years of the civil rights movement to say that many people fought hard for the opportunities that were in front of the graduates, and (there was subtext here, he didn’t actually say this precise thing) if we waste the opportunities for which thousands upon thousands of people risked their lives, their welfare, and their safety, we are, as a nation, ungrateful punks.

I thought, ‘much as I hate being a punk, he has a serious point.’

He’s right. No ancestor of yours, whatever your heritage, ever worked or struggled or starved or fought for you to sit on your butt and play Halo 3 all day. I’m pretty sure they had other things in mind. The freedom to play Halo, most certainly. They fought for that. But I think they’d be a little irritated to find out that with all the time you spend on it, your ten-year-old nephew keeps killing you.

I’m a woman, and I own my business, and that would not have been possible a hundred years ago. Screwing around with that business is not cool. It will bring Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a whole slew of angry feminists down upon my head. Simone de Beauvoir will be pissed, and I don’t know about you, but I am not so cocky as to think I can contend with the vengeful ghost of Simone de Beauvoir. I have seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to know that they have used up all the benevolent ghosts.

So well played, Julian Bond.

You also told a really awesome anecdote whose segueway made sense at the time but which I cannot currently duplicate, but which I found so amusing that I will relate it now, and you all can take it however you will.

Two men are standing by a river (let’s say they’re fishing, just so they’re not standing there in this anecdote like dufuses). They see a baby floating in the river, a la Moses, in a basket. They wade into the current and rescue the baby, pulled him to shore. Just as they reach the bank, they see another baby come down the current, so they wade in again, catch the basket, and bring her to shore. The third baby comes swooshing along a moment later, and one of the men, instead of wading into the river to rescue it, starts running along the bank upstream as fast as he can, making little skoosh noises with his shoes because they’re pretty damp now.

The other man yells after him, “Where the hell are you going? We have to save that baby!”

“You can save that baby!” says his friend. “I’m going to go find out who’s throwing babies in the river and beat the hell out of him.”

Actually, what Bond said was ‘make him stop’ but I like to think it would be a semi-violent sort of stopping. Throwing babies in rivers ain’t cool. You can quote me on that.

Anyway. Don’t throw away your babies, your legacy, or the rind of your Parmesan cheese. I know an Italian lady in Firenze says you can throw that in your next pot of soup, and it will be tasty, and then you can invite me over for dinner. Because I am about to confront airline food for the second time in five days, and I could do with rescuing.

And Well Played to my brother, too.

My brother graduated George Washington University today with a double major in History and Geography. He’s going to make the best goddamn eccentric professor-scholar ever, and I’m very proud of him.

Subscribe. More race-gender relations tomorrow, because Crystal of Big Bright Bulb and I had a discussion.

May 8, 2008

Bloody Hell, or Why Rogue Ink is Not a Business Blog

My mother finally got around to coming over to my blog (she claims I never sent her a link, but she lies. She lied when she told me I couldn’t have a cupcake, too. She is an excellent liar when she chooses to be. Where do you think I learned the roguish tendencies?). She’s also a marketing expert, so the very first thing she did after she told me she loves my writing (because the mom gene comes first) was send me an itemized list of questions and critiques. Number one on this list – yes, she numbered this list – was:

1. Why swear or use off-color language when your clients (and mother) might read them and be put-off?

It took me awhile to answer this question, but I can almost guarantee the next nine words are going to make my poor mom sorry she asked it.

This Blog is Not My Business. It’s My Pub.

Here’s how I think about it. My business, Good Ink, is my place of work. Actually ‘place of work’ sounds awfully hoity-toity. It’s my office. It’s my nose-grinder. It’s the place with the flourescent lights and the water cooler and that accounting guy who picks his nose in front of you. I spend my whole day there, and I like my work, but when I’m done, I am done.

This blog, Rogue Ink, is the pub I go to after work. It’s where all my buddies are, where other people who work hard all day can hang out and commiserate. Brett Legree is here in his kilt and Naomi Dunford is mocking him about it, and Bob Younce is here talking stuff over with James Chartrand, and I am trying to say something funny enough to get Sandie Law to snort something out of her nose. There are a couple new guys here too, and we’re going to make them play darts later, and they don’t even know it.

If a client comes on into the bar, that’s great, and I will probably offer to buy that client a beer. By and large, I really like my clients, and I am thoroughly psyched if my client wants to come and hang out at my blog. However, I do not expect that client to be shocked that I said the word ‘hell’ to the barkeep while ordering him his drink. We are no longer in the office. We are at the pub. We’re going to tell stories and shoot the breeze and talk about other things than business. Later there’s going to be a pinata and a reggae band and Wendi Kelly and Matt Tuley will sing karaoke duets. It will be awesome.

That Damned Polonius Quote Again

This is all Harrison’s fault. “To thine own self be true,” he said, but he also said this, and I liked this better: “The thing is, this is your personality. If you try to fit your site/blog into something you’re not, it will show through and no amount of sprucing up will help you with that inconsistency.

He is right. I am a funny, funny chick. I make people laugh. I get my client’s voices because I like talking to them, finding out about them, and I like knowing what cracks them up. If they want to hire a copywriter who really gets them and can also handle the professional part of meeting deadlines and marketing strategically, they have found their woman. If they want someone who never says a word stronger than ‘darn’ and would faint at the very idea of an off-color pun, they should hire someone else. I will refer them myself. I don’t want those people unhappy. If I can’t make them happy, I will send them to someone who can.

I can make an awful lot of people happy, though. I know. I’ve tried.

There’s Nothing For ‘Em Here

Mitch Hedberg tells a good story. I like this one: “I was in downtown Boise Idaho and I saw a duck. I knew the duck was lost, because ducks aren’t supposed to be downtown. There’s nothing for ’em there.” True. There’s nothing for ducks in downtown Boise, Idaho. And there is nothing for clients seeking posts on copywriting at Rogue Ink.

I know there’s a possibility clients may come around the blog just looking for useful information and articles on copywriting. I am sorry to tell them we do not offer that service at this pub. We offer useful information and articles, made to deliver, all day long at Good Ink. Here at the pub we mostly tell jokes about weevil sex and make fun of bad grammar. Sometimes we touch on copywriting, but it is bounded by jokes about being broke and frosted with rants about cheese, and I am pretty sure they were looking for something more straightforward than that.

I know that it may take them awhile to figure this out, because other blogs often have useful information, and they are not yet aware that we don’t play by the books over here at the Rogue Ink pub. And while they are figuring it out, it is possible they might see a bad word. So I will probably, when the website is up and running, have something right at the top of the blog that indicates this is not a Shop O’ Useful Copywriting Tips. It is a Pub O’ Awesomely Random. And if the client is still down to hear all about that, he should pull up a stool.

Aretha Knows What’s Up

Respect goes a long, long way. I’m not going to curse at my clients just to make them upset. I’m actually not going to curse at anyone to make them upset. Very frequently, though, I cuss not because I am being offensive or mean (unless we are talking about Hitler again), but because I am really freakin’ excited. I have noticed this rubs off on my commenters, too, and that’s great. When a commenter tells me a post I’ve written on here was fucking awesome, I expect a client to know that this not cause for alarm. This is actually good for them. People do not get that psyched about mediocre writing. If my writing can inspire a delighted oath or two, that is also – if I may use the term – fucking awesome. My clients are savvy people. They know from complimentary cursing.

I respect my clients. I respect that some of them are made uncomfortable by off-color language in their business affairs. I respect that, and I promise I won’t do it around them when we’re talking business. Since I have a pretty good radar for that sort of thing, I will probably even anticipate it before it becomes an issue. No one need ever worry about going to my website, hiring me for a gig, and having me make them uncomfortable. They might need to worry a teeny bit about me knocking their socks off, but that is okay. I will buy them new socks. It’s part of the package deal.

Those clients who don’t want to see me when I’m off duty over here at Rogue Ink absolutely do not have to. I won’t treat them any differently and I certainly won’t work for them any less hard. If they want to see only my professional side, that is okay with me. I personally feel my rogue side is equally awesome, especially because it wears leather and throws knives more often, but all do not share my tastes, and I respect that. I’ll meet those clients at the office in the morning. I’ll have their first draft ready for them.

What Happened to Mom?

I read her, verbatim, with all the cuss words in it, Naomi’s post from yesterday. And she laughed so hard she choked on a hiccup.

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you why the Rogue Ink pub is a different kind of blog, and why you should all hang out in it and play darts. It’s going to be revolutionary – my first blog post written in advance. I actually feel a little faint.

Subscribe if you believe in rogues. It’s the only way to save me.

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